Thursday, March 15, 2012

M-46 (pictures and history)

The M-46 has been widely distributed around the globe since its introduction in 1954.

The M-46 (formal designation of "130mm Towed Field Gun M1954) was a Soviet Cold War-era battlefield implementation designed to fulfill a variety of roles in support of infantry and armor actions. The system was first unveiled to Western observers in 1954 (hence its "M1954" designation) and subsequently went on to be fielded by a myriad of countries with relations to the Soviet Union. This included many military forces in the Middle East, across Africa and in South America as well as allied states in Eastern Europe. Despite its early Cold War roots, the M-46 still maintains a battlefield presence in the inventories of countries even today with modernization programs designed to increase the longevity and tactical usefulness of such a system.

Its success has been proven by the plethora of operators using the weapon system and the countless wars that she has participated in. Her notable operators have included (or still do) Afghanistan, Czechoslovakia, China, Croatia, Cuba, Finland (as the "130 K54"), India, Iraq, Iraq, Israel, Laos, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia (Soviet Union), Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Vietnam, Yemen and Yugoslavia. Czechoslovakia, Finland and Serbia have all phased their M-46 systems out. Israel only received their M-46s as spoils from their many Middle East conflicts, with approximately 100 examples captured. The Chinese license production copy of the Soviet M-46 is designated as the Type 59-1 and produced under the NORINCO banner.

Her actions have seen the M-46 participate in the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009), the Sino-Indian War (1962), the Indo-Pak War (1965), the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002), the South African Border War (1966-1989), the Six Day War (1967), the Sino-Soviet Border Conflict (1969), the Cambodian Civil War (1967-1975), the Vietnam War (1959-1975), the Yom Kipper War (1973), the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979), the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan (1979-1989), the Gulf War (1990-1991), the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the Yugoslav Wars (1991-2001) and the Invasion of Iraq (2003).

Design of the M-46 is typical of weapons in this class. Her long, slender barrel sits out and over her base and carriage, sporting two large road wheels for transport (and additional pair of road wheels is sometimes added). The weapon system is supported by legs that fan out aft, semi-recessed into the ground to accept the violent recoil. There is an angular shield to either side of the barrel base for limited protection to the operating crew from small arms fire. Her muzzle brake is vented and noticeably large at the barrel end. Her size is such that she can be transported into action with relative ease when compared to her larger cousins and set up just about anywhere that her size allows.

Operation of the M-46 field gun revolves around a crew of eight personnel. The weapon system is towed by whatever means necessary to her pre-determined target zone and set up to fire. She weighs in at roughly 16,975lbs and features a 130mm caliber barrel. The breech is of a horizontal sliding wedge design and projectiles are manually loaded by the operating crew. The barrel can elevate from -2.5 degrees to 45 degrees and traverse up to 50 degrees. A rate-of-fire by a trained crew can reach six rounds per minute under normal conditions with five being reported for the sustained fire role. In the burst role, eight rounds per minute can be achieved. Muzzle velocity is 3,051 feet per second. Maximum range is out to 17 miles though this can be padded through the use of specialized ammunition and reach out to over 23.5 miles. The M-46 is provided with a night sight for direct fire.

Since most any artillery piece makes its name on the battlefield based on its adaptability and firepower, the M-46 proves no different in the types of projectiles she is designed to fire. This includes the Frag-HE (Fragmentation, High-Explosive), OF-43 and the Frag-HE, OF-44 rounds, ranged out to 27,500 and 22,500 meters respectively. The Frag-HE, ERFB-BB (Extended Range Full Bore - Base Bleed) round offers a range up to 38,000 meters. The APCBC-HE-T, BR-482 (along with its cousin the BR-482B) is ranged out to just 1,140 meters but is still effective for the given role. Other projectile types run the gamut of basic uses including illumination rounds, smoke rounds and chemical rounds. Projectiles feature variable charge.

The M-46 has since been replaced in the Russian inventory by the 2A36 Giatsint-B. This weapon system is further supported by the self-propelled 2S5 Giatsint-S as well.


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