What the WW2 Sturmgeschütz Assault Gun tells us about contemporary tank needs

By Nicholas Drummond

A popular topic of late-night conversation in military bars and messes is: “What was the best German tank of the Second World War?” But “best” is a subjective word that means different things to different to people. If it means what was the most technically capable tank, then, for many people, the Tiger and Panther will probably spring to mind. But a lesser known tracked combat vehicle, the Sturrmgeschütz III, was arguably more significant in the impact it achieved. This article explains why it deserves to be reconsidered and is worthy of greater historical recognition. 

Tiger-Tanks-2

The German Tiger (above) and Panther (below) tanks were iconic, but neither was ever produced in significant enough numbers to achieve real strategic impact. Even so, they were extraordinarily potent and qualitatively better than anything the Allies had until the closing stages of the War.

Pzkpfw-v-ausf-d-panther-medium-tank-08

Weighing 57 metric tonnes, the Tiger had a physical presence which gave it a psychological effect that few other tanks bar the Tiger II could match. Its fearsome 88mm gun could penetrate the frontal armour of every allied tanks in existence at the time. From its introduction in September 1942 until January 1944, when an upgraded Russian T-34 arrived with an 85mm gun, the Tiger could engage enemy tanks with impunity. During the Normandy campaign in 1944, German tank ace, Michael Wittman, used a single Tiger to decimate a British armoured regiment, the 4th City of London Yeomanry, at Villers-Bocage.[1]Within the space of 15 minutes, Wittmann destroyed six Cromwell tanks, two Sherman Fireflies, three Stuart light tanks, eight half-tracks, four Bren gun carriers, two 6-pounder anti-tank guns, two scout cars, and a further Sherman. It. was one of many episodes that contributed to a myth of invincibility.

Despite its omnipotence, the Tigers I was never produced in significant enough numbers to contribute a decisive effect. It was mostly used in small numbers and at a time when the Wehrmacht was retreating instead of advancing. In fact, it was intended to be an assault tank. Though some were lost to enemy action, many fell into Allied hands intact after being abandoned by their crews when they ran out of fuel or crucial spare parts. Both Tiger I and Tiger II were large, complex beasts that were time-consuming and expensive to produce. Even so, they remain among the standout tank designs of the Second World War. Few other tanks provided a more potent mix of firepower, protection and mobility. The major problem with the Tiger is that only 1,347[2]were ever produced. The Tiger II was even more formidable, but again numbers were limited, with only 489 made. [3]

Tigers saw action in Tunisia, Italy and Normandy, although the majority were used in Russia. It was here that Stalin coined his frequently quoted maxim: quantity has a quality all of its own. Ultimately, the Tiger’s impressive firepower and protection were no match for vastly superior numbers of Russian T-34, KV-1s and KV-2s that were pitched against it. From D-Day onwards, the Tiger met its match when Allied tanks equipped with more powerful tank guns, such as the Sherman Firefly with the QF 17-pounder, started to appear in large numbers. It may therefore be fair to say that the Tiger’s reputation was out of all proportion to its strategic effect.

Tiger knocked out Belpasso Sciily, 1943
Tiger I Knocked-out at Belpasso, Sicily in 1943. Though well protected, the Tiger I was not invincible. (Image: National Army Museum, London)

In evaluating Second World War German tanks, perhaps a more interesting question is: what was the most significant design? Here significant means: which tank achieved the most impact in battle?

The Panther was in some ways superior to the Tiger. It was a better balance of the iron triangle because it had a higher power-to-weight ratio relative to the Tiger offering improved cross-country agility. Mounting the 75mm KwK 42 L/70 gun it could also penetrate the frontal armour of a T-34 at 1,500 metres.  Thirdly, it had equal protection at a lesser weight through the use of sloped armour. However, initial versions of the Panther proved to be so unreliable that they were a liability in combat. It wasn’t until the Panther Ausf. G appeared in early 1944, that it began to have an impact. Total Panther numbers were around 6,000[4]manufactured by the end of the War, but less than 3,000 of the Ausf. G version were produced.

In contrast to Tiger and Panther tanks, the Soviets built 84,070 T-34/76s and T-34/85s [5]while some 49,000 Shermans rolled-off American production lines.[6]Military historians tend to regard the T-34 and Sherman as more significant than any German tank because they were engineered in a way that allowed them to be mass produced in vast numbers at a lower cost. While absolute numbers frequently made the difference between victory and defeat, they also made equipment support easier and less expensive. Therefore, production volumes and supportability are important additional evaluation criteria in terms of overall impact.

Tank_T-34:85
Soviet T-34/85 with a redesigned  turret mounting an 85 mm gun. This was the first Allied tank to be able take-on the Tiger on equal terms. But it was the sheer quantity of T-34s produced – 84,070 – that made it so significant.

The Wehrmacht’s Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks, were more also significant than Tiger and Panther, because they were manufactured in larger numbers too. Even so, total quantities were markedly less than Russian or American tank production. Some 5,774 Panzer IIIs[7]were produced plus 8,553 Panzer IVs.[8]The latter was one of only two German tanks to remain in production throughout the War, and was the primary equipment of the Panzer Divisions. The Panzer IV’s technical performance was broadly similar to the T-34, KV-1, Sherman, Churchill and Cromwell tanks it encountered in battle, but thanks to a combination of highly trained crews, effective tactics and sufficient mass to achieve a Blitzkrieg effect, it was instrumental in achieving an extraordinary number of campaign victories during the early stages of the War.

Panzer III

The Panzer III (above) and Panzer IV (below) were the primary tanks of the Germany Army during WW2 and were pivotal in achieving its early war victories. 

munster-panzer-IV-tank

This leads us to the most widely produced German combat vehicle of the Second World War, the Sturmgeschütz III assault gun. Like the Panzer IV, it was the only other German tank to be produced continually from 1939 to 1945 with 10,086 manufactured.[9]The Sturmgeschütz III was a tank that wasn’t actually a tank. It was conceived as an assault gun to provide direct fire support for attacking infantry, a role it performed extremely well in Poland, France and Russia. It was used to deal with machine gun nests, pillboxes and fortifications, with specific instructions that it was not be used as a tank destroyer, as it was thought to be too vulnerable.

StuG III -1
Stürmgeschutz III Ausf. G Assault Gun with a 75 mm gun.

The Sturmgeschütz III had no turret, so could only rotate its gun by slewing the vehicle to the left or right using its tracks. It couldn’t fire on the move. And, it had thinner armour than the Panzer III and Panzer IV. Overall, the Sturmgeschütz III shouldn’t have been the extraordinary success it became;. According to the Tank Museum at Bovington, by the time the War ended, it had destroyed an estimated 30,000 Russian tanks – this was not only more any other German combat vehicle, but also more than any Allied tank type. Notable engagements included Kharkov in February 1943, when the GrossDeutschland Division’s StuG units claimed 44 T-34 kills, whereas an equal number of Tiger units only managed 30. At Leningrad in the same year, a Sturmgeschütz battalion, Abteilung 226, equipped with 41 StuGIIIs, destroyed 221 Russian T-34 and KV-1 tanks for just 13 losses.[10]

After Kursk, the tide turned in Russia and the Wermacht was forced to adopt a defensive posture. Instead of being used as an assault gun, circumstances demanded that the Sturmgeschütz III be used as a tank destroyer. Despite concerns about vulnerability, the design requirement had stipulated a vehicle height of less than a man standing, which meant it had a lower silhouette than other German tanks. It was easier to camouflage and presented a smaller target to enemy gunners, making it ideal for ambushing enemy tanks.

Of the many tank types used by Wermacht and SS Panzer Divisions between 1939 and 1945, the Sturmgeschütz III was the simplest and cheapest to build, costing 70,000 Reichsmarks, whereas a Panzer IV cost 100,000 Reichsmarks and a Tiger 300,000 Reichsmarks.[11]Leveraging the same proven chassis as the Panzer III, Sturmgeschütz III commonality meant that spare parts were in plentiful supply, making it easy to support and maintain. When Panzer III production was halted, it was no problem to transfer manufacturing to Sturmgeschütz III. Mechanical simplicity ensured it was easy to repair. Training was straightforward. With a driver, gunner, loader and commander, the vehicle was simple to operate and proved to be popular with its crews.

Crucially, the Sturmgeschütz III possessed four further advantages that are often overlooked:

  1. It mounted the 75mmStuK 40 L/48gun, which was too big to fit within the Panzer III’s turret ring. Though less potent than the Tiger’s mighty 88mm gun, it could still defeat the frontal armour of most allied tanks, which made it more than good enough for the tank destroyer role.
  2. The StuG. III had superior optics to those used on the Panzer IV, so could acquire and engage targets faster, at longer ranges and with greater accuracy. These were mounted above the gun, not coaxially, making it easier to acquire and track targets.
  3. Although overall armour protection was inferior to other tanks, the StuG. III had good protection where most needed: across the frontal arc.
  4. Without a turret or the same all-round thickness of armour as the Panzer III, the StuG. III weighed less so was more agile on- and off-road. Less weight also meant that it put less strain on its drivetrain, so broke down less frequently than other German tanks. It enjoyed the highest availability rating of any German tracked combat vehicle.

Success bred success. The more the StuG. III was appreciated to be a useful battlefield asset, the more that were built. But, for all its qualities, the Sturmgeschütz III never enjoyed the same iconic status as the Tiger and Panther. It was ugly, unsophisticated and less capable than its tank cousins, yet it delivered a disproportionately high number of tank kills relative to other more capable German tanks.

After the war, around 60 StuG. IIIs which had been previously acquired by Finland and Spain remained in service, with the latter country passing-on its fleet to Syria, which used them until 1967.

StuG_III_Ausf._G
The Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G was acquired by the Finnish Army,  but remained in service well after the end of WW2.

In summary, the Sturmgeschütz III’s technical features, production numbers, combat performance, and longevity of service add-up to a vehicle that no other tank or tank destroyer has ever matched. This is not to say that the Sturmgeschütz III was perfect. On the contrary, it had shortcomings, but it worked well enough to be extremely useful.

Fast forward to today.

The Challenger 2, M1A2 Abrams and Leopard 2A7 are highly sophisticated main battle tanks with prodigious capabilities. They are also complex, require a high degree of operator proficiency, and need proactive maintenance to ensure their dependability in the field. Above all, they are extremely expensive. New-build Leopard 2 MBTs cost €12-14 million each. Like the Tiger I and Tiger II, upgrade programmes to maintain their edge have resulted in reduced in power-to-weight ratios, blunting their mobility.

Compared to the Russian T-72 and T-90 or the Chinese Type 99, modern NATO MBTs are more advanced and more capable. But, because they are so expensive, armies tend to have fewer in number. Since the Second World War, we seem to have forgotten how successful the T-34 and Sherman were by simply being manufactured in high volumes.

The resurgence of Cold War threats reminds us that capable MBTs remain extremely relevant, but we don’t have enough. We certainly do not have a modern equivalent of the tank destroyer or a light/ medium tank that compensates for the gradual reduction in overall tank numbers. This is a problem because NATO tanks are vastly outnumbered by those of potential enemies, including Russia and China.

Instead, we have relied on vehicle-mounted ATGMs to even the balance. The Arab-Israeli War of 1973, provided a vivid example of how effective anti-tank missiles could be. They accounted for a significant number of tank casualties on both sides. Thus ATGMs, such as TOW and MILAN, have become the contemporary equivalents of the tank destroyer. Unfortunately, most are mounted on unprotected light vehicles not on tracked platforms under armour. Feedback from recent conflicts, notably the Russian-Ukrainian war, suggests that firing ATGMs from soft-skinned vehicles is risky.

AT-3-Sagger-Chinese
AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missiles were used with great effect during the Arab-Israeli War of 1973. Such weapons mounted on light armoured vehicles became a new type of Tank Destroyer.

Attack helicopters have evolved into highly effective tank killers. Mounting Hellfire and Brimstone ATGMs fired from ranges up to 8,000 metres, they can engage enemy AFVs well beyond their ability to return fire. While such capabilities make attack helicopters a lethal modern tank destroyer analogue, again, we don’t have enough. The UK only has 50 AH-64 Apaches, so we need something else to even-up the numbers.

Meanwhile, a new technology has emerged: Active Protection Systems (APS). These are good at defeating ATGMs to enhance the survivability of AFVs. Offering a range of neutralisation options, including soft-kill effects through the jamming of missile guidance systems, or hard-kill solutions, by firing a barrage of ball bearings to obliterate an incoming missile, they have become dependable, ubiquitous and, most important, affordable. Mounted on all types of tracked vehicles, APS have restored the primacy of heavy armour.

rms15_aps_hero_image
Raytheon APS system being tested on a Stryker ICV.

While APS technology can defeat chemical warheads of HEAT missiles, the long-rod penetrators of APFSDS anti-tank ammunition are much harder to stop due to their high velocity. In any event, the challenge is now to invent new anti-tank systems capable of defeating APS. High velocity ATGMs are one future option, but in the short-term we will rely on tank guns and APFSDS to do it. This means we need to acquire more MBTs or… the modern equivalent of an inexpensive, utilitarian tank destroyer.

We have already started to mount ATGMs like Javelin and MMP under armour on IFVs and 8x8s and while this will certainly provide a useful uplift in capability, it may not be enough. Recognising the problem, not only of MBT affordability, but also deployability, the Italian Army decided to develop a wheeled tank destroyer, the CIO Centauro B with a large tank gun. This first appeared in 1991 and was used to equip several wheeled brigades. As may be obvious from other discussions about medium weight wheeled armoured vehicles, modern 8x8s provide a high level of strategic mobility, enabling rapid deployment. For a country like Italy, surrounded by the water on three sides, the Centauro was an ideal vehicle to react to any attack from the sea. In essence, it was a wheeled tank. Though less sophisticated than a Main Battle Tank, it was still able to neutralise substantially better protected AFVs. It also cost half as much. More recently, Japan has adopted a similar vehicle, the MHI Type-16 MCV, to perform the same role. Both the Centauro and Type-16 mount a 105mm low pressure gun, able to defeat contemporary Russian and Chinese tanks, although possibly not the new T-14 Armata.

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CIO Centauro II with a 120mm gun that can defeat all existing MBTs. It costs €4-€5 million per vehicle or about 40% less than a new-build MBT. When absolute numbers matter, AFVs such as this can be a real force multiplier – just as the Sturmgeschütz III was. 

With 200 Ariete MBTs supplemented by 200-400 Centauros, this latter vehicle effectively tripled the total number of “tanks” available to the Italian Army. The Italians soon realised that the Centauro was a highly flexible platform well able to perform additional missions beyond its primary role. It was deployed to Somalia, Former-Yugoslavia, Lebanon and Iraq. Such was its success, that Italy is now developing a new version of the Centauro with a 120mm gun.

The similarities between 8×8 tank destroyers and the Sturmgeschütz III are noteworthy:

  • Potent main gun
  • Good protection across the frontal arc
  • Lower cost than a MBT
  • Mechanical simplicity and reliability
  • Ease of operation and support

Following this example, the US Army adopted the Stryker M1128 Mobile Gun System. This also has a 105 mm gun. Unfortunately, it was fielded before a number of development issues had been resolved creating reliability problems. It seems likely that the US Army will look to upgrade of replace the Stryker MGS with a better system. While it considers how to do this and recognising the need to support light role US Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (ICBT), the US Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower programme aims to provide such units with a modern tracked tank destroyer. Like Centauro, the proposed vehicle type adheres the Second World War German tank destroyer concept.

BAE Systems MPF
BAE Systems Mobile Protected Firepower prototype is based on the previous M8 Buford AGS developed in the 1990s. It has a 105mm gun, but only light armour to keep weight down. It is close in concept to the Stürmgeschutz III. (Image: BAE Systems)

For all the above reasons, there is a strong case for other NATO armies to consider mounting 120mm low recoil guns more widely on their 8×8 platforms or to acquire lightweight tracked mobile gun systems. For the UK, this might include mounting a 120mm gun on something like Ajax or or Boxer.

Putting a 120mm gun turret on an 8×8 platform adds weight which compromises mobility. It also adds cost. Part of the genius of the Sturmgeschütz III was that it didn’t have a turret. This kept both weight and costs down. Could a turret-less configuration work for an 8×8 tank destroyer or light tracked platform?

Protector with Javein
While Remote Weapon Stations with integral ATGM allow enemy tanks to be engaged from under armour, increasingly they can be defeated by APS.

Remote weapon stations offer worthwhile advantages relative to traditional gun turrets. They are the modern equivalent of not mounting a turret on an AFV. They reduce vehicle weight and cost, but do not compromise interior volume. They also separate the crew from ammunition stowage to reduce fire risks should the vehicle be penetrated. The Stryker M1128 gun mount is not ideal, but does at least manage to mount a 105mm gun on Stryker while keeping GVW under 20-tonnes.

The 30mm remote turret mounted to the Stryker M1126 Dragoon is another innovative solution, but the cannon calibre is not large enough to defeat anything beyond older Russian BMPs. More recently, the US Army has expressed an intention to field a new 50mm cannon. It won’t be as potent as the 120mm smoothbore mounted in most NATO MBTs, but, like the Sturmgeschütz III’s 75mm StuK 40 L/48gun, it should be capable of destroying most Russian and Chinese tanks.

Whatever we decide to adopt to fill the gap, we need to avoid the tendency to gold-plate future vehicle requirements. We need to keep it simple, cheap and nasty… and here nasty means nasty for the enemy.

To summarise, this article is not suggesting that we literally mount a large tank gun on an inexpensive wheeled or tracked chassis, although contemporary tank destroyer solution could indeed indeed result in something similar to the Sturmgeschütz III; it is about developing an effective low-cost solution that can give us a numerical advantage. When you’re playing a numbers game, critical mass matters.

______________________________________________

[1]Decision in Normandy: The Real Story of Montgomery and the Allied Campaign. By Carlo D’Este. Penguin Books, London. 1983.

[2]Tiger I Heavy Tank 1942-45. By Tom Jentz and Peter Sarson. New Vanguard Series – Osprey Publishing. 1993.

[3]The Tank Museum, Bovington. See also Kingtiger Heavy Tank 1942-1945. By Tom Jentz, Hilary Doyle, & Peter Sarson. New Vanguard Series – Osprey Publishing. 1993.

[4]Panther Medium Tank 1942-45.  By Stephen Hart & Jim Laurier. New Vanguard Series – Osprey Publishing. 2003.

[5]T-34/76 Medium Tank 1941-45. By Steven J. Zaloga & Peter Sarson. New Vanguard Series – Osprey Publishing. 1994.

[6]Armored Thunderbolt: The Sherman Tank in World War II. By Steven J. Zaloga. Stackpole Books. 2008.

[7]Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank 1936-45. By Bryan Perrett & David E. Smith. New Vanguard Series – Osprey Publishing. 1999.

[8]Panzerkampfwagen III Medium Tank 1936-44. By Bryan Perrett, David E. Smith, Mike Badrocke & Mike Chappell. New Vanguard Series – Osprey Publishing. 1999.

[9]Sturmgeschütz III and IV 1942-45. By Hilary Doyle, Tom Jentz, Mike Fuller & Peter Sarson. New Vanguard Series – Osprey Publishing. 2001.

[10]Sturmgeschütz III. By David B. Tanks-Encyclopedia.com. 2014.

[11]Armored Champion: The Top Tanks of World War II. By Steven J. Zaloga. Stackpole Books. 2015.

36 comments

    1. Was’nt the Jagerpanzer (excuse my spelling) a successor in the post-war German army? I agree with the view that cost has driven down the numbers of MBT’s in service, however, a simple but potent anti-tank slugger built to a realistic budget could offer field commanders a greater choice of offence or defence? The ‘S’ Tank principles could be applied to reduce complexity and the technical / serviceability costs over a conventional turreted version? A fleet of two hundred ‘S’ Type anti-tank vehicles could enhance the British army MBT tactics and offer a formidable component to the current tank fleet strategies?

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      1. First off, why would the s-tank be cheaper now and secondly, how would these anti-tank vehicles help.
        More than a lesser number, say 100, of MBTs that do not require different training or logistics?

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      2. Because Mrfred, it offers a much lower profile an attribute which I’m made the German gun so successful? Having no turret in low lying countryside must have significant advantages in such terrain. Multi-targeting would still be possible but obviously, below that of a conventional turreted tank. I must admit the ‘S’ Tank never made much sense to me as a MBT, but in the role of an anti-tank weapon could be a very useful weapon.

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      3. A low profile is advantageous, but note how you are already caveating where this modern S-tank is useful? This suggests that it is a specialist where perhaps you can’t afford to have them? The lack of a turret will compromise their offensive capacity, necessitating stopping to fire. If you have them providing overwatch to MBTs, who covers them when the MBTs have completed their bound? If you have them acting as a defensive vehicle then you eschew the ability to counterattack.
        Then there is the question of cost. If one listed out the systems on a tank in order of cost, then did the same with a modern S-tank, how many of the top items would be the same?
        Lastly, there is the question of crew. At present, crew is expensive, so does it make sense to skimp on the vehicle if the crew costs the same? You could estimate the crew at £100,000 per year at the low end. Insignificant for high intensity conflict, quite important over the service life when not. Although you also have to factor in maintenance costs, if they make a difference.

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      4. mr.fred: “At present, crew is expensive, so does it make sense to skimp on the vehicle if the crew costs the same? You could estimate the crew at £100,000 per year at the low end.”

        That is a good point, but the S-Tank was actually very cheap in that respect. No loader, as this was automatic (very reliable and easy to achieve when the gun position is fixed in relation to the ammo supply in the vehicle); and of course the driver was also the gunner. So the vehicle could be operated by a crew of two, although they did add a third one facing backwards, for driving the tank in reverse and operating the radio! Probably an excuse for carrying a spare man, just in case.

        I am not sure just how precise firing on the move really is. Certainly a stabilised gun can be kept pointing more or less at prospective targets, which is an advantage, but is the stabilisation system really so good that shooting on the move is just as accurate as shooting from a standstill? Can any tankers comment?

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  1. What is “simple” these days? Everything has an FCS these days and those are far from simple. What would you define as “simple”?

    Thoughts about the Japanese Type 10? Currently it has a 50 tonne weight limit imposed by JSDF requirements but could potentially be increased outside of Japanese service. It’s a tad on the expensive side but I think that is more a result of the low production numbers and development cost amortization being rolled in than a true unit cost, though I may be wrong. Improve the engine to 1500 HP and you have a very nice growth margin for armor and such (10-12 tonnes) while still maintaining good mobility. Would be interesting to see a “westernized/NATO-ized” Type 10 and see how it compares to current C2, Leo2, and M-1.

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  2. It’s spelled “Sturmgeschütz”.

    “Soviet T-34/85 with a redesigned 85 mm gun turret was the first tank to be able take-on the Tiger on equal terms.”
    The KV-85 arrived roughly half a year earlier than the T-34/85.

    “Thirdly, [the Panther] had equal protection [as the Tiger I] at a lesser weight through the use of sloped armour. ”
    Not quite. The Panther’s side protection was flimsy. Tigers were so boxy with so strong side armour that they could slope and thus improve their armour protection by not facing the threats directly with their hull.

    “And, [StuG III] had thinner armour than the Panzer III and Panzer IV.”
    Not really, it began about equal and later on its protection was clearly superior as the IV’s turret was never protected adequately.

    I disagree completely with the notion that 8×8 with big gun is comparable to WW2 casemate tanks, though a couple 8×8 (as the mentioned “MGS”) are similarly restricted in regard to practical traverse. They are technically more reminiscent to U.S. tank destroyers, especially the Hellcat. They’re furthermore often among the best AT systems on hand in their brigades, and thus pressed into an ambushing AT role similar to U.S. Army WW2 tank destroyers.

    The true modern equivalent to WW2 casemate tanks is the continued employment of actually obsolete tanks, which still resist almost all non-AT munitions and still can shoot building-busting HE shells. The old M-60s and T-55s, also T-72s are the modern equivalents to StuGs IMO.

    related
    https://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2010/06/assault-guns-past-and-future.html

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  3. In bringing forward the historical concepts don’t we need to examine the difference between the StuG (infantry fire support) and Jagdpanzer (tank destroyer) ?

    Essentially the modern heavy MBT (at least in the west) is based around surviving tank on tank combat, and has a primary weapon that is essentially a specialist anti-tank gun (yes Ii know other ammo nature’s are available). The 70 tonne MBT with Chobham derivatives is the Jagdpanzer!

    The cheaper alternative is any vehicle carrying ATGW, whether that’s a slightly cheaper IFV with missiles under armour on the turret, or a much much cheaper 4×4 ATV with a couple of Javelin.

    What we are missing however is the modern cheap and cheerful equivalent of the Sherman – an infantry support tank. Not a thinly armoured light tank still mounting an anti-tank focused gun e.g. CV90120 or M8 Buford, but a cheap HE thrower.

    Is the closest thing perhaps a tracked or 8×8 APC with NEMO or Mjolnir 120mm mortar capable direct fire ? A true infantry support capability your not going to be tempted to use like a “tank” or a “tank destroyer” ?

    Perhaps a cheap modern StuG is a tracked chassis, low silhouette, with Center mounted 120mm manual breach loading mortar. At least frontal protection against 14.5mm AP, and maybe ERA for use against RPG, or if you can afford it, an APS. An RWS with HMG, GMG (or both) would provide a step change in self protection from the original StuG. Bung a Javelin on the RWS for some self protection against enemy tanks ?

    If your ok with a higher profile perhaps you xould do it on 8×8 ???

    If your serious about combat engineers, build one on your heavy MBT chassis too, with a sized blade as well as the mortar.

    Worried about direct fire range ? See the old
    French Thompson-Brandt “gun-mortar” – breach loading smooth bore mortar with ammo more like a conventional cartridge for higher velocity and more range.

    For UK Strike Brigades I think Boxer plus NEMO would be the closest thing we could get to a moder assault gun.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The 120 mm turreted mortar was a British project by Royal Ordnance IIRC. The breech-loading mortar was manually-loaded (so much simpler than NEMO) and the system was evidently designed as a dual-purpose direct and indirect fire support vehicle. Maximum range was given as 10 km, or 12 km with planned extended-range ammo. I have no idea what happened to the project, I only saw it that one time.

        In the exhibition hall a Piranha III 8×8 was shown with the same turret; it had a crew of four and could carry 60 rounds. The pictures below show that one.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. While not designed as a TD, the Stug proved to be a very capable one, when used smartly. Personally, I tend to favor the AMC-10RC, Centauro B1, and Type 16 MCV as modern day Stugs though one could also include the Badak, Rooikat, Ratal 90, and Belgian CF90 if one looked beyond 105mm guns. If one looks beyond guns and includes missile carriers than I would also include the Russian Tigr with Kornets and the Chinese tracked Red Arrow carrier.

      While I fully endorse the use of turreted breech loaded mortars, I just don’t see them as modern day Stugs. Maybe I’m too biased towards the original Stugs AT capability which I don’t see as a capability of a turreted 120mm mortar. If I’m wrong and that is a capability of those mortar systems please educate me. 😀

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      1. In principle any 120 mm mortar can fire the Swedish STRIX guided motor bomb, which has an IR sensor in the nose designed to home-in on tanks.

        There is also the Israeli LAHAT guided missile designed to be fired from 105 mm or 120 mm tank guns, but it could also be fired from any smoothbore weapon such as a mortar. As it uses semi-active laser homing, the launch vehicle needs a laser designator in line of sight.

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      2. Thank you for the education Sir. I was unaware of the STRIX. I knew of the LAHAT but thought that was limited to actual tank guns and did not realize it could be mortar launched as well. Though now that you’ve said it, it makes perfect sense that it could be used from a mortar tube as well. Thanks for helping me take my blinders off.

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      3. Regarding STRIX; this one was hyped as if it was American-designed, but it doesn’t deserve the hype.

        The footprint (area the tank has to be in for STRIX to lock on) is so tiny that a handful of DPICM cargo bombs would do the trick as easily.

        Mortar bombs with imaging sensors are a dead end apparently – they don’t hit a sweet spot in terms of manoevrability and time. They need a long time to reach the target, but have little time for searching one. That’s apparently why hardly any such munitions were introduced despite many development projects (there were about 50 guided mortar munition development projects about 20 years ago).

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  4. Single barrel designs lose the main advantage of AMOS, you can shoot and scoot MRSI to the effect of a 155 mm towed battery in the same time that it takes the latter crews to dismount and just get their hands on the artillery pieces
    – this same thing goes for the twin-barrel BAE solution for Sweden as the loading is only assisted, not automated, so the rate of fire is nothing to write back home about

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    1. AMOS, NEMO et al have fooled many laymen.
      The maximum rate of fire of AMOS is about equal to the maximum rate of fire of a simplistic basic120 mm mortar with manual loading: 16 rpm.

      The real advance in mortar tech is the automated laying, not the automated loading. 120 mm CARDOM is easily enough, even for most direct fire jobs. That is, if you trust mortars in a modern high end battlefield at all.

      Once you consider to go with turreted mortars you’ll be better off by employing the Cockerill 105 mm tank gun turrets with 42° maximum elevation. They would still need to implement the indirect fire controls and provide semi-fixed cartridges, but then it would be VASTLY more useful and survivable than turreted mortars.

      https://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2017/01/42-elevation-tank-turrets.html

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      1. A few years ago I saw a demonstration shoot by NEMO on a Patria AMV. It is not fully automatic, there is a loader who puts the bombs into the system, and they can only be chambered when the barrel is pointing forwards and at a certain angle of elevation.

        Ten rounds were fired in one minute at a target 600 m away. They made a real mess of the target, despite being inert practice bombs!

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  5. A western Type 10 would be a LeClerc, wouldn’t it?

    I’d say that a modern Stug. Ausf. A through E would be akin to an 8×8 with a gun-mortar in terms of role while the 105mm and 120mm tank gun-armed vehicles are closer to the Ausf. F and later.
    The big difference(s?) are:
    Turrets: the modern 8x8s all have them
    Silhouette: the stug was very low, the 8x8s aren’t.
    Protection: the stug had frontal arc protection similar to the tanks of the day. 8×8 really don’t.

    A gun-mortar 8×8 would be useful as organic artillery/ DF HE for mechanised infantry, but hardly a tank replacement.

    A low(er) cost AFV is laudable, but what are you prepared to remove in order to get it? The Stug eschewed the expensive race ring, gears and machining required for a turret, but as a proportion of the cost of a modern AFV, that’s not such a large component when compared to sights and the sort of gunlaying equipment you’d want, plus the comms and other shiny electronics that seem to festoon modern vehicles. You start cutting back on any of that and you’ll lose much that is currently taken for granted.

    One area you might consider cutting back on is long life and high reliability, which will reduce the acquisition cost, but increase through life costs. Or you could invest in a more regular upgrade/replacements so each new project is not such a big, risky, change and your older vehicles are not so hopelessly obsolete that they can’t be sold on or cover for the new vehicles if they don’t live up to expectations.

    The M4 Sherman had many good features, but the role of infantry tank (if that was the intention) was not really one of them. The mediums that followed had much greater utility and the universal tanks that followed them built on the lesson that specialist vehicles, no matter how good they were at their role, always end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Where you might save is minimising cost of acquisition. If you can consolidate proven systems into larger buys, perhaps, spreading the non-recurring cost over more platforms? But then you run the risk of being locked into one supplier with nothing to control their prices.

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    1. mr.fred, I agree with you entirely about this: “Or you could invest in a more regular upgrade/replacements so each new project is not such a big, risky, change and your older vehicles are not so hopelessly obsolete that they can’t be sold on or cover for the new vehicles if they don’t live up to expectations.”

      I have long argued that with any complex item of equipment, whether an AFV, a combat plane or a warship, there should be a regular programme of updates until the time comes when the basic platform is no longer adequate, at which point the new platform can be cheaply acquired at low technical risk just by transferring up-to-date equipment from the old one. Amazingly, the UK is actually doing this with the Type 26 frigates currently building: the old Type 23 has been receiving major upgrades in the form of the Sea Ceptor SAM + radar system (replacing Sea Wolf) and this will simply be transferred, thoroughly debugged, into the new ships.

      Sadly that is a rare example of such good practice. Militaries do not often get the chance to acquire new major items of equipment, so they try to attach as many bells and whistles as possible – and you end up with something like the F-35, which was originally meant to be a cheap F-16 replacement but is now many years late and extremely expensive.

      There is another important factor in maintaining a steady cycle of work, and that is to keep the factories functioning and providing continuous employment, giving a chance for “institutional memory” to develop. Weapon acquisition strategies really need to take the industrial aspects into account, or capabilities will simply be lost. This is happening with the UKs ability to build new tanks, and seems likely to happen with helicopters – the Leonardo (Westland) plant is going to stop making Merlins and Wildcats as the orders have run dry.

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  6. I would argue that IFVs are modern Stugs.

    As for turreted mortars they shouldn’t be seen as equivalent of Stug, they clearly have very different role despite shooting big HE bombs. When it comes to taking out tanks with APS you can always count on indirect fire to cover your ass, DPICM, Bonus and Smart.

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  7. If you are willing to email me I do have a paper that I can share with you on this very subject that you may find interesting.

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  8. Im sorry for dropping in but does anyone knows whats going on on ukarmedforcescommentary.blogspot.com. Last post was while ago and it was a good blog

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  9. I would dispute that the Tiger and Panther were superior to anything the allies had. The M4 “Sherman” actually was quite superior to both from an overall standpoint, IMO. I would actually rate the Panther as one of the worst tank designs of all time.

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  10. Another thing, but don’t buy so easily into the myth of Michael Wittman. Many of the claims about how many vehicles he destroyed at Villers-Bocage are disputed and we know that the Nazis propagandized the daylights out of his exploits.

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