Kursk - July 1943
Recommended book, "Kursk 1943: A Statistical Analysis", £30, Amazon paperback
Operation Zitadelle (the Kursk offensive) saw the introduction of the German Tiger 1 (heavy tank), Panther (medium tank) and the mass employment of the Soviet T34 (medium tank). Both sides had numerous other tanks - the bilk of the German forces were the Panzer 4 (medium) and Panzer 3 (light tank) whilst the Soviets had the KV-1 (a slow medium/heavy tank) as well as qunatities of the T-60/70 (light tanks). Both sides had self-propelled anti-tank guns - the Germans introducing the 'Elephant' (heavy) to complement the StuG's, whilst the Soviets had the SU's.
It's to be noted that the old German Panzer IV was actually better armoured than the T-34 (80mm front V's 45mm sloped = about 70mm equiv) and even had a slightly better gun (75L48 v's 76.2L42.5), however the T-34 (34mph) could run rings around the Panzer IV (at 25 mph), especially off-road.
So the Panther was designed not to 'equal' the T-34 but to 'beat it hollow', which it arguably did. At Kursk the Panther suffered from many 'teething problems' (break downs due to being rushed into service without proper testing) and the fact that there was never enough Panthers to make a decisive difference (the same being true of almost everything once the war had started in earnest) however it's long 75mm gun (in some ways better than the Tigers' short 88) could pick off the T34 at long range whilst the T34 had real problems penetrating the Panthers front armour.
Hitler twice delayed Zitadelle from the planned May start as he waited for more Panthers and Tigers to reach the front, whish allowed the Russians dig in 5 lines of defences, from Orel (North) to Belgorod (South) around Kursk (center) spaced about 8 miles (12.5km) apart, with a final line 150 miles from the front. Most of their tanks were positioned in the North, and most of their reserves in the South. The Germans started with 100 Panthers and over 90 Tigers in the South, fewer Tigers and no Panthers in the North. They had few reserves (in the South, the reserve tank forces were under Hitlers direct control and he seems to have forgotten they existed). The Germans had concentrated most of their tanks on the Eastern front for the Kursk offensive. On day 1, the Russians opened fire first (causing sufficient confusion to delay the German attack by an hour or so, but apparently causing few casualties) and then the Germans started their attack (in the South, along the Odel/Kursk railway line). The Soviets also launched air-raids against the German airbases. These were beaten off with considerable Soviet losses, but this may well have disrupted the initial German air support for their ground attacks. The German tanks were soon mired in the mined and interlocking Soviet defences which (long story short), ground the attack down and prevented any decisive breakthrough. By the time the German tank forces managed to get through the worst of the defences and into some more open ground, they ran into a concentrated Soviet tank force (at Prokhorovka) which resulted in a short range slugging match. Despite an almost 15:1 kill ratio in the German favour, their forces were exhausted and could go no further. Just as Hitler was calling off the attack, the Soviets counter-offensive started against the denuded German flanks (held by weak allied forces) both to the North and South of the Kursk salient The Germans had no choice but to retreat (or be encircled) and they never regained the initiative. At Kursk (and especially Prokhorovka) the Germans achieved air superiority over the battle field, however the weather didn't help (with frequent low clouds and rain often preventing air support). They were hard pressed by the Soviet air arm, which did have some success against Germans at the front but were perhaps more effective in attacking the German supply convoys (which also suffered from partisan activities).
Prokhorovka (12th-16th July)
The Battle of Prokhorovka took place to the South of Kursk when the Russian 5th Guards Tank Army, moving to stabilise the front, ran headlong into the German II SS-Panzer Corps, who were just preparing their own attack. It's possible the Germans could have been overrun if it wasn't for a Soviet anti-tank ditch that stopped their own tanks in their tracks (and where some were soon being picked off at range by the German Tigers, of which only some 30 were actually available, with no Panthers or 'Elephants' at all).
Prokhorovka was largely a (T34) tank v (Pz IV) tank battle, as low clouds in the morning and thunderstorms in the afternoon inhibited air operations for both sides. However it's generally agreed that the Luftwaffe had complete air superiority, and they did manage to fly some missions with formations of Stukas (including a small number of G-2s experimentally equipped with the 37mm BK37 cannon), along with Fw 190 fighter-bombers and the Hs 129 ground-attack aircraft (equipped with 30mm anti-tank cannon). Prokhorovka effectively marked the end of the battle of Kursk, as Hitler canceled the offensive and order his units to withdraw (which they started to do on night of 17/18th) and turned his attention to the Western front. By then the Soviets had already launched counter-attacks on the German North and South attacks and now started their counteroffensive into the weak German allies holding the line to the North (at Orel) and South (Belograd) of the Kursk salient, thus forcing the Germans into retreat. Overall, Kursk was more of a German defeat (as Hitler squandered the best and last of the irreplaceable German air-force and threw away significant numbers of his best tanks) than a Soviet victory (they lost at least 5x more Tanks than the Germans = 1,600 v 323, however these could be easily replaced). The 'loss ratio' would have been far worse except for the fact that the Soviets managed to remain in control of the battlefield allowing them to recover their own damaged tanks and, to some extent, hinder the Germans from performing their usual miracle of recovering and repairing 3 out of every 4 Tanks 'lost' in combat (German tanks being less likely to catch fire (except the Panthers) and more likely to be 'put out of action' by broken tracks (especially the Tigers) etc.). By the end of Kursk, 49 immobile and damaged Panthers had had to be blown up to prevent them falling into Soviet hands, whilst 7 were captured As for infantry (which can't be 'repaired overnight'), at Kursk the Soviets lost at least 178,000 men (plus another 50,000 who simply disappeared from unit 'roll calls' without being acknowledged) compared to the Germans 54,000 (although, to paraphrase Stalin 'Who cares ? There are millions more where they came from') As for the battle of Prokhorovka, German combat losses were 'about' 45 Tanks (most of which they did manage to recover and repair) whilst the Soviets lost about 300 destroyed and another 300 damaged (i.e. later repaired) giving a loss ratio of 15:1 - not that this stopped Stalin (who was arguably even more deluded than Hitler when it came to military matters) claiming Prokhorovka as a 'great victory'.
It should be noted that the superb performance of the German engineering teams (in repairing damaged tanks) makes it extremely difficult to calculate how many tanks they had operational at any one time. For sure taking the day 0 'starting number' and subtracting day 1 losses doesn't tell you how many are operational on day 2 = in fact, the Germans had more Panthers available on Day 2 than they 'started with' on Day 1 (this was due to the large numbers breaking down on their way from the rail-head to the start line, most of which were repaired overnight) !
The Panther at this time was so unreliable that many required repair before they had a chance to become 'battle losses'. Of the some 250 Panthers known to have been assigned, some 40 odd were still undergoing repairs as the battle started (some sources give 200 as the total strength with only 40 'battle ready' on Day 1) The Soviets were much worse at repair. Whist the Germans typically recovered and repaired 3 out of every 4 tanks 'lost', the Soviets claimed to recover 1 in 2 (and even that only once the battle was over), although a more realistic figure (derived from the Soviet 18th Tank Corps loss reports after Prokhorovka, see below) would be 10 repaired T34's out of 45 lost (and 11 T60/70 out of 44) i.e. a real 'repair' ratio of only 1 in 4. The 'political' dimension of everything the Soviets reported always has to be taken into account. With no-one wanting to tell their superiors of the real losses (and especially not Stalin), it's entirely possible that the vast majority of claimed 'repairable' tanks were in fact total write-offs. Typically even the figures given don't add up - for example, after Prokhorovka the Soviet 18th Tank Corps give figures for "T34's left on the battlefield" as 45, of which they claim only 23 were "fully destroyed" and 10 were "evacuated" = leaving 12 unaccounted for. The T60/70 story is much the same, with "left on the battlefield" = 44, of which 11 were "evacuated", leaving 33 unaccounted for. Soviet reluctance to admit losses can also been seen in the 50,000 odd men who simply 'disappeared' at Kursk (i.e. not listed by the Soviets as 'lost' in any way at all), which can only be discovered by comparing the unit 'roll counts' before and after the battle.
The Kursk salient was 250 kilometres (160 miles) long from north to south and 160 kilometres (99 miles) from east to west.
To 'scale' the battlefield, we note that the Tiger 1 (with it's short 88mm gun) could disable a T34 at a range of about 4km. The long 88mm AA gun (which was also fitted to the Elephant) could kill the T34 at a range in excess of 6km. This would have a major effect on tactics (as in real life, the Soviets having no choice but to 'charge' the Tigers if they wanted to have any effect), the Tiger gets a range of 1-2 hex's (and the 88/Elephant 1-3), making 1 hex = 2km. This gave me a battle field 125 x 80 hex's in size (for a total of 10,000 hexs) = which would be (just) playable except for the units count. Each of the Soviets 5 lines of defence would be up to 100 hex's wide and manning up to 5x 100 = 500 hex's of defense work would need perhaps 2-300 'mines' and maybe the same in Infantry. Adding in at least another 200 Soviet units (artillery, tanks) gets us to 800 or so. To this we have to add about 400 German units (they were outnumbered about 2:1) which gets us to 1,000 or so units and a good chance CF will 'fall over'. Halving to 62x40 makes the battlefield way too 'cramped' (as well as making a nonsense of the gun ranges), so I ended up at 100 x 60. Even so, I end up with up perhaps 150 Soviet Infantry (plus 150 minefields). After adding tanks, artillery and aircraft, the Soviet unit count will be perhaps 500 units, thus giving the Germans maybe 250.
The battlefield was mostly flat, with low hills and some gullys. It is crossed by a number of rivers, some of which are fordable, others crossable with bridging equipment and some too wide to easily cross except at an existing bridge.
Although the battle took place during the summer, the weather was 'variable', i.e. often with low clouds and rain. Furthermore, the Soviets had dammed some streams to create marshland in some areas as part of their defences.
The opposing forces
The Germans started with about 2078 tanks + 850 SP guns (+ 780,000 men) organised in two groupss, Army Group Center and Army Group South
If we use the CF '5 tanks per unit' ratio, that would mean about 600 units for tanks alone ! To get a more manageable number, I decided on 50 tanks per unit, for a total force of 60 tank units.
The Soviets 'combat ready' forces were about 4679 tanks + 259 SP guns (+ 1.4m men, 27,663 guns and mortars). The Soviets could also call on reinforcements from the rear and flanks of the salient.
At 50 tanks per unit, the Soviets get around 98 armoured units.
The Germans were outnumbered almost 2:1 in armour at the start, but that's not the whole story. Ever since the start of WW2, they showed that by concentrating their forces they would make up for a numerically stronger, but more spread out enemy (especially given the Allied forces lack of radios in their tanks and their lack of any other tactic than 'drive straight at the enemy').
The Germans also had a very efficient battlefield 'recovery and repair' arm. Tanks immobilised due to track damage (often caused by mines) were often repaired whilst 'under fire'. They also recovered and repaired tanks 'overnight', often in time to go back into action the following day. This was especially true for the Tigers as about the only part of the Tiger that the Soviet 76mm armed T34 could damage was the (relatively easily fixed) tracks. At Kursk, overall, the Germans started with 146 Tigers and ended up with 140, i.e. having (totally) lost only 6. As for the Panthers, these were (apparently) more often 'out of action' due to mechanical failure than any enemy action (it seems the engines had a habit of catching fire on their own), and lack of reliability coupled to the lack of spares for a 'brand new' tank exaggerated Panther losses (by the evening of 11 July, before Prokhorovka on the 12th, only 38 Panthers were still operational, 31 were total write-offs and 131 were in need of repair). By the end of Kursk, Panzer-Regiment 39 starting with 200 Panthers, reported 58 total write-offs. Like the Americans, the Soviets had so many tanks that they made little effort to 'recover and repair' until well after the battle was over - and whilst there was often not much left of the crew when a T34 hit is hit by an 88mm shell, it seems that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 2 of the 'knocked out' tanks were eventually repaired. The British (for what it's worth) also failed to put much effort into battlefield recovery and repair until after the fighting was over, which was another reason why the British always lost so many tanks (the Germans usually ending up in control of the battlefield).
The German forces in detail
At Kursk as a whole = approx 800,000 Infantry, approx 2750 Tanks (of which some 240-270 Tigers), approx 7,500 Artillery (+ 2,500 rocket and heavy mortars) and approx 2,110 aircraft
At Prokhorovka, the Germans started with approx 294 tanks + assault guns (of which 15 Tigers but zero Panthers, although some may have been repaired in time to take part later)). Total losses (i.e. non-recovered / non-repairable) by the end of Prokhorovka = 48 tanks, of which some 7-9 were Tigers.
German unit types in detail
Towed Artillery --------------- Nebelwerfer (in 2 sizes, 15cm (40%) and 30cm (60%)) 105 howitzer, 10cm gun 150 howitzer 150 gun 170 gun 21cm howitzer 21cm gun Towed anti-tank guns -------------------- The 5 cm Pak 38 (L/60) was only just effective against T34 front (45 mm) @ short range (but could not penetrate the KV's) = so range 1. The 7.5 cm Pak 40 (bulk of all AT towed guns), effective against all Tanks = range 1-2 Dual AA / Anti-tank gun = 88mm, effective against all armour (but was slow to setup, needing to be dismounted from it's wwheeled carrier - the purpose built (integral wheels) anti-tank varient (8.8 cm Pak 43 was not available in time for Kursk) = range 1-3. Self-Propelled-Guns ('Tank Destroyers') --------------------------------------- 'Elefant' (aka 'Ferdinand') Heavy SP gun (Tank destroyer) 68T, 12mph, long(L71) 88mm, 200mm (flat) = range 1-3. StuG III Ausf. F = medium self-propelled assault gun based on the P2tKpfW III chassis, mounting a (short) 75mm gun = range 1-2 Tanks ----- Pz Kpfw II = light tank 9T, 25mph, 15mm armour, 20mm gun (range 1) Pz Kpfw III = light/medium tank 23T, 25mph(rd)/12mph(off rd), 30-50mm armour, long 50mm gun (range 1) PzKpfw IV = medium tank 25T, 25mph(rd)/10mph(off), 80mm armour, 75L48 gun (range 1) Pz Kpfw V Panther = medium/heavy 45T, 34mph(rd), 60/80mm front sloped srmour (side 40/45mm), 75L70 gun (range 1-2) Pz Kpfw VI Tiger = heavy 55T, 24mph, 110mm flat armour, 88L56mm (range 1-2) Aircraft ======== JU87 Stuka = low level anti-tank 255mph 2x37 cannon / 1800Kg bombs (1x bomb) 79x Henschel Hs 129 = ground attack (range 1) Fw 190 Fs = fighter (range 1) Note, the Germans fielded "approx 2 bombers per fighter", giving 33% fighters, 66% bombers.
Armour available at Kursk
The 'combat ready' strength of the German forces were reported to HQ on a regular basis with typical German efficiency, whilst Soviet numbers were somewhat less reliable (perhaps being rather more 'political', especially when it comes to readness (over-stated) and losses (understated)) - for example on the eve of battle, the Soviet 'combat ready' tank count was reported to be about 90% of the known total (which is really hard to believe even after all the time available to the Soviets for preparation).
Of course during an actual battle figures become much less reliable, so the EXACT tank strength of the German forces at Prokhorovka can always be disputed. By the end of the battle, 'combat ready' number reports by for the 'loosing' side (i.e. the ones retreating from the field) will be even more chaotic (indeed, the exact fate of up to 1 million German MIA's on the Eastern Front remains unknown to this day, although we can assume the vast majority where captured and subsequently perished in Siberia or elsewhere). However, whilst men can be overlooked in trenches and artillery remain hidden in woods etc., tanks, which will usually be moving along roads, (especially when moving to the 'start line') are rather easier to count
Germans, approx 2078 tanks + 850 SP guns (+ 780,900 men)
The German forces were organised into 2 'arms', Army Group Center (9th Army, approx 988 armoured vehicles) and Army Group South (4th Panzer Army and Army Detachment "Kempf" (with 48 Tigers) for a total of approx 1,377 armoured vehicles (of which 200-250 Panthers)
It is known that a total of 91x Elephant (of which 41 were a total loss) were available, along with at least 156x Tigers (although some estimates go as high as 200) out of the known 246 present on the Russian front at that time and 260x Panthers (being all of those available, of which at least 16, and perhaps as many as 60, broke down before reaching the 'start' line). From German figures at start of July were:- Ninth Army (335,000 men, 920 tanks & SPG, 3,630 guns & mortars) = North attacking force (Model and van Kluge) ========== 221x Pz. III (4 units) 298x Pz. IV (6 units) (no Panthers) 31x Tiger (1 unit) 32x 'Command' tanks = assumed to be Tigers, as 28 are otherwise unaccounted for (1 unit) 87x Elephants + 2 or 4 'in repair' (2 units) 424x 'Assault guns' (9 units) 165x Nebelwerfer (rockets) Field artillery, 742 guns 4th & 12th Panzer Division (N. reserve) --------------------------------------- 55x Pz III 113x Pz IV 18x SPG (12 Wespe, 6 Hummel) 101 field artillery guns 14 battalions Infantry 2nd Army (110,00 men, 31 tanks, 840 guns) ======== (holding the N-S frontline, not part of the attack) Fourth Panzer Army (224,000 men, 1089 tanks and SPG, 1774 guns and mortars) = South atracking force (von Manstein, with Kempf) ================== 224x Pz. III (5 units) 278x Pz. IV (6 units) 204x Panther (4 units) 49x Tiger (1 unit) 47x 'Command' tanks, assumed to be Panthers, as 56 are otherwise unaccounted for (1 unit) When the war started, German command tanks had no main gun (instead a dummy was fitted) ! Of course there is just no room for gun and ammunition after fitting the command radio sets in a Panzer I or II. Of course when the Pz III (and especially the IV) started to be used as command tanks they kept their guns, although there was typically only space for half the normal ammunition storage. This fact doesn't stop some commentators arguing that Axis command tanks were 'unarmed' :-) 184x 'Assault guns' (4 units) Nebelwerfer, 177 Field artillery, 514 guns (Total 21 units) Army Datchment Kempf (110,000 men, 419 tanks and SPG, 1,073 guns and mortars) -------------------- 48x Tigers (1 unit) 126x Nebelwerfer 317x Field artillery guns (all assumed towed by tracked vehicles) XXIV Panzer Corps, (S. reserve) ------------------------------- 8x Pz II 76x Px III 82x Pz IV 6x Stug SPG 123x field artillery guns 13x Infantrry battialians Total German armoured units = 43 units. I have given the Germans 4 units of Tigers, which equates to 200 tanks and is equal to the high estimate of those available. They also get 5 units of Panthers, equal to 250 tanks and in line with the 260 believed available. VIII Air Corps (1100 aircraft) ============== 370? Fighters 730? Bombers (including Stuka) 1st Air Division (730 aircraft) ================ 240? Fighters 490? Bombers (including Stuka)
The Soviet forces (1 July 1943, Kursk area)
The main Soviet force in the Kursk salient was the 'Central Front'. The forces in the south of the salient (and to it's immediate south) were organised onto the Vornezh Front. Immediately to the South / rear of this was the Steppe Front (which could be called on for reserves).
Central Front, approx 711,000 men, 1,785 tanks, 12,453 guns and mortars, 1050 aircraft Voronezh Front, approx 625,000 men, 1,704 tanks, 9,751 guns and mortars, 881 aircraft Steppe Front, approx 573,000 men, 1,639 tanks, 9,211 guns and mortars, 563 aircraft 17th Air Army, 735 aircraft LR Bommer command, 320 Total Soviets, approx 4679 tanks + 259 SP guns 'combat ready' (+ 1.4 to 1.9m men, 27,663 guns and mortars)
Discovering the actual Soviet tank numbers by type is a total pain, especially as 'tank' in Russian seems to translate into 'AFV' i.e. they included even armoured jeeps (BA-64), Armoured Cars and armoured trucks ('BTR' = an APC) in their counts of 'armoured vehicels'. One 'estimate' of the tank tanks is 1/3rd T60/70, 2/3rds T-34 plus a few KV's
Another problem is the chaotic nature of Soviet formation naming, with 'Armies' ranging in strength from 66 tanks (60th Army) to 442 tanks (2nd tank Army), whilst some 'Armies' consisted mainly of (almost useless) 'lend-lease' US (Grants, for example, had a turreted 37mm AT gun and a sponson mounted short 75mm 'howitzer' which was even less effective than the 37mm) or British tanks (like the Churchill, slow, thickly armoured but equipped with the all but useless '6 pdr' gun (a short 57mm) that even had a hard time dealing with the Pz III's)
Indeed, it's almost impossible to work out a Soviet Army's actual fighting effectiveness as the Soviet habit of including wheeled armoured cars (such as the BA-64 = an armoured jeep) and personal carriers (BTR = an open top armoured truck) in their count of "AFV's" makes raw counts almost meaningless.
The Soviet forces
At Prokhorovka, the Soviets had between 593-793 tanks and about 37-57 self-propelled guns (of which combined 650 were damaged and about 300 of these were non-repairable). The two 'Air Armies' were 2 VA with 96 Strurmoviks, 266 fighters and 140 bombers and 17 VA with just over 300 aircraft of unstated type.
Kursk as a whole, the Soviets had available approx 1.3 million combat Infantry, approx 5000 Tanks, approx 20-30,000 Artillery + mortars and approx 3,000 aircraft
Tanks Churchil Mk IV (lend-lease) = heavy 44T. 15mph with an almost useless 6pdr (57mm) gun, 102mm armour SU-152 = heavy SP artillery (based on the KV-1s chassis), 152mm howitzer (but was effective against Tigers). SU-122 = medium SP 'assault gun' (based on T34 chassis), short 122mm gun (also usable as a howitzer), suffered heavy losses SU-76 m = light SP gun (based on T70 chassis), 76mm howitzer T-60 = light tank, 28mph, 7-20mm max armour, 20mm gun (similar Pz II) T-70 = light tank, 28mph, 10-60mm armour, 45mm gun (Pz III was 50mm all round with a long 50mm by this date) T34-76 = medium 28T, 34mph, 76mm gun, 45mm sloped armour (70mm equiv., Turret 52mm) KV-1 = heavy 45T 22mph, 76mm gun, 110mm armour (but poor crew training) IL-2 = ground attack fighter, 250mph, 2x37mm cannon, 250k bomb 1000 ea. bombers, ground attack, fighters Orel: 3rd Tank Army-four corps with 1,460 tanks and 21 divisions; a total strength of 230,000 men.
Soviet forces in detail
18th Tank Corps =============== 21x Churchill (lend-lease) 131x T34 70x T60/70 51x BA-64 (a (very) lightly armoured 4 wheeled 'jeep' with a mg or AT 'rifle') 39x BTR (a lightly armoured wheeled open-top APC (truck)) 29th Tank Corps =============== 21x KV 131x T-34 70x T-70 51x BA-64 9x SU-76 12x SU-122 5th Guards Tank Army (Prokhorovka) ================================== total 'about 680' ?? By Front / Army we have :- Central Front ============== 13th Army ========= 54x KV 83x T-34 41x T60/70 33x Su-76 16x SU-122 48th Army ========= 94x M-3 Stuart/Grant 38x M-4 Sherman 11x SU-76 43x SU-122 60th Army ========= 40x T-34/43 26x T-60/70 65th Army ========= 19x KV-1S 92x T-34 16x T-70 70th Army ========= 20x T-70 97x T-34 2nd Tank Army ============== 305x T-34/43 125x T-70 17x T-60 Front Reserve – 232x T-34/43 104x T-60, 25x T-70, (+ 19 Matilda or Valentine, armed with '2 lb' 40mm gun) 12x SU-152 1x KV-1S Voronezh Front ============== 6th Guards Army – --96 TB – 46 T-34/43, 5 T-70 --230 TR – 7 M-3 Grant, 32 M-3 Stuart --245 TR – 27 M-3 Grant, 12 M-3 Stuart --1440 SUR – 12 SU-122, 9 SU-76 7th Guards Army – --27 Gd TB – 54 T-34/43, 4 T-70 --201 TB – 3 T-34/43, 18 Mk II Matilda, 31 Mk III Valentine --148 TR – 25 T-34/43, 6 T-70 --167 TR – 33 T-34/43, 11 T-70, 2 T-60 --262 TR – 22 KV-1 --1438 SUR – 12 SU-122, 9 SU-76 --1529 SUR – 12 SU-152, 1 KV-1 38th Army – --180 TB – 43 T-34/43, 23 T-70, 15 T-60 --192 TB – 31 M-3 Grant, 24 M-3 Stuart 40th Army – --86 TB – 46 T-34/43, 11 T-70, 15 T-60 --59 TR – 25 T-34/43, 9 T-70 --60 TR – 26 T-34/43, 9 T-70 69th Army – nichevo 1st Tank Army – --3 MC – 194 T-34/43, 35 T-70, 2 T-60 --6 TC – 138 T-34/43, 24 T-70, 10 T-60 --31 TC – 152 T-34/43, 30 T-70, 2 T-60 Front Reserves – --2 Gd TC – 121 T-34/43, 75 T-70, 21 Mk IV Churchill (6 lb = 57mm gun) --5 Gd TC – 106 T-34/43, 66 T-70, 21 Mk IV Churchill (6 lb) MC = mechanized corps TC = tank corps TB = tank brigade TR = tank regiment SUR = SU regiment (self propelled gun, or assault gun)
How the forces play out
Since these are controlled by the AI, you can more or less guarantee they will go straight for the nearest German unit whenever they get the chance. Indeed, it's only by clever terrain and minefield positioning that the Soviet defensive forces can be kept in their trenches at all !
Mines are units with movement = 0, an attack capability and Armour=1 (so can inflict damage but immediately die)
If all the Soviet forces were positioned on 'day 1', the AI will just move everything forward at once. To simulate the gradual Soviet commitment of their tanks, the AI gets 'reinforcements' by using the Events system to load 'crystals' into (unmarked) 'factory' hex's on the road access points of the AI base line. To prevent the AI building the 'wrong' unit, each factory can produce only one type.
The Soviet airforce consists of fighters, ground attack fighters and light bombers (with zero air-to-air capability). They get no 'bombs' (the AI would have no idea what to do with them) and no 'repair' capability
Since they get no 'bombs' the Soviet ground attack and bombers won't be returning to base. This means they are going to attack untill shot down (realistic), so the Events system will be used to generate replacements (as with the Soviet tanks, an aircraft factiry will only generate one type)
The German player gets no reinforcements - instead they get 'mobile repair workshops' (these can only 'repair' tanks, not infantry :-) ). To simulate the German resource problems, the Repair Workshops come with only a few 'crystals' - to 'replenish' these, supply trucks have to make the journey from the German base line / rail head 'depot' to the front
To give the German player some more head-aches, there are two 'types' of Workshop - each army gets one 'H' type (which can only repair Tigers / Panthers), and two G types (which can only repair the other tank types) Further, the resource (crystal) supply trucks are very vulnerable and can carry only 2 crystals at a time (it takes 5 crystals to repair a unit) - and the Events system will generate 'partisan' units in the German rear at about the same rate as 'crystals' are generated at the supply depot's ... Partisans (weak infantry units) are easy to kill but to do so the German player has to divert forces from the front (or from guarding the supply depot and risk it being captured). The alternative is to accept losses amongst the supply convoys, but that will allow the partisans to gain experience (which then makes them more effective)
The German air-force consists of Me109 fighters, Fw190 fighter-bombers, ground attack aircraft (the cannon armed Stukas and Hs 129, both with minimal air combat capability) and 'bombers' (both Stukas and light bombers). Bombers are essentially aircraft with a 'mine laying' capability ('bombs' = mines). The Fw190/Stuka can carry 1, bombers 3. Bombs are mines with an attack capability (and armour = 1 so will 'die' when used)
Bombers have to be mine-layers (rather than normal transport) because the bomb has to be 'delivered' with a movement of 0 (units can't exit a transport into terrain thats 'denied' to them due to lack of movement = so a 'transport bomb' would have to be given a movement 'allowance' and that would allow the German player to 'drop' the bombs well away from any enemy threats and then 'walk' (or 'bounce') the bombs into the Soviet lines :-)
The Germans get aircraft repair capability, but once the 'start' resources (crystals) have been used up, they will have to decide where to send their resource convoys (to the front for tank repair or to the airbases ..)
As with the tanks, German aircraft start with high 'experience' levels which will degrade when they are repaired
German air-bases are also 'factories' capable of making bombs (which cost 'crystals') and have some small resource 'replenishment' rate. This will give the German player another headache (do they use resources to 'build bombs' or save them to repair aircraft ?)
For the purpose of the game, the Germans 'win' by 'encirculing' the Soviet forces - i.e. by capturing and holding all the villages as well as Kursk itself.
The Soviets win by wiping out all the Germans
The Germans have to win before the relentless arrival of Soviet re-reinforcements overwhelms them ..
The Germans main problem is lack of time. The longer it takes them to capture the villages (and Kursk) the more effective the Soviet forces will become both through experience and due to the never-ending flood of reinforcements.
Most German units (and especially tanks) start the battle with high to maximum 'experience', so tank losses, although 'repairable', will reduce their 'experience' and thus effectiveness. With the limited number of German Infantry available, the 'best' way to clear the mine-fields and trenches is to use your artillery and ground attack aircraft. The problem is, this leaves the Soviet Artillery free to target your advancing forces (and thus gain experience). So your only real hope is to break through the Soviets defenses and attack their artillery positions directly before they gain enough experience to take you out. Of course, once you are through one line you will come within range of the next .... Needless to say, the distances involved are such that your only hope of capturing (and holding) all the villages and Kursk at the same time is for both your North and South offensives to succeed.
Will there be a battle of Prokhorovka ?
This is up to the German player. For sure the terrain and mine-fields are such that the AI is almost guaranteed to send it's tanks that way to 'get at' the German forces = and it would make sense for the German player to shift in that direction to meet (and massacre) them
Next page :- WW2 Market Garden - (overview)