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originally meant any large weaponry (including such ancient engines of war as catapults and battering rams) or war material, but later applied only to heavy firearms as opposed to small arms.
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a type of artillery gun for directing plunging fire at covered targets. Howitzers are part of troop artillery (field artillery in foreign armies). They have a caliber of 100 mm or more, a relatively short barrel (from 15 to 30 calibers), a multisection charge, a range of fire of up to 17 km, and a relatively high rate of fire—a round every other minute or every minute to six rounds per minute depending on the caliber. Most modern howitzers are self-propelled; the old systems use mechanical traction.
The first howitzers were built in Europe in the 15th century (Italy and Germany) and were used for firing stone-filled canisters. In the second half of the 16th century howitzers began firing explosive shells. In Russia the first howitzers were built in the middle of the 16th century. They were called gakovnitsy, gaufnitsy, and gafunitsy. In the 1760’s Russia developed longer howitzers, which were named unicorns. The change from smoothbore to rifled guns in the 1860’s led to the building of rifled howitzers. The greater use of field fortifications in the wars in the second half of the 19th century increased the need for howitzers. They were widely used in all armies in the two world wars. During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) the highest performance indexes were displayed by the Soviet 122-, 152-, and 203-mm howitzers.
REFERENCESKirillov-Gubetskoi, I. M. Sovremennaia artilleriia, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1933.
Istoriia otechestvennoi artillerii, vol. 1, books 1-3; vol. 2, book 4; vol. 3, books 7-8. Moscow-Leningrad, 1959-66.
V. K. TRUSOV