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M-46

130 mm field gun

M-46 field gun

Also known as the M1954 in the West, the M-46 is outstanding in its range, accuracy, proliferation, and still-ongoing service length

 
 
Country of origin Soviet Union
Entered service 1954
Crew 9 men
Armament
Gun bore 130 mm
Barrel length 58 calibers
Projectile weight 33.4 kg
Maximum range of fire 27.15 km
Maximum rate of fire 7 - 8 rpm
Sustained rate of fire 1 rpm
Elevation range - 2.5 to + 45 degrees
Traverse range 50 degrees
Dimensions and weight
Weight 7.7 t
Length (in travelling order) 11.73 m
Length (in combat order) 11.1 m
Width (in travelling order) 2.45 m
Height 2.55 m
Mobility
Towing vehicle 6x6 truck
Road towing speed 50 km/h
Cross-country towing speed 10 - 20 km/h
Emplacement 3 - 4 minutes
Displacement 3 - 4 minutes

 

   The M-46 is a Soviet field gun developed in the 1940s, and apparently first fielded in the early 1950s. When first seen by the West, it was given the provisional designation "M1954", for the year it was first identified by NATO.

   The M-46 was one of the most successful field artillery systems developed by the Soviet Union after the World War II. Very large numbers of this artillery piece were manufactured during the Cold War, which found their way into the armed forces of nations and organizations across the globe. The M-46 was a mainstay in the Warsaw Pact into the 1980s, though it was gradually replaced in the Soviet Union by the 152 mm 2A36 Giatsint-B from 1976. Having a longer range and a nuclear capability, the 2A36 effectively rendered the M-46 obsolete. The M-46 was exported to more than 40 countries and is still an important weapon in the arsenals of Developing Countries.

   In a towing configuration, the M-46 is 11.73 m long, 2.45 m wide, approximately 2 m tall, and weighs 7.7 t. It is rated as safe to tow at speeds of 10-20 km/h cross-country, or at 50 km/h over a paved road. In the Soviet and Russian Armies, the M-46 is normally towed by the ATS-59 artillery tractor, or the KrAZ-255 7.5 t truck with 6x6 configuration.

   The M-46 is identifiable by its long, thin gun tube, two-wheel carriage, and long twin towing arms. It is also sometimes fitted with two drum-shaped fixtures on the towing arms or a V-shaped gunshield, and both double-baffle and pepperpot muzzle brakes have been observed on the M-46. A hydropneumatic recuperator is fitted both above the tube, and a recoil cylinder is fitted below the tube.

   As with most older towed artillery pieces, the M-46 has no power or propulsion systems, and the weapon must be emplaced and steered manually. The tires used on its carriage wheels are sponge-filled, and can go flat even if perforated.

   The gun tube of the M-46 has a 130 mm bore and is 58 calibers long. It may be depressed to -2.5 degrees, or super-elevated to +45 degrees, and can traverse a total of 50 degrees. Though US Army sources indicate a crew of 8 is used on the M-46, operating one actually requires a gun crew of 9. The towing arms may be recessed into the ground to compensate for the weapon's recoil.

   The maximum rate of fire is 7-8 rpm, which decreases to 1 rpm when sustained. The maximum range of the M-46 is 27.15 km with normal ammunition, though this may be increased to 30 and even 38 km with specialized munitions (see below). As with most towed artillery pieces, the M-46 is manually-loaded.

   The M-46 fires OF-43 HE-FRAG (range: 27 490 meters), OF-44 HE-FRAG (range: 22 490 meters), BR-482 and BR-482B APCBC-HE-T (range: 1 140 meters, direct-fire). Smoke, Chemical, and Illumination rounds were also developed for the M-46, but no information is available on their range. Some countries, such as China, Israel, and South Africa, produced their own ordnance for this field gun. One of such examples is a Chinese ERFB-BB round (Extended Range Full Bore - Base Bleed) with a range of 38 000 meters. The baseline HE-FRAG projectile weights 33.4 kg. Though the BR-482/BR-482B is largely ineffective against most operational main battle tanks, it can still catastrophically destroy almost any other armored vehicle, making the M-46 a very dangerous foe to approach even today.

   Due to its long range the M-46 was mainly used to counter enemy artillery and to engage important hostile targets, such as railroad junctions, command posts, concentrations of enemy forces and other targets well behind enemy lines. Until the 1970s it was one of the longest range artillery systems around.

   The M-46 has seen combat in countless wars throughout the Cold War, and into the present. It is known to have been used in the Sino-Indian War (1962), the Indo-Pakistani War (1965), the South African Border War (1966-1989), the Vietnam War (1959-1975), the Six Day War (1967), the Sino-Soviet Border Conflict (1969), the Cambodian Civil War (1967-1975), the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979), the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan (1979-1989), the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991), the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009), he Yugoslav Wars (1991-2001) and the Invasion of Iraq (2003).

   In particular, the M-46 earned great notoriety in the West for its extensive use in the Vietnam War, where the M-46 outranged almost all US artillery, and pounded US firebases with impunity. The US M107 175 mm self-propelled gun was the only land-based artillery system, that outranged the Soviet field gun. The M-46 was regarded by both sides as the best all-round field artillery of the Vietnam War.

   The M-46 also earned great notoriety during the South African Border War (where its range surprised and overwhelmed the South African Defense Forces, prompting the development of the G5 field gun-howitzer, the G6 Rhino self-propelled gun-howitzer, and the Valkiri self-propelled multi-barrel rocket launcher).

   Known users of the M-46 and its variants include Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, China, Croatia, Cuba, Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, Guyana, India, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Laos, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Oman, North Korea, Pakistan, Peru, Republic of the Congo, Russia, Serbia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Yemen, and Zambia. Though in some of these countries current status of the the M-46 is unknown, while in some of these countries this field gun is in reserve and is no longer actively used. Possibly the largest remaining inventory of operational M-46 variants is in the Iranian Army, which is known to possess at least 1 100 units. Former operators of the M-46 and its variants are Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Israel, Lebanon, Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia.

   Approximately 6 500 M-46s were manufactured by the Soviet Union, and they are no longer in production. The unit cost is unknown, and new M-46s are no longer offered.

 

Variants

 

   M-47: 152 mm field gun based on the M-46. It was not as numerous or successful as the smaller M-46.

   Type 59: Chinese clone of the M-46. Some 3 500 of these were built.

   Type 59-1: This Chinese howitzer is a "hybrid" weapon, combining the ordnance of the Type 59 with the carriage of the Type 60 (a copy of the Soviet D-74). An auxiliary power unit was offered as an option later in production.

   M59-1M: Egyptian license-built Type 59-1.

   Type GM-45: Chinese upgrade of the Type 59, fitted with a new 155 mm/45 barrel.

   M-46S: A variant developed for export by Soltam in Israel, mounting a 155 mm/45 howitzer tube atop the carriage of the M-46.

   SP-130 Catapult: Indian self-propelled gun, mounting the ordnance of the M-46 atop a Vijayanta tank chassis. There is also a newer Indian artillery system, called Arjun Catapult, or Catapult Mk.2, which is based on a chassis of the Arjun Mk.1 main battle tank.

   M46/10: Yugoslav upgrade of the M-46, also with a 155 mm/45 weapon.

   A412: Romanian license-built Type 59-1, now with the carriage of the D-20 towed gun.

   Jupiter V: Cuban self-propelled gun, consisting of a heavily modified KrAZ 255B 6x6 truck chassis carrying the ordnance of the M-46.

   Egyptian self-propelled gun, consisting of a Ural 6x6 truck chassis carrying the ordnance of the M-46.

 

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M-46 field gun

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M-46 field gun

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M-46 field gun

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M-46 field gun

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M-46 field gun

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M-46 field gun

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M-46 field gun

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M-46 field gun

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Cuban Jupiter V self-propelled gun with the M-46 gun

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Egyptian self-propelled gun with the M-46 gun

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