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Evolution of warfare without airpower.

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Michele View Post
    Leaving aside the naval warfare for a moment, I'm thinking about land operations.

    Those big big guns are much more popular because they are the only ones that give you reach beyond the physical presence of your troops and, therefore, beyond the front line. Cities do get bombarded, if the front lines are within some 30 kms. Artillery staffs, with all that mapping and calculating, draw some of the technical and scientific manpower that in our timeline went in the air forces. Counterbattery fire, means of spotting and ranging the enemy artillery, etc., become even more important.

    Ground recon and espionage also are more important. It's possible that in the case of sparsely-held frontages in areas with few roads, cavalry remains key. Fast motorized recon is all-important if you have either a good road network or good terrain.

    I would not bet that core industries back in the enemy's heartland are immune from harassment. If you are sending spies in, you can just as well send in saboteurs and, even better, agitators who will try and turn the natives against the government. Partisans would also be very useful, but I don't think they will get more powerful because in our timeline they received supplies from the air... It's possible they are stronger than in our timeline only in coastal regions.

    Vantage points (hilltops, bell towers etc.) offering good views beyond the enemy lines remained important in our timeline, they will be even more critical in this one. Naturally the above mentioned artillery will try to obliterate the enemy-held ones. I wonder whether in flat lands you aren't going to see heavily hardened towers, similar to our timeline's German FlAK towers, as observation posts.

    All that being said, if you remove flying birds and flying insects (which will also entirely change agricolture, BTW), I could buy that nobody thinks about heavier-than-air flight. But you'll still have smoke rising from fires. Eventually, you are going to have balloons and then powered balloons, zeppelins.

    Strategic bombardment via very large railway guns was only effective if ground warfare stayed static. It was the tank, not the aircraft that brought mobility back to the battlefield. So a slow large gun has a very limited utility. It would be better to construct smaller more mobile and more numerous self propelled artillery. The Soviet Army with their main emphasis on deep operations supported by MASSIVE amounts of artillery is the blueprint here. There was no finesse about it too, but a pure numbers game: put one barrel per 100 meters of targeted front line and blast your way in.
    Last edited by IDonT4; 01 Apr 14, 10:04.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by IDonT4 View Post
      Here is an out of left field idea.
      What if flying animals never existed which leads to people never developing or thinking about flying (lighter than air and heavier than air). How would warfare evolved. More importantly, how would WWII developed.
      A larger question is how would life evolve before humans ever show up. Flying critters are a major part of the pollination process of many plants, including many we use as food sources. So the whole flora of this planet might be very different, resulting in other changes to the fauna.

      On a related note, rather interesting how many of the earliest cultures/civs have their gawds coming down from the skies rather than from over the distant mountains or seas, or from underground?

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      • #18
        Originally posted by IDonT4 View Post
        Strategic bombardment via very large railway guns was only effective if ground warfare stayed static. It was the tank, not the aircraft that brought mobility back to the battlefield. So a slow large gun has a very limited utility. It would be better to construct smaller more mobile and more numerous self propelled artillery. The Soviet Army with their main emphasis on deep operations supported by MASSIVE amounts of artillery is the blueprint here. There was no finesse about it too, but a pure numbers game: put one barrel per 100 meters of targeted front line and blast your way in.
        I don't see why the one should rule out the other.

        The main role of the Stukas in Poland, 1939, for instance, was not to hit targets on the front line, or very close to it. It was to hit the Polish artillery parks, divisional staging areas, commands and service units, and farther back, the railheads and railway marshalling yards.
        And yet the Germans also had tanks - but they very much benefited from this help by the Luftwaffe.

        So if you aren't spending megabucks on the Luftwaffe, you sure can build more tanks, and shorter-ranged artillery, also self-propelled and armored if you wish, things that you had in our timeline too. With those, you still aren't replacing the Stuka strikes on the targets that were 10 to 30 kms behind the frontline. The big guns will not be able to reach the Warsaw marshalling yards, but the railheads 20 kms behind the frontline can be hit.

        You could argue that if you just spend more on tanks and shorter-ranged self-propelled artillery, you can just push through and envelop and/or assault those deeper targets. Maybe. But suppose your opponent has roughly the same budget to spend as you, and he chooses to have a bit less tanks and a handful of those longer-ranged guns...

        You,with all those tanks and self-propelled artillery vehicles, still need to unload them from your railhead. You still need to deploy your armored division's repair and maintenance workshop somewhere, probably not too far behind. You, having given up longer-ranged big artillery, have no way to counterbattery the enemy's super-heavies, who will be bombarding your railhead, and your workshop.

        More in general, the overall lesson of WWII seems to me to be that combined arms tend to trump one-size-fits-all armies. You are choosing to have one less kind of tool in your toolbox.
        Michele

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Michele View Post
          So if you aren't spending megabucks on the Luftwaffe, you sure can build more tanks, and shorter-ranged artillery, also self-propelled and armored if you wish, things that you had in our timeline too. With those, you still aren't replacing the Stuka strikes on the targets that were 10 to 30 kms behind the frontline. The big guns will not be able to reach the Warsaw marshalling yards, but the railheads 20 kms behind the frontline can be hit.
          These guns, for the cost to build them, are still very vulnerable due their "relative" short ranged compared to aircraft, which are based hundreds of miles behind the front line. An armored thrust can quickly catch up where these guns are located.

          You could argue that if you just spend more on tanks and shorter-ranged self-propelled artillery, you can just push through and envelop and/or assault those deeper targets. Maybe. But suppose your opponent has roughly the same budget to spend as you, and he chooses to have a bit less tanks and a handful of those longer-ranged guns...
          These guns only have utility against fixed fortifications. Against mobile targets, like a tank or mechanized infantry division, they are useless. For the effort of building a single large siege gun, you can get another tank brigade, which is much more useful.

          You,with all those tanks and self-propelled artillery vehicles, still need to unload them from your railhead. You still need to deploy your armored division's repair and maintenance workshop somewhere, probably not too far behind. You, having given up longer-ranged big artillery, have no way to counterbattery the enemy's super-heavies, who will be bombarding your railhead, and your workshop.
          The railheads are far from the front lines and do not advertise themselves via a large BOOM. These are sometimes up to a hundred miles. By contrast, an 18 inch gun has a range of 30 miles. So you need to keep it close to hit targets further than that. So if you want to hit a target 20 miles away, you need to have it 10 miles away - perfect range for the enemy's smaller and more numerous guns.

          Lastly, how will you do damage assessment?

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          • #20
            Originally posted by G David Bock View Post
            Considering the limited effectiveness of aircraft and flight in WWI, other than observation and recon, we get a hint. WWII looks a lot like WWI.
            I would think that the Line Ahead tactic will have some changes primarily due to the threat of torpedoes. The Japanese Long Lance had a range of 24 miles (12 miles in combat). There is no reason to believe that torpedoes would get longer range.

            Here is my thought. If torpedoes get longer range, the battle line must move further away from each other. So I can see battleships firing large guns from over the horizon (not seeing each other), with target spotting done from destroyers/cruisers. The cruisers and destroyers would do battle to disrupt the other sides "eyes" or, if possible, do a torpedo attack on the battleline.

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            • #21
              Zepplin fighters perhaps?
              Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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              • #22
                Originally posted by IDonT4 View Post
                These guns, for the cost to build them, are still very vulnerable due their "relative" short ranged compared to aircraft, which are based hundreds of miles behind the front line. An armored thrust can quickly catch up where these guns are located.
                Sure. By the same token, an armored thrust can quickly catch up where a divisional command or a corps staging area are located, and those non-combat assets are no cheaper than siege guns.
                Also, in WWII tactical and CAS aircraft often was not hundred but tens of miles behind the front lines, and those airfields were routinely overrun by armored thrusts.

                These guns only have utility against fixed fortifications. Against mobile targets, like a tank or mechanized infantry division, they are useless. For the effort of building a single large siege gun, you can get another tank brigade, which is much more useful.
                As you will have noticed, I propose using them against other, fixed targets, like fortifications, but that still are indispensable for the armored or mechanized divisions. Railheads, staging areas. You will find that even an armored division's tail elements - the ones that actually keep the tanks running - do not set up shop in the midst of nowhere, if only there is some already existing infrastructure (buildings, power and phone lines, roads, rail lines, etc.). Those are things that do not move around on the map.
                Sure, you can set up your armored division's fuel dump away from buildings and shelter (hard to do in Russian winter, BTW), and from roads, so that I won't know where it is - maybe. OTOH you will pay for that in less efficiency in resupplying your tanks once they run out of fuel.

                The railheads are far from the front lines and do not advertise themselves via a large BOOM. These are sometimes up to a hundred miles.
                I beg to differ. You do not run the tanks for a hundred miles before committing them to battle. With WWII-era mechanical reliability, that amounts to losing some 20% of your vehicles to breakdowns even before the combat begins.
                Naturally, you, as the proud owner of an additional tank brigade, might choose to debark the tanks well out of range of my superheavy artillery - the additional tank brigade probably amounting to a +33% force over the standard armored division, you are expending much of it for that mechanical attrition cost.
                As to not advertising their location, railheads ideally are rail marshalling yards - I have them on my map.
                All of that said, guess what, there is a bridge on the road between that distant, out-of-range railhead and the front. And maybe that bridge is in range for my guns...

                Lastly, how will you do damage assessment?
                I think I have mentioned upthread that I expect spies (as well as ground recon, also through infiltration) to be more important in this situation. The fact that the British had managed to subvert the entire German network in Britain tends to make us forget that if even just a couple of those spies had remained free to report correctly, the V-Waffen would have damaged London much more seriously.

                Make no mistake, these guns are imprecise, and firing mostly unobserved fire, all the more so.
                But then again, so were WWII-era bombers.

                Now that I think about it, there is one more thing: your bet is of the all-or-nothing sort. You count on breaking through the lines and reaching the deployment area of the rail guns. What if you fail? The Germans also relied on breaking through at El Alamein or Kursk. What if the lines are tougher than you expected? What if the weather turns bad? What if the night falls?
                Meanwhile, the superheavy artillery can fire on your rear areas regardless of what happens on the line; can fire in bad weather; and being rail-mounted, can travel at night when your tanks have to stop.
                Michele

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by TacCovert4 View Post
                  Zepplin fighters perhaps?
                  Too slow to be fighters. What I'd envision is zeppelins battling each other like lumbering battleships of the air, with no fast torpedo boats of the air milling around.

                  Given that the zeppelins could not carry the weight of huge guns, nor withstand their recoil without additional weight, they might battle each other with MGs and autocannons.

                  Lighter, faster, smaller zeppelins - more akin to cruisers or destroyers of the air than to torpedo boats of the air - would carry, instead, a sizable complement of airship infantry, in a lightly armored gondola. They would try to close in and move above the bigger enemy zeppelins, and win the combat by boarding. Fancy that?

                  And by the time of WWII, the zeppelins could also carry rockets...
                  Michele

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Michele View Post
                    Too slow to be fighters. What I'd envision is zeppelins battling each other like lumbering battleships of the air, with no fast torpedo boats of the air milling around.

                    Given that the zeppelins could not carry the weight of huge guns, nor withstand their recoil without additional weight, they might battle each other with MGs and autocannons.

                    Lighter, faster, smaller zeppelins - more akin to cruisers or destroyers of the air than to torpedo boats of the air - would carry, instead, a sizable complement of airship infantry, in a lightly armored gondola. They would try to close in and move above the bigger enemy zeppelins, and win the combat by boarding. Fancy that?

                    And by the time of WWII, the zeppelins could also carry rockets...




                    Last edited by Chukka; 02 Apr 14, 06:51.
                    One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions - Admiral Grace Hopper

                    "The eunuch should not take pride in his chastity."
                    Wu Cheng'en Monkey

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                    • #25
                      Nice pictures. Is this thread bordering on Steam Punk?

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Gooner View Post
                        First biggest change is that France is not conquered in 1940.
                        Although before that Norway will not fall either.
                        Ewwwww, good catch with Norway. With Norway mobilised and Allied troops on the ground in time the Swedish ore shipments in winter would be more complicated. Could have significant impacts to Germany's already challenged economy.

                        Not sure about France though. Even if Guderian waited a day or so for the guns to come up the doctrinal difference still handicap the French. A longer campaign, perhaps 10-12 weeks but there is likely a collapse.
                        The Purist

                        Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                          Not sure about France though. Even if Guderian waited a day or so for the guns to come up the doctrinal difference still handicap the French. A longer campaign, perhaps 10-12 weeks but there is likely a collapse.
                          I'm not sure either, but I tend to disagree with you, sorry.
                          Eben-Emael? The Dutch bridges? The Dutch surrender out of fear of destructive air bombing of their cities? The decisive air support in the Sedan battle?
                          Yes, the French doctrine is slower - which is less of a handicap if heavy artillery is more important.
                          Michele

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                          • #28
                            The Polish campaign would also proceed quite differently, as he Wehrmacht used tactical bombing to disrupt Polish deployment and movement.

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                              ...
                              Not sure about France though. Even if Guderian waited a day or so for the guns to come up the doctrinal difference still handicap the French. A longer campaign, perhaps 10-12 weeks but there is likely a collapse.
                              The French estimate that it would require approx ten days to bring up the appropriate artillery and ammunition seems accurate. Maybe I am unaware of some German preparation that would have accelerated this, but otherwise reaching a German standard for large scale artillery support of a river crossing would not be swift. Matching the weight of bombs dropped by aircraft on the 55th Div at Sedan in four hours requires far over the basic load carried by the division artillery. That would have to be moved by automotive transport as the Ardennes region had no useful railroads for supporting this scale of rapid ammunition delivery. The tracks there were low capacity, and run in less than desirable directions.

                              Originally posted by Michele View Post
                              Yes, the French doctrine is slower - which is less of a handicap if heavy artillery is more important.
                              This plays into the strongest suite of the French army of OTL, its artillery. If the Germans do not have a effective counter fire ability they are in danger of repeating the experience vs the French 1st Army near Gembloux on a larger scale.

                              Given a complete lack of airpower & doctrine I'd think the 1940 campaign would be entirely different. Possiblly with a different German strategy. Their experience or model would be a Polish campaign of two to three months or more, with the enemy able to manuver its reserve and withdraw unhindered by air strikes.
                              Last edited by Carl Schwamberg; 03 Apr 14, 10:07.

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                              • #30
                                I'm trying to imagine how the South Pacific front would develop without airpower. Probably unrecognizable to us, but were there a campaign a Japanese effort to use more battleships might drain their fuel supply at Truk faster. A even larger and more intense surface battle around Guadalcanal is mind boggling. It was already the most vicious and largest continual surface campaign of WWII, and rivaled most for several centuries.

                                But, with the focus on seizing and defending only naval bases the war in the South Pacific would have developed differently. Different islands, doctrines, ships... as posted in this thread earlier the ships will not have the same light armament that we know what with no AA guns.

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