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Soviet vs. US vs German Artillery

Discussion in 'Artillery' started by Wolfy, Feb 7, 2009.

  1. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    the 170mm class weapon was very rare, right? seems rather a pointless weapon when one can have 150mm class batteries in larger number
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Indeed from a number of forum threads on this topic I've read recently I've come to the opinion that the British artillery system was slightly superior to that of the US. Effectively they were pretty much the same but slightly different organization and information flow.
     
  3. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The Soviets had quantity but not much else. The typical infantry division's artillery was mostly the 76mm gun. This was organized into two 6 gun batteries along with a 122mm howitzer battery per battalion.
    Soviet fire control for these batteries was for the battery commander to establish a forward fire control post that allowed direction of his battery. This single position was the fire control for most batteries in action. Direction was usually by dedicated field telephone but sometimes radio.
    The system was inflexible and incapable of generating unplanned mass fires. But, it did generally result in some fire being brought on the enemy much of the time. This is where German histories tend to note how the Russian artillery was always dropping some rounds on their positions.
    The Soviets also manufactured alot of "poor man's artillery" mortars. These were cheap supplements to regular tube artillery. They were used in much the same way as their regular guns were.

    The major German problem was simply a lack of tubes. This was excerbated by the wastage of guns in the East through non-combat losses. The German artillery system was to allocate some batteries to each combat unit in the division. Massing fires like the Allies frequently did was possible but only with alot of planning in advance.
    The Germans also used a tactic with mortars and artillery of having a "roving gun." That is, one mortar or gun from the battery was detached and would open fire from a different location during battery displacements. This gun was intended to deceive the enemy that the battery was displacing and as to its new location.

    The Germans rarely seemed to keep their artillery units up to strength. I think that was a mistake. They also made widespread use of captures in many areas. The substitution of mortars and rockets was also a mistake. These are less effective than regular artillery.
     
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  4. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Just one FO post? Now that's primitive. How the hay does one FO post see the frontage?

    As for rockets. Less effective than conventional artillery in general, or less effective in conventional artillery roles? I remember that rockets were very innacurate and not what you want to use on fortified positions or mechanized units.
     
  5. razin

    razin Member

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    The 17cm K18 was to give an advantage over the enemy, because of there comparatively early re-armament programme it was perceived by the Germans that there weapons would become obsolete sooner rather than later (in fact the 15cm K18 was equal to the 155mm US M1, although the soviet BR2 was better.)

    I would imagine that the Germans at the time of the Soviet/German Pact became aware of the BR2 and accelerated the 17cm K18 into production.

    As for numbers I can't find a number for 17cm gun but it was a priority weapon, the 21cm k18 howitzer production, on the same carriage, was slowed and eventually stopped in favour of the gun.

    Probably like much else there were never enough.
     
  6. justdags

    justdags Member

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    If you could field 100 guns with say 75% accuracy or would you field 1000 guns with 45% accuracy? I think that if your guns are not as on target as your enemies that one of the best ways to compensate is to use huge numbers of them!
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Accuracy percentages don't make much sense when talking about artillery. There are three different types of numbers that are important. Circular Error Probability (CEP) usually defined as the radius you can expect half your rounds to land in. Range and bearing errors (alright 4 numbers) this is how far off target you can expect a round to be. These can be combined into a number that indicates the number of rounds that one expects to neutralize a given target. The other important number is responsiveness. How long does it take you to get on target. It doesn't matter how accurate your gun is if the target moves before the round gets there. This latter area is where US and British artillery excelled. Note that if you try to overcome any of these by adding tubes you also have to make sure you have the logistics to support them. That's another area where the US and British especially late in the war were very good. The Soviets logistic system wasn't as good but they realised the import and took the time to build up local supplies to support their offenses and were also very good at not letting the Germans see these build ups.
     
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  8. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The problem is actually more complex than that. The CEP / inherent accuracy of the gun is the least of the problems in artillery fire. The shell being used, ambient temperature, powder temperature, powder lot number and consistancy, humidity, barrel wear, previous number of rounds fired immediately before the one being chambered, among other things all impact accuracy.
    The British and US are the best at taking these things into account with the Germans running a close third. But, in all cases accuracy was usually sufficent that unless the battery was firing "off the map" (that is being directed by an observer) the first spotting rounds were within 100 or so yards of the target and could be easily brought onto it.

    Now, a more interesting aspect of artillery in WW 2 is the shell. While most nations had shells of roughly similar design and with approxmiately the same amount of space for filler this does not actually tell you the true effectiveness of those shells.
    The first variable in this is the metal the shell is made of. The Germans had the dubious honor of having shells that consistantly were made of every worse grades of steel as the war progressed. By late war metallurgically unrefined scrap was being used for shell castings. This made their shells very weak in terms of burst strength. This in turn lowered the fragment velocity and greatly decreased the effectiveness of their shells. The 10.5cm howitzer shell in particular was notoriously bad for this.
    Britain, Russia and, most other nations used a common grade of cast steel with no special properties. They had neither the desire or resources to waste on putting a better grade of steel into their shells.
    The US on the other hand used a higher grade of steel in their rounds. This alone results in a 3 to 7% increase in effectiveness in fragmentation over other countries shells.
    The next item up is filler. The Japanese often stuck with Picric Acid rather than TNT or another high grade explosive. Picric Acid was commonly used in WW 1 and fairly cheap to produce. But, it also produces a lower velocity explosion that results in poorer fragmentation effects. The British and US typically used TNT and later Amatol or RDX in their shells. This gives them a better effect as these explosives are far more efficent than previous ones. Both also had better consistancy in their filler explosives making them more reliable.
    The Soviets used a mix of Picric Acid and TNT in their shells as the material was available. This is another area where lend lease made a big difference in their equipment.
    The Germans tried to use TNT when possible. But, they suffered from a shortage of this explosive and it was also of variable quality. Later in the war their munitions factories were often heavily staffed with foreign and slave labor adding sabotage to the mix. Shells were often surreptitiously the target of "unauthorized" fillers by workers like dirt, sawdust, cigarette butts, and other non-explosive things.
    Adding to this, the Germans were also forced into using steel for shell casings. Virtually all of their artillery used either a full case or half-case cartridge because of the near universal adoption of sliding wedge breaches. These often became jammed particularly in hot guns resulting in a slowing or stoppage of fire. The Allies used a more mixed assortment of breeches. On larger guns the interrupted thread breech with bagged charges was common. This eliminated the casing entirely. The Allies, and Soviets, also could still manage to use either brass or aluminum cartridges where one was used. This alleviated most or all of the problems associated with steel casings.

    The US alone also magnifluxed all of their artillery and antitank ammunition. This was an early process that showed up flaws in the shell casting or weak heat treating in an antitank round. Defective rounds were either discarded or spot treated using induction heating to fix the problem. The US estimate is that nearly half a million rounds were fixed prior to delivery due to this quality control procedure.
     
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  9. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    I would presume to say that high hardness steel is preferable as shell casing to softer, more malleable steel because you want the casing to be brittle so that when the filler detonates, the casing would crack into the greatest possible number fragments, like spall?
     
  10. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    great posts, really appreciate the information.
     
  11. razin

    razin Member

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    Shells are normally forged (as opposed to cast) form 18ton steel (low carbon). the French in WW1 tried to save money by using cast iron with poor results, contary to the norm, (try breaking an old bath tub) the shells broke into two or three pieces only.
     
  12. STURMTRUPPEN

    STURMTRUPPEN Member

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    german artillery was generally the best of all nations during ww2 but america and russia had some awesome guns and it is in many documentarys that artillery played a pivotal role in deciding many battles
     
  13. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    The following numbers are for the quantities of the pieces listed in May, October, and December 1944, in the German forces:

    10cm Kanone: 795, 550, 653
    17cm Kanone: 217, 93, 91
    21cm Mörser: 326, 231, 218
    21cm Kanone: 29, 6, 5

    Taken from T. Sawicki, Niemieckie wojska ląndowe na froncie wschodnim
    Sawicki cites the figures as being from microfilm rolls of OKW records.

    Also, see http://ordersofbattle.darkscape.net/site/sturmvogel/GermWeapProd.html for artillery production figures.

    Cheers

    BW
     
  14. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    Here are a couple of examples from late 1944.

    U.S. XII Corps during the Ardennes Offensive. XII Corps had a variable number of divisions during the battle because of transfers but three infantry divisions and one armored division was typical. Divisional artillery would provide 216 105-mm howitzers and 36 155-mm howitzers. The corps itself was allocated 36 towed 105-mm howitzers and 18 self-propelled 105-mm howitzers, 48 155-mm howitzers, 12 155-mm guns, 12 4.5-Inch guns, 12 8-Inch howitzers, and six 240-mm guns. As well, XII Corps had a unit (the 244th Field Artillery Battalion) that may have utilized captured German material during the battle to include 15cm, 8.8cm, 10cm, and French 155-mm pieces.

    In the same time period, a Soviet Rifle Corps (assumed at three rifle divisions), if fortunate, would have had a corps artillery regiment (16 122-mm guns) or a howitzer artillery regiment (24 152-mm howitzers or gun-howitzers) in support to supplement 60 76-mm guns and 36 122-mm howitzers organic to the rifle divisions. At the combined arms army echelon, the Soviets typically had a gun-artillery brigade of 24 152-mm gun-howitzers and 12 122-mm guns; these typically supported two to four rifle corps. Assuming a combined arms army of three rifle corps of three divisions, with a gun-artillery brigade, and two corps artillery regiments, the projected totals are 180 76-mm guns, 108 122-mm howitzers, 44 122-mm guns, and 24 152-mm gun-howitzers. As well, combined arms armies often included one to three regiments of BM-13 rocket launchers with 24 launching vehicles each.

    Comparing the U.S. and Soviet totals, the U.S. troops come out better in artillery of 150mm and higher caliber. The Soviets depend heavily on calibers not used by the U.S. corps, i.e., 76- and 122-mm. I suppose one could calculate rates of fire for these pieces to determine theoretical weights of fire.

    What could strongly affect the weight of fire is if the Soviets reinforced the artillery of the combined arms army with an artillery division of the Stavka reserve. Depending on organization, this could add 48 to 72 76-mm guns, 84 122-mm howitzers, 32 152-mm howitzers, 0 to 36 152-mm gun-howitzers, 24 203-mm howitzers, 108 120-mm mortars, 0 to 32 160-mm mortars, and 0 to 36 M31-12 300-mm rocket launchers.

    Cheers

    BW
     
  15. Wolfy

    Wolfy Ace

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    Excellent post, thank you.
     
  16. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    Wolfy, you're welcome.

    I became interested in this topic a couple of years ago and have collected odds and ends of information related to it. I have some information on British and German artillery at corps echelons and above and will post it soon.

    Cheers

    BW
     
  17. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    British artillery in 1944-45, NW Europe.

    Each corps was supported by an Army Group Royal Artillery, or AGRA. A typical AGRA had one field regiment (24 25-Pounders), four medium regiments (16 4.5-Inch or 5.5-Inch guns each), and a heavy regiment (eight 7.2-Inch howitzers and eight U.S. 155-mm guns).

    21st Army Group also had two super heavy regiments, each with three to five 2-gun batteries of U.S. 8-Inch guns or 240-mm howitzers.

    A British infantry division of this period had 72 25-Pounder guns while a British Armoured Division had 24 25-Pounder guns and 24 25-Pounder SP guns (Sextons).

    Cheers

    BW
     
  18. BWilson

    BWilson Member

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    German artillery at corps echelon and above, late 1944.

    There was a large variation in higher echelon German artillery support. A German corps had an Artillerie Kommandeur (ArKo) and German field armies had a Höhere Artillerie Kommandeur (HArKo). These were the chief artillery officers for their respective commands and were responsible for the allocation of artillery assets under their control. The variation was the number and kinds of artillery battalions and batteries controlled by the ArKo's and HArKo's. Some examples follow, please note they are only roughly correct for the time period in question as I do not have calendars outlining the subordination of German artillery units at any given point in time.

    18th Army: 15 24-cm howitzers, six 30.5cm siege howitzers, 24 10-cm Kanone, 21 21-cm Mörser, and 12 155-mm (probably ex-Polish or -French) howitzers.

    Sounds pretty good, but compare to:

    7th Army: One fortress artillery battalion with twelve ex-Soviet 122-mm and six ex-Soviet 152-mm pieces.

    Other armies fall somewhere in the middle of these two examples.

    The Germans also fielded rocket artillery (Nebelwerfer) brigades in 1944. These had two regiments and could field 15cm, 21cm, or 30cm rocket launchers. The 2. NW Brigade had 54 30-cm, 54 15-cm, as well as 16 self-propelled 15-cm launchers.

    The Germans formed Volksartilleriekorps in 1944 as well, but these were not new artillery units but rather existing independent artillery battalions grouped into brigades (despite the "corps" title) of five to six battalions.

    Heeres Independent Artillery Units is a nice summary of German non-divisional artillery battalions. Also, see Artillery Command in the German Army, WWII Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 29, July 15, 1943 (Lone Sentry) for a discussion of the ArKo and HArKo.

    Cheers

    BW
     
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  19. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The german 170mm is a gun and was intended for counterbattery fire with very long range for a relatively mobile weapon.
    The 210mm howitzer was shorter ranged but fired a heavier shell.
    It's interesting to note that the US and NATO had exactly the same situation more recently with the M107 175mm gun and M110 203mm weapon.
    IMO the German mistake was in putting in production too many specialized weapons with the result that they never had enough and had a huge problems keeping them supplied. The issuing of masses of captured weapons in field units made things even less manageable, IMO captured weapons are OK for coastal fortifications but when you have a couple of dozen different gun types in a cops some of them are likely to be out of ammo.
     
  20. drakhl

    drakhl Member

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    German engineering has always been considered excellent, so the lower rate of duds does not surprise me. But like most of the German equipment it was too well engineered for the Soviet winter. Many of their guns would have their breech blocks frozen shut. It is very difficult to keep an artillery barrage up in 40 degree below weather, whereas the Soviets were quite used to the weather and had weapons to match.

    Also remember the Luftwaffe was the best tactical air force in the world in the early stages of the war. The power of the stuka and JU-88 did make up for their lacking in artillery, and was in many cases more effective. The German mortars were also quite effective, especially the 81mm. Allied units were scared to death of a German mortar attack. Early in the war they discarded their 37mm mortars and used captured french and Soviet tubes.

    I came across an interesting account in Alan Clarke's book about Soviet artillery during the early stages of the Stalingrad battle.

    "In places Russian artillery was quite strong...they could be heard at night moving the guns into position, and would bombard us when the sun rose...its flat rays from the east showed our positions in detail, but made it difficult to spot their muzzle flashes."

    Sheer force of will moved Soviet equipment, being the less mobilized force in the theatre. If they had to drag a gun 20 miles by hand then that is what they did or the NKVD would shoot them.
     

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