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  • Artillery Delivered Smoke

    I'm working on a game design (How to Make War, www.armchairbrigade.org/MechWar) and most of the game mechanics are working pretty well now.

    But one problem that I've struggled with from the beginning is artillery delivered smoke. Specifically, it's too powerful. It dominates the battlefield rendering ranged weapons such as tanks impotent.

    The problem is that, on the one hand, the game design seems to match up with capabilities but, on the other hand, the results seem inconsistent with what I've read.

    You can see a typical outcome here: http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...39#post1443239

    In this case, a Soviet battalion (1973), part of an advancing Soviet regiment, is able to use smoke to assault each woods after the next never exposing itslef to tank fire until, at last, it dismounts infantry, again under smoke, to close assault the blinded tanks.

    The artillery firing smoke is exposed to counter-battery fire but that is not very effective against armored artillery. And there is ammo limitation but, by my calculation, enough to accomplish the job. (And, besides, if smoke so effective, why not carry more smoke and less HE?)

    I also assume that two guns (in this case, 2S1) can lay enough smoke to obscure 200 meters for the duration of the barrage. According to some sources, that's an underestimate.

    Thermal imaging can peer through smoke but that's not available in 1973 and, besides, some newer smoke block thermal imaging. Smoke wasn't used so extensively in the Yom Kippur war but, according to one source, the Golan was too windy for effective smoke. That wouldn't be the case in Europe, generally.

    So...is artillery delivered smoke the unrecognized super-weapon of the modern battlefield or is there something wrong with my analysis or game mechanics?

  • #2
    Are you allowing for weather. Wind, & to a lesser extent rain reduces the effect of smoke.

    Second is the type of smoke ammo. We had the WP in our battery load, which was used for emergency smoke missions. It created a smoke screen very rapidly, but quickly burned out, after a minute or two. The Hexachloride (HC) based smoke ammo took longer to build up a screen, & it lasted longer. The HC was carried further back in the ammo trains & distributed only for planned smoke missions.

    For sustained smokescreen the engineers were frequently the deploying unit, vs the artillery.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
      Are you allowing for weather. Wind, & to a lesser extent rain reduces the effect of smoke.
      In a very simple way: if it's high winds or rain, no smoke. But obviously in clear weather smoke this remains an issue.

      Second is the type of smoke ammo. We had the WP in our battery load, which was used for emergency smoke missions. It created a smoke screen very rapidly, but quickly burned out, after a minute or two. The Hexachloride (HC) based smoke ammo took longer to build up a screen, & it lasted longer. The HC was carried further back in the ammo trains & distributed only for planned smoke missions.
      I haven't distinguished types of smoke (other than those that block thermal and those that don't).

      Could you give some rough numbers on the above? How long does HC take to build up a screen?

      In the case of WP, if it lasts two minutes you just need to fire a volley every two minutes, right?

      For sustained smokescreen the engineers were frequently the deploying unit, vs the artillery.
      I have read about vehicle smoke generators. What is the limitation of artillery smoke that would lead to this? How do you use vehicle smoke genertors on an attack?

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      • #4
        Also note that WP develops a taller/narrower smoke screen and has a pronounced incendiary effect.
        If you can't set a good example, be a glaring warning.

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        • #5
          Are you factoring in Counter battery fires? If a Gun unit is sitting there chucking down large volumes of smoke for long periods its going to get spanked.

          How about logistics for dealing with smoke. When you only have a dozen rounds, suddenly it becomes more of a trick of when to use it.
          Winnie says
          ---------------------------------
          "He fell out of a Gestapo car, over a bridge, and onto a railway line. Then was run over by the Berlin Express.

          It was an Accident."
          Herr Flick.

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          • #6
            It is just nice to see someone try to get accuracy built into a game vice arcade style action.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Freightshaker View Post
              Also note that WP develops a taller/narrower smoke screen and has a pronounced incendiary effect.
              On the first point, what would you say is the effective height of WP and/or HC?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Listy View Post
                Are you factoring in Counter battery fires? If a Gun unit is sitting there chucking down large volumes of smoke for long periods its going to get spanked.
                I do represent counter battery fire but this is another problem: it seems that even armored artillery is more affraid of counter-battery fire than the game system justifies.

                (Currently, I model artillery effects on lightly armored as 1/3 as effective as unarmored and/or dismounted leg and heavy armor as 1/6 unarmored. Artillery is generally lightly armored so it's not easy to kill.)

                How about logistics for dealing with smoke. When you only have a dozen rounds, suddenly it becomes more of a trick of when to use it.
                But this begs the question: why don't artillery load up on smoke? There must be some limitation I'm not representing in the game. (Unless it's very expensive?)

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by ipser View Post
                  But this begs the question: why don't artillery load up on smoke? There must be some limitation I'm not representing in the game. (Unless it's very expensive?)
                  Yes the limitation is the amount of space and weight you have to carry ammo. while it'd be nice to have 4,000 rounds of ready ammo per gun, it is not practical.
                  Winnie says
                  ---------------------------------
                  "He fell out of a Gestapo car, over a bridge, and onto a railway line. Then was run over by the Berlin Express.

                  It was an Accident."
                  Herr Flick.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ipser View Post
                    On the first point, what would you say is the effective height of WP and/or HC?
                    WP - 50'-60'
                    HC - 10'-20'

                    Originally posted by ipser View Post
                    But this begs the question: why don't artillery load up on smoke? There must be some limitation I'm not representing in the game. (Unless it's very expensive?)
                    Smoke is generally handled by mortar units or generators. Artillery ammo is too bulky to stockpile and still maintain mobility and smoke ammo just adds to it.

                    Artillery smoke rounds are better used as spotting rounds rather than for FFE missions, IMO.
                    If you can't set a good example, be a glaring warning.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The most common problem I recall is wind. Even light winds can cut the effective duration of a smoke volley. Drift also causes the cloud to become either ineffective or potentially to block the LOS of the units supporting the attack.
                      HE does permanent damage. For prep fires and targets behind the line of contact smoke isn't that helpful. When loading up on ammo, the unit has to consider what will be most useful ammo for the widest variety of expected missions. This was less a problem for the Soviets as they had a very narrowly defined mission profile and knew where they'd be fighting. They were also proponents of multiple rocket launchers which provided a low cost means of rapidly establishing large dense smoke screens.

                      The Soviets also included engine smoke generators on most frontline AFVs. The intent was to allow the leading units to screen the movement of the larger formation. Also very useful in deception as the defender would have trouble distinguishing the main attack from supporting attacks and feints until it was too late.

                      Smoke works both ways. It conceals your attack but can also conceal the defender's counter attack. The more mobile the fight, the harder it is to put the smoke where you need it. It also slows and disorients the units moving through it, just like fog. So attacking through smoke is a bit slower as you've litterally added to the 'fog-of-war'.

                      We used smoke generators once or twice during large scale exercises. The jeep mounted version was able to infiltrate to an up-wind postion and release heavy fog oil smoke that drifted across the area to be screened. One commander used it to screen his bridging site and it seemed to be pretty effective. Very dependent on local conditions however.

                      US defensive tactics in 1973 were too static and vulnerable to Soviet assault doctrine IMO. Air-Land battle doctrine was intended to restore mobility, depth, and initiative to the defense. Stabilized guns, thermal sights, attack helicopters, and battle field sensors each allow some means to mitigate the effects of smoke.

                      For 1973, your simulation may not be that far off. The US commander may have few options. If he's prepared a defense in depth, he could pull back to the next position, attempt to attack into the enemy's flanks, or both. If his scouts can operate on the flanks they might be able to see behind the smoke and tell him what's going on. If he has enough artillery, he might trust to his defensive fires and try to maintain his infantry line as a pivot for a local counter attack.
                      Last edited by GCoyote; 23 Mar 10, 08:26.
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                      • #12
                        Are you giving any penalties to units moving through smoke? How does height effect the smoke? Ie. can units on higher ground see 'through' it?

                        We used smoke all the time. Never from artillery(but then again, the only artillery I ever saw fired were some coastal guns). And as said, it works both ways, much easier to break off when there is a thick smokescreen.
                        Wisdom is personal

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Listy View Post
                          Yes the limitation is the amount of space and weight you have to carry ammo. while it'd be nice to have 4,000 rounds of ready ammo per gun, it is not practical.
                          Right, but given the seeming effectiveness of artillery delivered smoke to neutralize enemy armor I'd proably carry half smoke, half HE (depending on what I expected to meet that day), not mostly HE and a few smoke. HE for infantry and guns, smoke for armored vehicles.

                          The fact that artillery carry relatively few smoke is just one more indication that I'm not modeling smoke correctly, that it's too powerful in my game system.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Freightshaker View Post
                            WP - 50'-60'
                            HC - 10'-20'
                            Ok, thanks! (That's considerably less than most games indicate. Each height level in my game is 20 meters so giving both one height level would be generous to HC.

                            What about above that? Does it partially obscure or just dissipate entirely? If, for example, I lay a barage of smoke between advancing BMPs and enemy armor up on a hill, does the smoke have any effect if the LOS passes above 20 meters over the ground where the smoke fell?

                            This one fact alone could make a huge difference because my impression, borrowing from onther game systems, was that artillery delivered smoke could block LOS up to a height of 10 levels or 200 meters! That makes it very effecitve as a LOS wall.

                            Smoke is generally handled by mortar units or generators. Artillery ammo is too bulky to stockpile and still maintain mobility and smoke ammo just adds to it.
                            Ok, but what I'm trying to figure out is why for a given alotment of ammo, more smoke is not carried (and less HE). It must be that smoke is not as effective in real life as it is in my game system.

                            Artillery smoke rounds are better used as spotting rounds rather than for FFE missions, IMO.
                            Well, obviously not for killing things but for blocking LOS, they seem rather powerful. If a tank is blinded by smoke or blocked by a wall of smoke it's neutralized, if only for the moment.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Karri View Post
                              Are you giving any penalties to units moving through smoke?
                              Yea, movement penalty (slower to move through smoke).

                              How does height effect the smoke? Ie. can units on higher ground see 'through' it?
                              Apparently I did have this wrong (see above) and this is very significant for anything but flat terrain since long range weapons will tend to be situated on higher ground. They can still be blinded by placing the smoke directly on them but the tactic of creating a wall of smoke between advancing units and defending terrain won't work if the defneders are up higher than the intervening terrain.

                              We used smoke all the time. Never from artillery(but then again, the only artillery I ever saw fired were some coastal guns). And as said, it works both ways, much easier to break off when there is a thick smokescreen.
                              I'm including mortars as artillery for purposes of this dicussion (imprecise, I know) but there is also vehicle smoke (discharger or exhaust) that is (obviously) produced in the unit's hex. This is great for withdrawing but not for advancing.

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