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Hello 

I was wondering about the usefulness of canons during an attack.

As far as I know canons are good in defense, you put them concealed here and there and they can be a nasty surprise for your opponent's armor. However I do prefer self propelled canons even in defense in spite of their cost since when a canon is spotted, when it shoots basically, it become a priority target for the ennemy's artillery and your canon is probably going to be destroyed really easily because of it's lack of armor whereas a tank or SPG will survive (generally) and can retreat pretty fast.

My question is about the usefulness of canons in an attack situation, imagine you've got yourself in a situation when you've only access to infantry to attack an ennemy that probably has some armor at his disposal. In this case do you rely solely on your panzerfaust/schreck or do you bring a pak 40 or a pak 40 with a truck ? I guess it would be too slow to bring a canon without a truck and even then you'd better drop the gun not too close to the ennemy and it would take some time to position the gun so... Is there a point to bring a canon as an attacker or even in a meeting engagement ?

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Depends on the map size (the greater the distance you can shoot at the less likely the gun will be spotted) and the time duration of the scenario (it takes a long time to limber and unlimber a gun).

In most CM scenarios a gun is not that useful in attack, unless you have a nice protected keyhole position from which to fire at a particular target (like a building) which ideally can't shoot back effectively.

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I've been working on a scenario for *another title* (ahem) and find there's a BIG difference between facing SMGs (or carbines) and full rifles. WWII era big bullet rifles have a long reach which makes positioning and using a cannon during an assault difficult. If you magically find yourself in a good position 600m away from the action you're probably good-to-go. but that doesn't happen much on these maps.

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I believe infantry guns were used actively to move up and bombard with direct fire, which is so much more accurate than indirect fire. But at the time of WW2, I think that tactic was becoming obsolete, and self propelled assault guns (StuGs etc.) were taking over that role.

In Mius Front, infantry guns are often used actively in an attack, and they do well at 1000m+, with the crew well protected behind the gun shield. Not saying that proves anything, but just to contrast the CM game design choice where infantry guns are next to useless in an attack.

Edited by Bulletpoint
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The extreme situation is a meeting engagement. Meeting engagements aren't the most realistic of scenarios to begin with. That isn't a CM problem, it's a perennial wargaming problem - players want balanced, even fights, and reality doesn't work that way very often.

Typically, the dominant strategy in a lot of meeting engagement scenarios to rush up to claim the objective early. That means that an AT or Infantry gun with a setup time of x-minutes may be worse than useless, since it might just be too slow to react.

That means that their useful role is limited to a couple of obvious situations in the attack:

  • If you have helpful terrain and LOS, they can be useful to roll up to a covered and concealed position sneakily, to provide direct fire support. This way they can perform the role of a more expensive asset, but the terrain has to be on your side.
  • They can be used indirectly. Not all of the CM guns can be called in indirectly on-map, but most of them also exist as off-map assets. Obviously LOS and setup time is less important here, since the effect is similar.
  • They can be used as part of a "second wave" - the first element can take the terrain feature, and they could follow on to secure it, and provide for defence, allowing the offensive elements to continue.

All fairly marginal. An assault gun in general will be better for the role, but an infantry or AT gun will provide similar firepower at a much cheaper price point, sacrificing protection and flexibility to do so.

Edited by domfluff
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In general though, it's the setup time that kills it. I don't think it's a coincidence that their use was phased out - 2 inch and 60mm mortars provide some kind of embedded artillery support, without the associated setup period. The rise of handheld AT weapons and an increase of mechanisation really cover your other use-cases pretty well. Later of course, ATGMs are very man portable, and even the clunkiest of them are more flexible than a WW2 Infantry Gun.

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Thank you for all of your answers, I'm doing a lot of QB against the AI and find out that some countries/corps don't have any kind of tank/SPG at specific times during the war.

Thus I was wondering the "practicality", so to speak, of launching an attack with such a force and it seems that it's a complicated trick to realize and that the terrain has to be on your side.

I did prevail against the AI once while I had no tanks against a "almost no infantry only tanks" ennemy (now I tend to manually choose the AI forces even if that's quite an advantage to get something more realistic). Though the terrain was montainous with some haze using panzerschreks, some panzerfausts and relying heavily on artillery to overwhelm the shermans and perhaps kill the open topped achilles. The casualty were high even if there was no open flat "no man's land" between them and my gebirgsjager thanks to the outstanding ability of the tanks crew to spot laid german troops on the side of their machines.

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Many Armies during World War 2 were still using regimental guns or infantry guns in a direct fire role to reduce particularly strong or pesky defensive positions. Quite a few light artillery pieces had sights for direct fire too. An entire class of armored vehicle existed to get a set of tracks under a 75mm gun and carry it right up into the thick of the fighting with the infantry ie: Assault Guns. In an age of bolt action rifles and machine guns capable of reaching out 2km it seemed rather insane to actually have big artillery guns still around the frontline firing at clear targets in the Napoleonic tradition. During World War 1 short ranged guns didn't prove to be unreasonably vulnerable to infantry fire as much as counter battery fire, but a pre-war belief that the Next War would be more fluid and mobile than it actually was meant most Armies had large numbers of light field guns that just weren't powerful enough to really defeat entrenchments and were overly reliant on shrapnel and case shot which was literally useless against infantry that had dug in even lightly. Erwin Rommel's troops suffered numerous barrages from French 75mm guns firing shrapnel shot early in the war and as long as they were in foxholes casualties were almost always negligible. (According to his book) 

The sIG 33 for instance is often depicted in most games like an artillery piece...but as far as I know it was actually incapable of indirect fire and had to be laid at a target over open sights. It only had a range of around 4,500 meters so it wouldn't have been a very practical weapon for indirect fire. Generally it was expected that infantry guns would be far away enough from their target so as not to face any acute danger from return fire. However by the 1930s it was being increasingly realized that the guns and their crews were highly exposed to mortar and artillery fire so their usefulness ended up being more circumstantial than mortars would be. Mortars were just becoming increasingly better at delivering stronger and more accurate fire, and were much less vulnerable and lighter. 

Most Armies were trying to replace their cannon companies with mortars but shortages may have precluded this so it didn't always happen. As far as I can tell only the Americans were serious about maintaining their own Regimental Cannon Companies in spite of all the alternatives around...but they had a very good Regimental Gun, the 105mm M3 with an 8,000 yard range making it practical for use behind defilade. It took until the Vietnam War for the Americans to come around to the fact that what they needed for the infantry was a proper Heavy-Mortar like the 120mm mortars the Germans and Soviets had adopted but for some reason nothing too useful for that was found until the Soltam K-6. 

As far as the question for the topic goes, yes, cannons and field artillery are highly valuable in a direct attack. It'll be crucial to both screen them properly and force the enemy to divert as much of his supporting fire as he's got to other parts of the battlefield than where your guns are. This means that you should consider very high minimum ranges for them, like never closer than 800m to  a target and the farther the better. Distance is safety for the crews.... 

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3 hours ago, Eicio said:

...outstanding ability of the tanks crew to spot laid german troops on the side of their machines.

My experience has been that even in poor visibility situations, buttoned tanks seem to have an almost telepathic ability to see and quickly react to ambushing infantry even to the tank's rear.  In the game one may be better running full tilt to a firing position to kill a tank rather than the more intuitive sneaking towards it.  Someone mentioned that the reason that speed may work is that one gets inside the AI's decision cycle.

 

10 minutes ago, SimpleSimon said:

The sIG 33 for instance is often depicted in most games like an artillery piece...

Grille's are strange beasts as well.  I found them very unreliable used in the direct fire mode.  Had several Grilles unable to hit the proverbial barn door, in this case 2 floor houses and their shots fell hundreds of meters short.  In another incident, a Grille was directly close behind a PzV and ordered to fire at a building only 50-75 meters in front.  The Grille shot very short leaving a big hole underneath the Pz V(!) it (tank seemed unharmed).

On the other hand, other players have commented that the Grille is very accurate when used in the indirect fire mode.  That's comforting as a Grille only has about a dozen 150mm shells and every wasted shell hurts.  But, one would expect that a gun that can fire so accurately indirect, should be able to fire direct accurately.  Hope others check on this for comparison as this does not seem right.  (Several Grilles are featured in the "Mission to Maas" scenario.)

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The Grille is armored though. Not well, but enough to be immune to rifle or machine gun fire. Even a PTRD would struggle against its protection from the front. I think the idea with it is to get it much closer to enemy positions and since the Russians didn't have the Bazooka it wasn't unreasonable to push something with 15mm of armor close enough to an enemy position that they start to fill the gun sight. Like 200ish meters. I know the Grille is often labeled as self propelled artillery but I'm unsure it actually was. It only carried 15 rounds in the hull for its gun. The Hummel only carried a few more sure but it would've operated in rear areas as artillery support where it would've been able to provision from an ammo carrier. The sIG 33 was just too short ranged for it to have been a very good self-propelled artillery but that might be why only 200 were built. 

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1 hour ago, SimpleSimon said:

Not well, but enough to be immune to rifle or machine gun fire.

Grilles are almost as vulnerable as a halftrack or Stummel  After I lost a Grille in town, I realized that one really should not use Grilles as close-in assault guns and I try to keep em back now and shoot at the longest range I can (just as with a Stummel).  However, per my comments earlier, my experience was that the Grille is very inaccurate when used for direct fire.  Someone who knows better should comment, but I suspect that the Grille's accuracy is not simulated well.

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  • 2 months later...
On 2/18/2020 at 12:07 AM, SimpleSimon said:

This means that you should consider very high minimum ranges for them, like never closer than 800m to  a target and the farther the better. Distance is safety for the crews.... 

Infantry guns are almost useless in Combat Mission because most of maps are too small/too hilly and crowded with terrain. For Normandy, that's okay, but for the other titles, I think it's a big problem. You rarely get LOS beyond ca. 250m. This is too close for comfort even for heavy MGs, let alone an infantry gun. Most reasonable "support positions" would be somewhere behind the attacker's deployment zone off map on a hill/ridge  (which would also allow some spotting and help get rid of the CM scouting claustrophobia). 

Edited by Kaunitz
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Pretty much. Many of CM's maps are often scaled down a size more appropriate for a level battle *below* what the scenario designer was considering. (ie: Pairs of Companies fighting on maps appropriate for a Platoon.) It's been brought it up many times but it's fairly common for the scenario designers to excessively pack maps with units, thus causing nearly every battle to become a set-piece offensive. Putting an infantry gun on a map with most lines of sight measurable to 250m or so is a symptom of this. If fighting was expected at those ranges most (but not all) Commanders would be inclined to just ditch the gun somewhere and find spare rifles and grenades for the crew. 

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I'm reminded of a US report on the use of AT guns, which the US fielded by the battalion, in the Normandy campaign. They were found to be all but useless, only managed to knock out a paltry number of enemy tanks. They were mainly used as infantry support, knocking holes in church bell towers to deal with snipers, etc. but lack of HE for the 57mm weapon meant they were marginally useful even at that.

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I do agree to a lot of your comments, when I made this post I was thinking especially about AT guns, omnipurpose guns / fire support guns are really usefull but I was more in a situation where I only got at my disposal infantry available (with their support equippement) whereas my opponent would have access to a large panel of armored vehicles.

So would I be able to bring my AT gun close enough, good LOS and set it up fast enough to get a shot to the ennemy armor ? 

For this I'd think that the size and nature of the map is critic : you could bring an AT gun to use if you can set it up in a way where the gun is far enough and have an appropriate LOS where you need to attack. 

But even in this "perfect" case scenario you'd still be vulnerable to ennemy fire (guns, mgs) and of course a well aimed mortar barrage would put an end to this.

However I'm pretty sure that if you try to set up an AT gun on an uneven map and/or too close to the ennemy your try will end well before you could say.

 

So if I'm on a situation where I couldn't rely on armor to deal with potential armor, even if I put the map selection on random, I wouldn't spend ressources on canons, even if they're cheap, but I would make sure to have a lot of panzerschreks/faust/PIAT/Bazookas and on regular artillery(off map) not to waste my time on a tricky canon set up, the odds are too unfavorable for it to be worth it IMHO.

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