Artillery support needed

Discussion in 'Command Ops Series' started by ioncore, Jul 28, 2020.

  1. ioncore

    ioncore Member

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    Guys,
    I'm really interested in gathering some statistics, preferably for different countries/armies/eras (Wehrmacht, US Army, Bundeswehr etc), for the time required to prepare (and open) the artillery fire against expected and unexpected targets. So if you have something you could share with me please do it. Please provide also details (like artillery type, unit size etc) if possible.
    As an illustration, one of the examples I've gathered so far sounds like this:

    Artillery units of Soviet 26th Army (March 1945) would typically require the following time to open fire at the expected (prepared fire) / unexpected (unprepared fire) targets:
    - an artillery battery 1,5..3 / 5..8 minutes
    - an artillery battalion 3..5 / 6..15 minutes
    - an artillery regiment 4..10 / 8..20 minutes
     
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  2. jimcarravallah

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    I haven't found information on time to adjust fire yet, but in searching for it within the archive of Army Manuals I've accumulated, I ran across the issue of "survey" for prepared fires.

    According to FM 6-40 Field Artillery Gunnery (attached) it takes anywhere from two to four hours to prepare a firing chart to concentrate fires from battalion and larger formations in a combat zone. This has implications on artillery movement, as each time a battery is moved and emplaced, it's location has to be accounted for on the battalion and above firing chart to accurately concentrate barrage (non-line of sight) fires on a target in the battalion's coverage zone.

    Translated into the game, this means division and corps artillery assets which move during the game are not only out of service for the time they are moved and emplaced, but also are unable to use effectively for two to four hours afterwards.

    The details are explained in Parts Four and Five of the attached document.
     

    Attached Files:

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  3. ioncore

    ioncore Member

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    Thank you Jim. Yes, of course my numbers (from the example above) are only valid when the position of the batteries is fixed and all the preparations were already done.
    Great stuff, I'll comb this FM also for other interesting bits of info.
     
  4. jimcarravallah

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    As I was looking through it, all I could think was, "I didn't know it was that complicated."
     
  5. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

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    Yes, and there was even more to it:
    The Recon elements of the Artillery regiments had to find usable artillery positions and then explore the site and the surrounding area. They also had to identify potential weak spots (eg. where unexpected enemy recon elements or partisans could infiltrate) and relay the findings to the security detachment. Once a location was deemed to be usable the exploration/measuring unit had to measure the future gun positions (elevation, alignment, geographical position). These troops would then put flags on the ground to mark the position and (basic) alignment of the guns (which were still in transit).
    The Hauptwachtmeister explored the parking positions for the ammunition trains and the field kitchen(s).
    Right after the site exploration, the unit's signal detachment then installed all necessary telephone lines and devices (including switch boards) and started to lay phone lines to the several B-posts (B = "Beobachtung" means Observation posts, which were then used by the FOBs), the infantry frontline command posts and the different HQs. At least in the German Army, strict radio silence was ordered until the artillery unit reported "readiness for firing", so only phone lines were supposed to be used during this setup process, to prevent premature triangulation.
    When the guns arrived, the "collectors" of the Exploration team (see above) received the guns and unlimbered the guns platoon-wise at the marked positions where then the gun crews roughly aligned them in the predefined base direction. Each gun's gun layers (usually 2 soldiers, called "K1" and "K2") then leveled the gun (using a bubble level) and the K1 then aligned the gun's panorama scope to the established aiming circle, the K3 wrote down the aiming circle numbers, while the loader K3 removed the flags. K4 and K5 started to pile up powder bags and grenades around 10-20 meters away from the gun. The tow vehicles then left the gun emplacements and moved to their parking positions.

    A so-called "working gun" was set aside (with a relatively large distance to all the other guns) as it was used for ranging and the creation of the firing tables. The gathered values were then computed for (ported to) the other guns in the unit. The idea behind this: when the enemy detected/triangulated the working gun, the enemy would only target the particular gun and the immediate perimeter, but the other guns would not be affected. That procedure is still used today. Downside back then: The values had to be ported to each gun manually, using pen/paper (and maybe a slipstick), so it was a time-consuming process.

    When the first gun was ready to fire, and when the phone lines were installed/working, the battery/unit commander reported "readiness for firing". The unit then still had to create or complete the firing tables by using the working gun. The weather platoon contributed infos about wind speeds and barometric pressure and the map platoon (which usually employed a map printing unit) provided or even created maps (the latter often involved recon of the surrounding terrain).
    Also, a fire plan, the operational plan of the Artillery, had to be developed. Such plan listed typical combat missions, which could range from observation/fire to (blindly) harrassing known enemy supply or transport lines, battlefield illumination, recon of enemy B-posts, laying of fog screens and combating single high priority targets, just to name a few.

    Time on site:
    If I am not mistaken, the next patch will reduce the AI's tendency to shuffle around arty units (means: it relocates arty units frequently).
    The extensive shuffling is historical, though.
    More than often, the Germans employed and broke apart arty units below the regiment level, means they often employed or reassigned Abteilungen (Bns) and then even combined these (in the fire plan) if needed. For these units, the chain of command (thus the superior unit) changed often. Positive side-effect: this reduced the amount of equipment to be moved on each relocation.

    It was the German doctrine to relocate a given arty unit after an X number of fire missions (not sure about the exact rules).
    Example: During the Battle for Schmidt (28th US inf division, Battle of Hürtgen Forest, 1944), the German arty units aiming at the elements of the 28th Inf Division fired from 3 major positions (in this case: also at least 3 different arty units), but they kept relocating, in order to avoid detection. Many of the combat missions involved short-distance fire, means some of the arty units were damn close, on the slopes of the Burgberg, for instance, which were just 4.6 km away from Schmidt. These units would sometimes even relocate after every major fire mission, where then the other units could cover the time frame needed for the relocation process, so the sector was covered at all times.

    This relocation doctrine carried over to the Bundeswehr and was still in practice in the early/mid-90s, at least. Bundeswehr artillery officers used stopwatches and pushed their troops to reach the fastest relocation times possible. In the Wehrmacht and the Bundeswehr this practice was seen as essential procedure to prevent triangulation and destruction of vital assets.
    With today's capabilities, relocation and setup has become even easier, as self-propelled arty pieces like say the Panzerhaubitze 2000 have GPS, as the measuring is fully automated and as the SPG-platform allows for quick relocation (60 km/h on streets, 45 km/h on open/rough terrain).

    In practice, during a major enemy attack, the artillery also often had to serve as second line (means: last line of defense) during an enemy breakthrough (rather involuntarily, imho), at least in sectors where it was set up just a few kilometers behind the MBL. During such breakthrough, the unit was then often forced to combat a tank unit or a mechanized unit with direct fire, and its troops were expected to switch to the infantry role, using small arms and Panzerfäuste, once the enemy unit would get below the guns' minimum ranges.

    In the game, arty regiments can be evil showstoppers, but I am not sure if some of the arty behavior is realistic:

    When several fast units corner an enemy arty unit, the arty unit would first defend itself and say maybe knock out a few tanks. Once the player orders additional bombardments (eg. light mortar bombardments), such arty unit would then often start to move after taking some light losses (say 10 troops killed), instead of keeping the guns deployed and being able to combat the vehicles.

    In contrast, huge traveling arty units running into enemy tanks halt eventually and immediately hand out losses. If such scene would be rendered in 3D, it would show flying tanks and turrets all over the place.
    I am not sure if the game correctly depicts the time needed for the deployment (under fire) of the guns, fetching ammunition (which cannot be stored on the gun carriage and which usually isn't stored on the tow vehicles either), loading the guns and acquiring the targets.
    Historically, if a tank unit encountered a traveling artillery column, the outcome was (usually) pretty clear: a complete carnage - especially with horse-drawn columns. Some gun crews may have managed to detach and deploy their guns, but then they still had a very small emergency ammo contingent nearby (if at all), and that could not support defensive actions for more than a few minutes. Meanwhile, the tank unit would have destroyed tow vehicles, killed horses and would have destroyed most of the guns, most likely.

    In contrast, an established arty position could be a competent/vital obstacle for a tank unit for a while, if the arty unit had a proper amount of AT-grenades/overcalibre HEAT grenades and if the gun positions offered some protection for the troops.
    There are even reports where arty units in North Africa and Russia stalled or even repelled Allied armored attacks. This can be seen in the game and is a realistic depiction/outcome, though.

    At least until CommandOps 1, large arty units were able to throw devastating fire against tank units in "halted" mode already, which enables the player to use them as ultimate stopping tool for otherwise unstoppable enemy tank units. Note: in these instances, the arty unit would still be in the "halted" or "taking cover" phase, with the main arty pieces not yet deployed. In reality, neither the few smaller assets in such units, eg. 20 or 40 mm flak guns, nor the troops equipped with Panzerfaust weapons would be able to inflict such losses at medium range (let alone be able to make a tank unit route), especially if pitted against heavy tanks, imho. What's inflicting the losses on such occasions? The red tracers just indicate that such arty units deal AT rounds.
    Does the game assume that some (or all) guns can be deployed quickly, even though the main guns are not "officially" deployed yet?

    A Flak 88 could be mounted within 2-4 mins (the carriage consisted of 2 parts), in theory. While not optimal, it could even be fired when still mounted on the carriage. So such gun could be used for defense once someone brought a few rounds, basically.
    But a column of field guns with 2-piece ammunition and overcalibre AT rounds was a completely different story. If such pieces got caught during travel, then the loss rates were very high, which included the destruction of the pieces.

    Does the described behavior still occur and - if so - could this be reviewed?
     
    #5 GoodGuy, Aug 1, 2020
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020
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  6. Keydet

    Keydet Member

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    Would like to see equivalent for all sides in context of SP arty in support of mechanised formations in movement to contact. Same for mortars, sp and towed. Especially for German recon battalion battle drill. 4th USAD had a coiled snake battle drill. Fire support had to be very fast for that. Wonder if the FA school library has the post WWII Advance Course student papers online yet?
     
  7. ioncore

    ioncore Member

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    Technically, the (rather large) deployment times are already in-game. For example, BFTB estab has 17cm K18 and 21cm M18 batteries, whose deployment times are 40 and 20 minutes, respectively, which represents the time needed to bring these systems from travel mode into firing mode. However, bringing from travel into firing mode is only a part of a bigger story, for what you and Jim have already provided some nice details.
    Anyway, we are now in process of reviewing some aspects of artillery usage in CO (hence the original question). Introducing more realistic (longer) artillery deployment is also in the todo list.
     
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  8. TMO

    TMO Member

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    Google nigelef.tripod.com for information on the RA. If i recall correctly time to prepare to fire was remarkably quick..

    Regards

    Tim
     
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  9. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

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    Hey Tim, Evan's page contains a myriad of interesting details, nice page.
    Particularly interesting is the hint that British AA and AT guns were increasingly employed against opportunity targets, which means that the Brits used AA and especially AT guns like US units (which I described in another thread), because - with the dwindling German forces - their specific targets decreased.
    The QF 3.7-inch AA gun received only slightly improved sights in North Africa, so that it could be used against German tanks, but the improvement wasn't sufficient and its weight and size made it hard to employ it successfully in a (forward) field role. But it seems that it was increasingly used in the arty role in Europe later on, even though - according to Evans - the gun was "not authorized to have the necessary technical fire control equipment until late 1944."

    Another interesting detail is the fact, that Air OP squadrons were obviously formed as early as 1941, using Auster aircraft (which had similar capabilities as the German Fieseler Storch observer and liason planes), I thought the British went to establish these way later, means I thought that regular RAF planes forwarded info for a long time.

    Evans also describes that a British battery used a "pivot gun", which was the "right hand gun of a troop" that represented the range arm on the artillery board. So they used a "working gun" (I described above), but they did not set the gun aside like the Germans.

    He also describes a common problem in 1941 that led to a severe handicap:
    There were 4 inf Coys in a Bn but only 2 observers in an artillery battery. Evans explains that this led to severe problems in Burma, for instance, where the observers had to move between Coys in battle. The Estab was changed eventually and extra personnel listed.

    Interesting page, thanks Tim.
     
    #9 GoodGuy, Aug 11, 2020
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
  10. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

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    Ah, I found it:

    http://nigelef.tripod.com/maindoc.htm

    "A battery did not deploy onto a new gun position as a whole, the CPO and GPOs went ahead to prepare the new position by laying it out and being able to orient the guns the moment they arrived.
    From the time the guns left a RV about one mile from the new position they were expected to be ready to fire in 15 minutes, more at night
    ."

    "Of course this would usually be only the lowest state of survey and minimal line laying. Sometimes the two troops would move separately (‘step-up’) so that one was always in action. Roving troops or sections and ‘pistol guns’ were sometimes used for registration tasks, deception, ‘sniping’ and precision (destruction) shoots."

    It seems like those "pistol guns" filled the part of the role that the "working gun" in German units fulfilled, when it came to registration shots.
    But it seems like they were rarely used. In contrast, the pivot gun, used in each battery, was usually used for computing arcs, distances etc., it seems.

    " Quick actions’, where guns came into action on an unprepared position in response to a call for fire during a move were used. The time from a call to being ready was about 8 minutes. This technique was quite widely used in the desert. As the war progressed, it became more normal for another regiment (not moving) to join the moving regiment’s radio net and so be able to quickly respond to calls for fire."

    EDIT: I think Evans mentioned somewhere that quick actions resulted in less accurate shots, I can't find the part now, though. The British artillery branch used different devices, even though one of their main instruments was based on a German patent (which they improved by equipping it with a scale), the one on the 6-inch howitzers even remained a uniquely British instrument.
    The Brits also used a gun rule that automatically "calculated" - means indicated - the angular elevation adjusted for each individual gun's muzzle velocity.
    In all other armies, this had to be manually calculated in the CP, according to Evans.
    These details make the above setup times indicated by Evans believable (normal setup time and quick setup time), actually.

    EDIT2: Evans does not mention a 360-view scope/sight (which German guns had), he only explains the use of the British parallelescope, which was used to simulate looking/aiming at distant aiming points (the 2 posts needed for that method were just planted 50 and 100 yards from the gun) to readjust the gun on first daylight and on last daylight (as the gun moved backwards after each shot - digging into the ground, despite the spades, which could easily create misfires of 350 yards on short ranges after a while, if not corrected).

    The British setup time must have been significantly faster than the German setup time, especially since the Germans created numbers of fire matrices, since they widely used the working gun on landmarks to even expand such fire matrices and since they measured the gun positions thoroughly.
    This then resulted in more accurate artillery fire on the German side and German documents, MBL instructions for fixed fronts, field manuals and vet. accounts indicate that prepared fire could kick in within a minute or even less, but I am convinced that there were brutally quick reaction times on unprepared targets and during travel-full-stop-fire instances ("quick action") on the British side, possibly (just) with low(er) accuracy.

    There are some discussions about Evans' infos being mostly based on early post-war material and that the material contains errors here and there, so the details he provides should be cross-checked, imho, if possible.
     
    #10 GoodGuy, Aug 11, 2020
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
  11. ioncore

    ioncore Member

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    Thanks, yes, I know this page, found it merely few months ago but it had already provided me with tons of invaluable data.
     

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