Monday 29 October 2018

Tank Tactics

"Order of the People's Commissar of Defense #325
On the combat use of tank and mechanized units and formations
October 16th, 1942

The practice of war with German fascists showed us that we still have major drawbacks in the way we apply our tank units. The drawbacks are mainly as follows:
  1. When attacking enemy defenses, our tanks break away from the infantry, and having broken away, lose cooperation. Infantry, having been cut off from the tanks by enemy fire, does not support the tanks with artillery. The tanks, having broken away from infantry, fight one on one with enemy artillery, tanks, and infantry, taking heavy losses.
  2. Tanks throw themselves at the enemy defenses with out proper artillery support. Artillery does not suppress enemy anti-tank defenses on the front line, and tank support guns are not always used. Tanks take heavy fire from enemy anti-tank artillery when they approach enemy lines and take heavy losses.
    Tank and artillery commanders do not synchronize their actions based on landmarks, do not establish signals to open and cease fire.
    Artillery commanders that support tank attacks control artillery from remote observation posts and do not use radio tanks as forward observation posts.
  3. Tanks are introduced into battle in a hurry without proper reconnaissance of terrain in the front or rear of enemy territory, and without thorough study of enemy defenses by the tankers.
    Tank commanders do not have time to organize a tank attack and do not properly pass orders onto the crews, as a result of which the crews attack without confidence and at low speed. Tanks do not fire on the move, they only fire when stopped, and only from cannons.
    As a rule, tanks do not maneuver on the battlefield, do not use terrain to approach undetected and to suddenly strike in the flank or rear, and most often attack the enemy head on.
    Combined arms commanders do not dedicate enough time to prepare tanks for battle, and do not assign engineers to the direction the tanks are moving in. Minefields are detected poorly and are not being cleared. No passages are made in anti-tank fortifications, and no help is given in crossing difficult terrain. Sappers are not always issued to accompany tanks.
    This leads to tanks getting knocked out by mines or stuck in swamps or in tank traps and not participating in the battle.
  4. Tanks do not carry out their main task of destroying enemy infantry, but get distracted by fighting enemy tanks and artillery. The practice of sending our tanks against enemy tank attacks and getting tied up in tank combat is incorrect and harmful.
  5. Combat is not accompanied by proper air cover, air reconnaissance, and air control. As a rule, aircraft do not accompany tanks deep into enemy defenses, do not observe the tanks in combat, and have no influence on tank battles.
  6. Control of tanks on the battlefield is organized poorly. Radio is not used enough as a control method. Tank unit commanders at command posts are separated from the fighting, do not observe the tanks in combat, and have no influence on tank battles.
    Company and battalion commanders driving in front of their units have no ability to watch their tanks and control their unit. They turn into ordinary tank commanders, and the units, having no commanders, lose their direction and wander around the battlefield, taking unnecessary losses.
I order that the following directions should be followed when using tank and mechanized units and formations in battle:
  1. Use of tank regiments, brigades, and corps:
    1. Independent tank regiments and brigades are meant for the purpose of reinforcing infantry in the main direction of the attack and fight alongside it closely as close support tanks.
    2. Tanks fighting closely with infantry have the task of destroying enemy infantry and must not break away from their own infantry further than 200-400 meters.
      In battle, the tank commander must observe his infantry. If the infantry lays low and does not advance with the tanks, the commander of the tank unit must dedicate some tanks to destroy the strongholds impeding the infantry's progress.
    3. The infantry must use all of its firepower, as well as the firepower of its artillery, to suppress enemy anti-tank artillery, scout out and clear enemy minefields, help tanks cross anti-tank obstacles and swamps, combat German tank destroyers, decisively follow tanks into the attack, quickly fortify positions taken by tanks, cover the delivery of ammunition and fuel, and assist with the evacuation of disabled tanks on the battlefield.
    4. Artillery must destroy enemy anti-tank defenses before the tanks move into the attack. During the attack of the enemy front and rear lines, it must suppress any defenses that prevent the tanks from moving up at the signal of the tank commander, which means artillery commanders must direct artillery fire from forward mobile observation posts in radio tanks. Artillery and tank commanders must establish joint signals for opening and ceasing fire.
    5. When enemy tanks appear on the battlefield, artillery is tasked with fighting them. Tanks fight enemy tanks only when they have clear advantage in strength and superior positions.
    6. Our aircraft must destroy enemy anti-tank positions, prevent enemy tanks from approaching the battlefield, cover tank units from enemy aircraft, and support the tank units with constant reconnaissance.
    7. Tank crews must attack at top speed, suppressing enemy infantry and gun, mortar, and machinegun crews with intensive fire, and skilfully maneuver on the battlefield, using the terrain to attack the enemy from the flank and rear. Do not attack head on with tanks.
    8. Independent tank regiments and tank brigades are a part of the army commander's reserve and are given to rifle divisions to reinforce them.
    9. Independent breakthrough regiments armed with heavy tanks are attached to units as reinforcements to break through enemy defenses in close cooperation with infantry and artillery. When the breakthrough objective is complete, tanks concentrate at rendezvous points to prepare for deflecting enemy counterattacks.
    10. In defensive fighting, tank regiments and brigades do not receive their own defensive perimeter, but are used to deliver counterattacks against enemy units that broke through the defenses. In some cases, tanks may be dug in as immobile artillery, for ambushes, or to be used instead of mobile guns.
    11. The tank corps is subordinate to the Front or Army commander and is used in the main direction of the attack as an exploitation echelon to exploit success for destruction of enemy infantry.
      On the offensive, the tank corps delivers a massed attack with the objective of splitting up and encircling the main group of enemy forces, then destroying it in joint action with aircraft and land forces of the Front.
      The corps should not get tied up in tank battles with the enemy if there is no advantage. In case significant enemy tank forces are encountered, the corps dedicates its anti-tank artillery and a portion of its tanks, the infantry in turn moves up its anti-tank artillery. The corps, shielded by these forces, flanks the enemy tanks and attacks enemy infantry with the goal of tearing it away from enemy tanks and paralyze the enemy tanks. The main objective of the tank corps is to destroy enemy infantry.
    12. In defensive operations by the Front or the Army, tank corps do not receive their own defensive perimeter, but are used as a counterattack measure, being positioned in between armies outside of enemy artillery range (20-25 km).
    13. Terrain has the decisive influence on the choice of direction of the tank corps. Full use of the strike force of the corps and its mobility is possible only in tank-accessible terrain, and reconnaissance must therefore be organized by all formations starting from Army or Front command and down.
    14. In all cases, the decisive element in tank combat is surprise. Surprise can be achieved with camouflage, concealing positions and movement, only marching at night, and hiding concentrations of forces from the air.
  2. Use of mechanized brigades and mechanized corps:
    1. The independent mechanized brigade is a tactical unit and is used by Army command as a mobile reserve.
    2. The mechanized brigade on the offensive captures and holds important objects with daring attacks until the main forces arrive.
      In an offensive operation by an Army, the mechanized brigade exploits success.
      The mechanized brigade can also protect the flanks of advancing units.
    3. When pursuing a retreating enemy, the mechanized brigade captures river crossings, bottlenecks, important crossroads, and aids the encirclement and destruction of the enemy with decisive action.
    4. In defensive operations, the mechanized brigade is used as the Army's mobile reserve to deliver counterattacks and liquidate enemies that broke through.
    5. The mechanized brigade in mobile defensive operations can perform active defenses along a wide front to allow the Army units to regroup.
    6. Maneuverability, daring, decisiveness, and tenacity must exist at the root of every action by a mechanized brigade.
      Using its high mobility, the brigade must seek the enemy's weak points an deliver short blows.
    7. Mechanized corps are used in the main direction by Front or Army command as an exploitation echelon for pursuing the enemy.
      Splitting the corps up and assigning each brigade to a rifle unit is prohibited.
    8. When exploiting the success of a successful breakthrough, the corps, as a unit that is full of mechanized infantry, tanks, and reinforcements, can fight independently against an enemy that has not yet fortified if it breaks away.
    9. The use of a mechanized corps as an exploitation echelon can only be done after the combined arms forces take the main defensive line and attacking infantry enters enemy artillery positions.
      In exceptional cases, when enemy defenses are poor, the mechanized corps can perform the breakthrough on its own and defeat the enemy along the entire depth of the defenses. In these cases, the mechanized corps must be reinforced by howitzer artillery, aircraft, and breakthrough tanks if possible.
    10. The mechanized corps is prepared for a breakthrough as follows:
      1. Terrain, enemy locations, and our own waiting and assembly points are scouted out.
      2. The mechanized corps agrees on a course of action with the combined arms force that the mechanized corps will penetrate in.
      3. Roads for moving out are prepared.
      4. Control and communications are prepared.
      5. Materiel is prepared and rear support is organized.
      6. The departure of the mechanized corps and its entry into the penetration is planned.
        2-3 days are necessary to prepare a mechanized corps for penetration.
    11. The mechanized corps enters a penetration along a front of 6-8 km in pre-battle formation along 2-4 routes.
    12. The formation of the mechanized and tank brigades (regiments) is built as follows:
      1. Reconnaissance units move in front, right behind advancing infantry.
      2. Movement teams go behind the reconnaissance, who are tasked with preparing the routes that the corps will move along.
      3. The vanguard and the main forces of the corps follow.
        The columns of the main forces can have the tank regiments or motorized infantry battalions in the front, as the situation demands. The commander's tank reserve moves behind the mechnanized brigade columns in order to exploit the success of the forward echelons.
      4. The units move in formations to minimize losses from enemy aircraft and artillery, and to make deployment most convenient.
      5. All artillery of the corps moves behind the tank regiments of the mechanized brigades.
      6. The rear line units of tank and mechanized brigades and their cover move behind their units.
    13. The signal to introduce mechanized corps is given by the Front or Army commander.
      After nonstop fighting for 5-6 days, the corps must have 2-3 days' rest to restore materiel and replenish stores.
    14. Mechanized corps must be securely covered from the air and reinforced with AA guns and aircraft.
      When enemy aircraft attack, mechanized brigades must continue carrying out their task while deflecting the air attack with any available means.
    15. Motorized infantry use motorized transport to quickly approach and deploy on foot.
      Transport in motorized brigades does not consist of combat vehicles, therefore the infantry leaves them outside of the enemy artillery range and moves to the battlefield on foot.
      The vehicles are moved to safe hiding spots where they are kept in a constant state of readiness to move the motorized infantry up again.
    16. Sudden manever towards the flanks and rear of enemy groups, rapid deployment, and decisive and courageous attacks must lie at the root of all action of a corps.
This order is to be delivered to all tank and mechanized forces down to the platoon commander, in rifle and artillery units down to the company and battery commander. The order is to be carried out immediately.

People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR,
I. Stalin"

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