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Steppe terrain fighting


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Our ongoing Kursk campaign has made it clear to me that many CM players are pretty unfamiliar with fights in steppe terrain, and have only a loose grasp of its principles. (I think there are lessons here that also apply in some desert conditions, incidentally). I am also seeing fights in much more realistic conditions, that highlight ways typical CM QBs spoil people. In a campaign one also needs to be much more careful about unnecessary casualties, than in a one-shot QB or scenario.

So I thought I'd start a thread on tactics in this terrain type. What we are talking about is rural, open, gentle slopes - typically with light damage, sometimes more. Southern region, summer months, ground typically damp. This produces a field of steppe with patches of scattered trees, along with some smaller bits of rough or rocky and an occasional house. LOS is long but not unlimited from all areas, due to minor gradients (with 1.25m contours).

Now, most CM players are used to more cover than this. They are used to being able to throw away a third to half of their force to cross one field, so long as they then hurt the guys on the other side or keep a few flags. In addition, they are used to forces that have every capability covered somehow, and often forces that are almost exactly parallel to the enemy's, in composition.

Last but not least, they are used to fights with very few obstacles or entrenchments, because point budgets make additional maneuver forces a better buy. While realistic positions in such terrain made much more extensive use of them.

One expectation to start with - in denser terrain, attackers expect to be able to walk to within spotting range of any enemy without leaving cover for more than a few seconds in a few spots. While I've posted many times on advance in the open drills and I am sure everyone is aware of them by now, there is still a strong tendency to sit stock still for fear of the open.

Next, when cover is scarce people are used to rapidly knowing just where the enemy is. He has to be in those trees. Well, no he doesn't, not with trenches. Then, with only a few trenches as in typical QBs, if you see a trench (175m about) you can assume it is occupied. Not when there are 40 of the things on one map. Just calling down artillery and sending area fire HE from on map weapons at each tree patch from the word go, might work if there were no trenches. But when there are, it blows scarce HE without hurting much of anything.

Ranged fire pins in the open. It comes from stealthy infantry heavy weapons - HMGs, mortars, ATRs, sharpshooters. They might be in the few bits of cover or they might be in unspotted trenches. After trenches are spotted, they might be empty, they might contain weapons that fired earlier but have gone silent as enemy got close, or they might contain full platoons of infantry hiding up until now.

Overwatch is one way of handling enemy ranged fire. It can be provided by your own heavy weapons, by towed guns, by FOs, and by tanks. But they won't get nice neat targets very often. It is difficult to find a significant enemy to hit. There are plenty of empty locations, including empty trenches and empty bits of cover despite the overall scarcity of cover. And overwatch shooters risk enemy mortar fire and hidden guns, if they reveal themselves to area fire at merely suspected targets.

If all the overwatch stays back, infantry going first can be pinned before it spots things, or just exchange off for a few enemy weapons it does get close enough to spot. They pin readily if only a few half squads are sent. If full platoons go forward instead, at some point they may come across a full enemy position, holding its fire until close range. Overwatch might be able to deal with such a position - but will it do so fast enough to save a point platoon caught in open steppe by one?

If tanks go first, they might discover that AT mines aren't any rarer than trenches. Or they might discover that moving too far forward too fast, means presenting flanks to hiding ATGs, as well as increasing their penetration by lowering the range. A tank can spot enemy trenches by driving close enough. But it can't tell if they are occupied. And the defenders won't open up to "tell them", until the tanks are within close assault range.

These are all well understood tactical issues in general terms. Such terrain is nevertheless considered excellent tank country and very suitable for attacks by anyone with armor superiority. I happen to think that traditional assessment is entirely correct and works just fine in CM. But apparently, judging by the typical outcome of the campaign's tactical fights so far, most players don't "grok".

My intention is not to unbalance the campaign by giving too much advice, and especially not to give advice to only one side. But I thought the lessons might be interesting to a wider group of players, and that anyone might offer suggestions to both sides. I'll start by just mentioning one thing that is typically done on defense and why it works, then pause to hear from others and to gather questions.

Trenches are often used in these situations in small strongpoints, anywhere from 4 to 10 trenches grouped together. The position is isolated from other forms of cover, typically surrounded by open steppe for 100-150m in all directions. Occasionally there is a "back door" in the form of a low ground exit area, or a piece of woods the defenders could withdraw first to, and then through, using it to break LOS.

All the forward approaches are open steppe, at best a few shellholes on the way. Wire belts may occur well away from the strongpoint itself. Typically, infantry reaching the nearest cover will be close enough to see all the trenches, and to get a full ID on anyone up and shooting. But no one stationary and hiding in the trenches will be seen.

Sometimes the defenders of one of these strongpoints will be an infantry platoon, occasionally with added weapons, perhaps an ATG as well. Sometimes it will just be a few weapons - an HMG, an ATR. Some forward positions might have a "listening post" of a single squad, sometimes split. Sometimes it is unoccupied, a dummy position. Rarely, a larger strongpoint will have two HQs and a half a company, perhaps in a reverse slope position meant to shelter a defender's main body.

The main things that make this effective are (1) the danger in approaching 9% cover trenches through 60% cover steppe, and (2) the great uncertainty over the scale of defenders, and thus what means to pick to deal with them. If it is a full position, the best thing is to plaster every single trench with direct fire HE as soon as someone is close enough to ID said trenches. But doing that everywhere the enemy has 6 empty trenches, or to get one machinegun that already hurt the approaching infantry, can run the attackers out of firepower and time.

Meanwhile, if attackers just ignore the place, at some point it can delivery serious infantry fire out to 250m or so. Before anyone gets close, it harasses at long range with stealthy heavy weapons.

There is a proper "drill" for dealing with this sort of strongpoint defense. From the limited evidence of the Kursk campaign so far, that "drill" is not common knowledge. Anyone care to explain and present their solution, before I give my version?

[ May 21, 2005, 06:33 PM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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In re "just as hard to cross", understand the problem being presented. The terrain has been described. A defensive scheme has been described. The attackers are to bring what the terrain and the scheme call for, and use it according to a prescribe "drill" or procedure. Nowhere is it stated that the attackers have only infantry, or that their objective is to cross open steppe with infantry, etc. What they try to accomplish, what they pick as the proper force to accomplish it, etc - that is part of the answer, not some unstated portion of the problem.

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Jason...this is a most interesting thread.

I have just recently entered a scenario in The Proving Grounds "King of the Hill" tournament that uses a Ukrainian map. For the first time, in more than 2 years and making more than a hundred scenarios, I made a map that I thought represented the Ukraine well enough to suite me.

You are 100% correct in your assessment that players don't know what to think of the Ukraine. After extensive study of photos coupled with trial and error for many months I think I finally came up with a map that "works".

The map was so different that it took gamers by surprise. Here are some of the comments from the discussion thread on the scenario at The Proving Grounds...

"Sometimes you just try to locate where the guns are firing!

Holding back heavy armour until I know the location of the enemy heavies.

Sending out some HT's and 8wheelers for recon and safe shelter places for the others to follow.

Great moving around with the 'heights' and 'lows' on this map. Disadvantaged:

if you only misplace your 'move'line 1mm. you get blown into the sky!"

"This battle rocks! It is one of the most intense tank battles I've fought, ever!"

"Never took so much time to order moves and targets on any battle I played before!"

"Never before played a battle where I was so frightened to push 'GO'!! Did I check everything? The hills and valleys? The speeds of the vehicles counterattacking together, the cover left-right, and so on....

Very tough fight! Axis have superiour quality but Ruski have more armour and advantage of higher grounds.

Very hard for axis to move forward due to lack of cover. Probing and retreating all the time!

This one really makes you feel like a general on top of the hill overlooking the battlefield!"

"I had a plt of PZ(3) who almost didn't move during 15 turns firing all the time at anything that moved without gettin' hurt so that was a good move. !!!

Had the greatest losses due to my mistake not checking the cover by a nearby hill which had a lower point!!"

"It's only now after days of sitting in a darkened room listening to whale music and sniffing scented candles that I feel I have recovered enough from the stress and anxiety of fighting that battle..."

"This is perhaps the most interesting map I"ve ever seen.

You should release this as a map with a corresponding U shaped bastion for the Soviets maybe.

I'm only now becoming intimate with this map."

"The map is quite different (pleasantly) then any other I have played on."

As you can see from these comments, players are not used to fighting on Ukrainian maps with little or no cover. It does take some getting used to. Even as the designer, it took me several playtests before I learned how to move and fight in the Ukraine.

As you said, the tactics are much different. Even more different than North Africa because here the terrain is nothing like as flat as it looks.

My battle is a Meeting Engagement and not an assault or an operation like yours. The Meeting Engagement has some of the same qualities though, as you can see from some of the comments made, about the battle and the map. The lack of cover, the differences in LOS/LOF, a small spot of dominating ground that the battle can end up swirling around, all come together to make a Ukrainian map a very different place to fight.

In the Ukraine the speed of a vehicle can be as important as how well armed or armoured it is. You have to be able to move to that position that will flank the enemy!

Hull down is a position that you will either use or die trying to get there. Infantry will, as you say, form into strongpoints. They are very suseptible to tank attack though, in the open, and often take extremely heavy casualties if they are unsupported by adequate AT weapons. Hand held AT weapons in the Ukraine are virtually worthless unless you are in reverse hillside positions and the enemy tanks come right over the crest. (That can happen...) Otherwise, the tanks just sit back and blow the infantry positions away from long range. Especially the Russian armor, with the ability to use cannister rounds to it's advantage.

So far, it's been my experience, that in the Ukraine, more than anywhere else, the tank rules.

It needs to be supporting the infantry.

It needs to be maneuvering to outflank the enemys tank positions.

It needs to be pressuring the enemy infantry positions from a range that they cannot respond.

Recon is an absolute. Information on the position of the enemy is key in these situations. Charging over the crests of hills and ridges can be a quick way to lose the battle.

On my map LOS/LOF can be as long as 2000 meters or as little as 1. Depending on where you are sitting in relation to the high and low ground. I have seen vehicles destroyed at ranges of greater than 1500 meters and as little as 7 on a map without a single tree on it to block LOS/LOF.

So, are different tactics needed here?! Yes, I think you can safely assume that there are. Is the fighting intense? From all the comments made about this scenario so far I think you can assume that fighting in the Ukraine can be one of the most intense experiences you will ever have.

The biggest "thing" that hit me about it was that you need to know your equipment more here than any other terrain I've ever fought in. The Ukraine is very unforgiving. You need to layer your weapons systems to get the most out of them. The player that uses his equipment strengths and weakness' along with better tactics, and they can go hand in hand, will win these Ukrainian battles.

Whoever makes the least number of mistakes here will win. This is absolutely true of the Ukraine.

For gamers that have not yet tried a battle in the Ukraine I urge you to try one. They will be an experience that you won't soon forget. Jason's Kursk Campaign would be a great place to start if you are into campaign games.

[ May 21, 2005, 08:54 PM: Message edited by: Panther Commander ]

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I think Panther Commander is talking about roughly 300 other things (no doubt quite interesting in their own right) that I am not talking about. He can start another thread about them. The only place his comments touched on the question this thread is about, is where he said that armor rules in steppe terrain, that infantry in its strongpoints is very vulnerable unless it has sufficient AT weapons. Getting that to be true is exactly what the question is about.

And no, standing off at long range does not get it done. If the infantry position were obvious, if it were 4 trenches spotted 20 minutes ago, you might stand off and toss in HE. But that won't remotely work when there are 40 trenches per kilometer in 6-10 little forts, and you haven't the slightest idea which of them are defended, by how many men, don't even see them until you get within 180 meters, etc. (Also, you can't spot with an armored car against a cloud of Russian ATRs - it takes more than that to find them).

Adam's drill is based on the false premise that the thing to protect is the tanks. In one shot combined arms QBs it can seem that way. Don't let the enemy draw your trumps, that is the idea. The implicit reasoning is, he can only stop my attack if he kills my tanks, I can protect my tanks the most by keeping them at long range showing only forward facings. Exploit long LOS to stand off. Then, oh shucks, there is a spotting problem. Let the poor bloody infantry take care of that. How? By walking across hundreds of meters of open steppe to within good rifle range of every one of these forts, taking ranged MG and mortar fire the while.

That way lies sorrow. The infantry are being leaned on too heavily. They will get cut to ribbons. Sure, anything actually spotted can be shot by the tanks. But it'll be a long advance through stealthy MG fire to spot anything. A few support weapons are all you will kill with the tanks. When or if the enemy does open up with squad infantry, it will be because a platoon of the attacking infantry has walked within 250m of a full platoon in trenches.

The initial engagement will feature an unsuppressed full platoon firing from 9% cover at men in open steppe, at good ranges. That group of attackers will be slaughtered by the time their tanks engage effectively and find the range. If not actually wiped out, they will at least be ragged out. After the tanks do suppress the defenders, then what? Who is left to advance into the strongpoint? What if one enemy squad is still hiding? What about the MMGs in the two neighboring strongpoints?

It is simply asking a heck of a lot of the poor bloody infantry. If everything goes like clockwork, you might trade attacking infantry for defending infantry one for one. And slowly take the forts, if you can pay for each of them in blood. None of the attacker's real strengths are being used. The problem is not to protect the tanks as much as possible, because the attack can fail in ways other than losing all of them in a duel with defending ATGs.

Adam does add that sometimes, if the infantry is hopelessly pinned, you may need to send one tank forward to spot for the rest. One tank is obviously much easier for the enemy AT defense to stop, than all of them. Moreover, the infantry is getting clocked the while. As for arty, Adam mentions possible smoke to help the infantry move - but 500m of open takes a long time to advance across, and there are many points from which fire can be received. Smoking forever is not practical.

Armor is a decisive combat arm. It is not an infantry support weapon. Its mission in life is not to help the infantry get forward. Nor is the infantry's mission in life to bleed to death to spare the tanks any risk.

Against a defense of this nature, if the attackers can bring serious armor, they should annihilate the defenders. They need to use an all arms force to do it. Armor does the heavy lifting, not infantry. The roles of the various arms are not what they would be in tighter terrain - where Adam's approach might be sensible.

The arms necessary are three - tanks, heavy weapons, and infantry. When mines are also involved, the drill gets harder and pioneers are added as a necessary fourth. Infantry does not lead and its mission is not to scout. It follows and its mission is to mop up, as will be described below. Heavy weapons have the overwatch mission that Adam assigned the tanks to. The tanks deliver the actual attack.

First the heavy weapons need to get into position. If they can start with it, great. Any movements they need to accomplish have to be through low dead ground. Mortars need to be ready to hit ATGs. FOs, guns, and HMGs all overwatch, and have to be willing to use area fire. HMGs probe sound contacts to locate them, by seeing whether fire at various points makes somebody duck and cease firing. Light flak can do the same thing.

Heavier guns and FOs have to be willing to area fire at areas of cover and spotted trenches. Per round effectiveness is not going to be high, but the firepower is needed to take weight off the infantry. This should not be about slinking around. It should be a straightforward play for fire dominance, with the tanks supplimenting all of it. Their MGs should be chattering all the time, for example.

Then the tanks pick the route of advance and attack. A platoon minimum for any maneuver, tight. If mines are an issue, in single file - otherwise 2 by 2. Move if the ground is soft, not fast. They go looking for trenches. You see them at 175m. You never go within 50m, but you are willing to get that close to any of them. Find a fort, park a whole platoon of medium tanks at point blank range. Toss HE if you have lots, else chatter MG fire at them.

Then and only then, send a platoon toward that fort. Anybody who opens fire from it is already in instant spot range. And in very high FP range of many tanks MGs. And in instant "pick up" range for target acquisition. And so close nobody needs to find the range, they just point and pull the trigger.

This can be going on at multiple points or at one at a time, depending on the network of obstacles and forts you find, your available armor, how easy it is for infantry to get reasonably close to which trench positions, etc.

If you pick up sound contact fire from elsewhere while the infantry heads for the first, your overwatch probes it with ranged fire, tanks can toss HE, and better still you can drive another tank platoon up to 175m from that sound contact. They shut up or you spot them and make them shut up. Either way, 3 minutes later the infantry can move.

You intimidate them. Tanks at full spot range in platoon strength. Before the infantry steps off (or while it has made only safe approach moves etc). But his ATGs will shoot me, you will say. True, that is why you have the overwatch ready and you go in whole platoons. If you have serious armor, not 2 AFVs in a combined arms QB but serious armor, you can outmatch a few guns. Especially if you also have mortars standing by and an FO counting down while walking around his aim point, etc.

You might lose 1-2 more tanks this way. You will save whole companies of infantry. And you won't play pattycake with the defense or trade off against it evenly. You will eat them, for minor losses in tanks and infantry, and expenditure of a lot of ammo.

In the desert, the off board arty shells the position as the tanks approach, to blind them with dust. It can do it again when the infantry moves close - the tanks can also deliberately play back and forth to stir up a cloud to cover the infantry movements. (Historically, that allowed the first part of the move to be made mounted on trucks, debusing within 500 yards).

The proper defender response is to have a gun front or waiting armor of his own to counterattack. A poor man's substitute that can work pretty well is to have a shield of AT mines ahead of the trench forts - well ahead. When there are mines (one reason Adam is trying to stand off), a fourth arm is necessary for the attackers - pioneers to clear them.

Somebody goes first and finds the things. OK, now you know they are there - do you just go around? If you are spoiled by QBs, you assume he has only a couple of fields and maybe you do. Against realistic defenses that have tons of obstacles not a handful, you don't want to lose another tank. So you breech where you found them.

They can only do so if covered by all arms. That means the same sort of overwatch is in place. It means a full platoon of tanks are parked right at the breech, turrets canted two this way and two that, to light up anybody who shoots at the pioneers. Here is an occasion for smoke if you've got it. And not to stint the area fire ammo expenditure, if anybody shoots at them. The pioneers send at least two squads (because one will get shot) and blow the field. The tanks go through, single file again. If there are more behind, the pioneers keep up. Else, into whatever cover is nearby. Other infantry does not bunch up around the breech (it is a good enough artillery target as it is).

In both cases, you will take a trench fort sometime. Put your own infantry in it, until the next one is completely set up. A platoon to each, not overstacked. Some won't be defended heavily - you want to get into those soon.

If the enemy is successfully intimidated by some point, then you can bring MGs forward on tank decks and set them up in captured forts.

The overwatch ready to hit a fort that opens fire should be massive and in their face - a full tank platoon at nearly point blank range. The long range heavy weapons stuff only needs to harass, and to surge when an enemy gun unveils.

That is the drill. I thought everybody knew it.

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Next point, going the other way this time. Suppose the defense has AT minefields as well as the usual forts. Then the tanks can't get close to perform their role without pioneer help. The attacker can smoke the area briefly, and can of course bring massive overwatch firepower right up to the breech, ready to hit anyone who shoots at the pioneers. So, what is the standard defender's counter, in this situation?

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82mm arty or heavier, or long range Mg fire to pin pioneers. The moment you see smoke coming you have to use your arty on TRP's. In this way arty can come down before the smoke arrives.

I may have another solution for the attackers. Park a crack sniper close to the trenches and probe with halfsquads using advance. At one time or the other they have to fire from the trenches. Halfsquads gets killed and sniper spots for overwatch. Repeat this process as many times as needed.

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Jason, the intent was not to highjack your thread (at no time did I mention the name of my scenario, nor will I) but to show that players haven't played on steppe maps very often and are very surprised that they require different tactics. I thought this thread was about general combat tactics in the Ukraine, you did name it Steppe Terrain Fighting, if I was wrong and this is just about your Ukrainian operation, I will glady start a new thread. Or if this is a discussion on Ukrainian tactics and you wish me to start my own thread I can do that too. Otherwise I'll just add to your discussion here.

LOL! The roughly 300 other things you refer to I used to try to support the fact that while in the steppes you are like nowhere else on earth. I may have overdone it... :D

From my limited experience in the steppes it seems to me that the trump card is intelligence. You desperately need to know what the enemy defense is so that you can deploy your assets to break the defense.

For me personally, the tactical drill changes little. Find, fix and destroy seems to work as well on the steppes as anywhere else. Finding can be more of a problem here though. It's not as obvious. There isn't that clump of trees over on the right or that small farm on the left to immediately draw your attention to it.

Trenches can be seen in any terrain with a LOS at 200 meters. Whether or not they are occupied is another story. Are mines involved, once again you MUST do the recon work. Just stumbling forward blindly will get you cut to shreds.

Once you have decided where the enemy is, and in what strength, then you isolate him and attack the position. Whether you do that by using smoke, terrain blocking LOS/LOF, suppressive fire, or all of the above, for me at least, that part of the battle drill hasn't changed.

I also agree that the important forces for holding the battlefield aren't the tanks. The infantry still alive at the end of the scenario will more than likely determine the level of victory. Tanks are just the major force multiplier to get the job done.

If I can identify your infantry positions in LOS/LOF at a distance my tanks will take them out. Without sufficient AT support you won't be able to do anything about it. Those are facts. Of course, the defender isn't going to aways oblige you by putting his infantry where your tanks can sit back and shoot them up without a fight. I cannot stress enough the importance of Russian tanks carrying cannister against your infantry positions. IF they get close enough to use cannister that position WILL FALL!!

You are more than likely going to have to break a layered defense in the Ukraine. And unlike other places on earth, the angles that you can take fire in the Ukraine seem to be limitless. As some of the examples I posted show, players have trouble identifying threat sectors on a Ukrainian map.

While it's true that the long range suppression weapons are in their element in the Ukraine, weapons like the HMGs and light mortars, their real value at longer range is in suppression and they normally don't have unlimited ammo supplies.

So, while it is true that your forces can be under fire for a longer period of time, I'm not sure that it is a particularly good idea. I read about a German Lt. that was transfered to Utah beach a month or so before D-Day. When he saw the Americans moving across more than 800 yards of open sand he said he gave the order to fire at around 4oo meters. What made such an impression on me was, that he said, in Russia they NEVER opened fire at more than 100 meters so that they could break the attack.

If the defender uses up all of his ammo just suppressing your attacking forces and firing at long range that dilutes the fire he will be putting out when the assault does come. I've rarely seen an attack every STOPPED by long range fire only slowed down. Slowing at attack down is a tactic too. I'll discuss that in the defensive post coming next.

Like the Lt. in Normandy I'm not sure I think that is a good idea. To let me get within a 100 meters of the position though before opening fire will at least let me identify that there is a trench system there. It won't tell me if it is occupied or not.

Once again recon. While I again agree with the idea that AC's can't advance against a hail of ATR fire, how often does the enemy possess the ability to bring hail fire down? A single ATR can kill a recon HT or AC under the right circumstances so you have to use good tactics to do your recon. Whether it is by infantry or vehicle or preferably both is the key to winning this battle. If you know where the enemy is and where he isn't you can make an effective battle plan.

Another thing that you and I agree on, is that the attack, when it comes, needs to be of the utmost violence. Don't expect the infantry to take out defensive positions by walking over open ground to get there. The attacker needs to have supporting/suppresive fires of his own. These need to be in a direct fire mode if you can get them to the point of attack. The attackers don't have unlimited ammo supplies either.

Mortars and artillery are very effective on the steppes because there is nothing to protect the infantry but wheat or corn. Those have not been great sources of protection in the past and I have grave doubts about their ability to stop artillery rounds in the future as well.

Smoke actually seems to be less effective. The greater number of angles that the attacker has LOS/LOF into the attack area can limit the effectiveness of smoke. Also, the limited time frame of smoke will put your troops in the suppression zone for a longer period of time than you are normally used to.

The trump card once your attack is under way can be tanks carrying fresh infantry to move into the attack and carry the infantry across much of the open ground to a suppressed and battered defender. Assuming of course you have the resources to do it.

While my experiences have been only with battles, and not with operations or QB's, I have not had the luxury, so far, to play with defenses in depth. Jason, where would I be able to download your operation? I am very interested in playing an operation in the Ukraine and yours sounds like a good place to start.

[ May 22, 2005, 06:55 AM: Message edited by: Panther Commander ]

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For a steppe defense, in a word, layered.

You need to dig in if you can. If you can't then you need to put your troops in the toughest possible spots for the attacker to have to dig them out. In any kind of cover, including grain fields, tall grass, brush. Maybe, on a map with only a limited number of trees, you don't put them in the trees. Whatever you can do to keep them hidden for as long as possible.

A key element in any fight is time. The longer it takes the attacker to find you, the longer it will take him to fix and destroy you.

Unfortunately, there is not a dig-in command in the game. Maybe CMx2 will have one. Be that as it may...you are going to have to stop an attack in the wide open spaces with no place to hide. If your troops break they will more likely than not be cut down before going 5 meters. This is a defense to the death.

The only way I have seen this be effective is to make it so costly on the attacker that the attack breaks down. That has only ever been accomplished in the battles I've seen fought in the steppes with layered defenses. Keeping the AT weapons back out of harms way and keyholed using the terrain if you can.

The key to any Ukrainian defense is mobility. You MUST have a reserve and that reserve MUST be able to influence the battle at hand. Vehicles of any type are much more valuable in a Ukrainian setting because of their ability to move around the map and influence the outcome of a battle. That influence may well come from any range of 1500 meters down to 1. You never know. That is why you must retain the ability to move your forces where they need to go.

While smoke is of more limited value to the attacker than you may be used to it is of infinately more value to the defender. Smoke can be used to limit the attackers LOS/LOF into areas that you may need to move across to reinforce the threatened area(s).

Unsupported positions are 99% likely to be taken out. They must have AT capability. As much as you can afford to give them because as Jason pointed out this is TANK country!! And you will see lots of them in the Ukraine. The infantry can defend pretty well against purely infantry attacks unless they are of overwhelming numbers.

Engineering obstacles can be a greater force multipier in the Ukraine than in other areas. Wire by itself is normally worthless. If the attacker has armor, and I think you better plan that he does, he will just lift his infantry over the wire. Same thing with purely AP mines.

The bad boys in the Ukraine will be TANKS and you need to plan every defense against them. Engineers with satchel charges are a devastating defensive weapon here. They are good against both tanks and infantry that get within range and can take out either with equal effectiveness.

If they are in trenches they are very tough to kill.

The covered arc ambush is your best friend out here. Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes or have extremely favorable conditions to reveal your positions. Like a side shot on a Tiger at 400 meters. By the way Tigers do roam the steppes so bring a big gun. I normally set my ambushes at 100 meters. Be aware that a trench can be seen in LOS at 200 meters. So, a trench line defense might just as well open fire, if that is your intent, at 200 meters because the enemy will see the trench. They won't know if it is occupied, but they won't be able to take the chance that it isn't, and will pore area fire on it. An interesting tactic is to leave the trenches empty and have the troops in the fields behind them. When the enemy gets to within 50 meters of them open fire on them in the open while they have hammered an empty trench line with fire. More wasted time.

Watch the clock. Time is on your side as the defender. ANYTHING you can do to slow the attacker is worth doing. You just have to weigh the advantages of it against the disadvantages of it. Like the ranged fire. Is it better to fire and suppress the attacker at long range and cost him time or to hold my fire and hit him with a wall of fire right in front of my defensive position? Only you can make that call.

ANYTHING you can do to force him into LOS/LOF is worth doing. Put the attacker in a position that you can hit him with as many weapons systems as possible.

[ May 22, 2005, 07:04 AM: Message edited by: Panther Commander ]

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PC - slow down. That is 900 rather than 300 things, it does not remotely help. Remember the speaker's adage, it is not how much you emit but how much we absorb. Also, a solid half of it is wrong.

How often does the defender have a hail of ATR fire available? Essentially always. Vehicles with 8mm sides cannot scout aggressively against hidden infantry defenses in steppe. They just die at 400m or more without seeing anything. You discover perhaps that there are enemy somewhere in that square kilometer, which you could already guess.

"Recon first" you say. How? We are discussing not principles but drills. How a given object the attacker or defender needs to accomplish actually can be, in these situations. In areas with cover you can scout with an infantry platoon, sending a half squad ahead. Doesn't work very well in limitless steppe under ranged but hidden fire.

As for ranged fire not mattering, it is a product of an unrealistic excessive willingness to take casualties, to throw away infantry for one field and a tiny flag. What ranged fire has going for it is stealth. It compounds the recon problem. At steppe ranges, light AT weapons (Russian ATRs, German 20mm Flak) are not going to be spotted when firing. Making thin light armor bad at recon.

Yes you can spot trenches at 200m (or 175m with typical grazing LOS degradation etc). 200m is not a fun range to be at if you are infantry in open steppe with the nearest good cover half a kilometer away in the other direction. When the German spoke of holding fire until close in Russia, he was refering to what you'd do with the squad infantry portion of such a defense.

Those are quiet in their trenches until the range to approaching infantry is good, and the threat of discovery if the defenders don't fire is imminent. After they fire, that group of attackers are stuck in a lethal zone. The engagement can then be short, making it hard for distant overwatch to help in time.

Ranged fire is going on all the time in addition, by a few stealthy shooter not the squads - MGs, light AA and ATRs, mortars, sometimes FOs. The squad infantry portion is not burning its ammo. The shooting stuff is too far to spot without walking past some of the squad infantry positions; only sound contacts are available.

You say they have limited ammo. But attackers cannot afford losing half a dozen men to every enemy MG and light mortar present, to take one field. In one battle maybe, not when there is field after field after field, as there is in reality (and in a campaign). Especially if their methods against the squad infantry involve dying a lot in the open at 100-200m, thus getting no better than a trade when the overwatch kills that little portion of the defenders.

When the attacker has better overall forces and armor superiority, he needs to be able to eat the defense. To inflict far greater casualties than he takes, by using his advantages. Lose light armor at range, get shot for half a kilometer with infantry moving under stealthy ranged fire, trade scouting infantry for found defenders one for one - do not sum to greater losses to the defenders for nothing to speak of for the attackers.

The bar is higher than you suppose. You can't lose a third of the attacking force to get there. You can't lose anything really, unless you annihilate the defenders. You can take modest losses in any arm if you do achieve that. Not large ones in any one arm. You have to be able to do it ten times in a row with the same force, without running out of anything essential to the method used.

As for canister, it is mostly misunderstood shrapnel in reality and ought to be HE. CM canister is not remotely realistic in its modeling. In my campaign, there won't be any. BTW, it is a campaign not an operation. Meaning a series of battles linked by a meta-layer, referee'd by me. We are using the CMx10 system, which uses the scenario editor as a higher level "sand table", for the operational layer. See the thread in the CMBB forum on the Kursk campaign.

The task is doable. But not by the methods Adam proposed, nor by the methods you proposed (which aren't much different than his for this portion of the task, only adding "scout first with light armor", which simply fails, in practice).

[ May 22, 2005, 09:45 AM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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antiportas - correct. The doctrinal solution is for an FO to bring down a barrage on the breech as the pioneers arrive to clear it.

No TRP though. You can't expect to have one. An AT minefield in a realistic defense is not a one location affair, there are gobs of them. You don't know beforehand where the attackers will hit one and try to make a breech. The arty needs to be able to deliver this shoot without a registration point.

The way you do that is simple. You order the barrage as soon as you see a tank stopped by the mines. Let it count down. If there is no infantry in the area by 1 minute out, change the aim point slightly to postpone the barrage. Perhaps the pioneers are nearby and efficient, and create the breech before your shells land. Keep the barrage anyway. The idea is not simply to stop them on this occasion, though if that succeeds, great. It is to bleed them. Every time a breeching operation is required, a couple squads of pioneers get smashed by artillery fire. You won't run out of shells. He may well run out of pioneers.

As for the range MGs, they can try it but they aren't nearly as effective and should not be counted upon to do this job. There will be tanks near the breech site. They will area fire back with MGs, searching for the sound contact by seeing when you duck. When they see that, a whole platoon of tanks toss HE area fire, like a barrage. Sometimes you will be spotted despite the range, and this sort of fire can hurt even if you remain sound. Also, smoke can shelter the pioneers from MG fire or on map mortar fire. But it won't stop an already ordered barrage. (In CMAK, be careful of it making the barrage miss, though).

Review the paper scissors rock relations we have seen so far.

Infantry in open steppe is readily checked by trench forts of infantry with ranged heavy weapons supporting from slightly farther back. It works by bleeding infantry sent first to find the defense, over time.

Light armor might scout instead of infantry. But the defenders have an easy counter to this - stealthy light AT assets like ATRs and light Flak, to destroy light armor before it gets close enough to find meaningful portions of the defense. Without revealing any heavy AT assets, or giving anything more than a sound contact to lighter ones.

Tanks leading all arms can defeat infantry trench fort defenses by having the tanks lead, halt near point blank of the nearest fort, and having their supporting infantry only mop up after they dose the place. Overwatch heavy weapons helps with ranged area fire against stealthy stuff, (in desert, also kicks up dust wioth fire missions during infantry approach) and surges against guns.

Extensive AT minefields are one way to prevent tanks from getting close to accomplish the previous task. (There are others - gun front and armor counterattack e.g.).

Pioneers can clear lanes through AT mines if properly supported by overwatch, by tanks guarding the breech against any defenders showing themselves at close range, and by smoke if available.

Defending off board artillery can make the pioneers pay by timing a barrage on the breech with their arrival. This is accomplished by ordering the fire mission as soon as a tank is halted by the mines, and deferring it if it is too early. It works by bleeding the pioneers over successive fights.

As for the sharpshooter spotter plus half squad scout, the problem is getting the half squad close enough. Ranged MGs readily pin a single half squad. They simply won't do it under fire. You can send a full platoon instead, using "advance in the open" drills - continual short advances by any unit not currently being shot at. But this takes time, suffers casualties, and ends with a platoon in range of dangerous numbers of enemies. If the group you are discovering is less than a platoon, you can't even afford a dead half squad for every fort examined. Remember, there can be 6-10 of them every square kilometer. 30-50 men wiped out just from the scouts is no bargain.

If you are finding and killing whole platoons, it might be worth it as a trade. But if there is a whole platoon there, and your scout is only a half squad, will the half squad actually find them? No. First the MGs will probably stop the half squad. Second, if they don't a single squad is all the defender needs to "show" at 80m or so.

Of course, eventually you will send infantry into the fort. Yes, a half squad leads when that finally occurs. But you want the rest of its platoon ready behind it, and a full platoon of medium tanks at point blank range, and chattering MGs - in other words an attack, not a scouting tickle.

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How do you deal with flanking fire with that drill ?

If you have to park your tanks in platoon strength 200 m from a trench line, there could be another fort that you haven't spotted yet to your left or right. And if a pak front opens fire on you from the flank, you could easily lose the whole tank platoon before the overwatch deals with it.

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Entirely correct. Which brings us to the role of guns in such a defense.

If the defender has only a few, modest power ATGs (45mm, 50mm, in the desert Brit 2 pdrs and US 37s etc), they are probably distributed 1-2 per fort or a few near the back of the position crossing their fields of fire.

The attacker brings a serious force of armor to the whole field. His first measure is just to outnumber a modest number of defending guns. Second, the range is short to the fort he is facing, longer to the others. Third, he has mortars on overwatch. Fourth, a whole platoon moves together, so when a gun opens up, it gets instant reply by multiple shooters.

A few ATGs can occasionally kill a tank in that match up. But they die rapidly in turn. These measures do force the attacker to use more like half to full companies of armor overall, rather than single platoons, because it needs to be true the attacker won't simply run out trading off a few ATGs.

So, how does the defender counter the simple attacker measure of sufficient mass? He needs to mass himself. He needs not a few modest ATGs spread over individual forts all along the line, but a gun front.

A gun front means a position where there are as many ATGs as attacking tanks. At least some of the ATGs need to be highly capable types that can kill enemy tanks at range. They should have some supplimentary arms, like mortars of their own to fire back at overwatch, and the usual infantry and heavy weapons defense as already described.

Defenders can't really afford to have this sort of thing everywhere. They have to anticipate where the attacker will send meaningful quantities of armor to lead attacks, and be waiting for them with a large number of capable guns. That is a head game. The attacker's first counter is simply to hit where they ain't by winning it. That involves intel, feints, probes.

Sometimes the attacker will have to attack a gun front, or will run into one without knowing it is there. Obviously the second is much more dangerous. What the defender needs to accomplish when one of these occurs, is a smash, nearly all the attacking armor left burning with the defenders in possession of the field. What the attacker wants to accomplish is moderate tank losses and lots and lots of dead guns. The position itself is quite unimportant compared to these exchange questions.

What can the defender do to increase his chances? Look like a standard infantry fort defense. Draw them in. Hit all together not piecemeal. As many flanking shots at the moment of firing as possible. Separate leaders from more distant supports by LOS blocks (reverse slope e.g.) or by smoke. Button the tanks just before.

What does the attacker want instead, if he knows the gun front is there? Massive supporting artillery fire, big calibers 122mm and up, prep and reactive both. Infantry heavy weapons out the wazoo - his own guns, mortars, HMGs, snipers - anything that will suppress a gun at range, without being a tank. Dust and smoke to separate the guns over here from the ones over there, while facing a single grouping. The idea is to carry as much of the fight as possible asymmetrically. Thick tanks, hull down overwatch positions, platoon size tactical formations not lone tanks.

This is all a chain of escalation thing. It takes more and more of a force's assets, put in greater and greater danger, to counter each previous tactic.

We are almost done. Given that the attacker has countermeasures like calling down massive artillery fire and avoiding a direct attack on a known gun front position to hit where they ain't instead, what remaining escalation high card do the steppe defenders have, to counter an attacker who guesses right or discovers a gun front in time and deals with it properly?

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Sure. Or more often, just while he is busy attacking one of the infantry forts. The attacker's main counter to the threat of a lot of guns is to go elsewhere, exploiting the fact that the guns can't easily shift positions. Defending tanks can. The attacker's next big counter to a lot of guns is to conduct the fight in a storm of HE, mortar, and HMG fire. Guns don't like that very much, but defending tanks hardly notice.

Defenders don't want to have their tanks fight the attacker's tanks symmetrically. Still less do they want theirs penny packeted all along the line, inferior in numbers everywhere the attackers actually push, trying to patch up some sort of AT defense to "save" their infantry in its forts. Instead they want it at least somewhat massed, they want it reacting to where the attackers push with armor. Then tactically, they want to spring them on the attacking armor - or its lead elements - while they are busy shooting up infantry.

It doesn't have to be the same spot as a gun front and often won't be. Because attackers go where they ain't, defenders will consider a place already packed with guns sufficiently defended as it is, etc. But what you don't want, is both sides hanging back with tanks and probing with infantry, meeting engagement style. It gives you no edge as the defender.

That is why it is important to have an infantry defense scheme that attackers need their tanks working hard, to crack. You want them otherwise engaged at the moment you attack. You don't want them hanging back in top hatting positions, where the best you can hope for is an even exchange.

And what can attackers do, knowing that the defenders may spring tanks on them? Not much, if they want to attack. But they can be ready to go over to the tactical defense with a gun front of their own. Their overwatch can include heavy ATGs when they expect this sort of thing. That can work because the defenders won't know they are there, and may be less careful about avoiding LOS to the possible hiding spots, than to spotted tank platoons out in the open.

What you can't do is assume the defender will already be all the way up at the top of his escalation ladder, everywhere. If you do, you just go super cautious and don't advance. You try to spare your own escalaters instead of working them. That puts the strain on the infantry too soon, for routine fights, and lets the low end of the defense just win.

That is how rock comes back around to paper. Fear of a bulletproof AT defense induces caution in the attacking armor. But too much caution in the attacking armor, and the infantry portion of the defense will just plain work. It will bleed the attackers white.

The defending infantry is sometimes in a very hard spot (when a full gun front or serious reserve armor isn't available), but that is meant to create the conditions for heavier elements of the defense to get their licks in. The heavy stuff isn't protecting the infantry. Sometimes the infantry dies. The whole scheme is still meant to let each get in its licks against its proper opponent. He picks his force mix to use and his tactic and you pick yours, and some combos let you bag infantry, some let you bag armor, some let him win.

There was one occasion in the campaign when the Germans pushed their armor hard, after their infantry pinned. They wiped out the defenders (about a company), but lost like 4 tanks (some just immobilize, some due to bogging, it is true). The defenders got close assaults in, infantry attacking tanks with molotovs and grenades. On this occasion, the defenders had neither tanks nor real ATGs (just a few ATRs). How did this happen? What specific element of the above "drill" do you suppose the attackers fail to observe, and why?

[ May 22, 2005, 12:36 PM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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Went and looked at your campaign. I mistook it for an operation. The premise is the same except that if I understand this correctly you are doing all the work that CM would do in an operation. Making the pertinent decisions for the continuance of the operation personally.

How often does the defender have a hail of ATR fire available? Essentially always. Vehicles with 8mm sides cannot scout aggressively against hidden infantry defenses in steppe

If your OOB allows for a "hail of ATR fire" then it isn't very historically accurate. I normally play the Russian side of battles so I see the ATR side of things as good as it gets. The Russians after early 1942 started mass producing them but the Germans never really did buy into the ATR game.

These are the recon vehicles of both sides during this time period in the war. They were adequate for them to use and they are adequate for CM use as well if you remember that they are recon elements and not tanks. Recon elements move slowly and make extensive use of overwatch and terrain hugging techniques. I have seen these 8mm AC's that you seem to think of as sacrificial lambs live through some very fierce tank battles. If you want your recon to live act like you are in the lead AC and see how brave you get with them. The whole idea is to gain information not die trying.

I agree that you can scout with half squads or even better your forces could include recon forces. That could include recon infantry squads.

As for ranged fire not mattering, it is a product of an unrealistic excessive willingness to take casualties, to throw away infantry for one field and a tiny flag.

You have just described Russian 1943 combat tactics in a single sentence.

What ranged fire has going for it is stealth. It compounds the recon problem. At steppe ranges, light AT weapons (Russian ATRs, German 20mm Flak) are not going to be spotted when firing. Making thin light armor bad at recon.

Unless your steppe maps are flat as a billiard table, and they shouldn't be, there are folds in the land and moderately rolling hills with gullies that are at times very steep sided. I do not drive on the tops of ridges and hills with my recon but act like I might want them to live for a turn or more. Extensive use of overwatch and terrain hugging will keep most of them alive. Interesting that you consider the recon units of the armies to be inadequate for the task of reconning infantry positions. The armies themselves upgraded their recon elements after the time of Kursk because they were too vulnerable to enemy AT assets.

When the German spoke of holding fire until close in Russia, he was refering to what you'd do with the squad infantry portion of such a defense.

Those are quiet in their trenches until the range to approaching infantry is good, and the threat of discovery if the defenders don't fire is imminent. After they fire, that group of attackers are stuck in a lethal zone. The engagement can then be short, making it hard for distant overwatch to help in time.

Yes, that was exactly my point. Holding fire until such a range puts the attacker at an extreme disadvantage.

You say they have limited ammo. But attackers cannot afford losing half a dozen men to every enemy MG and light mortar present, to take one field. In one battle maybe, not when there is field after field after field, as there is in reality (and in a campaign). Especially if their methods against the squad infantry involve dying a lot in the open at 100-200m, thus getting no better than a trade when the overwatch kills that little portion of the defenders.

Here we need to clarify if you are only talking about German defenders and Russian attackers or what. If we are talking Russian attackers and the OOB is anything close to be historically accurate the Russians ABSOLUTELY can and did lose tremenous numbers of men in taking a single field. They thought nothing of doing so because casualties did't figure into their tactic doctrine.

While we are at it, we need to clarify whether these hypothetical forces of yours, are mechanized or infantry. That makes a great difference whether or not what we are talking about is 8mm armoured AC's or infantry recon elements. You keep jumping back and forth on me from one to the other.

When the attacker has better overall forces and armor superiority, he needs to be able to eat the defense. To inflict far greater casualties than he takes...

Here, I find myself in the unique position of agreeing and disagreeing with you, all at the same time. The attacker does need to eat the defense, BUT he needs not inflict far greater casualites than he takes. Where did you get that? It is an established axiom of war that the attacker needs to have an attack ratio of 3-1 to be successful. That means that you are, THAT YOU ARE, going to take more casualties than the defender while taking those positions. Rarely, will an attacker ever take a position, that he didn't lose multiples more men attacking that position than the defender did defending it. And we here we are talking about attacking across open ground on top of that. No you will lose a lot of men. You just have to be careful that it doesn't cost you too many men that you can't continue to force your will on the defenders.

The bar is higher than you suppose. You can't lose a third of the attacking force to get there. You can't lose anything really, unless you annihilate the defenders. You can take modest losses in any arm if you do achieve that. Not large ones in any one arm. You have to be able to do it ten times in a row with the same force, without running out of anything essential to the method used.

That statement assumes that there is a continous line of strongpoints that must all be taken laterally. Why would you do that? The goal is to break the line in a particular place and then exploit the breach. Not to battle down the line one after another but to fix them in place as you drive by to the interior of the defense.

As for canister, it is mostly misunderstood shrapnel in reality and ought to be HE. CM canister is not remotely realistic in its modeling. In my campaign, there won't be any.

That is the great thing about CM you can make it anyway you want to. Cannister was used by the Russians and leaving it out takes a major tool that they originally had from the CM player. Your call though.

The task is doable. But not by the methods Adam proposed, nor by the methods you proposed (which aren't much different than his for this portion of the task, only adding "scout first with light armor", which simply fails, in practice).

If I understand what you are looking for is not actually a discussion on the tactics used in the battles of the Ukraine but a "drill" that ia a one size fits all glove for attacking some infantry strongpoints in the Ukrainian hills. It has been my experience that drills don't work well often. They have to modified to fit the actual situation of the moment.

In your assessment of the correct drill if I understand this correctly it has to do with a FO that can't see anything because my recon didn't get through?!

...correct. The doctrinal solution is for an FO to bring down a barrage on the breech as the pioneers arrive to clear it.

In 1943 the Russian answer to all minefields was to simply move over them. They did not breach minefields except during large scale operations that involved Front breaching of the German MLR. After that you just move on. Operation Bagration was the first time that Russian armored formations used mine rollers and that is June 1944 not July 1943.

What you are quoting is German doctrinal solution. The Germans did believe in breaching minefields. Although there were exceptions, interestingly enough in regards to this discussion, at Kursk where the 505th Heavy Tank Battalion (Tiger) was ordered to drive over the Russian minefields to break the defense and continue the advance.

See: http://www.geocities.com/armysappersforward/kursk.htm

He needs not a few modest ATGs spread over individual forts all along the line, but a gun front.

Where is the German defender going to get these guns in a divisional setting? The Russians would have no problem forming them almost at will. But by 1943 the Germans are short on everything most of all AT guns. Once again it matters if the German unit involved is an infantry or panzer formation.

Defenders can't really afford to have this sort of thing everywhere. They have to anticipate where the attacker will send meaningful quantities of armor to lead attacks, and be waiting for them with a large number of capable guns. That is a head game. The attacker's first counter is simply to hit where they ain't by winning it. That involves intel, feints, probes.

That page came from my book.

What does the attacker want instead, if he knows the gun front is there?

Actually he wants to go the other way. Only if he is forced to attack through the heavily defended zone will he attack here. The defender is trying his best to channel that attack right through the zone. As you say this is a head game. But also a recon game. We are back to battlefield intelligence. Is there another way? If there is the defender loses. As the attacker you need to KNOW if there is or not.

Something I have rarely seen discussed, is an off timing attack, to freeze the defense in an area and make them believe that the attack is going there, when the real attack is actually set to come in turns later at a different point on the map. As the defense reacts to the original demonstrating attack the attacker now has a much better chance of breaking the line in another area that has softened because the defender has moved forces to the threatened area.

This tactic seems to be very successful in the Ukrainian style terrain.

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The attacker is assumed to bring serious armor - those are the cases we are talking about. The defender can provide a weak AT defense, a gun front, or armor. The attacker can push with the tanks forcefully, or hang back, and use lots of arty or not.

Weak AT, the right thing is to push with the armor. If it hangs back instead, the defenders eat infantry. It may be an exchange or it may be lopsided in favor of the defense, but they have little to worry about long term. If the attackers use lots of arty it may reduce infantry losses some, but there aren't really high value targets for it. Infantry exchanges down if the attackers don't do the aggressive thing. Defenders die if they do.

A gun front, the right thing (besides going elsewhere) is to use lots of arty and soft firepower heavy weapons. Hanging back with the armor is marginally better than pressing, though it can be hard to get the defenders to show themselves that way. The attacker is no longer trying to take the location and doesn't really care whether he beats the infantry, he wants to kill guns. If the attackers don't have the support weapons and do press (treating this case like the previous), then the defenders eat tanks. Often they exchange down.

Armor, the right thing is to hang back with the tanks and to have heavy AT support weapons, your own supporting "gun front". When the defending armor shows, the attacker just wants to eat defending tanks. The location and infantry fights are secondary. But a threat that looks like the first may be needed to spring the defenders. The defenders on the other hand want to catch tanks doing the first above and kill whole platoons of them without loss.

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Correct Adam, they drove their tanks too close to the trenches. They did not halt at 50m or more to fire. When they got within 40m, the defending infantry could hit them with infantry AT. But why did they drive their tanks so close? What were they trying to accomplish? What had gone wrong earlier that seemed to force this less than choiceworthy move?

They were trying to get spots. They were at 100m and still could not see anybody. They saw the trenches alright, but they saw lots and lots of them. The defenders went quiet whenever the tanks got close. They hid at the bottom of their holes.

The proper doctrinal thing at that point is to spray the trenches *and bring up the infantry*. With the tanks staring at them to force them to stay down, the infantry is supposed to be able to close. And the threat of them advancing right into the same trenches, is supposed to force the defenders to eventually fire. If many are suppressed by tank HE and attackers get in the same trenches, great. They will get spots from there and toss grenades.

Why was this option not available in the fight in question? They had started out trying to *lead* with the infantry. It got all shot up. The tanks only advanced to point blank *after* the attacking infantry was pinned. The infantry got stripped off the tanks and was several hundred meters behind in most places.

The infantry had been trying to go get the tanks their spots, while the tanks stayed at 500m. That worked the infantry too hard. To get to spotting range, the tanks just drove. If the infantry were fresh at that point, it would have been a lot easier for them to walk up behind the tanks for the next bit. Because the tanks would already be forward, at good spotting ranges, as the infantry moved. When a support weapon tried to pin them, there would have been rapid retaliatory action from the tanks. The weapons closest to the tanks would have been intimidated into silence.

Then, the tanks don't need to kill a whole bunch of units they can't see, with area fire into trenches that might be empty. They could just dump in a little to pin anybody there at the short critical time when their own infantry was in its close approach - spraying with MGs the rest of the time to slow rally and such. If there is nobody there, the infantry establishes the fact after one minute of HE, and the tank platoon can move on.

Since they did not have the infantry left to work with, the tanks tried to do all of it themselves. They pushed into close assault range deliberately, to give the defenders a chance to stand up and attack them. It was the only way to spot them.

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PC - I have to deal with your posts in stages. First, no it is not an operation with me doing to fight to fight work. In a CM operation you have one map a few km deep. Ours is 10 km wide and over 20 km deep. In an operation, the fights are arranged in time but always occur on the same spot in space - the one map. You can try to push up the right side or the left, but only on the same map. Moreover, after a given fight the front line basically levels up. In a campaign, you can attack over here and defend over there, the front can get as ragged as you please. The KGs in each tactical fight are typically much smaller than in a large operation. You do not switch forces tactically in 4 minutes with full borg on. You switch them operationally on a time scale of 2 hours. Just some of the more obvious differences. I am not a fan of CM operations. I came up with this way of doing operational CM because of their drawbacks, from my perspective.

Next light armor. You are simply wrong, it doesn't matter how many times you repeat yourself or cite history (where, incidentally, I can show the claim is dubious). The German form of light AT is the 20mm AA gun, not an ATR, and they have plenty of them. A 28/20 sPzB will also serve. All of these kill light armor easily at ranges long enough they remain mere sound contacts. They can all afford to fire continually at anything in LOS, without hiding, because they are so stealthy they will only give sound. That is what produces light AT hail - the fact that it isn't one gun risking unhiding, but absolutely all of them, to the limits of very wide steppe LOS.

You can use all the low ground you like and creep as cautiously as you like, you won't spot trenches and develop the whole defense in something with 8mm of armor. Of course my maps have slopes. Defenders also site their little trench forts where they choose, and their light AT assets likewise. The former are typically surrounded by open steppe on at least three sides, only the back occasionally having a covered way out (e.g. due to a crest).

You can do vehicle recon for vehicles - spot enemy tanks e.g. - by sending a light car rather than a medium tank over a given rise, with orders to reverse etc. That can be helpful, but it isn't remotely driving to within 200m of the enemy infantry defenses. It occurs at much longer ranges and only spots things that can be seen essentially as far as LOS carries.

As for "and overwatch", it does not remotely help. You won't see the shooter no matter how many times he shoots. Light armor can't recon for things you only see at 200m or less, when it can be killed by weapons that give no signature at all at 500m and upward. You can't teleport through that range window.

If you try to drive within 200m of infantry defenses you will be shot by light AT; if you reverse immediately you might survive (due to poor behind armor effect of light AT), but if you persist looking for the enemy you will just be destroyed. To scout effectively with armor, a vehicle needs to be thick enough that the only thing that can kill it, will be spotted at any range that can kill it, the instant it fires. In practice that generally means a medium tank.

Incidentally if you read Kursk era tactical reports from units with light armor, you will constantly see the report "AT fire from so and so" "flanking fire from so and so" always followed by "unable to advance". Light armor is checked by any AT fire and instantly avoids it. It cannot "brave" it or put up with it. And that means anything in LOS of a steppe fort defense. And LOS is longer than the 200m distance to spot the trenches. Ergo, you get checked before you get close enough to spot anything but vehicles or wire. (In the desert, incidentally, 2 pdrs have the same effect. They have 500m effective range against panzers,or less, but can kill an AC to infinity).

What use did light armor have for scouting despite this? Screening fronts against pure infantry forces. It isn't so easy to *advance* a light AT cloud. Hosing a scouting half squad with MG fire at half a kilometer. Going into entirely empty areas and reporting when anything at all shows up there. That is especially useful for outposting dead ground regions to get advanced word on anybody sneaking up through them, and the like. But these are static, screening, defense roles. Not charging up to 175m from a full defense to look over the trench layout - that is suicidal in light armor.

[ May 22, 2005, 01:42 PM: Message edited by: JasonC ]

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As for Russian 1943 tactics, they did not throw away infantry for one tiny field. In case everybody forgot, they cleared the Ukraine in a few months.

Beforehand, they also stopped the Kursk offensive using tactics very much like those we are discussing. The Germans lost up to half the front line infantry battalion strength committed to the operation through exactly the infantry bleeding scheme explained above, and it wore them out. Their operational tanks fell by similar amounts due to AT minefields, gun fronts, and reserve armor used in the ways we are discussing.

I've have written the book on infantry attacks across open ground, including steppe. See my company command article if you haven't. They can readily inflict far greater losses on the defenders than the attackers suffer, when conducted properly, with proper overwatch and odds, etc. But it is more expensive than using armor. And the Russians used armor extensively in their 1943 one-field-taking attacks, in case everybody forgot. The RDs followed up eating the German IDs as they displaced.

But their basic mech doctrine was SMG riders on T-34s, with the tanks eating the defense if the riders were brushed off early, and the riders dismounting under their close overwatch otherwise. Which is very much what I am talking about in describing the drill of tanks to just outside infantry AT range, then and only then infantry in.

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From some of your comments I am going to assume that the attacking formations are German. Although with Kursk they could be either but the doctrines of the two armies were far apart at this time.

Weak AT, the right thing is to push with the armor.

A gun front, the right thing (besides going elsewhere) is to use lots of arty and soft firepower heavy weapons.

Armor, the right thing is to hang back with the tanks and to have heavy AT support weapons, your own supporting "gun front".

While these comments are generalizations and it was my understanding that you wanted to stay away from them and focus more on the drill involved in the attack solution, I agree with you.

This once again brings us back to the recon elements of a Panzer Division or SS Panzer Division. Sorry, I forgot which unit you based your campaign on. They were 20mm armed light skinned vehicles more than capable of reconning infantry strong points.

IF these infantry strong points are Russian, and once again I am assuming that they are, then the defense becomes much more engineer oriented. There will be more mines, wires, trenches than in a German defensive position.

At Kursk and for most of the war only at Kursk, the Russians will also have a good availability of TRP's. These will really hurt the attacker. The Russians had their defensive positions built up to historic proportions at Kursk as everyone knows about. That includes the ability of the artillery to respond much quicker than normal.

The Russians had learned Pak Fronts from the Germans and used them extensively at Kursk. So you are right to assume a German attack will face a large amount of Russian AT guns. This makes your proposed attack much harder. The Russians at Kursk can almost defend everything.

Now it becomes a brute force attack. You still need to find and fix the enemy. Choose where you are going to attack that gives you the best terrain cover. You know going into this attack that the Russians are going to have plenty of firepower. You will need to be able to use smoke and off map artillery fire for suppression of as many of the AT assets as you can. The German tanks will have to carry some of the infantry to allow it to move as quickly as possible across the dead zone. Moving quickly will help to keep the armor from getting killed too if it can get to cover in 15 seconds or less.

Mad dashes work well in the game. Often the first shot will miss. Again, often the second vehicle gets killed.

Move your infantry forward in rushes. Have them "run" for 50 meters and then hide. Let them rest and do it again. Anybody that is suppressed stays behind until they can run again. Tanks move forward as far as the enemy AT assets will

allow. Then they pound the defenders.

Give the defenders too many targets and most of them will get to the attack jump off point. Keep your infantry forces scattered as much as possible. That is hard to do since you need to have a concentration of firepower to assault the position when you get there. Do the best you can.

T-34's will be a problem. In most scenarios they will have canister and can stop an infantry attack by themselves. German armor must take out any Russian tanks that show up. German engineers may need to breach the minefields but maybe not. It depends on the situation. If you need to go FAST then just go through them. If you have the time then breach them.

While just moving through mines causes casualties so does giving the defender time to react to your choice of attack location. As the commander on site it is your call which is best at the time.

The only hard and fast rule with drills, is that, there are no hard and fast rules with drills. Do whatever the enemy isn't expecting you to do. That will win you more games than doing the drill right every time and getting chopped to doll rags, because, the other guy didn't play by the same rules this time.

Any indirect fire on AT guns will be worth it's weight in gold. Preferably before you expose your armor to his AT guns.

This will be a bloody engagement because it will involve heavy forces in the open. Expect a tough and bloody fight.

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I don't buy any of your "established maxims of war" - which in fact apply to a far higher scale than CM tactical. It is simply the advice to use a large echelon unit to fight a smaller one.

In reality, if you have one company of infantry and he has one company of infantry, and then oh yeah you also have a company of tanks or anything approaching it, you can annihilate him for trivial losses if you know what you are doing. That is the whole point of saying armor is a decisive arm, that steppe is good tank country. It is why operational models give giant force multipliers or combined arms effects to armor in the open.

No, you do not need to get a company killed to kill a company, even attacking, even in open ground. Attackers bring more firepower to a tactical fight precisely in the expectation of devouring the chosen portion of the enemy force in a lopsided, unfair, we have all the high cards, bug on a windshield mass murder. And anybody who thinks otherwise is not setting his sights remotely high enough.

Attackers regular inflict losses up to 10 to 1 against the inferior forces they hit - defender eliminated, attacker intact. That is the whole point. A massed attacker's spearhead needs to be able to fight enemies in sequence and obliterate lesser ones without even noticing, itself. And therefore be able to string a series of those together, to inflict massive damage on the enemy force structure. If you have a company of armor in open steppe and he has none, no ATGs to speak of even, then you can, should, need to murder him. Without him laying a glove on you.

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