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Ive seen photographs of them in a training role in the British Army as late as the early 1980's. I dont think we kept the FH70 nearly half as long.

 

 

The FH70 entered service 1980-1999 - only 19 years. The 5.5" was in service in war-role artillery units (not just for training, for a fair comparison) from 1941 to 1980, or 39 years.

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The Germans were running out of cannon by the end of the war, so the inclusion of 75mm caliber field guns was not so much a choice but not having anything else. Hence, the Volksgrenadier divisions — were raised using the October 1944 organization — had their artillery regiments with one battalion 75mm field guns (18×7,5cm leFK 40), two battalions of 105mm light FH (12 each) each, and one heavy battalion of 150 heavy FH (12). The 1945 version had three battalions (8×105 + 6×75), and one heavy battlion (12×150mm). The infantry regiments in the VG and 1945 divisions was still authorized both 75mm and 150mm infantry guns.

 

Please remember the "7.5cm FK40" was simply the 7.5cm Pak40 tricked out with panoramic sights and other paraphernalia so that it could be fired indirectly...at least theoretically. In reality they augmented the antitank capability of the division, especially for the division artillery...typically each 7.5cm battery tended to be attached to one of the three battalion groupments in the division (so one 7.5cm battery, two 10.5cm batteries, and a 15cm battery was typical), each supporting one of the rifle regiments. It appears the later organizational amendment at the end of the war recognized that and codified it.

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Good points. 75s might be ineffective against heavily entrenched targets like in the last war but in this war warfare is way more mobile (=targets in the open) and they are just barely light enough to be man handled while capable of taking out even heavy tanks(for the time).

 

15 cm heavy howitzers had their origin (at least in Germany) in tests against field fortifications in Germany (Meppen, I believe). It was concluded that the notional field fortifications would require a 15 cm field howitzer to defeat. (Kinda like the CRISAT target and PDWs.) 15 cm howitzers got much higher muzzle velocities, much more streamlined shells and thus much more capable of penetrating soil and logs by 1916 already - but the field fortifications were simply adapted to common opfor artillery pieces in both WWI and WWII.

 

There are guidances from WWII about how to achieve a specific end (suppression, destruction in a specified area etc.) with both light and heavy field howitzers, showing that the two were indeed considered substitutes in both ways. A look at the figures showed me that light and heavy were very close to each other in the first minute of firing (thought he costs of the mechanical fuzes complicates the costs issue). The heavy howitzers had advantages regarding sustained fires (same rate of 1 or 2 rpm for 15 cm and 10.5 cm). 10.5 cm howitzers on the other hand were capable of defending themselves against tanks again with HEAT shells' arrival, though.

 

Smaller calibres are more efficient for fragmentation (hence the ICM approach and frag bombs of WWII being 10...110 kg bombs only while GP bombs weighed 227...500 kg).

 

15 cm HE is also dangerous to tanks (particularly thin-skinned AFVs, but also MBTs). Yet by the 2000's preformed fragmentation shells had become the new normal, and those fragmentation patterns are about maximised effect against soft targets. Modern 155 mm HE is no more that dangerous against AFVs with indirect hits because it produces no large fragments.

https://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2010/08/who-says-dumb-artillery-rounds-cant.html

 

In the end, the entire heavy howitzer thing was very path dependent. It was nowhere near an optimal calibre except maybe during the Cold War when we used ICM.

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In some ways modern 155mm HE-FRAG is more dangerous to AFVs because of the amount of fragile kit on the outside of one - vision systems, comms, anti ATGM systems. It can't kill an MBT, but it can really mess one up. Of course, if you want to kill the tank, you have SMArt, BONUS etc. or even a lucky hit with block 1A Excalibur if you can lase the tank.

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I've seen multiple books claiming that the secondary anti-tank capability was an important factor for the return to 75 mm, and the 100,000+ 7.62 cm ZIS-3 divisional guns have impressed the Wehrmacht very much.

 

Agreed. The German light howitzer wish list was built into the 10.5cm le FH 43 program:

  • 360 degree traverse
  • Very good high angle fire capability
  • Better range (extended to 13,000m)

Like so many German programs, the 10.5cm le FH 43 produced a very interesting prototype (an advanced design from Skoda) and a workable alternative from Krupp but never made it into production. Hogg thought Krupp's second design was the odds on favorite because it used a modified Pak43 carriage and thus would have been easier to get into production, but the Germans were forced to stay with existing designs or modifications thereof, e.g., the 75mm 7M85 which, as Rich pointed out, was a modified Pak40.

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The 360° traverse was demanded largely with anti-tank in mind according to literature, but would also have helped in pockets.

The high angle capability was according to literature about the ability to shoot from inside woodland. This may have been about the air threat, but according to books that I've read getting howitzers into firing positions was actually difficult in some of the extended Eastern Front woodland areas. Maybe they didn't want to be so predictable (counterfires!). High angle would also have helped with getting the impact angle just right for maximum frag effect and with reaching the reverse slopes of mountains. The preferred method for maximising frag effect was ricochet shots with delay fuse, though.

(The Czechs had built interwar years arty partially with a common field gun and howitzer carriage - and the field gun was meant to double as heavy AAA (at least to make observation inconvenient). This necessitated a high maximum elevation. The use of hundreds such guns by the Wehrmacht during 1939-1945 should have educated the Wehrmacht about the merits of upper register HE fires on soft ground targets.)

 

The Swedes were the only ones to realize something like the leFH43, and the famous Soviet 122 mm 2A18 / D-30 was an even more advanced concept.

 

The M777 looks primitive regarding the mechanical engineering part. It has fancier alloys and RF muzzle velocity measurement, but traverse, rate of fire (half what D-30 can do in first minute!) and lack of direct fire ability are downsides ranging from minor (direct fire) to catastrophic (traverse).

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was not one of the prototypes that led eventually to american 105mm M1, 3-legged? IIRC idea was dropped because it made the carriage about 1/3 heavier than normal one and that was pretty big difference back in 1920s when horse transport was still considered important

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The U.S. was much more motorized, so the transportation issue was a lesser one. People were also thinking in trench warfare terms, so mobility would not be too important in great wars.

 

The calibre was weak, but suitable-enough for AAA at the time (there were lots of heavy AAA based on soixante-quinze in active service at the time) and fine for suppressive fires. The good maximum elevation would help with impact angles that make direct hits into trenches more likely than with ordinary field guns.

 

Still, I think the optimum was far from this.

  • 7...8 cm regimental and motorized AT guns with slip ring HEAT, split trail, deployed mass below 1 metric ton and maximum elevation +70°
  • 10.5...12.2 cm divisional gun-howitzers (split trail or three legs 360° traverse) with shield and 2-man operation in direct fire (one gunner, one loader)
  • something that defeats field fortifications (150...180 mm baseplate mortar or rocket launcher with large blast effect)
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The speed of the bombers wasn't the issue. The issue was altitude, and Blenheim wasn't flying particularly high. Only the B-17, B-24 and B-29 were really pushing past the ceiling limits of old (soixante-quinze based and equivalents) heavy AAA. The sweet spots for bombers were 3...4.5 km and above '88' effective ceiling. The former was too high for light AAA, but angular velocity was troublesome for heavy AAA (which made that altitude band better than higher altitudes short of 7.5+ km).

 

In fact, against most bombers impact fuses worked better than mechanical time fuses. A 75 mm direct HE hit was overkill against any aircraft unless it hits the tip of wings or stabilisers. So the higher rate of fire of 75 mm (almost 30 rpm) and lower cost of weapon and munition turned 75 mm into superior heavy AAA compared to anything bigger against 2-engine bombers (and British Empire 4-engine bombers) in Europe.

 

The story is different when you face smaller threats such as B6N, D4Y and have RF PROX fuses. Then the optimum calibre was 90...105 mm, or one particular 127 mm gun design if you want a good DP capability. Without RF PROX there was little reason to invest in heavy AAA instead of additional 40 mm AAA.

Edited by lastdingo
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In fact, against most bombers impact fuses worked better than mechanical time fuses.

 

I read that, toward the end of the war the Germans actually did an operational analysis and worked out they'd have been better off using sensitive impact fuses (presumably with self-destruct :) ) rather than mechanical time in their HAA.

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The 360° traverse was demanded largely with anti-tank in mind according to literature, but would also have helped in pockets. The high angle capability was according to literature about the ability to shoot from inside woodland.

 

Hogg wrote that the '43 designs were heavily influenced by the German's Russian front experience, e.g., defending pockets. Since the 360 degree traverse extended to the 15cm FH43 designs as well (which were also stillborn), I'm inclined to think pocket defense more than AT work. The seeming lack of concern with the height of the Skoda le FH43 also makes me think AT potential was not a big concern.

 

Hogg's at least one of the sources that stresses the usefulness of high angle fire for firing positions in forests, so we're together on that.

 

The Swedes were the only ones to realize something like the leFH43, and the famous Soviet 122 mm 2A18 / D-30 was an even more advanced concept.

 

 

Bofors Type 4140 105mm Howitzer shows many signs of being the descendant of the Skoda le FH43, though I have no idea how much it was an independent development off a similar specification and how much it might have actually had to do with the Skoda design.

 

I served in a division with both M102 and M198 howitzers and thought the D30 looked like an altogether better approach to what we were doing, though the grass is always greener . . .

Edited by CaptLuke
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The U.S. was much more motorized, so the transportation issue was a lesser one. People were also thinking in trench warfare terms, so mobility would not be too important in great wars.

 

Actually, the U.S. Army was only moderately motorized when the first real post-Great War advanced carriage 75mm "divisional gun" was proposed, which, along with the general fiscal austerity of the times, meant that development was desultory at best. The initial design, the 75mm Gun M1 (M1923E1) and Carriage T2 (Carriage T1 standardized as the M1 (M1923E1) and was the Carriage M1916 with the kinks ironed out...hey nine years, who's to know?) and the 75mm Gun M1 and Carriage T3 were the original attempts, dating to May 1929. The 75mm M1 Gun used a vertical sliding breechblock instead of the venerable M1897's interrupted screw, and simplified the bearing surfaces and recoil mechanism over the older French design. Carriage T2 was a fairly simple improved split-trail design as a FA gun, but the interesting three-trail design, Carriage T3, was designed by Gladeon Barnes to be a universal AA, AT, and FA gun and when it was rejected (too heavy and complex, among other things), he immediately exhibited the characteristics he would later display as Chief of the Ordnance Technical Service during the war...he pouted, complained in the FA and Ordnance Journals that no one understood the genius of his design, and tried to do end-runs to get it adopted by the FA anyway (I exaggerate, but only a bit). Carriage T2 was modified as the T2E1, but also got rejected. By 1938, further work had led to modifications of the carriage (and minor modifications to the gun) through a T4 and T5. A final effort in 1938-1939 was the 75mm AA Gun and Carriage T6, which was a straightforward medium AA gun on a cruciform carriage similar to that used in the Flak 36/37...which also got rejected since the excellent 90mm AA Gun was near acceptance. However, it did not end there. The 75mm T6 Gun from that carriage got modified in 1940-1941 as the T7 and was employed as a Tank gun, first as the 75mm M2 in the Medium Tank M3 and then as the 75mm Gun M3 in the Medium Tanks M3 and M4.

 

 

The calibre was weak, but suitable-enough for AAA at the time (there were lots of heavy AAA based on soixante-quinze in active service at the time) and fine for suppressive fires. The good maximum elevation would help with impact angles that make direct hits into trenches more likely than with ordinary field guns.

 

Yes, but by 1938 the Coast Artillery had decided that it preferred the combination of the heavy 90mm gun and lighter 37mm gun. While they recognized the "advantages" of the 75mm "medium AA" proposal, they also saw its pitfalls, it was neither fish nor fowl, too heavy and too light, too low a Mv, too low a ceiling, but with a nice heavy projectile, something that might have benefited the Germans in their quest for a "medium" 5cm piece.

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"Actually, the U.S. Army was only moderately motorized when the first real post-Great War advanced carriage 75mm "divisional gun" was proposed"

 

Motor vehicles were on their minds, though. In Germany you had to deal with Junker-raised officers who couldn't get over horses even in the 1930's.

The U.S.Army knew that if there was going to be another great war, they'd get all the motor vehicles and fuel that they might need.

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Rich, was it true that Barnes retained copyright for his designs and prospered in retirement from them?

 

I don't think so. All patents issued for government designs were in the name of the inventor, but were held by the US Government. Barnes was also involved in the early torsion bar suspension designs.

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"Actually, the U.S. Army was only moderately motorized when the first real post-Great War advanced carriage 75mm "divisional gun" was proposed"

 

Motor vehicles were on their minds, though. In Germany you had to deal with Junker-raised officers who couldn't get over horses even in the 1930's.

The U.S.Army knew that if there was going to be another great war, they'd get all the motor vehicles and fuel that they might need.

 

I will take your Junker and raise you two Major Generals, Robert M Danford and John K. Herr. As Chiefs of Artillery and Cavalry, respectively, they fought tooth and nail to keep horses in the Army until March 1942 when they were made redundant by Marshall's War Department reorganization.Serious motorization in the US Army did not begin until 31 October 1931.

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There's an anecdote about the development of the Sturmartillerie (assault guns) where in a meeting, Manstein went on arguing in favour and simply ignored that just seconds earlier an old general had proposed to simply use horse-drawn infantry guns or even light field guns as had been done in the Great War. That was 1935 IIRC.

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Hogg addressed the issue of horses towing artillery in one of his books in this way, that I will paraphrase: Between the wars the debate was how guns should be moved. Mechanisation was coming in, but a truck could be disabled by a single shell splinter and the gun would not be able to be moved. If six or eight horses were being used, and one horse was wounded, the rest of the team could still pull the gun, not quite as efficiently or as far, but the gun would not be immobilised.

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Wouldn't the mechanism likely to have killed one horse at substantial range from the battle field likely have also injured or killed the other horses in a team? Wouldn't that be shell splashes and the like rather than random odd bullets?

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