Direct Fire Basics

    Occasionally, we will have the fortune to have some crew-served or self-propelled artillery with our force. Crew-served guns come in two flavors : antitank guns and infantry guns. Using antitank guns effectively is an essential component of winning. Often, the antitank guns are the same type as those mounted in your tanks, sometimes they are much better than what is available in your tanks (like the German 88, which was available throughout the war years, but only mounted in tanks in late 1942, when the war was more than half over). The important thing to remember about antitank guns is that they are support forces. They can rarely hold a position all by themselves. They are vulnerable to infantry, artillery and other tanks. In fact, antitank guns, while thought of as a defensive weapon, actually have little or no inherent defensive capability (except by firing their guns and destroying the units that are within range). Because they are so vulnerable, it is usually best to deploy them behind a line of friendly infantry or tanks. Their survivability will also be enhanced by anything which can stop or slow enemy tanks and infantry at some distance from their position.
    When antitank guns fire for the first time, their accuracy is good, but usually not good enough to insure clean kills of all the enemy in range. Within one or two minutes, any artillery that the enemy has available will come raining down on their position and tear em' up. At best, then, antitank guns have only a few minutes of effectiveness, unless the enemy can be killed, retreat or the guns can be moved to new positions rapidly (which requires a Prime Mover). Even if the enemy retreats out of sight, the artillery will still fall in their area, but with less accuracy. Because of all of the above factors, antitank guns are best used in something akin to an ambush mode. The most important thing to remember as an antitank player is to learn to hold your fire. Only open up when your guns can cause maximum damage to the enemy in the shortest period of time. The enemy will either be killed completely (rare) or retreat out of LOS of the guns (less rare), and you will then have time to get out of the way of an impeding barrage if you have the requisite transport (actually more common than rare). Of course, if you don't really care about whether the gunners survive, then this makes the calculation quite simple. Just wait till your guns have the best chance of hitting them without being killed by the immediate return fire, open up and hope for the best. In any event, if the enemy gets to within 1000 yards, your guns won't last more than a couple of minutes without some really good luck.
    Another useful tactic with AT-guns is to position them not on crests where they have a wide view, but on the reverse slope where their effective LOS is angular to the front. With more then one AT-gun being interlaced in fire, they can be deadly in this fashion. Done properly, this will have several effects. First, any enemy tanks moving laterally across the map will come into range of at least two anti-tanks positions, and both of them will usually have a flank shot. Second, because the enemy will not see the guns until he enters the fields of fire, your guns are better protected. Ideal positions for this type of placement are out of the likely enemy path of advance, behind a heavy line of infantry who will give warning in case the hill itself is in danger of being occupied. Antitank guns can also be used during attack missions. They will need transport to get into position, which may take to long for most attacks. They can also be somewhat effective against enemy bunkers and pillboxes. Again, the same principles apply: Keep them out of sight until needed, and open up at an optimal range. Then Bail!
    Infantry guns are a different breed designed specifically to kill enemy infantry. They are very good at it. It is not uncommon to see the heavier caliber guns kill half or more of an approaching enemy squad with just a few hits. Their chance to hit will probably appear to be low, but historically they actually inflicted damage quite frequently. These gun types are also the ideal weapon to deal with bunkers and pillboxes. Against these targets, you don't actually have to hit to cause damage. Most bunker and pillbox crews will bail out if they start to get shot at by heavy caliber infantry guns (sooner if they've already lost a couple of guys to the 'concussion' effect). The big tubes can also be used against enemy armor. While they can get a kill with a top hit (or any kind of hit against lightly armored units) their prime effectiveness against armor is in suppression and immobilization. ("What ??? I can't hear you, my ears are bleeding").

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