As the present war has progressed it has been effectively demonstrated
that not only has the function of artillery not been displaced by the early
spectacular performances of the dive-bomber (see Tactical and Technical Trends
No. 36, p. 9) but that field artillery can in many instances successfully cope with the
attacking airplane. The methods which the Russians have used in employing field
artillery against airplanes is described in the following article from a Russian
* * *
Field artillery may easily defend itself from enemy aircraft by using
76-mm field guns of all types and 122-mm howitzers (1938 model). The rate
of fire of the latter is less than that of the guns, but their fire is more powerful.
Since field artillery does not have a large quadrant angle of elevation
necessary for firing at aerial targets, it becomes necessary to make special fire
positions for the artillery. In the ordinary gun pit a tunnel for the spades is made
with a gradual slant from the center to the edge of the pit. It is made from 16 to
20 inches deep, which permits the quadrant angle of elevation to be increased 10
or 15 degrees, thus raising the limit of vertical angle from 40-50 degrees to
55-60. This makes it possible to fire at aircraft.
Depending upon the situation and the missions of the artillery, 1 or 2 guns
of each battery can be used against airplanes. There have been times, however,
when it became necessary to use all batteries. The guns of these batteries should
of course be prepared beforehand, i.e., all pits should be dug out, necessary
ammunition should be at hand, and firing data should be checked.
Since enemy planes may appear suddenly from any direction, orienting
points in various directions (at a distance of from 3/4 to 1 1/4 miles) should be
selected beforehand; likewise the distances should be ascertained and the range
elevation determined. On the basis of these data, a card is made of the antiaircraft
defense for each gun. Orienting points common to all the guns makes it much easier
for the commander to control the fire when repulsing raids. It gives him the
opportunity of concentrating all his fire in one direction.
When enemy planes appear it is very important to open fire as soon as
possible and with a certain lead, i.e., before the planes arrive at the orientation
mark. In this way the shell-bursts break up the enemy combat formations and
compel them to drop their bombs before reaching the target. Since the moment
of fire is exceedingly important, it is necessary to keep a constant observation of
the sky. In order to increase the rate of fire, the shells are prepared with the
fuse ranges adjusted according to the distances to the orienting points. It is also
useful to sort out the shells to be used for each given direction.
The firing is carried out in the following order. On the appearance of
enemy planes the commander of the battery orders: "West (or south, east, or
north, according to the direction in which the planes appear), target height 600,
platoon (battery) fire." And in his turn, the commander of each gun commands:
"Orienting point 5, height 600, fire!" With the help of the panoramic sight and
a lever mechanism the gunner lays the piece on the given elevation. The azimuth
circle should always be set at 30-00, while the extractor should be on a 0-00
setting. The gunner fires independently when the target appears at the point on
the objective where the two lines meet.
A special experimental table was compiled with which, if given the height
of the plane and its speed, the commander could easily adjust the sight tube, and
also determine the average time of flight of the shell to the target. This table
excludes complicated calculations during the battle, thus relieving the gunner who
can then increase the rate of fire. A high rate of fire requires well-trained gun
crews. Frequent trainings of the crews perfect them in quickly traversing the
gun, in laying the piece on the given elevation, and in making corrections quickly
Certain commanders gauge the effectiveness of field artillery against
aircraft by the number of planes shot down. This point of view is entirely wrong.
Since field artillery does not have special antiaircraft devices, it is extremely
difficult to achieve a direct hit. On the other hand, the effectiveness of field
artillery used against airplanes may be seen from the fact that in the course of
15 days of fighting at Velikie Luki the Germans attempted to bomb Russian combat
formations and did not once succeed. The field guns threw up such a barrage of
fire that the Germans did not risk penetrating it and dropped their bombs before
reaching the objective.
Practice has shown that the command should not depend wholly upon antiaircraft
fire, but should take care to use field artillery in protecting its combat
formations. In this way the effectiveness of enemy air raids is greatly reduced.