Wednesday 26 November 2014

German SPG Reviews

The following is a report from the artillery regiment of the Das Reich SS division, included in Zamulin's book "Forgetten Battles of the Fiery Salient".

"Artillery support of tank attacks in the 1943 offensives gave a lot of materials for operational research. One issue is especially relevant: is it reasonable to further develop SPGs, given the presence of 150 mm mortars on self propelled mounts (10-barrel mortars)? This is easily answered by asking the question: What is the mission of artillery in a tank attack, and what existing weapons can complete that mission?

The mission consists of the following tasks:
  1. Suppression or destruction of enemy AT guns, especially if they are deeply echeloned.
  2. Blinding of the enemy AT guns in order to strike with tanks past points of heavy resistance.
  3. Dispersion of enemy tank attacks.
  4. Attacks on areas occupied by the enemy (forests, villages).
Currently, Hummel, Wespe, and self propelled 150 mm mortars are available for these missions. A careful comparison of the drawbacks and advantages of these weapons can resolve the issue of their use.

Hummel SPG

  1. Sufficient gun caliber.
  2. Rapid readiness for battle.
  3. Long range.
  4. The gun is suitable for fighting small targets.
  5. The gun is suitable for counter-battery fire.
  1. The chassis is completely unsuitable for its load.
  2. The large size of the vehicle makes it vulnerable to attacks from the air.
  3. All guns must fire from one position in order for fire to be concentrated quickly. This means that mobility is low, which is not always suitable in a dynamic battle.
  4. The horizontal traverse angle is inadequate.
  5. The gun has poor maneuverability in battle or on the road.
  6. There are not enough guns for effective use of smoke, and often not enough smoke shells.
  7. There is a shortage of technical personnel.
  8. Due to the poor maneuverability, the gun's use in defensive battle is questionable. In winter, the engine must be running day and night in order to always be ready to turn the gun.
Wespe SPG

When a large amount of 75 and 88 mm guns are available, the Wespe is of no use. It is known from experience that the caliber of these guns is too small for a good smoke effect or ability to fight enemy tanks. From a technical point of view, unlike the Hummel, the Wespe is very reliable.

150 mm self propelled mortar

  1. The 60 barrels of one battery are easily concentrated on one target.
  2. It is easy to fire on areas, blind, or suppress AT guns.
  3. The smoke effect is strong.
  4. There is a large effect on the morale of the enemy.
  5. The effect against massed tank attacks is sufficient.
  6. The mortars are less visible from the air due to their size.
  7. Producing a 150 mm mortar is several times easier than producing a 150 mm howitzer, and the 150 mm mortar unit required less men.
  1. The 150 mm mortar is of no use against small targets.
  2. The range is low and dispersion is high.
  3. It is useless in counter-battery roles.
  4. It is not always possible to supply enough shells.
The comparison makes it clear that the 150 mm self propelled mortar is more suited to the issue of supporting a tank attack. One unit with two batteries of 6 mortars each is sufficient for battle. This matches the firepower of 7 units with 18 Hummels each."

The same officer that composed the report also writes that:

"Every knocked out SPG means the loss of one gun, which is unknown in towed artillery. There, the gun is hooked up to another tractor immediately.
Experience...clearly shows the superiority of towed artillery versus self propelled artillery. After six months of battle, artillery units still have functional suspensions on 95% of their guns, whereas the self propelled unit only has 25% readiness. If our regiment was supplied with SPG units, this means that the division would not be supplied with artillery support in the majority of cases."


  1. A very interesting read. I'm guessing the 150 mm mortar the author refers to is a Panzerwerfer?

    1. I belief the author referred to the SiG-33 and Bison.

    2. I would guess they refer to the Grille. The Bison or Sturmpanzer II is also possible, but they were very rare vehicles over all, so they probably refer to the Grille.

  2. Wow. This so totally different than the impression one gets from wargaming, where SP artillery is just "better" in almost every conceivable way to towed artillery, in that you eliminate the time spent limbering/unlimbering the guns. In gaming there's no downside.

  3. "Every knocked out SPG means the loss of one gun, which is unknown in towed artillery. There, the gun is hooked up to another tractor immediately."

    The Germans say the same against the use of WaffenTrager, if you lose the vehicle you lose the gun.

  4. The Germans are insisting that 105mm smoke shells aren't good enough? Really? And that it's a flaw when their SP howitzers aren't great at penetrating heavy armor?

    I also note that six whole months of combat was enough to reduce their SPGs to 25% readiness. Yes, they're right, SP artillery that is always broken isn't as good as towed artillery. But that's not inherent to SPGs, that's inherent to bad designs operated without enough spare parts or mechanics.