For Immediate Release 01/03/2298 17:30 TST
Royal Wellon Joint Staff Institute : Press Office
The Royal Wellon Joint Staff Institute (RWJSI) is the Wellon Defence Force's premier staff college. As part of its ongoing programme of education for all levels of staff officer the RWJSI hosts the prestigious series of Wellington lectures by invited Senior Officers of both Wellonese and allied militaries. While attendance at the lectures, or access to the transcript, requires a security clearance the RWJSI Press Office provides, where possible, an edited version for public release.
The Spring 2298 Wellington lecture, entitled 'Sturmtaktiken: Breakthrough or Dead End?' was given by Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. Alan Robertson LHMG, SO1 Combined Arms Doctrine at the Wellon Ministry of Defence.
Sirs, Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen. Firstly I wish to offer my thanks to the Commandant both for an excellent lunch and the opportunity to deliver this lecture. It is indeed a honour. I'd like to thank Colonel Gabehart, my counterpart in the Freiwehr, for help researching some of the more obscure Bavarian papers covering this topic.
The new Bundeswehr has recently introduced its doctrine of Sturmtaktiken across its regular Corps. Commentators are divided as to the significance of Sturmtaktiken; some believe it is a visionary use of hovermobile infantry, others a risky and transitory tactical dead end. This lecture aims chart the evolution of and to investigate some of the issues surrounding Sturmtaktiken.
I'd like first to display this account by a Bavarian soldier of a Sturmtaktiken assault on a French strongpoint above the Meuse in 2293.
The approach was terrifying. The LkPzTr-VIII bucking viciously, screaming up the slope across the river. The drop-out hatches were open and the hot plenum air was battering inside the compartment, loose paper and kit was swirling around and the floor was awash with Meuse river water. We were clustered around the hatches, braced anyway we could but still banging off each other. Inside the helmets of the Az-V suits we could hear the crew taking fire, picking out targets and counting us down to drop off. Inside we were all praying that we wouldn't get hit before then.
The engine screamed and the LkPzTr-VIII slowed fast, biting into ground. The light went green and the first four went down through the too small hatches before the craft stopped, one wrenching a knee. I was last out on my side of the vehicle, wrestling the long MG91 down. If the crew compartment was bad the chamber was ten times worse; the over-pressure and heat hideous. The Hover APC moved before I was in position, knocking me over and sending me sprawling. All of a sudden the light was there and firing replaced the scream of hot air. It took a second to regain my senses and find my arcs.
A French soldier was already there, as stunned as I was. I swung the MG91 and pressed the trigger. It fired once and stopped, the cassette knocked off by the passage of the plenum. A burst of 9mm from my left cut the Frenchman down and I wrestled with the cassette, my squad already moving off. The second wave of LkPzTr-VIIs arrived on the position with their rear doors already open. The first two soldiers out of the nearest HAPC were chopped down by French fire and a rifle grenade flashed in through the door, no more soldiers emerged and the HAPC limped away.
Surging with anger I fixed the trench where the fire had came from and ran towards it, firing the MG91 from the hip. Once above it I hosed the whole cassette into it. The French squad stood no chance…
Along with the other Allies one of the greatest tactical problems they faced was actually penetrating Manchurian defensive fronts. The Manchurian divisions had mastered the use of combined recce screens, artillery deployed minefields, ATGW and storm gun armed tank killing groups and hovermobile armoured reserves. Well drilled Manchurian battalions utilising digging charges could set up one of these 'pakfronts' inside 20 minutes. These were a key element in Manchurian commanders' attempts to shape the battle space. Penetrating one of these fronts could prove massively costly in terms of casualties. Both main AFVs; the LkPzTr-V and especially the LkPz-VIII were vulnerable to the enemy defences which were numerous, hard to locate and even harder to suppress.
The Bavarians found the key was, as usual, the correct application of combined arms. However such an approach usually slowed the tempo of operations gifting the initiative to the Manchurians and were still costly. Operational analysis of the different approaches to this problems by each of the Allied contingents is revealing. The French AC-8 was much more survivable than the LkPz-VIII and its heavy secondary armament allowed faster suppression of the enemy than the two 5.5mm machine guns carried by the Bavarian hovertank. On the other hand the ACVI-3 was exceptionally vulnerable not only to ATGW but to 20mm infantry storm guns, plasma weapons and even rifle launched grenades. The French fantassin was forced to assault the pakfront on foot, massively slowing the pace of the assault and exposing them to fire for longer periods.
It was found that Russian tracked armoured units were most efficient at penetrating the Manchurian defences. All their main AFVs proved to be highly survivable in this environment. However their limited tactical mobility often enabled quicker moving Manchurian units to exploit opportunities on the flanks. Similarly when facing Russian units the Manchurians made increased use of terrain features and artillery delivered mines to further channel the assaulting units.
The development of Bavarian minor tactics in penetrating the pakfront included liberal use of indirect fire support and maximum utilisation of the speed of the assault to attack key nodal points within the defence. LkPzTr-Vs were locally modified to carry increased armour and defensive firepower, but problems still remained with the LkPz-VIII which just wasn't suitable for close quarter fighting. Bavarian acquisition of AC-8s for close support, including some models with howitzers in place of the MDC, provided part of the answer at least while the next generation LkPz-IX was in design.
The final year of the war saw the Bavarians practising highly aggressive assaults on Manchurian pakfronts with increasing success. Known as 'engagement attacks' or gefectsangriffe and combining WASP artillery attacks to saturate the defences with groups of AC-8s and LkPzTr-Vs launched at key points in the pakfront. The infantry would de-bus in the centre of the position and commence destruction of command facilities and overwhelm nearby ATGW positions. The AC-8s would aid in the suppression of nearby positions and destroy any hovertank counter-attacks. Once gaps were torn in the defences infantry reserves would be committed to widen the breach while LkPz-VIII units would pass through and engage the enemy in depth. Problems still remained in the tenacity of the Manchurian defenders and defensive artillery fire which continued to make the assault an expensive proposition although much quicker than previously.
Further refinements had been suggested, such as the conversion of AC-8s to carry infantry teams in addition to the stalwart LkPzTr-Vs. However the Manchurian breakthrough and victory at the Battle of Omsk caused these plans to be laid aside as all resources were thrown at slowing the Manchurian offensive. Japanese intervention and the counter-offensive eventually swung the outcome of the war. Especially useful were Japanese surveillance assets which eased the pinpointing of pakfront positions and enabled Allied commanders to bypass these, isolating Manchurian infantry and armoured elements and denying them the synergistic effects they had benefited from throughout the conflict.
After the war the Bavarians continued to look at the problem of countering such in-depth defensive positions which they believed would be commonplace on the European battlefields where sensor superiority and flanks would be less easier to come by than on the Central Asian battlefield. A number of surplus AC-8s were developed as heavy HAPCs but were less than a total success due a de-bussing routine that exposed the troops. Instead the new LkPzTr-VII was adapted for use as in this close quarters assault role, ultimately becoming known as the LkGfPzTr-VIII.
Side-by-side with these developments the Bavarian infantry branch was reaching a mature stage with its work with full-body rigid armour systems known as Angriffanzug or assault suits. Original ideas to combine these with light infantry troops had floundered due to the weight of the un-powered Anfz suits which severely limited the combat endurance. However when combined with HAPCs better results were obtained, but the problem of combat endurance remained. Ultimately research into Anfz systems was combined with the work being done on gefectsangriffe tactics and systems.
Initial trials went well. The limited endurance of Anfz equipped troops, soon to be dubbed gefectspanzergrenadiers or just gefectspanzertruppen, was of less importance when dropped off in close quarters with enemy. It soon became obvious that the well armoured gefectspanzertruppen were much more willing to act aggressively and decisively than their conventionally equipped counterparts. Problems remained, the bulky troopers were slow in debussing and vulnerable in the 360° battlefield without the armour of the HAPC to shelter behind. Similarly fighting techniques had to change, assaults had to be rapid and conducted without close supervision. Casualties would require high levels of initiative from all ranks.
The latter problem was solved by adopting special forces CQB techniques, which in turn increased the training burden. The combination of gefectsangriffe attacks with Anfz equipped soldiers was dubbed Sturmtaktiken or storm tactics. This development sparked interest from militaries across the world.
By 2291 the Bavarians had reached the stage where they were ready to begin experimentation with a unit sized formation. The creation of the Gefectspanzergrenadier Lehr Abteilung 100 under the aegis of the independent 30 Panzergrenadier Brigade based at Fulda followed soon afterwards. The new unit comprised two infantry companies and a close support company including converted AC-8 assault guns, pioneers and combat walkers. The usually array of indirect and direct fire support weapons was also assigned to the battalion. The unit swung quickly into its training as prompted by the trials and good results began to be rapidly achieved. The unit was comprised primarily of Central Asian War veterans, many with real experience of attacking Manchurian pakfronts. They were equipped with the Franco-Bavarian Anfz-V armour and had access to a range of weaponry including the new SK-19.
GfPzGren Lehr Abt 100 soon came up against the same de-bussing problem the trials unit had. Attempts to solve it including armoured shields attached to the rear of the HAPC but nothing seemed to be suitable. Finally the solution of dropping into the plenum was hit upon after one group of soldiers was accidentally run over during an exercise. After considerable modification to a surplus LkPzTr-V a functioning trap door system was worked out.
The initial de-bussing drill involved the squad dropping into the plenum chamber and crouching in positions of all round defence, the HAPC would then drive off. The process of dropping into the chamber and passage of the plenum involved no little disorientation but with practise the squad could de-buss and emerge in fighting positions in under 5 seconds. Later evolution involved the troops dropping while the vehicle was still in motion, but this was less successful as the squad was dispersed. Following these trials permission was granted for modifications to the pre-production LkPzTr-VIIIs and low rate production commenced.
During the war with France GfPzGren Lehr Abt 100 undertook its first missions when 30 PzGren Bde was assigned to III Korps for its assault across the Ardennes. Initially the brigade was under the command of the newly organised Deutschland Division but saw little action in the rapid move through the Ardennes. However the French rapidly organised a defence line on the Meuse with two Airmobile Divisions and an ad-hoc collection of other units. GfPzGren Lehr Abt 100 was responsible for the destruction of two strong points manned by the Légion Étrangère and later overrun three aviation forward operations bases.
Later during the Battle of Picardie the battalion was tasked with clearing a number of defensive localities dug into small villages prior to a major attack by the Deutschland Panzer Grenadier Division. Here their performance was much less impressive with progress slow and the unit sustaining heavy casualties. The ultimate failure of the Deutschland Division's attack resulted in the French being able to contain the northern thrust and ultimately the Armistice between the two nations.
Following the war the experience of the unit was examined but with the possibility of renewed conflict with a chastened France ever present the whole 30.PzGren.Bde was converted to the Sturmtaktik role, receiving the first production LkGfPzTr-VIIIs and passing to the control of the national army as 30.LkGfPzGren.Bde. The glamorous role played by Sturmtaktiken in the fighting, which was otherwise dominated by urban slugging matches along the Rhine, was taken up by the press in both Germany and France bringing it further to the attention of the global public. Indeed press coverage was to such an extent it led to the situation where many people believed that Sturmtaktiken had been the decisive factor in the German victory.
At the end of 2295 with the conversion of 30.LkGfPzGren.Bde complete and operational analysis finished the Bundeswehr published its latest doctrine enshrining the lessons of the War of Reunification with the need to create a single military from the five state militaries. Sturmtaktiken were to be involved throughout the German system as spearhead forces to break open opposition defences. Consequently mechanised infantry LkPzGren divisions were to have an integral Sturmtaktik battalion and the three Corps were to have a Sturmtaktik brigade. Some Sturmtaktik techniques were integrated into the training syllabus of the conventional Panzer Grenadiers.
The creation of these units commenced in the Spring of 2296 and should be complete by the winter of 2298. It is also thought that some of the German State Armies will follow suit and the Bayerisch Staatwehr already has Sturmtaktik units.
Organisation & Equipment
In German service their exist two types of Sturmtaktik units. The Luftkissengefectspanzergrenadier Abteilung attached to the Luftkissenpanzergrenadier Divisions and the LkGfPzGren Brigade attached at the Korps level.
The divisional LkGfPzGren battalion is designed to provide the divisional commander with an integral Sturmtaktik capability. It is divided into three separate company sized Angriffgruppe or assault groups. Each Angriffgruppe includes ten squads of gefectspanzertruppen carried by LkGfPzTr-VIIIBs, four LkStuG-II, two 120mm automatic mortars carried on LkPzTr-VIIs. Two squads of sturmpioniere are also part of the Angriffgruppe and are also carried in LkPzTr-VIIs. The battalion also has HQ and logistical sub-units. A support company includes more LkStuG-IIs, mortar carriers, pionieres and a platoon of Kz-VII combat walkers. These can be attached to specific Angriffgruppe or be used in a second echelon of attack depending on the task.
The LkGfPzGren Brigade has two LkGfPzGren battalions organised as above, a LkPz battalion, an MLR artillery battalion and the usual supporting elements. The LkPz battalion is conventionally organised with two LkPz-IX companies and one LkPzGren company in addition to support elements, it is assigned to support the LkGfPzGren battalions by direct fire and to immediately reinforce any success.
The gefectspanzertruppen squad is comprised of fourteen soldiers of whom three crew the LkGfPzTr-VIIIB. The eleven dismounts are divided into two 5 man angriffmannschaft and is commanded by either a Feldwebel or Leutnant. Each angriffmannschaft is commanded by either a Unteroffizier or Obergefreiter armed with a SK-19 and includes two soldiers with SK-19, one with a short barrelled MG91 and one with a A9 sturmgewehr. The high calibre P11 sidearm is also standard issue, while anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles are carried on the HAPCs. The sturmpioniere are armed similarly but also have access to flame throwers, demolitions and de-mining kit.
All gefectspanzertruppen are now equipped with the German Angriffanzug-VIII rigid armour system with the Franco-Bavarian Anfz-V now withdrawn. It should be said that many in 30.LkGfPzGren.Bde who had experience of both systems believe the Anfz-V is a better system having superior ergonomics and information systems. The Anfz-VIII combines full body rigid armour with a fully enclosed NBC proof helmet and state of the art Soldatsystem-3 electronics suit including optics and communications.
The weight and cumbersome nature of the Anfz is one of the major points of controversy in the whole Sturmtaktiken system. The Anfz-VIII weighs no less than 29kg, a load that compares with a set of medieval plate armour. In addition to this the soldier will also carry at least 15kg of weapons and ordnance with just an assault load - a total of 44kg. This compares with an assault order of around 20kg for a conventional soldier. So whilst a soldier equipped with Az-VIII is proof against most small arms, but still vulnerable to man-portable rifle grenades, lasers and plasma weapons, his speed of reaction is greatly reduced. In addition, even with extensive physical training the soldier will tire significantly after 12 minutes of sustained combat operations.
The main AFV is the LkGfPzTr-VIII Aufs B, the latest model of the original Sturmtaktik vehicle. The Aufs B modification includes enhanced frontal and top armour, new defensive suite and larger drop-out hatches. This vehicle also has a further MG91 mounted on the rear remote turret and another 30mm AGL mounted on the front turret. The level of suppressive firepower available is very significant.
In support of the HAPCs is the Luftkissensturmgeschütz-II, an up-armoured LkPz-VIII equipped with a 120mm binary canon and enhanced machine gun armament. This has replaced the converted AC-8s, known as LkStuG-I, in the close support role. The LkPzTr-VII is the standard Bundeswehr HAPC which closely resembles the LkGfPzTr-VIII which was developed from it, except that it lacks the assault modifications and rear remote turret.
Sturmtaktiken has drawn a great deal of attention from other nations. It is perhaps most developed with the Freiwehr on Tirane, as many Bavarian officers who disagreed with Reunification migrated there bringing their expertise with them. The Freiwehr draws relatively little attention to its program but is known to have several Gruppe trained and equipped to use Sturmtaktiken.
In the years since the War of Reunification the French Army has seemed at times to be mesmerised by the possibilities of Sturmtaktik. However most French opinion has come around to the 'dead end' school of thinking on the subject. The French Système de Fantassin Blindé Mle.2294 (SFB-94), which has the same roots as the Anfz-V, is on issue to the tracked mechanised infantry battalion of the Divisions Blindée. However no accompanying special assault training and doctrine has been developed, they are simply heavily armoured mechanised infantry.
Manchuria has shown little interest in Sturmtaktiken, partly as it already had its own doctrine in place before the war. The Manchurians utilised their mechanised forces for punching through defensive screens. Spearheaded by heavily armoured Type-27 tanks and Type-21 APCs Manchurian assaults would be fired in with saturation WASP attacks landing just to the front and even on their advancing formations. The force would be screened on the flanks by hovermobile formations. Once on the objective the artillery would lift, Type-27s engage depth targets and infantry de-buss from the Type-21s and mop up. Manchurian military opinion tends to believe that Sturmtaktiken is an over complicated solution to a relatively simple problem.
The Japanese have taken great interest in Sturmtaktiken and are believed to have integrated many of the concepts into a number of infantry units within their Marine Armoured Regiments. However due to Japanese secrecy little firm detail has been discovered as to their implementation, doctrine or equipment.
As mentioned above the British Army ran trials with Sturmtaktiken with Zulu Company of the 2nd Royal Regiment of Fusiliers being converted and equipped with a number of LkGfPzTr-VIIIs obtained from Germany. However the trials were not a great success, with the British deciding to settle on introducing some Sturmtaktiken techniques into its armoured infantry doctrine. Their opinion was that Sturmtaktiken is too risky to build a doctrine upon and that battlesuits are too cumbersome for routine infantry use.
The US Army is also experimenting with Sturmtaktiken but has yet to reach any firm conclusion on the issue. The US Marines have introduced rigid armour into some of its units, but they generally lack the mobility to utilise them with dedicated Sturmtaktiken.
There are currently two schools of thought over the importance of Sturmtaktiken, which I've chosen describe as the 'breakthrough' and 'dead end' schools.
The 'breakthrough' school believes that the advent of Sturmtaktiken has given the opportunity for the offence to prevail against the defence. These commentators point not just to the success of Sturmtaktiken on the Meuse but also to the failure of conventional troops on the Rhine. The attritional battles on the Rhine were where the bulk of the war's 60 000 casualties were inflicted. With little room for manoeuvre and relatively unskilled troops progress was very slow. There were two attempts to break this deadlock. France's early thrust into Baden to isolate Stuttgart and the German assault through the Ardennes that ended on the Somme.
The breakthrough school points out that had the French assault into Baden succeeded then they stood a good chance of breaking Bavaria away from the new Germany. However they floundered on the elastic German defences and this front also bogged down. They contrast this with the German push through the Ardennes, which was able to give moral support the Flemish uprising as well as deliver a crushing blow to French morale. Although ultimately unable to break through the Somme positions the III Korps strike proved the blow needed to end the war in a manner favourable to Germany. Thus they conclude that it was Sturmtaktik that proved the ultimate difference between French defeat and German victory.
This school points out that defences are only increasing in density and sophistication. Whilst comprehensive reconnaissance and artillery are the best way of dealing with these there is also a requirement to rapidly penetrate these defences if commanders wish to contest the enemy's shaping of the battlespace. The breakthrough school recognises that conventional infantry can do this task, but that specially trained and equipped units can do it faster and perhaps cheaper. They also make the point that Sturmtaktiken is more than just the minor tactics of gefectspanzertruppen assaulting positions but a wider doctrine of an offensive nature replacing the more defensive doctrine of the Central Asian War period.
Countering this position is the school of opinion that believes Sturmtaktiken is essentially a dead end. They point out that German success on the Meuse was largely down to the weakness of the French position, manned only by a thin screen of two regular and three conscript battalions, the density of which came nowhere near that of a classic Manchurian pakfront. They also point out that the bulk of the fighting on the Meuse was carried out by the non-Sturmtaktik units of the 7th Luftkissenpanzer Division and conventional elements of 30.PzGren.Bde. When faced by better prepared defences the GfPzGren Lehr Abt 100 was unable to make the decisive breakthrough, although they suffered lighter casualties than the conventional Panzer Grenadiers.
The dead end school points out that the balance between defence and attack is constantly shifting. The post-Central Asian War up-armouring of HAPCs has increased their survivability, but a post-War of Reunification evolution of ATGW and man-portable plasma weapons has increased the infantry's defensive firepower. The adoption of the expensively specialised tactics, equipment and training required by Sturmtaktiken will inevitably be countered and rendered obsolete.
This school points out that this experience has already been observed in force-on-force exercises with the British Sturmtaktiken trials unit. The British assault troops soon reverted to conventional armoured infantry tactics of de-bussing short of the position, and at the end of the trials the British chose not to continue with Sturmtaktiken. German exercises remain classified but anecdotal evidence suggests a similar experience may not be uncommon.
Their conclusion is that far from being the leading edge of a new style of warfare the gefectspanzertruppen are just a form of super-Panzer Grenadier. That the Bundeswehr are creating an elite from the conventional infantry, denuding them of the best troops and junior leaders. Historically wars are won by the average skill of the troops involved and that Germany's military reputation was won by concentrating on that average. This is in contrast to other nations, Britain in particular, creating elite units of marginal combat power, useful on the peripheries, but unable effect the course of the main battle. They believe that the crack gefectspanzertruppen would suffer dramatically from casualties during any prolonged war and that replacements of suitable training would be hard to come by. Consequently their opinion is that the Bundeswehr would do better to concentrate on improving the overall standards of its conventional units and introducing some of the Sturmtaktik concepts into their tactical repertoire.
No one doubts the combat effectiveness of the gefectspanzertruppen, indeed their international reputation is second to none. Their minor tactical astuteness, training, equipment and skills are all of the highest standard. However doubts have grown as to whether the classic Sturmtaktik assault delivered into the heart of an enemy position is viable. Simulation shows that once the shock value of such a close attack has passed the gefectspanzertruppen can be exceptionally vulnerable to surviving troops, counter-attack and final protective artillery fires. However for the specialist job of breaching an enemy defensive position there is no one to match them.
Ultimately the gefectspanzertruppen have a role akin to Napoleon's Garde Impériale, and should be maintained in reserve until needed by a commander. Their specialist training and equipment means they lack the versatility of conventional troops in other phases of war. As a result they are seen as something of an expensive luxury by some commanders. For all the debate around them the true value of the gefectspanzertruppen and Sturmtaktiken will only been seen should another major war erupt on Earth.
The text of the original lecture was edited by the RWJSI Secretariat to remove any classified data. The edited text was subsequently approved by Lt-Col Robertson.
The text of this press release has been cleared for issue to the public by the RWJSI Secretariat. Persons with a security clearance wishing to view the original text should contact either RWJSI Library.
This article is based on 'Sturmtaktik' as described in GDW's Ground Vehicle Guide. Unfortunately the description of Sturmtaktik is not consistent in the book with one article crediting German success in the War of Reunification to it, and another that Sturmtaktik was not finally evolved until after the war. This article splits the difference and attempts to look at how such tactics might actually work on the 2300AD battlefield.
Thanks to David Gillon and Peter Grining for feedback and general good ideas.
Hebditch, 200 3