ISU-152

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Overview

The ISU-152 is a heavy assault gun, fielded by the Soviets.

History

The Soviet Army first developed a mobile version of their 152mm ML-20 gun-howitzer as a heavy assault gun and tank destroyer in early 1943 as the SU-152, with the chassis of the KV-1S heavy tank as a basis. Although the resulting weapon (nicknamed "Zveroboy," or "Beast-Killer") proved effective at knocking out German fortifications around Stalingrad and heavy tanks at Kursk, the KV-1 tank it was based on was out of production due to inadequate armament, and the SU-152 was inadequately armored against enemy tank guns. When the new IS-2 heavy tank began production, the chassis was similarly modified to produce the much-improved ISU-152. Fielded at the start of 1944, 1,885 were produced before war's end, giving their best service in the urban battles at war's end. In addition to inheriting its predecessor's nickname, grateful infantrymen referred to it with the sentiment "Not pretty, but thanks!"

Combat Performance

The ISU-152 fulfills three roles - heavy assault gun, mobile artillery, and tank destroyer - being very good at the first and adequate at the second and third. As an assault gun, it was typically escorted by infantry squads that would cover it from antitank teams while it used massive 43.5 kilogram explosive shells to demolish enemy bunkers and occupied buildings. On open ground, ISU-152s were generally placed in the second line of attack, several hundred meters behind advancing tanks, and could lay rolling barrages of high-explosive fire down ahead of an attack to shred enemy infantry lines. However, its medium range, slow firing rate, and low ammunition capacity make it less effective than a dedicated mobile artillery piece such as the German Wespe. As a tank destroyer, it is less effective than the lighter SU-100; although the 48 kilogram solid-shot AP shells it fired could end most German tanks through sheer mass the 152mm gun's low muzzle velocity and short barrel meant it was unlikely to hit a German Tiger or Panther before the latter could get off shots at the ISU-152. Nevertheless, the ISU-152's heavy armor forced even the heavy Tiger to come in to medium range and expose itself to escorting Soviet tanks. On the other hand, the massive high-explosive charge could kill even the Tiger from explosive shock damage, making German tank commanders rightfully fear the "Zveroboy."