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long range tank lethality


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Hey .. I was playing Gog and Magog scenario these days, with the soviets against a german AI. After some tries, I reckoned that the best tactic for my medium tanks was to gather on my left flank and rush down the other end of the map, to launch a massed attack against the german mediums covering the KT advance (hitting them through their weaker right sides). To my surprise, I lose basically ALL my tanks while they try to maneuver, at distances which seem exaggerated to me.

I mean, I have t-34s moving at about 50 kmh, and panthers at at least 1800m manage to spot them and kill them with a single shot through the front armor?

So basically I will make my next try using smoke screens; what really puzzles me is this feat of the panthers - I find it hard to believe that their 75 guns can knock out a fast moving target (which isn't that unarmored) like t-34s (can't remember if t-34/85 or 76) at those ranges with AP ammo. I would believe that the german crews would be lucky to even manage to land some hits on those. Any impressions?

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Depends on how many shots the Panthers get. At that range and against a moving target the large majority of the first shots should miss. But accuracy increases rapidly with each shot taken so if they are getting 2 or 3 shots off there is a pretty good chance of a hit.

As for penetration, a Panther will easily penetrate a T-34 at that range except on some parts of the T-34/85 front turret.

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Vanir - while I agree the Panthers could find the range in a modest number of shots if the targets were stationary, hitting a rapidly moving target that far away is quite a different matter. There is a reason most kills happened well inside 1000 yards. The homing effect of subsequent shots should decrease markedly when the target moves, especially so when it moves fast. Range matters in that because an accurate range estimate is not essential for near, flat trajectory shots. But at 1.8 kilometers it most certainly is, even for a high velocity gun like the 75L70.

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Yes...

This says it all.

do I detect a hint of irony? because in fact in this scenario you have the t-34s spawning at points which are already exposed to the enemy fire. And secondly, you don't really know when your reinforcement appear (briefing does not state it). You also only have 82mm mortars to place smoke, although 6 batteries of them. This, just to say that it is practically impossible to coordinate the deploying of obscurants with the maneuver on the left flank.

Anyway, I did beat the scenario by trying to make good use of the isu-122 assault gun company. Used them to ambush the KTs from the woods near the center of the map. In this case you have a pretty short range engagement, with the KTs exposing their left side to the isus. Made them fire 1 shot then retreat into the trees, with most shots resulting in solid penetrations and destroyed king tigers. My isus would eventually be all knocked out by a subsequent thrust of a pz.4 platoon, but by that time, the JS-2s arrived on the scene, so I could employ them to finish off the Panthers and PZ.4 still alive (although some losses due to panzerfausts hiding in the woods occurred).

Anyway it is my impression that the large number of soviet mediums appearing as reinforcements are there just to be slaughtered - they are exposed to the enemies murderous fire since they appear on the map.

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If a target is moving towards you, the speed doesn't really matter that much.

If it's moving perpendicular to you, then it's alot harder to hit. But even then it's only a matter of ranging the shot and timing it to get a decent hit.

If the target is moving at an agnle though, that's where things get difficult.

Because not only do you have to hit a "moving" target (ie, moving perpendicular to you) but you also have to account for decreased/increased range compared to your last shot.

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Oddball E8 - at short range all that is true. At long range is it not - motion makes it hard for the last reason you gave, even with the target moving toward you. When the flight time of the shell is 2 full seconds, it arcs 16 feet in the air above the target and back down again. If between one shot and the next, enemy movement changes the range by 100 yards, you can easily send false signals to the over and under range homing routine and keep getting the range wrong, shot after shot. It is not like you can tell by how much over or under the shot was at such distances. And you aren't "bowling" - only need to get the deflection correct. You are "golfing" - a wrong range estimate sends the shot clear over or too low for the target.

The longer the range, the faster the shot is falling from its apex (Y component of the shell velocity), and the shorter the "correct enough" range window is. At 2 seconds flight time, that range window is only about 160 meters long along the axis of flight. If the target is moving 80 meters between each shot (which is a 12 second shot spacing if the target is moving 15 mph), half the "good enough" range window just scooted out from under you before you pulled the trigger the second time. That's harder - quite significantly harder than stationary. Even moving straight along the axis of fire. Notice, this isn't a matter of the *lead* - the change in the range in the 2 seconds between trigger pull and shell arrival. It is a matter of the range *estimate* - the change in the range since the last time you saw whether the previous shot went over or went under. (A longer period of time, and a bigger change in the range).

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"If it's moving perpendicular to you, then it's alot harder to hit. But even then it's only a matter of ranging the shot and timing it to get a decent hit."

And tis ranging and timing is not easy! Only best gunners had some exeptional "feel" for estimating the correct lead to reliably hit moving (crossing) targets at longer ranges. For most gunners firing at distant, crossing targets would heavily affect their accuracy, even using high velocity gun.

I feel that in CMx2 gunners are "too good" when firing at moving targets, especially moving with lateral motion. Moving target, even one moving towards the gun, puts more stress on the gunner, especially not experienced one. Moving laterally puts even more stress causing the gunner to estimate both ther range and the lead. Each missed shot increases the stress and frustration, further decreasing the chances for next hit. It's a known phenomena, allowing fast running T-34 to survive charging at German AT guns - gunners seeing multiple and quickly closing T-34 tanks got nervous and missed a lot, which made them even more nervous, in the end they often abandoned their guns and run away before T-34 got really close. They felt defenceless.

I think that at range of 1800m estimating correctly and simultaneously both range and lead is very difficult task for an average gunner and I would not expect an average gunner to achieve a hit before 4th or 6th shot - and that would be considered an achievment!

We know that when firing at distant targets the CMx2 engine simulates the "ranging error" of the gunner, making the shot too short or too long by some calculated random amount.

I hope that it works the same for simulating the error in "lead" needed to hit moving target. If so, maybe the simulated "lead error" is a bit too small if tanks have no problems hitting fast moving targets at 1800m with 2nd or 3rd shot ?

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Agree with Amizauer's comments.

I have another wrinkle to add. If supposedly shooting at moving targets at ranges over 1.5 kilometers isn't all that hard and it only takes 3-4 shots to get a hit, um, just exactly when did they miss? Because significantly harder targets are to come by. And we know with certainty that they actually missed a whole heck of a lot. (How? Simple, there aren't enough dead tanks to go around, and we know how much AP ammo they were firing off. At what, supposedly, if hit chances vs. such hard targets are 25% and up, after the first round? Where did all the misses go?)

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The thing to keep in mind is that the Panther will usually only have to get lucky once, and the probability of that compounds with each shot taken, so even if the chance of any given shot hitting is low the chance of at least one hitting is much higher. At 1800 meters the first shot hit % against a roughly tank-size target moving laterally across the shooters LOF at 15 mph/24 kph is about 6%. Follow-up shots will each have about a 30% chance of hitting (the hit % never goes higher than this). So, the probability of getting hit at least once is:

Shot at 1x: 6%

Shot at 2x: 34.2%

Shot at 3x: 53.9%

Shot at 4x: 67.8%

Against the same target moving directly towards the shooter we get (13% first shot, 59% on follow-ups):

1x: 13%

2x: 64.3%

3x: 85.4%

4x: 94%

These numbers are actually for 17 Pdr ABCBC but the ballistics are similar enough to 75mm KwK 42 L/70.

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Vanir - yeah I get all that, but those numbers are simply far too high to reflect actual combat performance, rather than firing range performance. The initial shots are already too high (I will substantiate that below), and over 50% for a 2nd shot at 1.8 km is just crazy, even for a stationary target let alone a moving one.

Firing opportunities in real combat are not scarce and the duels are not over in 15 seconds. They last minutes at a time, between entire firing companies. The rounds actually fired in such engagements hit the low triple digits. The tanks KOed stay in the single digits. Even with some repeated hitting to make sure, the average AP round fired only hits roughly 10% of the time. That can and does include shots with a significantly higher chance to hit, and those may account for a majority of the actual kills. But in the nature of averages, if some shots are 30 and 50% to hit, then others are down in the single digits and the low single digits at that. And lots of them.

The idea that single digit achieved accuracy only ever applies to the first shot in falsified by that data. There are not enough first shots in the whole population of shots to pull the averages back down to the observed shot to killed ratio. Ergo, there must be shots after the first that have a low chance to hit. There are only a few other significant factors that can cause low chances to hit on follow on shots - and long range and target movement are the main such factors. (Crew panic is the only other one that could theoretically make the cut).

We know from detailed battlefield OR that there isn't a large ratio of hits to kills when the target is an Allied tank and the shooter is a Panther or Tiger. Those German tanks have powerful enough guns that they rarely needed second and almost never needed 3rd or 4th hits to achieve knock outs. The average hits per kill observed is well under 2, basically. Combined with known facts on the order of magnitude difference between shots fired and tanks killed this puts very strict limits on average achieved accuracy.

Take your first set of numbers above and trace this through. With 6% first and 30% subsequent hit chances and 1.5 hits per kill, what is the predicted ratio of shots fired to tanks killed? The answer is "under 6". With 13% and 59%, the answer is "under 4". With mixed movements, those figures thus predict a shot to kill ratio of 5 to 1 *at ranges of 1.8 kilometers*. We know the average engagement takes place closer than that, so it winds up forming an upper bound for shots to kills.

These figures predict that when a tank goes out in the morning with a full ammo load and comes back nearly empty, it will have killed during one day in action far more tanks than we know each was actually able to account for over their entire operational lives. Worse, for all but the most front-invulnerable heavies, it predicts that all tanks on each side will die 5 times over or more in each day in action.

Tanks almost certainly don't achieve 13 and 59 against stationary targets inside 1 km, in real combat. Let alone vs moving ones at 1.8 km. They probably do achieve 6 and 30 vs stationary targets inside 1 km, even in real combat. But motion alone is likely enough to cut the gain on second and following shots to half that improvement (15% not 30%), and at range you can cut those in half again.

Tactical thinkers and range firing leave the impression that only shots nearing 50% chance to hit are effective, but this is not remotely the case. A tank company in 5 minutes can send 500 shots downrange if it has continually exposed targets. Even 10% average accuracy and 3 hits per kill suffice to destroy a formation of equal size with that much firing time available.

What more commonly happens is that the hottest and best placed shooter gets effect like that to a couple times that at most, and the rest of the firing formation gets a fraction of what that best shooter gets (because they don't all see the enemy for the whole time, etc). The enemy then breaks off, mauled but rarely completely wiped out.

The bit of that tactical games get wrong is they don't realize that even a very modest hit change per shot suffices between the whole units; they model that hit chance too high and give duels that end too quickly with too few shots fired as a result. (Which in part stems from excessive focus on one vs one dueling etc).

Again, firing opportunities are not that scarce in combat; we know that because the shots are actually fired, and from the AARs we know how long the actions take.

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Jason, fair enough. There are many factors that can influence real world combat that are necessarily abstracted or not present in CM or any other game. For example, spotting is binary while in reality it's more granular.

But the numbers that you are suggesting are vastly lower than any published data I have seen. Taking the total number of shots fired, dividing by tanks hit and then basing accuracy on that is a fun thought exercise (assuming you can find the numbers) but if I asked Charles to change the game based on that he would laugh, assuming a disembodied brain is capable of laughter.

The numbers I posted are taken directly from WWII Ballistics: Armor and Gunnery, which is what CM uses for data AFAIK. I am not an expert in this area, but people that are very knowledgeable have looked at Bird and Livingston's numbers and found them to be pretty close.

GnOxhc.jpg

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Note all the qualifiers - stationary target, ideal conditions, maximum, assumed amount of range estimation error (that in turn has no change or allowance for target motion).

Also notice that at 2000 meters it appears to be around 3% not 6%. To be fair, it is for a lower muzzle velocity gun, so perhaps its 1500 meter line is more relevant as being about 2 seconds flight time. The range error generally also grows with range, rather than staying 25% at all ranges etc. But those may be minor issues compared to the "stationary ideal conditions" which means a firing range. I never miss with bolt rifle on a firing range, either. Doesn't mean no one does in combat.

I'd actually buy that chart as about right for follow up shots (sometimes only by the third, not the second) at stationary targets, actually. That is, as the level at which the probability of a hit tops out after you've had enough ranging misses, when the target is sitting still. I wouldn't buy it as shots at moving ones, or as first shots in real combat rather than on a range.

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Firing opportunities in real combat are not scarce and the duels are not over in 15 seconds. They last minutes at a time, between entire firing companies. The rounds actually fired in such engagements hit the low triple digits.

Of the incidents studied by BRL, defenders fired first 84 percent of the time. When defenders fired first, the attackers suffered 4.3 times more casualties than the defender. On the relatively few occasions when the attackers fired first, the defenders suffered 3.6 times more casualties than the attackers... Tank-versus-tank engagements tended to be short, violent affairs with the losing side quickly withdrawing rather than face annihilation. Ambush from a concealed position was the ideal ingredient in winning a tank-versus-tank firefight. A similar British study reached much the same conclusion, finding that in 70 percent of the eighty-three actions studied, the side that engaged first won.

-- Armored Thunderbolt, Steven Zaloga

We can debate exact numbers all day, but with regards to the OP the bottom line is that in reality who shoots first wins and CM reflects that.

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Vanir - I agree with the quote entirely, but not that it supports high shot accuracy. The side shooting first also finds the range first, gets more hits early, scares the other side's crews, and persuades many of them to haul ass instead of sticking around to try their luck. That outcome you will be assured of getting as long as the second round hit probability is meaningfully higher than the first, and the third than the second. All it takes.

Meanwhile, we know that tank duels in flat western desert terrain were usually not decided until 500 yards range, to 700 at the most. Not the first shots, the last ones. Because it was hard to hit moving targets, especially at poorly estimated range, range estimation gets hard in featureless country, plus the usual dust and such. But tanks did not routinely kill each other at extreme range there, because just moving already made it hard to hit them at long range.

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Perhaps, but that's a bit apples to oranges as there were a lot of 37mm, short-barrel 50mm and 2 pdr-armed tanks in North Africa. Engagement ranges in Northern Europe 1944-45 were well over that.

In total, some 98 engagements from August through the end of December 1944 were identified and quantified, including 33 from the Ardennes fighting.

These records indicate that typical tank-versus-tank engagements were usually small unit actions, on average involving nine tanks on the US side and four Wehrmacht AFVs. The average range at which the US tanks inflicted kills on the panzers was 893 yards, while German kills on average were from 946 yards.

-- Zaloga, Panther vs Sherman

Coox and Naisawald cite 785 yards as the average ETO range for tank engagement; this is lower than the average range from Normandy and Western France, which is 902 yards based primarily on Canadian engagements in the area around the south of Caen.

-- Tank Tactics: From Normandy to Lorraine, Roman Johann Jarymowycz

German panzer iv crews were trained to open fire at 1200 meters as that is the maximum range at which their mili-radian sights allowed them to "fire for effect" without use of bracketing.

Using the German figures for doubled random dispersion and assuming an average range estimate error of 25% with a bell shaped error distribution (typical results for average crew, based on British and American firing trials), the following first round hit percentages were computed against a stationary 2m high by 2.5m wide target:

FIRST ROUND HIT %

RANGE...50L60...75L48...75L70...88L56...88L71

500m...........81......75.....88.......79.....94

800m...........36......34.....51.......39.....61

1100m..........17......15.....28.......21.....34

1400m...........9.......7.....16.......12.....19

The above stated estimates for first round hit percentage probably represent the high side of what would be expected from average troops in battle, since “nervous and/or fatigue” origin errors were not considered during the calculations. Under the stress of combat, people can forget intermediate steps and see things on the gun sight that are not there. Discussions on the AFV News forum site have brought out the possibility that unquantifiable human errors may account for a good share of the reported misses at “sure thing” ranges.

Regarding second shot corrections after misses, the Germans advised that bracketing should be used at ranges above 1200m using 200m increments below 2000m and 400m above that distance. At or below 1200m, "fire for effect" corrections to the initial shot would be made using various methods that would result in a more accurate change in shot placement than adding or subtracting 200m.

http://www.battlefront.com/community/showpost.php?p=510734&postcount=1

Note: tank accuracy in CM is lower than the above numbers!

Panthers, Tigers and Allied tanks with similar high velocity cannon could engage at even longer ranges.

"Based on the experience in recent battles, I issue the following instructions for the cooperation of Tigers with other weapons: As a result of its high performance weapon and strong armor, the Tiger should be used primarily against tanks and anti-tank weapons and secondarily - and then only as a complete exception - against infantry units. As experience has shown, its weapons allow the Tiger to fight enemy tanks at ranges of 2,000 meters and longer, which has especially worked well on the moral of the opponent. As a result of the strong armor, it is possible to close to short range with the enemy tanks without being seriously damaged by hits. Still the Tiger should attempt to start engaging enemy tanks at ranges over 1,000 meters."

-- Commander of the III Panzer Korps General der Panzertruppe Hermann Breith, 21 July 1943

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Again, you only give firing range numbers. The same analysis predicts that every rifle shot kills a man. This is not observed. On the average range in western Europe being 800-900 yards, agreed. Notice, that is not 1800 yards. If by the 2nd or 3rd shot every shot had a 59% chance to hit even vs a moving target - or even a 30% chance to hit - nobody spotted long range would ever live to ranges that close. It takes about 30 seconds to get to a kill that way.

As for the advice on Tiger engagement ranges, again it is based on relative lethality and does not remotely require a high hit chance per round. If the enemy can't hurt you back, a 10% chance it hit is perfectly sufficient to decimate whole formations, because Tigers don't hunt alone and carry scores of AP shells apiece.

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Again, you only give firing range numbers.

Um, no. You keep saying that, but it is simply not true.

These are the expected first shot hit probabilities for King Tiger gunners in training, i.e. on an actual firing range.

Hit probability versus 2.5m x 2m target

100m: 100%

500m: 100%

1000m: 100%

1500m: 95%

2000m: 85%

2500m: 75%

3000m: 61%

3500m: 51%

4000m: 42%

Source: Kingtiger Heavy Tank: 1942-1945, Thomas Jentz

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Again, you only give firing range numbers. The same analysis predicts that every rifle shot kills a man. This is not observed. On the average range in western Europe being 800-900 yards, agreed. Notice, that is not 1800 yards. If by the 2nd or 3rd shot every shot had a 59% chance to hit even vs a moving target - or even a 30% chance to hit - nobody spotted long range would ever live to ranges that close. It takes about 30 seconds to get to a kill that way.

As for the advice on Tiger engagement ranges, again it is based on relative lethality and does not remotely require a high hit chance per round. If the enemy can't hurt you back, a 10% chance it hit is perfectly sufficient to decimate whole formations, because Tigers don't hunt alone and carry scores of AP shells apiece.

What reports on average range rifle engagements are you implying to cite?

The few Commonwealth ones I've read tend to point out that Rifle men are not effective because they're not shooting for effect when their are no visible targets, it's a completely different problem where commonwealth range training disinclines soldiers from shooting during what we would term fire fights now. The commonwealth was not shooting to suppress.

This is utterly worthless comparison with tanks shooting at fully visible tanks charging towards them. Never mind the fact that the targets are much larger than individual men. It's also physically impossible for tanks to "pepperpot" aka run 3-4 steps go prone then crawl to another position and then bound forward again; tanks can't change their target picture when moving forwards.

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I found the following to be an interesting read. I played as the Germans, and saw many T-34's making haste.. many rounds were fired by both Pz IV, and Pz V, I even has some KT throwing rounds.. about 70 percent were hit while they were making a run down the right side of the map.. left side I guess if your playing Soviet.  The rest of the tanks were dispatched as they stopped to fire on my tanks.. I did lose 3 Pz IV tanks in the melee.  I think 2 due to the hidden ATG in the woods.... but I had thrown smoke, and the bombardments I had thrown at the woods obscured some of the combat, but at least I think silenced 2 of the ATG.  Anyways.. there were a lot of rounds fired.. they were not one hit wonders.

 

According to Jentz (JENTZ, Thomas L.; Germany's TIGER Tanks - Tiger I and II: Combat Tactics; op. cit.): "These accuracy tables are based on the assumptions that the actual range to the target has been correctly determined and that the distribution of hits is centered on the aiming point. The first column shows the accuracy obtained during controlled test firing to determine the pattern of dispersion. The figures in the second column include the variation expected during practice firing due to differences between guns, ammunition and gunners. These accuracy tables do not reflect the actual probability of hitting a target under battlefield conditions. Due to errors in estimating the range and many other factors, the probability of a first hit was much lower than shown in these tables. However, the average, calm gunner, after sensing the tracer from the first round, could achieve the accuracy shown in the second column".

Accuracy: Gun 88 mm KwK 36 L/56 Ammunition Type Pzgr. 39 Pzgr. 40 Gr.39 HL Range       500 m 100 (100) 100 (100) 100 (98) 1000 m 100 (93) 99 (80) 94 (62) 1500 m 98 (74) 89 (52) 72 (34) 2000 m 87 (50) 71 (31) 52 (20) 2500 m 71 (31) 55 (19)   3000 m 53 (19)     Source : JENTZ, Thomas L.; Germany's TIGER Tanks - Tiger I and II: Combat Tactics; ISBN 0-7643-0225-6
Penetration: Gun 88 mm KwK 36 L/56 Ammunition Type
Pzgr.39
Pzgr.40
Gr.39HL
Shell Weight
10.2 Kg
7.3 Kg
7.65 Kg
Initial Velocity
773 m/s
930 m/s
600 m/s
Range
 
 
 
100 m
120 mm
170 mm
90 mm
500 m
110 mm
155 mm
90 mm
1000 m
100 mm
138 mm
90 mm
1500 m
91 mm
122 mm
90 mm
2000 m
84 mm
110 mm
90 mm
Source : JENTZ, Thomas L.; Germany's TIGER Tanks - Tiger I and II: Combat Tactics; ISBN 0-7643-0225-6
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