Country of origin
Maximum firing range
Maximum rate of fire
5 - 6 rpm
- 5 to + 45 degrees
+- 25 degrees
Dimensions and weight
Length (in travelling order)
6x6 or 8x8 truck
A classic example of
long-lasting Soviet militaria, the D-20 gun-howitzer is a familiar
sight in battlefields all over the world. Although it is often
overlooked when compared to current artillery pieces—self-propelled’s
are all the rage right now—the D-20’s reputation as a solid,
reliable, and devastating piece of work is a well-deserved one.
A creation of the F. Petrov Design Bureau during the early
1950s, the D-20 was meant as a generational leap forward that would
replace the aging guns and howitzers that helped the Red Army beat
the Nazis. But the D-20 was steeped in its predecessors, resulting
in an economical weapon system that oozed old school charm. Consider
how narrow wheeled gun carriages and quaint splinter
shields—borrowed from the D-74 122 mm howitzer—are rare sights in
became the Soviet Army’s favorite heavy towed gun-howitzer beginning
in the mid-1950s. From then on it went to enjoy a spectacular career
with Soviet allies and client states. It was recognizable for its
short barrel assembly topped with a double baffle muzzle brake. The
D-20 used a semi-automatic sliding wedge breech that put its
rate-of-fire on par with NATO’s own 155 mm howitzers. Other
identifiers are its carriage, elongated trails with miniature
rollers attached before the large spades, and of course its iconic
fires fragmentation, High-Explosvie Fragmentation (HE-FRAG), High
Explosive (HE), concrete-busting, and illumination rounds. It is
also capable of launching Krasnopol laser-guided rounds, as well as
nuclear rounds. Maximum range of fire with HE-FRAG round is 17.4 km.
The HE round penetrates 250 mm steel plate at a range of 3 km.
Deployed in batteries of six and battalions of 18 artillery
pieces, the D-20’s role was in a divisional artillery regiment that
combined 54 heavy guns and a separate rocket launcher battalion;
BM-27 Uragans. The D-20 and the
M-46 130 mm gun were deemed
superior to their Western analogs until the 1970s. Consider how
their immediate rivals on the battlefield were American 155 mm and
105 mm howitzers that dated to the 1940s—a hard lesson for the US
Army during the Vietnam War.
The D-20’s operation during combat remains a contentious
matter. For a weapon system that fought so many wars in different
climates details such as its accuracy, effective range, and correct
deployment along with its crew number (varying from 6 to 10
soldiers) are shrouded in obfuscation. The crew of 10 prepares this
gun-howitzer for firing from traveling order within 3 minutes.
Cold War the D-20 was towed by AT-L and AT-S tracked artillery
6x6 trucks and
813 8x8 trucks.
The D-20 ranks among the most prolific artillery pieces ever.
Aside from the Soviet Union’s titanic production numbers, its barrel
assembly was used and upgraded in the late 1960s for the
2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled howitzer.
China, North Korea, the former Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria also
manufactured the D-20 in significant quantities, often adding
specific improvements. With conventional wars back in vogue in the
2010s the D-20 is enjoying a career boost as national armies on a
budget are deploying it again. The irony of its success, as with
many Soviet-era weapons, is it probably faced other Soviet-made
howitzers in several wars. The Sino-Vietnamese conflict comes to
mind. One can also recall the Iran-Iraq War, the Balkans and
Afghanistan in the early 1990s, the drawn-out showdown in
Nagorno-Karabakh, and the current Syrian Civil War.
Since numbers are always difficult to come by when it comes
to semi-obscure industrial artifices it is best to assume thousands
of D-20’s exist and they’ve reached some 30 countries by now. It is
not that big a surprise if there’s still strong demand for surplus
D-20’s. It seems that the Russian Army is no longer using this
artillery system. It has been replaced by more modern howitzers,
such as 2A65 MSTA-B.
Type 66 –
Chinese license-produced version of the D-20. It is unknown if it is
still in production.
A411 - An
upgraded Romanian version of the D-20. It has a longer 152 mm/L20
barrel and uses different ordnance. Maximum range of fire is 24 km.
M84 NORA-A – An
upgraded Serbian variant of the D-20 with a longer barrel. It uses
new-developed ammunition and has a maximum range of 24.1 km.
2S3 Akatsiya - Soviet self-propelled howitzer, which uses a
modified version of the D-20.
Type 83 - Chinese self-propelled howitzer, modeled after the
Soviet 2S3 Akatsiya. It uses a modified version of the Chinese Type
B-52 is a Serbian truck-mounted howitzer, which uses a
significantly modified 155 mm/L52 version of the M84 NORA-A
Tokchon – North Korean self-propelled howitzer combing an
M1955 howitzer, mounted on a tracked chassis.
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