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arty ammo and attrition efficiency

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Arty ammo and attrition efficiency

I've been looking at the issue of how many men a CM module (or battalion, 3 FOs) had to hit to make for reasonable attrition effectiveness when added up to the operational level. What I've found is that operational scale ammo expenditure was typically quite high for the losses experienced by the other side. The basic fact is that large caliber HE expended in operational offensives is larger by an order of magnitude than casualties inflicted. I estimate a typical module shoot achieved approximately -

1-2 men hit for a light mortar module

3-5 men hit for a field arty module, or 10-15 for a battalion shoot

6-10 men hit for a heavier module, or 20-30 for a battalion shoot

Ammo available to operational attackers was high enough for that level of attrition efficiency to still prove operationally useful, inflicting high enough losses over a time scale of a few weeks to break up large formations, help armor achieve breakthroughs, reduce bypassed defenders, etc. In short, it was not a "waste of shells" to shoot that efficiently or better.

Some examples may illustrate the point. In the Poland operation in 1939, the Germans fired the equivalent of 3250 81mm FOs, 24900 105mm FOs, and 9370 150mm FOs, a total of over 37500 CM modules. The Polish army sustained 203K losses, with essentially the balance of the army captured. Arty may have accounted for 1/2 to 3/4 of those casualties, or on the order of 100-150K. So the average per module of ammo expended was (order of magnitude) 3-4.

In the Stalingrad counterattack, a single Russian army on the northern wing, 5th Tank, expended the equivalent of 450 82mm FOs, 200 120mm FOs, 680 76mm FOs, 400 122mm FOs, 130 152mm FOs, and approximately 70 132mm Rocket FOs, in just 11 days. Actually, the bulk of that amount was probably expended in the first 3 days of the offensive, after which the fighting was mostly pursuit, for the Rumanian formations at least.

The Rumanians on either flank of the Stalingrad position sustained 125K losses, roughly half captured and half in action. 5th Tank's portion, and arty's portion of that, I can only estimate roughly (by portions of the front, units penetrated, etc - 5th Tank led the larger, northern pincer), but the right order of magnitude is around 10K losses. That much to roughly 2K FOs means around 5 per module's worth expended.

In Normandy in the July attrition fighting, US 1st Army had the support of the equivalent 305 81mm, 930 4.2 inch, 1775 75mm, 8375 105mm, 10075 155mm, 315 4.5 inch, and 500 8 inch FOs. In all, 11K field caliber and another 11K heavy caliber modules. German losses in Normandy came to 117K by mid July. Some of that is June, but it leaves out the second half of July, when losses were high in the breakthrough fighting. It is also split roughly evenly between the US and British fronts, air contributed some, etc.

If anything, the figures above are high for the losses sustained by the Germans under that all that US artillery support. They might have lost as little as 1-2 to field and 2-4 to heavy modules on average, with blind fire dissipating 1/2 to 3/4 of the potential effect (because directed at empty positions). German losses still proved high enough that they ran out of front line infantry strength in the US sector by the end of July.

In short, artillery ammo was not scarce for operational attackers. Defenders opposite the point of attack were scarcer. Operational attackers could and did fire off whole battalion shoots at company sized positions, and only needed to "bleed" the target by squads or platoons at a time for that to pay off, over time scales of a month or less.

For what it is worth.

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Thanks JasonC,

Interesting reading (as always)...

Any chance you could compile a full list of your similar postings/advice and put them up in the hints and tips forum - or maybe get them put on the web somewhere.

I'm sure there are quite a few people who would enjoy reading them !

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Jason, once again you do a good job of adding perspective to some of the more contriversial aspects of the game and of wargaming in general.

There really just aren't any games on the market that truely show the increadible amount of ammo that is expended by all weapon systems when compared to the casualties inflicted.

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Soviet Artillery ammunition expenditure Don Front 3 Armies November 19 - November 30th 1942:

82mm (1,704 mortars)) - 185,390 rounds.

120mm (423 mortars) - 29,565 rounds.

45mm - 68,784 rounds.

76mm Regt gun - 27,556 rounds.

76mm Div gun - 119,220 rounds.

122mm Howitzer - 23,472 rounds.

152mm Howitzer - 8,957 rounds.

Total rounds all calibres expended = 462,944

The above totals represent 1.2 - 1.7 units of fire, the original plan called for 2 - 3 units of fire to be expended over this time period.

An example of standard Soviet unit of fire by gun was :

82mm - 60 rounds.

120mm - 120 rounds.

76mm gun - 60 rounds.

122mm Howitzer - 40 rounds.

152mm Howitzer - 30 rounds.

The Soviets guns also had ammunition which was specified as carried by the gun & supply column which could exceed 1 unit of fire. They refered to this as 'First Munition issue', below is an example by gun/mortar :

82mm - 120

120mm - 40 - 80

76mm gun - 140

122mm Howitzer - 80

152mm Howitzer - 40 - 60

An German report on Allied Artillery shell useage over an 11 day period dated November 11, 1944, stated that the Soviets were fireing an average of 2 rounds per day from 13,000 guns, vs the Germans fireing 9 rounds per gun, per day from 4,800 guns.

Concerning the Westren front the report stated, that the Allies fired 28 rounds a day from 3,500 guns, vs the Germans 20 rounds per day from 2,000 guns.

The report concluded that though the Germans were fireing nearly, the same ammount of shells on each front, the US/UK was fireing nearly 4 times as many shells as the USSR & 14 times as many shells per gun.

Regards, John Waters

[ April 18, 2003, 03:37 PM: Message edited by: PzKpfw 1 ]

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What was the main function of Artillery? I've come to understand, for example, that HMGs weren't so much about inflicting casualties directly as they were about (to simplify) suppressing Defenders & denying ground to Attackers. Individual mortars are my 'go to' tool against stationary, well dug-in soft targets like HMGs & Guns, but I suspect 'think 2" mortar X 1000' is not the right concept here. At the CM level & above, what did Artillery actually 'do'?



(edit: grammer}

[ April 19, 2003, 04:29 AM: Message edited by: mchlstrt ]

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On a strategic scale, artillery did most of the actual killing. Estimates of the portion of losses due to artillery fire range from half to four fifths of all losses inflicted. The higher end of that probably refers to all blast fragments, however, including grenades, direct fire, AP mines. Indirect HE, aka artillery in CM terms, probably inflicted around half.

Up at this level, the interaction issue becomes the manpower reserves of entire countries compared to the industrial capacity of the countries at war with them. Hundreds of millions of shells translate into tens of millions of casualties. Efficiency of shooting issues, weight of shell, artillery practice, contributions from other arms, etc, may contribute factors of 2-3 times to the base level. But the number of digits in the number "how many casualties can this nation inflict?" is basically set by its shell production capacity - plus or minus a digit, perhaps.

On an operational scale, artillery ammo supply was pitted against defender infantry depth (including replacement and reinforcement available on short notice), over a time scale of about a month. When it was high enough, the defenders ran low on front line infantry strength. When front line infantry strength falls too low in force to space terms, or local odds terms compared to the other side, a continuous front can no longer be held and breakthrough results.

This operational scale possibility can have other consequences besides attrition leading to breakthrough, at both operational and tactical levels. A side without the infantry depth to withstand the scale of ammo being thrown at it for long, either suffers such an attrition and breakthrough outcome, or avoids it by thinning fronts, retreating when probed, vacating areas under enemy observation, or (with the time and the resources) constructing massive field fortification systems to withstand the shellfire.

Down at the tactical level, the role of artillery varies with the level of supply, and the initiative - which tends to go with the level of supply, but occasionally runs opposite in counterattacks or cases of overextension. Breakthrough fighting sees large prep fires on all known enemy positions, sometimes for hours. These are meant to weaken the defenders, lower their morale, and create gaps here and there where the weakening happens to be more pronounced. It also tends to degrade defender line communications and otherwise induces confusion in the first hours of a major attack.

Rolling barrages were used in attacks and breakthrough fights to keep defenders' heads down as the attacking infantry approached. Sometimes this would lead to defenders captured in dugouts and cellars by infantry with grenades outside their entrances, before they even left to man defenses. More often, it would lead to a "race to the parapet", with defenders rushing from sheltered positions to fighting ones, as attackers rushed from their foxholes to the defensive fighting positions. In effect, the maneuver battle opened later at a shorter range than it otherwise would have.

Large scale defensive fires were used as a means of "counter concentration", shifted through time to the most critical sectors. Fundamentally this is like reserves, a means of altering the local odds ratio beyond a thin, even level of linear defense. When attackers seek local numerical superiority by bunching up, the counter is to mass fires where they are densest. This multiplies the impact of each shell and if sufficient ammo is available will break any narrow attack. It forces attacks to spread to multiple points or to spread through time by using depth ("waves") in place of massed fronts.

Both attackers and defenders used sustained, low rate of fire missions directed at substantial areas ("barrage fire"), to restrict or hamper enemy movements near a combat zone. This varied from fairly intense efforts to cut off a section of front from tactical reinforcement, to harassment fire along supply routes meant just to inflict losses, prevent mass use of vehicles to reduce the thruput of roads, etc.

Lower still, you get reactive fires by both attackers and defenders on known enemy positions during maneuver arms combat. This is what CM is really set up to show - many of the previous, more decisive interventions of artillery it frankly fails to model. The mission was typically regarded as either "neutralization" or "annihilation", with the former more common.

Neutralization meant throwing enough shells at a target to inflict 10-25% casualties and pin or break the remainder. It was expected to prevent a given group of defenders - typically a battalion or company - from playing a significant maneuver role in a given hour of combat, or to reduce its ability to fight if it was also subject to direct attack by maneuver arms. This was the most common tactical use of reactive fires.

Annihilation meant so much heavy stuff (typically 150mm and up) thrown at the target that 50-90% of the personnel would be casualties, with the rest typically so stunned they would offer no real resistence. The target was typically a platoon, gun battery, or at most a company.

It was inefficient in terms of the number of shells needed to inflict the level of loss, because it involves a high degree of overkill on portions of the defense. And if the defenders are well dug in, it takes many heavy shells. But sometimes it is worth it in a tactical plan, because a small portion of the defense is a "key" to unlocking the integrity of the defense system.

Most of the above would still be large shoots in CM terms, involving multiple FOs. The target sheaf would often be "wide" rather than the CM standard, to ensure defenders are within the beaten zone and can't get away from the fire, to cover the whole deployed enemy unit, etc. 3 FOs worth of field caliber ammo (75-120) would be typical.

Below even that comes suppression of point targets. That means a single battery fires a tight sheaf, often a limited number of shells, at a definitely identified single enemy position - a single gun, building, trench, or a single infantry platoon strongpoint. CM players fire this sort of mission almost exclusively, trying to stretch a very limited shell budget into some reasonable amount of tactical effect.

They micromanage the targeting of each minute of fire to hit a single platoon, at most, with a tight sheaf. I call that "scalpel" use of artillery, as opposed to all the "bludgeon" forms. It did happen from time to time tactically, but was relatively rare.

Shells weren't that scarce, FO to battery cooperation was rarely that good. Shoots within 400m of friendlies were considered "danger close", and anything within 100m was considered good enough to call "fire for effect". CM players routinely drop shells 200m from friendlies, and consider targeting 60m off side to side a clean miss.

I hope this helps.

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Extending the previous, one can ask - what was a typical real world use of artillery at the scale of a CM combat? And what is a typical use of artillery in CM? They aren't the same, because CM gives tighter shell budgets, and that changes which uses of arty are "affordable".

A typical real world use of arty at the CM scale would be for an attacker to look at the defense terrain at set up, and figure at least a portion of the defenders would probably be in that village area or those two large bodies of woods. Or a little early scouting might determine this. The attacker would plan to maneuver a company into one or two such locations in the course of his attack. He'd estimate the 5 minute window in which he'd be ready opposite each area.

Then he'd order a battalion scale fire mission by field or heavy caliber arty on that area, in the 5 minute window ahead of the planned attack. Which might be the period when the attacking company (or so) moved from 400-500m down to about 200-250m from the objective.

The barrage itself would be delivered by 2-3 full FOs, using "target wide", with same aim point on the center of the area of cover. No adjustment would be necessary from calling the mission to last shell expended, unless a mission called after turn 1 happened to be off target at the time of the spotting round.

The barrage would be expected to inflict moderate casualties on any defenders within the zone, and to pin or break most of the remainder. The defenders would be "heads down" during the movement of the attackers from 400-500m down to 200-250m.

The moment the barrage finished, a platoon to half a company of infantry would move toward the objective itself, overwatched by the remainder of the company and any accompanying infantry heavy weapons (MGs, light mortars, snipers, etc).

The timing and sequencing would thus be - ~5 minutes before, plan the barrage, and move the attack company to ~400-500m distance. Then for ~5 minutes, shells fall and attackers move to 200-250m. Then for 5 minutes, attackers move onto the objective, some overwatching as others "bound", then the rest. This would happen only once or twice within a given CM scale battle.

In a small fight, infantry only, meeting engagement or probe - with the target assumed to be without entrenchments - a single module of battalion mortars might be used in a similar fashion, but with a standard narrow sheaf at a smaller target. Or even used for only ~2 minutes, expending only half of 1 light mortar FO.

This would only be expected to pin the targeted enemy unit, typically a platoon or one clump of woods. The time scales could be half those above. The goal is to set up a victory in the infantry firefight, grabbing "fire ascendency" in the period when the defenders are suppressed by the mortar fire.

Now, in CM you can use light mortars in the realistic manner. But the medium and field stuff is typically too expensive and thus too scarce to throw 2-3 full FOs, wide sheaf, at a position possibly held by a platoon or two. Only 150mm and higher calibers can be expected to do anything on wide sheaf, when you only have a single FOs worth to fire. They still need a large target, or most of the shells fall outside the occupied enemy area.

Most of the time you must instead pick the target narrowly enough that a single tight sheaf covers it. Which means a target about 60m wide on the N-S axis, by 100-150m long on the E-W. There needs to be at least a platoon under that size beaten zone. Which generally means, you have to know exactly where they are, and when they will be there. It helps there is if open ground around the beaten zone under friendly observation and infantry fire, to prevent "dodges".

Then you need to time the fall of shells while the position is occupied. Which means either a TRP, or a last minute "walk" of the shells, or a stationary target (isolated by infantry fire, or pinned, etc). And then you should expect only the first minute of fire to be fully effective, because the targeted men will often try to evade as soon as they see a spotting round. Evasion is feasible because the sheaf is so narrow, and its size and orientation are predictable.

So you drizzle in a half minute to a minute and a half of shells. You catch a few guys. You then walk the shells to where you expect the defenders to skedaddle to. You play "artillery tag". A single battery can footsie around for 10 minutes. You hold flights of shells over the defenders' heads to intimidate them. You bluff them out of little scrapes of woods you want for your own guys.

The largest caliber guns that are still reasonably responsive are best at that sort of drizzle and scalpel use. Small modules have the responsiveness, but do not have enough hitting power when only a few flights of shells are going to land.

75-82mm stuff is pretty hopeless at this. 105-120mm stuff works OK. Division response time 150s are best, because even just 1-2 flights of shells will often put a single shell close to defenders, and still do significant harm with that "best shell". Russians use 120mm mortars, Germans 105mm (which they can more easily afford than the powerful but expensive 150s).

Is it realistic? No. But it is about the only way to get enough eventual bang out of 1-2 medium arty modules, to repay the lost platoon to company of infantry, or lost tank to tank platoon, you give up to buy such limited artillery support.

If you use medium caliber or larger arty in the historically more accurate way, it will work, in the sense of accomplishing the task set for it. It just costs as much as a company of infantry or a tank platoon, for a barrage that will probably take out a platoon's worth of defenders and get you one enemy position.

Russians can sometimes afford to use the historical method, if you take a "low" quality force and variable rarity is on. Pick a heavy caliber, slow response time FO type that happened to roll a low rarity - +20 or so. Buy them as conscripts, to keep the cost as low as possible. Fire 2-3 at once, wide sheaf, at target areas pre-planned on turn 1. Set the time at the 5 minute window you expect to be opposite that position.

As conscripts and when rarity is low, the lowest response time corps and army level FOs can cost 70-80 points apiece. With attack odds as well, 2-3 FO missions that shatter a platoon or two become worthwhile at those prices. Conscript quality and high echelon does not matter for preplanned missions. They will still come down accurate and on time. The downside, of course, is you have to guess correctly about where defenders will be, or the whole shoot is wasted.

I hope this helps.

[ April 19, 2003, 11:15 AM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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There is some very interesting info in Blackburn's "Guns of Normandy" on arty expenditure. Before the invasion the War Office (British) projected 62 rounds per gun per day, based on experiences from other theaters and suitably inflated in appreciation of the demands of the operation to come. Only 62 rounds per gun per day!

During the seven day period, July 20-27, the guns of 21st Army Group were expending an average of 78 rounds per day, while the guns of 2nd Division were using an average of 385 rounds per gun per day.

2nd Div Guns (72 25 pdr guns)

July 20 (0030-0900) 25,200 rounds/350 rpg

July 20 (1645-2100) 33,400 rounds/463 rpg

July 20 (2100-2300) 2,400 rounds/100 rpg

July 21 (afternoon) 350 rpg

July 22 (0240-1230) 12,000 rounds/167 rpg

July 22 (1230-1830) 12,000 rounds/167 rpg

July22/23 (2000-0730) 46,800 rounds/650 rpg

July 23 (0730-1200) 25,200 rounds/350 rpg

July 26 (2000-0600) 36,000 rounds/500 rpg

Total rounds per gun - 2,680

Rounds per gun/day - 383

To gain a perspective of the intensity, during the 18 day period of the 3rd Battle of Ypres(Passchendaele) in WWI, 2,092 field guns fired 2,967,953 rounds. This averaged only 79 rounds per gun.

Shell shocked German prisoners in Normandy spoken to by members of 4th Field RCA/2nd Div, wanted to see the new Allied *wonder weapon* - the automatic artillery pieces! - for they had never experienced a bombardment such as this before.


[ April 19, 2003, 11:46 AM: Message edited by: Ron ]

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Ron - it has nothing to do with automatic anything of course, or even with rate of fire. No army in WW II had ammo supply sufficient to fire even at sustained rates of fire from all tubes continuously.

Firing time was not scarce compared to available ammo. Thus theoretical rate of fire was irrelevant (a quibble on that below, but it is basically correct).

Tubes times time was not scarce to throw all the ammo available. So the number of tubes was largely irrelevant.

Defenders *were* scarce compared to shells thrown at them. 5-10 heavy shells producing 1 casualty was a favorable rate of exchange for the artillery, not the defenders.

Morale and front line cohesion was scarcer even than defenders. Front line infantry units were decimated by artillery fire repeatedly, and rendered ineffective because of it. But it was not necessary to physically kill or wound every man in the formations hit.

Units that had lost half their manpower to artillery attrition had very low combat ability. Front line infantry is thinned in the right spots, breakthroughs result, and much larger numbers are bagged without needing to shell each one. You don't need holes everywhere, a few large ones will do.

For example, in the operations mentioned above, the Poles lost more than 500,000 PWs after 203,000 battle losses. The Rumanians lost about as many PWs as battle casualties, 125K all told. The Germans lost several times more PWs in the breakout in France (estimates range from 250K to 500K, depending on how things like port garrisons are "scored", etc) than they lost combat casualties during the attrition fighting in July.

What determines the number of shells available? Logistics, and shell production. Making them is a matter of industrial capacity. Moving them to the front is a matter of transportation linkages, and the limits on them created by all the other strains of supporting large formations in combat.

It was shipping first and foremost that accounts for the scale of Allied shellfire in Normandy. That and the success they had unloading over open beaches, something never done before on a similar scale.

Transportation limits are partially set by industrial capacity (build more ships and trucks), partially by infrastructure (rail lines, ports, the road net). Infrastructure is much slower to improve than transport equipment. But when 2 of the world's leading economies have 2 years to prepare, they tend to be ready by the end of it.

From an attrition perspective, there is a certain simplicity to much WW II fighting. Millions of shells are fashioned continuously, and shipped by transport assets to a comparatively modest number (tens of thousands) of "hoses", which direct the "stream" onto enemy front line units. Their infantry strength is worn away by "ammo pressure".

There can be all sorts of "hiccups" and "chinks" in the path, locally and temporarily. But basically, most of what is made finds its way to the far end and is chucked at the enemy sooner or later. When it is, the primary consideration is simply whether there are any enemy at all under the beaten area, then whether they are extremely thin, and finally whether they are deep below ground.

If the answers are yes, no, and no, then the shooting will be more than good enough. In the sense that continued shooting that good would blow away the entire enemy nation in arms where they stand, if they don't get out of the way.

Bullet efficiency was much lower. For instance, in Poland the Germans inflicted perhaps 50-60K military injuries by small arms, mostly MGs but also rifles. They fired 400 million rounds of 7.92mm to do so - around 7500 bullets per hit. Large HE was 2-3 orders of magnitude more efficient, in pure attrition terms.

Number of tubes matters only because of the flexibility it gives, as to where to fire and how rapidly, at "surge" levels.

Peak ROF only matters because some targets appear from time to time that are much more exposed than those readily available on a day to day basis. And they are typically only so exposed for short windows of time.

If you have a high ROF or more tubes, you can pack more shooting into those brief periods. TOTs work the same way. They marginally boost the average effectiveness of rounds fired, by "weighting" target exposure a little toward the higher end of the distribution. Only marginally, because targets much more exposed than average are, by the very nature of "average", relatively rare.

For what it is worth.

[ April 19, 2003, 10:38 PM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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Originally posted by Lou2000:

Thanks JasonC,

Interesting reading (as always)...

Any chance you could compile a full list of your similar postings/advice and put them up in the hints and tips forum - or maybe get them put on the web somewhere.

I'm sure there are quite a few people who would enjoy reading them !

I think I have asked this same question before.

I might have to break down and compile it myself.


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The Soviets used artillery very spareingly Ie, when the November German report on Artillery ammo consumption in my last post it was during a lull in Soviet operations.

The Soviets also varied their artillery shoots to confuse the Germans Ie, in 1944 typical German tactic was to retire from their forward positions till the Soviet barrages ended then return to their forward positions. The Soviets countered this by breaking up the time of fireing and the intensity Ie, during the Jassy operations the Soviet 37th Army Artillery opened up with a 3 minute continious barrage, with the Corps/Army artillery. Followed up by 25 mins of DF by the CS weapons, & the Corps/Army fireing 1-2 tubes at a time in 3 min intervals.

Then all guns fired full ROF for 1 minute, then slow fire for 7 mins, full ROF 1 minute, then slow for 2 mins, then 2 mins more from Corps/Army artillery. Then 10 mins slow fire, followed by 1 min of fast fire. Then a 10min break, which it was hoped the Germans would reman the forward positions, then 10 mins of ful Corps/Army Artillery. followed by the Soviet infantry & tanks advancing.

Late in the war when the Soviets encounterd German in depth defences Ie, 8 to 10km deep they would mass 7 Bns of Artillery to support one Rifle Regt, & 150 - 350 guns per km of the front.

The 2 main factors that slowed down Soviet offensive operations was distance from supply bases, & artillery, keeping pace with the advanceing forces, Ie, if they broke thru the MLR & encountered further prepared positions they would often halt the advance till the Artillery could be brought into range, in some instances this took 3 days.

The Soviets tended to stockpile artillery ammunition for launching their offensives. Most Soviet Artillery was kept at the Corps, Army, Front & STAVKA level. Ie, in Jan 1945 the Soviets had 1,548 artillery & Mortar Regts, in STAVKA reserves, & 154 independant Brigades, 958 independant Regts at the Corps/Army level.

As to suppply, an single 76mm gun in an Soviet artilery Regt carried 140 rounds. 16 rounds were with the gun, 24 in the Battery reserve, 88 in the Battalion reserve. 28 more rounds were carried at the Regt level & 70 more at the Corps/Div level. An average Soviet Rifle Div recieved 76 tons of ammunition per day in 1943 compared to the 180 tons allocated to an US Divisions slice during 'normal' combat.

An example of Soviet ammunition consumption in 1945 shows that the light guns were useing far more ammo in the Artillery Regts etc, Ie, 3rd Ukrainian Front in 1945 was recieveing 120 carloads of artillery ammunition an day, broken down as follows:

45mm - 5%

76mm - 65%

122mm - 8%

152mm - 7%

Rockets - 15%

Regards, John Waters

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Originally posted by JPS:

What do the percentages refer to? Number of shells, or truckloads of ammo, or kilograms of shells?

Ammunition type percentge Ie, 65% of the ammo delivered daily was 76mm.

Regards, John Waters

[ April 20, 2003, 10:20 AM: Message edited by: PzKpfw 1 ]

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I can explain why you see that sort of breakdown of ammo deliveries at that time. He said the unit of measure is "carloads" (rail cars), incidentally, not shells or kgs.

You can also understand why the Russians used so many tubes for their ammo supply, and why it fired in surges, if you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Russian logistics system, and the way their artillery types plugged in.

Most Russian artillery was horse drawn. The 76s of the rifle divisions and most of the higher level artillery. The rockets were truck mounted. The anti tank gun formations were motorized. The 76mm ATG formations could be used as field artillery (and were, direct lay and indirect), and had trucks to move them about. SUs are tracked obviously. The limited organic fire assets of the mechanized corps and tank corps were also motorized (some 120mm mortars, etc). A limited number of higher echelon 122s and 152s and the like, were also motorized, but most were horse drawn. The few motorized units were often attached to some mech unit for the length of an operation.

The Russian rail system was well organized and had practically unlimited "thruput", but only in areas either under Russian control for the whole war, or where they had time to make repairs after recapture from the Germans. The road net was limited. Trucks were limited, and concentrated in the mobile formations, both to move units and to resupply them. Russian units had high "teeth to tail", meaning their rear area logistical support organizations were small compared to the western Allies.

On a static front and given plenty of time, the Russians could rail in any number of guns. They could rail in plenty of ammo - their production was on a par with the Germans. To move the ammo from railhead to forward dumps by the firing positions, however, was a long and involved operation. Because so much of it had to be done by horses and wagons. As long as the distances from the railheads are small and other supplies are good, that is not a huge problem, though it does take time and winds up eating up some horseflesh. Naturally, on a static front, all the tubes start in range of the German positions.

But then an offensive starts. A huge portion of the available ammo for the operation is fired in the first few days. It is that "surge" that the high number of tubes makes possible, first of all. The barrage is heaviest in overall volume right at the outset. As progress is made in some places but not in others, the holdouts attract continued attentions at high rates of expenditure. The last position on a given sector faces a potentially enourmous volume of fire.

Then the front gives way along its entire length. A few days, and it is back 15-50 miles and out of range of the original ammo positions and their associated stockpiles. To continue artillery support to the maneuver units, the guns must be brought forward. That part is easy enough. But their ammo must also be brought forward. And beyond a small amount they can carry with them, that part is practically impossible.

The rail lines are not yet repaired. The horse teams are needed to move the units themselves. Fodder is scarce. As the length of the trip increases, the total distance the teams must move expands. They need to make multiple trips. Working horses over long distances with heavy loads with limited feed, in a hurry, will rapidly kill them in large numbers.

So what happens instead? The mobile formations race ahead. They have motorized arty assets, though limited in number and for the most part limited in caliber as well. Mostly they have 76mm guns, organic, motorized TD, later in the war SU-76s. Supplimented by rocket units, a few organic mortars. The rockets can move up their ammo themselves, but also throw it so fast they are out much of the time. A small number of motorized higher echelon units are brought along, and can be used to pulverize a limited number of fortified positions, cities, or other holdouts - especially to free the road and rail net for following forces.

Meanwhile, the rifle division forces trail at a foot pace, their maneuver elements - the infantry - well ahead of their arty ammo. They must fight arty poor, with only limited and small caliber support. They only have to fight scattered and bypassed units, though, which makes up for it.

As the distance from the start line increases, the supply problem becomes fuel for the motorized portion of the force. Their trucks have to run back and forth to bring gas to the tanks. They burn the gas they are carrying to do so. The limited road net takes a toll on the vehicles. If hold out areas are still in German hands, bridges are blown, off road terrain is poor, the weather isn't good, it becomes harder and harder to get gas and ordinary supplies to the farthest points reached by the mech forces.

Eventually the advance stalls out for these logistics reasons. The mech forces can keep advancing against no or light opposition, for a while. But the Germans put together a front somewhere, or a counterattack. The leading mech units are getting depleted, as the "scramble" logistics system between old front and new can't simultaneously bring them gas, food, abundant ammo, and replacements. At some point they halt and go over to a tactical defensive.

Then the rifle forces mop up and catch up. The rail lines and blown bridges are repaired. As rifle division maneuver forces reach the front, the mech units can be pulled back off the line as reserves, first to defend the ground gained, and then to actually refit, take replacements, make repairs, etc. While stationary off the line, their truck assets are available to help out logistically (mostly just to resupply them).

Finally the rail lines reach close to the new front. Whatever remains of the old dumps can be transfered (by horse team, still, slowly) onto rail cars back at the old line. And moved forward to new dumps near the new front line, along with new hunks of ammo coming from the factories. Fresh horses can be railed to the front to replenish those killed in the move. The supporting arty is all brought up - all that higher echelon horse-drawn stuff there was no possibility of keeping supplied out at the end of the advance. And the whole force builds up for another smash.

So in January 45 in that unit, you are seeing mostly 76mm and some rockets because they are out at an extended move. Their motorized ATG 76s and SU-76s have kept up with the advance. The rockets can drive to the front. Only limited amounts of the other stuff is motorized, or happens to be close, so the other units are all low artillery supply priorities - they aren't in action.

Meanwhile, if you look back at the figures for the 11 days of the Stalingrad attack, you see lots of 82mm and 76mm by shell number, yes. But by number of CM FOs, the 76s are only 1/3rds, with heavier 122-152mm stuff as large. In total blast terms, a little less than half is 122 plus, a little less than half is 82 minus, with 120 mortars the median. That is what the artillery weight mix looks like for a prepared breakthrough fight (in CM, "assaults").

The artillery units with 5th Tank in the period I gave the ammo use for were the organic arty of 6 rifle divisions, 2 tank corps and 1 cavalry corps, plus 4 120 mortar regiments, 4 rocket regiments, 1 battalion of 300mm rockets, 5 large howitzer regiments, 4 large gun regiments, and 8 ATG regiments (mostly 76mm). The ATG regiments, 1 howitzer regiment (attached to one of the tank corps for the operation), the rockets, and the organic arty of the tank corps, were the only ones motorized.

Most of the ammo expended in that 11 day period was expended in the first 3 days destroying the front line of the Rumanian positions. 18 regiments of artillery probably fired little or nothing after those first 3 days. If they encountered a serious "stand" after that in a fortified town, they could bring up 1 motorized heavy howitzer regiment, or rockets, or use SUs.

Everything else motorized was light caliber - fine to KO a few buildings or MG nests by direct fire, or shell infantry out of a hasty foxhole line on open steppe. Or tanks of course, at the points of main effort. But the "industrial strength" arty was distanced, and too "short legged" in logistical terms to keep up.

I hope this is interesting.

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