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Anti-Aircraft use in WWII ground combat

Discussion in 'Weapons used During WWII' started by JJWilson, Jun 8, 2018.

  1. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Some? Off the top of my head, two-thirds or so were, assigned directly to the Luftgau.
     
  2. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    To load a HE round is the same process to load an AP round obviously, shooting at Aircraft tens of thousands of feet up, is different from shooting at tanks a few thousand feet away, and the biggest difference, is the tank can shoot back. So besides later in the war, lets say before D-Day, were most German AA crews from 2cm Flak 38 to 88mm trained specifically to fight tanks?
    That I also did not know! I thought the Heer was German high command, but I am mistaken, I'm learning more than I asked about on this thread :D.
     
  3. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    To be more precise, by 1 February 1944 the deployment of Luftwaffe Flak was (heavy/light/searchlight batteries):

    Grossreich - 1,508/623/375
    Ob. West - 412/425/32
    Nord (Norway and Finland) - 126/90/3
    Ob. Suedost (Romania, Balkans and Greece) 122/70/3
    Ob. Suedwest (Italy) - 176/86/14
    Ostfront - 311/328/43
    Total - 2,655/1,612/470
     
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  4. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    No, the biggest differences are:

    The tank is moving at under 20 MPH, the aircraft is probably moving at over 200 MPH.
    The line of fire to the tank changes essentially in two dimensions, the aircraft can change in three.
    Typical engagement range for a tank was under 800 yards or 2,400 feet, typical engagement range for heavy AA was 24,000 feet.

    The real problem is that heavy AA needed a predictor system that slaved all guns in a battery to fire at a single target in order to maximize the chance of a hit. All that was useless impedimenta to a single gun attempt to fire at a tank...and also made the gun position a larger target for the tank. Direct fire sights and gun shields on the other hand got in the way of predictor systems, which for the Germans was a "follow-the-pointer" while for the late-war Americans and British was a full selsyn system. Furthermore, to ne useful in an AT role the guns needed to be near enough to the front to be integrated into the AT defense system, which drove the AA guys nuts, since it effectively took those guns out of the AA defense system (they are not going to fire at aircraft when under enemy observation, it kind of defeats the point). The experience of Pickert's III Flakkorps in Normandy is illustrative. On orders and against his objections, the corps was required to create Flakkampftruppen for ground combat - batteries intended to do just that, be up forward to employ both direct and AA fire. The result was heavy losses - to the Germans - and few claims for Allied losses from the Germans, which is unusual since they loved to over-claim tank kills.
     
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  5. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I would wonder if the doctrine for the PAK 88 protocol was much different, allowing for inherent differences in design and capabilities, than any other PAK gun? (Perhaps more time would needed for the gun crews to curse the high profile of the 88's?)
     
  6. Terry D

    Terry D Well-Known Member

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    I don't have many sources ready to hand but late in the war British 3.7" HAA guns were used quite extensively as ground guns, though I am not sure what their precise role as field artillery would have been. The 9th Australian Div used 3.7s in the ground role against the Japs on Tarakan in 1945. The 3.7" was not apparently an easy weapon to adapt for field artillery use. It was a very big weapon and it gave off an enormous amount of noise, flash, smoke, dust, etc., when fired; the Australians on Tarakan complained about this. Our sister forum has some stuff about 3.7's as ground guns.
     
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  7. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Thank you Terry, I will have to make a visit to the other forum and try to find it.
     
  8. Takao

    Takao Ace

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  9. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the link Takao, here is a rather random question, I know the Soviets used AA to fight off the hordes of advancing Germans during Operation Barbarossa, and in other German offensives. What Soviet AA would have been encountered the most, Regular single shot artillery such as the 76mm or 85mm (They look very similar to an 88), or auto-loading 25, 37, or 45mm guns?
     
  10. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I think the objections to the use of AAA in an A/T role would be inversely proportional to the proximity of hostile armor.
     
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  11. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    I 'll answer for the British - though Takao has posted a n interesting link

    The short answer is it depended on the situation.
    AAA was needed in the full depth of every theatre, from the home front to the front lines. Different calibre of AAA was needed for different threats. Heavy AA 75mm-128mm would fling an AA shell to reach high flying bombers up to 30,000 ft. 37mm-40mm Light AA against lower flying aircraft or dive bombers, and 0.5" -20mm to defend point targets against very lower flying aircraft.

    Most HAA was deployed well away from the front lines. Heavy bombers targeted strategic targets. Field forces would have a proportion of heavy AA to protect LOC, ports etc. In any event HAA needed to be outside the range of enemy counter battery fire. Light AA would be much closer to the front line troops on the move would need protect from fighter bombers.

    BUT a WW2 army with air superiority had less need of heavy AA. The Germans planned for that contingency in 1940 and found heavy AA very useful in the ground role. It was particularly important for the Germ,ans because they lacked a heavy Anti-tank gun capable of dealing with heavy tanks such as the British Matilda, the French Char1 Bisand the Red Army's T34 and KV1. From the end of 1942 the British used the 3.7" increasingly in the ground role.

    It depended on the situation. In 1939-42 where the Germans had air superiority and weak anti tank guns they made a lot of use of motorised AA in the ground role. In 1943-45 the Germans had very good anti-tank guns but had lost air superiority and needed HAA against aircraft. It was rare for Allied ground troops to engage a Flak 88 in Italy or Normandy. As the Allies approached the Reich flak units were called on to halt ground attacks or formed the basis for the last ditch defences - as in Berlin.

    Actually AA was most effective in the AA role... It was a highly technical arm with specialist target acquisition and fire control systems wasted in the ground role.
    German HAA was undoubtedly key in the anti tank role in 1940-42. It never had the same significance for the allies as the Allies had decent anti tank guns by 1943.
    Heavy AA was also an effective substitute for field artillery. The 88mm and 3.7" guns out ranged the standard field artillery 105mm and 25pdr.
    The most important British use of HAA was possibly in Normandy as the last line of defence of the beach-heads. However it was never testedin that role. In the same campaign Heavy AA was used as additional medium artillery.

    The British found the 40mm Bofors gun as a very effective offensive weapon thickening up bombardments known as "Pepperpots"

    In home defence, many of the teenagers and women serving the guns were only trained to serve the guns in action. Even "mnobile" detachments might not be equipped or trained to undertake operations in the field.

    Initially British HAA detachments were not trained in the anti tank or ground roles. By 1941 that was changing.A number of home defence HAA units were trained and equipped as heavy anti-tank units. By June 1944 Heavy AA with the field army were trained ina secondary Anti tank and field artillery role.

    An armoured force needed air defence of comparable mobility.

    Yes. 40mm and 20mm guns on landing craft are more accurate and useful for close support ina naval landing.

    [/QUOTE]

    The 3.7" gun was a damned good gun, as was the 40mm bofors. The 40mm SP Bofors on a FAT chassis was mobile and effective in offense and defence.
     
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  12. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    At worst, you got off one shot, the mount went to pieces. With the gun now disabled, you got outta Dodge.
     
  13. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Thank you Sheldrake for your answers, for my fifth question, don't you think it would be better for lighter tanks or half tracks to tow AA rather than have another vehicle you have to use precious fuel for, and keep up with maintenance? Or was the process of unhooking and setting up the AA the reason why nations prefered mobile AA such as the Wirbelwind and M3 Quad 50 cal??
     
  14. Terry D

    Terry D Well-Known Member

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    Sheldrake (who evidently knows the technical side thoroughly) can probably answer this much better than I can, but as far as using a lighter tank goes why would you want to take even a light tank designed for recce purposes from its proper role and turn it into a prime mover? Guns need their own dedicated vehicles, and the existing stock of light tanks would have been needed more in the role they were intended for. I don't think the supply of halftracks was unlimited either, and if you have a choice between using one as an APC or using one as a prime mover for an AA gun which may not be needed that badly because of Allied air superiority I know what I would choose if I was an Allied commander. It's true that the British did take some obsolete Crusaders and modify them as prime movers, though I don't know if they ever pulled AA guns. What the British DID do was go one better by using the Crusader as the basis for two SP AA mounts, one 20mm and one 40mm. It's just not true that the Germans were the only ones to produce full tracked SP AA. The Crusader AA were fully tracked like Wirbelwind and we had the full-tracked M19 40mm ready to go in 1945. The M19 proved very valuable indeed in the ground role in Korea.
     
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  15. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    If you want to provide AA defence for a formation on the move it makes sense to have a weapon system that can be used on the move - or as soon as the brakes are applied. A fighter bomber at 300 miles per hour closes at five miles a minute:146 yards per second. It is why every army had a proportion of SP AA equipment. One disadvantage of SP Light AA guns is that there isn't enough space to carry the ammunition for sustained operations. The Wirbelwind carried 3,200 20mm rounds - which at 800 rpm per barrel is 75 seconds of fire. That is going to be OK to fight off one or two passes but isn't going to fight off the 2nd TAF. There had to be an ammunition limber vehicle somewhere in the train.

    Putting your Light AA in the column is fine if the unit is moving across an open flat plain. But if the move is across broken terrain or undulating ground the SP LAA will be masked by a crest for much of the time. If the air threat is high then the Light AA needs to leapfrog forwards from one good fire position to another. A sensible minimum grouping of guns is going to be a troop of four or six. You could provide this support with towed equipment, but the detachments are going to be coming in and out of action all the time and will be exhausted quickly. There is quite a bit of physical effort involved bringing a gun into action. An SP is ideal for this kind of leap frog.
     
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  16. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Thank you both for your responses, I certainly agree with what you are saying, I was just curious what some of the major motives were for having mobile AA over towed or stationary AA, this has been very informative and helpful thus far!
     
  17. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    "How fast can you run?"

    "How scared am I?"
     
  18. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    With order No.227 in July of 1942, "Not one step back", if you ran, you either got shot immediately, or you would get court martialed and then shot, so unfortunately the Soviets didn't have that option, unless you were fighting before that was implemented......
     
  19. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    A major issue for towed AA was the time it took to go into battery. When trying to engage aircraft flying at low altitude a speed there was often only a few second in which to engage. Again, from my Dad's experience, sometime around 1 August they were moving south from Periers and drove down into one of the typically steep valleys to cross a river and then continue up the other side. In 2000 we were following the same route with him when we drove into the same valley and he suddenly remembered that when they drove down into the valley, from over the crest behind them a flight of four aircraft suddenly flashed overhead, also heading south - and about the same time they realized they were German they were gone behind the crest on the far side of the valley. Probably 10 seconds or so.
     
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  20. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

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    Now I'm going to stray off topic a bit, I did create this thread so I have some authority in straying off just a little. The Germans and Soviets implemented Anti-aircraft on their trains to protect them from Enemy aircraft, assuming the trains are moving when they are spotted and attacked, I can only imagine any AA fire while the train is moving is incredibly inaccurate. Were conductors trained or told to keep moving or stop when attacked? I know that the allied pilots were trained to shoot the Engine first before attacking the rest of the train, were Axis pilots taught the same? Lastly, were AA guns on trains more for psychological effect, or more believably used as intended, to protect the train?
     

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