Friday, 24 February 2012

Simple SU-85 to SU-122M conversion

As I didn’t want to build my two Armourfast SU-85s exactly the same I started looking for some options for a variation. I considered building the later SU-85M version, which would entail some scratch building including making a whole new commander’s cupola based on the T-34/85 commander’s hatch. But really, I wanted something simpler to make.

Luckily I did find a really nice looking variant called the SU-122, an assault gun (which some term a self-propelled gun) that was armed with a 122mm artillery howitzer and was used for infantry support. Interestingly, despite it’s numerical designation, the SU-122 actually came before both the SU-85 and the SU-100 – in around December 1942.

Above: The production SU-122 version. The most distinctive feature - which differentiates it
from the later SU-85 - was the large gun-howitzer mount.

However, as attractive as this idea was, once again it would provided a bit of a challenge for my novice building skills as the 122mm gun was housed in a large gun mantlet that looked quite complicated to scratch build at this point in my modeling career. It is based on the Soviet 122mm field howitzer, which happens to be available – very cheaply – in 1/72 scale from Zvezda (in case you are interested).

Anyroads, it was while I was researching the SU-122 that I came across a prototype variant that caught my interest. The SU-122 proved both popular and very useful in service so it was decided that a modernized version should be created to replace it – this was to be the SU-122M.

There were two prototype designs and I was interested in the second - the SU-122-3. What's special about the second SU-122M version was that it was the prototype that first incorporated the distinctive ‘ball mount’ mantlet that was later used in the SU-85 tank destroyer!

Above: The second prototype version of the modernised SU-122 - designated the SU-122-3.

In fact the SU-122M was basically the SU-85 with a larger caliber gun stuck on the front. A REALLY simple conversion job that even I could manage.

There is one small problem though. The SU-122M was only ever a prototype – in the end the Red Army decided to skip this assault gun, due to it’s production costs, keep using the original version and move on to the SU-85 (keeping the specially developed ball mount).

So, although important and interesting, the SU-122M could only be modeled as either a prototype or as a ‘what if?’ element for a war game.

Still, it is an attractive proposition for the war gamer that wants – as I did – something a little different. You can justify it’s use in a game as you could use the technical characteristics of the SU-122 in play, and if your game rules allow ‘what if?’ prototypes in your scenario.

Above: Initial stages of a very simple conversion. I still have some small details to add - but I think this picture shows you just how easy a job this is! Note that I am including my Mk. II track mod.

As for me, I am building it for the fun and because I need a quick platform on which to try out a new painting technique for me – the ‘hairspray technique’.

Hope you find this potted outline of interest. Certainly it’s a quick and dirty way to get a Soviet 122mm SPG onto your gaming table for mid-war scenarios.

(Note: Although the 122mm SU-122 was primarily developed as an assault gun there was a hollow charge developed for it to be used – in an emergency I guess – in the anti-tank role. While the effectiveness of this might be debatable, when compared to specialist AT rounds, I for one wouldn’t have wanted to be in a Panzer IV with one of those foot wide projectiles coming at me! However, you should be aware of this ability if you do decide to put this machine on your game table.)

NEXT: Finished details and basic coat.

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