German ArKos and Soviet Artillery HQ?

Discussion in 'Command Ops Series' started by ioncore, Nov 5, 2017.

  1. ioncore

    ioncore Member

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    Guys,

    Do you think (based on your CO experience) it would make sense to represent real-life specialized artillery commands like German ArKos/HArKos and Soviet Artillery Divisions & Artillery Corps as standalone HQ units in CO, or would it be better to just abstract them inside the Corps/Army HQ command capacity (as one would usually do)? And why?
     
  2. Keydet

    Keydet Member

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    Discussed several times by the development team. Most recent just this past week. Dave will have to [provide the ongoing position on this.

    BTW don't forget the US Arty Groups. British?

    All the forces had some for of fire support coordination. Command and control of Arty units had specific protocol different from line units.
     
  3. simovitch

    simovitch Member

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    I did that with the DAK artillery in the "Clash of Armor" scenario about the Sidi Rezegh battle, it seemed to work OK but I haven't played that scenario since CO2 so it might behave differently now. The scenario is on "The Cauldron" pack I believe. The map covers quite a bit of real estate so I'm not sure how grouping Artillery will work with smaller scenarios.
     
  4. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

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    A standalone HQ could enhance gameplay, imho, but it does not fully cater for the different nations' differing setups and arty doctrines. In order to implement a real-life representation of artillery roles, the game would have to not only incorporate the different doctrines, but also render the corresponding OOBs and more importantly, the respective chain of commands.
    The Russian arty doctrines also changed, so that say a Russian arty doctrine from 1941 differ from the setup used in 1943 through 1945. For instance, in late 1942 and 1943, the Russians started to employ the "Deep Thrust" or "Deep Battle" doctrine, which did not put - unlike the German Blitzkrieg - the focus on a Schwerpunkt, but on multiple planned breakthrough areas, which were then exploited (and held) by mobile/fast reserve groups (eg. a Tank Corps or Mechanized Corps) that merged with the group that had led the attack initially, in order to commence an excessive and deep push (up to 60-70 km into enemy territory).
    This doctrine could only be successful if a certain level of combined warfare was applied propely, and it did not correspond to the German Schwerpunkt doctrine that was used during the Blitzkrieg (with combined arms).

    In a given Russian Rifle Army, 1 Russian field artillery regiment was directly subordinated to the Army, while 1 (or 2) independent artillery division(s) (3 artillery regiments per division) were held back by and directly subordinated to Stavka as part of the exlusive Stavka operational (also referred to as the stavka reserve-) force, while an artillery regiment attached to a Rifle Division either gave direct support to the Bns or was part of a combined group that supported the highest echelon(s) here, the Rifle corps (see below).

    Since the Soviet (Rifle) Corps was the core of this tactical deep battle, it used to be reinforced with tanks, artillery etc., and was then either employed as "holding" (defensive) or as "shock" group (offensive), where the latter executed the breakthrough and the following thrust. The Soviets created centrally controlled artillery and anti-aircraft artillery groups that supported a particular Rifle Corps or Tank Corps that was following and then exploiting the Rifle Corps' initial breakthrough. Such groups were not supposed to engage in daily fire exchanges, but were supposed to improve the support of ground troops during offensive operations by accompanying an attack from start to end, but also to deliver tactical defense by hampering or denying enemy counterattacks.

    The artillery division, as GHQ (Stavka) reserve, played a vital role here, as it featured massive firepower and became even more powerful when it was combined with other artillery units to form an Army's artillery group, as described above.The Soviets were pretty flexible regarding the layout of such a group, and they continued to divide, re-arrange and subdivide and shuffle around subunits to form new/different groups.

    But a M42 Artillery Division established in October 1942 and modified in December also incorporated (if compared to other nations' armies) rather unusual units:
    Next to the usual observation Bn, a Division usually consisted of 1 howitzer brigade with three regiments (20 howitzers each), a field-gun brigade with two regiments (18 guns each), and a mortar brigade with four regiments (20 mortars each), it would also feature 1 light brigade consisting of 3 tank-destroyer regiments (24 guns each).
    I am guessing that the Red Army had fears that a German counterattack with tanks could possibly push into or towards these arty assets, so I am guessing that these AT guns were put up as protection in deep and staggered defensive belts, since most of the Russian pieces did not have AT capabilities.

    The M43 Breakthrough artillery Division featured even more firepower, with a four-Bn heavy howitzer brigade (32 guns), and a four-Bn super heavy howitzer brigade.
    The Soviets eventually created Breakthrough Artillery Corps, which then often had a Guards Mortar Division at their disposal, a unit that didn't feature mortars, but Katyusha rocket launchers, and which was assigned individually as they saw fit.

    So, in order to render this in the game, the STAVKA controlled artillery divisions would have to be
    • handed over and to be controlled by the on-map boss, which would have to be the commander of the Army HQ, assuming that he had those assets at his disposal, when executing a major operation, historically.
    • The on-map boss would have to be able to form artillery groups (not by "physically" merging arty units, but by combining several units and ordering a strike (commencing on either a single unit - or on an entire sector as preparatory fire - at the very same time).
    • The arty group would need an HQ unit, as these groups were usually lined up in a sector, sometimes literally next to each other, sometimes with some space between them, but definetly rather concentrated, following Russian doctrine. There are pictures where you can see 2 regiments lined up next to each other, performing preparatory barrages.
    • Such an Arty HQ (group, or division) would also send out its observation elements to support the Rifle Corps with observed fire, request aerial recon missions (such missions should make it into in the game) and place its AT units to create a defensive perimeter. Aerial and especially ground recon played a vital role, proper target dentification and intel collection about size, quality and depth of static enemy defensive lines/structures was often gathered or confirmed by the observation Bn, in addition to correcting maps and fire matrix,
      • fast ground scouts with deep territory penetration for close- and medium-range spotting and target identification (did Soviet scouts have optics at all?, were the scouts from artillery unit's Observer elements employed in the same manner as the scouts in German Observer Bns - means rather aggressively, almost like recon Bn elements?),
      • aerial recon for HQ planning (looking for weak spots) and arty-group target selection
      • Artillery observer Bns providing general intel for the arty groups,
      • individual scout cars or small platoons to render scout/obs elements.
    I am not sure if it's worth the effort, as some of these things can be abstracted, and the player can combine arty units. But if it comes to playing an aggressive Soviet AI, and in order to realistically render the devastating Russian arty missions, a Soviet AI would have to be able to combine arty units and shift fire focus to support the Rifle Corps, at least, which means it would have to be able to focus on protecting a particular sector (but also on a particular unit that is executing a counterattack in that sector, of course).
     
    #4 GoodGuy, Nov 13, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
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  5. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

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    The German artillery doctrine was somethat different, as divisional artillery (the higher calibre IGs of the Inf Bns' heavy Coys used to be combined and employed on a regimental level in support of the Inf Regiment or particular Inf Bns, the lower calibre pieces directly supported the line Coys of a given Bn) and attached artillery regiments sought to focus on creating a (thus bombarding the) Schwerpunkt and (in an artillery regiment) also on executing counterbattery fire. With the sound measuring units, the Germans were quite successful in either keeping Soviet artys down or even in destroying them during the first 2 years of the campaign, until the Soviets started to learn the lessons where they then kept their guns outside the German artillery's max range. Since - in the main - the Soviet light and medium pieces featured an avg 1 - 4 km max range advantage, they could still safely plaster the first line of the German positions, at least.

    Another main goal of German units (ranging from mortars to arty pieces) was to disable, kill or deny enemy artillery observers from performing their missions, if inf could not boot them. The Germans put quite some effort into identifying and knocking out forward observers or observer posts. In turn, German artillery units's efforts were more than often hampered by enemy shells hitting their field telephone lines and where either unfavorable terrain or shitty or empty radio batteries did not allow for proceeding with observed fire missions. More than often it turned out to be an almost impossible mission to find the 2 cable ends say in dense woods, or in a heavily contested city area with house-to-house fighting. The number of losses among these signal teams were quite high.

    Also, the radio of an FO (moving forward with the grunts) had a bulky "tornister" (backpack) radio with a range of 1000 meters only, so that a B-post had to relay the info to the arty unit using the field telephone or a bigger stationary radio. If radios could be used and radio posts reached, the Germans usually broke the radio silence, even tho they feared comms could be intercepted and arty positions revealed, to keep up the pressure with bombardments. There were cases where radio batteries failed and wires were trashed in North Africa, so that the particular arty units had to fall back to using the poor maps of the area they had, so that none of the shells actually scored any vital hits, but the inf troops would still thank them after the battle, as the ineffective shelling of enemy positions still created a positive psychological boost on the friendly ground toops' morale.
    The German forward observers' (usually Lieutenants) death toll was quite high, since they were usually either in the first line, right behind the spearheading troops, or - escorted by a scout squad - even up to 3 kilometers in front of the German lines. Quite some artillery commanders (ranging from battery to regiment Co.) were also often right at the front MBL to personally command fire missions, resulting in a corresponding higher death toll.

    The backbone of the heavy artillery in the German army (= Heer) was the 170 mm-Kanone 18 (max. range: almost 30,000 meters) , the 150 mm gun and the 210 mm-Mortar 18 (max. range: around 16,700 meters) , where the latter actually looked like a huge howitzer, but where the muzzle velocity actually did not exceed 565 meters/second, which resembled heavy mortar velocity speeds. The 150-mm-Kanone 18 and the 150-mm-Kanone 39 were also used, along with a wild mix of captured guns from various countries, ranging from 128 mm (french) to 155 mm (french) cannons, and even to 240 mm (czech, dubbed "schlanke Emma" by the Germans) and 305 mm (czech, used during the sieges of Sevastopol and Leningrad) mortars.
    The 4th Abteilung in SS Artillery regiments was equipped with some of these 150mm and/or 170 mm howitzers, too, as their Corps did not have an Army's Corps infrastructure (means guns) and depended on the Heer's Corps or Army artillery support.

    Hierarchy-wise, all of these guns were Corps assets (sometimes Army) alloted by and from the GHQ pool and directly controlled by the Arko (Artilleriekommandeur) and organized in so-called heavy artillery regiments. In sectors that were larger than the usual Corps sector a senior artillery commander acted as "Höh.Arko" ("Höherer Artilleriekommandeur" = higher artillery commander) and was in charge of all units tasked with covering that area.

    During the course of an operation, an Arko could also find himself in control of units other than artillery:
    • Panzerjäger - this seems to be pretty much like the Soviet concept (not sure if one side copied the other, or if this had evolved independently), as protective measure against unexpected enemy armor thrusts. Even though German AT units used to be independent commands and drawn from the GHQ pool and put under direct command of the Corps or the Army, they could also be found under an Arko, ranging from platoon to Bn-sized AT formations.
    • Nebeltruppen - translating to "smoke troops", a deceptive designation aimed to hide the fact that these units were meant to conduct gas attacks, gas protection and decontamination, initially, but referring to real smoke troops later on and - eventually - keeping the deceptive designation after having turned into the rocket launcher force employed by the Germans.
    • Heeresflak - an army AA unit which could range from a battery-sized to a Bn-sized formation (only a low number of independent Bns).
    • Luftwaffe units - also providing AA cover, as additional reinforcement, drawn from Germany's main AA arm.

    If not used for siege missions, the heavy regiments were supposed to conduct "general fire missions" on targets residing way behind enemy frontline positions, deep into the hinterland. For such missions these regiments depended on artillery observer planes, but also on Artillery Observer Bns - where the latter conducted missions behind enemy lines as well, as the artillery forward observers' (officers who were embedded with or positioned near frontline ground units and could switch between several "B"-posts = observation posts, usually) visual target acquisition often could not screen past the immediate rear area of the MBL, even if scissor scopes were available, escpecially when woods, elevations or bldgs obscured the LOS.
    In exceptional cases, single heavy arty Abteilungen were employed to aid the divisional arty to temporarily enhance firepower in high threat front sectors, or where elements of the attached artillery regiment were not available, but usually remained to be held back to conduct the mentioned general fire missions.
    Starting in around 1943, the 150 mm-pieces had to conduct an increasing number of direct support missions, supporting particular Divisions that were threatened to be overrun or that needed additional firepower for its own push.
    The Germans tried to adopt the Russian concept of Artillery Divisions, but the one arty division that was formed in 1944 never saw action as a completely committed fighting unit (means operating in the same operation as one big unit), only parts were committed before the end of the war.



    In order to render this, future game AI and OOB would have to render
    • heavy Coys as being divided and having all of their high calibre guns directly subordinated to the Regimental HQ (to support the Bns) in one group (unit), while the lower calibre guns keep their organization and keep providing direct support to particular Coys, if needed, as regimental commanders often combined these peaces to improve firepower and results (field manuals also pointed out that a regimental commander could order the grouping at his own discretion, at any time, and that option was widely used)
    • the ability for the German AI to focus the fire of such regimental assets on BN efforts,
    • additional units being assigned directly to the Corps' Arko, ranging from AT to AA units,
    • heavy artillery units (maybe even with a single mortar, say a single 305 mm - if part of the operation)
    • fast ground scouts with optics providing for medium and long range spotting and target identification,
    • aerial recon (Fieseler Storch plane) spotting for the heavy artillery units and delivering general (poor to good) intel about enemy unit movements,
    • Artillery observer Bns (directly subordinated to the Artillery Regiments and maybe even employed for Heavy Artillery Regiments),
    • fast scouts (the Germans had pretty fast armored scouts [6- and 8-wheelers], and they were probably the only faction that employed scouts with long range radio equipment AND long range optics),
    • individual scout cars or small platoons to render scout/obs elements.
    The question is, if it would be worth the effort. If I imagine that a Russian AI would be able to handle arty groups, wide front bombardments, combined arty missions on particular counter-attacking enemy units and deep thrusts where Inf units then hold gained ground, and if such an AI (doctrine) would then face a German doctrine that focuses on Schwerpunkt attacks (offensive) and fortfied or makeshift defenses with tank units as firefighter brigades to repel attacks and seal gaps until relieved by Inf units, in a defensive posture, then I'd say it would turn the game into the most perfect depiction of historic operational combat on the Eastern Front and that may be worth the effort.

    My 500 cents.

    PS: Well, a dismount feature would make it even more realistic.
     
    #5 GoodGuy, Nov 13, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
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  6. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

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    Forgot to add something:
    In the German Army, the troops of a division's organic arty pieces, and the troops of the artillery regiments were trained and capable to defend artillery positions in an infantry role. Also, the units had either AP (armor piercing) rounds or HEAT rounds at their disposal.

    The hollow charge round available for the leIG 18 infantry gun, for instance, only enabled crews to fight moving targets at ranges of up to 400 meters (due to the low velocity), but at least enabled them to fight Allied medium tanks, as these rounds could penetrate 85 mm of armor. Some of the higher calibre arty guns, like the light or heavy field howitzers (leFH 18 + s.FH 18), could either fire AP rounds or HEAT rounds, most (if not all) of the heavy and super heavy artillery cannons (above 150 mm) did not have AT capabilities, though.

    The 150-mm "schweres Infanterie-Geschütz 33" received a HEAT grenade later on, which enabled the gun to penetrate 160 mm of armor. Since it also received the over-calibre 300 mm stick grenade, which contained 54 kg of explosives (range 1000 meters, velocity: 105 meters/second), it could deliver devastating blows to enemy troops trying to storm the arty position, if the terrain allowed for direct shots.

    For instance, even the bulky 10-cm Kanone 18, used as coastal gun in later stages of the war, but occasionally found in medium Bn of artillery regiments, was used for AT duties during early stages of the Russian campaign. Its Panzergranate 19, initially used against bunkers, could be effectively used against tanks at ranges of up to 1500 meters, using a mittlere Ladung (mittlere = "medium"-sized propellant bag, some gun type received prepacked powder bags, so that gunners or gun crewleaders did not have to calculate the necessary amount of propellant bags), which offered a muzzle velocity of 682 meters/second.

    The 15-cm schwere Feldhaubitze 18 (150-mm heavy Field gun 18) received HEAT rounds (Hohlladungsgranate 39) AND AP rounds (Panzergranate 39/5).

    The 10,5-cm leichte Feldhaubitze 18 also recieved AP rounds (PzGr and PzGr "red") and "39 HL" HEAT rounds. While these guns played a vital role in deating British armor at Sidi Rezegh during Operation Crusader in North Africa, the guns were less successful in AT roles in the Russian theater (sloped armor of the T-34, relatively thick armor on KV-1 and KV-2 tanks).
    The "red" round (usually marked with red paint ring) was actually an anti-concrete round, which was the only available piercing round for some type of guns. Since quite some anti-concrete rounds could penetrate up to 1 meter of concrete, the penetration power was usually sufficient to either pierce through armored targets, or damage them, so that they could be used like as AP rounds. Russian anti-concrete rounds would often knock off the turrets of the German tanks (eg. Pz III, Pz IV and even Panthers) or create huge holes in the turrets' side or rear structure, when flanked).

    According to author Joachim Engelmann, the version (with rubber tires) for motorized units could - if towed by the SdKfz 6 or Sd.Kfz. 11 prime mover - easily reach march speeds of 40 km/h, where 40 km - according to him - equaled a day's march for the horse-drawn version.
    Engelmann also stresses, that the action radius of a motorized leFH 18 battery was 10 times greater than the radius of a horse-drawn battery and required 49 less personnel, as attaching the guns to the vehicels required less personnel/labor, than attaching the horse-drawn versions to carriages or dismounting these in the fire positions.

    The captured Russian 15,2-cm Kanonenhaubitze 433/1(r) (the Wehrmacht incorporated 974 pieces into their ranks) also received AP grenades.(muzzle velocity: 670 meters/second). The gun had a vital range advantage on its German counterpart, (almost 3 km) and was liked for its very modern design and reliability, so that the Germans started to produce HE rounds particularly for that gun, when the stocks of captured 152 mm HE rounds had emptied in around Mid 1943.

    In German defensive lines (see "HQ"-thread), and during enemy breakthroughs, the artillery's firing positions often happened to be the last blocking position before the dedicated blocking positions (which were unmanned, until the order came to fall back to these "Alamo" positions) could be manned. On these occasions, the gunners would then perform direct fire with HE against enemy troops, and direct fire with AP (if available) or HEAT against enemy tanks. Once enemy troops got to a certain minimum distance (I think the German artillery field manual mentioned 60 meters), the gun crews would then switch to an infantry role, and use their MGs, MPs, carbines and Panzerfausts.

    Just like any other Wehrmacht branch, the gun crews had received full ground combat training during boot camp and additional training (switching roles, direct targeting) was also provided in camp and when off-duty between deployments. When artillery units had 88-mm Flak guns at their disposal (eg. AA element in an artillery regiment), AT combat was often very successful.
     
    #6 GoodGuy, Nov 14, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
  7. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

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    Another detail about arty handling:

    German artillery pieces that were generally tasked with helping to repel enemy attacks (focusing on an area in front of the MBL) and that were constantly covering (thus aiming at predefined attack/approach routes) such threatened sector, would also receive and execute calls to aim at other targets of opportunity during lulls. After such firing mission they would then execute official procedure, means they would always swing back their guns to the predefined perimeter in front of the MBL. This enabled the German artillery to react even to enemy surprise attacks, say where German posts did not detect the form up of enemy troops, within an extremely (deadly) short time frame, as a barrage or box barrage then commenced within 1-2 minutes only, usually, and reverse-rolling barrages (to follow incoming troops towards the MBL) then often didn't even need to be adjusted by the FO, due to the use of prepared fire matrices. If the map material was not detailed enough, matrices were created by firing probe/sample shots during lulls, which were corrected (and the results transmitted) by the FO.

    This short reaction time and accurate shelling required measuring of the gun position (lateral position, vertical position, terrain layout, angle), accurate weather data (wind speeds, barometric pressure, maybe temperature) and proper maps, etc., and it did not require to fire multiple shots (to zero in) at all, if the collected data was accurate.

    During 1941 and 1942 Russian artillery fire was often reported to be pretty inaccurate by German officers, which may have been the result of a general lack of training, (possibly) low data quality or even missing data.
     
    #7 GoodGuy, Nov 14, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017

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