2008/11/05

Schweres Wurfgerät

Trotz starker Artillerie und verstärkter Granatwerferaustattung sollte man nicht auf ein schweres Wurfgerät verzichten. Die vom deutschen schweren Wurfgerät erreichte Höchstschussweite von 2200m muß noch gesteigert werden. Zur Bekämpfung von Flächenzielen gibt es für Panzergrenadiere keine bessere Waffe. Ein zusammengefaßter Feuerschlag von Napalm- oder auch "nur" Brisanz- oder Flammöl-Wurfgranaten hat in Angriff und Abwehr eine große Wirkung.
Eike Middeldorf, German Army General Staff expert on tactical lessons learned 1944/45, in a book for the young Bundeswehr ("Taktik im Russlandfeldzug", 1956)

translation:
You should not dispense with heavy projectiles despite strong artillery and reinforced equipment with mortars. The maximum range of the German heavy projectiles of 2,200m needs to be increased. There's no better weapon for the mechanised infantry against area targets. A concerted strike of napalm or even "only" HE or fire oil heavy projectiles has a great effect both in attack and defense.
Two books of Eike Middeldorf (this and "Handbuch der Taktik" of 1957) are diamonds of military literature, fusing German WW2 wartime know-how, 1950's NATO army know-how and his conclusions. His writing needs to be seen in context though - he basically wrote for the case that the NATO might repeat the Eastern Front war of WW2.

This quote is one of the many interesting quotes in those books. The "schwere Wurfgerät" he's writing about is the "Schweres Wurfgerät 41" or "Schwerer Wurfrahmen 40" in calibre 32cm.
Both were crude weapons, the former was for prepared fires, especially in breakthrough actions:
The latter (Schwerer Wurfrahmen 40) was mounted on the APC of that time, a SdKfz 250, and was therefore mobile enough for the kind of actions that Middeldorf wanted:

Some things changed in the post-war artillery; primitive and cheap weapons like these were certainly not well-suited for the military-industrial complex - and the artillery technology advanced with proximity fuzes for greater fragmentation effect and DPICM for even greater fragmentation. But fragmentation works best against unprotected targets, and it's rather simple to protect a force in the field against DPICM. A light truck with a foxhole excavator and a strong plate to cover and camouflage the foxhole is one example of how to do it in minutes.

NATO countries did apparently not see much need for Wurfgerät-like weapons and munitions in the past decades, but WW2 experiences aren't the only thing that suggests some merit in the idea:
The Russians developed and produced the TOS-1M "Heavy Flamethrower" system. They don't use napalm, conventional explosive or flame oil, but thermobaric warheads and used old MBT hulls instead of APC hulls as carriers. I mentioned the system already in August.

There's a difference between Middeldorf's concept and the TOS-1, though: Middeldorf wanted these weapons as rarely used overwhelming firepower organic to mechanised infantry (Panzergrenadier) battalions - the TOS-1 appears to be a higher level ordnance.

Nevertheless; did we reject the Wurfgerät weapons category too early, do we have a gap in our equipment for a fight against fortified areas?

Sven Ortmann

3 comments:

  1. Hello Sven,

    I have often wondered about the neglect shown by Western Armies towards "Nebelwerfer"-type armaments post-World War II, particularly given the Allies' own unhestitating testimony to their effectiveness, not to mention their simplicity and efficiency. And with little way to protect oneself against them except by digging quite deep. As you pointed out, however, that very efficiency (and inexpensiveness) hardly lends itself towards lucrative defence contracts. The Russians for their part have not neglected heavy artillery rockets; they know a good thing when they see it - and of course the Germans themselves emulated the Russians in this field in the first place.

    I rather fear that we may have to re-discover the hard way the need for such armaments ourselves. Of course, should we ever (re-)discover that need, undoubtedly some complex, high-tech, and Big Ticket-solution will be proffered as the necessary remedy instead. That said, it would probably be well for each Infantry or Armour Regiment/Brigade to possess its own organic battery of such heavy artillery rockets.

    Good post Sven. I'm glad someone has brought this up. Heavy Wurfgranaten are certainly useful, and their absence in our tactical ORBATs makes for potentially serious deficiencies.

    Best,

    Norfolk

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  2. Much of the effect of such weapons seems to be in the morale realm - and is therefore inaccessible for peacetime operational research. The latter is great at analyzing fragmentation effects, though.

    There's an interesting anecdote about the Schweres Wurfgerät (I forgot the source):
    The Russians at some time and place demanded that the Germans cease to use their flame oil munitions - some serious threats were added.
    Huge fire munitions are politically incorrect, but seem to break the enemy's morale pretty well.

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    Replies
    1. >>(I forgot the source):>>

      It is mentioned in Verlorene Siege, von Manstein.

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