The ASU-85 was commonly used by Soviet airborn units in the 1960s-1970s.
Designed to support infantry fire, it is capable of destroying tanks and light armored vehicles. It was the ASU-85, a combat vehicle classified as airborne self-propelled gun designed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. From 1959, it began to replace the open-topped ASU-57 in service. And then, it was succeeded by BMD-1 beginning in 1969. The ASU-85 was once part of the Soviet and Polish armed forces. It is currently in service with the Vietnam Army. There is information that ASU-85 is also fighting in Ukraine in the Ukrainian army.
The ASU-85 was commonly used by Soviet airborn units in the 1960s-1970s. During the border war in 1979, the Soviet Union aided Vietnam with large weapons, including the ASU-85 self-propelled gun, which Vietnam called the SU-85. The ASU-85 is based on the PT-76 tank chassis, but without the amphibious capabilities and fitted with a new engine. The vehicle has three compartments: the driver’s in front, the combat compartment in the center, and the engine compartment at the rear.
The PT-76’s turret was removed. The main gun is attached directly to the tank body, thereby reducing the overall height and weight compared to the original vehicle, especially suitable for transport aircraft. The ASU-85 has a weight of about 15.5 tons, a length of 8.49 m, a width of 2.80 m, and a height of 2.10 m. Crew of 4 people, including: commander, gunner, loader, and driver.
One of the notable advantages of this gun is that it is relatively compact but has the ability to maneuver quickly on many terrains, including swampy areas, or with steep slopes, ensuring firepower to support infantry. The armament consists of a D-70 (2A15) 85 mm gun, derived from F.F. Petrov’s D-48. It has an elevation range from −4.50° to +15°. Traverse is 15° either side. The D-70 fires the same ammunition as the D-48, the combat load is 45 rounds. The gun has an effective range of 1,150 m and a maximum range of 10 km.
TShK-2-79 viewfinder simultaneously control both the main gun and coaxial machine gun. With high explosive anti-tank rounds 3BK-7, ASU-85 can easily destroy the tanks, light armored vehicles. It can penetrate 192 mm of steel armor from an angle of 60° at a maximum distance of 1 km. The coaxial machine gun is either the SGMT or the PKT with a combat load of 2,000 rounds.
The front upper glacis plate, while only 45 mm thick, is quite heavily sloped. However, the rest of the ASU-85 is very thinly armoured and vulnerable to even heavy machine guns. The ASU-85 is also somewhat vulnerable to aircraft strafing, particularly if they attack from the top or with rockets.
The landing of relatively heavy self-propelled guns was carried out only by landing a transport aircraft on the runway, which limited the main tactical advantage of the landing – surprise. Therefore, in 1964, the ASU-85 was discontinued “due to low efficiency and limited use.” Then in the USSR began the design of a fundamentally new combat vehicle BMD-1 landing troops.
The Soviet airborne forces primarily used the ASU-85 as a light infantry support/assault gun. The Soviet Union used the ASU-85 during the Soviet-Afghan War with the airborne troops stationed there. The ASU-85 was only given out to Poland and Vietnam. Poland used the ASU-85s in the same manner as the Soviet Union, with 31 vehicles in each airborne divisions. The ASU-85 are still in service in the Vietnamese military, with interests on improving their technical performances in early 2016.