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Russian AFV AT Capabilities


SpeakEasy
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With Red Thunder close to making its way off the production lines, I was wondering how capable Russian AFVs are at dealing with German Armor. At first sight, many of the guns utilized on Russian AFVs have much larger calibers than the Allied guns commonly seen in CMBN.

The typical Allied AFVs sport 75mm, 76mm, and 105mm calibers, whereas the stock Russian guns of T-34s, IS tanks, and ISUs are much larger at 76mm, 85mm, 122mm and even 152mm. At first glance, one would draw the conclusion that Russians tanks were much better equipped to reliably penetrate German armor compared their western counterparts. However, I don't believe that the caliber of the gun is the best indicator of armor piercing capability. For instance, I've read on Wikipedia or somewhere that the Russian 122mm gun could not reliably penetrate the frontal armor of a panther, but I've read posts in the forum that suggest otherwise.

Does anyone know how effective Russian AFV guns were at penetrating frontal armor of German tanks?

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You're quite correct in thinking that the calibre isn't the only determinant of how effective a weapon is at AT duties.

Of the Western Allies guns, the 105mm is a dedicated HE chucker, with "desperation self defense" HEAT rounds which do, admittedly make an untidy mess of the target, but are on a looping trajectory that makes hitting a tank-sized target at any appreciable range something of a lottery. The short 75 of the standard M4 Sherman is something of a halfway house. Its higher muzzle velocity means it's better at longer ranges than the 105, but it's still nowhere near "high" velocity, and compares unfavourably with the standard German 75s you find on StuGs and PzIVs in the AT role. The 76 of the Western allies is another step up in the AT stakes, and the 17lber (also 76mm calibre) is at least a match for the German high velocity 75 carried by the Panther (and the dreaded 88mm) in the anti-armour matchup.

I'm no expert on the Russian guns, but my general apprehension is that they have marginally lower MV than an "equivalent" German gun, but make up for it with a slightly bigger calibre. So the 76 is about equivalent to the 75 of the PzIV, the 85 is better. I believe it gets confusing at 122mm, because there were HE chuckers of that calibre as well as long high velocity kitty-killers. The 152mm was a pure HE-chucker, AIUI, though its HE round was capable of severly damaging or killing most targets, being ma-hoosive.

The general best guide is to take the calibre of the weapon along with the length of the weapon's barrel, which is often noted in multiples of the calibre. The longer the gun, the higher velocity the slug (generally), so the 75/L70 of the Panther is much longer and higher velocity than the 75/L48 of the IV/StuG, which was better at AT than the 75/L40 of the Sherman. Wikipedia will often tell you the muzzle velocities of the wepaons which is a good part of the armour penetration story.

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The 152mm was a pure HE-chucker, AIUI, though its HE round was capable of severly damaging or killing most targets, being ma-hoosive.

The ML-20 152mm howitzer had an AP shell and CMRT includes this ammo option in the ISU-152's ammo load. IIRC, it was actually a kinetic AP round, not a HEAT round.

The ISU-152 is not an ideal tank hunter because it has a very low ROF and the relatively low velocity makes getting a hit at longer ranges less likely. But if it hits, it's vicious. Even if it doesn't penetrate, it generally causes so much systems damage that the target is combat ineffective.

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Russia was fielding subcaliber tungsten core rounds equivalent to U.S. APCR around this time, and was issuing them to lesser weapons to boost their effectiveness all the way down to 45mm. I don't think the Sherman ever got a 75mm hypervelocity round, it just soldiered on with good old APC through the war. Russian 76mm seems to be roughly equivalent to US 75 with a *couple shots* at doing better sometimes included. :)

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I think from late 1943-early 1944 Germany Armor enjoys advantages on East Front. F-34 and Zis-3 76.2mm has difficulty to penetrate IV H's upper hull and StuG III's front. APCR can do the job but number issued to the front are low.

On the other hand, M3 75mm Sherman gun has no problem to penetrate 80mm in less than 500M.

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Thank you all for the input. I was not looking to get into very many specifics with my inquiry. In hind site I could have worded my question differently.

What I wanted to know was basically, what are the chances of the 76mm, 85mm, 122mm, and 152mm being able to penetrate the front armor of the common German AFVs such as PZIV, Panther, Tiger, or Stug at typical in-game distances (say between 500-1000m)?

Perhaps what I am asking is impossible to answer without getting into a bunch of details.

It seems thus far that the 76mm is roughly equivalent to the US 75mm of the Sherman, and that the 152mm can kill even the big cats if it can get a hit.

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Honestly, what I would suggest is downloading Chris Hare's old CMBB charts, which contain all of the armor & penetration values from CMBB in handy reference tables. I still keep them on my hard drive for easy reference. There's available for download here.

CMx2 calculates projectile vs. armor matchups in a very different way than CMx1 does, but the CMx1 charts are still useful as a ready reference to get a ballpark idea of what you can expect in armor vs. gun matchups.

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The Soviets were quite practical folks. They realized that they didn't have the time, resources, and perhaps expertise to come up with a "clever" way to deal with German heavy armor. Even if they designed a really great round they would then have to mass produce it on a large scale, quickly, to what would surely be more rigorous production standards than they were tooled for.

The solution was to get a bigger hammer :D You don't have to penetrate armor to take out the vehicle. You can literally shatter it or break the joint welds or dislodge the engine from it's mounts or hit the turret hard enough to destroy the ring, hit the mantlet hard enough to break it's ability to elevate, etc. Kinetic energy has a funny habit of getting the job done if you add enough to the equation!

Steve

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Especially the over engineered German vehicles, wonder how accurate the optics of a Tiger were, after a non-penetrating hit on the turret?

Yes, it just gets worse and worse. Even if no 152mm shell hits the Tiger, apparently the Russian anti-tank rifles could do some damage to optics.

I imagine myself spending a lot of time in CMRT sheparding Tigers through minor problems so that the Su-152 can take a fair shot.

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What I wanted to know was basically, what are the chances of the 76mm, 85mm, 122mm, and 152mm being able to penetrate the front armor of the common German AFVs such as PZIV, Panther, Tiger, or Stug at typical in-game distances (say between 500-1000m)?

Perhaps what I am asking is impossible to answer without getting into a bunch of details.

Well, the CMx2 penetration model is mind-bogglingly complicated. There's no "front armour" value. Every plate you see drawn on-screen might have its own individual rating for thickness and slope and even armour composition, and the precise location and angle of impact (including the slope of "bullet drop") is taken into consideration, as well as a bunch of other pertinent information. So yes, it's impossible to give a precise answer, even with a bunch of details :)

And chance of penetration != chance of kill. Pop guns can go right through side armour, but there's a good chance the steel beast will just keep right on rollin'. Just to add a further layer of uncertainty.

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It really is a mistake to be constantly obsessed with AFV vs. AFV performance. While important, it wasn't the largest consideration for most AFVs. In the case of the SU-76, SU-122, SU-152, and ISU-152, they were there primarily to provide medium to large caliber HE support to the infantry in the break in role. They are there to take out or suppress bunkers or otherwise fortified strongpoints and resistance nests that would be problematical for the infantry's organic weapons.

On the other hand, the SU-85, SU-100, and to some extent the ISU-122 were dedicated tank killers meant to go toe to toe with German armor and come out on top. There really were no equivalents in the Western armory. The Allies had AFVs with guns as effective, but were more lightly armored.

Michael

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It really is a mistake to be constantly obsessed with AFV vs. AFV performance. While important, it wasn't the largest consideration for most AFVs. In the case of the SU-76, SU-122, SU-152, and ISU-152, they were there primarily to provide medium to large caliber HE support to the infantry in the break in role. They are there to take out or suppress bunkers or otherwise fortified strongpoints and resistance nests that would be problematical for the infantry's organic weapons.

On the other hand, the SU-85, SU-100, and to some extent the ISU-122 were dedicated tank killers meant to go toe to toe with German armor and come out on top. There really were no equivalents in the Western armory. The Allies had AFVs with guns as effective, but were more lightly armored.

Michael

the discussion of AFV vs AFVs be translated into AT Guns vs AFVs, since the 45mm M1938, M1942, Zis-2 Zis-3 and Paks are quite similar to their tank guns brothers.

And yes AFV's confrontation are rare. But on the other hand these confrontations are most crucial one. Both side on East front can only maintain a thin defense line. When enemy's breakthrough happened, both side's defense doctrine rely on Armor counter-strike on enemy's Armor spearhead. Either drive the enemy back, fix the broken defense line or slow them down and shield those poor infantry's retreat.

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SpeakEasy,

If you want some idea of how potent even a short barreled 122mm (same as M-1938 howitzer) can be vs a Panzer, may I suggest you head over to Battlefield.ru, find the section on SPs and read the article on the SU-122 (not the ISU-122) in which it talks about combat against a Tiger 1? Believe you'll find it a most informative read.

Regards,

John Kettler

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Interesting factoid: The Soviets used a different formulation for their HE that made it more powerful but also less stable. So the shells fired by Soviet guns should have slightly more blast effect than equivalent Western guns. But also, Soviet brew ups should be a bit more likely to happen and more spectacular.

Michael

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While it isn't perfect - shell features and diameter play into it as well - the best first approximation of the AT power of a gun is just to ask its muzzle energy. This gets you the right scale of the thing; details may matter at the margin after that, but you will understand the basic correspondence between a western Allies gun and a Russian one if you know their energies.

The US 75mm and the Russian 76mm are basically equivalent, for example.

The US 76mm and the Russian 85mm are basically equivalent.

Both the Russian 122mm (long, not the short howitzer on the SU-122) and 152mm had 8-9 million joules of muzzle energy, which is roughly double those of the British 17 pdr or the US 90mm, and substantially higher than even the German 88L71 (5 million joules). The larger cross section means that energy was needed to get comparable penetration, but as pure physical hammers they are pounding twice as hard as the best AT weapons of the western allies, and harder than even the top German guns.

As for those heaviest Russian guns vs Panthers, they readily smashed the turret. The Panther glacis was one of the strongest plates of the whole war any side, and they could and did defeat it - the 122 especially -but sometimes by outright cracking it in half rather than boring a neat hole through it. Those guns are nothing to sneeze at, basically. The German 88L71 - with lower muzzle energy but also a smaller cross section to bore through - is basically the only gun in the same league, any side.

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I recall a long time ago seeing photos and reading an account from the first Soviet test of the big 152mm gun on a Panther hull. If I recall correctly, not only did it pierce the bow, it uprooted the transmission and blew the whole works out the back of the vehicle - then continued downrange for a considerable distance afterward. The Russians were astonished. I recall it also tore off the big gun's muzzle brake in the process as well.

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I recall a long time ago seeing photos and reading an account from the first Soviet test of the big 152mm gun on a Panther hull. If I recall correctly, not only did it pierce the bow, it uprooted the transmission and blew the whole works out the back of the vehicle - then continued downrange for a considerable distance afterward. The Russians were astonished. I recall it also tore off the big gun's muzzle brake in the process as well.

I don't even want to think about what that feels like for the poor SOB's inside. I would imagine just the force of it would kill them right?

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I recall a long time ago seeing photos and reading an account from the first Soviet test of the big 152mm gun on a Panther hull. If I recall correctly, not only did it pierce the bow, it uprooted the transmission and blew the whole works out the back of the vehicle - then continued downrange for a considerable distance afterward. The Russians were astonished. I recall it also tore off the big gun's muzzle brake in the process as well.

Decals are great, but this is the level of detail I'd eventually like to see!

I'm not saying that you have to track every one of the 2500 parts of the Panther's engine - just the dozen or so major bits. :D

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