Prokhorovka central corridor sector AAR

Discussion in 'CO2 - After Action Reports' started by john connor, Feb 1, 2015.

  1. john connor

    john connor Member

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    Whilst we're all waiting for CO2, I thought I would do a quick AAR of a battle in a very small but crucial area of the Prokhorovka corridor, just to amuse myself. I'll be playing as Axis.

    The sector is roughly the area highlighted on the larger map:
    1.png


    Looks like this:

    2.png
     
  2. john connor

    john connor Member

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    At start - 4.45am on 12 July 1943 - my forces are dug-in or entrenched as below:

    3.png
     
  3. john connor

    john connor Member

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    This is a short, compact, 15 hour scenario covering what is arguably the most famous tranche of the Prokhorovka (Kursk) battle. The map is cropped and pimped up from my larger maps of the battlefield. It is accurate - a trace from soviet era maps of the area.

    4.png
     
  4. john connor

    john connor Member

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    Though space is limited - as it was in real life - this is more or less my ideal size of scenario in this game. I command a roughly Regimental strength force. All the units I have are visible in the post above. I have no reinforcements. On the actual day the rest of SS Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler (LAH) was occupied defending the crucial hill to the nth-east of Oktiabrski State farm and the farm itself. The soviet attacks were massive and all along the southern salient in this sector. To my west is SS Division Totenkopf - TK - (off map) fighting in a bridgehead north of the river Psel (which is just off map, nth-west of Prelestnoye) and to the east is a Regiment of Das Reich (off map), covering the LAH right flank at the other side of the ridge along which the Prokhorovka rail line and road runs (partly visible at the bottom of the map). That left the force you see in the map above to defend the gap between the LAH positions and the TK positions - the area south of Hill 225.7. The plan was to close this with an attack on 12th July, advancing past the hill on up into Prokhorovka itself. But the soviets moved in their last big armoured reserve during the night - the 5th Guards Tank Army - and LAH was forced onto the defensive. That's where we're at now as the scenario starts. We know a big tank attack is coming.....
     
    #4 john connor, Feb 1, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015
  5. john connor

    john connor Member

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    The scenario briefing:

    The Corridor, Prokhorovka
    July 12th 1943
    Historical scenario
    OPERATION CITADEL: DAY 8: The Kursk offensive, southern shoulder. Both sides have been fighting without stop for almost a week. But both sides sense a crushing blow is possible. The 12th July will be the decisive day.
    A short, 15 hour scenario - featuring part of one of the largest clash of tanks in history. This is a smaller version of my larger Thunder at Prokhorovka and The Corridor scenarios, focusing on smaller areas of conflict within the whole.
    This version is balanced for Axis play only. You command part of LAH covering the left flank of LAH's positions. You are very much outnumbered, as it turns out, but your men are the cream of the Axis armed forces, if - at this stage - a little weary.
    Historically, the Axis planned, on this day, to break past the last soviet defences before the open run to Kursk.
    But recon and intel during the night suggested very clearly that a major Soviet counter-attack was planned, so the Axis went onto the defensive at first light, with orders not to commence their attack until the soviet attack was spent. By around 11am the massive soviet attack had been stopped in smoke and wrecks and the Axis then started launching their own thrust. But just as heavy arty fires had mainly contributed to slowing the soviets, now the same happened with the Axis afternoon attacks, and they didn't get far.
    Historically the LAH lost only 17 tanks and destroyed nearly 150 soviet tanks. The usual reason given is the limited situational awareness of soviet tank crews due to having a dual role gunner/commander who was invariably buttoned up and therefore could only see where the gun was pointing. The Axis had 5 man crews and greater SA. In this sector the LAH had about 60 tanks, and faced nearly 300.
    The map is an accurate trace from a soviet map. I've experimented a little with map effects to try to give a proper indication of the different effects of various terrains on movement, cover and visibility.
    The forces assembled are historically accurate, at least in terms of their names and the units involved. I have used Chris Maiorana's EF estab (many thanks!), which is the only EF estab we have in CO right now. I haven't tampered with composition and equipment, so the estab is as accurate as Chris could make it! I have no idea how to mess with estabs yet.....
    We have no mount/dismount code just yet in CO, so to get around this I've made everything at least minimally passable to motorized transport.
    Some units have been fighting all night and their fatigue reflects this. All units - as in reality - have had time to at least dig-in during the night hours, some have had longer or have used old soviet positions and are entrenched .

    Remember, you cannot get more than a draw by staying put.


    Note: There were no Panthers (except perhaps a few in HQ units) and very few Tigers involved. In reality LAH had only 4 functional Tigers. The famous Michael Wittman commanded them on the day.
    There is a 2 hour grace period with no orders delay (plans have already been made etc).
     
  6. john connor

    john connor Member

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    The side briefing:

    You hold positions to the west of the Prokhorovka road and rail line. The Oktiabrski State Farm is just off map in the top right-hand corner. The Kossomolets State farm is just off map in the bottom left-hand corner. The River Psel lies just beyond the village of Prelestnoye, to your nth west. SS Division Totenkopf hold a bridgehead over the Psel and villages west of Prelestnoye (off map). The boundary between TK and yourself - the area south of Hill 225.7 - is weak. Knittel's recon Bn are the only units covering it. A low gully runs through the boundary and there have been heavy rains during the early hours, rendering movement difficult in the softer soils of the gully. The weather will likely be overcast, so there may not be much air cover.
    We were due to go on the offensive today, but extensive recon reports during the night suggest there will be a large soviet armoured attack. We believe the soviet's last reserve - the 5th Guards Tank Army - has moved into attack positions and it is possible that the 18th Tank Corps is assembling north of you, a force of over 200 T34 tanks. You are therefore ordered to stabilise your lines, go over to the defensive and allow the enemy to expend himself, then go onto the offensive and take the deep objectives during the second part of the day. Stage 2 - going onto the offensive - is the key to victory here. We must make progress north. The LAH-TK boundary is a weak spot that you are responsible for. It must be closed, or blocked. The enemy must not be allowed to get between LAH and TK. You will seal this gap if you manage to take the area around Hill 225.7.
    You have a roughly Regimental strength force at your disposal - one Bn of the first Regiment 1 SS PG, plus a Bn of armour and a Stug attachment - around 60 tanks. There is local artillery support but be aware that if the enemy pierces too deep he will be inside minimum range of most guns. As usual, you can expect to be challenged by a force at least 3 times this strength, but consisting of weak, poorly trained troops. Nevertheless, this will be a difficult day.
    You should not expect reinforcements. The remainder of LAH will be engaged to the north and east of you, defending the State Farm that anchors your right flank and the crucial hill beyond that. DF Regiment of Das Reich has your flank to the other side of the rail/road ridge.
    Good luck!
     
  7. john connor

    john connor Member

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    The OOB for the Axis side:

    5.png

    As far as I can determine, having read several good sources on the battle, this was the historical OOB for this sector. 60 tanks and 4,000 men. But because I've loaded the map with large bases that would have, in fact, been engaged in supplying other units in other sectors, the fighting force is actually around 2,400 men. 60 tanks and two and a half thousand men. I know that the soviets have three times that number!
     
  8. john connor

    john connor Member

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    A couple of minutes into the scenario. I have given 4 orders to make use of the dug-in and entrenched status of my units, well aware that an attack is coming. One to each of my 3 Bns to defend, in situ, on max losses, aggro and rof, and one catch-all to the on map boss (LAH) in the same terms.

    6.png
     
  9. john connor

    john connor Member

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    7.png

    This is what happened historically, anyway......

    In fact, there were probing attacks during darkness, historically, and a main assault around 7am-8am, but I would expect the AI to launch off a bit quicker than this, though the soviet side does have normal orders delay. I have a 2 hour grace period with no orders delay.

    Historically, the soviet assault was an appalling mess - at least many have recently argued this (though immediately after the war and right up to the 70s the soviets themselves got to write the history of this engagement and produced a different and more glorious account..). There was terrible communication between soviet tanks and tanks (hardly any radios), and tanks and infantry, leading to very poor overwatch and movement. The tanks drivers were very poor (all crews very green and inexperienced, in fact) and often stranded tanks in mud or soviet AT ditches. The spotting from the T34s was terrible because there was no separate commander role and the gunner/commander followed doctrine by driving buttoned up. Plus, soviet command thought they might be facing up to 100 Tigers (instead of 4!!!!!!) and gave instructions to tank drivers to race towards the enemy in order to close the range to attempt to negate the Tigers advantages in range (due to better optics and gun, plus better training), but whilst moving the T34s could not really shoot accurately. Plus the Axis - hearing assembling tank engines throughout the night - brought up powerful artillery and were able to effectively pin soviet tank assaults using the arty.
     
    #9 john connor, Feb 1, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015
  10. john connor

    john connor Member

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    The modern day battlefield, as viewed on google earth, looks like the pic below - an unhelpful mix of lo-res and hi-res images. But most of the crucial area is that blurry mess:

    8.png

    Luckily the google street view car managed to drive right through some crucial areas, however!
     
  11. john connor

    john connor Member

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    So, the picture below is taken from precisely where my armoured Bn is deployed:

    9.png

    The thin band of land between the 2 tree lines to the right, just right of my arrow indicating the central gully, is what is visible of the land beyond the gully. From the Tiger and Pz IV positions this is about 2km, but those tanks can spot and hit at that distance, whereas the T34s could not do this so well (worse optics). This will be a crucial area of advantage for me and I've highlighted the view on the game map below. But when historians speak, in fact, of the optics, training and gun advantage the Axis armour enjoyed, they're usually speaking of engagements at much shorter distances, like the distance in the picture above from the camera position to the first line of trees straight ahead. It seems that historically, the soviet tanks would still race to close such a distance (about 300 metres) instead of stopping and firing. Whereas the Axis tanks were hull down and concentrating only on targeting.

    10.png

    For the yellow LOS line pointing off to the right, long-distance, the gully itself is not in LOS, but the land to the far side of it is.
     
    #11 john connor, Feb 1, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015
  12. john connor

    john connor Member

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    In terms of armour cover, if I have a weakness in the present deployments then I think it's shown in the picture below - the weakness that existed historically. This is the extreme edge of the gap between LAH and TK and there's only the very edge of Knittel's recon Bn covering it. If tanks come past here then the tree lines will screen them until they are within 150m of my Stugs. But will the AI see this?

    11.png
     
  13. john connor

    john connor Member

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    Some typical units follow, to give you an idea of the quality of the SS troops:

    12.png

    13.png

    14.png

    15.png

    16.png
     
  14. john connor

    john connor Member

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    Changed my mind and lassoed everyone (to bring them under on-map boss command again) and issued an in-situ rest order to try to erode the fatigue levels. 5am now and it's getting light. Some enemy activity spotted around 3km away at the top right of our sector. I will try and keep the rest order going until around 6.15am.

    17.png
     
  15. john connor

    john connor Member

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    Did I forget to mention objectives? They are what makes this hard.....

    18.png

    All objectives are split between completion and occupation. The red ones only activate at 13.45pm. The yellow one activates at 16.45pm.

    Being realistic - because this scenario is set up to be historically accurate - I would think I might hold onto the blue objectives and get 2 out of 3 red ones if I'm lucky (depends how successful I am at killing soviet tanks as they come out of the gully). No chance at the yellow. I think I will get half the kill points. So I'll either draw or get a marginal victory. That's my guess.
     
  16. john connor

    john connor Member

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    6am. I've just reissued the defend orders I originally gave to the 3 Bns and the on-map boss, but they will take some time to filter down as we're on some orders delay now.

    19.png
     
  17. john connor

    john connor Member

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  18. john connor

    john connor Member

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    22.png

    Am I right, I wonder, in thinking that in CO2 we will be able to highlight the total area within LOS, and not just - as now - that from a particular unit? That would be useful.
     
  19. john connor

    john connor Member

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  20. john connor

    john connor Member

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    24.png

    Be lucky to hit at that range, I would have thought. Especially with the screen of bushes in front of the enemy tanks. The units firing are 5 Panther tanks. I'm not sure that they should be in the OOB for this battle, in fact. They're part of the HQ unit. But I don't know how to edit estabs so I can't get them out. The estab is Chris Maiorana's EF estab. There were Panthers in HQ units during Citadel, but I haven't found any evidence for any being operational during this part of this battle.
     

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