An assault gun is a gun or howitzer mounted on a motor vehicle or armored chassis, designed for use in the direct fire role in support of infantry when attacking other infantry or fortified positions.
Historically the custom-built fully armored assault guns usually mounted the gun or howitzer in a fully enclosed casemate on a tank chassis. The use of a casemate instead of a gun turret limited these weapons' field of fire, but provided a simpler construction that was cheaper to build and less prone to mechanical breakdowns. The increased space and reduced weight of the turretless design also allowed for the mounting of a larger weapon and heavier frontal armour on any given chassis. In most cases, these turretless vehicles also presented a lower profile as a target for the enemy.
World War II
Assault guns were primarily used during World War II by the forces of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Early in the war, the Germans began to create makeshift assault guns by mounting their infantry support weapons on the bed of a truck or on obsolete tanks with the turret removed. Later in the war, both the Germans and the Soviets introduced fully armored purpose-built assault guns into their arsenals.
Early on, the Soviets built the KV-2, a variant of the KV-1 heavy tank with a short-barreled 152 mm howitzer mounted in an oversized turret. This was not a success in battle, and was replaced with a very successful series of increasingly powerful turretless assault guns: the SU-76, SU-122, and the heavy SU-152, which were followed by the ISU-122 and ISU-152 on the new IS heavy tank chassis.
The primary German assault gun was the Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III). Armed with a high-velocity dual-purpose 75 mm gun, late production StuG III variants blurred the line between assault guns and tank destroyers. The Germans also built a number of other fully armored turretless assault guns, including the StuG IV, StuH 42, Brummbär and Sturmtiger. The latter two were very heavy vehicles and were built only in small quantities.
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