Like the Germans, the Russians have found that it is profitable to allot
antiaircraft guns a secondary mission of antitank defense. The following
comments on antitank employment of these guns are taken from a recent issue
of the semiofficial "Red Star".
"In the Russo-German War the Red Army antiaircraft artillery has learned to combat
tanks as well as planes. Dual-purpose antiaircraft guns make good antitank guns
because of their high muzzle velocity, high rate of fire, and 360° traverse.
"In the first 6 months of the war, Red Army antiaircraft artillery fired
in self-defense at enemy tanks which broke through to the battery
positions. Gradually, however, the antiaircraft artillery became an organic part of the
antitank defensive system. In numerous instances, Russian antiaircraft guns
have successfully repulsed attacks of large tank units.
"The antiaircraft units learned that most tactical operations seem to
divide themselves into two phases. In the first phase, Russian army artillery
concentrates heavy fire on enemy tanks before they can jump off. It then lays
down a screen of fire to prevent the enemy tanks from approaching the Russian
forward line of defense and breaking up infantry formations. In this stage the
antiaircraft units are busily engaged in repelling the attacks of enemy
aircraft, particularly dive bombers, which attempt to open the way for the tanks.
"In the second phase, after German tanks have broken into the initial
line of defense, or deeper, the German aviation generally shifts its attention to
Russian units reserved for counterattack. In this comparative lull, antiaircraft
guns fire at the German tanks by direct laying; the shorter the range, the more
effective the fire.
"It must always be remembered, however, that the first mission of
antiaircraft artillery is defense against planes. In areas where there is
insufficient antitank artillery, antiaircraft guns must be employed to drive off
tanks which approach the battery positions or threaten to break up the battle
formations of Russian troops.
"In order to combat enemy mechanized forces successfully, the antiaircraft artillery
must prepare its antitank defense in advance. When the guns go into position they must
be ready to open fire against attacking tanks immediately. To establish such a system
it is necessary to:
1) Make a complete study of the surrounding terrain, with particular regard to
possible tank approaches;
2) Determine the sector of fire for each gun, including ranges to key reference points;
3) Build the minimum amount of field fortifications necessary;
4) Establish special antitank observation points.
"All antiaircraft personnel not working at the guns during a tank attack take up
positions in the vicinity and use hand grenades, gasoline bottles, or small-arms
armor-piercing bullets against the enemy tanks."