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Tanks getting destroyed by medium mortars?


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I've seen a fair number of tanks (mainly Panthers) getting destroyed by 82mm mortars in my latest games.

The only source I have for the effect of artillery on Panthers is a report from Guderian (General Inspector of Panzer Troops) to Zeitzler (chief of staff/OKH) dated July 20th, 1943:

"Generally the Panther is safe against artillery fire. Direct hits by calibres greater than 15 cm (!) to the turret top or the engine grills however lead to a deformation of the armour and internal damage. Hits by smaller calibres, hitting the commander's cuppola or the turret top, had no effect."

Source: Jentz, Panzertruppen Vol. II

Working as intended? Or just a statistical anomaly? I have a hard time believing a 82mm shell would actually penetrate even the weak top armour of a Panther.

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From the few times I've observed direct mortar hits on fully armored AFVs, there seems to be a lot of variety to the possible outcomes.

I've probably seen a dozen or so direct top hits by 81/82mm mortars on tanks since CMBN came out (across all of the CMx2 WWII games). Best I can recall, most of the time the result has been light damage at most -- e.g., modest optics, track damage. I can specifically recall one incident where an M5A1 Stuart survived an 81mm top hit to the turret completely undamaged. So even lighter armor can apparently survive mortar top hits with a bit of luck; M5 Stuart top turret armor is only 13mm.

A couple of times I have seen KOs though. No real idea what the KO% is, other than it's >0%. It would take some fairly painstaking testing to say anything more definitive than this.

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It wouldn't take out a Panther.

Direct hits on the top of Panzer IIIs and IVs by 105mm HE could and did give full knock outs. This happened in Tunisia for example, in some verified cases. 155mm could and did take out full Panthers, in verified cases, notably in the Bulge fighting near Elsenborn ridge. But a medium mortar shell would not take out a full tank even with a top hit. A Marder or SPW, sure, not an actual medium or heavy tank.

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I've had a number of tanks destroyed by arty in h2h games. Its a rare event and for some reason I feel it always happens to me.

Had a couple of Panthers destroyed in Counter Attack at Son when my opponent dropped a 105mm barrage on my tanks. I also think he immobolized one later on with a barrage.

In another game Borderland one of his airburst 75mm barrages killed a MarkIII.

I chalk it up to luck or lack of it.

I'm at the ending turns of a RT game and I managed to drop a 152mm and 122mm barrage on my opponents Panthers and MarkIVs but didn't see any evidence of kills.

I recall reading that overall arty was considered ineffective in killing tanks, but it could immobilize or cause damage. Naval gunfire may be a different story.

82mm sounds pretty light against a Panther, but you never know. Maybe it was a Panther made on a Monday after a 3 day weekend or one made in a factory that used slave labor.

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I think I solved the mystery. A 82mm mortar round should not destroy a Panther. However looking at my trusty World Tank Museum book it mentions that the hatch for the driver and radio operator was very heavy and difficult to open and close and many crews just rode into combat with the hatch in the open position.

Thus the 82mm rounds just happened to land in the open hatch thus knocking out the otherwise invulnerable Panther. The hatch may not be shown in the open position, but thats what happened. Sometime in the distant future BF will have some tanks that rumble into battle with open hatches to reflect this fact ;)

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I would suggest you stop allowing your tanks to sit under arty attacks.

How hard is it to see one coming, answer - not very hard.

I don't care what size of shells they are tossing, pull out of the strike zone.

Problem solved. I have lost a few tanks to arty. But it has been so long ago I can hardly remember it.

I have watched plenty of enemy arty wasted in a effort to use it on my tanks.

Now of course I am giving up position, but with the strike on, you cannot see anything worth a blast anyway. And they obviously know you are there.

So why stay. If it is all that important to you. move back in once the mission has ended.

As for Arty game results, 120 and above are good tank killers

105 can do the job but you need some luck, not a common event

81's once in a great while, damage is the main effect

small stuff, really a waste. but hey some fools will try to use it.

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I would suggest you stop allowing your tanks to sit under arty attacks.

I would suggest not allowing your men to be killed by enemy fire. This is some poor advice and not relevant to the discussion at hand.

Right now it seems like medium mortars (possibly artillery of all sorts) might be over modeled against armor. I wish there was an easier way to test this other than spamming massive artillery barrages and hoping for a hit.

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I think the problem might be that arty (esp, medium mortars) in the game is way too accurate.

If you put down arty with a spotter or command unit on a foxhole cluster, the shells will rarely land farther away than a few meters from the foxholes.

That means if you call in arty on a tank (and the arty is on target, ie. not missing entirely) then most of the shells will be very closely clustered and one is almost bound to hit square right on top of the engine bay.

According to achtung panzer (first page I found when searching for panther top armour thickness) the panther had 16mm armour on the rear top hull.

It seems pretty reasonable for an 82mm HE shell to punch through 16mm armour (especially with the radiators and such).

So I think that the problem here isn't that the tanks are too vulnerable to medium mortars exactly, but that medium mortars are much too accurate when called in as artillery.

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Oddball - under the rear hull top is a giant engine block, not crew.

I've been looking around, and other than a few modern cases of mass fire overkill on stationary targets (close sheaf from a whole US marine mortar battery expending all remaining rounds on an Iraqi T-62 target, I mean), I have not found bonafide cases of tanks taken out by mortar fire. I have found reports of damages to tracks from driving a Sherman through an entire mortar barrage, that required maintenance afterward and would have M-killed until that could be done - not from a few rounds but a sustained pounding of the whole area. I have found cases of tanks that moved because mortars were falling near them. I have found cases of tanks masked by mortar smoke.

But all the references out there to tanks actually killed by mortar fire are about games, or amateur speculation in forums, not history or reality.

My verdict - it just didn't happen. I don't have this trouble finding tanks KOed by 105mm artillery fire (Kasserine campaign suffices), or 155mm artillery fire (Elsenborn suffices), or direct fire by the same weapons (from Salerno to Korea, and by the Germans with 105mm howitzers from France to Russia). But just firing 2 81mm in a company section or 4-6 81mm indirect in a battery fire mission, getting direct hits on full tanks and KOing them - are not in the historical record, that I can find.

The standard 81mm mortar shell carries only a 1.3 lb HE charge. US engineers in WW II considered the proper charge to destroy a medium tank about 10 pounds of C-4, and Japanese suicide anti-tank satchels ran 20 pounds of TNT.

The reason a 105mm getting a direct hit can KO is that it already has significant kinetic energy (1.5 to 1.8 million joules), and then it arrives with 4.8 pounds of TNT rather than 1.3 pounds.

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I did a quick test involving a bunch of tanks and a prodigious amount of medium mortars.

German

king Tiger: Sustained multiple hits with no apparent damage.

Tiger: Sustained multiple hits with no apparent damage.

Panther: Sustained multiple hits with no apparent damage.

Mark 4: One hit would penetrate and destroy the vehicle. The only P4 that survived was one that had a hit on its sideskirt.

Soviet:

T-34/76 and T34/85: Could take multiple hits but nearly all hits caused armor spalling. Tanks would be worn down taking track and optics damage and eventually be destroyed.

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I did a quick test involving a bunch of tanks and a prodigious amount of medium mortars.

German

king Tiger: Sustained multiple hits with no apparent damage.

Tiger: Sustained multiple hits with no apparent damage.

Panther: Sustained multiple hits with no apparent damage.

Mark 4: One hit would penetrate and destroy the vehicle. The only P4 that survived was one that had a hit on its sideskirt.

Soviet:

T-34/76 and T34/85: Could take multiple hits but nearly all hits caused armor spalling. Tanks would be worn down taking track and optics damage and eventually be destroyed.

Interesting

So maybe the original post is a little critical where it should not be, but then on the other hand, since you tested it. There might be a flaw in the design on the Mark 4 tank. That result does not make sense at all. So that might be worth reporting and looking into.

As for my earlier comment, no it does not address the question direct, but it does point out that good tactics solved the problem even if the game has a design issue.

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Oddball - under the rear hull top is a giant engine block, not crew.

I've been looking around, and other than a few modern cases of mass fire overkill on stationary targets (close sheaf from a whole US marine mortar battery expending all remaining rounds on an Iraqi T-62 target, I mean), I have not found bonafide cases of tanks taken out by mortar fire. I have found reports of damages to tracks from driving a Sherman through an entire mortar barrage, that required maintenance afterward and would have M-killed until that could be done - not from a few rounds but a sustained pounding of the whole area. I have found cases of tanks that moved because mortars were falling near them. I have found cases of tanks masked by mortar smoke.

But all the references out there to tanks actually killed by mortar fire are about games, or amateur speculation in forums, not history or reality.

My verdict - it just didn't happen. I don't have this trouble finding tanks KOed by 105mm artillery fire (Kasserine campaign suffices), or 155mm artillery fire (Elsenborn suffices), or direct fire by the same weapons (from Salerno to Korea, and by the Germans with 105mm howitzers from France to Russia). But just firing 2 81mm in a company section or 4-6 81mm indirect in a battery fire mission, getting direct hits on full tanks and KOing them - are not in the historical record, that I can find.

The standard 81mm mortar shell carries only a 1.3 lb HE charge. US engineers in WW II considered the proper charge to destroy a medium tank about 10 pounds of C-4, and Japanese suicide anti-tank satchels ran 20 pounds of TNT.

The reason a 105mm getting a direct hit can KO is that it already has significant kinetic energy (1.5 to 1.8 million joules), and then it arrives with 4.8 pounds of TNT rather than 1.3 pounds.

I never said anything about killing crew. Just that the armour is penetratable and an 82mm HE shell exploding in the engine bay is "bad news".

Also, you ignored my comments on the artillery being too accurate entirely, and that was my entire point.

I think medium mortar arty in the game is entirely too accurate. Nearly all the shells tend to land in the same "square" (ie. inside a 20x20m area) and that seems a little too neat to me.

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I have not tested this, but mortar accuracy seems to vary significantly with range, and to a lesser extent wind. If you direct fire an 81mm mortar at a target 200 meters away you may get 20m x 20m "accuracy" (it's technically dispersion, but whatever). Try the same from 1500 meters away in heavy wind and you'll see a large difference.

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My point was that a solid engine block is actually a very poor target for behind armor effect, when light fragmentation is all you are doing to it. I agree that arty is too laser accurate, especially on map stuff but all of it really - the subject of other threads. For the test reports, it sounds like it isn't awful, if light mortars mostly don't hurt tanks even with direct hits. I don't think the dead Panzer IV reported is realistic.

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I have not tested this, but mortar accuracy seems to vary significantly with range, and to a lesser extent wind. If you direct fire an 81mm mortar at a target 200 meters away you may get 20m x 20m "accuracy" (it's technically dispersion, but whatever). Try the same from 1500 meters away in heavy wind and you'll see a large difference.

Not as large as I think it would be in real life. Which is my point.

My point was that a solid engine block is actually a very poor target for behind armor effect, when light fragmentation is all you are doing to it. I agree that arty is too laser accurate, especially on map stuff but all of it really - the subject of other threads. For the test reports, it sounds like it isn't awful, if light mortars mostly don't hurt tanks even with direct hits. I don't think the dead Panzer IV reported is realistic.

Well yeah, but even a light fragmentation device will damage the things that protrude from the engine block :)

Remember, there's more to a functioning engine than just the engine block. A .45 won't penetrate the average engine block, but you start shooting one at the hood of a car, that car won't be driving very far.

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Shooting a 45 at the hood of a car will make little holes in the sheet metal, and the car will keep driving. A fifty cal, sure. Whole mags of 308, probably enough. A few pistol rounds, nope, that's Hollywood, she'll keep trucking.

Naah man, there are plenty of hoses and wires and mechanics outside the engine block that will be damaged.

The engine is not just one solid piece you know.

Tell you what... go to your car, randomly pull out one wire or hose and then go driving for the rest of the day and let me know how that goes.

You're thinking that you have to damage this... but you just have to damage any of these ancillary things to make it stop working (after a short while if not immediately).

Engines are alot more fragile than you'd think... even tank engines.

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One radiator hole can ruin your whole drive...in about 15 minutes.

Yeah, I'm not saying that one shot to the engine on a car will always disable it.

But I am saying that a fragmentation explosion in the engine deck of a tank has the potential for massive amounts of engine damage.

It would be tantamount to firing an SMG into the engine of a car... bound to hit something vital more often than not.

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