In the comments to the publication The use of German armored vehicles in the postwar period I recklessly announced that the last article in the series will deal with the use of captured German artillery.
However, after assessing the amount of information, I came to the conclusion that it was necessary to make a breakdown by mortars, field, anti-tank and anti-aircraft artillery. In this regard, at least three more articles devoted to captured German artillery systems will be presented to the readers' judgment.
Today we will look at German mortars and multiple launch rocket systems.
50 mm mortar 5 cm le.Gr.W. 36
During the initial period of the war, our troops often captured the German 50-mm mortars 5 cm le.Gr.W. 36 (German 5cm leichter Granatenwerfer 36). This mortar was created by the designers of Rheinmetall-Borsig AG in 1934, and entered service in 1936.
Mortar 5 cm le.Gr.W. 36 had a "dull" scheme - that is, all the elements are placed on a single gun carriage. The barrel is 460 mm long and other mechanisms are mounted on a base plate. A spindle adjustable in height and direction was used for guidance. The mass of the mortar in the firing position was 14 kg. The mortar was served by two people, who were given an ammunition carrier.
50 mm mortar 5 cm le.Gr.W. 36
The initial speed of a 50 mm mine weighing 910 g was 75 m / s. Maximum firing range - 575 m. Minimum - 25 m. Vertical guidance angles: 42 ° - 90 °. Horizontal: 4 °. Rough aiming was carried out by turning the base plate.
A well-trained crew could fire 20 rounds per minute. Combat rate of fire with aiming correction did not exceed 12 rds / min. A fragmentation mine, containing 115 g of cast TNT, had a radius of destruction of about 5 m.
The Wehrmacht command considered the 50-mm mortar as a means of fire support for the company-platoon level. And they pinned great hopes on him.
Each rifle company, according to the staffing table in 1941, was supposed to have three mortars. The infantry division was supposed to have 84 50-mm mortars.
On September 1, 1939, the troops had about 6000 company mortars. As of April 1, 1941, there were 14 913-mm mortars and 50 rounds for them.
However, the 50-mm mortar as a whole did not justify itself.
Its firing range approximately corresponded to the effective range of rifle and machine gun fire, which made mortar crews vulnerable and reduced their combat value. The fragmentation effect of the shells left much to be desired, and the high-explosive effect was not enough to destroy light field fortifications and barbed wire.
During the hostilities, it also became clear that mine fuses did not have the required level of reliability and safety. Cases were not uncommon when mines did not explode when hit in liquid mud and a deep snowdrift. Or vice versa - the detonation occurred immediately after the shot, which was fraught with the death of the crew. Due to the too high sensitivity of the fuse, shooting in the rain was prohibited.
Due to low efficiency and unsatisfactory safety, in 1943 the production of mortars 5 cm le.Gr.W. 36 has been rolled up.
The 50-mm mortars remaining in the troops were used to a limited extent until the end of hostilities.
However, in the second half of the war, the Red Army also abandoned company mortars. And the remaining 50 mm mines were converted into hand grenades.
This is not to say that captured 50-mm mortars were popular among the Red Army.
German company mortars were sometimes used as a freelance fire enhancement tool in long-term defense.
In the summer and autumn of 1944, there were cases of successful combat use of light mortars in street battles. Captured mortars were installed on the upper armor of the lungs tanks T-70 and were used to fight the enemy infantry, entrenched in attics and rooftops.
Based on this, the specialists of the BTU GBTU, who analyzed the combat experience, recommended continuing the use of captured 50-mm mortars in the units of the armored forces of the Red Army, participating in the battles for the cities.
The partisans used company mortars to shell German strongholds in the occupied territory. Relatively light 50mm mortars worked well for this. Having fired a dozen mines from the maximum distance, it was possible to quickly retreat.
81 mm mortar 8 cm sGW 34
Much more powerful (compared to the 50 mm) was the 81 mm 8 cm sGW 34 mortar (German 8 cm Granatwerfer 34).
The mortar was created in 1932 by Rheinmetall-Borsig AG. And in 1934 he entered service. In the period from 1937 to 1945. German industry produced more than 70 000-mm mortars, which were used on all fronts.
The 8 cm sGW 34 mortar had a classic design according to the scheme
and consisted of a barrel with a breech, a base plate, a bipod and a sight.
A two-legged carriage of two support legs of the same design (due to the presence of a hinge joint) allows a rough setting of the vertical guidance angles. The exact same installation was carried out using a lifting mechanism.
81 mm mortar 8 cm sGW 34
In the firing position, the 8 cm sGW 34 mortar weighed 62 kg (57 kg using parts made of light alloys). And he could do up to 25 rounds / min.
Vertical guidance angles: from 45 ° to 87 °. Horizontal guidance: 10 °. A mine weighing 3,5 kg left a barrel 1143 mm long with an initial speed of 211 m / s, which made it possible to hit targets at a distance of up to 2400 m.
In the second half of the war, an enhanced propellant charge was introduced with a firing range of up to 3000 m.
The ammunition included fragmentation and smoke mines.
In 1939, a bouncing fragmentation mine was created, which, after falling, was thrown upward with a special powder charge and was detonated at a height of 1,5-2 m.
The air blast ensured a more effective defeat of manpower hidden in craters and trenches, and also made it possible to avoid the negative effect of snow cover on the formation of a fragmentation field.
Fragmentation 81 mm mines 8 cm Wgr. 34 and 8 cm Wgr. 38 contained 460 g of cast TNT or ammatol. Fragmentation bouncing mine 8 cm Wgr. 39 was equipped with cast TNT or cast ammatol and a powder charge in the warhead. Explosive weight - 390 g, gunpowder - 16 g. The radius of destruction by fragments is up to 25 m.
Each Wehrmacht infantry battalion was supposed to have six 81-mm mortars. On September 1, 1939, the troops had 4624 mortars. As of June 1, 1941, there were 11 mortars in the Wehrmacht's infantry divisions.
Production of the 8 cm sGW34 continued until the end of the war.
On January 1, 1945, 16 mortars were registered.
The first cases of the use of captured 81-mm mortars were recorded in July 1941. In 1942, infantry battalions appeared in the Red Army, which were attached to batteries equipped with German-made mortars. In the middle of 1942, instructions for use and manuals for combat use were published.
It is noteworthy that there was the possibility of firing German 81-mm mines from Soviet 82-mm battalion mortars. Since the ballistics of German and Soviet shots were different, firing tables were issued for the use of 81 mm mines.
The Red Army quite intensively used captured 81-mm 8 cm sGW34 mortars against the former owners. And (unlike the 50 mm 5 cm le.Gr.W. 36 mortars) after the surrender of Germany, for the most part, they were not sent for scrap.
A significant number of German-made 81-mm mortars in the first post-war decade were in the armed forces of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Romania.
In the second half of the 1940s, the Soviet Union donated several hundred captured German mortars to the Chinese Communists, who were waging an armed struggle against the Kuomintang. Subsequently, these mortars actively fought on the Korean Peninsula and were used against the French and Americans during the hostilities in Southeast Asia.
In the 1960s-1970s, there were cases when the Soviet government, not wanting to advertise cooperation with some national liberation movements, supplied them weapon foreign production, including the German 81-mm mortars 8 cm sGW 34.
120-mm mortar Gr.W. 42
In the initial period of the war, the Germans had a 105-mm mortar 10,5 cm Nebelwerfer 35, which structurally was an enlarged 81-mm mortar 8 cm sGW34 and was originally developed for firing chemical ammunition.
Given that the top of the Third Reich did not dare to use chemical weapons, only fragmentation and high-explosive mines weighing 7,26-7,35 kg were used for firing.
The mass of the 105-mm mortar in the firing position was 107 kg. And in terms of firing range, it slightly surpassed the 81-mm 8 cm sGW 34 mortar.
In 1941, due to the unsatisfactory range and excessive weight, the production of the 105 mm 10,5 cm Nebelwerfer 35 mortar was discontinued.
At the same time, the Germans were greatly impressed by the Soviet regimental 120-mm PM-38 mortar.
PM-38 in combat position weighed 282 kg. The firing range was 460-5700 m. The rate of fire without correcting the aiming was 15 rds / min. A high-explosive fragmentation mine weighing 15,7 kg contained up to 3 kg of TNT.
In 1941, the advancing German forces captured a large number of PM-38s. And they used trophies under the designation 12 cm Granatwerfer 378 (r). In the future, the Germans used the captured mortar very actively.
The Soviet PM-38 was so successful that the German command ordered to copy it.
A German mortar known as the Gr.W. 42 (German Granatwerfer 42) from January 1943 was produced at the Waffenwerke Brünn plant in Brno.
At the same time, the transport trolley received a more robust design, adapted for towing by mechanical traction.
120-mm mortar Gr.W. 42 differed from the PM-38 in production technology and sighting devices. The mass of the mortar in the combat position was 280 kg. Thanks to the use of a more powerful propellant charge and a mine lighter by 100 g, the maximum firing range was increased to 6050 m.
But otherwise, its combat characteristics corresponded to the Soviet prototype.
From January 1943 to May to May 1945, 8461 120mm Gr.W. mortars were fired. 42.
During offensive operations, the Red Army captured several hundred clones of the Soviet PM-38 mortar produced in the Czech Republic. Considering that for shooting from the German Gr.W. 42 and the Soviet PM-38, the same mines could be used, there were no difficulties with the supply of 120-mm mortars with ammunition.
In the post-war period (until the mid-1960s) captured mortars Gr.W. 42 were used in Eastern Europe. And Czechoslovakia exported them to the Middle East.
150 mm rocket mortar 15 cm Nb.W. 41
Created before World War II in Germany, multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) were originally intended for firing projectiles equipped with chemical warfare agents and a smoke-forming composition for setting up camouflage smoke screens. This is reflected in the name of the first German serial 150-mm MLRS - Nebelwerfer (German "Fog-thrower") or "Type D smoke mortar".
During World War II, Germany was inferior to the Allies in terms of the total stocks of accumulated chemical warfare agents.
At the same time, the high level of development of the German chemical industry and the presence of an excellent theoretical base allowed German chemists to make a breakthrough in the field of chemical weapons in the late 1930s.
In the course of research on the creation of means to combat insects, the most deadly type of toxic substances in service was discovered - nerve poisons. Initially, it was possible to synthesize a substance later known as "Tabun". Later, even more poisonous substances were created and produced on an industrial scale: "Zarin" and "Soman".
Fortunately for the allied armies, the use of toxic substances against them did not take place.
Germany, doomed to defeat in the war by conventional means, did not try to turn the tide of the war in its favor with the help of the latest chemical weapons. For this reason, the German MLRS used only high-explosive, incendiary, smoke and agitation mines for firing.
Tests of the 150-mm six-barreled mortar and rocket mines began in 1937. And by the beginning of 1940, the "Fog thrower" was brought to the required level of combat readiness.
This weapon was first used by the Germans during the French campaign. In 1942 (after entering service with the 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer 41 MLRS), the installation was renamed 15 cm Nb.W. 41 (15 cm Nebelwerfer 41).
The installation was a package of six tubular guides with a length of 1300 mm, combined into a block and mounted on a converted carriage of a 37-mm anti-tank gun 3,7 cm Pak 35/36.
The rocket mortar had a vertical guidance mechanism with a maximum elevation angle of 45 ° and a swivel mechanism that provided a 24 ° horizontal firing sector. In the combat position, the wheels were hung out, the carriage rested on the bipod of the sliding beds and the folding front stop. Loading took place from the breech. Sometimes, for better stability when firing from launchers, the wheel drive was dismantled.
German designers managed to create a very light and compact rocket launcher. The combat weight in the equipped position reached 770 kg, in the stowed position this figure was equal to 515 kg. For short distances, the installation could be rolled by the forces of calculation. The volley lasted about 10 seconds. A well-functioning crew of 5 people could reload a gun in 90 seconds.
After aiming the mortar at the target, the crew went into cover and, with the help of the launch unit, fired in series of 3 mines. The ignition of the electric igniter at start occurs remotely from the battery of the vehicle towing the installation.
For firing, 150-mm turbojet mines were used, which had a very unusual device for their time.
The war charge, which consisted of 2 kg of TNT, was located in the tail section, and in the front - a solid-fuel jet engine with a fairing, equipped with a perforated bottom with 28 nozzles inclined at an angle of 14 °. The stabilization of the projectile after launch was carried out due to rotation at a speed of about 1000 revolutions per second, provided by inclined nozzles.
The main difference between the German 15 cm Wurfgranete rocket mine from the Soviet M-8 and M-13 missiles was the method of stabilization in flight. The turbojet projectiles had a higher accuracy, since this stabilization method also made it possible to compensate for the eccentricity of the engine thrust. In addition, shorter guides could be used. Since, unlike the missiles stabilized by the tail, the effectiveness of stabilization did not depend on the initial speed of the missile. But due to the fact that part of the energy of the outflowing gases was spent on unwinding the projectile, the firing range was shorter than that of a feathered rocket.
The maximum range of a high-explosive fragmentation rocket with a launch weight of 34,15 kg was 6700 m. The maximum flight speed was 340 m / s. The Nebelwerfer had a very good accuracy for a MLRS of that time.
At a distance of 6000 m, the dispersion of shells along the front was 60–90 m, and at a range of 80–100 m. The dispersal of lethal fragments during the explosion of a high-explosive fragmentation warhead was 40 meters along the front and 15 meters ahead of the place of the rupture. Large fragments retained their lethal force at a distance of more than 200 m.
The relatively high firing accuracy made it possible to use rocket mortars to fire not only area targets, but also point targets. Although, of course, with significantly less efficiency than a conventional artillery piece.
At the beginning of 1942, the Wehrmacht had three regiments of rocket launchers (three divisions in each), as well as nine separate divisions. The division consisted of three fire batteries, 6 units each.
Since 1943, batteries of 150-mm rocket launchers began to be included in the light battalions of artillery regiments of infantry divisions, replacing 105-mm field howitzers in them. As a rule, one division had two batteries of MLRS, but in some cases their number was increased to three. In total, the German industry produced 5283 15 cm Nb.W. 41 and 5,5 million high-explosive and smoke mines.
Reactive six-barreled mortars were very actively used on the Soviet-German front. On the Eastern Front, being in service with the 4th Special Purpose Chemical Regiment, from the first hours of the war they were used to shell the Brest Fortress and fired over 2800 high-explosive rocket mines.
When firing from a 150-mm six-barreled mortar, the shells gave a clearly visible trail of smoke, giving out the location of the firing position.
Considering that the German MLRS were a priority target for our artillery, this was their big drawback.
210 mm rocket mortar 21 cm Nb.W. 42
In 1942, a 210 mm five-barreled 21 cm Nb.W. rocket launcher entered service. 42. It was fired from 21 cm Wurfgranate jet mines, stabilized in flight by rotation. As with 150 mm rockets, the 210 mm rocket nozzles, located at an angle to the body axis, ensured its rotation.
Structurally, the 210-mm 21 cm Nb.W. 42. had a lot in common with the 15 cm Nb.W. 41 and mounted on a similar gun carriage. In the firing position, the mass of the installation was 1100 kg, in the stowed position - 605 kg.
The volley was fired within 8 seconds, reloading the mortar took about 90 seconds. The powder charge in the jet engine burned out in 1,8 s, accelerating the projectile to a speed of 320 m / s, which provided a flight range of 7850 m.
A jet mine, in the warhead of which contained up to 28,6 kg of cast TNT or amatol, had a strong destructive effect.
The German crew loads a 210 mm 21 cm Nb.W. 42
If necessary, there was the possibility of firing single shells, which made it easier to zero in. Also, with the help of special inserts, it was possible to fire 150-mm shells from a 15 cm Nb.W. six-barreled mortar. 41. If necessary, a crew of six could roll 21 cm Nebelwerfer 42 over short distances.
Five-barreled installations were actively used by the Germans until the last days of the war.
In total, more than 1550 towed MLRS of this type were produced. In terms of service, operational and combat characteristics, the 21 cm Nb.W. 42 can be considered the best German MLRS used during World War II.
Rocket mortar 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer 41
In the initial period of the war, during the combat use of 150-mm six-barreled rocket launchers, it became clear that their firing range in most cases during the provision of direct fire support was excessive when striking the enemy's front edge.
At the same time, it was highly desirable to increase the power of the missile warhead, since in a 150-mm jet mine, most of the internal volume was occupied by jet fuel. In this regard, two large-caliber rocket mines were created using a well-developed solid-fuel engine of a 150-mm projectile 15 cm Wurfgranete.
280 mm rocket mine
The 280-mm high-explosive fragmentation missile was loaded with 45,4 kg of explosives.
With a direct hit of ammunition in a brick building, it was completely destroyed, and the lethal effect of the fragments remained at a distance of more than 400 m.The warhead of a 320-mm incendiary rocket was filled with 50 liters of incendiary substance (crude oil) and had an explosive charge of explosives weighing 1 kg. An incendiary projectile, when used in populated areas or in wooded areas, could cause a fire on an area of 150-200 m².
Since the mass and drag of the new rocket projectiles were significantly higher than that of the 150 cm Wurfgranete 15-mm projectile, the firing range decreased by about three times. And it was 1950-2200 m with a maximum projectile speed of 150-155 m / s. This made it possible to fire only at targets on the line of contact and in the immediate rear of the enemy.
Calculation with launcher 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer 41
A simplified launcher was created to launch high-explosive and incendiary rockets.
A two-tier barrel truss was attached to a wheeled carriage with a fixed frame bed. The guides made it possible to load both 280-mm high-explosive (28 cm Wurfkorper Spreng) and 320-mm incendiary (32 cm Wurfkorper Flam) rockets.
The mass of the unloaded installation was 500 kg, which made it possible to freely roll it on the battlefield by the crew. Combat weight of the installation, depending on the type of missiles used: 1600-1650 kg. The horizontal firing sector was 22 °, the elevation angle was 45 °. A volley of 6 missiles took 10 s, and could be reloaded in 180 s.
During the war, the Germans discontinued production of 320-mm incendiary missiles due to their lack of effectiveness. In addition, the thin-walled bodies of the incendiary shells were not very reliable, they often leaked and collapsed on launch.
In the conditions of a total shortage of oil, at the final stage of hostilities, the enemy decided that it was not rational to use it to equip incendiary shells.
The 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer 41 towed launchers were produced 320 units. They were also sent to form rocket artillery battalions. 280-mm and 320-mm rockets could be used without towed launchers. For this it was necessary to dig out the starting position. Mines in boxes of 1–4 were located on leveled sloping areas of soil on top of wooden flooring.
Early release rockets at launch often did not come out of the seals and were fired along with them. Since wooden boxes greatly increased aerodynamic drag, the range of fire was significantly reduced. And there was a danger of destruction of their units.
The frames located in fixed positions were soon replaced by "heavy throwing devices" (schweres Wurfgerat). The seals-guides (four pieces) were installed on a light frame metal or wooden machine. The frame could be located at different angles, which made it possible to give the PU elevation angles from 5 to 42 degrees.
The combat weight of a wooden sWG 40 loaded with 280-mm missiles was 500 kg. With 320 mm ammunition - 488 kg. For the steel launcher sWG 41, these characteristics were 558 and 548 kg, respectively.
The volley was fired for 6 s, the reload speed was 180 s.
The sights were very primitive and included only a conventional protractor. Constant calculations for the maintenance of these simple installations did not stand out: any infantryman could conduct fire from sWG 40/41.
The first massive use of the 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer 41 installations took place on the Eastern Front during the German summer offensive in 1942. They were especially widely used during the siege of Sevastopol.
Because of the characteristic sound of flying rockets, they received the nicknames "creak" and "donkey" from Soviet soldiers. Another colloquial name is “Vanyusha” (by analogy with “Katyusha”).
Rocket mortar 15 cm Nb.W. 41 at the collection point of captured artillery weapons
Taking into account that the enemy widely used multiple launch rocket systems, they were often captured in good condition by our soldiers.
The organized use of German six-barreled mortars in the Red Army was organized at the beginning of 1943, when the first battery was formed.
To ensure the combat activities of units with trophy rocket launchers, the collection and centralized accounting of ammunition was organized. And the shooting tables were translated into Russian.
Apparently, our troops captured the five-barreled 210-mm 21 cm Nebelwerfer 42 mortars much less often than the 150-mm six-barreled 15 cm Wurfgranete.
It was not possible to find references to their regular use in the Red Army.
Separate trophy installations could supernaturally be attached to Soviet units of regimental and divisional artillery.
In the first half of 1942, in besieged Leningrad, the production of rocket mines began, according to their design, repeating the German 28 cm Wurfkorper Spreng and 32 cm Wurfkorper Flam.
They were launched from portable frame installations and were well suited for trench warfare.
The warheads of the M-28 high-explosive projectiles were equipped with a surrogate explosive based on ammonium nitrate. Incendiary mines M-32 were poured with combustible waste of oil refining, the igniter of the combustible mixture was a small charge of explosives placed in a glass of white phosphorus.
But few incendiary 320-mm rocket mines, which demonstrated low efficiency, were released. More than 280 units of 10000-mm high-explosive shells were produced in Leningrad.
Although the Germans did not release the 28/32 cm Nebelwerfer 41 towed launchers, they, along with 280 and 320-mm rocket mines, also became trophies of the Red Army and were used against the former owners. Much more, the Red Army captured frame installations designed to launch rockets from the ground.
For example, in a report submitted by the headquarters of the 347th Rifle Division to the operational department of the 10th Rifle Corps (1st Baltic Front) in March 1945, it is said about the regular use of 280 and 320-mm TMA (heavy propelling units) to shell enemy positions.
Since November 1944, each of the three rifle regiments of the 347th division had a "TMA battery". The installations were actively used as "nomadic guns" for one salvo with the subsequent change of the firing position.
It was noted that surprise strikes against German infantry units prepared for counterattacks were especially effective. In addition to tangible losses in manpower, the effect of TMA had a significant demoralizing effect on the enemy's personnel. The document indicates that during the period of defensive battles from November 1944 to March 1945, the division spent 320 captured missiles.
In March 1945, the command of the 49th Army (2nd Belorussian Front) issued an order in which the chiefs of artillery of corps and divisions were ordered to use captured rocket launchers to destroy enemy defense points, anti-tank and wire obstacles.
The last armed conflict in which the German "Fog-throwers" participated was the war on the Korean Peninsula.
Several dozen captured 15 cm Nb.W. 41 were at the disposal of the North Korean army and the Chinese people's volunteers.
With American air supremacy aviation and hilly terrain, the German six-barreled rocket launchers, which had great tactical mobility, performed better than the Soviet Katyushas.
The towed installations could be rolled by the forces of calculation and used horse-drawn traction. In addition, the very compact German MLRS was much easier to camouflage than the Soviet BM-13N rocket artillery combat vehicles on a cargo chassis.
In the DPRK, assessing the capabilities of this weapon, they launched the release of ammunition for rocket-propelled mortars.
Analyzing the results of hostilities in Korea, Soviet experts noted the high efficiency of this weapon in rough terrain.
To be continued ...