Wednesday 21 April 2021

SPG Feedback

 "Brief conclusions drawn from usage of [self propelled] artillery regiments within the Central Front


The following main conclusions can be drawn from the use of self propelled artillery in offensive and defensive fighting against numerous enemy tanks and infantry:

On the offensive:

  1. SPGs of all types are well suited for escorting tank attacks on the offensive due to their mobility, armour, and firepower.
  2. SPGs do not need time to transition from moving to firing modes and back, which allows the SPGs to follow tanks into action and support them without falling behind.
  3. The SPG regiment needs to be used as one whole jointly with its supporting tank unit (tank brigade or regiment).
  4. The tank brigade is the most suitable tactical unit for cooperation with an SPG regiment. Its tanks and infantry will be able to most effectively make use of the SPGs' qualities.
    An SPG regiment belonging to a tank corps should be supported by one of the tank brigades fighting in the main direction of the corps.
    However, a tank corps usually fights with two brigades in the first echelon. In this case, depending on the situation, it might be reasonable to hold the SPG regiment at the joint between the two brigades with the possibility of moving it to the flanks.
    Attempts to split the regiment up into batteries and issue them to different brigades are harmful, as they make it impossible for the regiment commander to command his regiment.
  5. Experience shows that the SPG regiment should stay 400-600 meters behind the first tank echelon with a step in the direction enemy tanks are most likely to appear from. There have been reports of SPGs deployed near the tanks or even ahead of the tanks. In this formation the SPGs are no different from tanks and this led to the SPGs not being used as powerful mobile artillery.
    In this formation the self propelled artillery lacks flexibility. The SPGs fired rapidly and without aiming in order to keep up with the tanks. SPG and tank formations were also mixed, which made it harder to control the SPG regiment.
  6. In order to ensure effective suppression, battery observation post lines must be marked in advance before the battle. Select semi-enclosed locations.
  7. Do not advance the entire regiment's observation posts at once. Advance one battery at a time with two thirds of the vehicles firing and one moving. This ensures nonstop effect of SPG fire on enemy positions.
  8. The most comfortable range at which the SPGs fire at enemy tanks is 2000 meters for the SU-152 and 1000-1500 meters for the SU-122. There were cases of enemy tanks and SPGs being destroyed from up to 2500 meters on the third shot.
  9. In poor visibility (dust, smoke, fog) keep artillery observers with the first echelon of the tanks. Any tank can be used for this (preferably in the center for the formation). The tank commander should be replaced by an experienced artilleryman linked to the SPG regiment commander by radio.
  10. When determining cooperation between the SPG regiment and the tank brigade (or regiment), discuss the following:
    1. The SPG regiment's mission.
    2. Which units of the tank brigade will support the batteries.
    3. Which enemy defenses are to be suppressed first (in the event that the attack is against a defending enemy with prepared defenses).
    4. Firing positions of the batteries and the order in which they advance.
    5. Target designation by the tanks and SPGs to each other.
    6. Issues of communication.
      In cases where the terrain is difficult, swampy, or covered with streams, crossings are to be located in advance (especially for the SU-152). The regiment should be reinforced with sappers.
  11. The radio is the SPG regiment's main means of communication with the tanks. The SPG regiment commander needs to have a constant link to the tank brigade or regiment commander. Battery commanders maintain a link to the regiment commander and the commander of their supporting unit.
  12. Before orders are given to the SPG regiment, the terrain must be carefully examined both visually and on the map. Using knowledge of the terrain, the tank brigade (regiment) commander may give additional objectives to the SPGs with the goal of establishing superior positions for destroying specific targets.
    Learning the terrain and how to find their way around it is of utmost importance to SPG crews.
On the defense:
  1. In defensive combat, the SPG regiment offers fire support to tanks when they counterattack and also reinforces tanks and infantry when they fight in place (from ambush).
  2. Self propelled artillery can be included in the mobile anti-tank reserve of the tank corps or rifle division, or, as an exception, in artillery groups of divisional or corps artillery.
  3. SPGs must be used in directions where tanks are likely to attack from. They fight either from an ambush or in short barrages. In cases where directions that tanks can come from are sufficiently covered by tanks and artillery, the SPGs should be kept in the tank corps' reserve as a mobile anti-tank fist.
    If infantry is sufficiently saturated with artillery and the SPG regiment is used to thicken the defenses, position it behind the anti-tank guns but ahead of the divisional gins so that it can be covered when changing positions.
    Combat experience shows that tank brigades need to be reinforced with artillery. In this case, the SPG regiment was split into batteries and regimental control was decentralized.
  4. The location of the SPG on the defensive is dictated by the situation. The SPGs reach most effect on the flanks with oblique fire.
  5. In prior operations there were cases of SPGs being deployed on the first line of defense, which is at it core incorrect. The SPG with its excellent ballistics can fight enemy tanks from a range of up to 2000 meters. When placing SPGs in defensive positions, place them 1000-1500 meters from the front line.
  6. The SPGs' defensive positions must ensure that:
    1. The SPGs are concealed from observation by the enemy.
    2. The SPGs can fire to a range of 500-700 meters past the front line of defense.
    3. The SPGs can switch positions quickly.
    4. Both the enemy and our own forces can be seen.
  7. The most convenient place to hide the SPGs is hull down behind a hill, around the edges of a forest, at settlement outskirts. Any SPG located in ambush needs to have at least three backup positions. SPGs in ambush need to be entrenched.
  8. SPGs can leave their positions to fire as a battery for 5-10 minutes in order to repel mass attacks of infantry and tanks. The SPGs must then return to reserve positions. Keep spare ammunition there to replenish stocks.
  9. The SPGs can be used as mobile guns or batteries to mislead the enemy about the numbers and locations of our artillery.
  10. Tank attacks with limited objectives must be supported with SPGs.
  11. SPGs are ill-suited to self defense and must be located in the depth of the defensive lines. They must be covered with small groups of infantry.
  12. SPGs (especially the SU-152) must mostly fight enemy heavy tanks and SPGs (due to their small ammunition capacities), while anti-tank guns can fight any other kind of tanks.
    Experience shows that the SU-122 is the most maneuverable and suited for fighting alongside tank and motorized units. The SU-152 is heavier and less maneuverable, which leads to difficulty when tank units need to move quickly.
    Experience shows that it is desirable to have an SPG with an 85 mm gun on the chassis of the T-34 tank carrying 50% AP and APCR.
    Insufficient training and lack of time to establish cohesion noticeably reduced the effect of self propelled artillery in combat in recent battles.
  13. The SPG regiments are an effective and modern means of supporting tank units in battle. Their fire and nonstop movement increases the range of tank units and ensures that the tank survive for longer.
Commander of Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the Central Front, Major General Orel
Chief of Staff, Korotkov
August 20th, 1943"


  1. I'm a bit surprised at the suggested firing ranges for the SU-152 (2000 meters) and the SU-122 (1000-1500 meters) for offensive operations. I would have thought due to the lower velocity of these guns coupled with the limited ammo supply (i.e., you can't afford to waste ammo on misses) would have dictated ranges 500 meters closer.

    1. As noted, even at 2500m they only needed three shots to kill. In tanks without rangefinders it was common to shoot one shot low, one high, and then hit on the third. And as the report also mentions, using them just behind or even ahead of tank battalions, at the front line, forces them into a tank role they cannot fulfill as well as a true tank due to their guns inflexibility.

      Their armour would also prove much more favourable at such ranges while possessing guns that had no problem against enemy armour themselves.

    2. In offensive operations, the role of the SUs was to provide overwatching fire from positions under cover behind the advancing Red Army forces. When an AT gun, or a German SPG or tank revealed its position by opening fire on the advancing Red Army infantry and tanks, then the SUs supporting would in turn "ambush the ambusher" by opening fire on them. This tactical usage is precisely why the later ISU-122 turned out to be such a deadly enemy of German Tigers; due to its combination of potency and opportunity due its usage role.

      But this tactic won't work if your gun is not accurate enough to hit the "ambusher" in short order. Well, maybe for immobile AT guns it doesn't matter much, but if your SUs guns require 3 or 4 shots to hit their target, then the German tank or SPG will duck back under its own cover and the opportunity for a kill will be lost. All that you would have accomplished is to reveal the positions of the SU guns.

      This wasn't a problem for the ISU-122, as the A-19 had very good accuracy; but the ML-30 and ML-20 were less accurate. Ergo, I would think a range of 500-1000 meters for the SU-122 and 1000-1500 for the SU-152 would be better. As for armor protection, the SU-152 was pretty well protected to at least the ubiquitous Pak40 beyond 1000 meters (though not from more potent KwK36 and Kwk42 guns) but recall that both SU types should be engaging from under cover; not just sitting out there in the open waiting to be blasted.