Soviet and German ammunition production

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Sheldrake
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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Sheldrake » 03 Oct 2020 10:19

It appears a paradox that the Germans fired more ammunition from fewer artillery pieces than the Soviets, but the weapon of the artillery is the ammunition not the equipment that projects it.
The Germans had better command and control Red Army, which meant they could do more with fewer guns. Better logistics meant that they could keep the guns supplied. The Red army's artillery could be spectacular and devastating when concentrated for major offensives, such as Op Bagration, but not so effective after the fighting became more fluid.

German superiority in field artillery was relative, as the Germans were inferior in both to the Western Allies who could, and did, return ten rounds for every round fired by the Germans.

Our impressions of the Red Army have perhaps been conditioned by the Cold War years of the "Red Menace" with the spectre of an invasion of Western Europe backed by film footage such as this

https://youtu.be/6EIwKBlCY4c?t=764
Gosh they don't make training films like this any more!

Art
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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Art » 04 Oct 2020 19:00

As far as I can see Soviet expenditure of principal types more or less corresponded to production:
viewtopic.php?f=79&t=139080&p=2249727

Hence, the bottleneck was production, first of all availability of powder and explosives.

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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Reigo2 » 05 Oct 2020 19:13

I have tried to look the issue of artillery ammunition expenditure in the Narva battles in February 1944.

Generally the Germans used their tubes more intensively than the opponent.

The Soviets generally did not complain that they had too little ammunition available. There were occasional problems when bringing ammuntion from depots to the artillery units. The Soviets were often operating on bad terrain with little roads. The Germans at the same time were usually in better logistical position, they were able to use more and better roads.

However I'm not sure if this was the main problem. It seems that often a Soviet artillery unit only used part (or even small part) of the ammunition available. They could have used much more ammuntion but by some reason they did not. Maybe part of the explanation is that the Soviet method of using artillery was different than the German one. Unfortunately my level of knowledge is not sufficient to analyse this in more detail. But it is my impression that the German use of forward observers was more intensive and more efficent (Soviet infantry and higher commanders often complained about the poor use of forward observers in their artillery units).

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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Art » 08 Oct 2020 21:59

"[The Leningrad Front] always featured a fairly large expenditure of ammunition compared with the Ukrainian Fronts in the south" as the Soviet post-war analysis said.
That was probably a result of relatively stable and functional communications and overall "positional war" style of operations there.

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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Art » 10 Oct 2020 08:39

A characteristic account:
Owing to a lack of transport supply of ammunition in the process of operations was clearly unsatisfactory.
The army has the following transport:
...
(in particular in nine rifle divisions 179 trucks vs. authorized 479 and 4659 horses vs. authorized 7578)
...
Large shortfall of transport acutely affected supply of ammunition and artillery units could carry not more than 0.4-0.5 of the authorized ammunition load.
During the period of rapid advance of our forces without serious actions such amount was tolerable, but when even weak organized resistance was encountered, which demanded giving artillery support to the infantry - an acute shortage was felt.
From the report of operations of the Soviet 57 Army in Hungary, November-December 1944.
https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view/?id=455140539

I guess, the problems described here were no way exceptional.

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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Reigo2 » 20 Nov 2020 18:09

Reigo2 wrote:
05 Oct 2020 19:13
I have tried to look the issue of artillery ammunition expenditure in the Narva battles in February 1944.

Generally the Germans used their tubes more intensively than the opponent.

The Soviets generally did not complain that they had too little ammunition available. There were occasional problems when bringing ammuntion from depots to the artillery units. The Soviets were often operating on bad terrain with little roads. The Germans at the same time were usually in better logistical position, they were able to use more and better roads.

However I'm not sure if this was the main problem. It seems that often a Soviet artillery unit only used part (or even small part) of the ammunition available. They could have used much more ammuntion but by some reason they did not. Maybe part of the explanation is that the Soviet method of using artillery was different than the German one. Unfortunately my level of knowledge is not sufficient to analyse this in more detail. But it is my impression that the German use of forward observers was more intensive and more efficent (Soviet infantry and higher commanders often complained about the poor use of forward observers in their artillery units).
Trying to elaborate this further. Please correct if the following contains mistakes.

When looking for example at Soviet 43rd Rifle Corps artillery orders from February 1944 one can see that during the days of offensive (after the initial fire preparation in the beginning of offenisve) the corps tended to set quite low ammunition usage limits for each combat day. Often it was only 0,2 units of fire (in Russian: boekomplekt).

This means that a 76mm artillery piece (a fire unit contained 140 projectiles) was to fire 28 projectiles in a day, a 122mm piece (a fire unit 80 projectiles) - 16, a 152mm piece (a fire unit 60 projectiles) - 12.

My impression is that considering the amount of available ammuntion the Soviets could have used it actually more.

Of course the question arises, why so low limit was set? Possible explanations:

1) It was set according to some general order/instruction which was issued for the whole Red Army and was based on the general ammunition situation;
2) It was set in order to avoid needless ammunition waste (this also possibly implies that the Soviet artillery commanders understood that in general their use of forward observers was not good).

I suspect that the German use of artillery was more flexible and if ammunition was available it was used according to the situation.

The Soviet tendency of having large number of "tubes" with low ammunition usage limits was criticized in 1944 by Colonel Tolkoniuk (head of the 33rd Army's Staff's Operational Department) in his letter to Stalin. He pointed out that there was no need for such a large amount of artillery "tubes" for shooting out the allocated ammunition. At the same time it was more cumbersome to command such a large amount of artillery and also it put more burden to serve all this artillery for the rear. (See: https://dr-guillotin.livejournal.com/122457.html)

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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Art » 21 Nov 2020 14:42

Reigo2 wrote:
20 Nov 2020 18:09
When looking for example at Soviet 43rd Rifle Corps artillery orders from February 1944 one can see that during the days of offensive (after the initial fire preparation in the beginning of offenisve) the corps tended to set quite low ammunition usage limits for each combat day. Often it was only 0,2 units of fire (in Russian: boekomplekt).

This means that a 76mm artillery piece (a fire unit contained 140 projectiles) was to fire 28 projectiles in a day, a 122mm piece (a fire unit 80 projectiles) - 16, a 152mm piece (a fire unit 60 projectiles) - 12.
One needs a context to evaluate these numbers: what type of combat was expected, what strength of resistance, what was the distance to supply depots and dumps and logistical situation etc. In general these numbers correspond to average rate of expenditure in active operations. In the long term expenditure obviously had to correspond to production and logistical rate of deliveries. I suppose, 6 units (aka ammunition loads) per months was more than the Leningrad Front expected to receive from central depots and bases. So even this relatively modest expenditure rate could be sustained only at the expense of stocks created in advance. Of course, technically it was possible to expend all ammunition available to units just in one day, but problems in sustaining further operations would be inevitable. That applies to non-Soviet artillery as well. Few tens of rounds expended per gun on the front was almost always far less than technically possible. However consumption rate should comply with availability and deliveries of ammunition, so commanders had to limit firing to what was tactically essential.

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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Reigo2 » 21 Nov 2020 17:21

Art, your comment makes sense. In conclusion such a careful use of ammunition was probably first of all connected to general problems with ammuntion production.

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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Art » 29 Nov 2020 10:08

The Soviet tendency of having large number of "tubes" with low ammunition usage limits was criticized in 1944 by Colonel Tolkoniuk (head of the 33rd Army's Staff's Operational Department) in his letter to Stalin. He pointed out that there was no need for such a large amount of artillery "tubes" for shooting out the allocated ammunition. At the same time it was more cumbersome to command such a large amount of artillery and also it put more burden to serve all this artillery for the rear.
Some kind of polemics with Tolokonyuk here:
https://paul-atrydes.livejournal.com/239066.html

Principal points:
- defense position consisting of an extensive network of trenches (typically three trench lines and communication trenches) meant a large dispersal of personnel and weapons. It was hardly possible to pinpoint exact location of all weapons. Hence the entire trench system had to be engaged with artillery fire.
- complete destruction of trenches and other fortifications with aimed fire required such a large time that it was hardly practicable
- simultaneous neutralization of the trench system was only possible with a huge mass of artillery. One gun per 20 meters of trenches or roughly 150 guns per kilometer (counting 3 trench lines). A number of guns for counter-battery missions and destruction of separate fortifications should be added.
- even more lax norms of density of fire meant at least 170 barrels per km and 70 minute duration of artillery preparation.

So, essentially, artillery preparation before an attack of fortified positions took the entire technical rate of fire of Soviet artillery barrels. The principal reason with the method of simultaneous fire strike on the entire trench system. Beyond this relatively short period of artillery preparation only a small fraction of technical capacity was used.

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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Max Payload » 29 Nov 2020 23:53

Art wrote:
29 Nov 2020 10:08
One gun per 20 meters of trenches or roughly 150 guns per kilometer (counting 3 trench lines).
Was it the case that such concentrations were rare, occurred mainly in the latter part of the war and were confined to major offensives after long periods of preparation (Kutuzov, Pukhovka, Jassy/Kishinev, the Vistula bridgeheads etc)?

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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Art » 30 Nov 2020 09:34

I'm talking about concentrations of artillery and mortars during breakthrough of field positions. Normally it was made on a relatively narrow frontage, and such numbers (above 100 guns and mortars) per kilometer were fairly typical in the last phase of the war. Peak performance (and peak ammunition consumption) was developed during this relative short periods (artillery preparation and support of breakthrough), other times it was a way smaller.

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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Art » 18 Dec 2020 19:43

Soviet minister for ammunition production Ivan Sergeyev in a report written in March 1941 noted:
The growth of artillery ammunition production capacity strongly lags behind the growth of weapons production capacity. In order to ensure an increase of ammunition capacity proportional to increase of weapons production it is needed to launch 7-10 ammunition factory simultaneously with every artillery factory.
For example, an average factory with a production capacity of 1 thousands guns per yer requires a simultaneous creation of the following ammunition capacity: a) shell bodies - 3-4 factories, b) 1-2 filling factory with 10 mln. shells capacity, c) 10 mln. fuses - 1 factory , d) 10 mln cases - 1-2 factories, e) 10 mln. propellant charges - 1 factory. Total 7-10 average-sized factories.
Sergeyev further noted that a special long-term plan for ammunition industries was essential for these proportional development.
http://istmat.info/node/58557

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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 19 Dec 2020 05:13

Art wrote:
18 Dec 2020 19:43
Soviet minister for ammunition production Ivan Sergeyev in a report written in March 1941 noted:
The growth of artillery ammunition production capacity strongly lags behind the growth of weapons production capacity. In order to ensure an increase of ammunition capacity proportional to increase of weapons production it is needed to launch 7-10 ammunition factory simultaneously with every artillery factory.
For example, an average factory with a production capacity of 1 thousands guns per yer requires a simultaneous creation of the following ammunition capacity: a) shell bodies - 3-4 factories, b) 1-2 filling factory with 10 mln. shells capacity, c) 10 mln. fuses - 1 factory , d) 10 mln cases - 1-2 factories, e) 10 mln. propellant charges - 1 factory. Total 7-10 average-sized factories.
Sergeyev further noted that a special long-term plan for ammunition industries was essential for these proportional development.
http://istmat.info/node/58557
Interesting, thanks.

Harrison notes in Soviet Planning for Peace and War that, while most weapons manufacturing capacity was successfully evacuated, less of the ammo production base was. As a result, the pre-war imbalance between tubes and shells got significantly worse during the first year of war:

Image

For the second half of '41, artillery tube production index roughly tripled and mortars x10 while ammo remained constant until mid-'42. OTOH the massive losses of tubes in '41 probably "ameliorated" this imbalance.
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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Art » 20 Dec 2020 14:04

I guess, what this graph shows is an ability to convert civil industries to production of military items. For example, mortars were cheap and simple and could be easily produced by non-specialized factories, hence that giant increase in production. Tanks were not that simple but still could be produced by certain factories specializing in heavy machinery before the war (locomotives, rail cars, tractors, ships, trucks). Chemical industries were not that convertible and powder and explosives were manufactured by a limited number of specialized factories. Consequently, the loss of production capacity couldn't be compensated by enrolling "new" factories.
According to Vernidub the annual capacity of operation powder industries in June 1941 was 118,200 tons of powder. By 1 January 1942 it decreased to 77,400 tons per year. The actual production was even smaller than the theoretical capacity. Further on launch of new factories and expansion of existing industries allowed overcoming the prewar capacity. The theoretical limit of 180,000 tons was reached by 1945. Still the actual production was not more than 70% of this limit.
As far as I understand, the Soviet TNT production was mostly affected by a loss of sources of raw materials, that is toluene.
As indicated in the previous messages, the ammunition production had been systematically lagging behind weapons production already before the war.

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Re: Soviet and German ammunition production

Post by Reigo2 » 18 Aug 2021 16:21

Tables about Soviet and German artillery ammunition production and expenditure:
1) in thousands of shells: https://paul-atrydes.livejournal.com/266975.html
2) in tons: https://paul-atrydes.livejournal.com/267153.html

Not all calibres/gun types are included (especially for the Germans).

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