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  • Red Army Tank Tactics

    While sifting through notes on another topic, I ran across a short note from an interview with General Hermann Balck by William Lind, in 1979 or '80. "General Balck was asked whether the Russian tanks ever used terrain in their attack against him in WWII. He replied that they had used terrain on occasion, but that they more often used speed.

    The questioner followed up: "Which was harder to defend against?"

    Balck replied, "Speed".
    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

  • #2
    The Red Army tankers considered the way to kill a German Tiger tank was to make it move for a good probably of it breaking down mechanically.

    When reading the XXXXVIII PzK Ic (Intel) records during the Lvov-Sandomir Opn, July 1944, I remember a German radio intercept of a Soviet tank lt reporting they were in contact with three Tiger tanks and "we are handling them". I thought the report showed by the summer of 1944 there was a lot of poise and competency within the Red Army tank force.
    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
      The Red Army tankers considered the way to kill a German Tiger tank was to make it move for a good probably of it breaking down mechanically.

      When reading the XXXXVIII PzK Ic (Intel) records during the Lvov-Sandomir Opn, July 1944, I remember a German radio intercept of a Soviet tank lt reporting they were in contact with three Tiger tanks and "we are handling them". I thought the report showed by the summer of 1944 there was a lot of poise and competency within the Red Army tank force.
      While sifting through notes on another topic, I ran across a short note from an interview with General Hermann Balck by William Lind, in 1979 or '80. "General Balck was asked whether the Russian tanks ever used terrain in their attack against him in WWII. He replied that they had used terrain on occasion, but that they more often used speed.
      The questioner followed up: "Which was harder to defend against?"
      Balck replied, "Speed".

      After Kursk, which was one year before the Lvov Sandomir Operations conducted by Balck's 48th PzK, the Soviets vastly improved in the tank tactics field. At Kursk they were still guilty of committing serious tactical level mistakes and they did not have the T34/85 yet.



      Part 2

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      • #4
        Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
        While sifting through notes on another topic, I ran across a short note from an interview with General Hermann Balck by William Lind, in 1979 or '80. "General Balck was asked whether the Russian tanks ever used terrain in their attack against him in WWII. He replied that they had used terrain on occasion, but that they more often used speed.
        .
        Compare with theses of the 1944's tank forces manual:
        After entering the zone of effective fire of anti-tank weapons (1000-1200 meters) the tank platoon attacks enemy at maximal speed.
        ...
        Tank company starts attack by a signal of unit commander at highest speed that terrain conditions permit.
        but on the other hand
        The tank attacks at maximal speed neutralizing gun, mortar and machine guns crews, and enemy infantry with intensive fire, and skillfully maneuvering uses terrain folds to attack enemy weapons from flanks and read, avoiding frontal attacks.
        ...
        Attacking enemy at maximal speed the platoon maneuvers on the battlefield using terrains folds and cover for protection against anti-tank weapons and outflanking the enemy.
        You see a clear emphasize on the speed of attack, although using terrain cover was also stressed.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
          Compare with theses of the 1944's tank forces manual:

          but on the other hand


          You see a clear emphasize on the speed of attack, although using terrain cover was also stressed.
          I found a copy of of the Red Army's Combat Regulations for Tank and Mechanized Forces, 1944, in the German military files of the High Command of Forces, Foreign Armies East (Fremde Heere Ost) in the mid 1980's. Working with a translator, I edited and wrote an introduction to the manual and published it under the title, "Red Armor Combat Orders: Combat regulations For Tank and Mechanized Forces 1944", with Frank Cass Publisher in 1991.

          Finding advantage in a defiladed approach within the higher command direction was considered an area of initiative for the tactical commander.
          Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Kurt Knispel View Post




            After Kursk, which was one year before the Lvov Sandomir Operations conducted by Balck's 48th PzK, the Soviets vastly improved in the tank tactics field. At Kursk they were still guilty of committing serious tactical level mistakes and they did not have the T34/85 yet.



            Part 2

            I have long recognized in these forums the emphasis by posters in technology and technological improvements as the salient reason for advantage. The German drove all the way to Stalingrad with relatively inferior tanks. The new Panthers and Tigers at Kursk did not turn the tide. Tactics turns on a combination of good fighting weapons, training, integration in force structure (as noted in Artyom's post of the 54th TB after-action report), employment and, always in the end, leadership.
            Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 07 Nov 18, 07:11.
            Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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            • #7
              We cannot say that German tanks were inferior. They were better in reliability, communication and observation. We can hardly argue that Red Army would have much more trouble if T-34 in 1943-1945 were the same as in 1941-1942.
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              • #8
                Originally posted by Emtos View Post
                We cannot say that German tanks were inferior. They were better in reliability, communication and observation. We can hardly argue that Red Army would have much more trouble if T-34 in 1943-1945 were the same as in 1941-1942.
                Your point adds to the variables beyond firepower in a tank. Indeed they had communications to each tank which allowed for coordinating a 'wolf pack' for mobility kills as well as better command and control of a tank force on the move.
                Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                • #9
                  The T34-85 Model 1944 which supplanted the D-5T model of December 1943, began production in the spring of 1944--not sure how many of the T-34-85 were on hand at the Front and specifically in the Lvov-Sandomir operation. I have not seen a breakdown my tank type for the operation, perhaps Artyom may have found such a breakdown for the operation.
                  Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                  • #10
                    Regarding capabilities of the T-60 discussed in another topic. I've found an instruction on combat employment of T-60 issued by the South Front in March 1942
                    https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view/?id=450265881
                    Some curious points from it:
                    1. Principal advantages of the T-60 is its speed and maneuverability. Speed and small size are the best protection against enemy fire.
                    2. Cross-country mobility is limited, tanks have problem negotiating snow cover, marshes, rivers, ditches etc.
                    5.Thorough assessment of terrain is essential for making a battle plan. Usually the approach route where the tank can use the maximal possible speed is the best.
                    6. In attack tanks deliver fire both while moving and during short stops. Armor piercing ammo shouldn't be wasted against soft targets.
                    7. T-60s shouldn't stay standing for long exposed to artillery and mortar fire, for even shell splinters can penetrate their armor.
                    8. In case of failed attack t-60s should immediately retreat to starting positions or some or some cover from artillery and mortar fire.
                    9. Ramming enemy guns and vehicles with T-60 is absolutely prohibited.
                    10. On a difficult terrain one or two light/medium tanks should be given a task to extricate immobilized T-60s.
                    11. As a rule in attack T-60s can only be employed in the second line, with the first line composed of heavy/medium tanks. T-60s follow 300-400 meters behind the first line and engage enemy infantry and machine guns after anti-tank weapons are neutralized by the first line tanks. When enemy has an open flank T-60s can be used to attack it. In pursuit T-60 can be employed in the first line to fully utilize their speed. When meeting strongly organized defense they take positions behind heavy/medium tanks again.
                    12. In meeting engagement T-60 should be used like in pursuit to attack flanks and rear with fire support of heavy and medium tanks which are employed in the second line make a frontal attack.
                    13. In defense T-60s are employed for short counterattacks against infantry and machine gun. In front of the own forward line of resistance T-60 can only be employed in cooperation with heavy/medium tanks.
                    14. Special stress on cooperation with infantry and cavalry in pursuit.

                    There is also a curios recommendation to examine tanks any time it takes a strong shock from passing an obstacle.


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                    • #11
                      And a similar instruction from June 1942:
                      https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view/?id=454683512
                      The foreword admits that an adverse impression regarding T-60 was made during the winter when a deep snow seriously limited its mobility. However, this tank can be effective when employed in accordance with its technical capabilities.
                      T-60 can be employed
                      1. for reconnaissance
                      2. for security
                      3. In offesnive combat:
                      1) in the second of third line behind heavy and medium tanks
                      2) in close cooperation with infantry of the motorized rifle battalions
                      3) in pursuit.
                      When meeting enemy tanks T-60 should open fire from covered positions against their rear or guns. When no natural cover is available T-60 should use their speed to outflank enemy tanks and open fire against their side and rear.
                      4.In defensive combat:
                      a) for fire from ambush and masked positions.
                      b) for counterattacks in cooperation with tanks of other types against enemy tanks or infantry against enemy infantry.
                      In reconnaissance and meeting engagements T-60 are employed in the same way as in offesnive combat.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
                        While sifting through notes on another topic, I ran across a short note from an interview with General Hermann Balck by William Lind, in 1979 or '80. "General Balck was asked whether the Russian tanks ever used terrain in their attack against him in WWII. He replied that they had used terrain on occasion, but that they more often used speed.

                        The questioner followed up: "Which was harder to defend against?"

                        Balck replied, "Speed".
                        If you are using terrain, you are invariably the defender, not an attacker, and thus have given up initiative. Speed implies shock, at least in intent.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post

                          If you are using terrain, you are invariably the defender, not an attacker, and thus have given up initiative. Speed implies shock, at least in intent.
                          Sometimes the attacker will choose an avenue of approach to facilitates speed as noted at point #5, Artyom's post #10. Sometimes an attacker will want terrain, such as hills or defilades to have cover from direct fire on the avenues of approach as close as possible to the forward edge of the defense. Other times the attacker may want vegetation or terrain relief to conceal avenues of attack. Populations centers/built up areas become a terrain factor for avenues of approach and sectors of the attack. Terrain obstacles, such as water, swamp, impassable elevation can be used by the attacker to secure/protect a flank and preclude a surprise counterattack. Attackers would select sections of rivers and other water obstacles where bridging and crossing could be done most quickly.** The conditions of roads or lack of roads would shape an the decision of the attacker's avenues of approach. The type of buildings in buildup areas would be considered by the attacker in terms of mobility and defensive factors, types of building rubble differently either blocking completely or partially roadways through villages,, towns, cities,industrial areas.....

                          The consideration of enemy, weather and terrain were always the main factors for military intelligence to provide the commander and staff in the defense and the attack.

                          **Such factors as depth, width, and velocity of water flow would be of great interest to an attacking force.
                          Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 08 Nov 18, 18:57.
                          Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post

                            Sometimes the attacker will choose an avenue of approach to facilitates speed as noted at point #5, Artyom's post #10. Sometimes an attacker will want terrain, such as hills or defilades to have cover from direct fire on the avenues of approach as close as possible to the forward edge of the defense. Other times the attacker may want vegetation or terrain relief to conceal avenues of attack. Populations centers/built up areas become a terrain factor avenues of approach and sectors of the attack. Terrain obstacles, such as water, swamp, impassable elevation can be used by the attacker to secure/protect a flank and preclude a surprise counterattack. Attackers would select sections of rivers and other water obstacles where bridging and crossing could be done most quickly.** The conditions of roads or lack of roads would shape an the decision of the attacker's avenues of approach. The type of buildings in buildup areas would be considered by the attacker in terms of mobility and defensive factors, types of building rubble differently either blocking completely or partially roadways through villages,, towns, cities,industrial areas.....

                            The consideration of enemy, weather and terrain were always the main factors for military intelligence to provide the commander and staff in the defense and the attack.

                            **Such factors as depth, width, and velocity of water flow would be of great interest to an attacking force.
                            Great post.

                            I think many believe tactical speed is the same as an operational speed.

                            The Wehrmacht invasion of the USSR was mainly on foot and horse.


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                            Global Warming & Climate Change Myths: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post

                              I think many believe tactical speed is the same as an operational speed.
                              There is a significant difference between tactical and operational levels in indices, particularly scope, depth and duration. Back in the late 1980's when reworking an operational-level intelligence estimate on a Soviet main attack in northern W. Germany, we had a planning assumption that once the Soviets penetrated the tactical defense into the operational depth they could achieve an operational-level initiative by merely keeping their gas pedals to the metal. In essence, they could seal the US forces from the seaports and trap it against the Alps.

                              The key for speed of the advance, hence initiative, in the operational depth was sustainment, in force strength and logistics, for greater depth and duration. We took a cue from the Soviet military literature on WWII eastern front in which they studied their offensive operational-level offensive operations in Belorussia, Lvov-Sandomir and, especially, the Vistula-Oder since these operations were in areas that had more population centers and terrain features like western Europe.
                              Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 09 Nov 18, 07:19.
                              Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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