Monday, May 10

Read n' reviewed: SU-100 Self-propelled Gun - Red Machines Vol.2 from Canfora Publishing

The second book in the "Red Machines" series by Canfora Publishing features the mighty Su-100 self-propelled gun. This all-new 176-page book is full of photos, line drawings and history of the type to make you an expert in no time. See what Paul thought of this book after he read it in his review...

Read n' Reviewed: Su-100 Self-propelled Gun
Red Machines vol.2
From Canfora Publishing
Authors: Nikolai Polikarpov & James Kinnear
300+  Total Images (60+ Interior Photos)
176 Pages
Format: A4 Portrait Hardcover with B&W and colour pictures
Price: €34
It feels like ages since I reviewed Canfora’s first volume on the T-60, but they are back with volume two on the Su-100 Self Propelled Gun. When we talk about Soviet AFV’s, everyone knows the T-34, KV-1 and the Joseph Stalin family of vehicles, but the Su’s are in a way the overlooked sibling of the Soviet AFV family. Not that they were unsuccessful vehicles though, they most certainly had a fearsome reputation and enjoyed a good post-war career with the Warsaw Pact and in the Middle East.

Like volume 1, this volume continues Canfora’s hardcover portrait format with English text which is great news for us “Western” modellers given the rarity of information on Soviet vehicles during wartime and the Cold War. The ten chapters in the book cover every aspect of the Su-100, and each page is a great balance of text and pictures. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the photos in this volume are black and white given the time frame the pictures come from, although the last third or so of the book gives us a nice selection of colour pictures.
When I said the book covers every aspect of the Su-100, I really do mean it and the first chapter covers the factory responsible for the development and production of the Su-100, known as The Ural Heavy Machine Building Plant (UZTM) or Uralmash Zavod for short. While initially producing heavy machinery for other metallurgical plants, the German invasion and subsequent exodus of Russian military manufacturing to beyond the Ural Mountains saw UZTM receive tooling from other plants so they could start producing elements of the T-34.
Chapter 2 covers the various prototypes and the ideas behind their rationale for getting a vehicle into production. Starting at T-34 production, the UZTM also started mounting the 122mm howitzer onto the T-34 chassis make a SPG, but wartime events saw a greater demand for tank destroyers so the experiences of the Su-122 were then used to develop a new tank destroyer so the Su-100 was born.
Chapter 3 is a comparatively longer chapter and moves along from the prototypes to the trials and tribulations of working out the issues with the vehicle and the various changes made during production between 1944 and 1946. The research that the authors have done is very impressive and the information presented comes mostly from original design documentation from current UZTM factory with information transferred from the archives, and also surviving vehicles around the world. One of the things that the authors discovered was that there were over 30 changes made that changed the external appearance of the vehicles, plus the differences in vehicles produced at Plant No.174, and that the Su-100 was actually one of the rarest Red Army AFV’s to be photographed during the war.
Reinforcing the amount of research, the authors went to for this book, Chapter 4 covers Plant No174 and the differences between the vehicles they produced compared to the ones produced at UZTM. Like the first chapter, the authors cover the history of Plant No174 from pre-war times to post war, and despite the pictures being black and white, they are of great quality, and do a great job of pointing out the differences between vehicles produced at both factories.
For all wartime vehicles, a successful wartime career generally translated into a post-war career and the Su-100 most definitely enjoyed a lengthy post-war career. The various modernisations are broken into the decades they were made, and interestingly, while the Su-100 was no longer in frontline service for the Soviet Army during the 1970’s, they were still in service in training units, and even appeared in the 1985 Victory Parade
So after all the talk about the vehicle and it’s development, Chapter 6 finally gets into the Su-100 in combat and various combat reports on how it went. It should not come as a major surprise that an AFV without defensive machine guns would have trouble with enemy infantry and the Su-100 was not different, although there was no doubt about the effectiveness of it’s 100mm gun and its ability to dispatch the German big cats at combat ranges. While it was withdrawn from frontline Soviet service in 1968, the Su-100 would see its final combat actions destroying Mujahadeen shelters and fortifications.
Chapter 7 is probably the driest of the book with a text description of the vehicle accompanied by line drawings, although the line drawings appear to be original drawings of the various elements of the vehicle and illustrate how well researched this book is.
The production version of the Su-100 was by no means the end of the development cycle and there were attempts made to further improve the vehicle, mainly by installing the 122mm gun on the Su-100 chassis, although it was found not to be a major improvement over the production version. A more interesting development was the Su-101 and Su-102, which had the superstructure mounted at the rear of the vehicle instead of the front, resembling the Elefant, and while the results were quite promising, the end of the war saw the end of any further development.
Chapter 9 sees the transition from black and white to the world of colour and we are given a tremendous range of colour pictures in a walkaround of the Su-100 on display at the Museum of Russian Military History in Padlikovo. This vehicle was originally built in August 1945, and is restored to running conditions, and while it has been subject to some service life modifications but not all, they are well documented, as well as the history of the vehicle.
The final chapter takes us to the various surviving examples of the Su-100, although the vast majority are found within Russia and Europe, although there are also examples in Egypt, Israel and China. Of note are three examples at Kiryat Shimona in Israel painted brightly in red, blue, and yellow. Finishing off the chapter are some profiles of the Su-100 in whilst in service and while they are generally green, the final two profiles are of most interest, with the first being a Serbian example from 1992, and then the final profile. Not because it is the only profile with camouflage, but because it was captured by Houti Rebels in the Yemeni Civil War… In 2017. So while the Russians might have last used it in Afghanistan, it may still be used by other countries today?
For those of us in the “West”, access to information about Russian/Soviet equipment has always been rare, but Canfora has really provided us with a great well researched publication on this mighty vehicle. There are a few kits of this vehicle, but whether you’re building one or not, this is a great read for anyone with an interest in the Red Army.
Highly recommended

Paul Lee

Thanks to Canfora for sending this book to read and review. You can get it from the Canfora Website