Mines at Kursk I

Soviet TM-41 Antitank Mine

I have been doing some more work on Kursk recently. I have a rather extensive discussion of the Soviet defensive works at Kursk in Chapter 4 of my book, but I did want to better summarize the state of the works. In this case I focused on the mines. Here is what I wrote:

Just to look at one aspect of their defensive works, as part of these works were a considerable collection of the antitank and antipersonnel mines deployed in the first two defensive lines. This means in the first and second defensive echelons of the Sixth and Seventh Guards Armies. In the case of the Sixth Guards Army, this was 170,210 mines as of 4 July 1943. As of 30 June, it was 88,261 antitank mines and 53,324 antipersonnel mines. The mines were mostly deployed in the first echelon, which had 80% of the mines. They were deployed almost evenly between all four rifle divisions in the first echelon. The situation with the Seven Guards Army was similar, with 151,954 mines deployed by 5 July (66,814 antitank and 85,140 antipersonnel), of which 92% were in the first echelon. Unlike the Sixth Guards Army, their placement favored the divisions on each end of their line, the 36th Guards Rifle Division which was opposite the German XLII Corps, and the 81st Guards Rifle Division, which was facing the 6th Panzer Division. The Fortieth Army had 59,032 antitank mines, 70,994 antipersonnel mines as well as 6,377 “mine shells” (this is assumed to be artillery shells rigged to explode). The Fortieth Army, to the right of the Sixth Guards Army, was not attacked.

So for the defense phase of the Battle of Kursk (4-18 July), the Soviet Army laid at least 291,797 antitank mines and 294,378 antipersonnel mines. In the south this produced an impressive 1,666 mines per kilometer and 1,624 antipersonnel mines per kilometers.

Overall, the first defensive line of the Voronezh Front (including the first two echelons of the defending armies) had at least 221,846 antitank and 219,134 antipersonnel mines emplaced before the battle began (excluding the Thirty-eighth Army). The linear density of mines in the area (175.1 kilometers) is some 1,267 antitank mines and 1,251 antipersonnel mines per kilometer. While this appears impressive, what it would really amount to over the entire width of the front is a two-row deep minefield, with a little more than a single mine per meter in each row.

The density of the second echelon tended to be 100 to 200 mines per kilometers, or one per every five to ten linear meters of front. Clearly, the mines in the second echelon were not being laid in belts, but were instead being gathered around defensive points and blocking certain passages.

In contrast, in the third defensive belt was the First Tank Army, which reported having laid some 1,980 antitank mines and 1,520 antipersonnel mines by 4 July. Considering that the frontage of the Army was some 25 kilometers, this was indeed a very thin line of defensive works. The Sixty-Ninth Army, also deployed in the third belt had emplace as of 4 July 17,671 antitank mines and 16,848 antipersonnel mines.

There were of course, extensive earthworks, trench systems, gun pits and so forth. But again, this was heavily biased into the first echelon, with the army’s second echelon being considerably weaker. The front’s third echelon was even less prepared and some of the works, including tank ditches, had not been completed.

Anyhow, this is the first of three posts on the subject. Most of this is drawn from pages 199-205 of my Kursk book.

Japan versus Germany

Comparing Japan and Germany is an interesting exercise….as they kind of started at the same point. Their leaders in World War II were disgraceful incompetents who got their nations into wars they could not win, leading to them being bombed into oblivion and then occupied. They both started at the same point for recovery. In 1970 Japan had a GDP of 212.609 billion while Germany had a GDP of 215.022 billion. They oddly enough, almost ended up at at the same point, for in 2017 Japan had a GDP of 4.872 trillion while Germany had a GDP of 3.677 trillion. Considering that in 2017 the Japanese population is 127 million, and the German population is 82 million, at this stage Germany actually had the higher per capita income, being $44,550 compared to $38,440 (or $50,206 compared to $42,659 using PPP – Purchasing Power Parity, IMF 2017 figures). On the other hand, their trips to these points are very different as shown in this graph, showing their GDP from 1970-2017:

From 1970 through 1977 their economic growth almost parrelled each other. After that Japan’s economy started growing faster, then it boomed and after 1995 it busted. The German economy also declined after 1995, but since then seems to have grown and then stabilized.

While both nations have a fertility rate well below 2.1 (which is the replacement rate) they have reacted differently to immigration. Germany has been far more accepting of immigration than Japan. The end result is that Germany’s population is projected to still be at around 79 million in 2050 while Japan is expected to decline to 109 million. I am probably on safe ground to state that in the long run, Germany will have a higher GDP than Japan, meaning it will probably rise to be the third largest economy in the world.

Simpkin on the Long-Term Effects of Firepower Dominance

To follow on my earlier post introducing British military theorist Richard Simpkin’s foresight in detecting trends in 21st Century warfare, I offer this paragraph, which immediately followed the ones I quoted:

Briefly and in the most general terms possible, I suggest that the long-term effect of dominant firepower will be threefold. It will disperse mass in the form of a “net” of small detachments with the dual role of calling down fire and of local quasi-guerrilla action. Because of its low density, the elements of this net will be everywhere and will thus need only the mobility of the boot. It will transfer mass, structurally from the combat arms to the artillery, and in deployment from the direct fire zone (as we now understand it) to the formation and protection of mobile fire bases capable of movement at heavy-track tempo (Chapter 9). Thus the third effect will be to polarise mobility, for the manoeuvre force still required is likely to be based on the rotor. This line of thought is borne out by recent trends in Soviet thinking on the offensive. The concept of an operational manoeuvre group (OMG) which hives off raid forces against C3 and indirect fire resources is giving way to more fluid and discontinuous manoeuvre by task forces (“air-ground assault groups” found by “shock divisions”) directed onto fire bases—again of course with an operational helicopter force superimposed. [Simpkin, Race To The Swift, p. 169]

It seems to me that in the mid-1980s, Simpkin accurately predicted the emergence of modern anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) defensive systems with reasonable accuracy, as well the evolving thinking on the part of the U.S. military as to how to operate against them.

Simpkin’s vision of task forces (more closely resembling Russian/Soviet OMGs than rotary wing “air-ground assault groups” operational forces, however) employing “fluid and discontinuous manoeuvre” at operational depths to attack long-range precision firebases appears similar to emerging Army thinking about future multidomain operations. (It’s likely that Douglas MacGregor’s Reconnaissance Strike Group concept more closely fits that bill.)

One thing he missed on was his belief that rotary wing helicopter combat forces would supplant armored forces as the primary deep operations combat arm. However, there is the potential possibility that drone swarms might conceivably take the place in Simpkin’s operational construct that he allotted to heliborne forces. Drones have two primary advantages over manned helicopters: they are far cheaper and they are far less vulnerable to enemy fires. With their unique capacity to blend mass and fires, drones could conceivably form the deep strike operational hammer that Simpkin saw rotary wing forces providing.

Just as interesting was Simpkin’s anticipation of the growing importance of information and electronic warfare in these environments. More on that later.

Richard Simpkin on 21st Century Trends in Mass and Firepower

Anvil of “troops” vs. anvil of fire. (Richard Simpkin, Race To The Swift: Thoughts on Twenty-First Century Warfare, Brassey’s: London, 1985, p. 51)

For my money, one of the most underrated analysts and theorists of modern warfare was the late Brigadier Richard Simpkin. A retired British Army World War II veteran, Simpkin helped design the Chieftan tank in the 60s and 70s. He is best known for his series of books analyzing Soviet and Western military theory and doctrine. His magnum opus was Race To The Swift: Thoughts on Twenty-First Century Warfare, published in 1985. A brilliant blend of military history, insightful analysis of tactics and technology as well as operations and strategy, and Simpkin’s idiosyncratic wit, the observations in Race To The Swift are becoming more prescient by the year.

Some of Simpkin’s analysis has not aged well, such as the focus on the NATO/Soviet confrontation in Central Europe, and a bold prediction that rotary wing combat forces would eventually supplant tanks as the primary combat arm. However, it would be difficult to find a better historical review of the role of armored forces in modern warfare and how trends in technology, tactics, and doctrine are interacting with strategy, policy, and politics to change the character of warfare in the 21st Century.

To follow on my previous post on the interchangeability of fire (which I gleaned from Simpkin, of course), I offer this nugget on how increasing weapons lethality would affect 21st Century warfare, written from the perspective of the mid 1980s:

While accidents of ground will always provide some kind of cover, the effect of modern firepower on land force tactics is equally revolutionary. Just as we saw in Part 2 how the rotary wing may well turn force structures inside out, firepower is already turning tactical concepts inside out, by replacing the anvil of troops with an anvil of fire (Fig. 5, page 51)*. The use of combat troops at high density to hold ground or to seize it is already likely to prove highly costly, and may soon become wholly unprofitable. The interesting question is what effect the dominance of firepower will have at operational level.

One school of thought, to which many defence academics on both sides of the Atlantic subscribe, is that it will reduce mobility and bring about a return to positional warfare. The opposite view is that it will put a premium on elusiveness, increasing mobility and reducing mass. On analysis, both these opinions appear rather simplistic, mainly because they ignore the interchangeability of troops and fire…—in other words the equivalence or complementarity of the movement of troops and the massing of fire. They also underrate the part played by manned and unmanned surveillance, and by communication. Another factor, little understood by soldiers and widely ignored, is the weight of fire a modern fast jet in its strike configuration, flying a lo-lo-lo profile, can put down very rapidly wherever required. With modern artillery and air support, a pair of eyes backed up by an unjammable radio and perhaps a thermal imager becomes the equivalent of at least a (company) combat team, perhaps a battle group. [Simpkin, Race To The Swift, pp. 168-169]

Sound familiar? I will return to Simpkin’s insights in future posts, but I suggest you all snatch up a copy of Race To The Swift for yourselves.

* See above.

GD Light Tank

For some reason our blog was getting hits from youtube….so I went searching and discovered this newly posted youtube video about General Dynamics proposed “light” tank: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FBtncggpIU

As it says in the remarks (bolding is mine):

Smith’s emphasis upon how lighter-weight armored vehicles can address terrain challenges, and off-road mobility aligns with findings from analytical research performed years ago by the Dupuy Institute.

The research study, call “The Historical Combat Effectiveness of Lighter-Weight Armored Forces,” examined combat scenarios from Vietnam, The Korean War, the Persian Gulf War – and even WWII.

Commissioned by the US Army Center for Army Analysis, the study concluded that heavily armed, yet lighter-weight, more maneuverable armored combat platforms could provided substantial advantage to combat infantry in many scenarios.

“Vehicle weight is sometimes a limited factor in less developed area. In all cases where this was a problem, there was not a corresponding armor threat. As such, in almost all cases, the missions and tasks for a tank can be fulfilled with other light armor,” the study writes.

Drawing upon this conceptual premise, it also stands to reason that a medium-armored vehicles, with heavy firepower, might be able to support greater mobility for advancing infantry while simultaneously engaging in major combat, mechanized force-on-force kinds of engagements where there is armored resistance.

Now, this study is available as a download on our website here: http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/pdf/mwa-2lightarmor.pdf

Or in the bigger picture here: http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/tdipdf.htm

Interesting to discover that this study, that we did in 2001, is being referenced now. It was primarily done by me and Richard Anderson. It was done at the request of Walt Hollis, Deputy Under Secretary of the Army (Operations Research) and CAA was given the task of administering it. CAA seemed uncertain of what to do with it once they received it, but told us around 2002 that their big lesson from the study was that they needed to worry about mine protection for any projected future armor. This was before we went into Iraq.

Anyhow, there were many aspects to this study, which I will not belabor here as you can read it yourself; but it appears that people are cherry picking from parts of it.

German versus Soviet Artillery at Kursk

On pages 1375-1378 of my Kursk book is an extended discussion of the artillery ammunition usage at Kursk. As it is buried back in Appendix III, let me quote a little bit of the discussion here:

The Voronezh Front, according to the 1944 Soviet General Staff Study, had 8,356 guns and mortars as of 4 July of which 1,944 were 76mm and larger divisional artillery. In contrast, the German units involved in the offensive started with 4,630 guns and mortars, of which 1,336 were 105mm or larger artillery. This gives the Soviet force a “tube count” advantage of 1.8 to 1.

Still, what is significant is not the number of tubes, but the weight of firepower. In the cases of the Germans, it is estimated that they fired a total of 51,083 tons of ammunition during the course of the battle. It is estimated that 49% by weight of the ammunition consumed was from the gun artillery. In the case of the Soviet forces of the Voronezh Front and the two reinforcing Steppe Front armies, they consumed a total of 21,867 tons of ammunition during the course of the battle. It is estimated that 36% by weight was from the gun artillery….

Overall, this means that while the Soviet forces outnumbered the Germans forces 1.8 to 1 according to tube count, they in fact were out shot according to weight of fire calculations, 2.34 to 1. This is a significant difference and certainly so, with artillery usually responsible for 50 to 70% of the killing on the battlefield. This may be a major factor in the measurable performance differences (especially casualty effectiveness) between the two armies….

Therefore, one is forced to look at a second reason, which is that the Soviet Army just did not have that much ammunition available. One notes in The Economy of the USSR During World War II that they make this point in the 1947 publication (which certainly has a propaganda-inspired slant). They report that the Soviet Union made 29 times more artillery pieces in World War II than were produced in the Russian Empire during World War I but they only produced 8.2 times as many artillery shells than they delivered to the army in the Russian Empire during World War I. This is a very interesting comparison.

This is a classic shortfall of the command-driven top-down communist system, where they manufactured huge numbers of glamorous big-ticket items, like tanks and guns, but did not provide the support material in the form of ammunition or transport. As such, the Soviet units were well equipped, but not well-supported. This certainly affected the relative combat capabilities of the opposing forces and the differences in their attrition rates….

This shortfall really affected the usefulness of the Katyushas. The Voronezh Front ended up with 13 independent guards’ mortar regiments, which usually had 24 Katyushas. This is a total of around 312 such eight-tube launchers. The potential weight of fire for these weapons is very high. Instead, what we see from them are very low volumes of fire. The Soviets during Kursk fired an estimated 2,422 tons of ammo from all of its Katyushas (both those in the guards mortar regiments and those in the units). With a total of 331 Katyushas, this comes out to 7.32 tons of fire per rocket launcher; or 93.50 pounds per round, an average of 20 8-shot volleys per Kayusha. In contract, the Germans with their 324 nebelwerfers and 16 Wurfrahmen, consumed 5,916 tons of ammunition. This made the German nebelwerfer a considerably more fearsome weapons than the legendary Katyusha.

Anyhow, quoting this because I am in a private discussion on Soviet ammunition production and supply during 1944-45. I have never seen a properly researched discussion of the Soviet artillery supply situation in 1944-45.

Where Did Japan Go?

This post is a follow-up to this posting:

Demographics of Japan

In that post, I was talking about that there was a time in the 1980s when Japan’s GNP was 60% of the United States and people were talking about Japan’s economy outgrowing the United States by the year 2000, 2010 or 2020. Now…..we know that did not happen. The following chart, measuring GDP (Gross Domestic Product) shows this change of fortune rather dramatically:

In 1995, Japan’s GDP was $5.449 Trillion while the United States was $7.664 Trillion. Japan’s GDP was 71% of the United States and it looked to be closing. Now, in 2017 it was 25% of the United States ($4.872 versus $19.391). This is a hell of a change in fortune. Not near as bad as the collapse as the Soviet Union, but pretty damn significant in the larger picture.

Let us look how this developed over time (figures are from the World Bank):

Year       Japan GDP     U.S. GDP     Percent

1960         .044307          .5433             8%

1965        .09095             .7437           12%

1970        .212609         1.076             20%

1975        .521542         1.689             31%

1980       1.105              2.863             39%

1985       1.399              4.347             32%

1990       3.133              5.98               52%

1995       5.449              7.664             71%

2000       4.888             10.285            48%

2005       4.755             13.094            36%

2010       5.7                 14.964            38%

2015       4.395             18.121            24%


That is a trip. If the percentages were graphed out, it might start looking like a bell curve. I don’t have the depth of knowledge on the Japanese economy to pontificate as to why this developed this way.

So, we have seen a political and military challenge after World War II from the Soviet Union. They went from claiming that “We will bury you” (1956) to dissolving (1991). We have seen an economic challenge from our ally Japan, and it certainly impacted our car industry and consumer electronics. This has gone in only two decades from a point where the economic growth trajectory lines of Japan seemed to be on track to surpassing the United States to a point now where Japan’s economy is a quarter of our economy. And…..it still does not appear to be growing much. It makes you wonder about the next political, military or economic challenge…..and how that will play out.

Interchangeability Of Fire And Multi-Domain Operations

Soviet “forces and resources” chart. [Richard Simpkin, Deep Battle: The Brainchild of Marshal Tukhachevskii (Brassey’s: London, 1987) p. 254]

With the emergence of the importance of cross-domain fires in the U.S. effort to craft a joint doctrine for multi-domain operations, there is an old military concept to which developers should give greater consideration: interchangeability of fire.

This is an idea that British theorist Richard Simpkin traced back to 19th century Russian military thinking, which referred to it then as the interchangeability of shell and bayonet. Put simply, it was the view that artillery fire and infantry shock had equivalent and complimentary effects against enemy troops and could be substituted for one another as circumstances dictated on the battlefield.

The concept evolved during the development of the Russian/Soviet operational concept of “deep battle” after World War I to encompass the interchangeability of fire and maneuver. In Soviet military thought, the battlefield effects of fires and the operational maneuver of ground forces were equivalent and complementary.

This principle continues to shape contemporary Russian military doctrine and practice, which is, in turn, influencing U.S. thinking about multi-domain operations. In fact, the idea is not new to Western military thinking at all. Maneuver warfare advocates adopted the concept in the 1980s, but it never found its way into official U.S. military doctrine.

An Idea Who’s Time Has Come. Again.

So why should the U.S. military doctrine developers take another look at interchangeability now? First, the increasing variety and ubiquity of long-range precision fire capabilities is forcing them to address the changing relationship between mass and fires on multi-domain battlefields. After spending a generation waging counterinsurgency and essentially outsourcing responsibility for operational fires to the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps are scrambling to come to grips with the way technology is changing the character of land operations. All of the services are at the very beginning of assessing the impact of drone swarms—which are themselves interchangeable blends of mass and fires—on combat.

Second, the rapid acceptance and adoption of the idea of cross-domain fires has carried along with it an implicit acceptance of the interchangeability of the effects of kinetic and non-kinetic (i.e. information, electronic, and cyber) fires. This alone is already forcing U.S. joint military thinking to integrate effects into planning and decision-making.

The key component of interchangability is effects. Inherent in it is acceptance of the idea that combat forces have effects on the battlefield that go beyond mere physical lethality, i.e. the impact of fire or shock on a target. U.S. Army doctrine recognizes three effects of fires: destruction, neutralization, and suppression. Russian and maneuver warfare theorists hold that these same effects can be achieved through the effects of operational maneuver. The notion of interchangeability offers a very useful way of thinking about how to effectively integrate the lethality of mass and fires on future battlefields.

But Wait, Isn’t Effects Is A Four-Letter Word?

There is a big impediment to incorporating interchangeability into U.S. military thinking, however, and that is the decidedly ambivalent attitude of the U.S. land warfare services toward thinking about non-tangible effects in warfare.

As I have pointed out before, the U.S. Army (at least) has no effective way of assessing the effects of fires on combat, cross-domain or otherwise, because it has no real doctrinal methodology for calculating combat power on the battlefield. Army doctrine conceives of combat power almost exclusively in terms of capabilities and functions, not effects. In Army thinking, a combat multiplier is increased lethality in the form of additional weapons systems or combat units, not the intangible effects of operational or moral (human) factors on combat. For example, suppression may be a long-standing element in doctrine, but the Army still does not really have a clear idea of what causes it or what battlefield effects it really has.

In the wake of the 1990-91 Gulf War and the ensuing “Revolution in Military Affairs,” the U.S. Air Force led the way forward in thinking about the effects of lethality on the battlefield and how it should be leveraged to achieve strategic ends. It was the motivating service behind the development of a doctrine of “effects based operations” or EBO in the early 2000s.

However, in 2008, U.S. Joint Forces Command commander, U.S Marine General (and current Secretary of Defense) James Mattis ordered his command to no longer “use, sponsor, or export” EBO or related concepts and terms, the underlying principles of which he deemed to be “fundamentally flawed.” This effectively eliminated EBO from joint planning and doctrine. While Joint Forces Command was disbanded in 2011 and EBO thinking remains part of Air Force doctrine, Mattis’s decree pretty clearly showed what the U.S. land warfare services think about battlefield effects.

Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 5-Summary)

U.S. Army 155mm field howitzer in Normandy. [padresteve.com]

[This series of posts is adapted from the article “Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor,” by Richard C. Anderson, Jr., originally published in the June 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in the series
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 1)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 2-Kursk)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 3-Normandy)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 4-Ardennes)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 5-Summary)

Table IX shows the distribution of cause of loss by type or armor vehicle. From the distribution it might be inferred that better protected armored vehicles may be less vulnerable to artillery attack. Nevertheless, the heavily armored vehicles still suffered a minimum loss of 5.6 percent due to artillery. Unfortunately the sample size for heavy tanks was very small, 18 of 980 cases or only 1.8 percent of the total.

The data are limited at this time to the seven cases.[6] Further research is necessary to expand the data sample so as to permit proper statistical analysis of the effectiveness of artillery versus tanks.


[18] Heavy armor includes the KV-1, KV-2, Tiger, and Tiger II.

[19] Medium armor includes the T-34, Grant, Panther, and Panzer IV.

[20] Light armor includes the T-60, T-70. Stuart, armored cars, and armored personnel carriers.

Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 4-Ardennes)

Knocked-out Panthers in Krinkelt, Belgium, Battle of the Bulge, 17 December 1944. [worldwarphotos.info]

[This series of posts is adapted from the article “Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor,” by Richard C. Anderson, Jr., originally published in the June 1997 edition of the International TNDM Newsletter.]

Posts in the series
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 1)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 2-Kursk)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 3-Normandy)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 4-Ardennes)
Artillery Effectiveness vs. Armor (Part 5-Summary)


[14] From ORS Joint Report No. 1. A total of an estimated 300 German armor vehicles were found following the battle.

[15] Data from 38th Infantry After Action Report (including “Sketch showing enemy vehicles destroyed by 38th Inf Regt. and attached units 17-20 Dec. 1944″), from 12th SS PzD strength report dated 8 December 1944, and from strengths indicated on the OKW briefing maps for 17 December (1st [circa 0600 hours], 2d [circa 1200 hours], and 3d [circa 1800 hours] situation), 18 December (1st and 2d situation), 19 December (2d situation), 20 December (3d situation), and 21 December (2d and 3d situation).

[16] Losses include confirmed and probable losses.

[17] Data from Combat Interview “26th Infantry Regiment at Dom Bütgenbach” and from 12th SS PzD, ibid.