SU-85 tank destroyer in Polish Army Museum.
|Place of origin||Soviet Union|
|In service||1943 - 1950s (USSR)|
|Designer||Lew S. Trojanow|
|Produced||mid-1943 - late 1944|
|Variants||See Variants section|
|Weight||29.6 tonnes (65,256 lbs)|
|Length||8.15 m (26 ft 9 in) overall
6.10 m (20 ft) hull only
|Width||3 m (9 ft 10 in)|
|Height||2.45 m (8 ft)|
|Crew||4 (commander, driver, gunner, loader)|
|Armor||45 mm(1.77 in)|
|85 mm (3.34 in) D-5T gun|
|Engine||V-2 12-cylinder diesel
500 PS ( 493 hp, 368 kW)
|Power/weight||16,89 PS/tonne (12.43 kW/tonne)|
|Ground clearance||400 mm (16 in)|
|Fuel capacity||540 l
810 l - 900 l (with additional fuel tanks)
|400 km (248 mi) (road)|
|Speed||55 km/h (34 mph) (road)|
The SU-85 was a Soviet casemate-style self-propelled gun used during World War II, based on the chassis of the T-34 medium tank. Earlier Soviet self-propelled guns were meant to serve as either assault guns, such as the SU-122, or as tank destroyers; the SU-85 fell into the latter category. The designation SU-85 is derived as follows: 'SU' stands for the Russian: Samokhodnaya Ustanovka - self-propelled carriage, while "85" signifies the bore of the vehicle's armament, the 85 mm D-5S gun.
Early in World War II, Soviet tanks such as the T-34 and KV-1 had adequate firepower to defeat any of the German tanks then available. By the fall of 1942, Soviet forces began to encounter the new German Tiger tank, with armor too thick to be penetrated by the 76.2 mm guns used in the T-34 and KV tanks at a safe range. The Soviets also had received reports of a new, more heavily armoured German tank then under development, the Panther tank. Although the Panther was not seen in combat until July 1943, the new generation of German vehicles meant the Red Army needed a new, more powerful main gun for their armoured formations.
In May 1943, work was begun on a new anti-tank gun. Military planners directed the design bureaus of both Gen. Vasiliy Grabin and Gen. Fyodor Petrov to modify the 85mm anti-aircraft gun for use as an anti-tank weapon. Petrov's bureau developed the D-5 85mm gun. Though much too large for the T-34 or KV-1 turret, it was thought it could be mounted in the chassis of the SU-122 self-propelled gun to give the weapon mobility. The SU-85 version was called the D-5S, with the "S" standing for the self-propelled variant of the gun. The new 85 mm weapon with its larger gun breech required the chassis to be lengthened and an additional road wheel added to each side. Initially the production factory at Uralmash attempted to reject the design since this meant that the entire hull design would need to be modified. Nevertheless, they were required to do so, and the modified design was put into production. The weapon was modified to include a telescopic sight and a new ball gun mantlet. This vehicle was retitled the SU-85-II.
The SU-85 was a modification of the earlier SU-122 self-propelled howitzer, essentially replacing the 122 mm M-30S howitzer of the SU-122 with a D-5T high-velocity 85 mm antitank gun. The vehicle had a low profile and excellent mobility. The limited traverse of the main armament meant that the gun had to be aimed by changing the position of the tank, limiting its effectiveness in offensive operations.
SU-85 production started in mid-1943, with the first vehicles reaching their units by August. When the up-gunned T-34-85 medium tank entered mass production in the spring of 1944, there was no point in continuing production of a tank destroyer without superior firepower, so SU-85 production was stopped in late 1944 after 2,050 vehicles had been produced. It was replaced on the production lines by the SU-100 tank destroyer, armed with the more powerful 100 mm D-10S gun.
There were two versions: the basic SU-85 had a fixed commander's cupola with a rotating periscope and three vision blocks; the improved SU-85M had the same casemate as the later SU-100, with a commander's cupola as used on the T-34-85.
The SU-85 entered combat in August 1943. It saw active service in Soviet, Polish and Czechoslovak forces on the Eastern Front until the end of the war. It was obsolescent by 1945, and was withdrawn from active service not long after the war, to be exported to many Soviet client states in Europe and elsewhere.
The SU-85 remained in service longer in North Korea and Vietnam. The similar SU-100 remained in service much longer, and some SU-85 and SU-100 were converted and used as command and recovery vehicles.
Former Soviet Union
- SU-85 Basic version with four periscopes and no commander's cupola.
- SU-85M Improved version with SU-100 style cupola.
- WPT-34 (1960s) - Polish repair and maintenance vehicle with a superstructure replacing the casemate, a crane, a large-diameter telescoping snorkel for deep fording operations as well as a large-spade type earth anchor in the rear. It was converted from SU-85 tank destroyers as well as T-34 medium tanks and SU-100 tank destroyers.
- List of Soviet tanks - covers all periods
- "The Russian Battlefield"
- (Zaloga 1984:181, Perrett 1987:84)
- (Perrett 1987:84)
- (Perrett 1987:85)
- Perrett, Bryan (1987). Soviet Armour Since 1945, London: Blandford. ISBN 0-7137-1735-1.
- Zaloga, Steven J., James Grandsen (1984). Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of World War Two, London: Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 0-85368-606-8.
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