Showing posts with label Saukopf. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Saukopf. Show all posts

24 June 2014

Operation Bagration: The first shots fall

First Shots of Operation Bagration

Thursday night, games night. Happens to almost co-incide with the actual 70th anniversary of Operation Bagration.

Flames of War in 20 mm. Second or third FoW game for Laurie, ably assisted by David, and visitor (and  potential new member) Tielman, ex Frankfurt am Main in Germany (Impartial observer, but obviously an experienced gamer)

Operation Bagration 22 June - 26 June

22 June 1944: A German Panzer Comapny meets up with a Russian Tankovy suppported by a small Motostrelkovy.

2 pre-prepared 1000 points lists:
I roll to get the Germans, Laurie to command the Soviets.

Germans field a Panzer IV unit, 4 Panzer IV Gs and a command section with the Major and the 2 IC in similar tanks and a recovery SdKfz 11;  KWK 75mm long guns, 2 Reconaissance  Armoured cars: 2 Pumas with 50 mm KWKs, 3 Stug Gs, one with saukopf mantlet (Thanks Scott, nice and easy way to distinguish troop commander) and 2 with square mantlet. 2 x Pak 40s. No more points left after that :( 
Germans are confident veterans of the Ostfront.

Russkis have Command and 2-IC in T-34 Obr 1942's, another troop of 5 x T-34s, and a separate troop of 6 Sherman lend-lease tanks. Mortar section with 4 x 120 mm heavy mortars; and the Motostrelkovy with 2 Maxim HMGs. Kommissar to invigorate the somewhat reluctant infantry. Russians are confident trained

Laurie rolls, and elects that I deploy first.

We have an open rolling pastoral landscape, some where east of the Dnieper river. (So 9th German Army and 9th Russian Tank Corps elements coming head to head, leading up to the large clash at Bobruisk. (!st Byelorussian Front) Pripyat (Pripet) Marshes do not feature (yet):

A single farm-house with two small wheat fields at the centre of the table, a small copse of fir trees to the north and south, and a low hill to the west. A chance engagement, with both forces vying for the farmhouse, with an unsubstantiated  rumour that went round that an attractive farm-girl who brews her own Vodka resided there...

The Panzerspaeh unit deployed first, off to the southern edge of the table. Knee-jerk response from Generalski Laurie saw the 6 Shermans deployed to cover the flank. The Germans then deployed 3 stugs threatening their flank in return.
Russians deployed their T34s on the Northern flank. Germans set 2 x Pak 40s in the centre of their lines, with direct lines of sight to T34 unit.

Displaying photo.JPG

Let's take out the soft armoured cars first! Then we take the woods.

The soviet mortars took position on the far left corner, with observers in the woods. German command tanks parked behind the Pak 40s, able to strike left or right, depending where the threat came from. 

Russian commander sought to bolster the numbers of his T-34 force, and followed in the furrows ploughed by the lead tanks. Russian Motostrelkovy deployed amongst the Sherman tanks, set to take the objective in the forest between them and the Pumas. Last to deploy were 4 Zis-3 AT guns, straddling the centre of the board on the Russian side. The bulk of the farm house interfering with line of sight to the Pak 40s (phew!)

Genl. Lauriski goes first: Shermans roll forward, and take a bead on the Pumas. Being recce vehicles they decide that discretion is the better part of valour. Or so they thought: Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Well, sort of. One vehicle was able to scoot behind the low hill and out of sight, but the lead armoured car went too far, and exposed himself to the line of fire of the rear-most Sherman. Fatal mistake.

Mortars range in on the Pak40s, succeed in dropping their 120 mm ordnance, but failing to do any damage.
Not so the T-34s. The two PzKfw IVs go up in flames. The Russians artillery fails to do any damage, and their unit commander radios for the Kommissar to come over.

The Germans are infuriated by the loss of their beloved PzKfw IVs, the troop commander fires off two rounds, two hits, and two T34s go up in smoke. "See Ivan, this is what Krupp Steel does !"

The Pak 40s follow suit, and soon 4 T-34s in total are blazing hulks. The hot-headed junior officer in the Puma is encouraged by the success of the artillery, and charges into the flank of the Sherman unit, quite foolishly. He pumps two shots into the nearest Sherman's flank, destroying it. In his urge to avenge his colleagues he ends his game turn hopelessly exposed. 

The grizzled veteran Heer stug commander shrugs. "Must have a throat ache !" (Wehrmach slang for a desire to obtain the knight's cross, worn at the throat) A volley of 6 armour piercing 75mm shots from the StugGs, and several Tommy Cookers live up to their names, except in this case it is Ivan receiving the heat, not Tommy.

Turn 2 sees the Motostrelkovy take the objective in the woods on the back of the Sherman thrust; without firing a single shot, and the Shermans turn their attention to the isolated Puma and the Stugs, destroying the Puma outright. The Ritterkreuz was bestowed posthumously on Leutnant Brasch. The low profiles of the Stugs and having to shoot through the woods makes life difficult for the Russian gunners. Shots hit, but fail to do any damage. Another dismal performance from the artillery. 

Mortars again make up for the lack of efficacy from the Zis 3s, and destroy the observation team for the 75mm guns.Glancing shots hit the Command Unit's tanks, they bale out, but remount in their turn.The remaining panzer fails its morale test, and flees off the table to warn the OKW about what is happening.

Germans counter-attack, with the Stugs wiping out the Shermans, and the Pak 40s sowing sorrow among the T-34s, destroying them to the man, commander included. The Soviets will have to start taking company morale tests!

Soviets pass their first company morale check, and turn to their artillery to finish the job. It appears the artillery have finally found their mark! Maybe the threat of the Kommissar increased their zeal, or was it the sight of 2 PzIVs barrelling down on them ? Blam goes the SdKfz 11  recovery vehicle of the command platton

Displaying photo.JPG

Two stugs go up in flames, a Pak 40 is lost, and the gunnery command team too. The Strelkovy prefer sit on their objective in the woods, smoking those black Russian cigarettes with the acrid smoke...

The German turn sees their command unit making a bee-line for the farm-house, trying to shelter from the Zis 3 guns. The stug makes double time to get to the second objective. By hook or by crook...

A war of attrition ensues. Ivan hits and bails both the command panzers. The Pak 40 survives, but the Stug is also bailed. Looking pretty grim for the Germans. "Ach Hans, I could see the Liebling with the Vodka!"

Displaying photo.JPG

The Stug crew successfully remounts, but both the PzIV remain bailed. Looks like the writing is on the wall...

Lauriski rolls his company morale test: a 1!
No! The Soviets crumble and run ! Apparently they had enough. I suspect some harsh words and actions will follow from Herr Kommissar, Ja?

An epic slog-fest, and a very enjoyable game.

1 August 2013

Pigs Heads and Tank Killers: Saukopfs and StuG IIIs

Of Saukopfs and  StuG IIIs

StuG III F /8 Survivor Belgrade

On the StuG and the pig's head or pig's snout mantlet:

The Stug III began its life as an infantry support vehicle . It went through quite a few changes during its production run .It began its career in the Battle of France and was used right up to the last days of the war. 

 Prototype manufacture was done by Alkett, which produced five prototypes in 1937 on Panzer III Ausf. B chassis. These prototypes featured a mild steel superstructure and Krupp’s short-barreled 75 mm StuK 37 L/24 cannon. Production vehicles with this gun were known as StuG III Ausführung (version) A to E.

The StuGs were organized into battalions (later renamed "brigades" for disinformation purposes) and followed their own specific doctrine. Infantry support using direct-fire was its intended role. Later there was also a strong emphasis on destroying enemy armour whenever encountered.
As the StuG III was designed to fill an infantry close support combat role, early models were fitted with a low-velocity 75 mm StuK 37 L/24 gun(Kurz)  to destroy soft-skin targets and fortifications. After the Germans encountered the Soviet KV-1 and T-34 tanks, the StuG III was first equipped with a high-velocity 75 mm StuK 40 L/43 main gun (Spring 1942) and in Autumn 1942 with the slightly longer 75 mm StuK 40 L/48 gun.(Lang)  These versions were known as the Sturmgeschütz 40 Ausführung F, Ausf. F/8 and Ausf. G.

When the StuG IV entered production in late 1943 and early 1944, the "III" was added to the name to separate it from the Panzer IV-based assault guns. All previous and following models were thereafter known as Sturmgeschütz III.
The Stug G began production in December of 1942 and was used more and more as an anti tank weapon .
The cast mantlet was introduced in production in November 1943 in StuG III Ausf. G production, but StuG IIIs with the bolted "box" mantlet continued in production until the end of the war as production of the cast mantlet was insufficient to cover all of StuG production.  StuG IV production started in December 1943. 
It was used on the StuG III Ausf. G, StuG IV and StuH. from November 1943 to the end of the war. 
The saukopf mantlet began to appear in November of 1943,but never completely replaced the welded mantlet which was seen till the end of the conflict just because of the production requirements. The official  name for this new mantlet was Topfblende,but was commonly know as the saukopf by the crews, as it resembled a pig's head or snout.

So the answer to the question: "Which model of the Stug used the Saukopf mantllet?
The cast gun mantlet was used on 
  • all StuG IV (12.43-04.45) 
  • StuG III Ausf G (Alkett) from 10.43-04.45 (=end) 
  • StuH III Ausf G (Alkett) from 10.43-09.44 

but never on StuG III from Miag. So that is the reason the bolted mantlet was used up to the end of the war 

While the StuG III was considered self-propelled artillery it was not initially clear which arm of the Wehrmacht would handle the new weapon. The Panzer arm, the natural user of tracked fighting vehicles, had no resources to spare for the formation of StuG units, and neither did the infantry branch. It was agreed, after a discussion, it would best be employed as part of the artillery arm.

Beginning with the StuG III Ausf. G, a 7.92 mm MG34 could be mounted on a shield on top of the superstructure for added anti-infantry protection from December 1942. Some of the F/8 models were retrofitted with a shield as well. Many of the later StuG III Ausf. G models were equipped with an additional coaxial 7.92 mm MG34.

The vehicles of the Sturmgeschütz series were cheaper and faster to build than contemporary German tanks; at 82,500 RM, a StuG III Ausf G was cheaper than a Panzer III Ausf. M, which cost 103,163 RM. This was due to the omission of the turret, which greatly simplified manufacture and allowed the chassis to carry a larger gun than it could otherwise. By the end of the war, ~11,300 StuG IIIs and StuH 42s had been built

Overall, Sturmgeschütz series assault guns proved very successful and served on all fronts as assault guns and tank destroyers. Although Tigers and Panthers have earned a greater notoriety, assault guns collectively destroyed more tanks. Because of their low silhouette, StuG IIIs were easy to camouflage and a difficult target. Sturmgeschütz crews were considered to be the elite of the artillery units. Sturmgeschütz units claimed to have knocked out 20,000 tanks by 1944. As of April 10, 1945, there were 1,053 StuG IIIs and 277 StuH 42s in service.

The StuG assault guns were cost-effective compared to the heavier German tanks, though in the anti-tank role they were best used defensively, as the lack of a traversable turret was a severe disadvantage in the assault role. As the German military situation deteriorated later in the war, more StuG guns were built compared to tanks, to replace losses and bolster defenses against the encroaching Allied forces.


Production numbers from Panzer Tracts 23

StuG III prototypes (1937, 5 produced on Panzer III Ausf. B chassis): By December 1937 two vehicles were in service with Panzer Regiment 1 in Erfurt. Vehicles had eight road wheels per side with 360-millimetre (14 in) wide tracks, 14.5 mm thick soft steel superstructure and the 7.5 cm StuK 37 L/24 gun. Although not suitable for combat, they were used for training purposes as late as 1941.

StuG III Ausf. A (Sd.Kfz. 142; January 1940-May 1940, 30+6 produced by Daimler-Benz): First used in the Battle of France, the StuG III Ausf. A used a modified 5./ZW chassis (Panzer III Ausf. F) with front armor strengthened to 50 mm. The last six vehicles were built on chassis diverted from Panzer III Ausf. G production.

StuG III Ausf. B: (Sd.Kfz 142; June 1940-May 1941, 300 produced by Alkett) Widened tracks (380 mm). Two Rubber tires on each roadwheel were accordingly widened from 520x79mm to 520x95mm each. Both types of roadwheels were interchangeable. The troublesome 10-speed transmission was changed to a 6-speed one. The forwardmost return rollers were re-positioned further forward, reducing the vertical movements of the tracks before they were fed to the forward drive sprocket, and so reduced the chance of tracks being thrown. In the middle of production of the Ausf. B model, the original drive sprocket with eight round holes was changed to a new cast drive sprocket with six pie slice-shaped slots. This new drive wheel could take either 380 mm tracks or 400 mm wide tracks. 380mm tracks were not exclusive to new drive wheels. Vehicle number 90111 shows older drive wheel with wider 380mm tracks.

StuG III Ausf. C: (Sd.Kfz 142; April 1941, 50 produced) Gunner's forward view port above driver's visor was a shot trap and thus eliminated; instead, superstructure top was given an opening for gunner's periscope. Idler wheel was redesigned.

StuG III Ausf. D: (Sd.Kfz 142; May–September 1941, 150 produced) Simply a contract extension on Ausf. C. On-board intercom installed, otherwise identical to Ausf. C.

StuG III Ausf. E: (Sd.Kfz 142; September 1941-February 1942, 284 produced) Superstructure sides added extended rectangular armored boxes for radio equipment. Increased space allowed room for six additional rounds of ammunition for the main gun (giving a maximum of 50) plus a machine gun. One MG 34 and 7 drum-type magazines were carried in the right rear side of the fighting compartment to protect the vehicle from enemy infantry. Vehicle commanders were officially provided with SF14Z stereoscopic scissor periscopes. Stereoscopic scissor type periscopes for artillery spotters may have been used by vehicle commanders from the start.

StuG III Ausf. F: (Sd.Kfz 142/1; March–September 1942, 366 produced) The first real up-gunning of the StuG, this version uses the longer 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/43 gun. Firing armor-piercing Panzergranat-Patrone 39, StuK 40 L/43 could penetrate 91 mm of armor inclined 30 degrees from vertical at 500 m, 82 mm at 1,000 m, 72 mm at 1,500 m, 63 mm at 2,000 m, allowing Ausf. F to engage most Soviet armored vehicles at normal combat ranges. This change marked the StuG as being more of a tank destroyer than an infantry support vehicle. Exhaust fan was added to the rooftop to excavate fumes from spent shells, to enable firing of continuous shots. Additional 30 mm armor plates were welded to the 50 mm frontal armor from June 1942, making frontal armors 80 mm thick. From June 1942, Ausf. F were mounted with approximately 13 inch (334 mm to be exact) longer 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 gun. Firing above mentioned ammunition, longer L/48 could penetrate 96 mm, 85 mm, 74 mm, 64 mm respectively (30 degrees from vertical).

StuG III Ausf. F/8: (Sd.Kfz 142/1; September–December 1942, 250 produced) Introduction of an improved hull design similar to that used for the Panzer III Ausf. J / L with increased rear armor. This was 8th version of Panzer III hulls, thus the designation "F/8." This hull has towing hook holes extending from side walls. From October 1942, 30 mm thick plates of additional armor were bolted on to speed up the production line. From F/8, the 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 gun was standard until the very last of the Ausf. G. Due to lack of double baffle muzzle brakes, few L/48 guns mounted on F/8 were fitted with single baffle ball type muzzle brake found in Panzer IV Ausf. F2/G.

StuG III Ausf. G (Sd.Kfz. 142/1; December 1942– April 1945, ~8423 produced, 142 built on Panzer III Ausf. M chassis, 173 converted from Panzer III): The final and by far the most common of the StuG series. Upper superstructure was widened: welded boxes on either sides were abandoned. This new superstructure design increased its height to 2160mm. Backside wall of the fighting compartment got straightened, and ventilation fan on top of the superstructure was relocated to the back of fighting compartment. From March 1943, driver's periscope was abandoned. In February 1943 Alkett was joined by MIAG as second manufacturer. From May 1943, side hull skirts (schurzen) were fitted to G models for added armor protection, particularly against Russian anti-tank rifles,it is also useful against hollow-charge ammunition. Side skirts were retro-fitted to some Ausf. F/8 models, as they were be fitted to all front line StuGs and other tanks by June 1943 in preparation for the battle of Kursk. Mountings for side skirts proved inadequate, many were lost in the field. From March 1944, improved mounting was introduced, as a result side skirts are seen more often with late model Ausf G. From May 1943, 80mm thick plates were used for frontal armor instead of two plates of 50mm+30mm. However, backlog of completed 50mm armors exited. For those, 30mm additional armors still had to be welded or bolted on, until October 1943.

A rotating cupola with periscopes was added for the commander for Ausf G. However, from September 1943, lack of ball bearings (resulting from USAAF bombing of Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission) forced cupolas to be welded on. Ball bearings were once again installed from August 1944. Shot deflectors for cupolas were first installed from October 1943 from one factory, to be installed on all StuGs from February 1944. Some vehicles without shot deflectors carried several track pieces wired around the cupola for added protection.
From December 1942, a square machine gun shield for the loader was installed, allowing an MG 34 to be factory installed on a StuG for the first time. F/8 models had machine gun shields retro-fitted from early 1943. The loader's machine gun shield was later replaced by rotating machine gun mount that could be operated by the loader inside the vehicle sighting through a periscope. On April 1944, 27 of them were being field tested on the Eastern front. Favorable report lead to installation of these "remote" machine gun mounts from the summer of 1944.

Later G versions from November 1943, were fitted with the Topfblende pot mantlet (often called Saukopf "Pig's head") gun mantlet without coaxial mount. This cast mantlet with organic shape was more effective at deflecting shots than the original boxy mantlet armor of varying thickness between 45mm and 50mm. Lack of large castings meant that the trapezoid-shape mantlet was also produced until the very end. Coaxial machine gun was added first to boxy mantlets from June 1944, and then to cast Topfblende from October 1944, in the middle of "Topfblende" mantlet production. With an addition of coaxial, all StuGs carried two MG 34 machine guns from fall of 1944. Some previously completed StuGs with boxy mantlet had a coaxial machine gun hole drilled to retrofit a coaxial machine gun, while Topfblende produced from Nov. 1943 - Oct. 1944 without machine gun opening could not be tampered. Also from Nov.1943, all metal return rollers of a few different types were used due to lack of rubber supply. Zimmerit anti-magnetic coating to protect vehicles from magnetic mines were used from September 1943-September 1944 only.

Flammpanzer conversion:

At the beginning of December 1942 an experimental production of a flame-thrower version of the StuG III was begun. Ten test vehicles were constructed in all.

Instead of a main gun an ejection tube with an inside diameter of 14 mm was installed This allowed a flammable mixture to be blown down the barrel by a  pump connected to a two-stroke DKW engine.
The device was able to spew flammable material over a distance of 55 meters.

All the prototypes were sent to the Panzertruppenschule I for testing in June 1943. The Flame-StuG never made it into production and the ten experimental machines were eventually converted back to standard assault guns between January and April 1944. No Flammenwerfer Stug was ever operationally deployed.