The Destroyer of Beasts: ISU-152 Self-Propelled Artillery

 
 
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When Panthers rolled alongside Tiger tanks on the Eastern Front, eyebrows were certainly raised at the Soviet High Command. How to overcome these mechanical beasts, whose firepower was only surpassed by their armor?

Well, by introducing one of the heaviest self-propelled artillery pieces of the war―the famous ISU-152.

Nicknamed “The Beast Killer,” it featured a 152.4 mm gun with a multi-role purpose of knocking out heavy tanks, destroying enemy fortifications, and providing artillery support for more mobile units during offensive operations.

An ISU-152 displayed at Karlshorst, Berlin, Germany.Photo Franco Atirador CC BY-SA 3.0
An ISU-152 displayed at Karlshorst, Berlin, Germany.Photo Franco Atirador CC BY-SA 3.0

Following the development of its predecessor―the SU-152―which was fitted on the chassis of the already outdated KV-1 tank, the ISU used the platform of the newly-developed IS tank series. This gave way to a vehicle practically immune to most of the German anti-tank arsenal.

Provided with a tracked platform, its offensive role proved pivotal during battles in urban areas such as Berlin, Budapest, and Königsberg, where it often clashed with well-fortified last stands manned by fierce resistance fighters.

Front view of ISU-152.Photo Petar Milošević CC BY-SA 3.0
Front view of ISU-152.Photo Petar Milošević CC BY-SA 3.0

After first rolling off the factory tracks in December 1943, it went into mass production, eventually leading to 1,885 units manufactured by the end of the war. By 1947, when production ceased, there had been 3,242 vehicles produced in total.

After the Battle of Kursk, the ISU-152 was provided with armor-piercing rounds as its tank-killer potential was fully acknowledged.

At medium range, the Beast Killer was capable of knocking out the heaviest of German armor, including the rarely-fielded Elefant and Jagdtiger tank destroyers.

ISU-152, in Yad la-Shiryon Museum, Israel.Photo Bukvoed CC BY 2.
ISU-152, in Yad la-Shiryon Museum, Israel.Photo Bukvoed CC BY 2.

It was usually equipped with 13 high-explosive and 7 armor-piercing or concrete-piercing rounds per vehicle, as its internal stowage could hold only 20 or 21 rounds of ammunition.

The size and weight of each round, lack of storage space, and fairly difficult loading process were disadvantages that were reflected in the rate of fire.

The other thing that plagued the ISU-152 was the use of two visors, telescopic and panoramic, depending on the distance of the target.

It proved rather difficult for the gunner to switch between the two, resulting in a lack of accuracy.

ISU-152, Kubinka Tank Museum.Photo Сайга20К CC BY 2.5
ISU-152, Kubinka Tank Museum.Photo Сайга20К CC BY 2.5

After WWII, the ISU-152 was mostly exported to the countries of the Eastern Bloc, as well as Egypt, North Korea, China and other traditional allies of the USSR.

The ISU-152 was reportedly last used in combat as part of the Iraqi forces during the First Gulf War in 1990.

ISU-152. Photo 270862 CC BY-ND 2.0
ISU-152. Photo 270862 CC BY-ND 2.0
ISU-152.. Photo 270862 CC BY-ND 2.0
ISU-152.. Photo 270862 CC BY-ND 2.0
ISU-152K, Victory Park, Moscow, Russia
ISU-152K, Victory Park, Moscow, Russia

 

 

Assault gun ISU-152 and soviet trucks
Assault gun ISU-152 and soviet trucks

 

Assault gun ISU-152 in Lvov July 1944
Assault gun ISU-152 in Lvov July 1944

 

Assault gun ISU-152 Romania 1944
Assault gun ISU-152 Romania 1944

 

Captured ISU152 code 1212 Finland 1944
Captured ISU152 code 1212 Finland 1944

 

Heavy assault guns ISU-152
Heavy assault guns ISU-152

 

ISU-152 “1161 in Berlin 1945
ISU-152 “1161 in Berlin 1945

 

ISU-152 “Dosenöffner” captured by German forces
ISU-152 “Dosenöffner” captured by German forces

 

ISU-152 “White 01” 1944
ISU-152 “White 01” 1944

 

 

ISU-152 “White 336”
ISU-152 “White 336”

 

ISU-152 “Zveroboy” July 1944
ISU-152 “Zveroboy” July 1944

 

ISU-152 “Зверобой” in Königsberg 1945
ISU-152 “Зверобой” in Königsberg 1945

 

ISU-152 and T-34 85 1945
ISU-152 and T-34 85 1945

 

ISU-152 coded 343
ISU-152 coded 343

 

ISU-152 Czechoslovakia May 1945
ISU-152 Czechoslovakia May 1945

 

ISU-152 destroyed in Finland 2
ISU-152 destroyed in Finland 2

 

ISU-152 destroyed in Finland
ISU-152 destroyed in Finland
ISU-152 Germany 1945
ISU-152 Germany 1945

 

ISU-152 guns, East Prussia April 1945
ISU-152 guns, East Prussia April 1945

 

ISU-152 in Berlin 1945
ISU-152 in Berlin 1945

 

ISU-152 of the 1st Guards Tank Army passing a pontoon bridge
ISU-152 of the 1st Guards Tank Army passing a pontoon bridge

 

ISU-152 of the 2nd Ukrainian Front
ISU-152 of the 2nd Ukrainian Front

 

ISU-152 of the 396th Guards SPG Regiment June 1944
ISU-152 of the 396th Guards SPG Regiment June 1944

 

ISU-152 Poland February 1945
ISU-152 Poland February 1945

 

ISU152 guns from 374yh Guards Heavy Self-propelled Gun Regiment Lvov 1944
ISU152 guns from 374yh Guards Heavy Self-propelled Gun Regiment Lvov 1944

Read another story from us: 10 Soviet Tanks of World War Two – The Good, the Bad, and the BEASTLY

Soviet self-propelled gun ISU-152
Soviet self-propelled gun ISU-152
 
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