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Brixia Mortars - Realistically Portrayed In Game?


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hey guys. recent discussions during my pbems have brought this up. The Brixia mortar is definitely the most effective Italian weapon I've used in the game so far.

How effective were they in real life? Were they popular with the troops? History? Grog references?

Of course I already am damned familiar with the discussions over mortar over-accuracy. Im well aware of the ranging BUG (at least I hope it is) that makes mortars even more lethal.

However Im sure all are aware also that roughly 70% of all the combat casualties in WW2 came from artillery and mortars. Just the devils advocate statement is all ;)

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Um, the 70% figure has absolutely nothing to do with the effectiveness of mortars, because it flat isn't about mortars. It is about shell splinters from every kind of shell, from 8 inch howitzers to hand grenades. Most infantry casualties were caused by such shell splinters, most of the remainder (25% or more, getting us above 95% overall) were from bullets - all bullets, MGs to pistols, with MGs both infantry and vehicular undoubtedly accounting for most of those - with the remaining modest percentage from "other" (flame, edged weapons, etc).

Most of the shell splinter casualties were in turn caused by field artillery, for the entirely unsurprising reason, that field artillery fired most of the shells. Hundreds of millions of them, in fact. Mortars rank below field artillery in both power per shell (by a long way, as an average) and shells fired. Within mortars, it was the heaviest ones that did the most - 81mm and up - as well as firing the bulk of the shells.

In that whole mix, light mortars, like hand grenades or rifle grenades, were an afterthought residual. There is no evidence whatsoever from contemporary tactics or battle reports to suggest the calibers under 81mm had anything remotely like the effectiveness seen for them in CMx2. And even among that marginal class of weapons, the Brixia was an outlier for its ineffectiveness, weighing much more than a British 2 inch yet firing a much smaller bomb. And the Brits already found theirs so small that illumination and smoke were regarded as its most useful rounds.

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well then it.d seem that something is gravely wrong. what is wrong is the question. the brit 2 inch mortars in CMBN arent nearly as lethal - the smoke rounds and wp rounds are definitely the best uses for them. of course the american 60mms are extremely lethal.

shame because its definitely a real game changer...

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Brixia's an odd duck, its called light mortar but is operated more like a semi-auto grenade launcher. Its telling that within 20 year of war's end we were feilding our own overly-heavy, overly-complex auto grenade launchers that proabaly compared unfavorably to 81mm mortars too. Brit 2 inch mortars - I still can't figure out how anyone could possibly aim the darned thing with any accuracy. Plant it on the ground and lean forward a but to guesstimate the trajectory?

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Sublime,

I don't know much about Brixia performance, not having CMFI in any form or good weapon data, but I do know the British 2-inch mortar can dish out real pain when competently run with direct LOS to the target, which is how shoots are still done. In CMBN, I have wiped out a Company HQ, in a crater, with one. Took only a few shots.

Wiki is informative on this topic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2-inch_mortar

This certainly doesn't portray a wimpy weapon, either.

http://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/detail.asp?smallarms_id=504

SAS firing successor light mortar in Direct Lay, Afghanistan 2011

Regards,

John Kettler

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Jk,

guess its all relative - of all the light mortars Ive had the most effectiveness with the US 60. Great ammo loadout, relatively lethal, light. Of course of all the sides in CMx2 with light mortars Ive by far had the most experience with US troops.

The brixia probably shines more especially because (at least in cmfi) the other Italian weapons relatively suck - whereas if your playing Brits or US theres a lot of other great weapons choices at the platoon level..

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Sublime,

Here's an Italian training film on the Brixia, from which you can gauge its relative potency. It sure doesn't look like fun on the receiving end!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtxuPk9ijiU

Guastatori in combat with Brixia (attacking El Alamein under artillery fire--war up close)

Tutorial on the Brixia mortar round--very detailed!

After watching this, it seems that the Brixia had excellent accuracy, which offset the somewhat anemic projectile, a Red Devil grenade with fins and other mortar stuff incorporated.

The 60 rocks, and, per this official War Department training film, (circa 12:55), has a casualty radius of 17 yards. From watching the Brixia shoot earlier, I'd guess maybe half that. For comparison, and using MUCH better ammo, the Bradley 25mm Chain Gun has a casualty radius of 5 meters, just under 16 feet.

Regards,

John Kettler

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Sorry JK, link festivals are not operational effectiveness of a weapon system. Not one of your Brit 2 inch pages says a single word about their actual effectiveness as HE delivery devices, beyond the obvious point that they have longer range than rifle grenades (itself a telling comparison). Then there is the aside that after the war, they were retained in service to deliver illumination and smoke. If the HE was so effective, why? Did men suddenly become shrapnel-proof in 1946?

Tiny shells delivered with no great inherent accuracy just aren't very effective. Is it still useful to be able to throw a hand grenade farther than the other guy? Sure. Bully. Will it actually land in the trench opposite, at 200, 300, or 500 yards. Your mileage will most definitely vary.

If you want to keep enemy infantry pinned down with HE fire, use a serious weapon system - a full battery of 81mm mortars, or a tube artillery fire mission. There is a reason those are used and used in that massed manner. And that reason is not, that much smaller 2 man weapons routinely kill everyone they are pointed at inside of 3 minutes. Because, wait for it, they don't.

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JasonC,

I never said they were. The point was to get together some data on the weapons so that first order comparisons could be made. You obviously failed to note the statement the Brixia was very accurate, thus at least partially negating your assertion.

Part of the answer to your question, I think, lies in the arrival of grenade launchers in fairly short order after the war. the U.S. M79, for example, arrived in 1960, and vastly outranged rifle grenades.

Notice, though, if you will, that the British tried to replace the 2-inch mortar with the Under-barrel Grenade Launcher, then decided that was a bad way to go. this resulted in a UOR (Urgent Operational Requirement) which produced the 51mm L9A1 Light Mortar.

This is discussed in Post 4 here.

http://www.onesixthwarriors.com/forum/sixth-scale-action-figure-news-reviews-discussion/257388-british-2-inch-mortar-use-afghanistan.html

Note further that HE is STILL provided, and we know it's used, since I've provided video of the SAS doing exactly that--engaging targets with HE.

Returning to the L9A1's ancestor, we find the default projectile was HE! (Fair use)

"The usual shell fired by the 2-inch Mortar was high exposive (HE), but smoke and flares were also fired, the latter being particularly useful for target illumination at night."

Taken from

http://historywarsweapons.com/ml-2-inch-mortar/

This book describes how much firepower the 2-inch mortar provided to the infantry assault. I believe this was Burma. The brief text here doesn't tell the real story.

Combat Diary - Page 182 - Google Books Result

books.google.com/books?isbn=1935501186

Jasbir Singh - 2010 - History

As per Lt Salick's plan, the Support Group was to bring down concentrated fire with 2-inch mortars, LMGs and grenade dischargers.

Here we have British production figures for the 2-inch mortar, by type.

http://www.wwiiequipment.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=91:british-mortars-of-the-second-world-war&catid=47:british&Itemid=59

What makes this of direct interest is that during WW II (using a JasonC approach) HE production was basically the same as smoke (not counting 2-inch smoke grenades for AFV dischargers)

"The 2 inch mortar is often said to have been primarily a smoke and flare (illumination) mortar; but just as many HE rounds as smoke rounds were produced (on demand) during the course of the war.

About 22.7 million 2 inch mortar HE rounds were made during the war, compared to 22.9 million 2 inch mortar smoke rounds (these were smoke rounds made for the infantry mortar, so does not include the 2 inch smoke rounds made for AFV 2 inch smoke dischargers).

2 inch HE rounds were often used with great affect, and I've seen medal citations which specifically noted the skilled use of a 2 inch mortar. Some blokes would even brace the thing against a building or tree and shoot the rounds horizontally."

This is Axis History Forum member Saxon Cross, cited here (Fair Use)

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=114&t=178594&start=15

Interestingly, our own Kingfish is in the discussion, and Saxon Cross, who seems to be grog central, says he has a 35 page PDF which includes, inter alia, a study on 2-inch mortar effectiveness.

From what I can tell, the British tried to use under-barrel grenade launchers after taking the 2 inch mortar out of primary service in the 1960s, only to belatedly discover they'd shot themselves in the foot, resulting in the UOR which produced the 51mm L9A1 Light Mortar.

Restated, the British phased out a military capability they thought they didn't need, only to painfully discover they did. I therefore submit your argument needs serious work.

Regards,

John Kettler

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The effectivity of on map mortars is out of any proportions. They render big calibres obsolete.

IMO three factors are the main reason:

1. The accuracy is too high.

2. The protection of dug in units is too weak.

3. The self preservation of the TacAI does not work: the units stay (not only infantry, but also open topped vehicles and tanks) where they are, although mortar rounds are already falling on their heads.

Each one is not a huge problem. But the combination of all three makes on map mortars that ridiculously effective.

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Because points 2 and 3 are not an easy task to solve, and because without the mortars IMO the game is simply beautiful and breathtaking, i would suggest Battlefront to compensate with point 1 the two others.

If necessary simply reduce the accuracy of on map mortars even below realistic levels (increase the spreading and/or change the pattern much much more) until we get a realistic balance on the battlefield again.

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Agree Steiner14.

I'd venture to add a (4) Self-preservation behaviour of mortar crews is ridiculously low.

Shooting at them with less than "a whole damn army" will not stop them firing their ordnance back - which makes shooting at them almost suicidal. I've seen mortar crews even ignore 105mm artillery landing next to them

ie. not slowing down their RoF or cowering at all. Hard men !

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Agree with JK's last post. The British Army was going to do away with the 51mm mortar with the advent of their underbarrel grenade launchers but after experience in Iraq and Afghanistan decided to replace it with a 60mm mortar instead (this principally being due IIRC to the 60mm ammo being more commonly used and therefore easier to source). From what I've been told, the light mortars are particularly popular with the troops due to the speed with which they can be brought into action and are used almost exclusively in a direct fire role.

I generally find that foxholes offer good cover against light mortars used for indirect fire. Even light mortars that are used in a direct fire role generally have to significantly deplete their ammo in order to take out troops in foxholes (although this is less telling with the 60mm mortars due to their larger ammo allocation). WRT the effectiveness of their HE shells, I've seen plenty of examples of 45mm and 51mm rounds exploding in the next action spot and leaving infantry in the open unharmed.

I don't think that mortarmen are any more or less susceptible to suppression than any other type of infantry (once motivation, experience, leadership etc.. have been taken into account). However, the consequences of not suppressing them rapidly are very grave indeed so if you're taking on a man with a mortar, you'd better have what it takes to finish the fight quickly.

If someone can prove that the accuracy of the light mortars should be reduced on historical or technical grounds (as was done with the 81mm mortars) I would be all in favour of seeing an alteration of the light mortars accuracy in game. However, I'm not comfortable with the idea of knowingly making a weapon less effective than it was in real life in the interests of 'balance'. Should we reduce the armour thickness of the Tiger in the interests of balance? The penetrating power of the ma deuce? The turret traverse speed of the Sherman?

Undoubtedly, light mortars in game represent nasty weapons systems. But surely the enjoyment of the game is in finding ways of dealing with these challenges. My tuppence.

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None of the (possible) problems with potential light mortar over-efficiency is worth addressing until the "only need to range in once" problem has been addressed. At the moment, a Veteran mortar crew, after the first fire mission, can drop a dozen shells a minute into approximately a 2 AS diameter with zero warning. Any infantry in that area will be instantly pinned and unable to attempt to evacuate the lethal zone, and that much HE from a 60mm into such a small area should be vicious.

Once players are back to getting some warning so they can clear out of where the light mortar is aiming, between ranging shots, it'll be worth addressing the other questions.

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The effects of artillery definitely detract from the fun factor for me. There is a lot of heavy artillery, especially on the allied side. As people have pointed out, troops don't do a good job of self-preservation when it is falling. Contrast that to them taking MG fire. They are cowering very quickly.

Über-Mortars just make it worse. I won Avanti and the Brixias played way too great a role in that victory. All the other Italian elements, troops, tanks, etc. only took over when the mortars had their say. My opponent commented on their power.

I would like to see artillery toned down so that tactics other than nuking everything first with artillery come more to the fore.

Gerry

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Not that I disagree with the sentiments suggesting that light mortars are perhaps too effective (over and above the ranging bug issue), but the open terrain of Sicily depicted in most scenarios exacerbates the problem. Scenarios with close terrain, limited visibility, and lots of buildings severely limit the ability of mortars to dominate the battlefield.

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I would rather the game aimed for realistic weapon effects. If mortars and artillery are demonstrably more effective than they were in rl then fair enough, lets see them changed. If they are more or less as they should be then I hope they'll be left as they are. There is nothing to stop people from making scenarios with limited artillery support/ammunition or with inexperienced crews and FOs or as Bimmer alludes to above, with a bit more cover. I havn't really observed any unwillingness of my troops to take cover when artillery is falling but I will pay more attention in the future.

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I would like to see artillery toned down so that tactics other than nuking everything first with artillery come more to the fore.

That's the wrong approach. If you want to play games where artillery doesn't dominate, simply get your opponent to agree on limits on how much and what size you can each buy.

Frankly, I love artillery. It gives me a really warm, fuzzy feeling to totally obliterate my enemy before he can shoot any of my guys. Love it, love it, love it!

:)

Michael

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That's the wrong approach. If you want to play games where artillery doesn't dominate, simply get your opponent to agree on limits on how much and what size you can each buy.

Frankly, I love artillery. It gives me a really warm, fuzzy feeling to totally obliterate my enemy before he can shoot any of my guys. Love it, love it, love it!

:)

Michael

I guess we could keep a thread like this on this and the CMBN board indefinitely.

Is the following true or false?:

In WW2, tactically the light mortars were used to suppress, and only incidently to kill. (the fact that a round could kill sometimes kill making the suppression effective)

If the statement is true, mortars are overwelmingly overly effective in CM2. They are, I think, an anachronism--like having a Vietnam War simulation were most of the casualties were caused by tanks, or a WW1 simulation were the main way to capture an enemy trench is to use night-time split squad infantry attacks.

I am not sure who/what to "blame" here. It could be a long list of technical game engine decisions. Or it could be (and this is where I squint and wave my cane around, pointing to those cotton-picking youngish warriors) people making decisions who are so far removed from the WW2 era that they don't quite have the correct "forrest" view.

Or I could be wrong, and the mortars are correct in CM2. 40 years of (admittedly casual) interest in WW2 stuff makes me feel otherwise.

Part of me thinks this will eventually be corrected, but maybe not. Maybe this will be a permanent conceptual shift. (I remember when Star Wars came out: "spaceships don't 'fly' in space", I thought. But we never went back to the much more realistic representation seen in something like 2001: Space Odyssey. Reality does not always win--particularly, as in this case, when the contemporary witnesses die off)

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Steiner14,

Am not sure about accuracy. From what I've seen of small mortar shoots, they seem pretty accurate. Donald Burgett in CURRAHEE describes being in a small hollow(?) and belatedly noticing a pattern in it reminiscent of a spider web. It was then he realized he was in dead ground pre-registered by the Germans. I've read another account in which the Germans, who were apparently very good with mortars, dropped a round right into the breakfast skillet!

Units under mortar fire should NOT get up and run. I've NEVER seen an account of this being done, and men exposed while doing so are much more likely to get hit, since blast and fragments go more up than out. This limits lethality against prone men, especially if they're hugging the earth, using every low spot they can find (microrelief) or are dug in, in which case they're probably in fetal position at the bottom of their foxholes. I keep harping on this, but it bears repeating. In official U.S. weapon effectiveness modeling, the first volley is ALWAYS computed against men standing (optimal target presentation), with subsequent volleys against the far better protected, now prone infantry.

Am not quite sure what to do about softskins and AFVs under mortar fire. Moving may seem like a good idea, but it may quite easily result in simply driving into another impact, especially if a full shoot is on, rather than one tube in precision fire. Typically, the rounds in the latter are walked back and forth through the targeted area, rather like an exploding, scything steel broom. Frequently, I've found mortars to be the only things keeping me in the game. A 60, for example, will destroy light AFVs with one or a few hits, and heaven help an open topped AFV if I can engage it. In one of the CMBN demo scenarios, it was the only way I could do anything at all to the dreaded 234/1s, which stayed out of bazooka range, in cover, and ripped my defense to shreds. Naturally, my AT gun had lasted only a few turns!

There definitely are some issues, but I think they really lie in cover modeling and the associated protection for the units as a function of posture. In watching vids of 2-inch and 60mm mortar shoots, the single biggest delay seems to be time of flight for the mortar bomb. Absent impact observation, it's difficult to hit anything. It is absolutely wrong, though, for a mortar to displace and still easily and quickly hit a pre-registered or already engaged target. The mortar would need to be set up, realigned, releveled and fired in adjustment before it could fire effectively. This is particularly true when significant vertical displacement is involved, since it changes the ballistics problem and has to be accounted for in calculating the firing solution.

Regards,

John Kettler

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Is the following true or false?:

In WW2, tactically the light mortars were used to suppress, and only incidently to kill. (the fact that a round could kill sometimes kill making the suppression effective)

If the statement is true, mortars are overwelmingly overly effective in CM2.

The statement is true and not-true.

In WW2, they were used primarily for suppression (including laying of smoke, which provides a form of suppression) because they could kill. It's the same with MGs and artillery. People knew that all those weapons systems could cause grevious bodily harm, so they went out of their way to protect themselves from those systems (and so imposed a degree of self-suppression).

The following is something I wrote several years ago, discussing the seeming ineffectiveness of Allied air power in NWE in 1944, discussing a broadly similar effect:

I've just started reading Guderian The Younger's book on the 116th Pz Div. There are several comments in the opening chapters about the effects of airpower on the division, before the invasion, as well as after.

The general impression is that Allied air power cast a baleful influence over the freedom of movement of the unit, well before it was engaged in action. Human cas and material losses occurred, but seem to have been quite low due largely to counter measures quickly put in place by 116th - things like moving at night, travelling in small parties, attention to camouflage discipline, staying under cover, avoiding obvious locations, etc. The tactical air forces could certainly inflict cas, given the opportunity. So the opportunity was largely denied them.

However (and this is the important point, and something which hasn't been touched on previously I think), although it isn't stated explicitly I believe it was the threat of actual and significant losses that directed these counter measures. So, in that sense, the counter measures were a great success; by using passive measures this unit was able to ensure that it suffered only trivial losses, losses which today seem to barely justify the Allied effort that went into achieving them. But, if they hadn't taken them the losses would have mounted quickly to the point where the division was ineffective. Action, reaction.

Also, the nature of the counter measures meant that the division’s freedom of action and manoeuvre was severely constrained before it had ever encountered a British or American soldier. This wasn't the exact result the Allies were expecting or hoping to achieve with their tactical air forces, but it is still significant. If we consider the aim of war to be getting the enemy to conform to your will this is a huge success, which affected all parts of the division, at all times, and it makes actual losses inflicted somewhat irrelevant. Losses are transitory. Altered behaviour is permanent.

Granted it's only one division and only one book, but I would strongly suspect that the same basic forces were at play for the other German divisions in and around Normandy in the summer of 1944. It'd be interesting to see how 9th and 10th SS Pz Divs suffered just after they transferred from the Eastern Front. I imagine the radically different air environments on the two fronts would be something that would take a little while to get used to, and which may be reflected in abnormally high losses for these two units, which quickly taper off as some Darwinian learning took place.

Broadly the same effect can no doubt be seen in the 1940 campaign in France and Flanders (or in fact any campaign in which the enemy had marked air superiority) – the threat of losses, based on demonstrated capability, driving behaviour which is favourable to the Germans, even if losses are not being directly caused by aerial weapons.

All or most of these points have been raised by previous posters. It was while reading Guderian over the weekend that it all came together for me as a complete package.

In CM, players tend not to take appropriate counter-measures, which results in apparently inflated casualty figures for seemingly wimpy weapons like light mortars.

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Jon, I'd agree. Plus the very nature of one off battles and scenarios DO NOT promote a lot of different tactics and uses in real life that would be used, because nothing in life is ever a one off thing where everything stops after that engagement.

To add to that, anyone playing CM, no matter how hard they try to play realistically, WILL NOT get killed (either by enemy fire directly, or the Gestapo, NKVD, or be relieved and sent home in disgrace haunted by the dead kids they sent to death) and the player also knows that of course, these aren't real soldiers and therefore will never be as careful as a real commander would be.

And of course, in real life in certain occasions the troops swuold just refuse outright to perform certain actions or attacks, if thought suicidal. Like the Vietnam vet in my Vietnam War class who was telling me how a boot LT was sent to take over his company, however was brand new and sent on a patrol PURELY to observe. He decided to start ordering people around in a situation they'd get killed in and the vet told me he 'locked and loaded' on the guy and told him he'd kill him before watching him kill himself and his friends. I guess when they got back to base the vet wasnt punished and the boot LT was gotten rid of.

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JonS,

I just watched an Operation Bagration doc on YouTube (see thread on same doc at CMBB), in which a fair amount of attention is devoted to talking about how air attack scared the Germans were, the measures to cope, pathetic given the absence of air cover from the Luftwaffe and the more open terrain, and the havoc wrought by the VVS. Quite noticeable in some of the footage was the same "head on a swivel" behavior often seen in Normandy film. I've seen some overhead stills, taken late war on the Eastern Front, in which German positions practically invisible from the ground stand out like neon signs from the air, to include instantly spottable from high above PaK 43 emplacements, critical weapons in short supply and with long reach. This is germane to the doc in that it discusses and depicts VVS attacks on vital German artillery positions. From what I could tell, the Germans had never been in quite this fix before.

Also, the recent airpower in Normandy effectiveness studies reported in that Fire Support monograph I posted about show that while AFV casualties tend to be minimal, even when carpet bombed, the same is not true for the other units hit. Panzer Lehr, for example, took a month's worth of human casualties in a single day as a result of carpet bombing. Even so, the vaunted air attack destroyed a grand total of 3 tanks of 31. Indirect losses were an additional 36, following the overrunning of the tank workshop areas where major repairs were underway.

I again assert that a big part of the Direct Lay mortar lethality problem lies in cover modeling, in being unable to uncrew weapons to seek shelter from fire and the complete absence of overhead cover when dug in. The only way for MGs and such to get it is to be in heavy buildings or pillboxes.

Regards,

John Kettler

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