Assault Guns vs. Tanks

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Chengar Qordath, Nov 27, 2007.

  1. Chengar Qordath Princeps Qordathicus

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    Just so there's no confusion, I'm referring to the armored fighting vehicle known as an assault gun.

    Assault guns do seem to offer a number of advantages when compared to tanks: they are easier and cheaper to build and maintain, have a lower target profile, and need less weight for a comparable amount of armor and firepower compared to tank (which also gives advantages to speed, fuel consumption, etc). On the other hand, lacking a turret tends to restrict the tactical flexibility of the assault gun compare to a tank, as the casement mounting only allows a very limited field of movement before the entire vehicle needs to be shifted to aim the main weapon.

    So, how well do assault guns measure up against tanks, and would it be a practical military decision for a nation to use assault guns as the bulk of an armored fighting force instead of tanks? What would have been the effects if, for example, WWII Germany were to focus more on production of and improvements too the StuG series rather than producing the Panther and Tiger of OTL? Would the Swedish Stridsvagn 103 (classified as a tank but similar in concept to vehicles like the StuG III) have functioned as well as more traditional designs in combat?
     
  2. arctic warrior Scandinavian die-hard

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    One advantage of early assault guns compared to same size tanks was their ability to carry larger ordenance due to mounting in the hull instead of in the tower. Early problem was making of turret rings in large enough size to fit a decent size gun into the turret. With limited ability to make a large turret ring the size of the tank hardly mattered as it could only carry a smal calibre gun. An assault gun had no such limitation.
    The assualt guns also had a lower profile than tanks.

    Having seen some movies of Stridsvagn 103 and its ability to dig in, elevate front or back and turn as well as low profile I guess it would be a decent match for many of its contemporary possible adversary's. And it seems to way advanced compared with a StuG III especially in the steering gear and suspension.
    That could probably have narrowed the flexibility gap between early tanks and assault guns.
     
  3. Ward The sick old fart

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    assault gun. are better on the Defense then in the attack
     
  4. rudebadger Well-Known Member

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    At the time I'm sure that Germany thought the Panther and Tiger were the way to go. Bigger gun, more armor was the way tank design was heading. But with the increased cost and difficulty in producing and maintaining these new types I doubt that they were ever worth the effort that they required.

    So at least from Germany's position, assault guns and improvements in already existing tank designs would be the better investment.
     
  5. Evilmittens Alt hist geek.

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    Yes and no, but you are mostly right.

    An assault gun I think of like an ancient catapault, a stronger weapon. A tank, more like calvary, strong and mobile. Both have their places on a battlefield, but a tank wins outright in modern warfare, it is more mobile.
     
  6. merlin Well-Known Member

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    Anybody got any real answer as to why the British Army didn't get any self-propelled (assault) guns in 1940/41?
    Why couldn't something like the 'Archer' have been produced earlier. After all big problem with British tanks of the time was the puny 2 pdr gun!
     
  7. Chengar Qordath Princeps Qordathicus

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    Considering that WWII Germany also gave us such unique tank projects as the Maus and Ratte, it is debatable whether or not they were actually making the right choices. While the size of armor definately increased over the course of WWII, assault guns could be uparmored and upgunned just as tanks were. A theoretical StuG V using a Panther chasis, the same armor scheme, and perhaps mounting a larger 88 mm gun would be formidable vehicle, and probably far more practical and economical than the Tiger tanks.

    Ward has a very good point that the assault gun is better for defense and large set-piece battles, where its lack of tactical flexibility is less of a drawback. I would certainly prefer a more flexible tank to an assault gun on a modern battlefield like Iraq, where there are mostly small-unit clashes in chaotic urban battlefields. However, for large set-piece battles the assault gun's lack of flexibility is less immediately problematic, while it's advantages in logistics, lower cost, and smaller target profile remain.
     
  8. Thande a special man who knows these things Donor

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    Not an expert on modern military stuff, but it doesn't seem like howitzers would be as effective against tanks as regular cannon.
     
  9. Landshark The Falcon!

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    That would be the Jagdpanther.

    They weren't. The earlier marks of the Sherman were armed with a 75mm gun developed from a howitzer. These were very effective in the infantry support role, which is what the tank was designed for, but less use against tanks. That's the reason later Sherman's received a supposedly improved 76mm gun.
     
  10. MrP Enemy of the people Gone Fishin'

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    Aye, and why we had the Firefly with her 17pdr at a ratio of - what was it? 1 Sherman Firefly to 5 Shermans? Summat like that.
     
  11. Ward The sick old fart

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    One thing that a tank can do is fire it's gun 360 % and an assault gun has a limitaion of less the 30 % , This is why tanks are a much better use of Tracks when on the offance that is why the assualt gun's were not build by the US or the UK .

    It's why do most countries use track APC and tanks rather then High powered Armard Cars like the AMX-10RC
    http://www.army-technology.com/projects/amx/
    And why don't more nations use vehicals like the VAB for APC
     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2007
  12. MrP Enemy of the people Gone Fishin'

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  13. Wanderlust I practically AM the military.

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    I think Assault guns have a good place in armoured warfare, but would never 'replace' tanks. One scenario I've used in stories is thus: Medium, mobile armour with lighter, turret-mounted weapons, and heavier, assault-gun types. The lighter vehicles probe ahead, encounter the enemy, trade fire, and fall back using their superior speed. The enemy pursue, getting ambushed by the heavy units as they do so. Its Hunters and Beaters. Bearing in mind I have a TL where tracked vehicles never really became as popular as faster, wheeled armour, is this plausible?

    I was pretty annoyed with the way 'Barrel Busters' were rendered down to a mere footnote in Settling Accounts and were just considered 'cheap ugly barrels'.
     
  14. Landshark The Falcon!

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    The AMX-10RC is a heavy weight reconnaissance vehicle rather than a replacement for APC's or tanks. It's more in the class of the M3 Bradley than the Abrams or M2 Bradley. In using the Bradley and before that the M113 as recon vehicles the US is actually the odd man out in the field to an extent, Britain using the tracked Scorpion and Scimitar "light tanks", Germany using the eight wheeled, 20mm cannon armed Luchs with Spain and Japan having similar vehicles.


    They do.

    Germany uses the Fuchs.


    Canada used the AVGP replaced with the LAV III.

    Finland uses the Pasi.

    And of course the USMC uses the LAV 25.

    And many countries are starting to field wheeled APCs in place of tracked ones.

    Boxer

    VCBI

    Pandur

    Patria AMV
     
  15. MrP Enemy of the people Gone Fishin'

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    Yet another reason not to read that book. Cheers, m'dear. ;)
     
  16. CalBear Your Ursus arctos californicus Moderator Moderator Donor

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    Assault guns are good in a static defense, okay in a mobile defense between prepared positions, and coffins in dynamic warfare.

    Since they are not as strong as a truly well prepared bunker in the static role, and are only slightly more useful in the mobile defense role than a regular tank, and have nowhere near the flexibility of a turreted tank, they are a waste of money in a modern combat enviroment (save a few, very specialized, situations).
     
  17. The Dean No Pain No Pain

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    and the UK's.

    Saxon
     
  18. Douglas Restored

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    Just a note to those commenting: the thread is asking if a force based on assault guns in the WW2 era was possible, not whether it would work today.
     
  19. Kevin in Indy Now with charcoal!

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    How's about on the steppes?

    Would an assault gun arm dominate a more open battlefield, in support of mass armies? My reasoning is that a large number of mobile cannon or howitzers might prove better in supporting infantry than would a smaller (to force a choice in manufacturing capability) number of more flexible but shorter-ranged tanks.

    One factor helping this scenario might be earlier development of infantry-portable short-range anti-tank weapons. Perhaps an early bazooka might reduce the effectiveness of the tank.
     
  20. arctic warrior Scandinavian die-hard

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    To all the critics of the assault gun - as I wrote in my initial post it would in a WWII setting need better steering and suspension to close the gap to tanks. Its advantage as also mentioned in regard to British early tanks was the ability to fit a larger gun in the hull disregarding the need for a large turret ring!!!
    The French did so as described on the Char 1, the Americans on the Lee/Grant and the Germans made assault gun versions on all their tanks - well almost:
    Hetzer, StugIII, Jadgpanther, Jagdtiger, Nashorn...
    In a WWII there was a benefit in building them - cutting costs or making good tankdestroyers. Else they wouldn't have been built. Except when the assembly line was turning tanks out like cookies. OR they were a stopgap measure to further the life of obsolete tanks by cheap upgunning and up-armouring. But I don't apart from this know why the Germans were so in love with them - they weren't from the outset of tank production. Anybody KNOW why?
    The russians also made tankdestroyers on this design, SU 100, SU 122... and post war SU 76 and 85.
    The West Germans built the Jagdpanzer later to be refitted with missiles.
    But as mentioned this was on WWII experience...
    And an assault gun would be just as vulneable to man ported anti-tank weapons as a tank...