Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Self-propelled artillery vehicles mount a large howitzer (or alternatively mortar or rockets) and are used for long-range indirect bombardment support. Though lightly armored, and sometimes equipped with machine guns, they are not designed for direct-fire combat. They usually count as armoured fighting vehicles if they possess some kind of shrapnel protection for the crews.
Self-propelled artillery have in the past included assault guns and assault howitzers . These are heavily armored vehicles which provide close fire-support for infantry.
Development of SP artillery
Self-propelled artillery became feasible after World War I with the development of rugged motor vehicles and the improvement of the tank.
At the outbreak of World War II virtually all artillery remained towed or horse-drawn. While German Blitzkrieg doctrine called for rapid support of armoured units, during the invasion of Poland and France this was provided by the Luftwaffe and conventional towed howitzers.
As the War progressed, all nations developed self-propelled artillery. Early models were often no more than an infantry field gun or anti-tank gun mounted on a truck. As the war progressed, tracked chassis and armoured superstructures became more common.
By the end of the war Germany and Russia had developed heavily armoured assault guns which were designed to provide direct-fire support to infantry in the face of enemey anti-tank defences. The StuG III, and the SU-152 pictured above, are good examples of this type of self-propelled artillery.
All main combatant nations also had lightly-armoured self-propelled artillery which was designed to provide an indirect support capability to fast-moving armoured formations. The most effective were the Russian Katyusha self-propelled rocket launchers. Effectively trucks with a missile rack on the back, they were crushingly effective against German formations on the Eastern front.
After the Second World War, the assault gun concept became less widespread as the variety of armoured vehicles was streamlined into the main battle tank. Other SP artillery remained important.
Modern SP Artillery
SP artillery remains important in the equipment of many modern armies. It saw a significant role in the first and second Gulf Wars.
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