Monday 27 October 2014

IS-2 and ISU-152 Manual

Despite my best efforts, many people still believe that Soviet heavy guns were inaccurate and were incapable of engaging the enemy at long range. Here is another nail in that coffin with the "Directive of the Military Council of the 1st Ukrainian Front on the use of IS-2 and ISU-152 regiments in combat" published in Collection of Combat Documents from the Great Patriotic War, vol. 2, doc. 7.

"The practice of use of heavy tanks and SPG regiments in combat shows that IS-122 and ISU-152 tanks are the most effective method of fighting enemy heavy tanks (Tiger and Panther) and SPGs (Ferdinand), as well as destroying enemy artillery and fortifications.

IS-122 and ISU-152 regiments are used to strengthen tank or mechanized corps, and in rare cases, infantry corps.

The use of IS-122 and ISU-152 regiments as a part of tank or mechanized units achieves significant results in combat, which is confirmed by the actions of these regiments on the 1st Ukrainian Front."

The specifics of the combat examples have little to do with the point of the document, and have extracted them into other articles. It is sufficient to say that IS-2 tanks that opened fire from 1500-2000 meters in several cases and ISU-152 SPGs that opened fire from 1400-1500 meters in the other achieved very palpable results. Continuing on, here is that the Council has determined that the correct application of these heavy vehicles entail:

"The combat use of IS-122 tank regiments and ISU-152 SPG regiments

The off-road performance, armour, mobility, and constant readiness to open fire allows SPGs to follow tank and infantry units and constantly support them with heavy fire.

The IS-122 and ISU-152 should open direct fire at ranges of up to 2000 meters. Most effective fire is from 1500 meters.

Tanks fire from short stops, from open, half-open, and if possible, concealed positions. Tanks and SPGs follow medium tanks or infantry from one position to another, combining fire and maneuver, not lagging behind the battle. If tanks or SPGs lag behind, their knowledge of the battlefield is reduced, and they cannot fire timely. The flanks of heavy tanks should be covered with medium tanks or infantry with artillery.

Additionally, each heavy tank or SPG should have a submachinegunner escort.

Competent use of terrain increases effectiveness, reduces losses, and aids in achieving surprise attacks at the enemy. The terrain shape, upper layer of soil, and off road performance have significant impacts on the mobility of heavy tanks and SPGs. Swamps, wide and deep rivers, wet plains are difficult obstacles, and must be scouted out in a timely nature.

Reconnaissance of the battlefield must commence as soon as orders are received and continue throughout the battle. The task of the scout is to discover the condition of terrain and roads, presence of bridges and their capacity, possibility of approaching the enemy while hidden, and priority objectives for tanks and SPGs to destroy.

Observation of the battlefield is of utmost importance. In the regiment, HQ officers observe the battle from Observation and Communications Points. Vehicle and unit commanders observe the battlefield from their vehicles, or personally on foot (or prone). The results of observation must be immediately communicated to the commander by radio or a messenger.

The regiment commander commands his companies or batteries with radios, messengers, or rockets. Using other types of communication increases the reliability of command. In battle, orders to fire are usually given in cleartext, but the names of units and names and ranks of the commanders must be given in code. The regimental commander's first priority is to keep in contact with whoever his unit has been assigned to. In battle, he must be present within the ranks of the regiment, from where he may control his companies or batteries and, in a critical moment, inspire his men with personal courage.

1. Marches.

The regimental commander and his HQ provide seamless marching conditions by means of scouting out the route and locations nearby.

The movement speed on good roads is 20 kph. Average speed is no less than 15 kph (10 kph on mountainous terrain). Weather and specifics of the road lead to significant variance in speeds. When marching on mountains on serpentine roads with sharp turns, more time must be alotted, as stops to inspect the vehicles must be more frequent. The regiment marches company by company (battery by battery). One company (battery) follows another after a set length of time. When operating in operational depth without immediate contact with the enemy, the battery must be ready to deflect enemy counterattacks.

2. Offensive.

The IS tanks and ISU-152 SPGs have the same off-road performance and maneuverability as medium tanks. Because of this, they can accompany tanks and motorized infantry during offensives. The commander of the unit to which the regiment is assigned and the regimental commander organize the movement of the regiment, determine objectives and how they should be achieved, the location of the regiment in the order of battle, a joint communications system, and the methods of communication.

The regiment, as a rule, drives forward in the second echelon, 300-500 meters behind medium tanks or infantry. Its place is the location of the main strike, along a 1000-1500 meter wide front. The main purpose of the IS and ISU tanks is to destroy enemy tanks and SPGs, as well as deflect enemy counterattacks.

When attacking, close terrain with an uneven landscape and good ability to observe is favourable. Uneven landscapes protect the IS and ISU from enemy close combat measures.

When penetrating an enemy defensive line, IS and ISU tanks may be used in the first echelon to destroy fortifications.

Some of the tanks may be used in assault groups. For this, they are assigned to infantry regiments and are distributed among assault battalions. Tanks, operating carefully on their terrain, attack fortifications as a part of assault groups, opening fire at 1500 meters or closer.

3. Defense.

IS and ISU tanks are a powerful anti-tank defense method, and can serve as a mobile anti-tank reserve. Its place is in the direction the enemy is most likely to attack from. When defending, tanks should be placed in cooperation with anti-tank guns.

An IS-122 regiment or ISU-152 regiment is placed in an interleaved manner along a 2.5 km wide and 2 km deep front. When defending, terrain that is open while the tank itself is concealed is preferred.

The first line of defense is infantry, artillery, and medium tanks. Behind them, 500-600 meters away, are 2-3 companies of IS and ISU tanks. 800-1000 meters behind are the rest of the regiments's tanks, acting as a mobile reserve.

Crews ready 2-3 positions for their tank, one of which is the main one. They must be connected by hidden paths. All positions must be equipped with trenches that cover the hull of the tank or SPG, and carefully hidden. In order to fire precisely and effectively at enemy tanks, prepare firing cards.

It is reasonable to keep tanks hidden, and only move them out when the attack starts. If there is no time to make hidden paths, take up positions along routes that only reveal a portion of the turret. In both cases, each tank and SPG must carefully observe the battlefield. Always be ready to meet enemy tanks and repel them.

It is reasonable to let enemy tanks get as close as possible.

When firing at 1500 meters, the IS and ISU can destroy any enemy heavy tank. It is especially favourable when the enemy shows his side.

When deflecting the enemy's attacks, a useful method is to fight in pairs. One tank shoots, while the other watches enemy maneuvers, and assists the first tank.

The method of ambushes has proven itself. Ambushes are placed in likely directions of enemy attack, with the objective of letting enemy tanks close, then destroy them with sudden aimed fire.

Otherwise, follow the Armoured and Mechanized Forces manual parts 1 and 2.

The use of IS-122 tanks and ISU-152 SPGs in front of infantry and medium tanks or as immobile guns is forbidden.

Commander of the Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the 1st Ukrainian Front, Lieutenant-General Novikov
Deputy Commander of the Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the 1st Ukrainian Front, Major-General Petrov"

In case someone thought that this long range use is specific to the 1st Ukrainian Front, a similar order is given by the Commander of the Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the Red Army (Order #484120, published in vol. 15 doc. 9):

"Heavy tanks and SPGs open direct (generally) fire: at tanks from ranges up to 2 kilometers, at large targets (concentrations of enemies, artillery positions) from 3 kilometers.

Heavy tanks and SPGs fire from stationary positions (ambushes), from short stops, and on the move (at large targets)."


  1. Thanks again for more hard evidence to destroy myths and baseless subjective claims on supposedly inaccuracy of Soviet heavy guns.

  2. "Tanks fire from short stops, from open, half-open, and if possible, concealed positions." What does open and half-open refer to? Does half-open mean hulldown?

    1. Open is the middle of a field, half-open is hull down (in a trench), closed is indirect fire.

  3. And what about loading guns in advance during attack ? 152 and 122 mm guns had low rate of fire but very powerfull HE ammo which should be used against tank as against fortifications so they should load it before confrotation with enemy. Did some tankers of this vehicles practice it? Because this tactic should eliminate low rate of fire during mass attack of this tanks when the forces of both sides was balanced.

    1. As far as I know, tankers only loaded ammunition once a target has been identified.

  4. Soviet Tanks were Notoriously In-accurate. It is a well documented fact!!! And what the Russian's wouldn't lie witht their reports of accuracy and efficiency id the !22mm and the !52mm AT Guns??? Please tell that BS to some Russian love troglodite!!! Oh and by the way tell that to the entire polish Officer Corps that was summarily executed by the NKVD!!!!

    1. I think he speaks seriously. What is funny about this kind of people is how they explain themselves Germans with all their uberweapons lost the war against Soviet, whom weapons were so inaccurate sometimes guns hit themselfs with the ordenance they fired,

  5. Accuracy is a relative term. I don't think any tank gun was particular accurate or inaccurate. However what matters it the hit change of a target which is greatly increased with high velocity guns. So high velocity German guns combined with good quality optics probably allowed them to score more hits than the Soviets could have with their guns and optics.