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"Artillery and Tank Cooperation--Enemy Methods" from Tactical and Technical Trends

A translated article from the Soviet Red Star on Russian artillery and tank cooperation on the Eastern Front during WWII, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 32, August 26, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


In the following article reproduced from the Soviet Red Star, a Russian major emphasizes the decisive importance of close and rapid cooperation between artillery and tanks in the attack. The methods outlined are, in effect, an application of the same principle of cooperation so often stressed by the Germans.

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Tanks are protected by armor, and are armed with guns and machine guns. In comparison with other services, tanks have many advantages in the way of maneuverability and striking power. Many military leaders placed all their hopes on armored forces, allowing only a secondary role to artillery. However, the experience gained in this war has shown that the role of artillery is not lessened by the presence of large numbers of tanks. On the contrary, it is increased. Tank attacks demand efficient cover by artillery fire. As a rule, tank attacks without the support of artillery come to a standstill.

Modern defense consists, above all, in antitank defense. The presence of various means of defense against armor, disposed along the front and in depth, well camouflaged, enables the defense to resist tank attacks in mass. To disclose and overcome all these means is not within the power of tank troops themselves.

Observation from tanks is difficult. Their range of fire is limited; accuracy of fire is comparatively poor. It is difficult to aim from a fast moving tank, which sinks into hollows and climbs obstacles. Forced halts even momentarily, increase the vulnerability of tanks. In such circumstances their advantages such as maneuverability, armament, striking power, cannot be fully utilized. Assistance is provided chiefly by the artillery.

The question arises of the efficient employment of artillery in support of the tanks. First, let us remember the varied nature of the tasks which the artillery can carry out. Artillery fire still possesses the greatest power and range. It can cover the movement of tanks to their assault positions, to their objectives and in the actual attack. It can put down concentrations after the attack, hold up enemy counter-attacks, and cover the evacuation of damaged tanks from the battlefield. The artillery prepares the breakthrough of massed formations of tanks, as well as assists in the movement of individual tanks. The methods employed are varied, depending on the size and characteristics of the task. Fire concentrations, changes in trajectory, lifting fires as the tanks move forward, displacing forward with the tank attack--all these may come into play.

The artillery missions must be planned for all aspects of the battle. The enemy will endeavor to forestall and break up our tank attack. For this purpose he will use long-range fire of two or three batteries, aimed at the route of approach of the tanks, at the areas of concentration and at assault positions. He will also use aircraft for this purpose. Therefore, the first task for our artillery is to cover the approach of our tanks and their concentration by means of counter-battery fires and antiaircraft defense.

While silencing the enemy batteries it must be remembered that long-range fire originates from reserve positions, of which there will be several. These must be located beforehand, so as to be able to reply immediately to the enemy's opening fire. Enemy batteries will not fire accurately without observation. Consequently, during the period of artillery reconnaissance of the hostile defense position and later, the enemy's observation posts must be destroyed or rendered useless.

Counter-battery fire must also be used after the tanks have started to advance. The Germans meet attacking tanks with a barrage at a distance of 2 1/2 to 3 miles. Our artillery must then endeavor to intensify its fire against enemy batteries, force their gun personnel to take cover in trenches, and hinder the enemy's fire control.

The principal and most difficult task of the artillery is to disorganize the enemy's antitank defenses. Often our gunners open fire against the front line of defense, thinking that antitank guns and obstacles are situated there. Actually, the greater part of antitank obstacles are below the ground, camouflaged. Ammunition should be saved at the beginning of the battle for a more opportune moment for destroying hidden objectives.

As the tanks approach the forward edge of the enemy's defenses, the work of the artillery becomes more complicated. The requirements are speed and flexibility of fire control. The tanks will be meeting with obstacles. Enemy guns, situated in the immediate vicinity of the forward edge of their defense positions will open up. Our batteries will have to change over to firing on the forward edge of the hostile position and their fire must accompany but not damage our tanks.

The method of accompanying fire is the systematic concentration on certain targets. The effort to attain accuracy must not entail any delay. Often a complete barrage of bursts is most desirable, especially as the Germans have now abandoned their system of an interrupted line of defense. Intensive fire, opened without delay, even if inaccurate, will reduce the effectiveness of his antitank defense.

When attacking tanks are accompanied by artillery fire, the latter is provided by all the guns giving close support to the infantry, as well as by part of the long-range batteries. The latter's task is, chiefly, to isolate the attack objective throughout the depth of the enemy position, to neutralize the reserves thrown into the gap and to prevent counter attacks. Fire is controlled from command posts, well forward. Attention must be paid to signals and fire correction by forward observers in tanks equipped with radio.

Targets which appear after a barrage has been fired, or targets which have been hiding in shelters, or defended positions which are situated outside the areas taken under fire, must be dealt with by support weapons. Such support guns accompanying the tanks must quickly destroy anything obstructing the tanks in their task.

After a thrust into their positions the Germans immediately organize a counter-attack with the help of reserves placed well to the rear. These counter-attacking groups consist chiefly of tanks. In one action, five of our tanks, accompanied by four guns, were counter-attacked by 18 enemy tanks. Our antitank weapons moved at a distance of 400 to 500 yards from our tanks. As the Germans devoted all their attention to our tanks, our guns opened fire on them. After firing 30 shells, two enemy tanks were on fire and four others damaged. The rest withdrew and our tanks successfully completed their task.

Recently, increasing attention has been paid to tank support artillery. Methods are being studied of the best cooperation with tanks. In this connection, the following is an example:

An infantry unit was ordered to capture an enemy position in a village. Tanks took part in the battle. A battery of 45-mm guns was detached to accompany the tanks. The guns were towed by the tanks by means of cables, and the crews, armed with automatic pistols, together with part of their ammunition were carried on the tanks. It looked like an artillery raid. Approaching the forward edge of the defense, and after taking the front line of trenches, the gunners shot up the Germans with their automatic rifles while defended positions were dealt with by the tank personnel. Later the tanks met with obstacles and the Germans started a counter-attack. Our gunners then unhitched their guns and firing over open sights, they drove back the enemy. This may not be a typical example, as these gunners were acting as infantry, but the fact that the guns were towed by tanks, and crews carried on the latter, is worthy of attention.

The usual method of moving guns behind tanks is for them to advance by their own traction, at distances of 200 to 300 yards from the tanks, in bounds from one position to the next. In this way the guns can cover the flanks of the tank units from counter-attacks and from flanking defense positions, which are the most dangerous of all for tanks.


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