Assault Gun - History - Postwar Use

Postwar Use

In the post-WWII era, vehicles fitting into an "assault gun" category were developed as a light-weight, air-deployable, direct fire weapon for use with airborne troops. Current weapons were either based on jeeps or small tracked vehicles and the airborne troops thus always fought at a distinct disadvantage in terms of heavy weapons. The Soviet Union and the United States were the most attracted to the idea of providing this capability to traditionally light airborne forces. Their answers to the problem were similar, with the United States developing the M56 Scorpion and the Soviet Union developing the ASU-57, both essentially air-droppable light anti-tank guns.

The Soviets went on to develop an improved air-droppable assault gun, the ASU-85, which served through the 1980s, while their SU-100 remained in service with Communist countries, including Vietnam and Cuba, years after WW2. The US M56 and another similar vehicle, the M50 Ontos, were to be the last of the more traditional assault guns in US service. Improvised arrangements such as M113 personnel carriers with recoilless rifles were quickly replaced by missile carrier vehicles in the anti-tank role.

The only vehicle with the qualities of an assault gun to be fielded after the removal of the M50 and M56 from service within the US military was the M551 Sheridan. The Sheridan's gun was a low-velocity weapon suitable in the assault role, but with the addition of the Shillelagh missile could double in the anti-tank role as well. It is important, however, to remember that the Sheridan was not developed as an assault gun, but as a light reconnaissance vehicle.

Currently there appears to be a move toward wheeled vehicles fitting a "tank destroyer" or "assault gun" role, with the US testing the M1128 Stryker MGS. The Centauro Wheeled Tank Destroyer of the Italian and Spanish Armies, the Chinese anti-tank gun PTL-02 and the French AMX 10 RC heavy armored car are also good examples. While these vehicles might be useful in a direct fire role, none were developed with this specifically in mind, reminiscent of the use of tank destroyers by the US military in the assault gun role during WWII.

Read more about this topic:  Assault Gun, History

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