Tank Combat Firing Methods

By Christian Ankerstjerne

This report was prepared by Waffenamt-Prüfwesen 1 (ordnance department 1, the department handling ballistics and ammunition) for the army head of armaments. It is interesting in noting the increasing tank combat distances, made possible with the advent of high-velocity anti-tank and tank guns.

Berlin, 22 September 1943

Subject: Tank combat shooting methods

The experiences reports of the recent large tank battles all point to the following two shortcomings:

  • Guns and ammunition with flat trajectories are preferred to weapons firing hollow-charge and low-velocity ammunition, even when the latter has superior penetrating capabilities. For this reason, the Pak 97/38 is unpopular.
  • The assault gun battalions have significantly higher kill scores than tank battalions, even though they use the same guns and the latter have rotating turrets.

Todays tank battles take place at increasing ranges, with firing beginning at 3000 meters, or more. At these distances, even ammunition with very flat trajectories will experience significant drop, and the target area will be small. Consequently, hits are rare. For hollow-charge ammunition, the effect is greater, and occur at shorter ranges.

The effect of the uncertainty of the distance to the target on hit probability is clear from the following numbers:

Shot Range Accuracy (peacetime)
5 % range misjudgment Without range misjudgment
7,5 cm Pak/KwK 40
Pzgr. 39 1500 m 30% 75%
Pzgr. 40 1500 m 12% 65%
Gr. Hl/C 1500 m 5% 42%
7,5 cm Pak 97/38
Gr. Hl/C 1500 m - 42%2

These ballistic effects are strange and new to anti-tank gunners and tank gunners. Until now, like the hunter with a rifle, they have been used to fire the gun and expect the trajectory to be a straight line. Their firing corrections works by adjusting the aiming point to the height and width of the target. This method - the so-called "swinging of the flight path" - fails at long ranges because of the strongly curved trajectory. It is therefore necessary to pay more attention to range finding. The most obvious mean is the optical rangefinder. Already at 2000 meters, however, it becomes inaccurate without range correction, even without measurement errors and rangefinder defects. It should also be noted that it would take a long time to equip all tanks and tank destroyers with rangefinders.

The above facts point to begin training anti-tank gunners and tank gunners in artillery firing methods. The key differences for the above-mentioned anti-tank gunners and tank gunners are:

  • The gunner always uses the same aiming point.
  • The commander provides range commands, also against moving targets, and determines the range to the target from the impact.

In regards to very flat trajectories, it is sufficient to make aiming marks at 200 meter intervals for the anti-tank gun and tank gun. Minor corrections can then be made in the usual manner by changing the aiming point.

At short distances, with sufficiently flat trajectories and large target areas, the firing method can be kept, i.e., with the approximated or measured distance being corrected by adjusting the target to the target width or height.

The task now is to find the border between the two methods, which differ according to ballistics and ammunition.

In regards to the 200 meter marks, it appears appropriate that the limit whereby raising or lowering the flight path along the height of the tank (on average two meters) gives a change in distance of less than 200 meters. This is approximately the same range at which the target area change by less than 200 meters, e.g:

Shot Maximum range
7,5 cm Pak/KwK 40
Pzgr. 39 1200 m
Pzgr. 40 1400 m
Gr. 38 Hl/B 600 m
8,8 cm Pak/KwK 43
Pzgr. 39 1800 m
Pzgr. 40 2000 m

It would be possible to find this limit using a height measurer that could be placed in or over the aiming mark by the gunner.

The armored battle is becoming more and more important, and takes place at increasing distances. Therefore, the above problems are of significant important, as it is advisable to pay more attention to it.

It is our view it is necessary to begin tests in on this as soon as possible.

As this method of fire adjustment is the same one used by the artillery, it would simplify the process if the training of the anti-tank gun and armored forces were supervised by the artillery training school, similar to the existing technical training of engineers.

Additional Reading

7,5 cm Pak 39 (L/48)
Technical details and accuracy of the 7,5 cm Pak 39 (L/48).
7,5 cm Pak 40
Technical details of the 7,5 cm Pak 40.
7,5 cm Pak 97/38 (L/36)
Technical details of the 7,5 cm Pak 97/38 (L/36).
8,8 cm Pak 43 (L/71)
Technical details and accuracy of the 8,8 cm Pak 43 (L/71).

Notes

  1. Using the same value as on the 7,5 cm Pak 40. Back.

Sources

  1. Hauptmann Hoppe. Schießverfahren bei Pz.Bekämpfung. Berlin : Waffenamt Prüfwesen 1, 1943. 3 p. Az. 74 o 10-17 (B) - Wa-Prüf 1/Pak - Tb.Nr. 14746/43 g..