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Red Army Tank Tactics

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  • And notes on experience of the 15 Tank Brigade (January-February 42), since it was already mentioned above:

    - our doctrine concerning planning and coordination of different arms is completely sound. There is no need to invent anything else, one just have to follow this doctrine. The usual problem is late receipt of orders and lack of time.
    - recommended battle formations and attack methods. Infantry should advance to close distance from attack objective in the nighttime. At dawn KV tanks are sent as a bait to probe hostile defense and anti-tank guns. Other tanks and anti-tank guns wait in defiladed or camouflaged position. Tanks knock out all hostile weapons which disclosed themselves from static positions, then an attack follows. Usually one tanks battalion and a motor rifle battalion made a first echelon, another tank battalion – a second echelon. Usual battle formations of tank companies, platoons is a line.
    - jump-off positions are usually occupied at night. As rule deployment of tanks cannot be concealed. In the daytime there is no need to stay at jump-off positions, only a short halt is needed
    - own infantry needs tanks support to repulse hostile tanks attacks. Without tanks or anti-tank guns it retreats in disarray. There are no snipers, the use of infantry weapons is insufficient. Tank attacks normally started when own infantry was stopped in the zone swept by automatic weapons (500-600 meters from hostile positions). It can pass this zone only with support of tanks, artillery and mortar fire and only with heavy losses.
    - pursuit after successful attacks was never employed. Reason: lack of initiative and aggressiveness.
    - experience confirmed that KV tanks are not needed, at least in the southern area of the front. They are expensive and unreliable, lack maneuverability. We need T-34 with minor improvements.
    - defense against hostile tank without own tanks attacks lacks firmness. Reasons: lack of anti-tank guns. Anti-tank rifles proved to have very limited effect.
    - tank ambushes proved effective, yet tank crews open fire from too long distances.
    - own tanks losses: most tank were lost to technical reasons (leakage of radiators of T-34 tanks). 5 T-34 with gasoline engines were burnt down by hollow-charge rounds. In two cases tanks cannons were incapacitated by hits to the barrel and mantlet. Of 3 KV tanks received by brigade two broke down before taking any part in combat. Recently manufactured tanks are of conspicuously inferior quality.
    - tank cannon fire is mostly delivered from static position. Ammunition load could be expended in two hours of intensive actions. Usual daily expenditure – 0.5 load of cannon ammo, 0.25-0.3 of machine gun ammo. Proportion and armor-piercing ammunition should be increased to 50%.
    - fire against attacking hostile tanks is spontaneous and uncontrolled. We’ve never seen a single case when hostile tanks endured own cannon fire. After receiving first rounds they turn back regardless of their strength
    - improvement of ammunition load or more space for cannon loader is needed. Now the rate of fire is limited by 4-6 rounds per minute in winter.
    - optical devices are good except the periscope sights which are inaccurate at ranges exceeding 800 meters. An armored hood for the periscope head with snow clearance device is needed. An observation cupola modeled after German tanks is desirable.
    - organization of command and control:
    a) 1-2 observation posts, each composed of a staff officer, 1-2 observers and telephones
    b) combat HQ (command post) at a distance enabling effective observation of the battlefield (2-5 kilometers). Composition: commander, commissar, chief of staff, operations officer, chief of communications, communications center, guards
    c) second echelon of HQ: chiefs of services, personnel officer at 5 kilometers ore more from the battlefield. Telephone communications with the command post are desirable.
    - horse transport for hauling supplies in winter seasons is needed.
    - most questions of tactical employment are extensively covered in the book “Tactics of tank troops” by captain Kusnetzov. Our battle experience confirms its soundness.
    https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view/?id=454917843

    Comment


    • Edited post.
      Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
      At dawn KV tanks are sent as a bait to probe hostile defense and anti-tank guns...........experience confirmed that KV tanks are not needed, at least in the southern area of the front. They are expensive and unreliable, lack maneuverability.
      KV's expendable as early as Jan 42? Or is their armour so good as to be able to take the hits?
      Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
      We’ve never seen a single case when hostile tanks endured own cannon fire. After receiving first rounds they turn back regardless of their strength
      Cowardly Germans, or using same successful tactics as against the British in N Africa?

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      • Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
        Edited post.
        KV's expendable as early as Jan 42? Or is their armour so good as to be able to take the hits?
        Cowardly Germans, or using same successful tactics as against the British in N Africa?
        Look upthread Nick. KV's were still being used 18 months after (at Kursk opposite 7th and 6th Guards plus 69th armies) the Soviet offensives of January/February 1942 which Art has been translating and posting last several of his posts.

        262nd Separate Heavy Tank Regiment deployed opposite Army Detachment Kempf (III PzK and K. Raus). 21 operational KV's.
        Theo mir ist die munition ausgegangen ich werde diesen ramman auf wiedersehen uns in walhalla

        Comment


        • Art, Your January/February Soviet offensive on the southern front is concerning the offensive that created the "Izium Salient" east of Kharkov?
          Theo mir ist die munition ausgegangen ich werde diesen ramman auf wiedersehen uns in walhalla

          Comment


          • Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
            Cowardly Germans, or using same successful tactics as against the British in N Africa?
            Not only against the British in N Africa, but the French superior tanks during the invasion of France. The panzer units with a lot of light tanks used what they called the "wolfpack attack". It required pulling back and moving to the flanks for indirect approaches to get a mobility kill against the enemy tank tracks or the more vulnerable engine compartment.

            Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

            Comment


            • Timoshenko and N. Khrushchev, with the backing of Stalin launch offensive with 6 armies 3 north and 3 south of Kharkov May 1942 employed 3 newly formed tank corps, the 21, 22 and 23. Each of these corps consisted of 3 tank brigades Counting the 9 tank brigades of these 3 corps the Soviets also had 12 separate tank brigades and 5 tank battalions with a total of 965 tanks. Of these 965 was 84 KV's, 255 T34, 57 BT, 33 T26, 322 T60,1 T40, 13 T 37/38, 22 MK II, and 11 MK III. (these models total 798 tanks of the shock groups with the balance (167) in reserve 59th Army.

              This operation (most often called the 2nd battle of Kharkov or the Soviet Kharkov offensive) turned out to be a complete disaster for the Red Army which lost 267,000 irrecoverable men and 652 tanks. In comparison, the Germans lost approximately 20,000 men - less the 1/10th of Soviet losses. As a result of these figures one can see that the Red Army still had immense problems with deploying large mobile forces in the Spring of 1942.

              Despite their vast supply of new weapons, the Soviet leaders proved as ineffective in 1942 as they had the previous summer. Poor staff work, lack of intelligence and reconnaissance, logistical problems, and hesitation cost them great losses after initial success in the first 3 days of the offensive.
              Theo mir ist die munition ausgegangen ich werde diesen ramman auf wiedersehen uns in walhalla

              Comment


              • Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post

                Not only against the British in N Africa, but the French superior tanks during the invasion of France. The panzer units with a lot of light tanks used what they called the "wolfpack attack". It required pulling back and moving to the flanks for indirect approaches to get a mobility kill against the enemy tank tracks or the more vulnerable engine compartment.
                Yes the Germans, at this time, were way ahead of the Soviets in tank vs tank tactics. But also their deployment of the 88mm flak guns as an anti tank weapon proved very effective against the frontal armor of the T34 from 1 - 2 thousand meters. At 2000 meters the APCBC shell could penetrate 72mm of armor. A later improved shell was capable of penetrating 88mm from the same distance. Penetration at 1000 meters was 95 and 106mm. I recently purchased a long out of print copy of "Panzer Tracts" published in 2001 and written by Thomas L Jentz titled "Dreaded Threat - The 8.8 CM Flak 18/36/37 In The Anti Tank Role". This 52 page magazine is a treasure trove of information on the German 88's.
                Theo mir ist die munition ausgegangen ich werde diesen ramman auf wiedersehen uns in walhalla

                Comment


                • Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
                  KV's expendable as early as Jan 42? Or is their armour so good as to be able to take the hits?
                  KV were relatively immune to most anti-tank weapons. Even knock-out or immobilized tanks could be covered after a successful attack.
                  Cowardly Germans, or using same successful tactics as against the British in N Africa?
                  The idea is that attacks were discontinued once effect of surprise was lost and possibility of a prolonged firefight on equal terms arose. Because KV and T34s were obviously superior in such firefights.

                  Both were typical observations which were repeated in other documents, albeit formulated in somewhat different words.

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
                    Sustaining an offensive operation was a major issue well into 1943. One of Zhukov's observations in his memoirs which hit the censorship's editing room floor was on the "supplied high-performance Studebaker trucks for the U.S. Lend-Lease program which was important to the motorization of Soviet artillery prior to the Kursk Battle" [This censored piece along with others came out in Zhukov's three-volume memoirs in 1992].
                    Studebaker or any other all-wheel drive trucks had the same ability to move in very deep snow as any Soviet truck. That is exactly zero. There were essentially two possible means to haul supplies or tow guns when roads were paralyzed by snowfalls:
                    - horse-drawn sleds
                    - tracked vehicles (tractors)
                    Both were used extensively to supply tank units in the winter of 1941/42.
                    At that point RA still had a considerable number of tractors from pre-war stocks, although it was dwindling due to losses and lack of spare parts.

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
                      KV were relatively immune to most anti-tank weapons. Even knock-out or immobilized tanks could be covered after a successful attack.

                      The idea is that attacks were discontinued once effect of surprise was lost and possibility of a prolonged firefight on equal terms arose. Because KV and T34s were obviously superior in such firefights.

                      Both were typical observations which were repeated in other documents, albeit formulated in somewhat different words.
                      I believe RN Armstrongs response was correct:
                      Not only against the British in N Africa, but the French superior tanks during the invasion of France. The panzer units with a lot of light tanks used what they called the "wolfpack attack". It required pulling back and moving to the flanks for indirect approaches to get a mobility kill against the enemy tank tracks or the more vulnerable engine compartment.
                      British I tanks were the equivalent of Soviet tanks in terms of protection, and numerous Panzer II's were not even tactically equal to a working cruiser. Early British armoured units in N Africa, often fell prey to such tactics due to a 'Huzzah' mentality of charging first, then thinking.
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                      • Originally posted by Kurt Knispel View Post
                        Timoshenko and N. Khrushchev, with the backing of Stalin launch offensive with 6 armies 3 north and 3 south of Kharkov May 1942 employed 3 newly formed tank corps, the 21, 22 and 23. Each of these corps consisted of 3 tank brigades Counting the 9 tank brigades of these 3 corps the Soviets also had 12 separate tank brigades and 5 tank battalions with a total of 965 tanks. Of these 965 was 84 KV's, 255 T34, 57 BT, 33 T26, 322 T60,1 T40, 13 T 37/38, 22 MK II, and 11 MK III. (these models total 798 tanks of the shock groups with the balance (167) in reserve 59th Army.

                        This operation (most often called the 2nd battle of Kharkov or the Soviet Kharkov offensive) turned out to be a complete disaster for the Red Army which lost 267,000 irrecoverable men and 652 tanks. In comparison, the Germans lost approximately 20,000 men - less the 1/10th of Soviet losses. As a result of these figures one can see that the Red Army still had immense problems with deploying large mobile forces in the Spring of 1942.

                        Despite their vast supply of new weapons, the Soviet leaders proved as ineffective in 1942 as they had the previous summer. Poor staff work, lack of intelligence and reconnaissance, logistical problems, and hesitation cost them great losses after initial success in the first 3 days of the offensive.
                        Remember the northern-most tank corps sent its tk brigades to fight with the rifle divisions. The two tank corps in the offensive punch in the south had a number of issues. At this point this was the beginning of new force structure and support requirements for corps level tank force--the learning curve started again and it would last through most of 1942.
                        Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
                          I believe RN Armstrongs response was correct
                          Not exactly. Common Soviet observation was that German tankers were not risk-takers. If they saw a situation which promised serious losses they preferred to break off combat and try their luck elsewhere of wait for good chance later. Which could take various forms not necessary feint retreats.
                          Ok, I believe an account of the less lucky part of 15 TBr action on 28.2.42 could be relevant here
                          The exploitation phase started at 14.00 when tanks ad infantry reached the three ponds north of Golubovka. Situation of neighbors was unclear, especially 106 Rifle Division on the right. When the 216 Division and tanks advanced to the south their flanks were left exposed to hostile fire.
                          Foot scouts were sent to Gromovaya Balks to secure the right flank. Also tanks of the 6 Tank Brigade that advanced from the area east of Ocheretino were in contact with the right flank of the 216 Rifle Division and temporarily covered the right flank.
                          Tanks started to envelope Golubovka from the west via the Hill 198.4. Here in the region of the three ponds three tanks were knocked out. When tanks tried to bypass Golubovka from the west tanks were engaged by fire from Gromovya Balka and Golubovka. 7 hostile tanks advanced to the Hill 198.5 from Andreyevka and opened fire against our tanks. 4 hostile tanks were knocked out the others turned back.
                          The 2nd Tank Battalion resumed attack on Golubovka enveloping it from the east. Infantry advanced to a distance 150-200 meters from Golubovka. Tanks halted in a hollow 500 meters north of Golubovka, part of them stuck in the hollow, the others were preparing to evacuate them under protection of infantry. The enemy engaged infantry with automatic fire and it retreated to an area 1 kilometer north of Golubovka, leaving tanks behind it. 15 hostile coming form Novo-Bezzabottovka from the right) and 4 105-mm guns from Fidlerovo captured our tanks in a fire “trap”. 6 Tank of the 6 Guards Tank Brigade detracted fire of 6-7 hostile tanks to themselves. The other hostile tanks and artillery knocked out tanks of the 15 Tank Brigade which were left without artillery and infantry support. 6 Tanks were abandoned in the hollow 500 meters north of Golubovka, of them 4 were burnt down.
                          Conclusion: the loss of 8 tanks in the second phase of combat was a result of the fact the enemy deeply echeloned his weapons and kept the area under aimed fire. Defense system was reinforced by minefields.
                          Tanks of brigade when they were in a critical situation were not supported by fire of our artillery. Anti-tank guns were almost completely absent in formations of our infantry.
                          So in the final run 15 TBr lost 5+3+6=14 T-34 of 17 they had on the morning. Here a tank vs. tank ended with heavy losses mostly because Soviet tanks were caught in a vulnerable situation (part stuck in snow, the others towing them) without protection by other arms. Also (not explicitly admitted by the report) a tank counterattack was apparently overlooked. On the other hand I suspect that Germans had a good observation of this situation and chose a right moment to act.

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                          • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
                            Not exactly. Common Soviet observation was that German tankers were not risk-takers. If they saw a situation which promised serious losses they preferred to break off combat and try their luck elsewhere of wait for good chance later. Which could take various forms not necessary feint retreats.
                            Ok, I believe an account of the less lucky part of 15 TBr action on 28.2.42 could be relevant here

                            So in the final run 15 TBr lost 5+3+6=14 T-34 of 17 they had on the morning. Here a tank vs. tank ended with heavy losses mostly because Soviet tanks were caught in a vulnerable situation (part stuck in snow, the others towing them) without protection by other arms. Also (not explicitly admitted by the report) a tank counterattack was apparently overlooked. On the other hand I suspect that Germans had a good observation of this situation and chose a right moment to act.
                            German tactics were an extension of those used during the Kaiserschlacht. In WW1 stormtroopers would find the weak links in the enemy line, and break through at that point. Panzer divisions copied the same tactics, albeit on a grander scale.

                            Thanks for your input and translation of Soviet documents.
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                            • Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post

                              German tactics were an extension of those used during the Kaiserschlacht. In WW1 stormtroopers would find the weak links in the enemy line, and break through at that point. Panzer divisions copied the same tactics, albeit on a grander scale.

                              Thanks for your input and translation of Soviet documents.
                              Rommel, in WWI, fought with mountain troops using the stormtroopers assault method when he won his "Blue Max". He fought his panzer division like a mountain assault group in the invasion of France.

                              Karl-Heinz Frieser in his book, "The Blitzkrieg Legend" gives a detailed account of how Rommel fought and maneuvered his 7th PzD down to the wolfpack technique to get mobility kills as well as passing off a clean-up fight to an adjacent panzer regiment, so he could continue to move into the depth of the French disposition.
                              Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 16 Apr 20, 00:12.
                              Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                              • Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
                                German tactics were an extension of those used during the Kaiserschlacht. In WW1 stormtroopers would find the weak links in the enemy line, and break through at that point. Panzer divisions copied the same tactics, albeit on a grander scale.
                                I'm aware of this school of thought but think that it is merely a myth and misconception.

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