122 mm howitzer M1938 (M-30)

122 mm howitzer M1938 (M-30)

Infobox Weapon
name=122 mm howitzer M1938 (М-30)

caption=M-30 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.
type=field howitzer
designer=Design bureau of Motovilikha Plants,
headed by F. F. Petrov
manufacturer=Plants No. 92 & No. 9
variants=M-30S, Chinese Type 54
weight=combat: 2,450 kg
(5,401 lbs)
travel: 3,100 kg
(6,834 lbs)
length=5.9 m (19.35 ft)
(with limber)
part_length=bore: 2,670 mm / 21.9 calibers
overall: 2,800 m / 23 calibers (without breechblock)
width=1.98 m (6.49 ft)
height=1.82 m (6 ft)
caliber=121.92 mm (4.8 in)
rate=5-6 rounds per minute
max_range=11.8 km (7.33 mi)
breech=interrupted screw
carriage=split trail
elevation=-3° to 63.5°

122 mm howitzer M1938 (M-30) was a Soviet 121.92 mm (4.8 inch) howitzer. The weapon was developed by the design bureau of Motovilikha Plants, headed by F. F. Petrov, in the late 1930s, and was in production from 1939 to 1955. The M-30 saw action in World War II, mainly as a divisional artillery piece of the Red Army (RKKA). Captured guns were also employed later in the conflict by the German Wehrmacht and the Finnish Army. Post World War II, the M-30 saw combat in numerous conflicts during the mid to late twentieth century in the service of other armies, notably in the Middle East.


In 1930 Red Army (RKKA) authorities started to look for a new divisional level howitzer to replace the pre-World War I 122-mm howitzer M1909 and 122-mm howitzer M1910. Although both pieces were eventually modernized, resulting in the 122-mm howitzer M1909/37 and the 122-mm howitzer M1910/30 respectively, these upgrades did not address some shortcomings in the original designs.Fact|date=July 2008

The first attempt to develop a new howitzer was made by the "KB-2" design bureau under the supervision of German engineers. The design, known as "Lubok", reached trials in 1932 and in 1934 was adopted as 122-mm howitzer model 1934. It had a 23 calibers long barrel, a maximum elevation of 50°, a traverse of 7°, and a combat and travelling weight of 2,250 and 2,800 kg respectively. Like its predecessors, Lubok had a fixed trail carriage and although it was equipped with suspension, its wheels lacked tires, limiting towing speed to only 10 km/h. Nevertheless, it was undoubtfully superior to the M1910/30 which remained in production until 1941. However, after eight pieces were built in 1934-1935, production was stopped for unclear reasons, possibly relating to the disbanding of KB-2.Shirokorad A. B. - "Encyclopedia of Russian artillery".]

In the mid-1930s, the Main Artillery Directorate (GAU) considered a transfer to 105 mm caliber guns, as used by some other armies. A smaller caliber meant that the gun could be lighter and consequently more mobile. On the other hand, a 105 mm gun would also be less powerful. Moreover, 105 mm caliber ammunition was new for Russia/USSR, while for the 122 mm the country already possessed both production lines and large numbers of already manufactured shells (but similar 107 mm caliber manufacturing equipment and ammunition — for the 107-mm gun M1910 — were available). Finally in 1937 the RKKA Head of General Staff I. I. Egorov supported the 122 mm caliber.Shunkov V. N. - "The Weapons of the Red Army".]

Consequently, three howitzers were tried out in 1938–1939. The design bureau of "UZTM" (Ural Heavy Machinery Plant, Russian: Уральский Завод Тяжёлого Машиностроения, УЗТМ), which was required by GAU to design the new howitzer, developed a piece designated "U-2". Similar projects were privately undertaken by the design bureaus of Motovilikha Plants, headed by F. F. Petrov ("M-30"), and of the No. 92 plant under V. G. Grabin ("F-25").

The U-2 (barrel length 21 calibers, chamber volume 3.0 litres, horizontal sliding breechblock from Lubok, muzzle brake, combat weight 2,030 kg) reached trials on 5 February 1939 and was rejected because of insufficient carriage strength and inferior ballistics. The F-25 project (barrel length 23 calibers, chamber volume 3.7 litres, horizontal sliding breechblock from Lubok, muzzle brake, combat weight 1,830 kg) was closed by GAU on 23 March 1939 as GAU considered it redundant to the M-30 which had reached trials earlier. The latter, after being returned several times for revision, was finally adopted in September 1939 as 122 mm divisional howitzer M1938 ( _ru. 122-мм гаубица образца 1938 года (М-30)).

M-30 versus F-25

A. B. Shirokorad, a well-known author of books about history of the Soviet artillery, claimed that F-25 could evolve into a better gun than M-30.when Grabin's design was about 400 kg lighter, had bigger traverse and bigger ground clearance — all this was achieved, according to Shirokorad, without sacrificing ballistics (same barrel length, chamber volume and muzzle length). Considering how long it took to finish the development of the M-30, the F-25's schedule possibly did not significantly lag behind.

There is no official document explaining in detail the advantages M-30 had over F-25. A number of factors could have influenced the decision of the GAU were:
*Unlike F-25, M-30 was not equipped with muzzle brake. While softening a recoil and thus allowing lighter carrige, muzzle brake has a disadvantage of redirecting some of the gases that escape the barrel toward the ground where they raise dust, revealing the gun position. Another side effect of a muzzle brake is that it makes a sound of shot - as heard from behind the gun - louder, adversely effecting working conditions of a crew.
*M-30 used many elements from existing guns, most notably interrupted screw breachblock of the M1910/30. Since at that time Soviet industry experienced major difficulties with manufacturing sliding breechblocks - as used by F-25 - for large caliber guns, it can be considered significant advantage.
*Stronger carriage of M-30 could be used - and in fact was used - for more powerful artillery pieces (see 152-mm howitzer M1943 (D-1)).Fact|date=July 2008


Mass production of M-30 howitzers had begun in 1940 at Plant No. 92 in Gorky and No. 9 in Sverdlovsk. The former took part in the production of M-30 only in 1940, building a total of 500 pieces. In addition to towed howitzers, Plant No. 9 produced M-30S barrels for arming SU-122 assault guns. Some 700 barrels (including both serial-production and experimental) were manufactured for this purpose. Mass production of M-30 continued until 1955 inclusively.Fact|date=July 2008


The barrel of the M-30 was of built-up construction and consisted of a liner, a jacket and a breech. The breechblock was of interrupted screw type, with forced cartridge case extraction when opened after firing. The gun was equipped with hydraulic recoil buffer and hydropneumatic recuperator. A panoramic sight was used for both indirect and direct fire.Fact|date=July 2008

The M-30 had a modern split trail carriage with leaf spring suspension and steel wheels with rubber tires. It was usually towed by vehicle without a limber. The carriage allowed a towing speed of up to 50 km/h on paved road and up to 35 km/h on a country road, although the gun could also be moved by a team of six horses, in which case a limber was used. The suspension was locking automatically when swinging the trails open. In an emergency it was possible to shoot in a "single trail" mode, however at a price of a drastically reduced traverse (1°30'). The time required to set the gun up for combat was about 1 — 1.5 minutes.Fact|date=July 2008

The carriage of the M-30 was later used for the D-1 152 mm howitzer.Fact|date=July 2008

Organization and employment

Red Army

The M-30 was a divisional level howitzer. According to the organization of 1939, each rifle division had two artillery regiments; one light regiment (a battalion of 76 mm guns; two mixed battalions with one battery of 76 mm guns and two batteries of 122 mm howitzers) and one howitzer regiment (a battalion of 122 mm howitzers and a battalion of 152 mm howitzers), giving 28 122 mm howitzers per division. In June 1940 one more battalion of 122 mm howitzers was added to the howitzer regiment, bringing the number of guns in each unit to 32. In June 1941 the howitzer regiment was removed and the number of howitzers dropped to 16. This organization was used throughout the war, except in Russian Guards rifle divisions which from December 1942 had three artillery battalions (two batteries of 76 mm guns and one battery of 122 mm howitzers each), totaling 12 howitzers. From December 1944 they received an extra howitzer regiment (5 batteries, 20 howitzers) and from June 1945 rifle divisions were reorganized identically.Fact|date=July 2008

Mountain rifle divisions in 1939–1940 had one battalion of 122 mm howitzers (3 batteries, 9 guns). From 1941 they received instead one artillery regiment (2 battalions, each from 3 four-gun batteries) with 24 howitzers, but in early 1942 only one battalion (2 batteries, 8 howitzers) remained. From 1944 howitzers were removed from mountain rifle divisions.

Motorized divisions had two mixed battalions (battery of 76 mm guns, two batteries of 122 mm howitzers), totaling 12 howitzers. Tank division had one battalion with 12 howitzers. Cavalry divisions until August 1941 had two batteries of 122 mm howitzers, totaling eight, before the divisional artillery was removed.

Until late 1941 rifle brigades had a battery of four 122 mm howitzers. 122 mm howitzers were also used by the howitzer brigades of the Reserve of the Main Command (72-84 pieces).

By 1 June 1941 1,667 M-30s were in service, comprising only a fraction of the RKKA divisional howitzers. As the war progressed, its share grew rapidly due to mass production and because many older guns were lost in combat in 1941-42.

M-30 howitzers were primarily employed for indirect fire against enemy personnel. It was also used against field fortifications, clearing minefields and breaching barbed wire. Firing HE-fragmentation shells it presented a danger to armoured vehicles. Fragments created by the explosion could penetrate up to 20 mm of armour, which was enough against thinly armored vehicles and could damage chassis, sights or other elements of heavier armored ones.Fact|date=July 2008

For self-defense against enemy tanks a HEAT shell was developed in 1943. Before 1943, crews were required to rely only on the high-explosive action of their regular ammunition, with some degree of success. According to a German report from 1943, even a Tiger was once heavily damaged by SU-122 assault guns firing high-explosive shells. [SU-122 Assault Gun at "The Russian Battelfield".]

M-30 howitzers were towed by a variety of means: horses, Soviet and lend-lease trucks (such as Dodge 3/4 ton "heavy jeep"), purpose built light artillery tractors Stalinets STZ-5 and Ya-12 and occasionally manhandled by Soviet artillerymen themselves.

The gun was eventually replaced by the 122-mm howitzer D-30 after the latter was adopted for service in 1960. A small number of operational M-30 howitzers is still present in the Russian Army ordnance depots. They are being gradually withdrawn from reserve. M-30s were featured in many Soviet movies used for novice artillery crews training. These movies were made in 1960s when more modern D-30 howitzers became available, however M-30 was considered by authorities as much more suitable for training purposes. The movies are still in use now, despite the absence of M-30 howitzers even in practice exercises.

Other operators

A number of M-30s fell into the hands of the Wehrmacht in 1941–1942 and were adopted as 12,2 cm s.F.H.396(r) heavy howitzers. Germany opened mass production of 122 mm ammunition for this and other captured howitzers, producing 424,000 shells in 1943, 696,700 in 1944 and 133,000 in 1945. Some of the captured M-30s were used in the Atlantic Wall fortifications. [Shirokorad A. B. - "The God of War of The Third Reich".] The Finnish Army captured 41 guns of the type and adopted them as 122 H 38. Those guns fired 13,298 shells in combat; and only a few pieces were lost. The gun was well liked; some were used for training or stored in depots until mid-80s. [122 H/38 at "Jaeger Platoon: Finnish Army 1918 - 1945 Website".]

After World War II the gun was supplied to many countries around the globe. With the Egyptian and Syrian armies it saw action in the Arab-Israeli Wars. Some of these guns were captured by Israel, although it is unclear whether they were ever employed by the Israeli Defense Forces. The People's Republic of China organized their own production of M-30 howitzers under the Type 54 designation.Fact|date=July 2008


*M-30S - Slightly modified wariant, was used as the main armament of the SU-122 assault gun.
*U-11 - A gun with identical ballistics, but equipped with more compact recoil mechanism for easier mounting in vehicles. It was tried on the experimental SU-122M and rejected due to insufficient reliability. A variant of the same gun was also mounted on the experimental "Obiekt 234" tank, also known as "Iosif Stalin no. 2" (not to be confused with the IS-2).
*D-6 - Another vehicle mounted gun with identical ballistics. Was used on the experimental SU-122-III and, like U-11, proved unreliable.Zheltov I. G., Pavlov I. V., Pavlov M. V., Solyankin A. G. - "Soviet Medium Self-propelled Artillery 1941-1945".]

elf-propelled mounts

M-30 was mounted on the following armoured fighting vehicles (AFV):
* SU-122, the Soviet medium assault gun based on T-34 chassis. The mass production continued from December 1942 until August 1943 inclusively. In total 638 SU-122s were built.
* SG-122, the Soviet self-propelled artillery vehicle based on captured German Pz Kpfw III or StuG III AFVs. About 20 were built at the beginning of 1943.
* 12,2-cm Kanone (r) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine-Shlepper (f), the German self-propelled artillery vehicle, based on captured armoured French artillery tractor Lorraine 37L. There was at least one vehicle of this type, which fought in France on railroad car of German armoured train. [12,2-cm Kanone (r) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine-Shlepper (f) at "Ostpanzer".]


In the M-30, RKKA units finally received a modern divisional howitzer which successfully combined increased firepower and better mobility with reliability and ease of use. A summary of its employment by the Red Army was provided by Marshal G. F. Odintsov, who said that "Nothing can be better". The long post-war employment of the howitzer is additional testimony to its high combat and exploitation characteristics.

It is hard to compare the M-30 directly with contemporary foreign guns, since the artillery of France, Germany and United States employed in similar roles was either much smaller 105 mm (Great Britain used even smaller — 87.6 mm — 25 pounder gun-howitzer) or much larger 150 to 155 mm caliber guns. Howitzers of similar calibers existed, but most of those were World War I era pieces, such as the Vickers 114 mm howitzer used by the Finnish Army. Naturally, 150 mm howitzers were more powerful, but much heavier than M-30; while 105 mm pieces were lighter but their smaller shells contained less explosive.Fact|date=July 2008

The most direct German equivalent was the 10.5 cm leFH 18 light howitzer. Weighing 1,985 kg, it had maximum elevation of 42°, muzzle velocity of 470 m/s and maximum range of 10,675 m. In upgraded version, leFH 18/40, muzzle velocity was improved to 540 m/с, elevation to 45° and range to 12,325 m. About even in range, the German howitzer had less powerful HE shell and its smaller maximum elevation made it less effective against dug-in troops, but it also weighed some 400 kg less than M-30. Both guns were well suited for mass production with 16.887 M-30s and 15.388 leFH 18 built in 1941–45.Fact|date=July 2008

Ammunition data

The M-30 could fire all types of the 122 mm howitzer ammunition used by RKKA, including old Russian and imported shells. During and after World War II new types of ammunition were developed, notably HEAT shells. World War II era HEAT shell BP-460A could pierce 100-160 mm of armor at 90°; post-war BP-1 - 200 mm at 90°, 160 mm at 60°, 80 mm at 30°. HE-Frag projectiles OF-462, initially developed for the M-30 howitzer, are still in Russian Army service and can be fired from modern 122 mm ordnance pieces.Fact|date=July 2008

urviving pieces

M-30 howitzers are on display in a number of military museums and are widely used as memorial pieces. Among other places, the gun can be seen:Fact|date=July 2008
*In Central Armed Forces Museum and in Museum of Great Patriotic War, Moscow.
*In Museum of Artillery and Engineering Forces, Saint Petersburg.
*In Museum of Heroic Defense and Liberation of Sevastopol on Sapun Mountain, Sevastopol
*In Nizhny Novgorod, as a memorial piece at Marshal Zhukov's square.
*In Artillery Museum in Hämeenlinna, Finland.
*In IDF History Museum ("Batey ha-Osef"; Tel Aviv) and IDF Artillery Museum ("Beyt ha-Totchan"; Zichron Yaakov), Israel.



* Shirokorad A. B. - "Encyclopedia of Russian artillery", Mn. Harvest, 2000 (Широкорад А. Б. - "Энциклопедия отечественной артиллерии". — Мн.: Харвест, 2000. — 1156 с.: илл., ISBN 985-433-703-0)
*Shirokorad A. B. - "The God of War of The Third Reich" - M. AST, 2002 (Широкорад А. Б. - Бог войны Третьего рейха. — М.,ООО Издательство АСТ, 2002., ISBN 5-17-015302-3)
*Shirokorad A. B. - "The genius of the Soviet Artillery", M. AST, 2002 (А.Б.Широкорад. - Гений советской артиллерии. - М.,ООО Издательство АСТ, 2002., ISBN 5-17-013066-X)
*Ivanov A. - "Artillery of the USSR in Second World War" - SPb Neva, 2003 (Иванов А. Артиллерия СССР во Второй Мировой войне. — СПб., Издательский дом Нева, 2003., ISBN 5-7654-2731-6)
* Shunkov V. N. - "The Weapons of the Red Army", Mn. Harvest, 1999 (Шунков В. Н. - "Оружие Красной Армии." — Мн.: Харвест, 1999., ISBN 985-433-469-4)
*Zheltov I. G., Pavlov I. V., Pavlov M. V., Solyankin A. G. - "Soviet Medium Self-propelled Artillery 1941-1945" - M. Exprint, 2005 (Желтов И. Г., Павлов И. В., Павлов М. В., Солянкин А. Г. - Советские средние самоходные артиллерийские установки 1941—1945 гг. — М.: ООО Издательский центр «Экспринт», 2005. — 48 с. ISBN 5-94038-079-4)
*cite web
title=SU-122 Assault Gun at "The Russian Battelfield"

*cite web
title=122 H/38 at "Jaeger Platoon: Finnish Army 1918 - 1945 Website"

*cite web
title=12,2-cm Kanone (r) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine-Shlepper (f) at "Ostpanzer"

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