Air defense / Anti-aircraft guns / ZPU

ZPU

General Facts

  • TYPE
    Towed anti-aircraft gun

  • ORIGIN
    USSR

  • NICKNAMES
    Type 56 (Chinese production ZPU-4)
    Type 58 (Chinese production ZPU-2)

  • DESIGNED
    Mid 1940's

  • DESIGNER
    Unknown

  • PRODUCTION
    1946 - ?

  • PRODUCERS
    China
    North Korea
    USSR

  • QUANTITY
    Unknown

  • UNIT COST
    Unknown

  • CHARACTERISTICS
    Effective against ground targets
    Can be mounted on a vehicle
    Limited prodution costs
    Parts and ammunition commonality with vehicle mounted weapons
    Ineffective against jet fighters
    Limited range
    Clear weather only
    Low quality fire control

Introduction

The ZPU is a towed anti-aircraft cannon of Soviet origin. It was developed in the mid 1940's and introduced immediately after World War 2. The ZPU series was produced in large quantities. During the early stages of the Cold War it was a simple but potent anti-aircraft weapon, but was soon replaced by more capable anti-aircraft weapons. The ZPU remains in widespread use, mainly in third world countries, due to its simplicity and effectiveness against ground targets.

Layout

The ZPU series consists of three anti-aircraft guns. All three weapons are based on the 14.5mm KPVT heavy machine gun and follow the same design principles. The ZPU series are simple systems that are based on a wheeled platform that is stabilized by jacks in the firing position and mounts a turntable with one or more KPVT and is operated by a single person. Although similar in principle, the single barrel ZPU-1 is much smaller and lighter than the four barrel ZPU-4. Since only simple sights are provided the ZPU is a clear weather system only with a limited chance to hit fast moving targets.

Firepower

The KPVT fires the 14.5x114mm round at a cyclic rate of fire of 600 rpm. The ZPU-2 and ZPU-4 have a larger volume of fire since they mount 2 and 4 KPVT respectively. The maximum effective anti-aircraft range is only 1.4 km, although its slant range is about 5 km. The ZPU is very effective against ground targets due to its volume of fire and ability to pierce the armor of most Cold War era armored personnel carriers.

Mobility

The ZPU series is very mobile due to their limited weight and size. They can be manhandled over short distances and may be towed by light vehicles. The mobility has been further improved by mounting the ZPU on various jeeps and light trucks. Special mounts with two or four guns were fitted to the BTR-40 and BTR-152 armored personnel carriers.

The ZPU was common in the USSR and Eastern Europe during the early stages of the Cold War. In the USSR and Eastern Europe the ZPU was replaced by newer anti-aircraft guns and hardly any remain during the later stages of the Cold War. Many systems were exported to Asia, Africa and the Middle East and remain in widespread use, mainly for use against ground targets.

Variants

ZPU-1

The ZPU-1 is a single gun mount for the 14.5mm KPVT heavy machine gun. It is the smallest version of the ZPU series. It consists of a small chassis with three outriggers that supports a single KPVT heavy machine gun, an ammunition box, rudimentary sights and a seat for its sole operator. It is towed by a jeep or carried by a light truck.

TypeTowed anti-aircraft gun
Crew1 on weapon, 4 in total
Ordnance14.5mm KPVT heavy machine gun
Elevation-8 to +88°, manual
Traverse360°, manual
Rate of fire600 rpm cyclic, 150 rpm practical
Range1.4 km vs aircraft
Carriage2 wheel carriage with three outriggers, 4.5 x 16 tires, 1.38 m track, 0.28 m ground clearance
Weight413 kg
Length3.44 m (travelling)
Width1.62 m (travelling)
Height1.34 m (travelling)
Towing vehicle4x4 jeep or light truck
Speed?
Remarks-

ZPU-2 (early)

The ZPU-2is a larger weapon than the ZPU-1 and is fitted with two 14.5mm KPVT heavy machine guns. The ZPU-2 has been produced in two versions. The early version is larger an heavier than the later version. The early version of the ZPU-2 has two large wheels which are removed when in the firing position. The two KPVT are mounted side by side and

TypeTowed anti-aircraft gun
Crew1 on weapon, 5 in total
Ordnance14.5mm KPVT heavy machine gun (2x)
Elevation-7 to +90°, manual
Traverse360°, manual
Rate of fire600 rpm cyclic (per barrel), 1.200 rpm combined, 300 rpm practical
Range1.4 km vs aircraft
Carriage2 wheel carriage with three outriggers, 6.5 x 20 tires
Weight639 kg (firing position), 994 kg (travelling)
Length3.54 m (travelling)
Width1.92 m (travelling)
Height1.83 m (travelling)
Towing vehicle4x4 light truck
Speed?
Remarks-

ZPU-2 (late)

The late production model of the ZPU-2 is much ligher due to the use of a ligher chassis, smaller wheels and a single tow bar. It can be identified by its smaller wheels and mudguards and the ammunition boxes are mounted sideways. In the firing position the wheels are raised and not removed. The late model is the most common version of the ZPU-2 and has been produced under license in China as the Type 58

TypeTowed anti-aircraft gun
Crew1 on weapon, 5 in total
Ordnance14.5mm KPVT heavy machine gun (2x)
Elevation-15 to +85°, manual
Traverse360°, manual
Rate of fire600 rpm cyclic (per barrel), 1.200 rpm combined, 300 rpm practical
Range1.4 km vs aircraft
Carriage2 wheel carriage with three outriggers, 1.1 m track, 0.27 m ground clearance
Weight621 kg (firing position), 649 kg (travelling)
Length3.87 m (travelling)
Width1.37 m (travelling)
Height1.10 m (travelling)
Towing vehicle4x4 jeep or light truck
Speed?
Remarks-

ZPU-4

The ZPU-4 is the largest version of the ZPU series. It is based on a four wheel chassis and is supported by four jacks when in the firing position. Four 14.5mm KPVT heavy machine guns are fitted, which are operated by a single person. The large volume of fire and stable firing platform make it the most effective version. It has been produced under license in China as the Type 56.

TypeTowed anti-aircraft gun
Crew1 on weapon, 5 in total
Ordnance14.5mm KPVT heavy machine gun (4x)
Elevation-10 to +90°, manual
Traverse360°, manual
Rate of fire600 rpm cyclic (per barrel), 2.400 rpm combined, 600 rpm practical
Range1.4 km vs aircraft
Carriage4 wheel carriage with three outriggers, 6.5 x 20 tires, 1.38 m track, 0.28 m ground clearance
Weight1.810 kg
Length4.53 m (travelling)
Width1.72 m (travelling)
Height2.13 m (travelling)
Towing vehicle4x4 light truck
Speed?
Remarks-

BTR-40A & BTR-152A

Many ZPU anti-aircraft have also been mounted on various vehicles. Nowadays the ZPU-1 and ZPU-2 are commonly found mounted on a pickup truck, such as the Toyota Land Cruiser. In the early stages of the Cold War the BTR-40 and BTR-152 armored personnel carriers served as chassis for a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun based on the ZPU series. The ZTPU-2 twin mount has been fitted on the BTR-40A and BTR-152A. The four gun ZTPU-4 mount was also fitted to the BTR-152A.

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