72-K (25 mm)
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Vehicles equipped with this weapon
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Comparison with analogues
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Usage in battles
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The improvements of aircraft during the interwar period led the Soviet Union to develop a thorough anti-aircraft doctrine where they would use rifle calibre machine guns, heavy machine guns, and two different calibres of anti-aircraft guns in the 20-25 mm and 37-45 mm range. Kovrov machine factory designed a 25 mm gun in an attempt to meet the requirement in 1929-1930, but it was not adopted. The Soviet anti-aircraft doctrine in general suffered from significant gaps, lacking the desired heavy machine guns, 20-25 mm AA cannons and their 37-45 mm ranged weapons were obsolete equipment from World War I. Turning to the Weimar Republic for assistance, the Red Army adopted the 20 mm automatic anti-aircraft and anti-tank gun model 1930 - an early version of what later became the 2 cm Flak 30 built by the company Bütast, a shell company for Rheinmetall - and received a production license for the design. The Kalinin factory attempted local production under the factory code 2-K, but the degree of hand-fitting the factory used meant they only built 3 guns and the Soviets reassigned the design for training before quietly retiring their guns from Germany.
In 1939, the Kalinin plant began work of their own 25 mm anti-aircraft gun that reused multiple components from the 37 mm 61-K gun that was in service already. The 25 mm gun was first given the factory designation ZIK-25 before being changed to 72-K. The gun entered testing in October at the factory before engaging in field tests in April-May 1940. Despite noted problems with zinc build-up from the tracer cups falling off and the gun vibrating, the design was adopted as the 25 mm automatic anti-aircraft gun model 1940. The 72-K entered serial production in 1941, but the Red Army didn't have any in service by the time Germany invaded in June and only had 300 by the end of the year. The biggest problem for the Kalinin factory was a lack of carriages so they frequently mounted the guns on armoured trains or as the GAZ-MM (72-K) where it was mounted on the truck bed. The Kalinin factory got assistance in production from Plant No.4 and Plant No.172 in 1942, but it wouldn't be until Plant No.88 began production in 1943 that the Soviets got significant numbers of the gun. The 72-K also got a gun shield in 1943.
During the war, the gun was used in multiple roles sometimes even replacing the larger 61-K. It was a towed anti-aircraft gun, a mounted weapon for armoured trains, defensive weapon for buildings, and in a self-propelled role. Along with the GAZ-MM by Kolohema Locomotive Works, the gun was mounted in the turret of the T-50 light tank for the T-50-2 prototype, and on the bed of the ZIS-11. Production ended after World War II, but the 72-K would remain in service until 1960 when it was replaced by the ZU-23.
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|USSR anti-aircraft guns|
|23 mm||AZP-23 · ZU-23|
|30 mm||2A38 · ZK453|
|37 mm||2A11 · 61-K · Sh-37 · Type 65|