Friday, 6 January 2017

Pak 43 Problems

"Experience with 88 mm Pak 43 anti-tank guns

Front line experience showed that towed 88 mm anti-tank guns are of limited usefulness in mobile warfare (counterattacks, mobile defense, and especially when covering retreats).

Causes:
  • The 4.5 ton mass, 1.9 meter height, and completely unprotected prime movers limit its mobility on the battlefield.
  • As a rule, there is not enough time to organize a proper firing position.
  • The gun, due to its size, cannot be concealed from the enemy (especially from the air).
  • Due to the difficulty of turning the gun, it is difficult to defend against infantry at close range.
Conclusions: The towed 88 mm gun is only useful in positional warfare. In mobile warfare, it can only be used in the main directions of defense, for example in important sectors, control over which is especially important.

The manual 18/9 "Instructions on using the 88 mm Pak" issued on June 27th, 1943 is being revised."

CAMD RF 500-12480-24

30 comments:

  1. So where is the 'problem'? It says the heavy ATG useful role is static defense.

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    1. Because they took shitton of time and way too much work to actually emplace somewhere useful and were an imperial pain in the ass to transport. Also commensurately difficult to evacuate when the brown stuff hit the air conditioning and the size made them tricky to camouflage ergo artillery bait.

      This was an universal problem with larger AT guns and pretty much the direct reason why they went the way of the Dodo after the war. Eg. from what I remember reading the Brits used their tank destroyers (a concept they weren't really big on but hey, lend-lease) above all as mobile stopgaps that defended newly taken positions while the heavy towed guns were being brought up and dug in.

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    2. The thing about anti-tank guns, is that you absolutely need to move them around. The typical use case is to prepare several positions and not fire more than a few shots before relocating. If your anti-tank gun is spotted (and a huge gun like this with a muzzle brake will be spotted quickly), the position will be fired upon by attacking tanks and indirect fire artillery.

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    3. Yup. There's good reasons why the organic AT guns of infantry formations only went up to the about 50-57 mm range which were still small and light enough to be manhandled by their crews. Bigger and more powerful than that and you *needed* a prime mover with all the complications and vulnerabilities that entails.

      A rough rule of thumb I've seen quoted is that the size and weight of a gun increases exponentially with its power - rather analogously to the square-cube law - due to stronger recoil forces and resultant need for thicker chambers/barrels etc etc. Recoilless weapons can largely get by without that and the ratio is duly far more linear with them, which would be why rocket-based stuff (and to a lesser degree recoilless rifles) took over the (semi-)portable infantry AT niche.

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  2. Many thanks for the translation. It confirms previous information about it, very powerful gun but very hard to move. It would be great if you find and translate any document on the 12.8 cm Pak 44 L/55, as there are not many reports.

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    1. I haven't seen anything at all on the Pak 44, but I'll keep an eye out.

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    2. What exactly do You want to know about the PAK 44?

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  3. Of course they were not not as useful against the medium tanks most likely to be seen. However, when you NEED a heavier weapon it sometimes is nice to have a few around, and with heavy panzerjager so rare, it would be a cheaper alternative to nothing or a 75mm/48 armed vehicle that can't kill a heavier tank I'd think. They filled the light mobile ATG role with hollow charge weapons and medium range with 75mm weapons.

    It is completely understandable that the men and officers deploying them would bitch about the difficulty. That doesn't make them useless. At least not in good weather.

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    1. The Germans didn't hit on the Waffenträger concept just for giggles, you know. Heavy guns were *needed* (or at least highly desirable), but they also had to be in the right place in a timely manner to be worth anything - and towed artillery in the frontlines was alarmingly prone to being lost wholesale if things went pear-shaped. (Experiences in this were one reason the US TD formations switched back to SP guns in North Africa IIRC.)

      Particularly given the general Soviet methodology (concealement of planned axes of attack, assaulting multiple spots simultaneously and ruthless exploitation in depth) the German officers had very good reasons to be unhappy with the inherent limitations of large towed AT guns.

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  4. According to accounts of Wa Prüf on tractor drawn equipment of heavy tank batallion B, mobility of the PAK 43 turned out to be ok in actual combat.
    While the gun was indeed difficult to camouflage, it was also outstandingly accurate at range and very powerful, best fighting range was 2500m-3500m.
    "The maneuverability prooved better than expected. Accuracy was so good that, in some cases, A.F.V. were knocked out at ranges up to 5km."

    It´s there to knock out tanks at long range. Any type, incl. heavy tanks. For infantery work, You´d just use HEAT, which was the future anyways...

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    1. For some reason I have this suspicion that assessment related more to the open plains found in the southern "Steppe Russia" theaters...

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  5. No. Wa Prüf is related to Russian experiences 1944 and 1945 (few PAK 43 available 1943). The quote is from the interrogation of PAK 43 crews fighting in France 44.

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    1. I'll just lazily point out there is no contradiction here. Maneuverability can suck in objective terms or relative to lighter guns, but as long as it is a bit better than whatever the interviewed crew imagined would be the case, the maneuverability will indeed be "better than expected".

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    2. Yeaaaahhh and conditions in the French theater were a wee bit different from the East, just sayin'. Wouldn't be exactly surprising if assessments from the two were outright polar opposites even.

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  6. Try to move around a PAK 43 in the bocage, the forests of the Ardennes or hills around Falaise, and I bet You will reconsider Your statement.

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    1. You forgot the tender attentions of Jabos.
      Which was kind of my *point*.
      (I would also point out that your post earlier is terribly unclear on which report is which...)

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  7. and you forget that both, Wa Prüf and heavy anti tank bt. reported that mobility was "ok" and "better than expected". not exactly polar decriptions. As always on this side, a preselection of a specific source has been made to drive home a questionable idea.
    That other sources challange these ideas is not even mentioned in the article. That´s how propaganda works, I presume. You can find a source for every shit idea, if You look for it long enough. At one point, poorly educated people will start believing this nonsense, if only it gets often enough repeated...

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    1. "Better than expected" doesn't mean shit when we don't know *what they were expecting in the first place* you know. Given that we're talking about towing *four and half tons* of ironmongery here, over God knows what kind of terrain, there would seem to be some reason to think it wasn't necessarily very much...

      The Germans weren't somehow magically exempt from all the practical difficulties of transporting and emplacing large artillery pieces, nevermind now if it had to be done in a hurry and/or under hostile attention.

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    2. Yup, I'm sure this German document is Russian propaganda, that's exactly how that works.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. In the book German Anti-Tank (Panzerjager) Troops of World War II by Fleischer and Eiermann they make note that an experience report in 1943 shows a unit was outmaneuvered by Russian tanks and lost almost all its guns. In “Nachrichtenblatt der Panzertruppe” of April 1944 it concluded because of it’s weight and traversing ability the 8,8cm Tank destroyer cannon 43/41 was not suited for mobile combat.

    But there were two flavors of the PaK 88. The Pak 88 model 43/41 which was mounted on the 10 cm Light Cannon 41 frame and the Krupp Pak 88 model 43 which had a cross-mount that didn’t limit it’s traversing and was only 1.72 meters in height. The 43 model had production delays that is why the other model.

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    1. Still as tall as a man though - compared to say the 7.5 cm PaK 40 which, eyeballing photographs, was about waist height in firing position - and while full traverse is of self-evident value it doesn't much help with the weight-related issues in deploying and evacuating the thing in a tight spot...
      Presumably relatedly, eyeballing the production/loss tables at Panzerworld (http://www.panzerworld.com/8-8-cm-pak-43-l-71, http://www.panzerworld.com/7-5-cm-pak-40) it does seem to have been somewhat prone to larger proportional losses during severe setbacks such as those of August and November '44 than the much more ubiquitous lighter gun.

      Also the somewhat ad hoc 43/41 version apparently stayed in production until August '44 and presumably thus formed a major chunk of the total output, which probably didn't make the crews any happier. :/

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    2. might be. The 88mm is not a 75mm piece but heavy anti tank ordnance. Such ordnance is effective when targets demand their presence and justify the associated logistic costs. This was certainly the case in 1941/2 with the 88mm FLAK. But the PAK 43 is smaller, and lighter than the FLAK 36/37 and even the latter was employed highly mobile as Ersatz PAK on a regular base.

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    3. For a given, unusual, value of "highly mobile" maybe...

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  10. I wonder how accurate these guns were compared to the tank mounted 88mm/L71. They had the rather simple ZF sights compared to the advanced TZF 9b tank sight.

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  11. They required recalibration after every long march. Without recalibration, accuracy suffered. With well mainteined ordnance, accuracy was "outstanding" with some A.F.V. knocked out at 5km.
    I presume the tank/JP mounted gun, too, required calibration but likely less frequent ones.

    Errors don´t add up cumulatively, they multiply. The tradeoff of very high accuracy is the increased demand in service and maintenance.

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  12. Going by the distances they made some confirmed kills at, "accurate enough". Gun mounts are probably rather more convenient firing platforms anyway.

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  13. How was those ranges measured? From what I have seen of the ZF 1a sight is that it doesn't have a range gradient.

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  14. There is no information availabe about the details. The quote is included in ADM 213/951, p.112, when briefly referring to 88mm ordnance.
    Or, if You go to BA/MA (Freiburg), or the MGFA (Potsdam), You can draw out the files containing "Geschoßentwicklung" series from 1943-1945 with various primary source references.

    My reading of the firing rules for bracketing suggest, it´s not necessary to have a very accurate range estimate to hit sth at this distance as long as You can observe the fall of shot in relation to target. You will always be able after hitting to work backwards the changes and determine at which gunrange You obtained the hit.

    Ofc, gunrange may not necessarely mean true range...

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  15. If memory serves Cold War TCs often found it more practical to correct for distance by good old bracketing rather than by peering through their fancy optical rangefinders. The general principle probably applied even more to an emplaced gun with a (hopefully) good stockpile of ammunition on hand and a large crew to handle it...

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