History of the 40/43M Zrínyi Assault Howitzer

The lessons learned from the ongoing war already proved the combat value of the self-propelled/assault artillery as early as 1941.

The Hungarian troops wanted self-propelled artillery, anti-tank and anti-aircraft vehicles as early as 1940. The cavalry troops had a 75mm horse-drawn mountain gun battery on a regimental level. The infantry regiments of the 2nd Hungarian Army were reinforced with horsed drawn escort batteries with aged 80mm light guns. However, these elements were far away from what the requirements of the modern war requested and the Army was aware of it.
The Hungarian Ministry of Defence recommended the organization of the self-propelled artillery in 1942. By the end of 1943, the organization of the two Hungarian armored divisions completed. The next step was to organize and equipped the assault artillery. The theoretical guidelines, methodology, and practice had been learned from the Germans. The Hungarian Army Command wanted to purchase German assault guns but the German side has blocked the sale of their proven assault guns or their production right since 1942.

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Design and production

The Hungarian military leadership, therefore, commissioned the Weiss Manfred Factory (WM) to design and manufacture a new self-propelled artillery vehicle. General Major Árpád Denk-Doroszlay (Chief of Logistic) and Jurgen János, Chief Engineer (WM’s Technical Director) agreed that the new assault artillery vehicle will be built on the already available main parts of the Turán tank already in production and the available 40M 105mm howitzer and the 43M 75mm long-barreled gun. Based on the discussions, the final plans were prepared by Ernő Kovácsházy, a mechanical engineer (the chief engineer of the tank division at WM).
According to unconfirmed sources, Hungarian experts visited Italy somewhere 1941-42, where they were shown around the factory where Semovente assault guns were produced for the Italian Army. The Italian Semovente self-propelled gun was designed on the basis of the Italian M13/40 medium tank in 1941. There is no proofed evidence whether the Hungarians were influenced by their Italian colleges. At least we can say that the concept of the Italian and Hungarian design was very similar.

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Design of the assault artillery vehicle

The Turán tank turret was removed; the chassis was widened to 40 cm in width, to install and handle the gun. The gun is placed behind the 75 mm thick, thickened, frontal armor plate. The fighting compartment was a spacious box with wide, polygonal, tilted armor plates (25-13 mm).
The hull was made in riveted and bolted version as the Turán family. The length of the Zrínyi body, the driven chain elements, the power transmission systems, the controls, and the suspension, as well as the production technology, remained the same as Turán tanks.
The already well-proven 43M rotatable periscope was installed on the roof slides and hatches, and an escape hatch was built on the underside of the vehicle. Widening the body has improved the maneuverability of the vehicle. The fuel tank’s capacity reached 445 liters, so the vehicle’s range - on road - increased to 280 km.
The 260 horsepower 4-stroke, water-cooled, 8-cylinder Turán petrol engine could move the 21.6 tons (with skirt plates) vehicle at a maximum speed of 43 km/h.
The Zrínyi had the gearbox of the Túrán tank, with compressed air, six forward and six reverse gears, and equipped with steering wheel brakes. Driving the vehicle was simple: the driver pulled the lever in the direction of rotation by breaking the side chain.

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When the lever was fully pulled, the Zrínyi could turn around on the spot. The vehicle was able to move along a 45° slope in good terrain with good lateral stability. The braking distance was then 200-250 m.
The 40/43M Zrínyi assault howitzer’s full length was 5500 mm, the barrel was 5900 mm, and the armored body itself was 5100 mm long. The width of the vehicle is 2890 mm; its height is 1900 mm without the periscope.
The lower front panel closed the hull, which was also equipped with 1-1 drawbar hooks. Mudguards were mounted above the chassis, which slid backward at 3°. The headlights are positioned on the edge of the mudguard. The fire extinguisher was positioned behind the left headlamp and on the right side, the loudspeaker of the horn was attached. On the inside of the front mudguards, there were additional tools; the left-side was a wire cutter, on the right side a special tool for replacing the track, and a hammer for bolt pinching. In front of the headlamps, 2-2 thick wooden blocks for lifting were secured.
The armored hull was joined by the superstructure, the sidewalls of which were tilted 80 degrees inwards. Additional hand tools were secured to the superstructure; to the left, a field shovel, jimmy, pickaxe, and a large hammer for mud shedding, a steel tow cable to the right. In the lower part of the engine compartment, there is a bullet-proof grille that can be locked from inside with 4-4 shuttering louvers. On the sloping front panel, there is a circular mounting window for maintenance purposes and there are two iron straps that clamp the replacement track parts. The drivers’ observation panel is located on the frontal armor plate, right to the gun. This was also different on the iron sample vehicle, the first three vehicles in the series, and the other serial produced vehicles.

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The H-801 iron vehicle was equipped with a one-one round-shaped observation aperture for the driver and the gun layer. The first three Zrínyi II (3H-000-3H-002) of the series were equipped with the driver observation panel of the 41M Turán tank. In the other vehicles of the series, this round-shape plate in front of the gun layer was completely gone, and the driver got the new 10-cm-higher 43M driver’s observation panel.
In the center of the frontal armor plate, slid by 150 mm from the longitudinal axis to left, was fitted a hinged locking sphere to move the gun, formally known as an armor spherical ball. This was protected by the gun shield attached to the front panel.
Zrínyi’s armament was a 105mm howitzer, or a 75mm anti-tank gun and a light machine gun; finally excluded from the weaponry.
The ammunition allowance was 52 rounds per vehicle. According to the battlefield experiences, the crew could pack more than 30 rounds at the expense of the individual equipment. The ammunition allowance consisted of 38/33M HE-fragmentation, 42M HEAT, and 38/33M smoke shells. The assault howitzer fired cased separate loading ammunition, made the rate of fire slower, only 5 to 6 shots per minute.
The crew was armed for close protection with four service pistols, three sub-machineguns, eight hand grenades, and one flare pistol. These were placed inside the assault howitzer.
The firing of the gun may have occurred with compressed air or mechanically. Its vertical angle of travel was -5° - + 25° vertical, 11°-11° horizontally. The Zrínyit was designed with a targeting device designed to fire with direct and shared sight. The latter had never been used in combat.
The R5/a type radio was installed in the vehicle. The crew (commander, gun layer, loader-radio operator, and the driver) wore the 39M Italian style crash helmet with a well-insulated headset and mechanic overalls in the vehicle. The commander directed the vehicle’s main armament (howitzer) by commands by the intercom or due to the combat noise with conventional signals or sounding horn. The gun layer also could signal with green and red light signals to the driver to adjust the rough direction of the gun.

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Versions armed with a 37 mm gun