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Red Army Tank Tactics

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    • Ah, thanks. The difference accounts for density of force in the spatial distance in a sector and the reinforcement from depth. If both the tanks and SAU are on line with the 40-50m space between vehicles the sector width would be broader lessening the density for a breakthrough attack. Second, the mission of the SAU to reinforce where tanks need supporting fire requires a flexibility to move laterally for such support. The same would be true of using the SAU to deal with counterattacking enemy tanks from the flank during the penetration. The echelon gives the attacking armored group density and flexibility.

      Such a structure and placement in the offensive force reminds me of the similar structure of the offense in America football. The offense every player has specific instructions for blocking, running and pass patterns. The defense which must react to the offense's inherent initiative does not plan to detailed move, but considers contingencies based on the offense's action. Linebackers move laterally to tackle penetrations of the defensive line or drop back for short, quick pass defense, defensive backs run to close down runs or cover against passes, defensive line shed offensive blocks to rush a passer close the planned gap for an offensive runner.

      I think, the Red Army structure for managing the density of forces in a breakthrough sector was very artful.
      Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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      • "The actions of DIS tanks in a breakthrough of enemy defenses were characterized by successive, methodical attacking from line to line since they had to correspond the tempo of their advance with the advance on foot by rifle subunits which they supported. Because of this the overall momentum of the infantry and DIS tank advance in breaching the main defensive zone usually was not more than 1.5 to 2 km per hour. However, the assault of specific objectives always was done quickly with compulsory firing on the move. Attacking the main line of resistance was accomplished in those battle formations in which the tanks were at the starting positions or at the deployment line. Changing of the battle formations during the attack was not permitted.

        "The advance of tanks and infantry to a 1.5-2.5 km depth was, as a rule, supported by a moving barrage and farther, by a rolling barrage and air strike."

        The tanks priority was destroying various targets in the enemy defenses while in continuous visual and fire support communications with the infantry. Losik notes, "only under conditions of weak enemy antitank fire could the tanks use their mobility for quickly going deep into the enemy defenses. However, in this case also it was still the tanks' primary mission to destroy enemy personnel and firepower that was interfering with the infantry's advance. During an engagement deep in the enemy's defense, the DIS tanks main tasks were to repel enemy counterattacks and destroy his approaching reserves, to prevent enemy artillery from moving to new positions and to pursue them."

        Other uses of DIS tanks were in repelling enemy tank counterattacks. "In this case, it turned out to be most beneficial to meet enemy tanks with stationary tank and self-propelled artillery fire from behind cover and then with a decisive attack complete the defeat of the disorganized enemy."

        "In instances when the enemy offered light resistance or began to pull back, the tanks were supposed to attack decisively and pursue without waiting for the infantry."

        To be cont'd
        Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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        • "The actions of DIS tanks in a breakthrough of enemy defenses were characterized by successive, methodical attacking from line to line since they had to correspond the tempo of their advance with the advance on foot by rifle subunits which they supported. Because of this the overall momentum of the infantry and DIS tank advance in breaching the main defensive zone usually was not more than 1.5 to 2 km per hour. However, the assault of specific objectives always was done quickly with compulsory firing on the move. Attacking the main line of resistance was accomplished in those battle formations in which the tanks were at the starting positions or at the deployment line. Changing of the battle formations during the attack was not permitted.

          "The advance of tanks and infantry to a 1.5-2.5 km depth was, as a rule, supported by a moving barrage and farther, by a rolling barrage and air strike."

          The tanks priority was destroying various targets in the enemy defenses while in continuous visual and fire support communications with the infantry. Losik notes, "only under conditions of weak enemy antitank fire could the tanks use their mobility for quickly going deep into the enemy defenses. However, in this case also it was still the tanks' primary mission to destroy enemy personnel and firepower that was interfering with the infantry's advance. During an engagement deep in the enemy's defense, the DIS tanks main tasks were to repel enemy counterattacks and destroy his approaching reserves, to prevent enemy artillery from moving to new positions and to pursue them."

          Other uses of DIS tanks were in repelling enemy tank counterattacks. "In this case, it turned out to be most beneficial to meet enemy tanks with stationary tank and self-propelled artillery fire from behind cover and then with a decisive attack complete the defeat of the disorganized enemy."

          "In instances when the enemy offered light resistance or began to pull back, the tanks were supposed to attack decisively and pursue without waiting for the infantry."

          TBC
          Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 28 Jan 19, 11:28.
          Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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          • As far as I can see this text mostly repeats theses from the 1944 manual. Worth to note that it is assumed that "tanks forward" formation is normally used even when attacking strongly organized positions. That would usually mean a high level of losses inflicted by mines or anti-tank weapons, which was apparently accepted as necessary price to pay.

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
              As far as I can see this text mostly repeats theses from the 1944 manual. Worth to note that it is assumed that "tanks forward" formation is normally used even when attacking strongly organized positions. That would usually mean a high level of losses inflicted by mines or anti-tank weapons, which was apparently accepted as necessary price to pay.
              I don't know when the next manual came out for Soviet armored forces, but it probably was after the end of WWII. From 1944 to May '45, Red Army was increasing dealing with a greater density and size in towns and cities, thus increasing urban warfare. During the Belorussian offensive, Rotmistrov had allowed a mech corps to become ensnarled in a large city fight, when the tank army was in an exploitation mode. At the tactical level, Red Army tankers were using bedsprings as a stand-off armor protection against the new panzerfaust. There could have both other improvisations in tactics to deal with this greater frequency of urban terrain.
              Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

              Comment


              • Losik concludes, "Combat experience confirmed the fundamental correctness of our prewar views on using tanks in an offensive. As it is known, the basis of these views is the recognition of the fact that in the ground forces it is necessary to have not only large tank formations, designed for independent operations at an operational depth, but also tank units and subunits for direct infantry support during breakthrough of a deliberate defense."

                He gives data to show the evolution of this density approach through the war based on experience. "The density of direct infantry support tanks and SAU in the breakthrough sectors of the rifle divisions in 1942-1943 was 10-15, in 1944, 20-25 and in 1945, 30-40 per frontage kilometer. In certain rifle divisions of the rifle corps of the 1st Belorussian Front [Zhukov's Front] that attacked on the main strike axes in the Berlin operation, the density of tanks and SAU reached more than 50-60 in a one-kilometer breakthrough sector of the division.

                "War experience showed that a DIS tank and SAU density of about 30-40, as a rule, turned out to be insufficient for breaking through at a high momentum the deeply echeloned defenses of the German troops. By virtue of this, it became necessary to draw on part of the tanks from the composition of mobile groups of the armies and fronts to complete the breakthrough of the enemy tactical defenses. That is how it was in the majority of the operations." [Those forces from the mobile groups of the armies and fronts usually came in the form of forward detachments for the tank corps or tank armies.]
                Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                • When Losik gets to his chapter on Use of Separate Tank (Mech) Corps and Tank Armies For Exploitation of Success in Offensive Operations, he begins discussing the move from the early mech corps to the separate tank corps which in part talks to Emtos' question in a previous post.

                  By the start of the war on the eastern front, the Soviet Union had 29 mech corps. Losik notes the methods for committing and controlling the mech corps to the breakthrough had not been worked out. While the theory was fundamentally correct for using tanks in combat, it was not fully implemented in troop combat training. He also observes, "The main mass of young command personnel were unable to master this theory before the war began."

                  He also identifies the unfavorable conditions for fighting at the beginning of the war which "did not permit us to verify in practice the basic provisions of the theory of conducting offensive operations in the first battles. During the first six months the Soviet Armed Forces were forced to conduct a strategic defense."

                  The counteroffensive around Moscow in early December 1941 was the first major offensive in the war for the Soviets. Although the counteroffensive stopped and pushed back the enemy battle groups, Losik writes, "it did not succeed in completely destroying the German "Center" group of armies. One of the main reasons for this was the overall shortage of men and equipment in the Soviet troops of large armored formations that they did not succeed in exploiting the success and surrounding the main enemy groups, as was envisioned by the operation plan."


                  TBC
                  Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                  Comment


                  • By the beginning of the Moscow counteroffensive, there were 18 separate tank brigades and 19 separate tank battalions operating in the Kalinin, Western and Southwestern Fronts. The mech corps were gone and the rest were tank divisions in name only. In the counteroffensive, tank units could carry out tactical missions and then only in close cooperation with rifle troops. The need for the greater capability of using massed tanks led to some army commanders creating an improvised mobile group which included tank, rifle and cavalry units. Losik cites, for an example, "the 30th Army mobile group was made up of the 8th and 21st Tank Brigades, the 46th Motorcycle Regiment and the 145th Separate Tank Battalion. Overall control of this group rested on the commander of the 8th Tank Brigade, P.A. Rotmistrov."*

                    He gives another example in the 16th Army which created two mobile groups: first, composed of a tank bde, cavalry division and a rifle brigades; and, the second consisted of two tank bdes, rifle bde, and separate tank battalion under the command of the commander of the 1st Gds Tk Bde, General M.E. Katukov.*

                    Analysis of this combat experience in the counteroffensive "showed the necessity and expediency of massing tanks on the main strike axes, of organizing close cooperation of tanks with other service arms and of using tanks not only for direct infantry support but also for deep independent operations. In the final analysis, it became clear that successful offensive operations at a great depth and at high momentum were impossible without the presence of large tank formations in the advancing forces."

                    *The background and wartime record of these two commanders who rose to be tank army commanders can be found in the book, "Red Army Tank Commanders: The Armored Guards".

                    TBC
                    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                    • Rick I will definitely be buying your book asap. I would like to point out a few problems the Red Army had, and were in the process of trying to work them out when the Germans attacked them.

                      As an example, Southwestern Front had 5 mechanized corps near the border on 22 June. The VIII commanded by Lt. Gen D.I. Ryabyshev was outfitted with the most new T-34 tanks, about 100 operational.
                      The 4 other corps had some T-34's but the majority were the obsolete T-26, T-28, and BT-7. They also had a small amount of heavy tanks spread out throughout the corps consisting of KV-I and 2, and T-35. Lastly, some of the units had the ubiquitous T-38 amphibious reconnaissance tanks (useless). Many of these tanks were also not operational at the time and there were no spare parts on hand to fix any that experienced mechanical breakdowns.

                      Breakdown of tank numbers Southwestern Front:

                      KV - x 265

                      T - 35 x 44

                      BA - 20 x 365

                      T - 34 x 496

                      T - 28 x 195

                      BT - x 1,486

                      T - 40 x 88

                      T - 26 x 1,962

                      BA - 10 x 749

                      Total x 5,650

                      These totals were on paper only and all of the corps did not have their allotted numbers. Many that they did have were not operational and many broke down during the first week of the invasion.

                      The 5 corps did not have an adequate logistical supply to keep these tanks functional. This was due to a shortage of supply vehicles. The vehicles supporting the tanks were often un-operational themselves. Many broke down and during the first week.

                      It must also be pointed out that the Luftwaffe targeted not just the front line combatants but rear area supply as well.

                      Another problem was the shortage of adequate vehicles to tow artillery and anti - tank guns. In many instances they could not be brought up to the combat areas, which were fluid and consistently shifting.

                      Lack of communications between the corps and their divisions and also corps to corps was terrible. Many orders were received late or not at all. If, during the course of operations, the circumstances required a change or alteration of the original planned orders, these were late and sometimes never received.

                      German AGS had less the 1,000 tanks compared to approximately 4,000 operational Red Army tanks, which, by looking at these numbers, would make one think it would lead one to believe the Soviets should have repelled the Germans on the Southwest Front before they reached Kiev. All of the reasons above explain why they did not.

                      Of note on the Southwest front the Red Air Force was able, with medium bombers, to help slow down the Germans advance. This is contrary to what many believe. True the Germans destroyed hundreds of aircraft on the ground during the first few days and had control of the skies but brave Soviet pilots were flying in from airfields further into the interior and carrying out their missions. The majority of these bombers were shot down by the faster German BF-109's but they did succeed in disrupting German operations.
                      Theo mir ist die munition ausgegangen ich werde diesen ramman auf wiedersehen uns in walhalla

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                      • Thanks for the posting, the VIII Mech Corps was relatively one of the better performances.

                        A lot of shortcomings in the Red Army's use of mech corps when they moved into Poland to claim territory. Generally, the Soviet 5-year Plan was behind in the production of the new medium and heavy tanks. Their fielding was spread thin and late, inhibiting such things as drivers' training, range firing, and field exercises. They were no where near the German panzer experiences from Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, and the Balkans. These aspects of unpreparedness have all become conventional wisdom on the state of the Mech corps when Barbarossa began.

                        Glantz did an early study for his 1987 Symposium on The Initial Period of War on the Eastern Front which he published in symposium notes and later published a book by the same title with Cass publishers in 1993.

                        In my collection of articles titled, Red Army Legacies: essays on Forces, Capabilities, and Personalies, published by Schiffer in 1995, the article, Popel:The Fighting Commissar, I used extensively Ryabychev's and Popel's memoirs to reconstruct the VIII Mech Corps experience in the opening days of the war.

                        Additionally, in 2005, Yevgenii Drig published his book, "Mekhanizirovannye korpusa RKKA v boyu (RKKA Mechanized Corps in Combat) 1940-41. [I don't think it has been published in English. And no sure if it is available in Russian on-line and can be retreived through a on-line translation.)
                        Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 31 Jan 19, 14:26.
                        Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                        Comment


                        • The increase in tank production and training of tank crewmen allowed by spring 1942 creation of the tank corps. In May 1942, Losik cites from "Soviet Tank Forces 1941-1945", "There were 25 tank corps and 114 separate tank brigades in the tank troops. Six tank corps were included in the tank armies."

                          Newly created tank corps were used in the Southwestern Front's Kharkov offensive in May 1942. The Front had two tank corps (21st and 23rd), 13 separate tank brigades and 4 separate tank battalions for a total of 925 tanks.

                          The tank brigades and battalions were intended for direct infantry support and the tank corps were to operate as mobile groups. The planned use of the tank corps was essentially a prewar concept in which the tank corps, after the infantry's breakthrough of the entire depth of the enemy tactical defense by the third day of the operation were to engage and defeat enemy's tactical reserves and press the a deep attack surrounding the enemy.

                          The offensive began on May 12. During the first two days the Soviet troops advanced 25-30 kilometers, and by the end of the third day, enemy resistance began to weaken and favorable conditions were created for introducing the tank corps into the battle. However, the Front command abandoned its original plan of introducing the corps on the third day of the operations and designated a new commitment line which was 15 kilometers deeper.
                          Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                          • The decision not to introduce the tank corps into the battle during the first three days of the operation and repeated changes in the deadlines for their commitment adversely affected the future course of combat actions. It made possible for the enemy to regroup its troops, bring up reserves, organize a defense on intermediate lines and finish preparations for inflicting a counterstrike to the flanks of the advancing troops.

                            On the morning of the sixth day of operation (instead of the third), the tank corps were committed to the battle at a depth of 25-30 kilometers. The late commitment of the tank corps resulted in the fact that immediately after commitment they were forced to overcome enemy resistance, having allowed him to organize a deep defense.

                            By the end of May 17, than tank corps advanced 10-15 km, but could not break away from the infantry units. The following day the tank corps attack was halted since they received orders to switch to a new direction to repel a German counterstrike. Both corps were used in a decentralized manner in defensive engagements.

                            Losik concludes, the main shortcoming in the use of the tank corps was the late commitment to battle due to the slow momentum of breakthrough the enemy defense. The element of surprise was lost; the enemy brought up reserves, regrouped and occupied rear defensive lines. The momentum of the tank corps advance slowed to 10-15 km per day. Artillery and air support operations were not organized. The overall shortcomings in organization of the Front's offensive precluded the tank corps from achieving any major operational results.

                            TBC
                            Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                            • http://tankfront.ru/ussr/doc/nko/pri...1945_0013.html

                              NKO order about the creation of tank and motorized divisions. I wonder why it wasn't done during the war.
                              There are no Nazis in Ukraine. Idiots

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                              • "Renaming" would be a better word than "creation". They renamed tank and mechanized corps as "divisions" and former brigades as "regiments" without drastic changes in organization. There were some lesser scale changes which were long overdue like introduction of howitzer artillery and divisional motor transport battalions.

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