Battle of Kursk

Battle of Kursk tanks

Self-propelled artillery vehicles

A self-propelled artillery vehicle is a combat vehicle comprised of an artillery gun installed on a powered chassis.

In a broad sense, all combat vehicles equipped with guns can be regarded as self-propelled artillery vehicles.

In a narrow sense, however, only wheeled and tracked combat vehicles with gun and howitzer weaponry that are not tanks or armored cars can be regarded as self-propelled artillery vehicles.

There are many kinds of self-propelled artillery vehicles used for various purposes.

They can be armored or non-armored, use wheeled or tracked chassis and have a fixed gun or a turret gun. Some of those with a turret gun resemble tanks, but they differ in their armor-armament ratio and tactical employment.

Tank destroyer "Ferdinand" ("Elefant")

Soviet soldiers inspect lined during the Battle of Kursk German heavy self-propelled artillery class fighter tank The ''Ferdinand was a German heavy self-propelled artillery vehicle used during World War II as a tank destroyer It was also known as the "Elefant".

This combat vehicle, equipped with a 88 mm gun was one of the heaviest- armed and best-armored of all German armored vehicles at the time.

Despite low production, it is one of the best-known self-propelled artillery vehicles that gave rise to quite a few legends. "Ferdinands" debuted during the Battle of Kursk where their armor showed little vulnerability to Soviet anti-tank and tank artillery.

The battles at the Kursk Salient became, in essence, the first and last battles in which the Germans massively used "Ferdinands". They were far from perfect when it came to tactics.

Designed to destroy Soviet medium and heavy tanks at long distance; "Ferdlnands" were used as a forward armor shield, which haphazardly rammed engineer obstacles and anti-tank defense, suffering heavy losses. At the same time the psychological effect of a largely Invulnerable self-propelled artillery vehicle appearing on the Sovlet-German front was great. It even gave rise "Ferdinandomania" and "Ferdinandophobia".

StuG III Ausf. F

The StuG III Ausf. F was a German medium self-propelled assault gun used d urine World War II.

It was based on the tank P2tKpfW III.

Various modifications of the vehicle were in mass production from 1940 to 1945.

It became the Wehrmacht’s most widely-used armored vehicle.

The vehicles first appeared at the Kursk Salient they numbered 68.

Apart from the Eastern Front they were also employed later In Africa, Italy and France.

Stug III Ausf. G

In modification G, the vehicle's anti-tank capabilities were enhanced: a 75mm 48-callber-long gun was installed, the armor was strengthened (up to 80 mm on the front), armor shields were installed on the sides and a machine-gun for defense in close combat was added.

Two Tiger tanks and a StuG with infantry

Self-propelled artillery vehicles vs. tanks

Battle of Kursk MonumentSelf-propelled artillery vehicles differ from tanks in that they are designed to fulfill different tasks, first of all with regard to the firepower-protection ratio.

Self-propelled artillery vehicles fovea much wider range of fire than tanks so they do not have to approach the enemy and thus face less fire resistance - which is why they are less protected and larger in size (taller in particular).

The vehicle's armor was designed primarily for protection from small arms used by the enemy's landing and reconnaissance units. The vehicles' main tasks were support of infantry attacks, in-depth combat during offensive operations and support of counter-attacks during defensive operations. The Germans believed the vehicles boosted the speed of attacks, added crushing power to the infantry and provided psychological support.

Self-propelled artillery vehicles were normally used to attack major objectives while moving with advancing forces, they fired on any targets that restricted the advance, especially fire units on the flanks, thus maintaining the speed of the advance.

They were most often used in counter-attacks and flank attacks and had to be committed to combat unexpectedly so that the enemy had no time to set up strong points and anti-tank defense. During defensive operations the vehicles were employed to support pre-planned surprise counter-attacks in order to disrupt enemy attacks.

Tanks at the Kursk Salient

Battle of Kursk tanksTanks depicted on this map represent the basic models and modifications that took part lathe Battle of Kursk Many more varieties of tanks were employed In Combat, but In much smaller numbers.

Moreover, there are no exact records as to which tanks belonged to which army units, especially after they came back to the battlefield from repair works. On top of that, the Germans took all Soviet tanks forT-34s while the Russians often confused the new German T-4 with the 'Tiger'''.

Pz V Ausf.D

The Panther (German name -Panzerkampfwagen V Panther abbreviated as PzKpfw V Panther) was a German tank used during World War II. It is beyond doubt one of the best-known heavy tanks that took part in WWII. The Wehrmacht had not planned on creating such a tank but was forced to do so in response to the Soviet medium tankT-34-76.

Mass production of Panthers started In January 1943. Germany planned to supply 250 tanks to its troops by May 12 to take part in the German Offensive Operation Citadel near Kursk. But the production of the new tanks was more challenging than anticipated so the start of Operation Citadel was postponed from May 15 to June 25 and eventually until July 5.

Most of the tanks had a stylized Image of a panther's head with its mouth open painted on their boards and on the back of their turrets, usually below the tank number. Panthers were heavily armed and armored but since the tank was rushed into production It had certain flaws.

Pz Kpfw I

German light tank used during the 1930s. Despite the fact that only a few tanks of this type took part in the Battle of Kursk, they managed to spark panic among the Soviet infantry, even more so than the bombings.

The tank appeared from a hidden position, fired a few shots at the infantry and disappeared leaving behind only dust and a few smoke clouds from exploding shells that didn't even leave craters. A number of those tanks remained In use up until 1944, but mostly for anti-guerilla operations, as they were badly suited for the Soviet-German and Western Fronts.

Pz Kpfw II

The Pz Kpfw II (full name - Panzerkampfwagen II, also known as Sd Kfz 121)was a German light tank used during World War II. It was designed In 1937 and various models remained in production until 1942. At the beginning of WWII such tanks made up 38 per cent of the Wehrmacht's tank force. In combat action they were weaker in their armament and armor than practically all other tanks of similar type.

They were only withdrawn from the German tank troops in 1942 and partially used by assault artillery brigades or on secondary parts of the front. On the Eastern Front the Pz Kpfw II was used up until 1943. Seventy such tanks took part in Operation Citadel.

Pz Kpfw III

The Pz. Kpfw III was a German medium tank used during World War II in production from 1933 to 1943. Such tanks were used by the Wehrmacht from the very first day of WWII until the last such vehicle was destroyed on the battlefield. The tanks were used for reconnaissance, anti-guerilla operations, patrolling unit's lines and guarding headquarters.

The crew with a Pz Kpfw III

Pz.V Ausf.D

Pz V Ausf.D of the 10th Tank Brigade "Panther Brigade

10th SS Tank Brigade

With the appearance of new vehicles with stronger armor, the Wehrrnacht began setting up brigades capable of temporarily reinforcing a tank division. During the war they were regarded as temporary units. The 10th Tank Brigade was established June 27, 1943 to take part in Operation Citadel. It Included the 39th Panther Tank Regiment and the 503rd Heavy Tank Battalion. These were never used as a single unit. The 39th Tan k Regiment was affiliated to the Tank Grenadier Division "Greater Germany and the 503rd Heavy Tank Battalion to the 3rd Tank Corps.

Pz Kpfw VI

SS Panzergrenadiers with a Tiger IThe Panserkampfwagen VI “Tiger I” also known simply as "Tiger", was a Germen heavy tank used during World War II.

It was designed in 1937-1942 by a firm called "Henschel" The project was headed by Erwin Aders. It was the most formidable tank of WWII, exemplifying the best of military hardware.

The tank first came into mass use during the Battle of Kursk, and was then used by the Wehrmacht and SS troops until the end of WWII.

Tiger IWhen it first appeared it was the world’s best-armed and armored tank and continued to be so at least until November 1943. Tigers were most massively used in the Battle of Kursk.

The plan was to have 285 tigers ready for battle by May 12, 1943, but eventually only 246 tanks were supplied to the troops.

Most were stationed at the Orel-Kursk Salient. For operation Citadel the German Command used two heavy tank battalions (5113rd and 505th) and two companies which were part of motorized divisions.

Infantry tank Churchill

"Churchill" tanks, basically variants MK III and IV were supplied to the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease program. On the SovIet-German Front, those tanks took partiIn such large operations as The Battle of Kursk and the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad.

Lend-Lease was a state-funded program under which Washington supplied its WWII allies with munitions, food and strategic raw materials including oil products, usually free of charge.

T-70

The T-70 was a Soviet light tank used during World War II. It was designed in October-November 1941 at the Gorky car plant (GAZ). The project was headed by Nikolay Astrov, the leading designer of all Soviet light tanks at the time. In January 1942 T-70 was put into service in the Red Army The tank was produced by several car manufacturers.

The Battle of Kursk became the peak of the T-70's career -afterwards It was quickly withdrawn from the arrny as it finally became clear that light tanks were next to useless in open combat. But it is fair to say that fewerT-70s were lost In combat action than T-34s, for instance.

One of the reasons is that as a rule, it was used in second echelons of attacking combat order and against smaller enemy tanks. T-70s were easy to destroy as they burned like a box of matches.

T-34-76

T-34The T-34-76 was a Soviet medium tank used during World War II. It was in production from 1940 and, starting from 1944, became the basic medium tank of the Soviet Red Army.

It was also the most widely used medium tank during World War II. The T-34-76 of 1942 design (as it is traditionally called by historians) was one of the most mass-produced variants of the tank.

By July 1943, 11,461 such tanks had been produced. What differentiated this model from previous variants was a new turret designed in the spring of 1942 by Mark Nabutovsky, making it more technologically advanced. The turret had two modifications – a cast steel turret 52mrn thick and a pressed turret 45 mm thick. Both were used in the Battle of Kursk and the Battle of Stalingrad.

KV-1s

The KV-1s was a Soviet heavy tank used during World War II. KV stands for Klim Voroshlloy - the official name of Soviet heavy tanks mass-produced from 1940 to 1943."1s" stands for the speedy modification of the tank's first model. The creation of the KV-1s was a justified step given the unsuccessful first stage of the war But as a result the vehicle moved closer to medium tanks.

Thus the army didn't get a fully-fledged (by later standards) heavy tank that would have stood out against medium tanks in terms of combat power A model of the KV-1s with an 85mm gun remained only experimental as in 1941-42 regular 76 mm guns could easily destroy any German armored vehicle. So designers saw no reason to make the KV-1s stronger.

But after the German Pz VI (a 'Tiger" equipped with a 88mm gun) appeared, the KV-1s became outdated overnight as it was no Longer capable of fighting against German heavy tanks.

SU-152 Kursk "Animal Slayers"

The SU-152 was a Soviet heavy self-propelled artillery vehicle used during World War II. It was based on the heavy tank KV- 1s and armed with a powerful 152mm howitzer gun ML-205. The SU-152 could be used both as a heavy tank destroyer and a heavy assault gun. It could also serve as a self-propelled howitzer to some extent. At the Kursk Salient many crews of self-propelled artillery vehicles showed heroism and professional command of their vehicles. The crew of Major Sankovsky's

SU-152, for example, destroyed ten German tanks in just one day. During the Orel-Kursk Operation his regiment destroyed seven "Ferdinands" ("Elefants") and ten "Tigers” as well as other German vehicles (some sources claim eight "Ferdinands" and twelve “Tlgers" were destroyed). For such outstanding results in combat against the Wehrmacht's "zoo" two Soviet soldiers nicknamed the SU-152 "Animal”.

SU-122

The SU-122 was a Soviet medium self-propelled assault gun. It could also be used as a self-propelled howitzer with some limitations. It was the first Soviet self-propelled artillery vehicle to enter mass production. The SU-122 was created to maximally simplify the design of T-34 tanks in the heavy conditions of 1942 and also served as a highly mobile vehicle, providing tank and vehicle units with fire support.

The Soviet Command hoped the SU-122 would become a good weapon against the enemy's new heavy armored vehicles during the Battle of Kursk but in reality SUI-122s had only limited success while suffering heavy losses.

SU-76 m

A Soviet light self-propelled artillery vehicle, the SU-76m was based on the light tank T-70 and was supposed to provide infantry support. But despite the scope of the Battle of Kursk the vehicle was not used massively.

Battle of Kursk: Eastern Front 1943