Postwar developments in the Soviet Union

The post-war Soviet designers agreed with the British and French that the priority was the ability to shoot down nuclear-armed heavy bombers and thus chose to develop large-calibre cannon. The NS-23 (Nudelman-Suranov), which first appeared in 1944, was a logical replacement for the 20mm ShVAK and the B-20; it was effectively an NS-37 scaled-down to use a new 23 x 115 cartridge. This short-recoil gun was very light at 37kg, but could fire at only 550 rpm. It saw initial use in propeller-driven aircraft (11-10, La-7, La-9 - which had four synchronised guns - and La-11) before arming the first generation of jet fighters. A few years later, the much better NR-23 (this time designed by Nudelman and Rikhter) increased the rate of fire to 950 rpm while only weighing 2kg more. The line of linear-action guns to see service ended with the AM-23 (designed by Afanasev and Makarov), adopted in 1954, which achieved 1,300 rpm. At the end of the decade the TKB-513 used 'impact-free ramming* to achieve an impressive 2,000 rpm, but no applications are reported, although the experience gained with this may have been put to good use in the later GSh-301. A revised 23 x 115 cartridge loading with a lighter projectile and a higher muzzle velocity was

Dragon Weapon Set Ussr

Fierce face; the MiG-9 with one N-37 and two NS-23 (Courtesy: Russian Aviation Research Trust)


introduced for the AM-23 and subsequent weapons.

As well as equipping the early jet fighters, the 23mm guns were used for bomber defence. It is not easy to determine which of the several different 23mm guns were used with which aircraft (different marks of some aircraft appeared to use different guns), but it appears that the later versions of the Tu-4 and the 11-28 were equipped with NS-23s (early Tu-4s being fitted with 20mm B-20s), while the Tu-16, M-4 *Bison\ most types of Tu-22 and Tu-95 used NR-23s, as did the An-12 transport. The AM-23 is mentioned in association with versions of the Tu-16, Tu-95, M4 (also known as the M-6 and 3M), 11-54, 11-76, Be-6, Be-12, An-8 and An-12B.

Not satisfied with the 23mm, the Soviets also introduced a massive 37mm cannon, the only postwar air-fighting gun of more than 30mm to see service. The gas-operated N-37 was something of a committee gun, being designed under Nudelmans direction by Nemenov, Suranov, Rikhter and Gribkov. Despite being scaled down in size and performance from the wartime NS-37 anti-tank gun, it was an impressive weapon as it combined great hitting power with a weight of only 103kg, but rate of fire was limited to 400 rpm. It was first tested in the Yak-9UT piston-engined fighter in 1944 but saw most service in the early jet fighters. The MiG-15 hard lessons in Korea. The USAFs F-86 and the and -17 carried one each (with 40 rounds of ammu- MiG-15 were closely comparable aircraft, but their

Nudelman Suranov

G unpack for MiG-15 ( it could be lowered from the fuselage for easy maintenance) ; one N-37 and two NS-23

( Courtesy: Russian Aviation Research Trust)

G unpack for MiG-15 ( it could be lowered from the fuselage for easy maintenance) ; one N-37 and two NS-23

( Courtesy: Russian Aviation Research Trust)

nition); initial versions of the Yak-25 were fitted with two (100 rounds each). Even larger guns, the gun armament could hardly be more different. The Sabres six .50" M3s fired at a combined rate of N-45 and N-57 (a Nudelman design based on the 7,200 rpm, while the MiG s two NS-23s and one NS-37), were developed and tested, the latter in the N-37 could manage only 1,500 rpm. While the prototype MiG-9, but not adopted for service. The Americans found the hitting power of the HMG N-57 (also known as the OKB-16-57 and 100P) bullets inadequate, the Soviet pilots found it diffi-

used a 57 x 160 cartridge which was much less powerful than that for the OKB-15-57 airborne antitank gun under development at the end of the war. Rather surprisingly, the Soviet Union also cult to hit the agile Sabres with their slow-firing, low-velocity cannon, a problem exacerbated by inferior gunsights.

The introduction of the MiG-15bis and the developed a new aircraft HMG in the early 1950s, MiG-17 in the 1950s saw some improvement in rate the A-12.7, designed by Afanasev. The reasoning of fire, as they were fitted with the NR-23. The real behind this weapon is not obvious as its perfor- answer, however, was to replace the N-37 with a mance was no better than the wartime UB; in fact it weighed the same as the much more powerful faster-firing but still hard-hitting weapon, and this was achieved in the mid-1950s with the introduc-20mm B-20. It saw most use in helicopters and tion of the NR-30 (Nudelman and Rikhter again), fighter-trainers.

firing a new 30 x 155B cartridge. This was a potent

Like the Americans, the Soviets learned some combination of hitting power and rate of fire and became the standard fighter weapon for some years, being fitted to the MiG-19 (and Chinese-built derivatives), the Sukhoi Su-7 and Su-17 families and some early versions of the Yak-28 and MiG-21 -the 21F (Fishbed-C) and 2IF-13 (Fishbed E).

The most remarkable of the 23mm guns was the R-23, a Rikhter-designed revolver cannon which used unique front-loading 23 x 260 ammunition and achieved an impressive 2,500 rpm for a weight of only 58kg. First produced in 1957, it suffered considerable teething problems and was not officially adopted for service until 1963. It appears that it was only used in the DK-20 turret fitted to the Tu-22B and Tu-22K, presumably because the GSh-23 came out in 1959 and offered an even higher rate of fire for a slightly lighter weight, as well as using conventional 23mm ammunition.

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