Wednesday 16 December 2020

Indirect Fire

160th Tank Regiment
January 11th, 1944

To the Commander of Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the 63rd Army
RE: your letter #079 dated January 9th, 1944

The azimuth circle and clinometer installed on T-34 tanks for indirect fire were not used in practice by the regiment for the following reasons:
  1. Tank crews do not know how to fire indirectly as they were not trained to do it.
  2. It is unnecessary to use the tanks for indirect fire, as towed and self propelled artillery supporting the tanks' attack handles the mission perfectly well. 
I consider it reasonable to simplify the fighting compartment of the T-34 tank by removing the azimuth circle and clinometer from the T-34 and removing them from service, as the devices have no practical use.

Commander of the 160th Guards Tank Regiment, Guards Major Belyakov
Chief of Staff of the 160th Guards Tank Regiment, Guards Captain Filonenko"


  1. That's interesting document- this document show that different armies want different tanks. As example, according my knowledge Americans liked usage a tank for indirect fire. BTW- some time ago on Polish forum about WWII I have found information from former Polish tanker that in 80ties Polish tankers (rarely) training indirect fire. According this same user, in modern times Polish tankers don't training indirect fire (information from 2010).

    1. TBF the Democracies could much better spare the time to train their tankers in such auxiliary skills, and indeed did quite often employ their AFVs with sufficient guns (75 mm seems to have been the practical minimum) for indirect fire support when not otherwise occupied. (The British also kept up the Great War technique of using infantry MGs for semi-indirect area suppression and harassment fire, incidentally.) For assorted sound strategic reasons the Soviet tempo of operations was such that they only had time for rather abbreviated instruction focusing on the essentials before sending their guys into the line - case in point not too long ago there was another document here with an infantry commander complaining about how this made it difficult to draw specialists like snipers and suchlike from the ranks.

      Things were different postwar, of course, what with the time pressures gone and all but looking at the design philosophy of Soviet armour of the era I'd hazard a guess indirect fire support was probably left to the dedicated artillery likely already on the doctrinal level.

    2. In terms of postwar era- I have interesting Polish booklet from 70ties titled "Podręcznik czołgisty" (Tanker handbook). In booklet we have part about indirect fire. Maybe I can add that booklet is mostly about usage T-54/T-55 tanks (term "medium tank" that's synonym of T-54/T-55 series in this booklet).

    3. It's hardly unusual for end-users to find uses not envisaged by the original designers, of course. For example starting in '69 the Finnish military converted a bunch of old T-55 turrets into coastal artillery batteries ("100 56 TK", the last ones were decommissioned in 2012) - my brother did part of his national service in one and recounted those things could reliably hit a rowboat-sized target at max range in exercises if the FOs were doing their jobs right.