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Akatsia

 

152mm 2S3 AKATSIYA SELF-PROPELLED  HOWITZER  

    A new 155mm M109 self-propelled howitzer was introduced into the US inventory in January 1963. Later on, it constituted the backbone of field artillery in leading foreign countries. This event boosted development of modern domestic self-propelled artillery.  
     Modern battle is characterized by potential use of mass destruction weapons, high mobility of troops, enhanced firepower and better protection for personnel and war materiel. Therefore, the need arose to equip motorized rifle and tank forces with powerful and highly mobile weapons of artillery augmentation. This problem could only be solved by creating a new type of artillery weapons - field self-propelled artillery.  
     Self-propelled artillery, compared with towed pieces, possess a number of significant advantages, including the following:  

    -protection from mass destruction weapons and armor protection from hostile fire, determining in combination with good maneuverability a higher survivability of the vehicle on the battlefield; 
    -high tactical and operational mobility, sufficient fuel distance and good cross-country ability ensure continuous support of tanks and motorized rifle units at all stages of battle conduct; 
    -shorter time required to place self-propelled gun mounts into action sharply increases fire capabilities of self-propelled artillery in the conditions of modern hit-and-run battle; 
    -sufficiently large onboard ammunition load can in some cases determine relative independence of selfropelled artillery. 

     In July 1967 a decision was taken to develop a self-propelled howitzer, designated the 2S3 Akatsiya and intended to replace the 152mm ML-20 howitzer-gun, D-20 gun-howitzer, D-1 howitzer and attain the development levels of foreign self-propelled artillery. 
     The Central Design Bureau Transmash of the State Association Uraltransmash was instructed to develop the howitzer. Work on the Akatsiya howitzer was preceded by comparative analytical treatment of gun mounts created during the war (SU-100, SU-152) and post-war artillery systems. 
     As a result, a concept of advanced self-propelled artillery development was worked out. Various approaches to the layout of self-propelled mounts (traversing and fixed turret versions) as well as base chassis were considThe chassis of the 2S3 selfpropelled howitzer was based on the chassis of the Krug SAM launcher, which had embodied the latest engineering achievements of the time: unique layout with forward arrangement of the power plant compartment, twostage final drive and steering mechanism made as one unit, etc.  
     However, the base chassis was upgraded to improve vehicle performance. It was outfitted with a multifuel highemperature diesel engine developing 520 hp instead of 400 hp. Consequently, the engine accessories and power transmission assembly were also modernized. The installation of a more powerful engine increased the power-to-weight ratio to 19 hp/t, which ensured good agility and the high thrust response characteristics of the vehicle. The track and suspension system was also upgraded: the design of road wheels was improved, the shock absorber capacity was heightened, and the load characteristic of the torsion bars was increased. The vehicle rubber-bushed tracks that had been introduced by the Central Design Bureau Transmash for domestic tracked vehicles as far back as 1947. 
     The Akatsiya self-propelled mount is armed with the 2A33 howitzer provided with a rammer to chamber projectiles and charges and a hinged tray to catch fired cases. In the basic mode of firing ammunition is fed from the ground. The process of feeding projectiles and charges to the vehicle is mechanized and effected with the aid of a conveyor through the loading hatch in the hull rear plate. The round components are manually loaded on the conveyor that brings them on a special tray in the fighting compartment. From this tray the projectile and charge are transferred to the tray of the howitzer ramming mechanism and successively chambered by the rammer chain boss. The conveyor facilitates the howitzer crew's work, while the mechanized ramming process facilitates the loader's activity and ensures a stable rate of projectile and charge chambering at any position of the barrel, increasing the fire rate of the howitzer.  
     The mechanized stowage racks for projectiles are installed in the turret and hull rear. A projectile is brought to the place convenient for the loader from where he places it on the howitzer tray. The stowage racks accommodate an ammunition load of 46 rounds.  
     The designers successfully resolved the problem of howitzer stability in firing without using recoil spades, which are provided on the American M109 howitzer. This allowed the crew to shorten the time for howitzer emplacement and fire mission accomplishment during deployment on the run and when firing with large training angles.  
     To lock the weapon for travel, a special traveling lock is provided on the front portion of the hull roof. This device permits the driver to lock and unlock the barrel without leaving the vehicle, thereby ensuring his safety in NBC environment and under enemy fire.  
     The self-propelled howitzer is outfitted with organic dozer entrenching equipment which allows one to dig a pit within a short span of time (20 to 40 min depending on the soil) thereby materially increasing its survivability in combat, especially in a nuclear environment. The crew and interior equipment are protected against the effects of nuclear weapons by the hull armor, its hermetic sealing and pressurization of the personnel compartments with air purified by filtering-ventilating units.  
     As well as their main functions, these units successfully resolve the problem of reducing fumes in the fighting compartment during firing.  
     To warm the fighting compartment during winter, the Akatsiya howitzer is provided with an OV-65G heating unit, which operates independently of the vehicle engine and can consequently be used for heating on the move and at halts. 
     The commander's cupola is located on the left side of the turret roof. Its race mounts a 7.62mm PKT machine gun and TKN-3A vision device, allowing the commander to fire the machine gun from inside the turret. The rotation of the commander's cupola ensures allound fire of the machine gun. 
     The turret roof mounts a device which allows orientation and fixation of the weapon at a fire position both day and night, with the crew seated in the vehicle. 
     In December 1971 the 2S3 self-propelled howitzer was adopted for service and series production. 
     The renowned Akatsiya howitzer was produced over two decades. During this time it was modernized twice. For example, the ammunition stowage rack was upgraded for the 2S3M version, thereby improving reliability and increasing the ammunition load by 15 percent. A new IP-5 sight and new 1V116 intervene were installed in the 2S3M1 version. The latter was also outfitted with equipment to receive commands from the battery executive officer's vehicle and transmit back IP-5 sight settings. The creation of the Akatsiya self-propelled howitzer implied an end to the monopoly of the American M109 howitzer. 
     As the family of the 155mm M109 self-propelled howitzer constitutes the backbone of field artillery in the army of the U.S.A. and many other countries, steps were taken in the 1970s and 1980s to upgrade this weapon system. The replacement of the barrel, 23 calibers long, with a new 39-caliber barrel increased the range of M107 high-explosive fragmentation projectiles fired from M109A1 and M109A2/A3 howitzers from 14.6 to 18.1 km. Foreign experts expect these howitzers to be operational until the years 2005-2010. 
     The 152mm Akatsiya selfpropelled howitzer was produced in large numbers and is in service with Russia and abroad. Naturally, questions have been raised about its future. The Central Design Bureau Transmash carried out a detailed investigation into potential modernization. The enterprise is ready at the customer's will to upgrade the weapons and bring their performance characteristics to modern level. 
     This modernization will determine the design features and combat effectiveness of the Akatsiya self-propelled howitzer which is not inferior to its foreign counterparts M109A1, M109A2/A3 and M109G and surpasses them in firing range, ammunition load, sustained fire, endurance distance, power-toweight ratio and some other parameters.  

Compared Characteristics of Self-Propelled Howitzers
2S3M1 Akatsiya M109 M109A1
Caliber, mm 152 155 155
Combat weight, t 27.5 23.8 24.5
Ammunition load,rds 46 28 28
HEF projectile weight, kg 43.56 41.8 41.8
Max firing range, m 17,300 14,600 18,100
Elevation/depression, deg +60/-4 +75/-5 +75/-5
Traverse, deg 360 360 360
Crew 4 6 6
Max rate of fire, rds/min 4 4 4
Max road speed, km/h 60 50 50
Max engine power, hp 520 405 405
Nominal ground pressure, kg/cm2 0.60 0.79 0.81
Road range, km 500 350 350

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