DM 121 purchase / modern artillery


I read today in military journals about a purchase of artillery munitions for the German Heer.
Specifically: 30,000 DM 121 155mm shells (don't know whether with or without fuzes) at a total price of € 63 million. Ammo isn't cheap, and probably never was.
The DM121 is a modern HE shell as its explosive is insensitive (it's hard to produce a secondary explosion by shooting at it).

Well, there's a special context for me - I read just yesterday in an interesting book about the Germany infantry in WW2. It has a chapter about the artillery regiments of the infantry divisions.
There's also a collection of battle summaries in it that show the severity of the battles.

LIV. Armeekorps, Ostfeldzug, Südabschnitt, Angriff gegen die sowjetische Festung Sewastopol, Mai 1942:
Der Artillerieverschuß des Korps mit seinen 5 Infanteriedivisionen betrug in fünf Tagen über 700 000 Granaten, dabei verschoß z.B. das Art.Rgt. 22 der 22. Infanteriedivision 100 000 Granaten.
(Battle for Sevastopol May 1942: A single corps of 5 infantry divisions fired 700,000 shells (mostly calibre 75-150 mm) in five days.)

Such a modern shell as DM121 is significantly more effective than a WW2 150mm shell and the accuracy/dispersion is improved over WW2 standards as well. The battle of Sevastopol saw an unusual artillery concentration with many additional artillery units attached to the corps.

On the other hand; it's a constant of war that the lethality of new or improved weapons and ammunition is very much overestimated in peacetime and many shells weren't used for killing at Sevastopol.

Artillery (let's focus on HE shells like DM 121) has more tasks (or had - and was capable of fulfilling them) than killing.
Artillery can cut field telephone wires, distract, suppress, block movements and sometimes it's being fired into staging areas, often based on guesses or incomplete intelligence.
Such bombardments of staging areas often did more harm and caused more losses to the Red Army than the defensive fires during its later assault.
It's an underestimated part of artillery's value in WW2 - and it's an area effect attack that doesn't benefit much of improved accuracy and dispersion.

It's not all gold that shines; our artillery saw many great improvements, but we also lost some once-important capabilities, especially those that require large quantities of personnel and material (in the own and sometimes even in the opposing force).

Edit: I forgot to mention statistics. The German production of 150 mm shells in 1943 was 7.546 million shells. 30,000 shells as in the nowadays newsworthy contract equaled one and a half day's production of 1943.
150 mm wasn't the standard calibre as 155 mm is today, though. 29.4 million 105 mm shells were produced for the Wehrmacht in the same year. We can add to this about three million shells for other calibres ranging from 105 mm (cannon) to 210 mm.


  1. you planning to shell sevastopol again then, right?

    1. Shell expenditure planning is typically 20 shells per SPG and day, but peak consumption during battles in the Ukraine 2014 was up to 450 shells per gun and day.
      A decent brigade would have at least 18 SPGs, which at a rate of 300 shells/day would consume a supply of 30,000 shells in less than a week.
      The deployed German army could consume 30,000 shells in a day of battle.

      We should think of millions, not ten thousands when thinking about HE shells and modular propellant charges.

    2. don't deploy to ukraine.

    3. Nobody meant to deploy to the Sinai peninsula in the 1970's, still Israeli combat experiences there were intensely studied for application in Europe.

    4. Correction: I wrote a typo in my own reply. Planning is typically for 200 rounds per day and tube, not 20!