Jump to content
76mm

Max Effective Tank Ranges?

Recommended Posts

A question for you armor grogs out there: what were the effective combat ranges of German tanks during 1944? I've always thought that typical max ranges in combat would be 1,500-2,000 meters, although I've just read that Nashorns could achieve hits at up to 4,000 meters under combat conditions (I read it on the internet, so it must be true!).

Obviously one of the main impediments to hitting a target beyond 2,000 meters would be line-of-sight, but assuming that tanks had a shot--presumably firing from high terrain, etc.--could many German tanks hit anything much beyond 2,000 meters? Any good sources on this issue?

Similarly, IIRC Russian tanks maxed out at about 1,000-1,500 meters, although I suppose the JS-II and some of the SUs could do better?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I understand that most engagements were at less than 1,000 meters, but I'm trying to understand the max range at which is was realistic to engage targets under combat conditions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Tigers, Panthers and vehicles with similar main cannon firepower did open up at ranges well beyond that when opportunity permitted.

"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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

From a report of Colonel Decker, commander of Panzerbrigade 10, July 17th 1943:

"...Overall it can be said that the Panther, despite some teething problems and the unreliable engine, is a very good vehicle....Its main gun is outstanding. Until today the regiment destroyed 263 enemy tanks. Russian KW-1 tanks were destroyed up to 3000m and almost all T-34 tanks were destroyed at ranges from 1500-2000m."

[Jentz, Die deutsche Panzertruppe]

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I recall a report by a German Tiger I commander in North Africa, immensely frustrated at the allies tendency to use massed tank fire from max range - 2000m plus, raining HE down on him like raindrops. The Tiger commander, by contrast, was explicitly forbidden to fire from max range. He was told to close with the enemy 'til a first round hit became probable. Because the Germans simply didn't have the ammo to waste. Much of German doctrine got turned on its head in the real world. Tigers were meant to use long range fire from overwatch positions well back from the front lines. The problem, though, was the infantry would tend to get spooked and retreat to the line that the Tigers were firing from. So the Tigers were obliged to roll forward to act as morale support and hold the infantry in place. Also, doctrine insisted they be used in massed shock formations but more often got parceled out in ones and twos to hastily plug holes in the line.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Effective fire beyond 2 km is practically entirely restricted to claims by the firing side, with nothing verified by the side being fired at.  Even then it is generally restricted to ace quality shooters.  

 

You won't find operational importance cases of a side reporting they were stopped and defeated by ranged enemy AT fire at ranges beyond 2 km.

 

The closest you will get to that is AT guns in particularly open terrain, causing some loss at ranges up to 1.5 km.  For example, the famous 88s in the desert at Halfaya pass opened fire at 1600 meters, and later again at 1400 meters against a second attack.  But they still inflicted most of their kills considerably closer, at half those ranges.  Those ranges can be verified by loss reports on the losing side, rather than claims by the shooting one.  You should never believe own-side claims about extreme range fire.  They are never trustworthy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks guys, very helpful, and more or less confirms what I thought--beyond 2,000 meters was rather iffy. Does anyone know the ranges involved in Operation Goodwood? It seems like as good a scenario as any for long-range panzer sniping, but I haven't read enough about it to understand if we're talking about 1,500 meters or 3,000 meters...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've seen the numbers for Goodwood but can't find them at the moment. Here are some numbers from NW Europe courtesy of John D. Salt:

 

AORG Memo no. C6, "A survey of tank warfare in Europe from D-Day to 12 August 1944", by H.G. Gee, May 1952 (available at the PRO as WO 291/1218), is based on 112 tank vs. tank actions fought by 21 AG. It gives the mean engagement ranges for this sample as 405 yards (standard deviation 380) in close country, and 1204 yards (standard deviation 735) in open country.

 

BRL Memo no. 798, "Data on World War II tank engagements involving the US Third and Fourth Armored Divisions", by D. C. Hardison, June 1954, is based on 86 tank vs. tank and tank vs. anti-tank engagements fought by the divisions mentioned. It gives the average ranges at which tanks were destroyed, in yards, as follows:

Allied tanks__Enemy tanks__Place

476____________N/A_______Vicinity Stollberg

959____________733_______Roer to Rhein

1000___________833_______Belgian Bulge

1260___________936_______Vicinity Arracourt

1116___________831_______Sarre

731____________915_______Relief of Bastogne

The overall mean casualty ranges are given as 946 yds for Allied and 893 yds for enemy tanks.

The greatest ranges mentioned for any action in those listed by the above studies are:

Shephard: 4,800 yards (118 actions)

Gee: 3,000 yards (112 actions)

Hardison: 3,500 yards (86 actions)

Edited by Vanir Ausf B

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From the same source:

For NW Europe, K is about 950 yards.

90% of engagements occur at less than 2200 yards;
80% of engagements occur at less than 1500 yards;
50% of engagements occur at less than 650 yards.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For NW Europe, K is about 950 yards.

90% of engagements occur at less than 2200 yards;

80% of engagements occur at less than 1500 yards;

50% of engagements occur at less than 650 yards.

I'm actually surprised that the ranges are that long in Western Europe, I'd have expected a bit shorter, and I wonder if the ranges would be a bit longer in the East, where the terrain is less built up/more open?

Those max ranges reported by Salt (3,000-4,800 yards!) are an eye-opener, but I guess they are comparable to a "hole in one" in golf; possible (barely) but rather unlikely. Also, I wonder how they determined that a tank had been knocked out by a weapon 4,800 meters away?

Edited by 76mm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Same source:

 

"Red Army Handbook 1939-1945", by S. J. Zaloga and L. S. Ness, 1998 (Alan Sutton, Thrupp) gives on page 179 a table of the ranges in metres at which Soviet tanks and assault guns were knocked out by 75mm and 88mm guns in 1943-44, as follows:

Range_______75mm gun_____88mm gun
100-200_______10.0%_________4.0%
200-400_______26.1%________14.0%
400-600_______33.5%________18.0%
600-800_______14.5%________31.2%
800-1000_______7.0%________13.5%
1000-1200______4.5%_________8.5%
1200-1400______3.6%_________7.6%
1400-1600______0.4%_________2.0%
1600-1800______0.4%_________0.7%
1800-2000______0.0%_________0.5%

 

However, note the time period. Tanks and self propelled guns with weaponry capable of 2000+ meter shots with any sort of reliability comprised a very small portion of the total vehicles in battle until about mid-1944 when the Panther began to be seen in larger numbers (and were still a minority till the end of the war) so that is why the discrepancy with the NW Europe numbers.

Edited by Vanir Ausf B

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Vanir, thanks, that's very interesting data--more than 90% of 75mm kills and 80% of 88mm kills at less than 1,000 meters. On the east front at least, I would have guessed--without any data to back it up--that those percentages would have corresponded to 1,500 meters rather than 1,000 meters.

Any idea how they determine the range at which a vehicle was knocked out? Seems like it would be difficult to tell in many cases? Seems like they'd have to conduct detailed interviews with survivors, if any, who may or may not have any idea where the tank that knocked them out was located ("...got us from that ridge over there..."), much less the specific ranges. Or is it German data? I guess they'd have some idea based on the aiming reticle that they used, but probably also difficult to say with much certainty...

Anyway, it's probably the best data we're likely to get, so thanks again.

Edited by 76mm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Note that ranges for *engagements* are not ranges for *kills*, in these matters.  The ranges of kills are the more relevant item.

 

Plenty of engagements *start* at long range, but don't kill anything at those ranges.  Either they don't involve kills at all - merely attempts that fail - or they continue down to closer ranges before the actual kills occur.

 

I think Vanir's last table is showing ranges of actual kills and is perfectly believable as measuring that, compatible with what we read in AARs, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The difference between average engagement and kill ranges probably reflects different kinds of intentions among the involved tankers. Low yield long range skirmishing where tanks can easily disengage won't generate many kills but will certainly make up the bulk of engagements, raising average engagement range. It only takes a few serious fights where the attacker commits himself to closing despite initial losses to get the average kill range down very low. This scenario also make it likely that the defenders get over run and badly shot up. 

 

In a similar fashion you could predict that the majority of knocked out tanks were hit in the flanks, simply because that kind of fire occurs during a fully committed attack and represents a defensive shooter getting an entire enemy formation in his sights at once, not individual tanks piecemeal at long range, fronts towards him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...