The Artillery Growth Spurt

I was looking through my old planning documents and noticed something very interesting. In a 1969 piece on conventional-only operations that was one of the first of its kind, the Soviet planners estimated their artillery could inflict a maximum of 20% enemy losses in the opening fire strike.

By 1974, just five years later, when their conventional balance was arguably at its height, it had grown to the more familiar OPFOR ratio of 30-40% in a similar document.

I’m thinking (pure idle speculation), various combinations of bigger guns, more mobile guns, more accurate guns, better shells (cluster warheads that make conventional SSMs more than just a nuisance are mentioned in the same document), and probably stuff I missed.

What I find extra-fascinating is that the Azeri’s Nagorno-Karabakh opening half-hour mega-strike apparently destroyed 40% of the Armenian artillery-which is in line with the previous estimates, especially if you take into account technical superiority and massive, massive advancements in smart weapons. (Also, though, for all that, the war still lasted a month and a half and claimed around Azeri 3,000 KIA by its own admission.)

3 thoughts on “The Artillery Growth Spurt

  1. The document is fascinating. That it was published in 1974 and a translated version available to the CIA in 1979 is impressive.
    The language in general displays how much the Soviets considered military planning a science verses NATO’s ‘Operational Art’.
    A paragraph on the previous page discusses numbers of guns with 7-800 allocated to an 8 Km, 2x Div Army breakthrough. This is WW2 planning. NATOs problem is that by 74 we were not equipped, physically or mentality for WW2 style battles – I wonder if the Soviets were considering post WW2 C2 and mobile defence? I wonder if mobile defence would actually work against this force…. OK back to Combat Missions Cold War to play around…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. A mobile defence should not become a meeting engagement. If it does, the defender has done something very wrong and will probably lose.

        A meeting engagement against Soviets is probably best avoided as it plays into their strength.

        A mobile defence is meant to focus your defencive efforts at the right time and at the right place, avoiding the attackers artillery and catching him in kill zones of your choosing.


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