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Bil Hardenberger

LESSONS IN TANK TACTICS - Anecdotes for Discussion

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I have always contended that the Soviet army was not the mindless mass that some contend. The following two anecdotes illustrate that the Russian army could be quick on its feet and could indeed utilize its forces with synchronization, intelligence, and effectiveness.

The following report on the tactics of tanks, in cooperation with infantry and artillery, was published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 41, December 30, 1943.

Two examples of the use of tanks in conjunction with infantry and artillery were analyzed in an article which was published recently in Red Star. In one example the reasons for heavy casualties are indicated while the other example illustrates how a mission may be accomplished with minimum losses. A translation of the Red Star article follows:

The speed of forward movement of tanks on the battlefield is one of the basic questions of tank tactics. It is the tendency of the commander who has tanks at his disposal to make use of their mobility to increase the general speed of the unit. This policy conforms completely with modern tactics and should be followed as often as possible. However it is necessary to take into consideration all the conditions under which the tanks will have to operate. A tank maneuver must be well-prepared and it must receive all-around support. A few examples from actual combat experience may help to make this point clear.

This first example illustrates a failure, the lessons learned and identification of errors made after the anecdote are spot on.

A detachment composed of tanks, artillery and motorized infantry was ordered to exploit the success of troops who had thrown the enemy back from his main defense line. Specifically, the detachment's mission was to attack and advance 12 to 15 miles to the enemy's rear and capture a village, thereby cutting the route of the enemy's retreat.

The detachment started on its mission at dawn. The tank regiment, in march column formation, was in front. The commander of the regiment was told that security and reconnaissance units would operate along his route. Information concerning the enemy was very meager. All that was known was that our [the Russian] units, having driven the enemy back from a certain line of defense, were pursuing them in a south-westerly direction.

The tank regiment moved at high speed, preceded at a distance of approximately a mile by an advance group of four tanks. When these tanks reached Hill 212.8 they were fired on from the left flank and were forced to withdraw behind the hill.

The commander of the regiment believed that a reconnaissance detachment was operating somewhere in advance of the regiment, but he did not meet it. Later it became known that the reconnaissance and security parties had not been sent out; they had been forgotten in the general rush.

The commander of the regiment then decided to leave most of the tanks concealed north of Hill 212.8 and reconnoiter the enemy positions in combat. This was done with the help of one tank company.* As soon as the attacking forces passed by the hill, they were met with flank and cross fire; also they were bombed heavily from the air. Some tanks reached Hill 221.3 but the company was soon compelled to withdraw. However reconnaissance data which was obtained made it possible not only to determine the general character of the enemy's defense but also the location of his artillery.

In the vicinity of Hill 221.3, in different places, there were 13 guns and 7 self-propelled mounts which kept Hill 212.8 and the whole field south of it under fire. In addition, five German tanks were located.

Without the support of artillery it would be difficult to break through such a barrier by a frontal tank attack. About half an hour would be needed to bring the artillery and infantry up to Hill 212.8 and to open fire against the enemy. Since the enemy defense to the right was not so strong, our tanks could pass around Hill 212.8 and by following the ravine could gain Hill 221.3 without much interference and then be in the rear of the enemy's artillery positions.

russian-tank-tactics-figure-1.jpg

However, the commander of the main Russian detachment did not consider it necessary to spend time in coordinating his forces. Without waiting for the artillery and the mortars (only one battery arrived at the position in time) the commander ordered all the tanks to attack. The tanks moved forward, deployed in a line. As soon as they came up over the hill, the Germans opened intensive fire. To pass through the fire zone the Russian tanks moved forward at full speed and reached Hill 221.3 in a comparatively short time. The enemy wavered and then began to withdraw. A certain tactical advantage had been gained, but at the cost of unnecessary losses. Several of the Russian tanks had been disabled thereby restricting the possibilities of exploiting the advantage.

It may be said that this battle was characteristic in the sense of providing for a given high speed in the forward movement of tanks. The commander was right in trying to keep up the high speed of forward movement of the tanks, for the situation demanded it: but he made a mistake in hurriedly throwing his tanks against a strongly fortified antitank position. In such situations it is necessary to provide for the constant forward movement of tanks, not only to demand it.

The mistakes of the commander of the main detachment were as follows:

(1) He did not provide for proper reconnaissance during the offensive, with the result that the encounter with the enemy was unexpected.

(2) When the enemy's defense system and fire power had been determined, the commander hurried unnecessarily to attack with his tanks without the support of the artillery, of which there was sufficient quantity, but which had not been drawn up in time.

(3) The commander paid too much attention to the fast forward movement of the tanks and forgot about the organization of the battle.

So reconnaissance, gain as much information as possible before committing, and coordinate your forces. I have tried to instill these basic tenets in all of my AARs.

Unfortunately, situations like this one above may still be found. There still are commanders who continue to urge on the tanks, at the same time forgetting the elementary principles of combat organization and the fact that time spent preparation will always be compensated tenfold.

In reviewing the battle we see that it would have taken only a half hour to organize the cooperation of tanks, infantry and artillery. This would have helped not only to deliver a telling blow on the enemy; it would also have provided the conditions for a quick and deep movement toward the objective. There was unnecessary haste in throwing the tanks into the zone of the heaviest antitank fire. This restricted their maneuvers and caused unnecessary losses.

In combat there are times, of course, when it is necessary to rush forward without taking into consideration many circumstances. However, in ninety cases out of a hundred, it is possible to find the time and means to provide for a high rate of forward movement without unnecessary loss. The best method for saving time is thorough preparation of the operation and its quick execution. This method is more to the point than an undiscriminating push which is sure to end in a sudden halt. Some of the finest operations that have been carried out by our troops were characterized by thorough preparation and swift action.

Some very good lessons in the above if you care to dissect them and learn from the experience.

The second anecdote:

On another occasion this regiment succeeded in carrying out an attack at a relatively high rate of speed. Here is a brief description of this situation and the terrain.

In the direction of the enemy ran a railroad track, along which, according to the initial plan, the Russian tanks were to attack and move forward to a certain village. There was a highway at the left of the railroad track. In front of the village there were several small wooded areas. Still nearer was an elongated hill which cut the highway and extended as far as the railroad track.

Having concealed his tanks behind the hill, the commander learned by observation that the Germans had several antitank guns along the road. Also signs of the enemy were noted on the outskirts of the wooded area in front of the village which was to be attacked.

russian-tank-tactics-figure-2.jpg

The commander of the regiment was convinced that the movement of tanks along the railroad line would be difficult since the banks of the railway-cut were very steep and there were deep, narrow channels on either side of the track. He decided to send the tanks along the highway, where the terrain was most favorable. The infantry was to follow the railroad line, maintaining fire liaison with the tanks. The plan was to neutralize the German antitank guns, which were placed along the highway, by a sudden attack.

Results were soon realized. The tanks rushed at full speed into the antitank gun positions and smashed the guns, the crews of which had scattered. Without lessening speed, the tanks broke into the woods and exterminated a number of Germans there. Most of those Germans were having their dinner when the tanks appeared and so the enemy troops were unable to reach their guns in time to fight a defensive action.

The tanks then passed around the right side of the woods and headed for the village but they were compelled to stop by swampy terrain (see fig. 2). This gave the enemy an opportunity to bring artillery into action and open fire on the approaches to the village. Instead of forcing his way forward, the commander withdrew his tanks to a shelter behind the woods and remained there, awaiting the arrival of his infantry. Then both infantry and tanks, in close cooperation, attacked the village and drove the Germans out. Thus the objective was achieved.

What amazes me in this anecdote is that the Russian commander performed a detailed terrain analyses, he used the information gained from reconnaissance in planning his attack, and then he coordinated his tanks and infantry when making the final attack. Pretty nice work, I don't care what the nationality of the force is.

It confirms a lot in my mind that these techniques are not new, they were not new even in WW2 and most Armies had similar techniques in approaching a situation.

The article finishes with:

In the first example presented in this article, the high rate of speed of the tanks did not reduce their losses, while in the second example the tanks not only succeeded in maintaining a high rate of speed but also they achieved success without loss. The reason for this was that in the first battle, suddenness of action was lacking, and also (because of the commander's haste) the tanks could not maneuver although the situation called for maneuvering. In the second battle the tank commander had ample time to prepare the attack well and to choose the most favorable direction. Although this took time, the results were excellent.

The commander estimated the situation correctly in general although it might have been practicable to have sought a different route when the tanks reached the swamp. The element of surprise had run its course; further movement had to be based on close cooperation with the infantry. This was skillfully achieved, and at the same time the general tempo of the attack was not lost. After taking the village, the tank unit pushed right on.

In conclusion it may be said that at all times the commander estimated the situation correctly, acting neither too slowly or too hastily. Well-thought-out organization during every phase of the attack produces high speed in the forward movement of tanks, no matter under what conditions they may be operating.

Please share your thoughts on this article, what stands out to you? Are you surprised how well these Russian units performed? Are you surprised that the force was not mindless, but was in fact controlled by its commander and coordinated in real time?

(note: this content came from Lone Sentry

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I have no doubt that this is the case with many Armies at the tactical level ( Battalion-Regiment ) during WWII...Perfect scale for our CM games.

I think the Russian Army at this level was just as capable as any other in corrdinating small level local counter-attacks.

In general, and aside from Barbarossa, the Russian Mindless Mentality Sterotype comes when we talk about the bigger Operational Scale ( larger Armored & Inf formations ) of initial hasty Russian Counter-Offensess attacking Pak-Fronts or against effective use of German Armor Reserve of Spring 42 - 43'. This is the time where the Russians where experimenting with Armor, Inf & Arty combinations at all levels.

Joe

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Interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

I'm not so sure that the knock on Soviet armored tactics was that they were mindless so much as it was that their forces lacked situational awareness and C2 capability due to 2-man turrets, lack of radios and commander's cupolas -- limitations that are largely irrelevant in Combat Mission because of the player's god-like perspective.

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The Germans in that second example should have had OPs keeping an eye past that blocking terrain... No point setting up a reverse slope defense and then leaving it unmanned while dinner is being served cos you don't know there's a Red Horde on the obverse slope.

But "win the recon battle" seems to be the moral of the tales. Surprise/foreknowledge is a force multiplier.

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Bil,

The Russians built a huge data base of combat experience from the GPW, from which they derived historical perspective, military-technical insight, but especially sought the bases of how to structure and fight for a modern war. A nuclear war. The results may be seen in such books (Soviet Military Thought Series) as Siderenko's The Offensive and Savkin's Principles of Operational Art and Tactics.

What I read made me green with envy, for I never saw anything like it on our side, but it was full of such examples. A book I previously discussed with you, Antitank Warfare, by Biryukov and Melnikov, is replete with the sort of thing you presented, but in a specific antitank context. Moving on.

I've never viewed the Russians as mindless. Far from it. What I have said is that the Russian approach to war, at the tactical level, is radically different from the Germans' and ours and reflects a wholly different philosophy on such key matters as initative. In one translated Red Star or similar, the subject of iniative was raised. The reply? "Initiative consists of exact conformity to the commander's plan." This is as far away from Aufstragstaktic as one can get. Nor is that an isolated notion. At the time I left military aerospace in 1989, the Russian aviation journals were talking about the incredibly radical notion of free hunt; of giving fighters limited autonomy from (otherwise rigid) ground control.

According to what I've read in recent military history and in the Russian veteran's accounts, the Russians realized they couldn't compete with the Germans tactically (huge training and gunnery disparity), which is why there was a shift, a highly effective one, of beating the Germans at the operational, operational-strategic and strategic levels. Back to our level.

The Russians aren't stupid and concentrate their best soldiers into one unit of its type. Thus, best squad in a platoon, best platoon in a company and so on. The units at the bottom of the overall heap do the combat grunt work. The cream is the commander's reserve--offensively and defensively. It's the unit which guts the foe in a breakthrough as the exploitation force or stands like a rock in the defense. So far, so good.

The Russians don't cross attach the way we do now, and the basic tactical unit is a battalion. As noted in the example, the core unit is a Tank Regiment, likely backed by a Battalion of halftracked or trucked Rifle Infantry) and an artillery battery, probably the Regimental Guns, which operate primarily in Direct Fire. The Advanced Detachment is moving smartly along, gets heavily shot at and puts a hill between it and potent enemy fire.

The Tank Regiment CO then whistles up a pure (no add-ons) Tank Company and seeks to understand what's happening by exposing the Tank Company to fire in hopes of learning the locations, strengths and composition of the enemy defense. That doesn't go at all well, but the Regimental CO is undeterred. He doesn't wait for his supporting arms to arrive. One martar battery(?) got there anyway. Doesn't coordinate with his other arms. Goes straight into the attack, just as the IDF's 190th Armored Brigade did during the Yom Kippur War. Luckily for him, WW II weaponry wasn't as lethal as massed ATGMs and hordes of RPGs.

He could've used the gully and wound up in the enemy rear, behind the foe's guns, but instead made a frontal assault. And paid for it, though ultimately triumphing. Had he failed, the NKVD would almost certainly have hauled him away. Call this the fortunate outcome achieved despite almost criminal-criminal stupidity! His tank losses are bad enough, and fixing/replacing them will take time. but what'll really tick off his boss are the losses of trained crews. Such men are scarce and valuable.

In the other case, the Regimental CO did his homework, made good use of such recon data he possessed. He coordinated his arms; put his tanks on good terain for them; covered them with infantry on a parallel axis (enfilade fire on German positions in woods; tanks and infantry keeping pace with each other until the right moment), then came in full tilt with his tanks (guns blazing Russian style most likely) and drove over and through the German gun positions. Did everything right. Combat results and low casualties to prove it.

There is nothing here that shocks me, but note what isn't here. There's no talk whatsoever, and generally isn't unless some individual tank is pivotal to the fight, of tanks fighting semi autonomously or autonomously. Why? That's not how Russians use tanks. They're not trained for it. For a long time, they weren't equipped for it, either. The smallest tank formation you'll see, and it's unusual, is a Tank Platoon; typically a Tank Company. It fights on one axis, in visual range; as a unit. There are even mandated spacings to be used.

What I described above was true then. True per The Soviet Tank Company, and almost certainly true now. Tactical formations are rigidly defined. The whole idea is to make possible the Russian warfare concepts of consistency, predictability, repeatability. War by the numbers; the combat machine works properly only when all the gears, large and small, mesh properly. Initiative, however laudably intended and exercised, can screw up the works. If you want initiative in the Red Army at our level, it's in the Scouts/Hunters/Spetsnaz. In the recon formations of all units. There, it's rightly prized and most useful.

Suvorov/Rezun was selected for Military Intelligence because he used in noggin when, during an alert, a tank broke down, trapping everyone in the caserne, which had but one exit. He ordered his driver to ram through the brick wall, allowing himself and his fellow tankers to get clear. The CO was going to crucify (tribunal) Suvorov/Rezun; he himself expected it, but got a visit from the (unknown to him) Military District intel chief, who'd heard about the incident. Suvorov/Rezun was told to get in the car, that it'd be sorted out with higher ups. Later, he was informed his former CO had been demoted and reassigned. What Suvorov/Rezun did was highly exceptional, and it marked him as a man destined for great things. In our parlance, you could say he was deep selected.

Regards,

John Kettler

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What amazes me in this anecdote is that the Russian commander performed a detailed terrain analyses, he used the information gained from reconnaissance in planning his attack, and then he coordinated his tanks and infantry when making the final attack. Pretty nice work, I don't care what the nationality of the force is.

It confirms a lot in my mind that these techniques are not new, they were not new even in WW2 and most Armies had similar techniques in approaching a situation.

Please share your thoughts on this article, what stands out to you? Are you surprised how well these Russian units performed? Are you surprised that the force was not mindless, but was in fact controlled by its commander and coordinated in real time?

Thank you for posting this, Bil, it was a very good read.

I do agree with your assessment regarding these techniques being as old as the hills. Reconnaissance, and what we call Recon Pull, was practised in Ancient times. Vegetius devotes significant space to it in De Re Militarum. And there the Romans weren't innovating, just compiling and drawing a ancient knowledge base. I dug up this interesting reference

http://books.google.com.au/booksid=xIh_Vsbc4IYC&pg=PA20&lpg=PA20&dq=vegetius+reconnaissance&source=bl&ots=2sOEbuNI7X&sig=ic8Od7slzQoFyxlJmtdqd909DjI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ndYVU6qlIInOkQXoj4CQDQ&ved=0CEEQ6AEwCA

Information Gathering in Ancient Greece ☺ And Sun Tzu didn't either invent much, the Chinese civilisation had at least a backlog of 2000 years of organised warfare to study and analyse.

In a contemporary context, well, for you for sure, I think that page 4 of this work sums quite well the historical context

www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a210965.pdf

where I understand that our present ideas about recon and command were originally formulated by Henri de Jomini.

Back to the Red Army. In my opinion, the most important difference between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht lied in the standards in training of soldiers, NCOs and most essentially, officers. IIRC candidate officers of the Panzertruppen spent more than six months under probation, under closed supervision of more experienced officers. So in the average, those officers who passed were very good. As far as I know, the Red Army wasn't able to cater for such a highly professional officer corps. Examples abound of full courses of cadets being pulled out from the School and deployed as infantry in the early autumn of 1941 and the summer of 1942.

What I think people tend to confuse is the term average by that of totality. If you look close at the battles of 1941-2 you'll see that a significant number of tactical or - temporary - operational German reverses can be related to the presence in command of very experienced officers, who knew how to keep things tight in their outfits. Given the appalling casualty rates of Soviet officers, not many of these men survived long enough to be used in a more effective manner.

And then there is a very Darwinian like process at play. The slackers get culled, really quickly: the ones that survive are usually the wiser (and lucky). I am not surprised that by late 1944 there was a significant number of Soviet officers capable of conducing their missions and make do when the means did not meet ends.

Since the Germans were much more, hm, optimising when it came to manage human resources, the presence of nullities in command was rarer than in Red Army units. But that doesn't mean there weren't any. The commander of the I/26 Pz Regt, who led a Bn of Panthers unsupported against a powerful Soviet Pakfront because he didn't do any recon in the opening phases of the counterstroke of 48 Pz Korps at Korsun, is an example not too different from that of your first anecdote. In this case, this CO died along quite a few of his subordinates. The Bn performed notably better under the CO of the 1st Coy, who had to step into his shoes.

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John, thanks for that detail I appreciate it.

Miquel, also good stuff, I had seen that monograph before but never dived deeply into it. I'm going to have to do that it looks very interesting.

My whole point was that at the tactical level it appears to me that there was some flexibility, some people in this and a few other forums seem to believe that there was little to no tactical flexibility. This is the point I was trying to make with this thread.

The entire command and decision making process the Soviet Army went through at levels close to CM really interest me. Sure it appears they used Command Push almost exclusively, but that doesn't mean the commander on the ground didn't have control over his force... I think these two examples show that they did.

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Bil,

You're most welcome. I wore the Red Hat at both Hughes and Rockwell, during which I was thoroughly immersed in the Russian ways of war. My favorite example of the difference between their and our approach lies in a terrific anecdote Suvorov/Rezun told over and over again, through the years, to hosts of Western military and intel personnel.

"You are the Army commander. You have three Divisions attacking. One is facing heavy resistance and is in dire straits. Another is so shot up it can't advance, but it keeps fighting. The third has taken terrible casualties but has managed to advance a bit. What do you do with your reserves?"

His audience never got it right. Not even once. Typically, the answer would be reinforcing the one or ones in trouble. Wrong!

Right Answer

The Army commander takes everything he can scrape together and commits it, all of it, to the sector in which one Division, though but a shadow of its former self, is advancing. Not only does he do this, but he's likely to strip entire formations out of the units not in the critical sector. The Front commander then proceeds to ram his entire Front through the ever expanding hole in the enemy defenses. And on up the line. That's how the Russians fight.

On the defense, the same principles apply. Reinforcements and reserves go to the critical sector, and I've seen examples (Battle of Moscow) in which the stripping out of units from those not under attack has extended clear down to a single desperately needed Antitank Battery.

The Russian way of war is alien to us, but it makes perfect sense to them, and they think we're nuts for doing it the way we (Western armed forces in general) do it. Certainly, they've got that whole Mass thing down pat. "Equally, they follow Napoleon's dictum that starts "When you resolve to fight a battle..." And if you read the accounts, you'll see some formations fought out so thoroughly that whole divisions are disbanded, with their few survivors passed on to other divisions forming. Typically, units fought down to numbers like 100-man battalions, were pulled from the line and rebuilt.

Regards,

John Kettler

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The Russians were indeed very good in theory of tank warfare and how to use them tactically and operationally.

Unfortuately for them, they had very few commanders who could use this theory in practice. Almost none at the beginning of the war. Most of them (including Zhukov) were very bad.

But they fought and learned the hard way - so in 1944/45 there was a normal mix of commanders - some good/very good good, some average and some very bad. Some were able utilise tanks perfectly, using them as a part of combined arms operations, some otger could send them for sure and pointless death.

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So, rather like the Germans in 44 then. Glantz used to warn in Military Review that to believe the stereotype of the unthinking Red Horde, studiously created by the losers of that conflict, was asking for trouble. I remember being fascinated by an article, written in 85-6 IIRC, about the operational and tactical flexibility shown by Red Army units in 43, which hitherto I was ignorant of.

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By most accounts I've right from the get go in 41 the Germans remarked the Soviet army was a study in contrast. They could be resilient, tough one moment and the opposite the next moment. They lacked proficiency at the start, but by 1943-44 that really changed. The article posted is Dec 43 so by that time the Soviet army was quite competent.

Like anything else time, experience and the school of hard knocks will weed out the weak, incompetent and otherwise unsuited.

By this time the Red Army had captured and interrogated large number of German officiers with operational experience as well as observing first hand how the other side went about the business of waging war.

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Note that the US Army in crafting its OPFOR at the National Training Center, eventually reflagged as the 11th ACR "Blackhorse," was smart enough to couple Russian tactics and doctrine with thinking leaders and outstanding reconnaissance. This is multiplied by the 'home field advantage' the OPFOR has in the Fort Irwin Mojave Desert, but makes it an enormous uphill fight for any US commander who takes them on. So a force that defeats them really has some bragging rights, and the whole of the US Army - including those that don't fare so well - are stronger for the struggle.

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I really like that kind of small-unit analysis.

But I think there are some gaps in the explanation in scenario #2.

The tank commander is behind the hill, observes (I wonder how, exactly) the AT guns, and then charges them with his tanks, overrunning them.

He was successful, of course, but it seems like a pretty risky move. Why not drop mortars or arty on them? Or flank them with infantry? Charging guns specifically designed to destroy tanks *with tanks* doesn't seem like a really good approach. It seems like a way to end up with most of your tanks destroyed and being used as yet another example of poor soviet combined arms technique.

Now undoubtedly there is a reason why the direct attack made sense. Maybe the commander noticed that the AT guns were not manned. Maybe there were 4 AT guns and 35 Russian tanks. Maybe the commander was able to pinpoint the location of each AT gun, assign each AT gun to a group of tanks, and have them concentrate their fire on the appropriate AT gun as they crested the ridge.

But they don't *explain* any of that...and charging into AT guns doesn't, in general, seem like a great idea; one huge reason for scouting is precisely to avoid doing that.

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But they don't *explain* any of that...and charging into AT guns doesn't, in general, seem like a great idea

In Charles Sharp translation of German tactics manuals - available from Battlefront's bookshop - one can see that it is recommended charging - moving at max speed directly onto the guns positions - when there's no artillery available, infantry can't engage them within the time limits for the mission and the range isn't excessive. Indeed, losses are to be expected.

From what I gather in the #2 example, it was a late afternoon affair and probably the Soviet commander wanted to occupy the town before nightfall. The Soviets didn't develop SPG's capable of indirect fire - I think - and their communications left a lot to be desired, so it's not an stretch of imagination that this force was a forward detachment, out of contact or range with any artillery assets.

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It's also useful to note that the timescales for the action in example 2 aren't given. In example 1, we can see the Soviet commander needs to think of the scale of half hour and hour to orchestrate something as straightforward as charging his unsupported tanks across perhaps a kilometer or two of open ground directly towards a clear landmark.

In terms of the a CM battle, this might be effectively how may commands issued by the player? Perhaps a handful of fast way points for each platoon, ending on the hill? Example 1 would require perhaps twice as many, since there is a major hook to the right around the woods. But certainly neither example implies that the Soviet (or German) commander was taking account of the location of every tank or gun beyond beyond what he could personally see at the beginning through his binoculars. In both cases, what the Soviet commander saw did not dissuade him from issuing the orders for a blunt frontal attack without support. Not exactly counting the bullet holes on every enemy tank...

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Second anecdote: "The plan was to neutralize the German antitank guns, which were placed along the highway, ...", "The tanks rushed at full speed into the antitank gun positions and smashed the guns, the crews of which had scattered. Without lessening speed, the tanks broke into the woods and exterminated a number of Germans there. Most of those Germans were having their dinner when the tanks appeared and so the enemy troops were unable to reach their guns in time to fight a defensive action."

The positioning of the "AT guns" was likely not a defensive one or very badly camouflaged. Maybe it was even an artillery column, which was at resting stance, waiting for gas, whatever. Obviously the germans were neither prepared nor conscious about a russian tank force approaching. But if the russian commander was able to learn about german guns by observation, his tank force was likely close enough for germans to get heard. Without knowing distances, weather, TOD and some more details about german force, the anecdote just raises more questions and is of little worth as a tactical lesson.

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Note that the US Army in crafting its OPFOR at the National Training Center, eventually reflagged as the 11th ACR "Blackhorse," was smart enough to couple Russian tactics and doctrine with thinking leaders and outstanding reconnaissance. This is multiplied by the 'home field advantage' the OPFOR has in the Fort Irwin Mojave Desert, but makes it an enormous uphill fight for any US commander who takes them on. So a force that defeats them really has some bragging rights, and the whole of the US Army - including those that don't fare so well - are stronger for the struggle.

Good times, good times. :D

Sacrifice means something completely different to a Russian than it does to an American I think. They way they made us fight was to say it lightly...weird. Let's just say my western civilization made me spoiled.

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slothropsez,

Welcome aboard!

If your tactical skills are anything like your observational ones, then you're going to be a tough opponent.

BletchleyGeek,

The SU-76M was perfectly capable of Indirect Fire, and the account of an SU-76M gunner over at IRemember confirms it. He talks about having ammo stockpiled next the the SPG and not using the on-vehicle load. This is identical to what our tracked TDs did.

The ISU-122 and ISU-152 could conduct Indirect Fire, but weren't primarily set up for it and seldom were used that way.

The primary DF telescopic sight on the ISU-122 was good out to 1500 meters, after which the panoramic sight was used, but the Wiki doesn't say at what point it can't see the target precisely enough to effectively engage with a gun good to 5000 meters. The ISU-152's telescopic sight was good out only to 900 meters, after which the panoramic sight was usable out to 3500 meters.

The above is all from the pertinent Wikis.

Regards,

John Kettler

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Interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

I'm not so sure that the knock on Soviet armored tactics was that they were mindless so much as it was that their forces lacked situational awareness and C2 capability due to 2-man turrets, lack of radios and commander's cupolas -- limitations that are largely irrelevant in Combat Mission because of the player's god-like perspective.

+1 here

I also wonder how they could spot that ATGs near that Town the Jerrys occupied. Other thing i wonder about is why they wheren`t Combat Ready when the Russian Tank Commander charged the Positions?

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The SU-76M was perfectly capable of Indirect Fire, and the account of an SU-76M gunner over at IRemember confirms it. He talks about having ammo stockpiled next the the SPG and not using the on-vehicle load. This is identical to what our tracked TDs did.

The ISU-122 and ISU-152 could conduct Indirect Fire, but weren't primarily set up for it and seldom were used that way.

The primary DF telescopic sight on the ISU-122 was good out to 1500 meters, after which the panoramic sight was used, but the Wiki doesn't say at what point it can't see the target precisely enough to effectively engage with a gun good to 5000 meters. The ISU-152's telescopic sight was good out only to 900 meters, after which the panoramic sight was usable out to 3500 meters.

Thank you for that John. I am under the strong suspicion that most regimental level Soviet artillery - and attached SU and ISU regiments - were seldom used as indirect fire assets, due to the difficulties in communications to adjust fires in a reasonable amount of time. Reasonable as in "not too late to make a difference". I would very interested in first hand accounts detailing how these were used.

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Note that the US Army in crafting its OPFOR at the National Training Center, eventually reflagged as the 11th ACR "Blackhorse," was smart enough to couple Russian tactics and doctrine with thinking leaders and outstanding reconnaissance. This is multiplied by the 'home field advantage' the OPFOR has in the Fort Irwin Mojave Desert, but makes it an enormous uphill fight for any US commander who takes them on. So a force that defeats them really has some bragging rights, and the whole of the US Army - including those that don't fare so well - are stronger for the struggle.

The way the NTC OPFOR fights has been a huge influence on how I approach things as well Scott. I went up against them with 1st Cav and we did rather well... of course I put that all down to the excellent intelligence section at the Brigade TOC. ;)

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Read an insightful essay about the IDF's way of war being operationally Soviet rather than than Western but cannot remember where.

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One aspect to consider is the way in which Soviet tanks were used in which they advanced in battalion strength, making short stops to fire and keeping up a constant suppressive fire on likely enemy AT positions and aided by direct fire 45mm and 76mm Divisional guns based on the start line as well as artillery support deeper into the enemy position.

This was always difficult to recreate successfully in CMBBx1 until we discovered that if you used the 'shoot and scoot' command - BUT KEPT MOVING FORWARDS - and put one command after the other - what you got was a tank that rolled forward continuously with short stops to fire (aimed and stationery) and a very rapid speed of advance.

This would allow 4 T34/76 to beat even the StuGIII (with its 80mm front armour) as they were hard targets for the SPG to hit, the fire was distracting and one of the tanks would always survive even crossing open ground to get a flank shot.

What's the experience of CMx2 Normandy on this?

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