The following article from the "Red Star" shows the tactics employed by
the Russians in combating enemy tank attacks, as well as the organization of a
Russian antitank regiment.
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There is no more powerful or deadly weapon in the struggle against tanks
than the antitank gun, which can by its intensive and accurate fire frustrate the
attack of great masses of tanks. This weapon is the basic means for the defense
of troops, communications, and defensive objectives against tanks.
When the enemy, in organizing his attack concentrates his tanks on separate
narrow sectors of the front, and uses them in masses as a battering ram,
ruthless defense must be organized, and in the first place, antitank defense. Without
powerful fighting units equipped for the purpose this would be difficult to achieve,
and one such unit is the destroyer antitank artillery regiment. These regiments
can operate independently, in the form of an army reserve, covering points of the
front where there is a danger from tanks, or they can operate within the
framework of an infantry division, supporting it at such points as may be necessary,
and also operating with the supporting tank group.
In a sector where there is danger from enemy tank attack, the regiment
can cover with its fire quite a large area, keeping a few batteries in a first
echelon and a few in a second. Guns are usually sited so as to be mutually
supporting. Each battery forms a separate antitank defense center mutually
supporting, and within effective range of, the other batteries. This
makes it possible to increase the field of fire.
a. The Antitank Regiment in Action
The mission of the antitank regiment is to stop at nothing in its battle
against tanks, even if it involves the sacrifice of a considerable part of its strength.
The regiment will be carrying out its task even if it loses its guns, provided that
it destroys and puts out of action a large number of enemy tanks, and provided that
against the loss of the guns can be offset the time gained, the holding of territory,
or the restoring of a position.
In any circumstances, guns will only open fire on tanks from a distance of
500 to 600 yards, and will do nothing before that to disclose their position. In
order to attack the gun position, a tank, allowing for a speed of 12 miles per hour,
will require two minutes. During this time, allowing for average conditions of
fire, 12 to 14 shots can be fired. Let us suppose that the percentage of effective
hits will be 20 to 25. This means that each gun will put out of action two to three
tanks, before it is annihilated, assuming that the enemy continues to advance with
complete disregard for losses. The whole regiment under such conditions can
put out of action several dozen tanks in one attack, and moreover, only the batteries
in the first echelon will suffer substantial losses.
Such is the destructive potentialities of the tank-destroying regiment, and
they have not in any way been exaggerated. The correctness of these calculations
has been borne out by actual combat. In addition there have been not a few cases
where one gun has put out of action not two, but six, or eight or even more tanks.
A few batteries have thus shattered a German attack.
b. How the Regiment is Organized in Defense
Let us examine the organization for defense within the regiment. The most
usually adopted battle formation for the regiment is a diamond shape center of
resistance, consisting of nests of resistance each of battery strength, with
all-around defense within each battery. In the case of such a formation it is useful
to keep one battery in reserve, because the possibility exists that the enemy
tanks will go around the flanks of one of the batteries within the first echelon.
The speed with which the reserve of fire power can be developed and brought into
action is an important factor in success.
Each battery has its main and its alternate positions, for which all data
are prepared; dummy positions are prepared if there is time. When a battery
has to leave its main position for its alternate position, the former becomes the
dummy position. Changing position must only take place during a lull in the
fighting, and in all circumstances under cover of darkness. Before the battle
positions are taken up, daylight reconnaissance is necessary. During this
reconnaissance, the directions from which tank attacks are threatened are noted,
battery control points and the tasks of each are fixed, and fire is coordinated.
When the batteries take up their positions, the rearward elements of the
regiment are moved back sufficiently far for them to be out of range of fire of
enemy tanks and artillery in an attack.
To ensure more effective and flexible control over the regiment, the
commander has, in addition to his command post, an observation post in the area of
the batteries of the second echelon (in the center of this defensive area, or on
its flank). It is very important that it should be possible to observe from the OP
the approach of tanks at every point within the regimental area. If this is not
possible, the OP is chosen to cover the most vital parts of the defended area.
The regimental commander coordinates the fire of the batteries, ordering
them to switch or concentrate their fire as the situation requires. He also
determines the time and place for the reserve battery to come into action. If
communications with the batteries break down, staff officers are immediately
sent out to the batteries to ensure coordination.
c. The Reserve Battery
It is desirable to discuss in greater detail the employment of the reserve
battery, since the question is one of importance. This battery can be employed
in the following tasks: it can be brought into action at a point where the enemy
has made a mass tank attack, in order to stiffen resistance; or on a flank which
is open and where enemy tanks would get through to the rear; finally, to prevent
further penetration at a point where the enemy tanks have driven a wedge into
our lines. In all these cases, the time at which the reserve battery is deployed
for action is of decisive importance; this is what determines both its position
and the route by which it moves over to the required point.
The reserve battery can either be in the center of the defensive zone
(the second echelon) as a whole, or can be split into its platoons and used nearer
the flanks. The latter is possibly the better method. For example, if one of the
flanks should become exposed, one platoon immediately goes into action, while
the second can come up under cover of its fire. In case of a forward move, both
platoons can converge simultaneously on the prearranged position.
If a battery (or platoon) is being moved any distance up to about 500 yards,
it is best to move the guns by hand, since to bring up the prime movers will
take nearly as long. Often, in order to conceal movement of guns, it is better
to move them forward several times a short distance by hand, rather than to
use the prime movers to move them a considerable distance in a single bound.
Moving the reserve battery by prime movers is practicable when the time is
available, when the distance to be moved exceeds 600 yards and when the
movement is lateral. (A diversion rearwards is desirable in the interests