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Category: Artillery

North Korean Koksan M-1978 170 mm self-propelled artillery piece. Iraq, 2008

North Korean Koksan M-1978 170 mm Self-Propelled Artillery Piece

The Koksan M-1978, or simply M-1978, is a North Korean self-propelled gun (SPG) featuring a 170 mm gun. It must be noted before moving forward that as with all North Korean military discussions, concrete information is limited; this includes the M-1978 SPG. The main gun in the M-1978 is mounted in an open mount on what is suspected to be Chinese Type 59 chasis a platform and two retractable spades located on the rear of the vehicle. When the vehicle is in a firing position the spades are lowered. The M1978 employs a large muzzle brake. The designation for this SPG is not native; but rather assigned by the US Department of Defense. The reference Koksan M-1978 is to the year and the location in North Korean in which the vehicle was first noted by western analysts; specifically, in 1978 in Koksan county, North Hwanghae Province. The vehicle was first seen in a public display in a parade in 1985 in North Korea. The M-1978 does not carry any ammunition; this would need to be delivered by support vehicles. It is believed that the M-1978 has a range of 40 km; and 60 km when shells are used with a booster (rocket assisted).

The M1978 appears to be crewed by between 6 and 8 personnel; this is reinforced by a photo of an Iranian M1978 with it’s crew. However it must be noted that the Type 59 is manned by a crew of 4. If the Type 59 is the chasis for the M1978 (or a comparable vehicle) then it likely has limits for onboard personnel transport to at most 4 people. We can speculate then that the remaining crew would travel in support vehicles such as the munitions transport vehicle(s).

Export operators include Iran; which used this weapon system during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988. Iraq captured at least one Koksan M-1978 during the Iran-Iraq war; which would end up on display at the University of Anbar, only to be taken by US forces in 2008 (in relation to the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003).

The Koksan M-1978 is believed to still be in active use. A 2013 inspection of Korean People’s Army (KPA) unit 641 by Kim Jong Un showed the unit’s M-1978’s on display for review. Unit 641 is believed to target the South Korean held island of Baengnyeong; off South Korea’s north-west coast. Unit 641 is on the south-west border in close striking distance to Baengnyeong.

The deployment of the M1978 is not known with precision; various attempts describe it as deployed at the regiment or battalion level. Possibly a regiment of 36 units, made up in turn of 3 battalions of 12 units. This along with supporting equipment (vehicles and the like) and personnel. Such attempts at determining the deployment of the M1978 are speculative to be sure; however satellite photos of Unit 641 shows two distinct storage facilities close to each other with each facility housing 4 M1978 SPGs.

Many artillery pieces including the M1978 are stationed near the Korean Demilitarized Zone with South Korea as a part of a broader strategy of the North Korean Military.

SPG: Koksan M-1978
Main Armament: 170 mm gun
Secondary Armament: N/A
Weight: Unknown
Speed: Unknown
Crew: 6 to 8

Works Cited

  1. “Koksan (Artillery).” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 15 Aug. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koksan_(artillery). Accessed 15 Aug. 2017.
  2. Pike, John. “Military.” M-1978 / M1989 (KOKSAN) 170mm self propelled (SP) gun, www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/dprk/m-1978-170.htm. Accessed 15 Aug. 2017.
  3. “M1978 Koksan 170-Mm self-Propelled gun.” Military-Today.com , www.military-today.com/artillery/m1978_koksan.htm.
  4. “KPA Unit 641.” Satellite Analysis of DPRK, WordPress.com, 20 Aug. 2015, nkbypanda.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/kpa-unit-641/. Accessed 16 Aug. 2017.
  5. Mansourov , Alexandre Y. “North Korea coming to Assad’s rescue.” The Korea Times, 13 June 2013, www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2013/06/197_137440.html. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.
  6. “North Korea (1978) Self Propelled Gun .” Tank Encyclopedia, 14 Apr. 2015, www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/coldwar/North_Korea/Koksan-M1978.php. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.

The Italian Obice da 305/17 G. Mod. 1917 Howitzer

This article is on the Italian Obice da 305/17 G. Mod. 1917 howitzer circa the First World War. I wanted to write this when I noted a number of pictures of this piece that were misidentified; and no details. After finding some good Italians sources I can now write something. Often described online as an Italian self propelled gun; nothing could be farther from the truth. This is the antiquated Italian Obice da 305/17 G. Mod. 1917 howitzer circa the First World War.

The Italian Obice da 305/17 G. Mod. 1917 howitzer circa the First World War.

Often described online as an Italian self propelled gun; nothing could be farther from the truth. This is the antiquated Italian Obice da 305/17 G. Mod. 1917 howitzer circa the First World War.

As can be seen from the photos below, the howitzer could be set in a fixed position or in the wheeled version which was a portion of the De Stefano (D.S.) carriage which compensated for it’s recoil from the use of inclined ramps. The tracks pictured on the wheels are likely for transport only when it isn’t on it’s rail assembly; they are pedrail wheels. Designed in 1908 and built between 1914 and 1917, a total of 44 were built by Armstrong-Pozzuoli and Vickers-Terni. This howitzer was 305 mm.

The Obice da 305/17 G. Mod. 1917 howitzer required a team of individuals and equipment to disassemble and move it; the below pictures illustrate the gun along with it disassembled for transport by tractors.

Works Cited:

1. “305/17.” Wikipedia: L’enciclopedia libera. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 14 Jun 2013. Web. 11 Nov 2013. <http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/305/17>.

The M65 Atomic Cannon 280mm Towed Artillery

The M65 Atomic Cannon 280mm Towed Artillery.

The M65 Atomic Cannon 280mm Towed Artillery; circa 1952 and capable of firing a nuclear device, this artillery piece was nicknamed Atomic Annie.

Circa 1952, the US M65 Atomic Cannon, was a towed artillery piece capable of firing a nuclear device. It would be deployed starting in 1953 in Europe and Korea; and retired in 1963. In 1949 Robert Schwartz was tasked with the project intended to create a weapon to form a portion of the deterrent to the perceived threat of the Soviet Union at the time. Schwartz was sequestered under guard watch in a room for 15 days at the Pentagon while he designed what would become the M65. Not long after development began, the project was transferred to the Picatinny Arsenal; which was given the task of designing the payload for the M65. The initial design created by Schwartz used the German K5 railroad gun as a basis; the design was scaled to use a 240 mm shell which was the maximum size available to arsenal. Again Schwartz was sequestered to finalize the design including the method of transportation for the M65. The project was approved by the Pentagon after the intervention of Samuel Feltman, Chief of the Ballistics Section of the Ordnance Department’s Research and Development Division. After a three-year development process led by Feltman, the project was finished by 1952. Although Feltman led the team he did not see it to fruition, passing away in late 1951. The Technical Division Laboratory at the Picatinny Arsenal would be renamed the Samuel Feltman Laboratories. 20 M65 artillery pieces were made at a cost of $800,000 each; one of these M65 artillery pieces was nicknamed Able Annie. Able Annie was fired during tests at Knothole with a backup present nicknamed Sad Sack. The test took place on May 25, 1953 at 8:30am. Codenamed Grable, the test and others where part of the Upshot-Knothole series of nuclear tests that took place in Nevada at Frenchman Flat. Able Annie would end up later earning the nickname  Atomic Annie. The names Able Annie and Atomic Annie likely stem from the vehicles design heritage from the German K5 railroad gun which would end up being nicknamed Anzio Annie after it’s employment against US forces during their landings in Italy. A demonstration model was available to be used in Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugural parade in January 1953.

Samuel Feltman with the ENIAC team.

Samuel Feltman had worked prior on the ENIAC team; pictured here third from left.

The M65 was transported by two tractors, one at both ends, each with an engine generating 375 hp. The tractors were capable of communicating by a phone system and could travel at 35 mph. The M65 was 80 feet long and could travel down a paved or gravel road with a width of 28 feet. The vehicle took 15 minutes to setup for use.  The vehicle was capable of a full 360 degree traverse as it sat on a 9 foot circular base plate with jacks. The vehicle had a hydraulic rammer with a back up system using gears; the shells weighed 600 lbs.

Enjoy the following video on this artillery piece:

Works Cited:
1. “M65 Atomic Cannon.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 Jul 2013. Web. 5 Oct 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M65_Atomic_Cannon>.

2. Potts, JR. “M65 Atomic Cannon 280mm Towed Artillery (1952).” Military Factory. N.p., 5 May 2013. Web. 30 Oct 2013. <http://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/detail.asp?armor_id=288>.

3. Crawley, Jeff. “Atomic Annie on the move.” www.army.mil The Official Homepage of the United States Army. N.p., 16 Sep 2010. Web. 31 Oct 2013. <http://www.army.mil/article/45311/atomic-annie-on-the-move>.

4.”Samuel Feltman.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 Jul 2013. Web. 31 Oct 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Feltman>.

Off Topic: Artillery Photos And More

This is off topic but I thought I’d share a selection of photos of Artillery pieces I took while visiting the Texas Military Forces Museum not that long ago. There were several field pieces and at least one anti-aircraft, and one anti-tank piece; from several countries and time periods including examples from France, Russia, and the USA.


105 mm (10.5 cm) Cannon on the Sherman and Panzer IV

An M4A3E8 Sherman Tank

An M4A3E8 Sherman Tank armed with a 76mm cannon.

In the game World of Tanks the available Sherman tanks, the M4, the M4A3E2, and the M4A3E8 as well as the Panzer (PzKpfw) IV are shown as having a 105mm cannon available. In the case of the Sherman, Gun 105 mm SPH M4 L/23; and in the case of the Panzer IV, Gun 10,5 cm KwK 42 L/28. While I’m aware of upgrade programs for the Sherman, while thinking about the Panzer IV this got me wondering about when this would have occurred and where it may have been seen.

Regarding the Sherman I have found that during the Second World War, there was a variant using a 105mm cannon: the M4 Sherman 105mm Howitzer. This variant was used in both an Artillery, and a Tank Destroyer capacity. These tanks were fitted with a modified 105mm M2 howitzer (“1944-U.S.A. M4 Medium Tank (105)”); the M1/M2 being the guns in the M7 Priest Self-Propelled Gun.

While actual Sherman’s using the 105mm cannon were produced and saw action, the Panzer IV with a 105mm (10.5cm) was a different story. The German’s appear to have experimented with a 105mm artillery gun mounted in an experimental demountable turret on a Panzer IV chassis (“Panzer IV”); this experimental design was called the Heuschrecke (“Grasshopper”), a Self-Propelled Gun. A further  experimental design, a tank destroyer nicknamed Dicker Max (Fat Max); it was called the 10.5 cm K gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette. While the prototype for the  Heuschrecke 10 doesn’t appear to have been sent into combat; the Dicker Max prototypes, both, were sent to the Eastern Front. What is not clear is if two were built and sent to the Eastern Front, or if one was built and sent along with a prototype for the Sturer Emil (Stubborn Emil) which was a comparable vehicle. Quoting the Wikipedia page for the Sturer Emil, the name for the prototypes of the two Sturer Emil units sent to the Eastern Front where “Max and Moritz” (“Sturer Emil”).

Works Cited:

1. “M4 Sherman.” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 12 May 2013. Web. 12 May 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M4_Sherman>.

2. “The History of the M4 Sherman 105mm Howitzer.” . Tamiya.com. Web. 12 May 2013. <http://www.tamiya.com/english/products/56014sherman/sherman_expl.htm>.

3. “1944-U.S.A. M4 Medium Tank (105).” Battle Tanks. N.p.. Web. 12 May 2013. <http://www.battletanks.com/m4_105mm.htm>.

4. “Panzer IV.” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 7 May 2013. Web. 12 May 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_IV>.

5. “10.5 cm K (gp.Sfl.).” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 1 Mar 2013. Web. 12 May 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10.5_cm_K_(gp.Sfl.)>.

6. “Heuschrecke 10.” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 8 May 2013. Web. 12 May 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heuschrecke_10>.

7.  “Sturer Emil.” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 27 Feb 2013. Web. 12 May 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturer_Emil>.

8. “Dicker Max and Sturer Emil in Combat.” Flames of War. N.p., 21 May 2010. Web. 12 May 2013. <http://www.flamesofwar.com/hobby.aspx?art_id=1936>.

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