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Panta

Four-Tank vs Three-tank platoons

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I have been experimenting different options/units with one scenario in particular, HoH-PzGr 1, and found that merely adding a fourth tank to one of my tank platoons made a substantial difference, I was able to use each one of the two-tank sections facing different fronts, instead of having to run to cover the alternate positions if needed.

Why German tank platoons have three vehicles instead of four? Four makes easier to leap-frog, as instructed in the corresponding US FM, for instance. Curiously during WW2 some German armour units had five-tank platoons.

How do you leap-frog with a German Platoon? :eek2:

Cheers,

Panta

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I have been experimenting different options/units with one scenario in particular, HoH-PzGr 1, and found that merely adding a fourth tank to one of my tank platoons made a substantial difference, I was able to use each one of the two-tank sections facing different fronts, instead of having to run to cover the alternate positions if needed.

Why German tank platoons have three vehicles instead of four? Four makes easier to leap-frog, as instructed in the corresponding US FM, for instance. Curiously during WW2 some German armour units had five-tank platoons.

How do you leap-frog with a German Platoon? :eek2:

Cheers,

Panta

Don't know about the leapfrog...

But as far as I know the Soviet doctrine opted for 3 tank platoons and during Cold War the West Germans adapted to it...

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Sorry, I should have said, "and over watching", this early in the morning I am still in the world of dreams...

P.

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... this early in the morning I am still in the world of dreams...

P.

Nothing that a couple of good "mates" can't take care of, my friend! :)

As for the thread, excellent question. I'm looking forward to the answer to this.

I tend to leapfrog with a minimum of 2 Plts.

Cheers,

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I think that probably the Russkies opted for the three-tank platoon for different reasons than the Germans. To have smaller units to control, perhaps. For the Germans, probably their doctrine was dictated by budgetary reasons, instead.

Cheers,

P.

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Nothing that a couple of good "mates" can't take care of, my friend! :)

Cheers,

And for the 'mate', I am a sort of dissident here in Montevideo, I am rather a heavy tea-drinker! :diable:

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I think that probably the Russkies opted for the three-tank platoon for different reasons than the Germans. To have smaller units to control, perhaps. For the Germans, probably their doctrine was dictated by budgetary reasons, instead.

Cheers,

P.

:mad: Yeah...that could have been...military budget was/is/getting pretty low in Germany...

But what I read is that, the Germans opted for 3tank-platoons because of the Soviets...idea was that it isn't necessary to have 4 Leo2 against 3 T72.

And at company-level you get from the then available tanks a whole new platoon as tactical reserve...

--> better than 1 tank reserve per platoon...

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:mad: Yeah...that could have been...military budget was/is/getting pretty low in Germany...

But what I read is that, the Germans opted for 3tank-platoons because of the Soviets...idea was that it isn't necessary to have 4 Leo2 against 3 T72.

And at company-level you get from the then available tanks a whole new platoon as tactical reserve...

--> better than 1 tank reserve per platoon...

That seems to be pretty logical, since a 10 (or 11?) Leo platoon probably had a heavier punch than their OPFOR equivalent anyway.

So, what about the US units deployed there then? They had four tanks, so probably a US tank Co was stronger than a WP tank Co, I presume, taking all hardware characteristics aside.

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The US tank coy had originally 17 tanks:

co

xo

Platoon 1, Heavy section 3 M60, Light Section 2 M60

Platoon 2, Heavy section 3 M60, Light Section 2 M60

Platoon 3, Heavy Section 3 M60, Light Section 2 M60

By the time of Airland Battle this had been reduced to 14 tanks:

co

xo

Platoon 1, 4 M1

Platoon 2, 4 M1

Platoon 3, 4 M1

The Germans operated a 13 vehicle company (AFAIK the other o/c was in an APC or light truck - I can't remember which was supposed to be in the MBT though)

co or xo

Platoon 1, 3 Leopard

Platoon 2, 3 Leopard

Platoon 3, 3 Leopard

Platoon 4, 3 Leopard

This has changed several times but seems to have recently settled on:

co

Platoon 1, 4 Leopard

Platoon 2, 4 Leopard

Platoon 3, 4 Leopard

Meanwhile the Soviets operated two standard company patterns:

Organic to tank regiments:

10 vehicle company:

co

Platoon 1, 3 T72 or T64 or T80

Platoon 2, 3 T72 or T64 or T80

Platoon 3, 3 T72 or T64 or T80

Organic to motor rifle regiment tank battalion and to the independent tank battalion of a MRD (which also had 5 rather than the standard 3 companies):

13 vehicle company:

co

Platoon 1, 4 T72

Platoon 2, 4 T72

Platoon 3, 4 T72

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The four-tank platoons reinforced a MRR's BTR/BMP Co, and I suppose they were attached to them, not as part of an organic Co, that's why they were four, I suppose.

OTOH, WP tanks worked more in Cos as a whole unit, for lack of qualified officers, most probably, which made them probably consider their three-tank platoons as sections.

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The reason for the (temporary) adoption of three-tank platoons was not to copy the Soviets (and in any case for each Leo platoon there would have been a Soviet company of AFVs, otherwise it would have been too easy...).

The idea behind it was to give the company commander a local reserve of one platoon. With three platoons of four vehicles each platoon leader is better off, yes. But typically all three platoons are needed to cover the company's assigned sector. This gives the company commander only little flexibility. So the idea was born to have three vehicle platoons, but four of them, so that three tanks can be held in reserve until the enemy's main effort has been identified, so that the three tanks can then be sent for a local counterattack or to reinforce a position, or to contain a difficult situation.

As more and more responsibility is nowadays delegated to the lower echelons of the chain of command, the platoons are now four tanks strong again. We have kept the three vehicle default partly out of laziness, partly to keep the option for a different tactical concept (that of local reserves) so that you can experiment with it.

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Tx Ssnake for the explanation and also tx Singleshot for the link, it is nice to have the OOBs explained with images, specially for people like me whose knowledge of German is scarce.

How do you advance employing overwatch with only three tanks? One and two, I presume...

Cheers,

Panta

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Tx Ssnake for the explanation and also tx Singleshot for the link, it is nice to have the OOBs explained with images, specially for people like me whose knowledge of German is scarce.

How do you advance employing overwatch with only three tanks? One and two, I presume...

Cheers,

Panta

or since you have 4 platoons, why not bound two whole platoons in front of the rest of the company instead of breaking down the platoons? ;) You still have one to back them up, as well as a reserve platoon. 4 platoons are definitely felixible, just different.

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In many situations two platoons can't cover the entire front line. In a typical high intensity battle the assigned sector for a company is one to two kilometers wide. Add some little hill or a forest into it and you quickly cope to the point where the platoons can neither support each other nor have a full picture of the situation. Besides, each company would normally exchange one platoon with a Grenadier company. You can't put the IFVs just anywhere, and they may not be terribly well suited to act as the company reserve. So, their position is already dictated by their capabilities and the terrain. That doesn't leave a lot of leeway for the company commander.

I'm not saying that the Bundeswehr should have kept the three vehicle platoons. But the concept was worth a serious consideration.

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What you say suggests that the three-tank platoons scheme favorizes the tank company use of reserves,, in detriment of the platoon operations. When you read FM 17-15 The Tank Platoon, you see that in Ch. 3, Offensive Operations, the use of two-tank sections is extensive, keeping one element as fire support or/and the other for manuever. I wonder how can you accomplish that with only three tanks. Different tactics, I presume.

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What you say suggests that the three-tank platoons scheme favorizes the tank company use of reserves,, in detriment of the platoon operations. When you read FM 17-15 The Tank Platoon, you see that in Ch. 3, Offensive Operations, the use of two-tank sections is extensive, keeping one element as fire support or/and the other for manuever. I wonder how can you accomplish that with only three tanks. Different tactics, I presume.

well, first that's an American manual. secondly, considering the time period -- cold war -- and the frontages Ssnake is mentioning, i doubt you would see many platoon sized operations with that configuration. im a big fan of 4 tank platoons, but i'm also a fan of 4 platoon companies :biggrin: there is flexibility in both ways. thank Goodness, and Ssnakenes, and Alness, that we have the option to create 4-tank platoons out of any unit, or anything up to 6 ;)

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The time period actually was from 1995 to maybe 2004, well after the end of the CW. Before, and since, we have returned to the three platoons of four cars organization.

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regarding the Soviet 3-tank platoon, if I recall correctly, it was a command-and-control issue. as someone mentioned earlier, Soviet armor companies tended to operate under pretty centralized control, and if I recall correctly, most of the tanks carried receive-only radios, with only leaders having transmitters. With three tanks in a platoon, it's easy to maintain a formation, as you have the leader on point and one tank to either side- there's no one isolated away from the lead tank

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i don't believe it was recieve only radios so much as not being permitted to use radios prior to contact. deception and commsec... they used flags to signal the march and deployment. i want flags. Ssnake, are they on the_List? ;)

also, in the USSR the basic unit was a company. so, you should never see platoons operating alone. they'd send a company. i think part of that is due to the lack of a strong NCO corps in the soviet union (conscripted SGTs with little time in uniform who would turn out once their mandatory service was complete). so, LTs and other company grade officers tend to perform the roles that in the US Army might be delegated to an experienced NCO. it would be akin to being limited to a bunch of corporals for your NCO corps.

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I was mainly recce in my time, but we also crosstrained to tanks. We used the four tank troop (platoon), four troops to the squadron (company), with a headquarters of three tanks (OC, Battle Captain, and a dozer tank) plus a supply echelon (med, maint, ammo, etc.). Lots of flexibility: three troops up, one in reserve; one troop plus an attached infantry platoon for a small, short, task; in the advance, two troops under the BC covered the other troops plus SHQ as they moved, or fire and movement within the two troop element as required by ground; two troops under the BC plus a slice of the echelon detached for a short period to work with, for example, a company of infantry (company/half squadron combat team)...and so it went. Lots of flexibility: all you really had to do was read the map, read the ground, and anticipate! :)

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Is it just me, or do military planners have a real problem understanding that units of differing equipment or internal structure can't always fight along the same frontage? Or that things like hills, rivers and towns effect the frontage that should be assinged to a given number of soldiers/heavy weapons?

During training, it always bothered me that I was expected to divide up my platoon into more-or-less equal elements and divide my area of responsibility into that many more-or-less equal areas. I got the feeling that everyone up the chain just assumed that is the way it had to be done. Maybe that is only in the infantry, though.

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No, at least during my officers' training the issue was brough up frequently. However, the frontage gets dictated to some extent by the battlespace to which the whole battalion or brigade is assigned, and then you somehow have to break it down to the companies etc., so the BN commander may know that he's asking for a lot but can't really help it.

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Bad thing is if the Bn Cdr makes the decision on the company AORs ONLY according to the map an not while standig at the actual terrain. That is a sure way to disaster.

But then its usually your job as CO to link up with the other CO's...and file a request to move left/right border. From my experince Bn Cdr's turn down these requests only in rare cases.

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But then its usually your job as CO to link up with the other CO's...and file a request to move left/right border. From my experince Bn Cdr's turn down these requests only in rare cases.

I'm glad to hear of your experience. My personal experience of trying to coordinate a better position with adjecent units resulted in my CO overruling me on the grounds that our BC did not tolerate deviations from his orders on such things. And no, the BC had not seen that ground before he drew up his orders. I hope me experience was atypical.

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