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    Avatar photoNick Riggs

    Soviet doctrine, as employed by Arab tank crews during the Yom Kippur War required a tank platoon leader to direct the fire of his platoon of three tanks at a single target, firing three salvoes at it before engaging a new target, which they often did regardless of whether the target was actually destroyed or not (Pollack, 2019). But if each tank fires at more or less the same time, how would the gunners in each tank know how to correct their fire based on the fall of shot?

    Avatar photoTony S

    Interesting doctrine.  Perhaps it was in response to a perceived lack of training and accuracy by the crews?  That is – if you throw a lot of metal in the general direction of the target, perhaps one of them will hit it, so there wouldn’t be a need to observe your own fall of shot?

    Purely conjectural, as I know very little about that conflict.

    Avatar photoJim Webster

    If you missed and overshot the target, are you going to observe a ‘fall of shot’ anyway? Given the distance antitank rounds can travel.

    I’m trying to work out why they did it like this. I wonder if it was a case that with poorly trained crews, at least this method meant they actually fired rather than dithering?


    Avatar photoDeleted User

    Interesting. I’m curious if this (Soviet doctrine) was developed from their experience in WWII and if they used something like this during WWII?

    I’m totally guessing here but I could see them doing this to confuse their target. Three puffs of smoke at the same time could be for the pucker factor and buy time before return fire.

    If they did develope it during WWII where they out number the Germans, it might be to stop the entire company shooting the closest German tank.

    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    I’m surprised the Israelis didn’t catch on rather quickly and take steps to make life miserable for Arab tankers. Not a tactic to be trying where there are ATGMs deployed I’d have thought.

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photoirishserb

    I remember reading this many years ago (circa 1982),  but have no idea what he source was.  My memory is that the discussion centered around use of the T-54/55 and it at least suggested that the expectation of a first round hit and kill in the first volley was very high.  Though, this doesn’t seem to support the three salvo portion of the doctrine.

    My expectation would be that the tank commander, which I think was primarily responsible for ranging the target would be responsible to adjust for range on a miss, and that he would know from timing which shot was likely his if it could be seen.  The gunner probably would too.

    All speculation on my part, hopefully Mr. Picky will be along shortly with something more authoritative on the subject.


    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    Interested to know a source for the use of this tactic by ‘Arab’ armies. This was Kenneth Pollack? Former CIA?

    Are we talking blanket use across Egypt, Syria and Iraqi formations? I was under the impression only Egypt (theoretically) adopted Soviet doctrine and the others, while having Soviet influence (and kit), developed their own.

    Any actual evidence for it being used – direct testimony by Arab tank commanders?

    Soviet tank companies were directed to use salvo fire at area targets. FM100-2-1,  5-27. The next sentence says: ‘Tank platoons engage area or point targets at the direction of platoon leaders.’ but makes no mention of salvo fire in the direct fire mode.

    Seems an odd idea (not that Sovs weren’t prone to odd ideas) but was this a real thing?

    (Edit – yes this would seem to be an ideal question for John’s encyclopaedic knowledge!)

    Avatar photowillz

    Is this any use.  I have not read it myself as I would need a large red wine to indulge.


    Avatar photoNick Riggs

    My reference is to Kenneth M Pollack’s book Armies of Sand, p. 71, but he mentions the same detail in earlier articles. He refers to his interviews with Israeli military personnel 1992-1994. I’ll quote some of his text here:

    …The Egyptians adopted Soviet tactics to a greater extent than ever before. At that time, Soviet doctrine was to have the commander of a tank platoon designate a single target, at which the entire platoon (three tanks including the commander’s) would then fire until it was destroyed, at which point the commander would designate a new target. The Soviets calculated that, given the gunnery skills of  their crews, it normally would take three salvoes from the platoon (nine shots) to kill an enemy tank.

    WWI-era warships could have problems establishing who shot when observing fall of shot, so it made me wonder whether in practice tank crews firing by platoon would have similar problems.

    Of course, if it wasn’t an effective technique, there might not be any possibility of direct testimony from Egyptian tank crews…

    Avatar photoNick Riggs

    Thanks Willz, FM 100-2-1 states on page 5-27:

    Tank fires are directed by tank company commanders and platoon leaders. An entire tank company may engage an area target with salvo fire. Tank platoons engage area or point targets at the direction of platoon leaders. Platoon leaders direct fires by visual signals, radio, and designation with tracer rounds.

    So it’s definitely Soviet doctrine but no info on how effective it is or what problems the gunners might encounter.

    [Edit] I missed your comment Guy and I agree, it doesn’t say anything about firing in ‘salvo’ mode. Continuing to quote from Pollack:

    Rather than seeing this as a general guide for planning, the Egyptians turned it into a hard-and-fast rule and taught all of their tank platoons to fire three salvoes at the designated target and then move on to another target. Egyptian tank gunnery turned out to be considerably poorer than Soviet marksmanship, and as a result, during the October War, it was often the case that none of the three salvoes of an Egyptian tank platoon hit the Israeli tank they had targeted.

    It’s not clear then whether Soviet doctrine did not originally include the concept of a salvo but the Egyptians added it to their doctrine, or whether this is an artifact Pollack introduced through misunderstanding, misquoting, poor translation, or some other reason.

    I’m hoping there may be someone with experience of multiple tanks firing at the same target who can comment.

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    Yeah that’s the reference I quoted.

    I’m not sure the doctrine equates to the same thing Pollack suggests, or perhaps to how we are interpreting it.

    A ‘salvo’ suggests coordinated ‘volleys’.

    I think what the platoon commander is doing is saying (however he indicates) ‘shoot that ****** until he explodes/burns!’

    I think this equates to the general principle of tanks crews not stopping shooting just because the target stops/appears dead. ‘Doctrine’ is great in theory, I suspect in practice people just fired until told to stop or a more immediate threat/target presented itself.

    Avatar photoNick Riggs

    Thanks Guy, my edit to my last post crossed yours. I’m not going to quote more from Pollack but he goes on to say that Egyptian gunners were inflexible on this rule to the consternation of their Russian trainers who would be telling them it was a guideline and not a rule. Where this information on what the Russians were thinking comes from is not clear; it may be the Israelis trying to make sense of nine shots coming in, missing, and the Egyptian platoon turning to fire on another target. Pollack says this was ‘often the case.’

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish


    That is odd isn’t it?

    But possibly not surprising. From what I’ve read (and I don’t know how true it is but it would fit I guess) Soviet and Arab personnel did not always understand each others cultural approach. So perhaps the ‘Do this and don’t deviate’ approach led to odd, to say the least, behaviour?

    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Sadly Mr. Picky doesn’t have any really good information on this. While I recall seeing references to the Soviet habit of salvo fire, I think in the notes to SPI’s “Firefight”, and there was a salvo fire option in the WRG 1950-2000 rules, I have never seen anything definitive and official on the subject. There seems to be nothing about it in Zaloga’s book on modern Soviet armour, nor any mention in old TRADOC bulletins about Soviet tanks.

    So, off for a flonk around the interwebs to see what there is lying around.

    The combat regulations introduced by order no. 347 of the People’s Defence Comissar on 09 Nov 1942 introduced the idea of salvo fire.

    A battle account from the GPW and a news report of a 2016 exercise both mention salvo fire from tanks, but go into no further detail.

    From Defense Intelligence Report DDI-1120-129-76, “Soviet Tank Company Tactics”, DIA, May 1976:

    “In a company operation, the company commander controls the fire of each tank by radio. Tank fire is concentrated upon targets according to the priority assigned by the commander. Antitank guided missiles (ATGM) are first priority targets. In the assault, tanks engage the target which is closest and most dangerous to them. Targets are indicated by use of encoded terrain reference points, by tracer fire, or by use of the target azimuth scale. The company or platoon commander gives a fire mission containing the following elements:

    a. Call sign if unit or tank to fire.
    b. Target location by use of reference point.
    c. Fire mission destruction or neutralization.
    d. Firing procedure: fire from march, zshort halt, etc.
    e. Type of round: AP, HE, fragmentation.
    f. Number of rounds to be fired or when to cease fire.”

    Extracts from two pieces at the wonderful Tank Archives site:

    Anti-Tank Gunner’s Advice

    “Reminder to tank destroyer battery commanders

    Check your sight lines every day.
    Dial in on landmarks, especially on on off-road terrain.
    Have each gunner personally measure the range to landmarks in paces.
    Set up false guns 50-80 meters away or flanking real guns.
    Organize nighttime lighting (with flares) of a 500-800 meter long zone in front of the guns if enemy tanks appear.
    Conduct practice battles with your gunners and gun commanders.
    If you have time and the conditions are right, conduct subcaliber practice shoots against moving targets both at daytime and nighttime.
    If there are few enemy tanks, do not open fire with the entire battery. Remember the ratio: 1 gun per 3 tanks.
    Try to hit the tanks in the side, fire until it burns.
    Immediately issue bonuses for knocked out tanks.
    Nominate exceptional troops for government awards.

    Commander of the 8th Independent Guards Anti-Tank Artillery Brigade, Guards Lieutenant Colonel Chevola”

    T-34 Experience

    “On the use of tanks in the 229th Tank Regiment of the 70th Proskurov Order of the Red Banner Order of Suvorov Order of Kutuzov 2nd class Mechanized Brigade during the Patriotic War

    Optics and sights.
    The TSh-15 has insufficient magnification which reduces precision of firing and increases aiming time. Magnification be increased to 12 (doubled). 
    It is necessary to improve the calibration mechanisms to ones that are more resistant to shocks.
    The ammunition capacity of the T-34-85 tank is insufficient. It is necessary to increase ammunition capacity to 100 rounds. Of those: 60% HE, 25% AP, 10% subcaliber AP, 5% canister.
    The need for canister shot arose with the introduction of Panzerfaust troops. It is necessary to have them for self defense.
    In battle, the most common way of navigation uses landmarks that are marked on the map with a code, personal observation of the battlefield through an open hatch, and as a reserve firing tracer bullets, shells, or flares at the target.
    The most common way of observing the battlefield is through the open hatch of the commander’s cupola and looking at shell bursts and flashes from enemy artillery.
    The most effective range in tank battles against large targets is 800-1000 meters. Firing at small targets (APCs, small tanks, enemy artillery) requires closing to 400-600 meters, and concentration of fire is recommended.
    In battle, tanks fire from standstill and shorts stops at enemy infantry, machine guns, and mortars. 2-3 rounds within the span of 10-15 seconds are fired, then the tank changes position again. 
    When firing from short stops 1-2 aimed shots can be made in 8-10 seconds.
    The maximum speed for firing on the move is 10-12 kph.
    The average combat rate of fire of a T-34-85 tank is 6 RPM.
    The main method of commanding a platoon or company is by radio. To concentrate fire, the commander’s tank gives 2-3 shots towards the target.
    Concentrated fire is always used when fighting enemy tanks and SPGs, both from ambushes and during offensives.
    Concentrated fire at a company or regiment level is rare and used only in exceptional cases, for instance when there is no artillery, when tanks are attacking a small settlement, or if tanks are involved in an artillery barrage (January 1945, Ornontovitse, Namelau, Germany).
    At night tanks fire at flashes made by enemy tanks and artillery. The range is calculated by measuring the difference between the flash of the shot and the sound.
    When carrying out deceptive action, tanks fire at landmarks at preset ranges. The fire in this case is unaimed.
    The tanks never fired indirectly from hull down or turret down positions.
    The main way to correct fire was to set the sights to the required range and adjust by observing bursts.
    The tanks did not fire at targets greater than 2.5 km away.
    The most effective way of firing was from short stops. This method proved itself well given well organized cooperation between tanks.
    Tanks on average expend one ammunition load per hour of battle. Mostly HE ammunition is expended. If the enemy has tanks, the ammunition expenditure is split between HE and AP. In this case sometimes one ammunition load is not enough for an hour of battle.

    Command of the 229th Tank Regiment, Guards Lieutenant Colonel Gnomadskiy
    Chief of Staff of the 229th Tank Regiment, Major Shuliko”

    So, to sum up:

    Certainly concentrated or salvo fire was WW2 practice.

    There does not seem to be any doctrine that it is the only way of going about things. In particular the advice to anti-tank gunners (in IPTAPs and similar organisations) cautions against unmasking an entire battery if not needed, and gives the sensible direction to shoot at a tank until it burns.

    Fire control decisions certainly seem to be quite centralised.

    So much for the embarrassingly sparse documentation I have been able to find. On purely theoretical grounds, I offer the following witterings.

    First, there are considerable problems of obscuration with big guns firing high velocity ammunition, and the Soviets can be no exception. If it is difficult or impossible to sense the fall of shot, it may make sense to repeat shots without adjustment, or with fixed adjustments. As an example of where this is demonstrably sensible, consider the British idea of the Battle Range Technique, written up by me in a piece in The Nugget no. 330 (available from the Wargame Developments web page). However, Soviet rates of fire do not seem ever to have been high enough to derive full advantage from a similar method.

    Second, the idea of firing a fixed number of shots in an engagement is not unique to the Soviets. Somewhere I have an American WW2 tanker’s handbook, which contains a table showing the number of rounds to be fired on engagements by various guns against various targets. I was told by a serving member of the RAC that a HESH engagement always uses three rounds.

    Third, firing until the target is seen to be destroyed (as per the anti-tank gunner’s advice above) seems obvious common sense. However, it may not be obvious when a tank actually is destroyed — I seem to recall an episode reported in “The Tanks of Tammuz” where Israelis spent quite a long time stalking a dead Jordanian Centurion. (Incidentally, this is a considerable disadvantage of Soviet tank design practice, as when the ammo in a carousel autoloader cooks off and lifts the turret aloft in clouds of smoke and flame, it is very obvious that a K-Kill has been scored. Hence the saying “The T-72 is the politest tank in the world — every time it meets a Western tank, it takes its hat off.”) And, even without the deployment of tactical dummies (see the anti-tank gunner’s advice again), a lot of shots are fired at things that look as if they might be tanks, but actually are not. There comes a point where you should conserve your ammo rather than continuing to shoot up a target that turns out to be a tractor, barn or midden.

    Fourth, I suspect that platoon salvoes probably make a good deal of sense at the longer ranges in order to achieve a worthwhile probability of a hit. Using Biryukov and Melnikov’s GPW guideline of needing 1-2 shots to score a hit at 300m, 8-10 at 1000m, it seems that three rounds each from a three-tank platoon might be sensible at the latter range.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoNick Riggs

    Many thanks John for that detailed response. I’ll take your advice and have a root through Antitank Warfare by Biryukov and Melnikov. 8-10 rounds at 1000m compares well with Rowland’s estimated degradation for AT fire.

    Avatar photoPeter Butson

    As an ex tankie I remember when this Soviet era doctrine  surfaced. With The T62 (our doctrinal enemy’s primary MBT at the time) it had a 50% probability of a hit at 1500m. For targets beyond that range the Pl Comd would call a Platoon shoot based on his range estimate. Each gunner would turn his range drum to the Pl Comds nominated range and await the order to fire. Each volley would give a 50% hit probability out to 2500m. Three platoon volleys were considered enough to yield a hit. Our response drill was to go to “turret down” and jockey left or right and pop up again and re-engage. It still appears to be current Russian doctrine  dashed on a article I saw in the build up to the current war in Ukraine.

    Avatar photoNick Riggs

    Thanks Peter, very interesting.

    Avatar photoPeter Butson

    The other drill it reminds me of is the old Centurion 3 round engagement technique which was still around when I was a gunner. First round at centre seen mass, second round top edge of target third round base of target, shoot fast get kills. The Indians used it with their Cents and it was regarded as quicker than using the Ranging MG as you could get the three Sabot rounds away as quickly as two ranging bursts followed by a Sabot round. With any luck the first or second shot would be a hit. It worked pretty well with 20pdr to 1200m and 105mm to 1500m

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