Its structure, its operational characteristics and its performance according to the Soviet military Theory and in the practice. The practical failures of the Soviet deployments.

His tactical and operative employ in the marches and combats.

Once inserted the tanks army inside the enemy operational zone, his employ was generally much separating of the Soviet theory of the mechanized modern war of «maneuvers». The mechanized or tanks brigades were often used in untidy or even rash form. They were separated and simultaneously looked for many aims, using the maximum possible operating speed: To displace towards the west, pushing them, the major possible number of enemy units or other times, to cut off them. To liberate many populations, villas and places. And to attack in a too much broad sector, all the enemy units that were occupying defensive positions in it.

The logistics left a lot to be desired even for these elite units, as they were moving away from his lines and were consuming his initial resources. The units and small units were lacking equipments, armament, supplies, ammunitions and food. And the scanty and late restoration of the long-suffering falls, dead, injured and sick men, had very soon and almost permanently the units below his maximum authorized endowment. This tightened to the maximum the resources and men was leading to the units to a chronic lack of sufficient combat and operational movement capacities, in the spears of advance detached by the battalions, in the way of companies and even platoons. And without these combined joint capacities it is not possible to exercise a real, solvent and devastating “influence” on the enemy. That would move towards the units and their commands in the shape of “waves of commotion”, through the enemy rear. Except that, during a time, the enemy believes it or is in worse operational conditions that the attacker.

Frequently the offensive operations were realized without operational exploration, not even of combat, lacking the small attacking unit of information or intelligence about the enemy, his means and supports and his positions, and let’s not say on his intention. The formation of assault, even in these elite infantry units was usually the more or less thin line of advance (in «guerrilla»), formed transversely in the direction indicated by the chief of company command to the platoons chiefs, without any intentional deployment in depth and with scanty support of organic heavy machine guns or mortars. It is worth indicate that in last 2 complete years of war (spring, 1943 to spring, 1945) it was very normal, according to the above mentioned thing, that the endowment of a company was from 20 or 30 to 50 men, as the maximum.

When the aim was important or extensive, 2 companies were deployed by wings, serving the rough direction given as limit between their advance strips, to prevent them from intermingling the platoons. It was then very possible to count with artillery support from the brigade. For example, a battery of reactive artillery of 132 mm., the Katiuskhas, with 4 rockets launchers with 16 tubes each one on Zil 6X6 trucks, that were shooting more or less simultaneously, turning the surface target into a destruction zone. Or, in case of see or be waited enemy tanks, they were receiving the support of a 2 or 3 tanks T-34-85 platoon. Or, later, type JS-2 with the 122 mm. cannon, with a much slower shooting speed. Since, for industrial difficulties, it had the projection load separated from the perforation or explosive round. Already in 1944, with the foreign territory occupied by Germany very restricted, it was frequent to see the Tigers or Panthers or the assault or antitank cannons, supporting German small and fixed defense positions.

The German fortification works, in the great majority of his fixed rejection positions, were scanty and of circumstances, except in the big occupied populations. They consisted in more or less long trenches, infantry foxholes and shooting positions of the heavy weapons, and vertical cuts and reinforcements of the natural obstacles. Generally, they had too much reinforced and hided points, which could be used then as alternative positions, and they were lacking men to manned these. The usual ignorance of their enemy, was often leading that the attacking Soviet line, without noticing, was left to approach up to the last tens of ms. of the supposed defensive occupied positions. Then, it was counter-attacked from flank or reverse by one or two of German infantry platoons, commanded by an energetic official, that had slipped out of the defensive perimeter and were remaining hidden. The security lack to the flanks and of proper depth deployment of the attacking forces, as well as battalion reserves, provoked that the attacking unit was destroyed and repelled, with more or less falls. The Germans did not usually pursue. And sometimes, taking advantage of his enemy reverse, they get from their positions at full light and without major measures. And to retreat. And even, without being received, to move to another defense support point more in their rear.

Neither the Soviet tanks units were enduring too much better. They were using in their marches or even in the assaults, too much known and stereotyped deployments, and without taken care habitually of the exposed flanks. This could be taken advantage by some German veteran tanks unit. The count Hyazinth Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche and Camminetz is almost not known in West. For the simple reason he fought during almost 4 years of war in the East front. He managed to be rewarded with the Gentleman’s Cross of the Iron Cross (that was hung of the neck). And that he was successively adorning it with the Oak Leaves and the Diamond swords for her. He was one of the best commanders of a panzer regiment. And his successes might assume at equal parts, to a good tactical sense and a particular knowledge of the Russian idiosyncrasy. He gave his better tactical blow being already major general and commander of the panzers of the North armies group, in the autumn of 1944. His front sector was in calmness, being reorganized the Soviets, and Hyazinth Strachwitz sensed beforehand where they would attack on having renewed the offensive. With only 4 tanks he deeply penetrated behind the enemy lines and established an ambush over the supposed approximation zone of to the front. In its moment appeared at full speed a small Soviet tanks unit, completely ignorant of the presence of the German tanks, that was destroyed. More tank units were approaching and followed the same luck. Incredibly, the Soviet commanders allowed that the massacre should continue, without establishing the combat exploration or the march security or, at least, verify the origin of the enemy so precise fire. After about an hour of the first shot of German cannon, in the ambush zone (killing zone) were lying the smoking and deformed remains of 105 Soviet tanks. Almost equal of inexplicable was that the count returned behind his lines with his 4 intact tanks.

The Soviet great combats in the German rear.

When the Soviets were waiting the presence of the panzer corps or divisions, that were the only enemy great units that could attack their mobile corps with profit, the tanks army was advancing in the German operational zone with more prudence. His marching groups were forming a deployment that was guaranteeing tactical cohesion, protection against surprises and combat capacity.

The fuels supply was the first Achilles’ heel of the Soviet great mobile units. Though the infantry divisions of the Fronts were always continuing after their mobile corps, to support them, consolidate the enemies’ clear regions and garrison the populations, their pedestrian speed was insufficient to reach them rapidly. This way, sometimes a mechanized or tanks corps could remain aground and isolated. And on him were falling rapidly all the mobile reserves that the Germans could have to hand in the zone and which employment was not unprotecting other sector. On having known their near forced detention, the mobile corps were immediately going on to the defensive action and were establishing their campaign fortifications. The mechanized corps resisted well, in spite of the falls. But the tanks corps, smaller and less complete, were swept off easier by the panzer and their mechanized infantry. These cases happened even in 1944.

In these cases, always came a moment in which it was supposed that the Soviets had fought well and that already they could not win, nor get out of the combat and move back. Then, the crews and the soldiers of these elite units were dispersing in small groups, leaving behind their valuable heavy equipments and were trying to infiltrate up to their lines. And this was very difficult to get. But this was a war for the survival and mercilessly. And already Stalin had indicated the luck of the Soviet prisoners of war, if they were managing to survive the captivity in the deep rears of the Reich, his allies and the occupy countries. And that had surrendered too soon to the Germans, specially at the beginning of the war. Charging the enormous military national effort in their following comrades and the people. «Nothing will be forgotten, nobody will be forgotten”.

When the situation was difficult, the Soviets were not hesitating to spend an Army of tanks to stop the enemy by pure attrition.

In the tanks battle of for Prokhorsvka’s villa on July 12, 1943, as part of so called Kursk’s battle, faced the 5º tanks army of the Guard of the general Romistrov against 2º panzer army corps of the SS, commanded by general Hausser. The Soviets were counting with approximately 900 tanks and assault cannons, but were not joining any of the modern SU-152 assault cannons, the so called «beasts killer» (Tigers, Panthers) and the majority (around 500) of their tanks were T-34 76,2 mm, which could not distantly perforate the Tigers’ frontal shielding. The Germans had around 600 tanks (of them, approximately 100 were Tigers) and assault cannons. But none of these were of the Ferdinand or Elephant model. These only were used in the north attack on Kursk’s salient.

The Germans advanced towards the village with the Tigers forming the top of a great blunt wedge, with the Panzer IV and III covering the flanks and the assault cannons in its interior. The Soviets went to get them. The shock of the armored masses of both armies transformed in a fierce and chaotic whirlwind. The speed and the great maneuverability of the T-34 allowed them to very rapidly advance to reach the nearby fighting distances. Which would allow them to attack the Tigers with fruit and preferably at the flank. These would lose this way their advantage of being able to do effective fire at long distances and keeping the invulnerability of his frontal shield. The combat developed in multitude of small actions between 2 or 3 tanks.

The result of the battle was undecided. The Germans lost approximately 300 vehicles, including numerous Tigers, and the Soviets suffered the fall of approximately 450 vehicles. Though initially the Soviets moved back, remaining the Germans in control of the area, the Soviets recovered it little later. With what the Germans could not recover all their damaged or broken down tanks, which were total falls in their units.

The modern evolution lines of the Soviet operational strategy until 1989.

After the irruption of the Fronts or Soviet groups of armies in Eastern Europe and all the broad of the front of the East, the Soviet theoretics and the high commanders realized the need to change the structure of their tanks armies and corps. In effect, the urban, industrial and semi urban areas of the European East were demanding a major employment of the infantry support for the fight in them. They were new types of areas, full of obstacles to the advance and innumerable covers and/or «concealing relative heights», highly suitable to the active defense in depth. Here, the mechanized infantry (it was begun to call also motorized, though it was using the «combat» armored vehicles) was the principal weapon of the fighting. Also in the predictable future, a possible tactical nuclear war or not towards the Western Europe, would even accentuate this need of the motorized infantry.

It is not until 1965, 12 years after Stalin’s death, in which are started recognizing the contributions and the works of the mentioned theoretical purged military men. Assuming already to each person theirs ones and not as part of an ambiguous and impersonal Soviet military collective popular thinking school.

In turn the tanks armies and theirs corps and divisions units were adapting and changing. This way were created the so called «operational maneuver groups» (O.M.G.), destined to the exploitation in the lands of West Germany and Benelux in the decided operational directions. They could be formed by one or two tanks armies, reinforced in infantry and artillery. But their battle orders changed with the time and with the appearance of the atomic tactical weapon (missile, air and artillery). This brought the dispersion of the deployment after the irruption in several tanks and mechanized corps. That would advance very unfolded by all the attainable ground routes of the enemy area, to avoid to turn into an eligible target for the atomic fire. Also for they would have to approach with rapidity and unfolded to the “forward limit of the enemy positions”. The speed of march and the precision and range of the heavy direct fire would compensate their dispersion and the loss of shock. So achieving an effect of «crumbling of the enemy rear» thanks to the higher number of insertions and exploitations in the Western Front and its depth rear.