203-mm Howitzer B-4,Technical Details – USSR

203-mm Howitzer B-4 Specifications

  • Years of issue – 1932 – 1941
  • In total, 1008 units were produced.
  • Caliber – 203 mm
  • Weight in firing position – 17,700 kg
  • Barrel length – 5087 mm
  • The length of the threaded part – 3981 mm
  • Calculation – 15 people
  • Travel speed – 12 – 15 km / h
  • Rate of fire – 1 rds / min
  • The greatest firing range – 18,025 m
  • Direct shot range – no data
  • Shooting angles:
  • Horizontal – 8 °
  • Vertical – 0 ° + 60 °

203-mm Howitzer B-4 Details

The development of a project of a 203-mm long-range howitzer was started at the Design Bureau of the Artillery Committee of the GAU in 1926 in accordance with the decision of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR to re-equip artillery of high and special power with new domestic materiel. It was planned to create a “triplex”: a 122-mm corps cannon, 152-mm cannon of the artillery reserve of the main command (ARGK) and 203-mm howitzers ARGK. These works were initially headed by F.F. Lender, and then after his death, in 1927, the leading designers of the Leningrad plant “Bolshevik” were engaged in the creation of the howitzer.The howitzer was developed in 1928 in two versions: with and without a muzzle brake. The barrels of guns and ballistics in both versions were the same, however, preference was given to the barrel without a muzzle brake. The working drawings of the swinging part of the howitzer were created at the Artkom Design Bureau, and the working drawings of the tracked carriage were created at the Bolshevik Design Bureau.

The new gun received the index “B-4”. Its first prototype was made at the Bolshevik plant in 1931. The features of this howitzer included the use of a carriage on a tracked track. In those years, none of the wheels could withstand the recoil force when firing from 203-mm guns with a full charge, so an original decision was made: to replace the wheel travel with a tracked one, which provided the howitzer with a sufficiently high cross-country ability, allowing firing from the ground without using stops and arranging a special platform.This technical feature allowed the carriage to become unified for a whole family of “triplex” heavy guns of high power, consisting of 152-mm Br-2 cannon, 203-mm B-4 howitzer and 280-mm mortar Br-5. For transportation in the stowed position, the howitzer was disassembled into two parts: the barrel removed from the carriage and laid on a special vehicle, and separately – a tracked carriage connected to the front end.

For transportation, the Kommunar tracked tractors were used, the maximum permissible speed of movement on the highway was 15 km / h. For short distances, the howitzer was allowed to be transported and not disassembled. A similar method of transportation could be used during hostilities to advance howitzers for direct fire at enemy reinforced concrete defenses. However, due to a large number of shortcomings, the design of the howitzer required significant changes, so already in 1932 it was modernized.On the same gun carriage, a 3-gauge longer and more durable barrel was imposed. Howitzers with the old barrel were named “B-4 low power” (MM), and guns with a new barrel – “B-4 high power” (BM). After lengthy field and military tests on June 10, 1934, the gun was adopted by the Red Army under the designation “203-mm howitzer model 1931”.

The B-4 howitzer had a fastened or monoblock barrel with a liner; piston type shutter; hydraulic recoil brake; hydropneumatic knurler; variable rollback length; carton loading and a heavy tracked carriage.

To facilitate the loading of the howitzer, a manual winch was mounted on the gun carriage. The backrests of the seats mounted on the gun carriage on both sides of the barrel were used as a light shield cover. The ammunition load of the B-4 consisted of separate cartridge-loading shots. Shooting was carried out with high-explosive and concrete-piercing shells. The firing range of a high-explosive projectile weighing 100 kg, with an initial speed of 575 m / s, was 18,000 m. A concrete-piercing projectile, with an initial speed of 600 m / s, pierced concrete floors up to one meter thick. Due to the large elevation angle (up to 60 °) with full and eleven different variable charges, giving different initial projectile speeds, it was possible to choose optimal trajectories for hitting various targets.

The 203-mm B-4 howitzer was intended to destroy especially strong concrete, reinforced concrete and armored structures of the enemy, to combat enemy artillery and to suppress long-range targets, as well as to destroy targets far from the front line. During the Soviet-Finnish war in 1939-1940, the Red Army for the first time on a massive scale used large-caliber artillery to break through the heavily fortified enemy defenses, including the 203-mm howitzer of the 1931 model.

As of March 1, 1940, there were 142 B-4 howitzers on the Finnish front. On June 22, 1941, the Red Army already had 849 B-4 howitzers, which were in service with 33 high-power howitzer artillery regiments of the RVGK. The artillery of the RVGK was intended to strengthen the artillery groupings in the main directions.

During the Great Patriotic War, 203-mm B-4 howitzers were successfully used, and thanks to their power, excellent ballistics of 12 variable charges and an elevation angle of 60 °, the choice of the optimal trajectory for hitting various targets was ensured. The headquarters of the Supreme High Command maneuvered these weapons at the right moments, forming a huge qualitative and quantitative superiority over the enemy in the areas of the breakthrough. After the start of the war, the high-power howitzer artillery regiments of the RVGK were withdrawn to the deep rear, and they took part in hostilities only from the end of 1942, when the strategic initiative began to gradually pass into the hands of the Red Army.

The 203-mm howitzer of the 1931 model was successfully used both in breaking through fortified zones and during the assault on fortresses, as well as in street battles in large cities. The howitzer was used when breaking through fortified strips (Mannerheim Line, Karelian Wall, etc.), during the storming of fortresses (East Prussia), as well as in street battles in big cities (Berlin, etc.). They took part in the storming of Berlin. 38 B-4 howitzers. Howitzer crews acted insolently, firing at close range for fortified centers of resistance, destroying them and destroying the defenders.So, one of the guns at the intersection of Liden-Strasse and Ritter-Strasse, from a distance of 150 meters, with 6 shots destroyed a building well fortified and prepared for long-term defense. By May 1, 1945, 203-mm B-4 howitzers were present in 30 howitzer artillery brigades and 4 separate high-power howitzer artillery regiments of the RVGK.

The 203-mm B-4 howitzer of the 1931 model was produced at the Bolshevik plant
(Leningrad) from 1932 to 1941, and at the Barrikady plant (Stalingrad) from 1937 to 1941. However, it was not possible to achieve complete unification of the B-4 howitzers produced by the Bolshevik and Barricades factories. In 1938, the third plant, Novokramatorsky, was connected to their production. A total of 1008 B-4 howitzers were produced, of which 31 B-4MM howitzers and 977 B-4BM howitzers. After the end of the war, the B-4BM was modernized again.

In 1954, the chief designer of the Barricades plant G.I. Sergeev put it on a two-axle wheeled carriage. The 203-mm howitzer with a new gun carriage received the index “B-4M” and was adopted by the Soviet army in 1955.

The transport of the gun became inseparable, the towing speed increased significantly to 35 km / h. At the B-4M howitzer, the barrel was no longer removed during transportation, but was delayed, which made it possible to reduce the time for transferring the marching to the combat position and back. In addition, the rejection of the barreled carriage allowed us to limit ourselves to one tractor. The modernized B-4M howitzers were in service with the Soviet army until the end of the 1970s.

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