The ZiS-30 Tank Destroyer — The Soviet Danger Tractor
The German onslaught during Operation Barbarossa in 1941 left the Soviet Union reeling, a hard blow causing a shortage of heavy equipment such as artillery, tanks, planes, tank destroyers, and other vehicles. In order to replace lost equipment, the Soviets had to improvise with what they had. As a result the ZiS-30 tank was born in 1941 at the Gorky Plant No. 92 in Novgorod. At the opening of the war it was readily apparent that the Red Army was lacking in anti-tank weaponry, especially tank destroyers and self propelled anti-tank guns. The ZiS-30 was made to be a cheap tank destroyer made from already existing components, which could serve as an effective stop gap until better designs could be created and produced.
The ZiS-30 was the combination of the Kosmolets artillery tractor with a ZiS-2 gun. The Kosmolets tractor was a tracked vehicle intended for towing artillery pieces or carriages full of equipment and personnel. It’s four cylinder 50 horsepower engine could propel the tractor at a top speed of 50 kilometers per hour. Inside the very cramped and claustrophobic cab of the tractor were two crewman, a driver and a machine gunner who operated a 7.62mm machine gun. The ZiS-2 was a very powerful 57mm gun which could propel a projectile up to 1,000 meters per second (3,300 feet per second). At that velocity it could penetrate up to 90mm of steel armor, which is impressive for a gun it’s size and especially deadly for World War II standards. The gun was operated by two crewman, a gunner who also served as commander, and a loader. To protect the crew the gun was shielded with a 10mm thick gun mantlet.
When the ZiS-2 was married with the Kosmolets tractor, what was created was actually a very effective weapon system. While it’s armor was only effective enough for small arms fire, it was not intended to be used in pitched, muzzle to muzzle combat with enemy tanks. Rather, because of it’s small size, it made an excellent ambush weapon. Typically they would be hidden thick foliage, perhaps camouflaged with netting or bushes, and would ambush unsuspecting tank columns or vehicles which would wander into it’s trap.
Despite it’s effectiveness, only 100 ZiS-30 tank destroyers were created as the gun and the tractors were needed for other projects. After 1941 they were phased out for more advanced and effective weapons systems.
World War II saw the rise of combat divers and underwater demolition commandos, a new aspect of warfare which would evolve and increase throughout the Cold War. In the 1960′s the Soviet Union began to deploy special frogmen or divers whose duty was guard naval assets and protect them for enemy divers or commandos. Firearms are ineffective underwater since bullets don’t travel well through water. The following video demonstrates this problem…
Typically, early Soviet frogmen were armed only with a knife and if they were lucky, a speargun. In the late 1960′s the Russian engineer Vladimir Simonov sought to rectify this situation by designing a specialty firearm which could be effectively used underwater. What he created was the SPP-1 underwater pistol, which was adopted in 1971. The most unique aspect of the SPP-1 was it’s cartridge, which fired a 115mm long, caliber 4.5mm dart (4.5x40mmR) which was designed to be hydro-dynamically stable and thus able to travel through water.
The pistol is a breechloading firearm with four barrels, with each barrel firing one at a time giving it four shots. Ammunition was kept in special clips to facilitate reloading. The barrels were not rifled as the projectile is kept in line by hydrodynamic effects. As a result the pistol has much less accuracy and range when fired outside of water.
While the SPP-1 was a revolutionary design and was certainly useful, it had limited firepower, range, and penetrating power. Thus Simonov designed APS underwater rifle, which was adopted in 1975. The APS used the same kind of cartridge, firing a 120mm long, caliber 5.66mm dart (5.66x39mm). Using a gas piston system similar to that of the kalashnikov, the rifle was semi automatic and was fed using 26 round detachable magazines. Unlike the kalashnikov it fired from an open bolt, as apparently have the action and barrel filled with water increase stability of the projectile when fire. Again, like the SPP-1 pistol it’s barrel was not rifled, giving it limited range out of water.
The SPP-1 and APS was used by Soviet Special Forces and Naval Forces throughout the 1970′s and 1980′s. The designs were retired in the 1990′s with the development of newer designs such as the ADS and the ASM-DT.
In the late 1920’s the Soviet Union adopted the GAZ-AAA truck, a six wheeled, 50 horsepower vehicle which was an improved copy of the Ford AAA. The truck served a variety of roles including supply transport, troop transport, gun carrier, and fuel tanker. One of it’s more unique roles was that of mobile anti-aircraft platform. In 1931 the 4M GAZ-AAA was created after being mounted with four Maxim Model 1910/30 machine guns on a 360 degree traversable mount. The M1910/30 was chambered in 7.62x54R and had a firing rate of 600 rounds per minute while being fed from a 250 round belt.
When the 4M GAZ AAA was introduced in 1931 it was certainly sufficient for it’s anti-aircraft role. It’s four machine guns produced more than enough firepower to flick any airplane out of the sky, this being at a time when most military aircraft were comparatively slow and unarmored biplanes. However with World War II came a wide variety of fast and heavily armored aircraft. The 7.62x54R cartridge lacked the range to hit enemy aircraft and the penetrating power to do much damage. It did see use in 1941, often being utilized against enemy infantry. However without any armor it was very vulnerable in combat. The GAZ would later be outfitted with 25mm and 37mm autocannon making it more effective in it’s anti-aircraft role