The SU-76 (Samokhodnaya Ustanovka 76) was a Soviet self-propelled gun used during and after World War II. The SU-76 was based on a lengthened and widened version of the T-70 light tank chassis. Its simple construction made it the second most produced Soviet armoured vehicle of World War II, after the T-34 tank.

Crews liked the vehicle for its simplicity, reliability, and ease of use. However, the steering was also sometimes regarded as cumbersome, leading crews to also refer to the vehicle as suka ("bitch") or Suchka ("little bitch"). It was also nicknamed Golozhopiy Ferdinand ("bare-arsed Ferdinand") due to its very light armor and somewhat similar silhouette, when compared to the Germans' heavy Ferdinand/Elefant casemate tank destroyer of some 65 tonnes in weight.

Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Gorki Automobile Factory No.1 (GAZ)
Production Period 1942 - 1943
Origin Russia (USSR)
Country Name Origin Year
Russia (USSR) 1942
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Russia (USSR) View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Gorki Automobile Factory No.1 (GAZ) 1942 1943 800 View

Design of the SU-76 began in November 1942, when the State Defense Committee ordered the construction of infantry support self-propelled guns armed with the ZiS-3 76.2 mm anti-tank gun and the M-30 122 mm howitzer. The T-70 chassis was chosen for mounting the ZiS-3 gun, and was lengthened, adding one road wheel per side, to facilitate better gun mounting. The vehicle was completely enclosed by armour.

The power-plant setup installed in the first mass-produced SU-76s was unreliable. Two GAZ-202 automobile engines were used mounted in "parallel", each engine driving one track. It was found to be difficult for the driver to control the two engines simultaneously, and strong vibration forces led to early failures of engines and transmission units. After 320 SU-76s had been made, mass production was halted in order to resolve the problems. Two chief designers at the GAZ plant, N. A. Astrov and A. A. Lipgart, changed the power-plant arrangement to that of the T-70 - the two engines were mounted in tandem on the right hand side of the vehicle. The armoured roof over the gun compartment was removed to improve access to and servicing of the weapon. This modified version, called the SU-76M, was placed in mass production in early 1943. During the halt of production, a replacement vehicle was produced which mounted the 76.2mm gun on captured German tank chassis. This vehicle was called the SU76i.

After production resumed, GAZ and two factories in Kirov and Mytishchi produced 13,932 SU-76Ms; the larger part of the order, over 9,000 vehicles, were built solely by GAZ. Mass production of the SU-76M ceased in the second half of 1945. In contemporary accounts SU-76Ms are often referred to in texts, public radio and TV broadcasting as SU-76s with the "M" omitted, due to their ubiquity in comparison with the original SU-76s.

The SU-76 was the basis for the first Soviet tracked armoured anti-aircraft vehicle, the ZSU-37. Mass production of the ZSU-37 was continued after SU-76M production ceased. The SU-76M was withdrawn from Soviet Army service after the Second World War ended.

The SU-76M virtually replaced infantry tanks in the close support role. Its thin armour and open top made it vulnerable to antitank weapons, grenades, and small arms. Its light weight and low ground pressure gave it good mobility.

The SU-76M combined three main battlefield roles: light assault gun, mobile anti-tank weapon and mobile gun for indirect fire. As a light assault gun, the SU-76M was well-regarded by Soviet infantrymen (in contrast with their own crews). It had more powerful weapons than any previous light tank for close support and communication between infantry and the SU-76M crew was simple due to the open crew compartment. This was extremely useful in urban combat where good teamwork between infantry and AFVs was a key to success. Although the open compartment was highly vulnerable to small arms fire and hand grenades, it very often saved the crew's lives in the case of a hit by a Panzerfaust, whose concussion blast would mean death in an enclosed vehicle.

The SU-76M was effective against any medium or light German tank. It could also knock out the Panther tank with a flank shot, but the ZiS-3 gun was not effective against Tiger tanks. Soviet manuals for SU-76M crews usually instructed the gunner to aim for the tracks or gun barrels when facing Tigers. To improve the SU-76M's anti-armour capabilities, armour-piercing composite rigid (APCR) and hollow charge projectiles were introduced. This gave the SU-76M a better chance against heavily armoured German vehicles. A low profile, a low noise signature and good mobility were other advantages of the SU-76M. This was ideal for organizing ambushes and sudden flank or rear strikes in close combat, where the ZiS-3 gun was sufficient against most German armoured fighting vehicles.

The maximum elevation angle of the ZiS-3 was the highest of all Soviet self-propelled guns. The maximum indirect fire distance was nearly 17 km. SU-76Ms were sometimes used as light artillery vehicles (like the German Wespe) for bombardments and indirect fire support. However the power of the 76.2 mm shells was not sufficient in many cases.

The SU-76M was the single Soviet vehicle able to operate in swamps with minimal support from engineers. During the Belarus liberation campaign in 1944 it was extremely useful for organizing surprise attacks through swamps; bypassing heavy German defenses on firmer ground. Usually only lightly armed infantry could pass through large swampy areas. With SU-76M support, Soviet soldiers and engineers could effectively destroy enemy strongpoints and continue to advance.

The SU-76M had a large number of ammunition types. They included armour-piercing (usual, with ballistic nose and subcaliber hyper-velocity), hollow charge, high explosive, fragmentation, shrapnel and incendiary projectiles. This made the SU-76M an excellent multi-purpose light armoured fighting vehicle.

One famous crewman was Rem Nikolaevich Ulanov. In his younger days he was a mechanic-driver and later a commander of a SU-76. He and some other soldiers called their SU-76 Columbina after the female Renaissance Italian Commedia dell'Arte personage.

After World War II, the SU-76 was used by Communist forces in the Korean War. A small number of SU-76Ms were captured and used by the South after the landing of Incheon.

Formal DesignationSU-76
Manufacturer(s)GAZ, Factory No. 38
Production Quantityabout 8001Production PeriodDec. 1942 - May 1943
TypeSelf-Propelled GunCrew4
Length (overall)4.9 m (16' 1")Barrel Overhang0
Width (overall)2.7 m (8' 10")Height (overall)2.2 m (7' 3")
Combat Weight10800Radio Equipment9R
Primary Armament76.2mm Gun ZiS-3 Model 1942Ammunition Carried60
Traverse (degrees)Manual (16° L - 16° R)Elevation (degrees)-3° to 25°
Traverse speed (360°)-Sightn.a.
Secondary Armament-Ammunition Carried-

Engine Make & Model2 x GAZ-202Track Links89/track
Type & Displacement2 x In6Track Width30 cm (12")
Horsepower (max.)2 x 70hp@3000rpmTrack Ground Contact330 cm (130")
Power/Weight Ratio13.0 hp/tGround Pressure0.55 kg/cm2 (7.8 psi)
Gearbox4 forward, 1 reverseGround Clearance0.30 m (1' 0")
FuelGasoline (Petrol)Turning Radiusover 12.5 m (41' 0")
Range on/off road320/190 kmGradient25°
Mileage on/off road130 l/100kmVertical Obstacle0.7 m (2' 4")
Fuel Capacity420 litersFording0.9 m (2' 11")
Speed on/off road45 km/hTrench Crossing2.0 m (6' 7")
Armor DetailFrontSideRearTop/Bottom
1Total production of SU-76, SU-76M and ZSU-37 is estimated to be 12661, according to Fleischer. Only "several hundred" ZSU-37 were manufactured from 1944, according to Zaloga. 
ST, TWWII, WWW2, FSM0192, BP35, RTAV, Russian Military Zone

End notes