flamming_python wrote:I was reading some material about the Battle of Kursk, and it was mentioned that about 7-8% of the German tank pool consisted of Tiger tanks (with a similar number of Panthers).
One smart thing the Germans did at the battle, was not to group their Tigers up into their own formations, but spread them around all the existing tank formations. What you ended up with was tank companies and groups consisting of multiple different types of tanks, including the Tigers. The Tigers would spearhead each assault and moving column, and would essentially act as shields for the tanks behind them.
Everyone did the same and had heavy tanks form the first echelon in the attack. Its only obvious; you have a unit that can reliably absorb most enemy fire and emerge unscathed, but there aren't many of them compared to the lighter units that form the bulk of your combat power so you put them up as screens so the rest of your force don't die so quickly before they can do their damage.
Of course this isn't as efficient or effective as massing them together. Of the extensive Soviet defenseive belts stretching for 300 km at the furthest, they could only manage to penetrate 20 km into the tactical depths before running out of steam, so it wasn't a good decision in hindsight, but then again they hardly had the forces needed to do it by the book as it were anyway.
This mitigated the effect and tactics of Soviet AT artillery very significantly. The Soviet 76mm AT guns could only reliably penetrate a Tiger frontally from about 300m. Thus upon sighting the presence of Tigers in an advancing formation, they could not open fire at 1-2km, but had to wait until the tanks were nearly on top of them - even if the majority of the German force otherwise consisted of Panzer IIIs and IVs. If the AT grouping were successful in concealment until then, they would usually knock out some tanks, but the position would ultimately be overrun.
It was a similar story for the T-34s entrenched in defensive positions.
The Soviet 45mm guns meanwhile, which made up more of the Soviet AT force than anything else - were not very effective against even German medium tanks on a good day, and stood no chance against Panthers and Tigers. Thus they were discouraged from engaging at all, and could only rely on ambush tactics.
The end result is that barely any Soviet AT guns had survived to the end of the German offensive, and the start of the Soviet attempted counterattack.
Sounds to me like they used the AT guns to their intended purpose. AT guns are not Napoleonic cannons you can wheel about on a field to blast infantry squares with. They are only useful if the battery crew aren't killed or suppressed. Lacking armor or the means to relocate on their own power they obviously are very vulnerable to enemy fire to include artillery and air strikes with which they have no answer for. Their only real protection is concealment.
Its true that the Soviet AT weapons were particularly anemic during Kursk, but that's not really the problem. The real problem is the tactical ineptitude of the Soviet commanders during the battle. For some reason they took the Tiger meme way too seriously and focused too much on countering the dreaded German heavy tanks they forgot they are but a small fraction of the overall Panzerwaffe. One of the commanders even instructed his tankers to charge like madmen at the German tanks so they can get close enough to target the weaker flank armor. In theory this should work against the numerically inferior heavy tanks, but they are rolling in with a lot more tanks than just the Tigers and Panthers. What happened is that as soon as the Germans find the Russians rushing at them, they just calmly shot them to pieces and this being WW2 virtually none of the moving T-34's return fires could connect. This plus the mishap at the anti-tank ditch is how you end up with 300 tanks knocked out vs. 60 of the enemy's.
Anyway this got me all thinking
What would be the feasibility of mixing up tank companies today and creating specializations within them, so that there is a counter to any tactic the enemy wants to adopt?
AFAIK nothing like this concept is employed in either the Russian tank force or the NATO formations today.
Specialized units typically form their own detachments and are cross attached as needed. There are arguments for why its better to have them integrated from the get go but as far as ease of training and tactics go its better to just have dedicated units.
Taking for example a T-72B3 company.
The command tank could be equipped with an APS and the very latest reactive armour. Possibly along with it another tank could be equipped the same way as well. This would not only afford more protection to the most crucial tank in the formation, but would discourage the enemy from engaging at all, if they knew that what they had was unable to penetrate the lead tank's protection.
Taking the concept further, another T-72B3 of the company, could instead be swapped out for a BMPT-72, and would be used to suppress AT positions, infantry in dug-outs, bunkers or buildings.
Another tank could be fitted with a bias towards tank-launched missiles as opposed to normal rounds, and fitted with more sophisticated thermal and conventional optics sights than those found in ordinary T-72B3s. This tank's gunner would act as the marksman for the longest-range engagements, while its commander could act as a spotter for the rest of the company
With a T-90A company, you might have a T-90M as a command tank, and also replacing another tank in the company. And then everything else would be the same as above.
As you can see the idea mimics the idea of specialization within an infantry squad. Machine-gunner, marksman, RPG team, etc...
Within an infantry squad, it's rather easier to co-ordinate and specialize in this way than within a tank company; where everything has to be done through radio commands and orders passed down through commanders down to crews.
However this is where the latest generation of battlefield management systems come in, including the sort of systems that are being introduced in the latest gen tanks.
What do you think people?
Feasible? Has been tried already? Or would the logistics complications rule it out as not worth it?
The command tank typically sits behind 50-100 m behind his subordinates, so in theory he should be plenty safe. It doesn't hurt to give him an extra level of protection given how critical leadership is in the unit's performance.
In reality, I doubt the enemy would care that one tank in particular is extra resilient to their attacks. It might give them some pause but what's more likely is they'd attack some more and if it doesn't pan out just shift their attacks someplace else or something else, like the softer BMPs accompanying tanks. Compared to WW2 most non-joke militaries have a far more distributed and comprehensive anti-armor arsenal that most can actually afford to use anti-tank weaponry as prophylactic fires against likely enemy positions. That's the kind of environment that doesn't really care if one tank in particular is more protected when everybody else is vulnerable. Really the answer is universal levels of protection at least for the close in combat elements which means heavy tank protection not just for tanks but for IFVs, APCs, etc. Very expensive stuff to say the least.