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152 mm towed gun-howitzer

D-20 howitzer

The Cold War-era D-20 gun-howitzer is still widely used to this day.

Country of origin Soviet Union
Entered service 1955
Crew 10 men
Main gun 152 mm
Barrel length 26 calibers
Projectile weight 43.56 kg
Maximum firing range 17.4 km
Maximum rate of fire 5 - 6 rpm
Elevation range - 5 to + 45 degrees
Traverse range +- 25 degrees
Dimensions and weight
Weight 5.56 t
Length (in travelling order) 8.69 m
Towing vehicle 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 modern artillery.

   The D-20 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 splinter shield.

   The D-20 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; usually comprising 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.

   During the Cold War the D-20 was towed by AT-L and AT-S tracked artillery tractors, Ural-375 6x6 trucks and Tatra 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 66 gun-howitzer.

   NORA B-52 is a Serbian truck-mounted howitzer, which uses a significantly modified 155 mm/L52 version of the M84 NORA-A howitzer.

   Tokchon – North Korean self-propelled howitzer combing an M1955 howitzer, mounted on a tracked chassis.


Miguel Miranda

   Article by MIGUEL MIRANDA

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D-20 howitzer

D-20 howitzer

D-20 howitzer

D-20 howitzer

D-20 howitzer

D-20 howitzer

D-20 howitzer

D-20 howitzer

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