POLAND – Tanks Pre-WWII

After the First World War, Poland was revived as an independent state by grouping together the territories previously occupied by Germany, Russia and Austria. The. new Polish national army came into being soon afterwards from a nucleus formed by a Polish corps which had been organised in France. Interest in armoured vehicles soon appeared, when units of the Polish Army were sent for training periods with the French Army. One regiment of tanks, equipped with Renault FT machines, arrived in Poland in June 1919 and one of its battalions took part in the Russo-Polish conflict of 1919-20, which soon took a quite different form from the former entrenched type of warfare which had prevailed on the Western front. In Poland, small mechanised forces, combining armoured cars with motorised infantry and truck- drawn artillery, were often engaged in deep raiding parties.

The Russo-Polish War was ended by a peace treaty in 1921, and the Polish armoured forces were reorganised along French lines. While the armoured cars were given to the Cavalry, the tanks became part of the Infantry and were established into a tank regiment with three battalions.

Between 1923 and 1930, most of the activities of the Poles in the tank development field were concentrated on continuous attempts to improve the Renault FT tank. One of the first stages in this direction was by substituting new laterally flexible tracks – designed by S. Kardaszewicz – which were composed of twelve steel cables fitted with steel grousers. Although the speed was increased to 12kmh (7.5mph), the Kardaszewicz tracks were not accepted as standard and a similar fate occurred to another pattern with steel plates introduced by an officer of the 1st Tank Regiment. Later, it was decided to up-date the Renault FT, at least as far as armament was concerned, by fitting it with a newly designed turret carrying both a 37mm gun and a coaxial 7.92mm Browning machine-gun. Some other redesigns were to increase the performance to I3kmh. A number of Renault FT tanks were also rebuilt into specialised variants including smoke producer tanks and radio/command tanks.

From late 1924 onwards, numerous conferences were held by the Polish military authorities on the subject of constructing a domestic heavy tank capable of a break- through role as well as infantry support missions. A light tank was also considered as a replacement for the Renault FT. Despite opposition from the Chief of the Infantry branch, the KSUS department drew up a specification for a new tank. Dated 1925, this specification requested a weight of 12tons, an armament composed of a gun with a maximum calibre of 47mm, complemented by one heavy and one light machine-gun, all-round vision equipment and an electrically started engine which could drive the tank at a speed of 25kmh, with a range of action of 200-250km. The go-ahead was given for a competition between the Polish S. A. B. E. M. S. and ‘Parowoz’ companies and a Czech firm, for the design of a so-called WB-10 tank. Sophisticated designs and even prototypes were submitted by the competitors, but trials conducted with them revealed that they were not acceptable. The WB-10 project was therefore terminated with- out further development.

In 1928, there appeared in Great Britain the two-man Vickers Carden-Loyd Mark VI tankette, a truly outstanding design which attracted a great deal of attention. This tiny tracked armoured vehicle could be either used as a machine-gun carrier or as a light tractor, and it was sold to numerous foreign states in one form or another. Poland purchased one sample from Vickers-Armstrong Ltd and soon went on to produce a domestic development based upon a similar formula. Designated TK. 1, the Polish tankette was a 1.75ton, 2-man vehicle powered by a Ford motor. Through an intermediate model, the TK. 2, further development led to the somewhat heavier TK. 3 which was accepted as the production model. The TK. 3 became the first armoured tracklaying vehicle manufactured in quantity in Poland. It was produced under the parentage of the state-run PZI institute, and orders for 300 machines were fulfilled from 1931-32 onwards. A TK. 3 was demonstrated in Yugoslavia as a competitor for the Czech Skoda S-1 (MU 4/T-1) tankette but no order was placed for it.

By the late twenties, little progress had been made in procuring new equipment. Several foreign tanks, such as the Czech wheel-and-track KH. 50, the French Renault FT M. 26/27 (with Citroen-Kegresse trackwork) and the Renault NC. 1 (NC. 27) had been demonstrated in Poland but no procurement programme had been planned. The year 1930 was however marked by a significant event: the infantry tank regiment, the cavalry armoured car squadrons, and the artillery armoured trains, were all combined into an independent branch of the service. With a new internal organisation including two tank regiments, one armoured car group, and two armoured train groups, this was called the Bron Pancerna. The need for a more powerful armoured vehicle – the tankettes being incapable of an actual combat role – forced Poland to turn her attention to a further Vickers product, namely the Vickers-Armstrong Six-ton tank, (Vickers Mark ‘E’), which was soon to gain a worldwide reputation for a whole decade. In fact, between 1930 and 1939, Vickers-Armstrong Ltd sold over 190 machines of that type (tanks and tractors) to foreign countries – Bolivia, Bulgaria, China, Finland, Greece, Japan, Portugal, Russia and Thailand (Siam) – but the largest order came from Poland with a total of 50 (other sources give 38) tanks with either the single and twin turret arrangement.

The fact that the Vickers-Armstrong Six-ton tank was well within the capacity of the Polish technology, and as it offered some potential for further development, the PZI design bureau was entrusted with the study of a homemade copy. Subsequently PZI produced the 7 TP, a 9ton twin turreted tank which was to be a considerable step forward in design over the Vickers original. At first, the Armstrong-Siddeley engine of the Six-ton was re- placed by a licence-built Saurer 6-cylinder diesel engine which developed 110hp, so making the Polish 7 TP the first diesel-powered tank to reach production status. The 7 TP armour was also 4mm thicker than the Six-ton armour. The first 7 TP to be built by PZI left the works in 1934 and production continued at a slow tempo up to I939.

Around the mid-thirties, the question of designing tanks in Poland had become a very controversial matter. Two schools of thought were in opposition: the first one defended the launching of domestic design and production programmes while the second one, represented by the Chief of the Armoured Force himself, considered this as a waste of time and money which could be better spent in purchasing well-proven foreign tanks.

One of the favourite fads of certain tank designers between the mid-twenties and the mid-thirties were the multi-turret tanks, relying on several guns and machine- guns to be able to fire simultaneously on different targets. While Germany and Japan more or less investigated the three-turret formula, only Britain and Russia translated it into fact with their A. 9 and T-28. As late as 1936, Poland also dallied with the formula and drew up her 20/25 TP project of which three alternatives were proposed. The first one came from the government-owned BBT design bureau and was to have a weight of 23tons, a crew of seven and an armament composed of one 40mm (or 75mm) gun with three machine-guns, two of them being located into front sub-turrets. Maximum armour thickness was specified at 50mm. The second one, issued by the KSUS Committee, explored a diesel-engined 22ton tank, with a crew of six, a 35mm thick armour and the same armament as for the BBT variant. The third and last edition of the 20/25 TP project was a proposal from the PZI concern which put forward a design for a 7man, 25ton diesel-powered tank with an armour up to 80mm; being already outmoded since its design stage, the whole project was cancelled. It would have been a waste of money, and of limited Polish industrial resources.

Surprisingly enough, the development of the tankette concept had been continued in Poland over the years, through progressive steps. In 1933, the TK. 3 had given rise to the TKS, slightly heavier than its parent. Powered by a Polski-Fiat motor, the TKS had armour protection capable of withstanding small calibre AP bullets, embryonic forms of optical equipment consisting of a periscope and a sighting telescope and a strengthened suspension. This newly patterned tankette had been put into production in 1934, with an order for 390 vehicles. Following the lines already taken by Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd with their Carden-Loyd Patrol Tank (I932), the next stage in the Polish tankette development emerged during 1934. It was a turreted midget tank designated TKW, of which only a few prototypes were constructed. An ultra- light self-propelled gun, fitted with a 37mm Bofors anti-tank gun mounted in the front plate, was designed on the basis of the TKS and became known as the TKS-D. A small number of such vehicles were constructed in 1936 but the design was rejected after trials. The TK series was finalised as the TKF; this variant was powered by a Polski-Fiat engine and carried two machine-guns, one of which was capable of anti-aircraft fire. In 1936 also, it was decided to investigate the possible adaptation of either the Danish Madsen or the Swiss Solothurn 20mm cannon for this type of vehicle but the trials conducted with these foreign weapons proved to be very deceptive and a homemade weapon of this calibre was eventually conceived. The Polish 20mm FK cannon was ready in 1938 and its mounting on TK. 3 and TKS tankettes started in 1939 after suitable modifications of the vehicles. Only a few were so modified when the war broke out and brought to an end further Polish armoured fighting vehicle development.

When trying to find further successful foreign designs, Poland had turned her interest to the United States where, by 1928, J. Walter Christie introduced his fast tank chassis which utilised a new coil spring suspension acting on pivoted arms. Considerable interest in this Christie fast tank had been shown by the United States, Russia, Poland and later – via the Russian BT – by Great Britain. Orders for nine machines – five for the United States, two for Russia and two for Poland – of the newly developed Model 193I had been accepted by the firm run by J. Walter Christie, the US Wheel Track Layer Corporation, of Linden, New Jersey, USA. However, Poland defaulted to take delivery of her two samples which were later purchased by the US Army to supplement the five machines originally ordered.

Polish interest in Christie tanks was to resume in 1936 when BBT drew up plans for a wheel-cum-track fast tank of its own but based upon the American design as far as the suspension system and the twin purposes running gear were concerned. The Polish version of the Christie tank was to mount the same Bofors turret and 37mm gun as the last Polish version of the Vickers Six-ton tank and be powered by an American La France V-I2 cylinder motor developing 210hp. A prototype, designated the 10 TP, was actually built in I938 and undertook trials. It was contemplated as the main equipment for the four mechanised cavalry brigades foreseen in the modernisation programme of the Polish Army, which had been laid down in I936-7.

Some time later, a start was made on another project along the same lines but intended to run on tracks only. This 14 TP, as it was known, was to have increased armour to that of the 10 TP and therefore a greater weight. As far as the maximum speed was concerned, this would have been greatly reduced in comparison with its parent, the 10 TP which could run on wheels at a speed of 75kmh. Neither the 10 TP nor the 14 TP, of which the uncompleted prototype was destroyed in September 1939, reached production status. Such an unfortunate fate for these tanks which showed so much promise would probably not happened if the development of a Polish-made Christie tank had begun as early as 1932-3, on the basis of the 193I machine which had been ordered then rejected.

While the production of the modified twin turret model 7 TP was proceeding slowly, it was decided to introduce a single version carrying a Bofors gun (the turret being manufactured by this same concern). This variant appeared in 1937, but the production was restricted by the difficulties of making armour plates and of procuring the turrets from Sweden. Afterwards, in 1939, some quibbles about its unsuitable armour thickness brought PZI to evolve a heavier variant with an improved engine, welded armour thickened up to 40mm in front, a strengthened suspension, wider tracks and a turret with a rear overhang which could accommodate both transmitter and receiver radio sets. The up-armoured 7 TP, which now weighed 11 tons, did not have time to go beyond the prototype or, at best, pre-production stage.

Meanwhile other tanks were under development at the PZI design bureau in the form of two ultra-light tanks which came into being on a common basis, namely the Pzlnz. 130 and the Pzlnz. 140. The former was a variant developed specifically as an amphibious tank and consequently was fitted with a rudder and a three-blade propeller for steering and propulsion in water. Prototypes of both models were constructed in 1936-37, using the same Pzlnz. 425 6-cylinder engine as a power plant. Contemplated for standardisation as the 4 TP, the Pzlnz. 140 was fitted with a turret which could accommodate a 20mm FK light automatic cannon and a coaxial 7.92mm machine-gun, while the amphibious Pzlnz. 130 was intended to be fitted with the same turret but carrying only either one or two machine-guns. At one time, it was hoped that the 4 TP (Pzlnz. 140) would be amenable to a 37mm gun armament but this project was abandoned. Both models were tested during the autumn of 1937 and showed some promise but also revealed defects such as overloading of the suspension and, for the Prlnz. 130, a lateral instability when swimming. From the purely military point of view, it was evident that such ultra-light tanks would be below an acceptable level of fighting capability because they were too thinly armoured and too lightly armed. In consequence no preparations for quantity production of these models were undertaken and the final fate of both prototypes is unknown. Two self-propelled gun projects, designed along the same lines, were also dropped.

With the political crisis which arose between Poland and Germany over the question of Danzig, it became vital to complete the mechanisation programme of the mid-thirties. In 1937, two horse cavalry regiments had already been converted – on paper – into motorised units, and the 10th (Motorised) Cavalry Brigade had been raised. This was later followed by a second large unit of this type. The formation of eight independent tank battalions was also considered, but if the weak point of the motorised brigades was the lack of suitable tanks, there were no tanks at all for the independent battalions. As a stop-gap measure until a range of new tanks could be produced, the Polish Armament Ministry decided to spend a French military loan granted in 1936 for the purchase, amongst other military equipment, of the complement for two tank battalions. Purchase of the S-35 was negotiated, but since this tank was not available for export orders, 100 light tanks of the R-35 type were ordered in April 1939. By August 1939 however, only one battalion, deducted from the French orders in production, had been received.

With the advent of the Second World War, Poland had 169 7 TP tanks, 50 Vickers Six-ton tanks, 53 Renault R-35 tanks, 67 Renault FT tanks, 693 TK and TKS tankettes and 100 armoured cars. Of course the Bron Pancerna was greatly outnumbered by the German Schnelle Truppen which were able to line up no less than 3,195 tanks (1,445 PzKpfw. I, 1,226 PzKpfw. II, 98 PzKpfw. III, 2II PzKpfw. IV and 2I5 PzBfw), supplemented by a number of formerly Czech PzKpfw. 35 (t) and PzKpfw. 38 (t), organised into 6 regular panzer divisions, 1 provisional improvised division and 4 light divisions. The famous Blitzkrieg tactics – combining an armoured sword-thrust at a vital point and deep sweeping actions with air dive bombing attacks – propounded by General H. Guderian, was employed for the first time and completely decimated the Polish armies in three weeks. Strangely enough, the R-35 battalion was not engaged in action, and on 17 September 1939, was evacuated to Rumania.

The unfortunate German-Polish War did not put an end to the Polish armoured forces. Many Polish soldiers having escaped to France, one ‘brigade polonaise’, with two battalions of R-35 tanks, was raised with them from April 1940 onwards. They fought gallantly during the French disaster and a number of them were, once again, evacuated to England. They formed, via an Army Tank Brigade and a reborn 10th Cavalry Brigade, the nucleus of an armoured division. Created in the spring of 1942, with Covenanter then Crusader III tanks, and later with Cromwell and Sherman tanks, the 1st Free Polish Armoured Division fought in Normandy, Belgium, Holland and Germany. Another Polish armoured brigade, formed in 1943 from personnel saved from Russian camps, had been engaged on the Italian front and later expanded into the 2nd Polish Armoured Division. Both units were demobilised after the war. When Poland was re-established as a state closely allied with Russia, the new Polish armoured forces received Soviet patterned tanks which were later built by Poland herself.

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Tunguska Air Defenсe Missile/Gun Complex

For Russian Army air defense, a handful of ageing ZSU-23-4 self-propelled vehicles are still in service, but mainly because their four rapid-fire 23mm cannon are useful in a direct-fire role, as proven in Chechnya. The real backbones of the Army’s point air defense are the Strela-10 (SA-13) short-range missile launcher, and the Tunguska (SA-19) gun/missile system and its successor, the Pantsir-S1 (SA-22). Both of the latter mount two 30mm autocannon and missiles: 6x 57E6 for the former and 12x for the latter.

The 2S6 entered limited service in 1982. The layout is similar to the ZSU-23-4, with a large turret mounted in the centre of the hull and the engine at the rear. The 2S6 is armed with a pair of 2A38 30mm cannons (one on each side of the turret), and four SA-19 Grison missiles (two on each side of the turret). A target acquisition radar is fitted at the rear of the turret, and a tracking radar at the front. The guns are stabilised in both planes to allow firing on the move, but the missiles can only be fired when stationary. The vehicle is armoured to a level sufficient to provide protection from small arms and shell splinters. In 1986, the main production system, the 2S6M, entered service. This increases the missile load from four to eight missiles (four on each side of the turret). The fire-control programmes are improved, and improved guns (2A38M) and missiles (Soviet designation 9M311M) are fitted.

The late 1960s saw a sharply increased interest in the development of highly mobile battlefield short-range air defenses capable of operating as part of forward forces that could be attacked by enemy anti-tank helicopters and low-flying planes, as well as capable of repelling enemy ground attacks if necessary.

The design specifications for a new generation of short-range air defenses were developed with due regard to the first years’ field experience with the SHILKA self- propelled antiaircraft gun (SPAAG). On 8 June 1970, the USSR Council of Ministers decided to conduct preliminary studies to assess the feasibility of developing a new SPAAG equipped with 30mm artillery armament. The KBP Instrument Design Bureau was assigned prime contractor.

In 1973, the CPSU Central Committee and USSR Council of Ministers passed a resolution to develop detailed design and a prototype of the TUNGUSKA SPAAG. However, assessments made at KBP by this time showed that the maximum efficiency of a new battlefield short-range air defense system could only be achieved with combined artillery and missile armaments. In this case, missiles had to be used to fire at air targets throughout the entire engagement envelope, while artillery armament had to be employed to engage targets like aircraft flying at extremely low altitudes and helicopters suddenly emerging from behind cover in the near zone. In addition, it was appropriate to use artillery armament to destroy cheap and massive targets like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and ground targets, due to low cost of ammunition.

In 1975 this concept was approved and the performance specifications for the Tunguska equipped with both artillery and missile armaments together with an optical sighting and radio remote control system for the surface-to-air missile (SAM) were finalized.

As a result, the key feature of the TUNGUSKA, compared to known AA systems, was that one combat vehicle mounted artillery and missile armaments, radar and optical detection, tracking and fire control instruments using common equipment to support artillery fire and missile guidance: target acquisition radar, target tracking radar, ground receiver / interrogator, optical sighting equipment, digital computing system, and laying drives.

The TUNGUSKA was to be armed with two 30mm autocannons with a liquid cooling system and an ammunition load and 8 launchers with launch tubes and 9M311 missiles in the transport- launch containers. The range of the guns was to be 3.5-4 km, the missiles up to 8 km. In fact, the gun / missile TUNGUSKA was to be the world’s first two-echelon self-propelled short-range air defense system.

KBP’s development efforts on the 9M311 missile yielded a one-stage SAM of an unrivalled bi-caliber configuration, with a separable booster and an unpowered sustainer stage. Such a layout ensured extremely high performance of the missile. Thus, the absence of a motor in the sustainer stage of the missile eliminated smoke blocking the target line-of-sight, ensuring reliable and accurate guidance of the missile, reduced its weight and dimensions, simplified the layout of onboard equipment and warhead. This was also aided by the use of passive aerodynamic damping of the missile airframe during flight, provided by a control loop correction through sending commands to the missile from the SAM system’s computer system.

In general, the use of the bi-caliber layout helped nearly halve the weight of the missile compared to a single-stage SAM and achieve higher ballistic characteristics.

Along with KBP, the TUNGUSKA program involved also the Ulyanovsk Mechanical Plant, Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Association (LOMO), MIET OKB Design Bureau, Kovrov-based Signal VNII Research Institute, Kirov-based Mayak Engineering Plant, Izyum Instrument Plant, Minsk Tractor Plant, etc.

The official tests of the SAM system began in September 1980. On 8 September 1982, the 2K22 TUNGUSKA entered service.

In the second half of 1990, an upgraded version, the TUNGUSKA-M (2K22M), underwent tests. The basic improvements included the introduction of new radio sets and a receiver for communications with the PANTSYR (PU-12M) battery command post and the PPRU-1M (PPRU-1) command post, as well as the replacement of a gas turbine engine (part of the SAM system’s power unit) with a new one with a twice longer service life (600 hours).

In the process of further upgrade efforts on the TUNGUSKA its combat vehicle received equipment for automated acquisition and processing of external targeting data coming from the PPRU (9S80) mobile control and reconnaissance post. This allowed automatic allocation of targets among the combat vehicles and significantly improved the effectiveness of a SPAAGM battery while repelling a massive air raid. Upgrading the TUNGUSKA’s digital computing system through the use of a new computer has expanded its capabilities to handle combat and monitoring tasks and increased the accuracy of their solving. In addition, a relief circuit was introduced that greatly facilitated the gunner’s work in optical tracking of a moving aerial target.

The following components were added to the combat vehicle’s equipment set: equipment for automated acquisition and processing of external targeting data coming from the battery command post, infrared missile locator – missile coordinate generation equipment, a new computer having higher speed and larger memory, and an improved rolling angle measurement system.

Missile improvement was another focus of upgrade effort. The upgraded missile received the designation 9M311-1M. Its sustainer stage was equipped with a continuous / pulsed light source (a floodlamp). The missile equipment was also modified – its immunity in engaging targets that used optical jamming was increased, and the laser proximity sensor was replaced by a radar sensor with a circular antenna pattern.

All the above has increased the engagement range of the SAM system up to 10 km, improved immunity of an optical link in the missile control system and provided assured engagement of small targets like cruise missiles.

High combat and operational properties of the TUNGUSKA have been repeatedly confirmed during exercises and combat firing practice. The SAM system was repeatedly shown at international military equipment exhibitions. The TUNGUSKA SPAAGM and its variants are in service with a number of states.

TUNGUSKA-M1

TUNGUSKA-M1 is designed to provide air defense both for the land forces subunits in all types of their combat actions and defense for the appropriate facilities. TUNGUSKA-M1 is a modern short- range mobile air defense missile/gun complex that can engage aircraft, helicopters (including the hovering and surprise) and the low-flying targets while on the move, at short halts and from the stationary positions as well as destroy the ground and surface targets. TUNGUSKA-M1 incorporates:

– combat assets;

– maintenance equipment;

– training equipment. TUNGUSKA-M1 standard set includes:

– up to six air defense self-propellled gun mounts 2S6M1;

– surface-to-air missiles (SAM) 9M311- 1M in the container-launchers;

– ZUOF8 30-mm rounds with an explosive incendiary projectile and ZUOR6 30- mm rounds with an explosive tracer projectile. Maintenance equipment includes:

– ADMGC maintenance and repair equipment and automated missile integrated test facilities;

– facilities of temporary storage and transportation of missiles and gun rounds and loading of the air defense self-propelled gun mounts;

– group and repair SPTA sets for all the ADMGC assets. TUNGUSKA-M and TUNGUSKA-M1 may be upgraded to extend the life cycle of the combat vehicles. Upgrade of TUNGUSKA-M1 2S6M1 combat vehicle includes:

– introduction of a full-time TV thermal imaging system with the target automatic tracker based on the targeting & optical equipment;

– upgrade of the target acquisition radar;

For upgrading TUNGUSKA-M combat vehicle to a level of TUNGUSKA-M1:

  1. a) the automated external target designation equipment is to be installed;
  2. b) the turret, cabinets and units of radar, tracked chassis and the operational documentation are to be updated;
  3. c) the central computer system, targeting & optical equipment, radio command coder unit, AA automatic guns, motion angle measuring system and cables are to be replaced;
  4. d) a 15 % re-configuration is to be used for changing the composition of the single and group SPTA sets; e) maintenance and repair facilities are to be modified.

After upgrade, TUNGUSKA-M1 takes the new combat properties:

– day-and-night combat operation of the missile/gun armament;

– high level of automation of the combat operation and higher firing capacity; for automating the combat control, the complex assets can be integrated with the unified battery command post of the RANZHYR-MK type.

On the whole, the level of combat effectiveness of TUNGUSKA-M1 in the jamming environment is 1.3 to 1.5 times greater than of TUNGUSKA-M.

Like its predecessors, the 9K22 TUNGUSKA provides a mobile and flexible air defense for armor and motorized regiments. According to Russian practice, the Tunguska has its own battery within the regimental air defense battalion. A 9K22 battery is composed of a headquarters section, transportation section, and three air defense platoons. Each platoon has two 9K22s, for a total of six per battery.

As the regiment’s primary air defense weapon, the Tunguska performs a variety of missions. These include but are not limited to defending armored columns, setting air defense ambushes, and establishing a roving air defense patrol. When defending armored columns on a tactical march, the 9K22s are divided into pairs and placed at least 1,000-2,000m from one another to optimize their interlocking fields of fire. In the air defense ambush, two 9K22s take up static positions and only engage targets that come within a designated aerial sector. The Tunguska SPAAGs relocate after engaging a target or upon discovery by enemy forces. In the roving defense, instead of lying in wait for the enemy’s aircraft, the Tunguska teams move to whatever area is most likely to fall under the enemy’s air attack.

Unlike the ZSU 57-2 and ZSU 23-4, the 9K22 Tunguska has not seen a wide export market. Russian Ground Forces remain the primary operator of the vehicle, with more than 250 currently in service. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the various successor states (including Ukraine and Belarus) retained the existing fleets of 9K22s that remained within their borders. The Indian Army, a long-standing customer for Soviet exports, continues to operate the 9K22 alongside the T-72, T-90, and BMP. During the past decade, the Tunguska has also been exported to Syria and Morocco.

Variants

2K22

Original system, with 9M311, 9M311K (3M87) or 9M311-1 missiles with a range of 8 km. Some of these early versions of the “Tunguska” system were known as “Treugol’nik”. This system is mounted on the 2S6 integrated air defence vehicle.

2K22M (1990)

Main production system, with 9M311M (3M88) missiles. This integrated air defence vehicle 2S6M is based on the GM-352M chassis. 2F77M transporter-loader. 2F55-1, 1R10-1 and 2V110-1 repair and maintenance vehicles.

2K22M1 (2003)

Improved version with the 2S6M1 combat vehicle on a GM-5975 chassis, using the 9M311-M1 missile (range: 10 km) and with an improved fire control system. Passed state trials and entered service with the Russian armed forces on 31 July 2003.

2K22M with 57E6

Complete upgrade of system with new 57E6 missile and new radar system, with detection range of 38 km and a tracking range of 30 km. Missile range is increased to 18 km.

Specifications: 2S6M Tunguska

Crew: 4

Combat weight: 34 tonnes

Length: 7.93m

Width: 3.24m

Height: 4.01m (3.36m with radar stowed)

Maximum road speed: 65km/h

Maximum road range: 500km

Vertical obstacle: 1m

Trench: 2m

Armament:

8x SA-19 Grison missiles (2S6: 4x SA-19 Grison missiles)

2x 30mm 2A38M cannon (1,904 rounds) (2S6: 2x 30mm 2A38 cannon)

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Fighting in the Bocage – the US Army Experience Part I

This provides an example of typical German defense configurations in the bocage fighting. This area, between the village of La Meauffe and St Lô, was held by roughly a battalion of troops from Kampgruppe Kentner. This was a combat formation based on Grenadier-Regiment 897 of the 266. Infanterie-Division that was detached to the 352. Infanterie-Division in mid-June 1944. It suffered so many casualties during the July fighting that it was reinforced with II./GR 898 and II./GR 899. This sector was called the “La Mare−Le Carillon Nose” position by the attacking 35th Division since it formed a distinctive salient. The 2/137th Infantry pushed into the defenses on July 13–14, but the position was not finally cleared out until it was out-flanked to the southeast.

The American inland offensive operations were confronted with areas that the Germans had flooded and hedgerows (“bocage” to the French).

The dictionary definition of a “hedgerow” is a simple row of trees or bushes that separate one field from another. What the Americans actually found in Normandy were six- and even eight-feet-high hedgerows trapped by a row of trees that added an impenetrable layer anywhere from six to twenty feet high. Tanks could not break through them and had to expose their vulnerable undersides to climb over them, thus making their guns useless. The bocage offered the Germans ideal defensive positions. “I couldn’t image the bocage until I saw it,” said Bradley after the war.

In preparing the original COSSAC invasion plan, General Morgan had alerted the British Chiefs of Staff to the difficulties posed by the bocage. General Alan Brooke, one of their members, was also very much concerned about this bocage country. He had spent many summers there as a boy. In July 1940, he had led Anglo-French forces across this terrain before the Dunkirk evacuation. Similarly, Patton had also traveled extensively in this area as a soldier in World War I. He understood how disruptive it was for offensive warfare.

Allied planners, however, failed to prepare the troops and equipment to meet the bocage challenge—a major gaffe. Aerial photos clearly identified an eight-square-mile hedgerow area behind the American beaches, divided by four thousand bocage enclosures. A battalion commander lamented, “We were rehearsed endlessly for attacking beach defenses, but not one day was given to the terrain behind the beaches, which was no less difficult and deadly.” This training failure greatly delayed the Allied breakout from the Normandy bridgehead.

Bocage is the Norman and French name for the style of terrain found in the western area of Basse Normandie (Lower Normandy) consisting of pastures boxed in by hedgerows. It is most common in the departments of Manche and Calvados west of the Orne River to the Cotentin peninsula, and so largely in the battle zone of the First US Army and German 7. Armee. The terrain east of the Orne gradually shifts to open pastureland and rolling hills where the British Second Army engaged Panzergruppe West.

An officer of the 329th Infantry described the hedgerows:

These hard-earthen banks, with their matted head-dress of stumpy trees and hedges, have been standing for centuries, as boundaries between tracts of land parceled out in the days of feudalism. As time went on, the land had been sub-divided in order to give each son a plot which he could call his own, until now the fields and orchards bordered by these hedgerows are so small that further sub-division would render most of them useless for any form of farming or grazing. These hedgerows are fifty to one hundred yards apart, on the average, and made very formidable barriers to our advance, for the earthen portions range from three to eight feet in height and anywhere from three to ten feet in thickness at the base. From the tops of these banks grow the trees and hedges, thickened by the indiscriminate pruning carried on by the Norman farmers, who use them as a principal source of fire kindling wood.

From a military perspective, the hedgerows created a network of inverted trenches, forming a natural, layered fortification system that was well suited to defense. The earthen bases of the hedgerows shielded the defender from enemy fire and were thick enough to protect against small arms and machine-gun fire. The vegetation on top of the hedgerow provided concealment for the defenders and restricted the observation of the attacking force. Bocage complicated the use of field artillery since the vegetation could prematurely detonate the artillery rounds in the trees above before their intended impact against enemy positions. In addition, the hedgerows provided a solid basis for foxholes to shield against mortar and artillery fire.

The bocage severely constrained maneuver by the infantry, and even more so for vehicles. Many hedgerows were too tall to be surmounted by tanks, and even the lower hedgerows created problems since a tank climbing over the earth wall exposed its weakly protected underside to enemy anti-tank weapons. The road network in the bocage was poor since this region did not make much use of motorized farming techniques. Aside from a limited number of regional roads between the major towns, the individual hedgerows were connected by small openings and footpaths with the occasional cart path or small unpaved road.

The Germans themselves described fighting in the bocage as “Buschkrieg,” Bush Warfare. They would plant mines at the bottom of shell craters in front of their positions so that an American soldier, throwing himself in to take cover, would have his legs blown off. Alongside tracks they rigged what the Americans called castrator mines or ‘bouncing Bettys’, which jumped up and exploded at crotch height. Their tanks and field gunners became expert at firing tree-bursts, which meant exploding a shell in the crown of a tree to blast splinters of wood into anyone sheltering below.

The bocage country was well suited to German defensive doctrine. The outer layer of the German defenses was a thinly manned outpost line. This served to identify the approach of American units and the tenacious defense of an outpost line by a small number of troops was often able to stop the advance of a much larger force. Furthermore, it served to tie down the attacking force, fixing it in place for mortar and artillery bombardment. In the event that the outpost line was captured, one or more additional defense lines were behind it to provide resilience. This type of defense was not entirely dissimilar to World War I trench warfare. However, there were some significant differences. The German commanders called this fighting “Buschkrieg,” bush warfare. Static defense was not sufficient since the defense lines could be gradually worn down by infantry attack and artillery fire. German commanders placed considerable stress on the individual initiative of small unit commanders. Once the attacking force was halted by machine-gun and mortar fire at the outpost line, small combat teams would maneuver on foot to further disrupt the attack by strikes against their flank or rear.

An anonymous US Army officer provided a pungent and succinct description of hedgerow fighting techniques from the American perspective:

There were just three ways that our infantry could get through the hedgerow country. They could walk down the road, which always makes the leading men feel practically naked (and they are). They could attempt to get through gaps in the corners of the hedgerows and crawl up along the row leading forward, or rush through in a group and spread out in the field beyond. This was not a popular method. In the first place often there were no gaps, just when you wanted one most. And in the second place, the Germans knew about the gaps before we did and were usually prepared with machine-gun and machine-pistol reception committees. The third method was to rush a skirmish line over a hedgerow and then across the field. This could have been a fair method if there had been no hedgerows.

American tactics tended to rely on ‘marching fire’ as infantry advanced, which meant constant firing at any likely enemy positions ahead. The amount of ammunition used was truly staggering as a result. The Germans needed to be more efficient. Tied to a tree, a German rifleman would wait for the infantrymen to pass, then shoot one of them in the back. This prompted the others to throw themselves flat in the open, and German mortar teams would then shell them with air-bursts as they lay there with the full length of their bodies exposed. Aid men who went to help the wounded were shot down deliberately. Quite often a single German would emerge with his hands up to surrender, and when some Americans moved forward to take him prisoner, he would throw himself sideways and hidden machine guns would shoot them down. Not surprisingly, few American soldiers took prisoners after such incidents.

Usually we could not get through the hedge without hacking a way through. This of course took time, and a German machine gun can fire a lot of rounds in a very short time. Sometimes the hedges themselves were not thick. But it still took time for the infantryman to climb up the bank and scramble over, during which time he was a luscious target, and when he got over the Germans knew exactly where he was. All in all it was very discouraging to the men who had to go first. Of course the Germans did not defend every hedgerow, but no one knew without stepping out into the spotlight which ones he did defend.

It was difficult to gain fire superiority when it was most needed. In the first place, machine guns were almost useless in the attack because about the only way they could be used was to fire from the hip. If you set them up before the advance started, they had no field of fire and could not shoot the enemy. If you carried them along until you met the enemy, still the only way to get them in position was to set them up on top of a hedgerow bank. That was not good because the German was in the next bank and got you before you set the gun down. Anyway, it had to be laid on the bank, no tripod, just a gun barrel lying unevenly on its stomach. On the other hand the Germans could dig their guns into the banks in advance, camouflage them, and be all set to cover the roads, trails, and other bottlenecks our men had to use.

The artillery was the major fire support weapon. But it suffered certain handicaps. In the first place it had to be adjusted from the front line by forward observers. These sometimes had difficulty knowing just where they were, and the trees frequently delayed adjustment because of the short vision. If you found the enemy in the next hedgerow he was frequently less than 100 yards from you, and that was too close for artillery fire, particularly since short rounds would probably burst in the trees over your men in your own hedgerow. If the enemy was two or more hedgerows ahead of you, that wasn’t so good either, because the mere delay in getting to him through that last hedgerow just in front of him gave him time to rise up and smite you after the artillery lifted. The mortars were effective providing you knew just what to shoot at and where it was, but the infantryman still had the delay and exposure of getting through the last hedgerow.

The Germans, being on the defensive, profited by these minor items of the terrain. They could dig in, site their weapons to cover the approaches, and prepare tunnels and other covered exits for themselves. Then when our men appeared, laboriously working their way forward, the Germans could knock off the first one or two, cause the others to duck down behind the bank, and then call for their own mortar support. The German mortars were very, very efficient. By the time our men were ready to go after him, the German and his men and guns had obligingly retired to the next stop. If our men had rushed him instead of ducking down behind the bank, his machine gun or machine pistol would knock a number off. For our infantrymen, it was what you might call in baseball parlance, a fielder’s choice. No man was very enthusiastic about it. But back in the dugout I have often heard the remark in tones of contempt and anger: “Why don’t they get up and go?

The Americans were unprepared for the density of the bocage, with the height of the trees in the hedgerows and the solid high banks in which they grew. They had assumed when training that the hedgerows were like those in southern England. General Collins of VII Corps told Bradley that the bocage was as bad as anything he had encountered on Guadalcanal. And Bradley himself called it ‘the damnedest country I’ve ever seen’. Even the British Army had failed to listen to Field Marshal Brooke’s warnings. He had had experience of this countryside during the retreat of 1940 and foresaw the difficulties for the attacker.

Fresh troops especially were disorientated and spooked by the impossibility of sighting the enemy as they advanced across the small, enclosed fields. They forgot the basic lessons of infantry training. Their instinct, when bracketed by German artillery or mortar fire, was to throw themselves flat or run back to safety, rather than charge forwards, which was far less dangerous. A shot from a single German rifleman in a tree all too often prompted a whole platoon to drop to the ground, where they offered a much easier target. The Germans were adept at provoking this deliberately, then rapidly firing a barrage of mortar rounds on to them as they lay in the open. ‘Keep moving if you want to live’, was the slogan adopted by Bradley’s headquarters in a general instruction. Officers and non-coms were told that they must not throw themselves to the ground, because the rest of the platoon would follow their example. Aggressive action led to fewer casualties because the Germans were rattled if you kept coming at them. And the importance of ‘marching fire’ was continually emphasized. This meant firing constantly at likely hiding places as you advanced, rather than waiting for an identifiable target.

Soldiers were advised to lie still if wounded by a sniper. He would not waste another round on a corpse, but would certainly fire again if they tried to crawl away. German snipers concealed in trees often tied themselves to the trunk so that they would not fall out if wounded. Quarter was never given to a sniper on either side. Another favourite hiding place in more open country was in a hayrick. That practice, however, was soon dropped when both American and British soldiers learned to fire tracer bullets to set the rick aflame, then gun down the hidden rifleman as he tried to escape.

German marksmanship was seldom good, mainly due to lack of practice on the ranges while they were working on the Atlantic Wall. But the fear inspired in American soldiers was out of all proportion to the number of casualties inflicted. Three times as many wounds and deaths were caused by mortars as by rifle or machine-gun fire. Most German units had very few trained snipers with telescopic sights, but that did not stop the conviction of frightened infantrymen that every concealed rifleman was a ‘sniper’. ‘The sniper menace ought not to be exaggerated,’ the headquarters of the First US Army insisted in a circular. Snipers should be dealt with by snipers and not by ‘indiscriminate fire’. Similar fears turned every German tank into a Tiger and every German field gun into an 88 mm.

Like the British on the Caen front, the Americans found that the Germans were brilliant at camouflage and concealment. Fresh branches were cut to hide guns and armoured vehicles from aircraft as well as on the ground. Their soldiers were made to cover up the tell-tale track marks of armoured vehicles, even by trying to make the flattened grass or corn stand up again. And the German infantry did not just dig foxholes. They dug themselves in like ‘moles in the ground’, with overhead cover against artillery treebursts and tunnels under the hedgerow. The small opening on to the field provided the ideal aperture from which to scythe down an advancing American platoon with the rapid fire of an MG 42.34

On the eastern front the Germans had learned from Soviet bombardments how to minimize their losses in defence. They applied these lessons to good effect in Normandy. Their front line was no more than a light screen of machine-gun positions. Several hundred yards further back, a rather more substantial line of positions was prepared. Then a third line, even further back, would include a force ready to counterattack immediately.

The Germans knew well that the best moment to catch British or American troops off guard was just after they had taken a position. More casualties were usually inflicted at this moment than during the original attack. Allied soldiers were slow to dig in afresh and often would just make use of the German foxholes or slit trenches. These would be booby-trapped in many cases, but always they would be pre-registered as targets by the supporting German artillery battalions, ready to fire the moment their own men pulled out. Time and again, Allied troops were caught out. Exhausted from the attack and complacent from success, soldiers did not find the idea of frantically digging a new foxhole very appealing. It took a long time and many unnecessary deaths for British and American infantry to learn to follow the German Army dictum that ‘sweat saves blood’.

Fighting in the Bocage – the US Army Experience Part II

Fighting against the Red Army had taught German veterans of the eastern front almost every trick imaginable. If there were shell holes on the approach to one of their positions, they would place anti-personnel mines at the bottom. An attacker’s instinct would be to throw himself into it to take cover when under machine-gun or mortar fire. If the Germans abandoned a position, they not only prepared booby traps in their dugouts but left behind a box of grenades in which several had been tampered with to reduce the time delay to zero. They were also expert at concealing in a ditch beside a track an S-Mine, known to the Americans as a ‘Bouncing Betty’ or the ‘castrator’ mine, because it sprang up when released to explode shrapnel at crotch height. And wires were strung taut at neck height across roads used by Jeeps to behead their unwary occupants as they drove along. The Americans rapidly welded an inverted L-shaped rod to the front of their open vehicles to catch and cut these wires.

Another German trick when the Americans launched a night attack was for one machine gun to fire high with tracer over their attackers’ heads. This encouraged them to remain upright, while the others fired low with ball ammunition. In all attacks, both British and American troops failed to follow their own artillery barrage closely enough. Newly arrived troops tended to hang back on the assumption that the enemy would be annihilated by the bombing or the shellfire, when in fact he was likely to be temporarily concussed or disorientated. The Germans recovered rapidly, so the moment needed to be seized.

Tanks supporting an attack were used to put down a heavy curtain of machine-gun fire at all likely machine-gun positions, especially in the far corners of each field. But they also caused a number of casualties to their own infantry, especially with the bow machine gun firing from a lower level. Infantry platoons often used to yell for tank support, but sometimes when their armour appeared uninvited, they were indignant. The presence of tanks almost always attracted German artillery or mortar fire.

The Sherman was a noisy beast. Germans claimed that they always knew from the sound of tank engines when an American attack was coming. Both American and British tank crews had many dangers to fear. The 88 mm anti-aircraft gun used in a ground role was terrifyingly accurate, even from a mile away. The Germans camouflaged them on a hill to the rear so that they could fire down over the hedgerows below. In the close country of the bocage, German tank-hunting groups with the shoulder-launched Panzerfaust would hide and wait for a column of American tanks to pass, then fire at them from behind at their vulnerable rear. Generalleutnant Richard Schimpf of the 3rd Paratroop Division on the Saint-Lô front noted how his men began rapidly to gain confidence and lose their panzerschreck, or fear of tanks, after disabling Shermans at close quarters. Others would creep up on tanks and throw a sticky bomb, like the Gammon grenade which the American paratroopers had used to such effect. Some would even climb on to the tank, if they could approach unseen, and try to drop a grenade into a hatch. Not surprisingly, companies of Shermans in the bocage did not like to move without a flank guard of infantry.

Germans often sited an assault gun or a tank at the end of a long straight lane to ambush any Shermans which tried to use it. This forced tanks out into the small fields. Unable to see much through the periscopes, the tank commander had to stick his head out of the turret hatch to have a look, and thus presented a target for a rifleman or a stay-behind machine gun.

The other danger was a German panzer concealed in a sunken track between hedgerows. Survival depended on very quick reactions. German tank turrets traversed slowly, so there was always the chance of getting at least one round off first. If they did not have an armour-piercing round ready in the breech, a hit with a white phosphorus shell could either blind the enemy tank or even panic its crew into abandoning their vehicle.

In the fields surrounded by hedgerows, tanks were at their most vulnerable when they entered or left a field by an obvious opening. Various methods were tried to avoid this. The accompanying infantry tried Bangalore torpedoes to make breaches in a hedgerow, but this was seldom effective because of the solidity of the mound and the time needed to dig the charge in. Engineers used explosive, but a huge quantity was required.

The perfect solution was finally discovered by Sergeant Curtis G. Culin of the 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance with the 2nd Armored Division. Another soldier came up with the suggestion that steel prongs should be fitted to the front of the tank, then it could dig up the hedgerow. Most of those present laughed, but Culin went away and developed the idea by welding a pair of short steel girders to the front of a Sherman. General Bradley saw a demonstration. He immediately gave orders that the steel from German beach obstacles should be cut up for use. The ‘rhino’ tank was born. With a good driver, it took less than two and a half minutes to clear a hole through the bank and hedgerow.

One of the most important but least favourite pastimes in the bocage was patrolling at night. A sergeant usually led the patrol, whose task was either to try to capture a prisoner for interrogation, or simply to establish a presence out in front in case of surprise attacks. German paratroopers on the Saint-Lô front used to sneak up at night to lob grenades. Many stories were elaborated around night patrols. ‘I talked to enough men,’ wrote the combat historian Forrest Pogue, ‘to believe the tale of a German and an American patrol which spent several days under a gentleman’s agreement visiting a wine cellar in no-man’s land at discreet intervals.’ He also heard from one patrol leader that his group had ‘reported itself cut off by the enemy for three days while they enjoyed the favors of two buxom French girls in a farmhouse’. But even if true, these were exceptions. Very few men, especially those from the city, liked leaving the reassuring company of their platoon. American units also used patrolling to give newly arrived ‘replacements’ a taste of the front line. But for a sergeant in command of some terrified recruits ready to shoot at anything in the dark, a night patrol was the worst task of all.

The most important reason why the Americans failed to plan sufficiently for fighting in the bocage was because in Montgomery’s original campaign plan, much of the bocage was to be bypassed. The Allies were to pivot southeastward by taking Caen on D-Day. There the Falaise plain offered many more and better roads and wide-open fields for armor deployment. Of course, Montgomery did not take Caen on D-Day or soon thereafter.

Despite the obstacles of the bocage, the US Ninetieth and Ninth Infantry Divisions and the Eighty-Second Airborne Division hacked and chewed their way through these hedgerows and the entrenched Germans with more Yankee grit than any tactical finesse. The most apparent weakness in the American June ground attack was the lack of sufficient training given to the infantry divisions to coordinate with separate tank battalions. Armor and infantry radios operated on different channels. To develop mutual infantry-armor confidence and awareness, the tanks in Normandy installed infantry-type radios tuned to the infantry radio net. Army signal companies also attached telephones or microphones so that infantrymen were connected with the tankers inside

The tanks are no better off. They have two choices. They can go down the roads, which in this case were just mud lanes, often too narrow for a tank, often sunk four to six feet below the adjacent banks, and generally deep in mud. The Class 4 roads were decent in spots, but only for one-way traffic, with few exits to the adjacent fields. An armored outfit, whether it is a platoon or an armored army, attacking along a single road attacks on a front one tank wide. The rest of the tanks are just roadblocks trailing along behind. When the first tank runs into a mine or an 88 or 75 shell, it always stops, and it usually burns up. And it efficiently blocks the road so the majestic column of roaring tanks comes to an ignominious stop.

The next step is to try to find out where the enemy gun or tank is, and wheel up a tank or so to shoot at him. The only trouble is, only the men in the first tank saw the German’s gun flash, and they aren’t talking any more. The tanks trying to get into position to do some shooting are easily seen and get shot before they can do much about it. I have seen it happen. In the hedgerows it is almost impossible to get firing positions in the front row, and in the rear you can’t see the enemy anyway so no one bothers. Usually the tanks waited for the infantry to do something about it.

Instead of charging valiantly down the road, the tanks may try to bull their way through the hedgerows. This is very slow and gives the enemy time to get his tanks or guns where they can do the most good. Then he just waits. And in the solution, there is always a minor and local problem to be solved, a problem which caused a certain amount of irritation, and that is, who is going over the hedgerow first, the infantry or the tank? It is surprising how self-effacing most men can be in such situations.

Anyone who actually fought in the hedgerows realizes that, at best, the going was necessarily slow. A skillful, defending force could cause great delay and heavy losses to an attacking force many times stronger. This, because the attacker can’t use his fire power effectively and because he can’t advance rapidly except on the road where he is quickly stopped at some convenient spot.

There were a number of other factors which contributed to the difficulties of fighting through the hedgerows. The area was merely a succession of small enclosed pastures with a few orchards, likewise enclosed by hedgerows. Seldom could one see clearly beyond the confine of the field. It was difficult to keep physical contact with adjacent squads, platoons, or larger units. It was difficult to determine exactly where one was. Unlike conditions in open country, flanks could not be protected by fields of fire. All these contributed to the difficulties of control and caused a feeling of isolation on the part of small units. All this meant that the front-line troops thought their neighbors were nowhere around. They could not see them, they were not in the adjacent field, therefore they were behind. Often this feeling of being out on a limb would cause the leading elements to halt and wait for the flank units to come up (and sometimes these were ahead).

German counterattacks in the hedgerows failed largely for the same reasons our own advance was slowed. Any attack quickly loses its momentum, and then because of our artillery and fighter bombers the Germans would suffer disastrous loss. In fact we found that generally the best way to beat the Germans was to get them to counterattack a provided we had prepared to meet them.

Although the hedgerows were the most distinctive feature of the bocage region, the numerous rivers and marshes further aided the defense and impeded maneuver. The July 1944 fighting took place in the area dominated by the Vire and Taute rivers as well as associated rivers and streams. The numerous small rivers running through the coastal lowlands created several large marshes that further compartmentalized the terrain and made maneuver even more difficult. East of La Haye-du-Puits was the Marais-de-Ste.-Anne swamp, fed by the Séves River. Immediately south of Carentan was the Prairies Marécageuses de Gorges, a substantial marshland fed by the Taute River and many small tributaries. In the months prior to D-Day, the Wehrmacht flooded a number of areas by using dams or other obstructions in order to complicate any Allied attempts at airborne landings. The extent of these marshlands increased in late June 1944 since the early summer of 1944 was the rainiest on record since 1900.

US infantry units received no specialized training for combat in the hedgerows prior to the Normandy campaign. This was partly due to the concentration on the elaborate preparations for the amphibious landings on D-Day. In addition, there were misconceptions about the Normandy hedgerows. There were extensive hedgerows on the opposite side of the Channel in the southern English countryside. However, the English hedgerows were not as substantial as their Norman counterparts.

Most infantry weapons were not well suited to hedgerow fighting. German defenses were dug into the earthen base of the hedgerows, making them far less vulnerable to rifle fire. Furthermore, the extensive vegetation on top of the earthen base provided excellent camouflage and helped conceal the precise location of the German defenses. Light machine guns provided a somewhat better solution, since their volume of fire provided better suppression than aimed rifle fire.

As the GIs became more experienced in hedgerow fighting, other types of weapons were preferred. One of the most common weapons used in the bocage fighting was the rifle grenade. These could be fired from the normal M1 Garand rifle using an adapter that was fitted to the barrel and launched using a special blank cartridge. The rifle grenade could be fired from the normal shoulder position. However, to get maximum range, the rifle was fired from a kneeling position with the butt firmly against the ground and the rifle elevated to a 45-degree angle, giving it an effective range of about 55 to 300 yards depending on whether an auxiliary booster cartridge was used. The range of the grenade could be adjusted by using five range rings on the grenade adapter that altered the speed of the grenade depending on how deep the grenade stabilizer tube was mounted on the adapter.

The M1A1 2.36in. “bazooka” rifle launcher was another popular weapon in the bocage fighting. These weapons were not widely distributed in the rifle companies, with only five per company. Once their value in bocage fighting became evident, many infantry divisions took the bazookas allotted to service units and headquarters units and transferred them to the rifle companies. Although intended primarily for anti-tank defense, their high explosive warhead was effective against dug-in defenses. From late June to late July 1944, US infantry fired nearly 53,000 bazooka rockets, mostly against targets other than tanks.

The US Army avoided using field artillery close to friendly troops. This was not only due to inherent problems of accuracy. The use of field artillery in the bocage was complicated by the possibilities of projectiles prematurely detonating over friendly troops if they came into contact with trees and overhead branches when fired on a shallow trajectory. As a result, the 60mm M2 light mortar became the workhorse of the infantry for close-range fire-support. This could fire a mortar bomb from 100 to 1,985 yards, enabling the weapon to cover the gap between the forward edge of battle and the inner limit of field artillery support. Each rifle company had three 60mm mortars.

As in all armies, the combat performance of American troops in every battalion varied greatly. During the bocage battles, some GIs began to get over their terror of German panzers. Private Hicks of the 22nd Infantry with the 4th Division managed to destroy three Panthers over three days with his bazooka. Although he was killed two days later, confidence in the bazooka as an anti-tank weapon continued to increase. Colonel Teague of the 22nd Infantry heard an account from one of his bazooka men: ‘Colonel, that was a great big son-of-a-bitch. It looked like a whole road full of tank. It kept coming on and it looked like it was going to destroy the whole world. I took three shots and the son-of-a-bitch didn’t stop.’ He paused, and Teague asked him what he did next. ‘I ran round behind and took one shot. He stopped.’ Some junior officers became so excited by the idea of panzer hunts that they had to be ordered to stop.

In five days of marsh and bocage fighting, however, the 22nd Infantry suffered 729 casualties, including a battalion commander and five rifle company commanders. ‘Company G had only five non-coms left who had been with the company more than two weeks. Four of these, according to the First Sergeant, were battle exhaustion cases and would not have been tolerated as non-coms if there had been anyone else available. Due to the lack of effective non-coms, the company commander and the First Sergeant had to go around and boot every individual man out of his hole when under fire, only to have him hide again as soon as they had passed.’

4th Division

For the second night running German troops had infiltrated 8th Regiment’s lines, forcing Battalion commanders to rely on their artillery to keep the enemy at bay. Poor communications and harassment of the supply lines delayed 70th Tank Battalion, leaving 1st Battalion to advance unsupported. It had only advanced a short distance when it stumbled on a strongpoint; Lieutenant-Colonel Simmons would have to wait until the Shermans arrived. 1st Battalion’s progress through the maze of hedgerows was slow (it took six hours to advance 1,000 metres), and an after-action report sums up the difficulties faced by the GIs as they fought their way through the ‘bocage’ around Cherbourg:

‘In effect, hedgerows subdivide the terrain into small rectangular compartments which favour the defence and necessitate their reduction individually by the attacker. Each compartment thus constitutes a problem in itself. On approaching such a compartment, the scouts must be particularly watchful, especially on the corners, where the enemy is frequently found commanding approaches from adjacent compartments. Fire from automatic weapons, light mortars and rifle grenades, directed at corners and along the hedgerows themselves, whether or not an enemy was known to be present therein, was found to be frequently effective.

‘The entire operation resolved itself into a species of jungle or Indian fighting, in which the individual soldier or small groups of soldiers played a dominant part. Success comes to the offensive force, which employs the maximum initiative by individuals and small groups.’

The intensity of the fighting in the bocage proved alarming. The US 4th Infantry Division suffered 5,452 casualties in less than three weeks of fighting, a hint of the horror to come in July 1944 in the “Green Hell” of the bocage country around St Lô.

Landkreuzer P.1500 “Monster”

This “land cruiser” was a self-propelled platform for the 800mm Schwerer Gustav artillery piece also made by Krupp—the heaviest artillery weapon ever constructed by shell weight and total gun weight, and the largest rifled cannon by calibre. This gun fired a 7-tonne projectile up to 37 km (23 miles) and was designed for use against heavily fortified targets. The Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster was to be 42 m (138 ft) long, weighing 1500 tonnes, with a 250 mm hull front armor, four MAN U-boat (submarine) marine diesel engines, and an operating crew of over 100 men. The main armament was to be an 800 mm Dora/Schwerer Gustav K (E) gun, and with a secondary armament of two 150 mm sFH 18/1 L/30 howitzers and multiple 15 mm MG 151/15 autocannons. The main armament could have been mounted without a rotating turret, making the vehicle a self-propelled gun rather than a tank. Such a configuration would have allowed the P. 1500 to operate in a similar manner to the original 800mm railroad gun and Karl 600mm self-propelled mortars, launching shells without engaging the enemy with direct fire.

Development of the Panzer VIII Maus had highlighted significant problems associated with very large vehicles, such as their destruction of roads/rails, their inability to use bridges and the difficulty of strategic transportation by road or rail. The bigger the vehicle, the bigger these problems became. Propulsion had also proved problematic in the development of the Maus: The prototype had failed to meet its specified speed requirements which meant that even larger vehicles such as the P. 1500 were likely to be slow-moving.

M1 Tank Development

M1 tank

General Motors XM-1

The M60’s replacement, the M1A1 and M1A2 Abrams, is today probably the top MBT in the world. It began as a joint project by West Germany and the United States for a new MBT that could engage and defeat the vast number of tanks the Soviet Union might field in an invasion of Central Europe. Designated the MBT-70, this new tank was to feature the Shillelagh gun/missile launcher and a 1,500-hp engine, neither of which was working out as planned.

Collapse of the MBT-70 project and cancellation of the follow-on XM803 program led to a brand-new program, which literally began from the ground up in 1972. The MBT-7O/XM8O3 programme was terminated at the end of 1971 and in the following year the US Army embarked on the development of yet another tank, originally designated XM815. The new tank, which became the XM-1. was to be simpler and less costly than the MBT-70/XM803 and it was to be developed relatively quickly in view of the US Army’s increasingly urgent need for a new battle tank. Moreover, the highest priority was no longer to be accorded in its design to fire-power, as it was in the case of MBT-70, but to crew survivability.

All this led to a tank with a conventional configuration and a four-man crew but with much better protection than earlier US tanks. The latter was particularly effective against shaped charge weapons, thanks to the adoption of the Chobham armour which had been developed in Britain. To help increase its survivability, it was also significantly lower and it had no commander’s machine gun cupola to ruin its silhouette.

To reduce development costs, its components were chosen to a large extent from those already in existence and in particular from those developed as part of the MBT-70 programme. The latter included two alternative engines, both of which developed 1500hp. This made the XM-1 very agile even though it was somewhat heavier, at 52.6 tons, than the MBT-70.

The XM-1 was no longer required to fire guided missiles and in view of this and the problems encountered with the 152mm gun-launcher of the MBT-70 the only course that was open was to go back to the 105mm gun which had been used already for 13 years in the M60 tanks. This retrograde step was made inevitable by the rash decisions taken by the US Army in 1957 to concentrate on guided missile launchers, which caused it to abandon the development of new tank guns. To be fair, the adoption of the 13-year old 105mm gun was alleviated by the contemporary development of APFSDS ammunition which made it more effective than it had been before. Some consideration was also given to retrofitting at a later stage a 110mm gun which was being developed in Britain. However, the latter proved no better than the 105mm gun with its new APFSDS ammunition during trilateral gun trials carried out in Britain in 1975. This was due to the fact that the 110mm gun was still only provided with APDS ammunition, to which its British developers remained wedded, in spite of the evidence that APFSDS ammunition was becoming superior to it, because of the success they had with it until then.

The actual development of the XM-1 was carried out on a competitive basis, contracts for it being awarded in 1973 to Chrysler and to General Motors. Both companies completed their prototypes in 1975 and after trials the Chrysler XM-1 was chosen in 1976 for further development on the grounds that it was being offered at a lower cost. The principal engineering difference between the two was that the General Motors prototype was powered by a variable compression ratio diesel. which was not entirely successful, while the Chrysler prototype was powered by a gas turbine, which was expensive to produce and which, in spite of repeated claims to the contrary, proved to have a high fuel consumption. A conventional diesel would have been a better choice for either of the two designs and one of 1500hp had been developed in Germany for the MBT-70 but it was not considered for the XM-1.

Whichever of the two US prototypes won, it was intended that it should be evaluated in competition with the German Leopard 2 with the view of achieving standardisation between the US and German tank fleets, ostensibly even to the extent of adopting the same tank for both. In the event all that happened was that the US Army decided in 1978 to adopt the 120mm smooth-bore gun produced in Germany for the Leopard 2. The decision was taken after trials carried out in 1977 when the German 120mm smooth-bore gun was compared with the US 105mm tank gun. which by then was 18 years old, and a new 120mm rifled gun hastily developed in Britain to suit US requirements.

Having won the competition, Chrysler produced the first of a pre-production batch of eleven XM-1 tanks in 1978 and in 1980 began to build M1 tanks, still armed with 105mm guns. It was originally intended to produce a total of 3312 M1 tanks but by 1985 their number was increased to 7467. Of this total 4199 were to be M1A1 tanks armed with 120mm guns, the first production model of which was completed in 1985. By then the responsibility for the M1 had passed to the Land Systems Division of General Dynamics, who had taken over its development and production from Chrysler in 1982.

The new tank was named for General Creighton Abrams, armor tank battalion commander in World War II, Allied commander in Vietnam, and army chief of staff.

The M1 was a revolutionary design as well as a sharp departure from previous U. S. tanks, with their rounded surfaces and relatively high profiles. The M1 was more angular, with flat-plate composite Chobham-type armor, with armor boxes that can be opened and the armor changed according to the threat. At 8 feet tall, it is also considerably lower than the M60 (10 feet, 9 inches). From the start, the army’s intention was to arm the M1 with the 105mm gun. As a result of a program aimed at securing a common main armament for U. S., British, and West German tanks, the decision was taken, after initial M1 production had begun, to arm the M1 with a German-designed Rheinmetall 120mm smoothbore gun. But that gun was still under development when the tank was ready, and so the army decided to continue with the 105mm M68 gun utilized in the M60. The 120mm M256 gun, essentially the German designed gun with a U. S. breech, was available in 1984, and the first M1A1 with this new armament came off the production line in August 1985. The M1A1HA introduced a new steel-encased depleted uranium armor, which is virtually impenetrable, but it also dramatically increased the tank’s weight to nearly 146,000 pounds.