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ZSU-57-2 and ZSU-23-4 anti-aircraft artillery

Written by Sakhal


The ZSU-57-2 was the first Soviet self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery system that entered service in large scale after the Second World War (in 1955-56). It was introduced in the Red Army to provide anti-aircraft defense to the armored forces, being usually assigned to tank regiments in batteries of eight pieces. The chassis was a lighter version from the one of the T-54 medium tank, with a much lighter armor and only four wheel axes. So, it was achieved a better power/weight ratio than in the T-54, which together with its additional fuel tanks gave this artillery piece a good speed and operational range, but not really better than those of the tanks that they had to protect. A distinctive characteristic of this vehicle was its large open turret, fully rotating, which had installed two S-68 57-millimeter cannons. Actual fire of rate was about 70 rounds per minute. A total of 316 projectiles were carried, in clips of four units. The empty cases were left in a metallic basket in the rear part. With the advent of flush-flying fast aircraft, the effectiveness of the ZSU-57-2 diminished greatly. One of its shortcomings was the absence of radar; fire control was based solely in optical sights, being limited to operations during daytime with good weather. For achieving effectiveness, instructions about the approximation of enemy aircraft were sent via radio, allowing the system to be aimed in the right direction before the aircraft arrived. This vehicle was very exported to other countries of the Warsaw Pact, North Africa and Middle East. It entered action many times with the Syrian Army during their war against the Israeli in Lebanon, in 1982. Other countries that used it were Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Egypt, Finland, Hungary, Irak, Iran, North Korea, Poland, Romania, Vietnam and Yugoslavia. Production was discontinued in the mid 1960s.

ZSU-57-2 and ZSU-23-4 anti-aircraft artillery

ZSU-57-2: Zenitnaya Samokhodnaya Ustanovka (Anti-aircraft Self-propelled Mount) fitted with two 57-millimeter cannons.

Crew: 6

Armament: Two S-68 57-millimeter cannons with a length of 73 calibers

Armor: Up to 15 millimeters

Length (total): 8.48 meters

Length (hull): 6.22 meters

Width: 3.27 meters

Height: 2.75 meters

Weight: 28.1 tonnes

Ground pressure: 0.63 kilograms/square centimeter

Propulsion plant: Diesel engine V-54 with 12 cylinders in V, refrigerated by water, developing 520 horsepower at 2000 revolutions per minute

Maximum speed: 48-50 kilometers/hour

Maximum operational range: 400-420 kilometers

Maximum surmountable trench: 2.7 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 0.8 meters

Maximum surmountable slope: 60 percent

Maximum fording: 1.4 meters


With the introduction of the anti-aircraft missiles SA-2 and Bloodhound in the late 1950s, combat aircraft were forced to fly at very low altitude to avoid being detected. The ZSU-23-4 was developed in the 1960s to replace the ZSU-57-2, which because of this new method of flight had become incapable to contain the aerial threat. The new anti-aircraft vehicle entered service in 1964 and it was seen for the first time in 1965. The chassis was similar to the one used to transport and launch the surface-to-air missile SA-6 and it used components from the amphibious tank PT-76. The hull and the turret were built with welded plates with a maximum thickness of 15 millimeters. Suspension is of the type torsion bar, with six wheel axes and rear drive sprocket. The driver is placed in the front left and the ensemble engine-transmission in the rear part. The ZSU-23-4 was equipped with NBC (Nuclear-Bacteriological-Chemical) protection and night vision system of infrared type. Armament consists of four ZU-23 23-millimeter cannons installed in a fully rotating servoactuated turret, with an elevation sector between -7 and +80 degrees. The theoretical rate of fire is 800-1000 rounds per minute, but in the practice each barrel usually fires bursts of 50 projectiles to preserve ammunition, since the vehicle can carry only a total of 2000 rounds, 520 for each upper barrel and 480 for each lower barrel. The barrels are refrigerated by water and empty cases are automatically expulsed outside the vehicle, which usually should carry two types of ammunition: breaker incendiary and high-explosive incendiary, both with a muzzle speed of 970 meters/second and an effective range of 2500 meters for anti-aircraft role.

Albeit the ZSU-23-4 has a shorter range than its predecessor, the fire control radar and the increase in rate of fire made this weapon to be much more effective. Known by the Russians as "Shilka", this vehicle could create an impassable barrier of fire in an arc of 180 degrees. The vehicle usually stops moving before opening fire, for being a more stable firing platform, but if necessary it can fire in movement. In the rear or the turret there is a radar antenna "Gun Dish", which can be folded downwards behind the turret if necessary. This radar device, which operates in J band, has a double purpose. Firstly, it can detect enemy aircraft at a maximum distance of 20 kilometers, and secondly, it can track the target and automatically aim the cannons towards it. Very exported, the ZSU-23-4 was specially effective in Egyptian hands during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, where it was used in action for the first time, downing the Israeli aircraft that were forced to fly at very low altitude due to the Egyptian air defense system based in missiles SA-6. According to the most part of the informations, the ZSU-23-4 downed more Israeli aircraft than any other weapon of its genre, including the missiles SA-6 and SA-7. The ZSU-23-4 was distributed in the Warsaw Pact at the rate of four pieces for each mechanized regiment and eight pieces for each tanks regiment. At the level of division, it was assigned an anti-aircraft regiment with four batteries of six pieces each. A typical Soviet army group could have a total of 128 of these pieces deployed in the frontline. Without any doubt the ZSU-23-4 was on the time of its introduction the most effective anti-aircraft self-propelled artillery system in the world, primacy of which it was unseated by the Gepard system from West Germany. The ZSU-23-4 also served with the North Vietnamese Army during the long Vietnam War. Also Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Egypt, Finland, Hungary, India, Irak, Iran, Poland, Syria and South Yemen had it in service. The many users of this system have been updating it during long time, so the ZSU-23-4 remained in service during the early 21th century.

ZSU-57-2 and ZSU-23-4 anti-aircraft artillery

ZSU-23-4: Zenitnaya Samokhodnaya Ustanovka (Anti-aircraft Self-propelled Mount) fitted with four 23-millimeter cannons.

Crew: 4

Armament: Four ZU-23 23-millimeter cannons

Armor: Up to 15 millimeters

Length: 6.3 meters

Width: 2.95 meters

Height (with retracted radar antenna): 2.25 meters

Weight: 19 tonnes

Ground pressure: 0.65 kilograms/square centimeter

Propulsion plant: Diesel engine V-6R with 6 cylinders in line, refrigerated by water, developing 240 horsepower at 1800 revolutions per minute

Maximum speed: 44 kilometers/hour

Maximum operational range: 260 kilometers

Maximum surmountable trench: 2.5 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 0.7 meters

Maximum surmountable slope: 60 percent

Maximum fording: 1.07 meters

Categories: Artillery - Cold War - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-01-14

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