The SU-76 (Samokhodnaya Ustanovka 76) was a Soviet light self-propelled gun used during and after World War II. The SU-76 was based on a lengthened version of the T-70 light tank chassis and armed with the 76 mm divisional gun M1942 (ZiS-3). Its quite simple construction and multipurpose combat role made it the second most produced Soviet armoured fighting vehicle of World War II, after the T-34 medium tank.
|Type||Light self-propelled gun|
|Place of origin||Soviet Union|
|Designer||S.A. Ginzburg Design Bureau|
|Manufacturer||GAZ (Gorky), Plant No.40 (Mytishchi), Plant No.38 (Kirov, Kirov Oblast)|
|Produced||December 1942 – October 1945|
|No. built||14,292 (560 SU-76 & 13,732 SU-76M)|
|Mass||10,500 kg (23,149 lb)|
|Length||4.97 m (16 ft 4 in)|
|Width||2.72 m (8 ft 11 in)|
|Height||2.10 m (6 ft 11 in)|
|Armour||Front: 25–35 mm (0.98–1.38 in)|
Side: 10–15 mm (0.39–0.59 in)
|76.2 mm (3.00 in) ZIS-3 mod. 1942 divisional field gun|
|7.62 mm (0.300 in) DT tank machine gun|
|Engine||GAZ-203 (2 × GAZ-70 6-cylinder gasoline engines)|
2 x 70 hp (2 x 51.5 kW)
|Fuel capacity||412 L (108.8 gal)|
250–320 km (160–200 mi)
190 km (120 mi)
|Maximum speed||45 km/h (28.0 mph)|
Design of the SU-76 began in November 1942, when the State Defense Committee ordered the construction of infantry support self-propelled guns armed with the ZiS-3 76.2 mm anti-tank gun and the M-30 122 mm howitzer. The T-70 chassis was chosen for mounting the ZiS-3 gun, and was lengthened, adding one road wheel per side, to facilitate better gun mounting. The vehicle was not completely enclosed by armour, the rear roof and upper rear side exposed.
The power-plant setup installed in the first mass-produced SU-76s was unreliable. Two GAZ-202 automobile engines were used mounted in "parallel", each engine driving one track. It was found to be difficult for the driver to control the two engines simultaneously, and strong vibration forces led to early failures of engines and transmission units. After 560 SU-76s had been made, mass production was halted in order to resolve the problems. Two chief designers at the GAZ plant, N. A. Astrov and A. A. Lipgart, changed the power-plant arrangement to that of the T-70 - the two engines were mounted in tandem on the right hand side of the vehicle. The armoured roof over the gun compartment was removed to improve access to and servicing of the weapon. This modified version, called the SU-76M, was placed in mass production in early 1943.
After production resumed, GAZ and two factories in Kirov and Mytishchi produced 13,732 SU-76Ms; over 9,000 of the vehicles were built solely by GAZ. Mass production of the SU-76M ceased in the second half of 1945. In contemporary accounts SU-76Ms are often referred to in texts, public radio and TV broadcasting as SU-76s with the "M" omitted, due to their ubiquity in comparison with the original SU-76s.
The SU-76 was the basis for the first Soviet tracked armoured anti-aircraft vehicle, the ZSU-37. Mass production of the ZSU-37 was continued after SU-76M production ceased. All SU-76Ms had been withdrawn from front-line service shortly after the war ended, although some were retained as training vehicles for T-34 crews as late as 1955.
- Experimental model based on the T-60 tank chassis.
- Based on a lengthened T-70 tank chassis, with the inferior dual-engine arrangement of earlier T-70s. Only 560 were produced, and these were quickly withdrawn from front line service. Nearly all SPGs of this version had armored roof, but it caused ventilation issues and was often removed in field depots, SU-76M lacked roof from start.
- Main production model.
- SU-76M armed with 85mm gun (D-5S/LB-2 respectively), prototype only.
- Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, based on the SU-76.
In 1978, Institute 111 from Romania designed an armoured personnel carrier based on the SU-76 chassis, equipped with the TAB-71 turret. The vehicle entered service as the MLVM (Romanian: Mașina de Luptă a Vânătorilor de Munte, meaning "infantry fighting vehicle of vânători de munte").
The unrelated SU-76i (the "i" standing for "nostrannaya", or 'foreign', in Russian), first designed and fielded in 1943, was based on captured stocks of German Panzer III and StuG III chassis, a large quantity coming from defeated German troops after the Battle of Stalingrad that year. This partially-modified vehicle was armed with an S-1 76.2 mm tank gun (a cheaper variant of the renowned F-34/ZiS-5 guns which were already mounted on T-34 and KV-1 tanks respectively) in a casemate superstructure but retained the original German Maybach gasoline engine and its torsion-bar suspension system. Around 200 of these ex-German vehicles were sent for conversion into SU-76is at Factory No. 37 to supplement the existing SU-76. They were issued to tank and self-propelled gun units starting in the fall of 1943. They were eventually withdrawn from the front in early 1944 and then used for training and testing until the end of 1945. Only 2 have survived the war, most having been scrapped after 1945. A similar vehicle called SG-122 existed, which was a similar Panzer III conversion, but armed with 122 mm M-30 howitzer. Only around 20 were converted, as the M-30 was considered an insufficient weapon for infantry support.
The also unrelated SU-76P (1941) was based on the T-26 chassis. It was built in Leningrad during the Siege of Leningrad and involved removing the turret from the T-26 and mounting a 76 mm regimental gun M1927 on the engine deck. This was created due to the lack of high-explosive 45 mm ammunition inside Leningrad due to the siege, so some T-26 tanks were rearmed with 37mm or 76mm guns for which a reliable source of ammunition was available. They served until 1944, when the siege was broken. They were originally called "SU-76s", until the SU-76 came into service, upon which it was renamed "SU-76P" ("polkovaya" - regimental).
The SU-76M virtually replaced infantry tanks in the close support role. While its thin armour and open top made it vulnerable to antitank weapons, grenades, and small arms, its light weight and low ground pressure gave it good mobility.
The SU-76M combined three main battlefield roles: light assault gun, mobile anti-tank weapon and mobile gun for indirect fire. As a light assault gun, the SU-76M was well-regarded by Soviet infantrymen (in contrast with their own crews). It had more powerful weapons than any previous light tank for close support and communication between infantry and the SU-76M crew was simple due to the open crew compartment. This was extremely useful in urban combat where good teamwork between infantry and AFVs was a key to success. Although the open compartment was highly vulnerable to small arms fire and hand grenades, it very often saved the crew's lives in the case of a hit by a Panzerfaust or Panzerschreck, in which the concussion of the blast would mean death in an enclosed vehicle.
The SU-76M was effective against any medium or light German tank. It could also knock out the Panther tank with a flank shot, but the ZiS-3 gun was not effective against Tiger tanks. Soviet manuals for SU-76M crews usually instructed the gunner to aim for the tracks or gun barrels when facing Tigers. To improve the SU-76M's anti-armour capabilities, armour-piercing composite rigid (APCR) and hollow charge projectiles were introduced. This gave the SU-76M a better chance against heavily armoured German vehicles. A low profile, a low noise signature and good mobility were other advantages of the SU-76M. This was ideal for organizing ambushes and sudden flank or rear strikes in close combat, where the ZiS-3 gun was sufficient against most German armoured fighting vehicles.
The maximum elevation angle of the ZiS-3 was the highest of all Soviet self-propelled guns. The maximum indirect fire distance was nearly 17 km. SU-76Ms were sometimes used as light artillery vehicles (like the German Wespe) for bombardments and indirect fire support. However the power of the 76.2 mm shells was not sufficient in many cases.
The SU-76M was the single Soviet vehicle able to operate in swamps with minimal support from engineers. During the Belarus liberation campaign in 1944 it was extremely useful for organizing surprise attacks through swamps; bypassing heavy German defenses on firmer ground. Usually only lightly armed infantry could pass through large swampy areas. With SU-76M support, Soviet soldiers and engineers could effectively destroy enemy strongpoints and continue to advance.
The SU-76M had a large number of ammunition types. They included armour-piercing (usual, with ballistic nose and subcaliber hyper-velocity), hollow charge, high explosive, fragmentation, shrapnel and incendiary projectiles. This made the SU-76M an excellent multi-purpose light armoured fighting vehicle.
One famous crewman was Rem Nikolaevich Ulanov. In his younger days he was a mechanic-driver and later a commander of a SU-76. He and some other soldiers called their SU-76 Columbina after the female Renaissance Italian Commedia dell'Arte personage.
Due to the large number of vehicles produced, many SU-76Ms have survived the post-war years, and most of the larger Russian military museums have examples of the SU-76M in their exhibitions. They can also be found at the German-Soviet War monuments or memorials in different Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian cities.
- Museum of Armed Forces 
- The Australian Armour and Artillery Museum (Cairns) SU-76M
- The Chinese Tank Museum (Beijing) SU-76
- Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow
- Technical Museum of Vadim Zadorozhny in Krasnogorsky District, Moscow Oblast - in running condition
- Kubinka Tank Museum in Kubinka, Moscow Oblast
- Museum of Military History in Padikovo, Istrinsky District, Moscow Oblast - in running condition
- Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps in Saint Petersburg
- Mount Sapun Memorial Complex in Sevastopol
- United Kingdom
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- Чубачин, Александр (2009). СУ-76. "Братская могила экипажа" или оружие Победы? Москва: БТВ-Книга, Яуза, Эксмо. Chubachin, Alexander V. (2009). SU-76. "Bratskaya mogila ekipazha" ili oruzhie Pobedy? (SU-76. "The Mass Grave of the Crew" or Weapons of Victory?). Moscow: BTV-Kniga, Yauza, Eksmo. ISBN 978-5-699-32965-6.