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Subject: Soviet M46 130 mm artillery can out gun American 155 howitzers from 1960s -1980s???
Rasputin    9/19/2006 6:34:27 AM
Please assist me in clarifying this myth that I had stumbled upon about the Soviet M46 130mm gun. According to some reports during the vietnam war the American 155 howitzer was outgunned by the soviet M46 gun? Could the M 46 as the reports claim be able to fire at US artillery with impunity from counter battery fire ???? Quoted from an article in the Marine Corps gazette : "GEN Giap wore his poker face the day he studied the buildup of Marine forces along the DMZ. A master of Soviet tactics, he decided to call and raise. He positioned his heavy artillery pieces just beyond the range of the most common guns in the Marine Corps’ fire bases, the 105mm and 155mm artillery. He knew publicly stated U.S. policy prevented American forces from entering North Vietnam. The Marines would not penetrate north of the Ben Hai River. Holding these political and military restrictions like a trump card, the general dug in his Soviet 152mm guns and his 130mm field pieces precisely where U.S. ground observation was limited. He employed Soviet missiles and antiaircraft weapons systems to hinder aerial observation. He felt confident that his most powerful guns were now capable of suppressing Marine artillery fire with near impunity. When U.S. air reconnaissance spotted the NVA shifting some 130 artillery pieces in the area north of the Ben Hai River, the Marines rushed to reinforce their artillery deployment to 180 tubes. Nevertheless, Giap’s strategy clobbered the Marine artillery bases with little effective return fire. Then, while holding the Marine fire bases fixated on counterbattery missions, particularly at Camp Carroll, the general released his infantry to the attack. " And a further excerpt from an article about Gerald Bull, even the US navy needed help : " If you had a problem w/ your artillery, he was the man to call. During the Second Indo-China War he again used the sabot, this time to increase the range of the U.S. Navy's 5 in. guns. They had been getting out distanced by the new Soviet 130mm artillery pieces being deployed by the N. Vietnamese." Could anyone confirm those facts, I do recall seeing an advertisement in the 80s from Fabrique National, that they produce 130 mm shells for the M46 that go up to 39 Km!!!, but the american howiters range at that time was only about 27 km. If so, what is so special about the M46 gun that without base bleed or rocket assisted shells it could have such phenomenal range?? I know it has a flatter tragectory, and am not sure if its considered a field gun or a howitzer, as the M46 is said to be able to provide direct fire? But strangely there has been no more development for this gun????? and now most users are using the new generation 155s or 152s.
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AussieEngineer       9/19/2006 7:36:13 AM
According to a book I have "East Versus West - The Balance of Military Power", the M-46  has a range of 30,000 yards (27,000m), which is increased to 42,500 yards (38,250m) with RAP.
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Carl S       9/19/2006 8:15:21 AM
Its no myth.  This was a high velocity gun designed for long range fire.  The US 155mm cannon you refer to was a howitzer.  Howitzers are designed for higher volumes of fire than guns, and are more usefull for plunging fire which is usefull for destroying fortified positions, entrenchments, bunkers.   The trade off is a loss of range.  For supporting infantry or tank battalions howitzers with their higher rate of fire are more usefull than guns.  The primary howitzer ofthe US Army of that era was a 105mm cannon that could sustain 10 rounds per minute, the 130mm gun could sustain about 1/3 of that for long periods.  The ammount of explosive in the 130mm projectile was not significantly greater than the 105mm ammunition and less than the 155mm ammunition. 

The 130mm gun was "new" only in the context of NVA equipment.  The tube design went back to the 1930s & was originally laid out for the Soviet navy.  It was based on similar guns of earlier decades.   With some minor changes it was adapted by the Soviet Army for mounting on a field carriage & used in WWII as a long range weapon, in a similar role to the German 170mm gun.  Compared to other guns the 130mm cannon was nothing "phenomenal", just a good design for a long range weapon.

For long range fires in the 1960 & 1970s the US used a 175mm gun.  It also had a 203mm howitzer that had a fairly long range.   Thru the 1950s the US used a 155mm gun as its primary long range cannon supplemented with a few of other calibers.  

In the 1950s there begain a trend in the US Army to use missles for long range fires.   This evolved to the point that in the 1980s the remaining 175mm & 203mm cannon were dropped from battalion inventory and replaced with missles such as the MLRS system.   Develpment of cannon has hit a point of marginal return for range in the last fifty years.  Increasing range requires weight increases above the limit for operation mobility, and/or reduced gross explosive weight on target.   Its been a slow expensive development to squeeze more range from cannon light enough to be of usefull operational efficeincy.  Missles have several advantages over current cannon in the long range battle outweighing their current disadvantages.

"Flat Trajectory"  this is a distortion of what is going on & a term not used in this context by arillerymen in this context.   Trajectory at given ranges are much more complex & the differences cant be clearly identified this way.

In the I Corps battle refered to above there was first a intellegence failure in anticipating the deployment of heavier artillery by the NVA.  Second there was a failure or near failure in US doctrine.   Less than the usuall ammount of heavy long range artillery was assigned to I Corps.  In  NATO/Pact  battle the number of heavy batttalions would have been much larger.  This failure included tactical missles.  The models that would have been useful were not in production.  The models that were available, the nuclear armed Lance, were not sutiable for counter battery fires in this war.    Last, in the context of that battle, counter fires and interdiction of the new heavy NVA artillery should have been taken up by the air forces.  Unfortuantly the target planning group for the US forces in Viet Nam placed higher priority on other targets & assaigned insufficient sorties, at least initially.
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Rasputin    You are both right   9/19/2006 1:11:07 PM
Thanks Aussie Engineer and Carl S, the range of 27 Km was just 3-7 km ahead of the US 155mm howitzer at that time. Alowing the NVA to deploy them just out of reach of the US artillery. And U have also pointed me in the right direction, it was a soviet naval gun (and may have been the development of a skoda WW1 naval gun) But the naval version of the gun has already been further developed by the russian navy, to achieve 60 rounds per minute on twin mounts. These naval guns are liquid cooled and mechanically loaded, and don't have any muzzle breaks on the barrels though, with shells weighing about 79Kg for the naval gun. Thus it is not suprising for the slow rate of fire in the M46. I guess that the M46 must have been the gun that fired back at the Newport News as she charged into Haipong Harbour with guns blazing, but no hits for that field gun in the naval role

While there has been ample information about the naval version of the gun, there is hardly any information on the M46 field gun. These are the only links that I have, ; and

It sure has a long barrel. But it looks like the 130mm tube has reached the end of its life with users keeping the mount and upgrading the tube to 155mm.

I am slightly outdated when it comes to artillery ordinance, I knew that there were sub munitions shells but now it seems that the 155mm artillery can now be precision GPS guided. Naval gunners are now wanting every latest development as well. And they are also calls to bring back the Iowa class battleships to active service. But I am skeptical of the claims of 100 mile range for new sabot rounds on the battleship guns???? If there are no such guns in use, who could have invented such shells?? But if it does work, in a persian gulf scenario the Iowa could still out gun and destroy those shore based silk worm missile batteries before moving in to provide troop support for the army and marines. Replacing aircraft in the close support sorties, and cruise missile strikes, with their supersonic guided shells.
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S-2    Rasputin Reply   9/19/2006 1:36:22 PM
"...the range of 27 Km was just 3-7 km ahead of the US 155mm howitzer at that time."
Uh, no.  Both the M-109 and the M-114 firing tables showed a MAX range of 14,600 meters, IIRC.  These were short-tube weapons.  Our 155mm range capability didn't increase until approx 1978-79 with the intro of the 39 cal. tube, pushing our non-RAP range to 18,100 meters.  Finally the M-198 gave us a decent range capability of 24km (30 with RAP) in the early eighties.
Equally our 203mm howitzer, the M-110, was also a short-tube design, reaching only 16km during the Vietnam War.  This range was eventually also extended to approx. 24km, as I recall, in the late seventies/early eighties. 
Finally, I recall that the U.S. Army had placed some 175mm guns at Camp Carroll.  With a 32km max range and anchored high, I had heard rumors that they (shooting downhill, as it were) were ranging 40km from their gun positions.
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AlbanyRifles    175mm   9/19/2006 1:41:47 PM
Didn't the Israelis also use some of these in 1973 to shell Damascus?
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S-2    Rasputin Reply   9/19/2006 1:54:21 PM
Keith Nolan wrote an excellent account of Operation Buffalo, a marine operation in July, 1967 along the DMZ that was largely an outgrowth of a company sized contact within the buffer zone.  This was approx. a five kilometer strip bordered by the national demarcation to the north and a paved dirt track running from Dong Ha to Con Thien on the south. 
I don't believe that we EVER employed marine artillery north of the dirt track, even in raids.  This was a HEAVILY contested area between marine and NVA infantry forces.  So, our units were no less than five to seven kms. behind the border, possibly farther.
I wouldn't expect our counter-battery fires to range much deeper than seven to ten kilometers into N. Vietnam.  As a rule, our guys were at a decisive disadvantage, except along the northern coast.  As such, the artillery threat further east near Dong Ha, Phu Bai, etc. was considerably less.  No doubt that NAVY fires would have had a hand in that decision.  Too, IIRC, like Dien Bien Phu, many of these weapons were individually located in very hardened positions by the NVA along the DMZ, further complicating the counter-fire picture.
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S-2    A.R. Reply   9/19/2006 1:59:41 PM
"Didn't the Israelis also use some of these in 1973 to shell Damascus?"
I can't recall, but would believe it.  Particularly once they kicked their counter-offensive in gear.  I DO know that they were still heavily used in 1982 by the Israelis.  We still had em'  in Germany when I entered in 1979.  Along with "Artillery Groups"!  Very interesting and unique propellant, with little red bags (red devils) inserted along the length of the propellant bags.  Again, if I recall correctly.
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Carl S       9/19/2006 9:05:40 PM
I vaguely recall hearing of the "Red Devils" but cant recall their purpose.  Burn accelerators? Flash suppresors?

My first two years in the artillery overlapped the last of the M110 203mm howitzers in the USMC.  Those were the long tubed ones with extended range.  We had exactly two of the them in the 12th Marines on Okinawa.  The award of the day to anyone who can guess correctly why there were just two such in all of III MEF.

As I wrote earlier the NVA long range artillery should have been quickly taken care of by the air wing.  Unfortunatly target planning & selection was not under the final control of I Corps & it took a while before the appropriate sorties were properly allocated.   Another of those little doctrinal things that tripped us up in that war. 
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timon_phocas       9/19/2006 9:40:58 PM

Didn't the Israelis also use some of these in 1973 to shell Damascus?

1) I remember reading that the Israeli's did use 175's to bombard Damascus

2) A biography of Gerald Bull stated that he had consulted with the Israeli's to develop a discarding sabot for the 175's that put Damacus in Israeli artillery range. I think the biography was, "A Wilderness of Mirrors"
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Carl S       9/19/2006 9:43:40 PM
A look at David Isbys "Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army reveals few things about the M46 130mm gun.  The M46 was first seen in the May Day Parade in 1954.  It replaced the earlier 130mm A19.  The NVA were given only "a few dozen" !  In terms of the I Corps battle two or three battalions is not a 'only' thing!

Isby goes on to declare that the USAF had difficulty countering the M46 guns as they moved frequently into newly prepared positions.  SAM & other AAA defenses were effective too.  I'm guessing the USMC commander in I Corps was tearing his short hair out while watching the USAF muff another one.

Next Isby relates that in 1973 the Egyptians had a brigade of these with each army.  The Egyptians colocated a radio DF unit with certain batterys.  I'm guessing here the DF unit would have included a signals analysis unit, or been in close communication with one.  Early in the Siani battle near the Suez a Israli counter attack fell apart when its Ugda (Divsion) HQ was hammered by long range fires.  

Isby does not mention propellant.  Theres a fair chance it uses a metal case as with semi fixed ammo.  The muzzle velocity is 930m/sec & penetration with AP shot is 93mm at 1000 meters.  Finally the emplacement time is given as 12 minutes with a nine man crew suggesting a fairly mobile weapon. 
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