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#1 Redbeard

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 0755 AM

Was reading up on various artillery systems in WWII and it appears like there were many examples of 15-15,5 cm howitzers  with a system weight of 5-6 tons, split trail carriage and firing a 42-43 kg HE shell out to 14-15 km. One example is the US M114  (which I've served on myself) but various Russian, Swedish and Czech systems are other examples. These were typically pieces developed in the interwar years and coming into production in the mid to late 1930s. 

 

The German 15 cm SFH 18 fit all these criteria - except range. In theory it would reach close to 13 km, but the two upper charges gave massive erosion in the chamber and needed autorisation from higher command each time they were used. So in"everyday fighting" the practical range was less than 10 km! That is comparable with the earlier generation of medium howitzers, but usually only weighing 3-3,5 tons. 

 

What went wrong for the German designers and producers? After all they did design and produce other very succesful guns.


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#2 lastdingo

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 0853 AM

There are three kinda excuses, but none is really convincing.

 

- shortage of steel additives (even Nickel was in short supply, as about 90% of world production was out of reach, most of it in Canada)

 

- the unsatisfactory motorization of the German army in the 1930's led to a desire to have at least in theory a horse draft-capable sFH.

They even developed the sFH 36 specifically to have a sFH that could routinely be drawn by horses (but that one used light alloys like mountain guns, so was unaffordable later on).

 

- bad luck

 

 

German mass-produced WW2-era  artillery designed by Krupp or Rheinmetall tended to be rather heavy and have unimpressive ranges. This became very obvious in comparison to Russian 7.62 cm guns and 15.2 cm gun-howitzers. The dedicated 10.5 cm cannons were rather disappointing (primarily in regard to effort/effect ratio, not so much raw range), and 15 cm field cannons were bordering on impractical (two-piece transportation; the effort required was so close to the 17 cm K18 that the superior latter gun was preferred).


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#3 RETAC21

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 1109 AM

 

German mass-produced WW2-era  artillery designed by Krupp or Rheinmetall tended to be rather heavy and have unimpressive ranges. This became very obvious in comparison to Russian 7.62 cm guns and 15.2 cm gun-howitzers. The dedicated 10.5 cm cannons were rather disappointing (primarily in regard to effort/effect ratio, not so much raw range), and 15 cm field cannons were bordering on impractical (two-piece transportation; the effort required was so close to the 17 cm K18 that the superior latter gun was preferred).

 

This, overengineering, the carriages were heavier than required, but the overall piece weight still had to be able to be pulled by the available means, so something had to give. The Spanish army bought some 15cm guns in 1943 and found none of the available trucks was able to pull them cross country.

 

Checking my photos of the Porto military museum, the Portuguese Army replaced their K 15cm/30 model 1941 with 14cm/43 in 1943 also due to poor mobility

 

The German piece with a shorter tube and heftier carriage:

 

2018_08_15_14_38_55_by_retac21_dd84gig-p

 

The British one with a long tube and a lighter carriage

 

2018_08_15_14_37_31_by_retac21_dd84gmg-p


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#4 Redbeard

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 1436 PM

Just to compare - the WWI sFH 13 fired a 41 kg shell to 8600 meters and weighed in action just 2250 kg - 41% of the weight for 91 % of the range - or doubling the weight to get a 13 % increase in range!

 

Could the failure of the sFH 18 have to do with the chamber design? If a chamber is relatively narrow to the charge it will cause chamber pressure to increase which again may cause excessive erosion (chambers very rarely crack). If you combine that with a propellant with a little extra erosion effect I suppose we could have the case of sFH 18?

 

In higher MVs the erosion is usually in the barrel, but even at the restricted top charge 7 MV in sFH 18 was at a modest 495 mps (compared to 564 mps of the M114), and about half of where barrel erosion begin to accelerate.

 

Follow up designs had significant improvements but were given up due to the scarcity of aluminum. 

 

The Germans did have acces to a contemporary design with much better performance however, the Czech Skoda 149 mm M37 (K4) howitzer. With an action weight of 5200 kg it fired a 42 kg shell to an impressive 15100 meter, and even had a max elevation of 70 degree (ie true howitzer fire). It was in production when the Germans annexed Czeckoslovakia and a small scale production was continued, but apparently most pieces were supplied to the later Slovakian Army. 

 

From the specs the Skoda would appear to be a good bid for "Worlds best medium field artillery piece" by start of WWII, but what was the catch? Why wasn't it put in more widescale production? I guess because the Germans too late discovered the erosion problem of the sFH 18 and because the SFH 18 really didn't meet serious opposition until the Red Army had reformed, retrained (the hard way) and reequipped into a mature fighting force in 1943.


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#5 RETAC21

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 1439 PM

It could have been something mundane like licenses, one was Krupp and the other was Skoda, one had the political oompf, the other was Czech...


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#6 Redbeard

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 1441 PM

 

 

German mass-produced WW2-era  artillery designed by Krupp or Rheinmetall tended to be rather heavy and have unimpressive ranges. This became very obvious in comparison to Russian 7.62 cm guns and 15.2 cm gun-howitzers. The dedicated 10.5 cm cannons were rather disappointing (primarily in regard to effort/effect ratio, not so much raw range), and 15 cm field cannons were bordering on impractical (two-piece transportation; the effort required was so close to the 17 cm K18 that the superior latter gun was preferred).

 

This, overengineering, the carriages were heavier than required, but the overall piece weight still had to be able to be pulled by the available means, so something had to give. The Spanish army bought some 15cm guns in 1943 and found none of the available trucks was able to pull them cross country.

 

Checking my photos of the Porto military museum, the Portuguese Army replaced their K 15cm/30 model 1941 with 14cm/43 in 1943 also due to poor mobility

 

The German piece with a shorter tube and heftier carriage:

 

2018_08_15_14_38_55_by_retac21_dd84gig-p

 

The British one with a long tube and a lighter carriage

 

2018_08_15_14_37_31_by_retac21_dd84gmg-p

 

 

The 5,5 " gun indeed is a masterpiece of field artillery, but it after all also was some 10 years alter and at least a generation. You could say however, that the late appearance of the 5,5" had more to do with lack of funding in the early 30s than lack of technical ingenuity.


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#7 Redbeard

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 1450 PM


 

 

double post


Edited by Redbeard, 31 May 2019 - 1201 PM.

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#8 Ken Estes

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 1454 PM

I doubt the German piece was older, certainly not by a generation, as the Wehrmacht doctored the designations to conceal their development during the Versailles Treaty period.


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#9 Redbeard

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 1512 PM

double post


Edited by Redbeard, 31 May 2019 - 1202 PM.

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#10 EchoFiveMike

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 1544 PM

When guns suck, the first place I'd look is a crap shell design.  And/or crappy propellant.  S/F...Ken M


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#11 Chris Werb

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 1713 PM

 

 

 

German mass-produced WW2-era  artillery designed by Krupp or Rheinmetall tended to be rather heavy and have unimpressive ranges. This became very obvious in comparison to Russian 7.62 cm guns and 15.2 cm gun-howitzers. The dedicated 10.5 cm cannons were rather disappointing (primarily in regard to effort/effect ratio, not so much raw range), and 15 cm field cannons were bordering on impractical (two-piece transportation; the effort required was so close to the 17 cm K18 that the superior latter gun was preferred).

 

This, overengineering, the carriages were heavier than required, but the overall piece weight still had to be able to be pulled by the available means, so something had to give. The Spanish army bought some 15cm guns in 1943 and found none of the available trucks was able to pull them cross country.

 

Checking my photos of the Porto military museum, the Portuguese Army replaced their K 15cm/30 model 1941 with 14cm/43 in 1943 also due to poor mobility

 

The German piece with a shorter tube and heftier carriage:

 

2018_08_15_14_38_55_by_retac21_dd84gig-p

 

The British one with a long tube and a lighter carriage

 

2018_08_15_14_37_31_by_retac21_dd84gmg-p

 

 

The 5,5 " gun indeed is a masterpiece of field artillery, but it after all also was some 10 years alter and at least a generation. You could say however, that the late appearance of the 5,5" had more to do with lack of funding in the early 30s than lack of technical ingenuity.

 

 

5.5" howitzer - the Mk 2 4.5" gun was nearly identical apart from the tube, and was not deemed successful (largely due to utilising the same shell with inadequate filler to body weight due to design to use low grade steel that hampered the equally little known US 4.5" gun). It disappeared from field service soon after WW2 but seems to have lingered on in a training role thereafter and was not finally declared obsolete until 1959. The 5.5" howitzer was similarly kept on for training and was actually reintroduced for demonstration fires when additional stocks of ammunition were "discovered under a Welsh mountain" as related to me by one of the WOs in the RA training regiment shortly thereafter.  It's hard to tell for sure, but looking at the thickness and length of the barrel, the weapons in your pick may well be 4.5" (114mm) guns.

 

https://en.wikipedia...edium_Field_Gun


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#12 Chris Werb

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 1721 PM

For comparison, here is a 4.5" gun next to a 5.5" howitzer at Larkhill - I would assume in the late 1950s.

 

https://uhcl.recolle...display/946-max


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#13 Rich

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Posted 30 May 2019 - 1915 PM

There seems to be some confusion here? There are comparison between the 15cm sFH 18 and the 4.5' Gun, 5.5" Gun and 15cm sFK? Howitzers aren't guns and vie versa, although both are cannon. Comparing range of a howitzer to a similar caliber gun is self-defeating? :D I suggest you compare the 15cm sFH to the US Army. 155mm Howitzer M1, the Soviet Howitzer 15.2cm M1938 (M10), and the Skoda 14.9cm M1937 (K4) if you want to comare like to like. They were all designed in the same period (late 1920s and early 1930s).


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#14 lastdingo

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 0230 AM

Just to compare - the WWI sFH 13 fired a 41 kg shell to 8600 meters and weighed in action just 2250 kg - 41% of the weight for 91 % of the range - or doubling the weight to get a 13 % increase in range!

 

(...)

 

The Germans did have acces to a contemporary design with much better performance however, the Czech Skoda 149 mm M37 (K4) howitzer. With an action weight of 5200 kg it fired a 42 kg shell to an impressive 15100 meter, and even had a max elevation of 70 degree (ie true howitzer fire). It was in production when the Germans annexed Czeckoslovakia and a small scale production was continued, but apparently most pieces were supplied to the later Slovakian Army. 

 

Keep in mind the WWI design had a box carriage, not split carriage. The narrow traverse was so poor that it was only really suitable for pre-planned fires, not for rapid response to radio or phone calls for fires.

 

The Czech howitzer was superior in range and trajectory flexibility, but its spades had to be hammered in and pulled out and it had an unusually poor (for a split carriage) traverse of 45° (60° in sFH 18). 198 were made beginning in 1939.

 

The German arms procurement was quite rigid once it had settled on a design. There are multiple export guns obviously superior to the corresponding designs that the German army continued to buy. Example; 7.5 and 15 cm field guns.

It's fair to guess that much time of the experts was wasted with designs for railway guns, long range field guns and other low production volume designs of little relevance.

 

A WW2 army should have needed only three designs; an infantry gun/anti-tank gun of well less than one ton weight in battle, a light field gun-howitzer and a field fortifications-breaking artillery weapon (150+ mm mortar without recoil mechanism or large calibre rocket launcher). No army standardized its artillery properly.


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#15 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 0303 AM

 

 

 

 

German mass-produced WW2-era  artillery designed by Krupp or Rheinmetall tended to be rather heavy and have unimpressive ranges. This became very obvious in comparison to Russian 7.62 cm guns and 15.2 cm gun-howitzers. The dedicated 10.5 cm cannons were rather disappointing (primarily in regard to effort/effect ratio, not so much raw range), and 15 cm field cannons were bordering on impractical (two-piece transportation; the effort required was so close to the 17 cm K18 that the superior latter gun was preferred).

 

This, overengineering, the carriages were heavier than required, but the overall piece weight still had to be able to be pulled by the available means, so something had to give. The Spanish army bought some 15cm guns in 1943 and found none of the available trucks was able to pull them cross country.

 

Checking my photos of the Porto military museum, the Portuguese Army replaced their K 15cm/30 model 1941 with 14cm/43 in 1943 also due to poor mobility

 

The German piece with a shorter tube and heftier carriage:

 

2018_08_15_14_38_55_by_retac21_dd84gig-p

 

The British one with a long tube and a lighter carriage

 

2018_08_15_14_37_31_by_retac21_dd84gmg-p

 

 

The 5,5 " gun indeed is a masterpiece of field artillery, but it after all also was some 10 years alter and at least a generation. You could say however, that the late appearance of the 5,5" had more to do with lack of funding in the early 30s than lack of technical ingenuity.

 

 

5.5" howitzer - the Mk 2 4.5" gun was nearly identical apart from the tube, and was not deemed successful (largely due to utilising the same shell with inadequate filler to body weight due to design to use low grade steel that hampered the equally little known US 4.5" gun). It disappeared from field service soon after WW2 but seems to have lingered on in a training role thereafter and was not finally declared obsolete until 1959. The 5.5" howitzer was similarly kept on for training and was actually reintroduced for demonstration fires when additional stocks of ammunition were "discovered under a Welsh mountain" as related to me by one of the WOs in the RA training regiment shortly thereafter.  It's hard to tell for sure, but looking at the thickness and length of the barrel, the weapons in your pick may well be 4.5" (114mm) guns.

 

https://en.wikipedia...edium_Field_Gun

 

 

Ive seen photographs of them in a training role in the British Army as late as the early 1980's.  I dont think we kept the FH70 nearly half as long.


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#16 DougRichards

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 0628 AM

Surely there is also the factor at which level the weapons were used.  For instance the standard British divisional gun was the 25pdr, anything bigger was held and used at the Corps level, with the rider that a British divisional artillery observer could call the corps fires of hell down on a suitable target.

 

The US used a mix of 105mm and 155mm howitzers (well, even though not admitted, the 105mm was a gun-howitzer, like the 25pdr) at the divisional level. Again with 155mm guns and above (well as the 155mm gun had a two stage propellant load so in some ways it could also be strictly considered as a gun howitzer).

 

So what were the German equivalents in terms of divisional and corps artillery?  Divisional artillery needed shorter range.  Meanwhile, as far as I read, German divisional artillery started with 7.5 cm guns, then went to 10cm howitzers, then back to 7.5cm guns.

 

Some German divisions had artillery of both 10cm and 15cm, so would not have required corps level range.


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#17 Redbeard

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 0637 AM

I doubt the German piece was older, certainly not by a generation, as the Wehrmacht doctored the designations to conceal their development during the Versailles Treaty period.

The sFH 18 was developed in the late 1920s and went into production in 1935 as a combination of a Krupp carriage and ordonance from Rheinmetall-Borsig. The 5,5" was in production from 1942, but probably could have been designed and produced earlier, had funding been there.


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#18 Markus Becker

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 0822 AM

"Meanwhile, as far as I read, German divisional artillery started with 7.5 cm guns, then went to 10cm howitzers, then back to 7.5cm guns."

Back to 7.5cm? That would be unusual to put it mildly. That caliber was recognized as too small during WW1 already.

Edited by Markus Becker, 31 May 2019 - 0825 AM.

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#19 Martin M

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 0853 AM

There seems to be some confusion here? There are comparison between the 15cm sFH 18 and the 4.5' Gun, 5.5" Gun and 15cm sFK? Howitzers aren't guns and vie versa, although both are cannon. Comparing range of a howitzer to a similar caliber gun is self-defeating? :D I suggest you compare the 15cm sFH to the US Army. 155mm Howitzer M1, the Soviet Howitzer 15.2cm M1938 (M10), and the Skoda 14.9cm M1937 (K4) if you want to comare like to like. They were all designed in the same period (late 1920s and early 1930s).

 

 

 

So if you do what Rich says:

 

Gun: weight in tons / rpm / range in km  / weight of shell in kgs

 

FH 18:  5-6 / 4 / 13,3 / 43

US M1: 5,6 / 4 / 14,6 / 42

SU M10: 4 / 3 / 12,4 / 40

CZ K4: 5,2 /  ? / 15,1 / ?

 

 

on topic:

Another "Germany should have"  :

Was it here or somewhere in u-tube some expert said that Germany should have™  almost exclusively concentrated on production of artillery munitions.


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#20 Redbeard

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 0920 AM

Surely there is also the factor at which level the weapons were used.  For instance the standard British divisional gun was the 25pdr, anything bigger was held and used at the Corps level, with the rider that a British divisional artillery observer could call the corps fires of hell down on a suitable target.

 

The US used a mix of 105mm and 155mm howitzers (well, even though not admitted, the 105mm was a gun-howitzer, like the 25pdr) at the divisional level. Again with 155mm guns and above (well as the 155mm gun had a two stage propellant load so in some ways it could also be strictly considered as a gun howitzer).

 

So what were the German equivalents in terms of divisional and corps artillery?  Divisional artillery needed shorter range.  Meanwhile, as far as I read, German divisional artillery started with 7.5 cm guns, then went to 10cm howitzers, then back to 7.5cm guns.

 

Some German divisions had artillery of both 10cm and 15cm, so would not have required corps level range.

At Barbarossa most frontline Divisions had three battalions of 105mm and one of 150mm (12 guns each) but lower priority Divisions might only have one arty battalion. The Divisional artillery had as its primary task to support the combat of the Division and had its fire closely coordinated with the movement elements of the Division. If the ideal frontal coverage of a Division of 10-15 km could be kept a range of 10 km was enough to have all or most of the Divisional artillery support in all of the sector but German Divisions soon found themselves covering much larger sectors and outranged by the Russian artillery at all levels. In moving combat a shorter range also means that the batteries have to spend much more time on the roads instead of in firings positions to keep up with the combat, no matter if you go forward or backwards, but at a time the extra range is paid for too dearly by too heavy pieces being too cumbersome to move.

 

IMHO the German 105mm lFH 18 found a good balance between range (10 km, but eventually 12+ km with muzzle brake) and weight (2 tons) but a piece weighing almost 6 tons and ranging less than 10 km appear out of balance - especially if you have limited access to motor vehicles. For all the effort put into the sFH 18 it would have appeared more beneficial to take the barrel from the old sFH 16 and put it on a new split trail carriage (was done on other WWI origin pieces). That would have provided a piece with only marginally shorter range but at less than half the weight - ie. realistically to be towed by horses or by lighter motor vehicles.

 

At Corps or higher level you basically had two types of fire support. One was quite heavy (6-25 tons) but long ranging field guns to engage targets in depth like enemy batteries, HQs or junctions. An example was the 105 mm sK 18, which used the same carriage as the sFH 18 but instead of the 27 caliber 150 mm barrel had a 46 caliber 105 mm barrel sending a 15 kg shell out to 16 km, and in a later version to 19 km. The later was sufficient but compared bad to Russian pieces like the 122 mm A-19 which from the start of the war sent a 25 kg shell out to 20 km. It did weigh almost 8 tons, but with that range and reasonable Russian access to heavy tractors that wasn't a big problem. 

 

Around WWI medium and heavy field guns usually had to be transported with barrel and carriage separated, but interwar designs usually "just" had to wind back the barrel and fix the breech end at some point on the trail for transport. But it still made these guns very cumbersome and vulnerable to counter battery fire.

 

The other task of Corps and higher level arty was simply massing fire for the supported unit. This was an effective way for the Corps or Army commander to focus his effort (set "Schwerpunkt") in both defensive and offensive operations, and as mainly howitzers and rocket launchers were used in this role you could relatively easy shift the "Schwerpunkt" - providing the ammo probably was the biggest challenge. The sFH 18 was used in this role (not much else was available) but was even less suited here than for the Divisional role. 

 

Th Germans never had enough guns (or ammo) to mass fire like the Red Army but relied more on flexibility - although never could match the British and Americans in the "flexibility game" - I guess never having as many reliable radio sets was an important factor.


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