Battle of Kursk on VOA

Zentralbild, II. Weltkrieg 19139-45
Der von der faschistischen deutschen Wehrmacht während des Krieges entwickelte neue Panzerkampfwagen Typ “Panther”.
UBz: die Verladung neuer “Panther”-Panzerkampfwagen zum Transport an die Front (1943).

The Voice of America (VOA) interviewed me about Kursk and the current Russian Army for some articles they were working on. The interviewer, Alex Grigoryev, was a journalist in Russia before he immigrated to the United States. The first interview, on Kursk, is on video here, with me speaking in English with Russian subtitles:

A few things I would change, but I don’t think I completely embarrassed myself.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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One comment

  1. People should distance themselves from the contention of “similar capabilities”, usually based on post war, anecdotal evidence. This “antifa” analysis will pester historiography for decades to come. Command structure aside, they were certainly not armed comparatively (e.g. British, German and French units however were, Tier 1. Tier 2 , Poland, Soviet Union, Japan).
    The disparity in the development level between both factions was considerable (per capita GDP, market rates), which enabled Germany to produce equipment of higher quality and to train their soliders to a greater extent. The literacy rates were even different, live expectancy, the HDI was greater for Western Europe, higher than US levels, even today.

    The per capita ammunition availability was also different, in Germany’s case it was about 2-3 times greater (about 940-1,100 kg) than for the average Soviet soldier (250-300 kg avg.). Simply stating that Soldier of belligerent A has the same gear as B, based on the information that both possess mortars, SMGs and 75-150mm type guns and howitzers, does not mean that there are no differences. Afterall, Barbarians also wielded swords and spears, just like Roman or Hellenic troops.
    If there were no differences, then we would not observe qualitative differences in the 21st century either. Failures in the civil sector translate into the military sector. Samuelson made this point in his important work on “Stalin’s War Machine”.

    Observe, I can do this in a minute: Utilizing a Cobb-Douglas function which says something about the technological interaction of multiple inputs and the respective quantity produced. Lets assume, Y for output (can be derived over time), c for casualtiy infliction potential, M for manpower or personnel, K for Capital stock in this case the gear involved, z (range of 0 to 1) is relative and fluctuates based on the correlation of both personnel and armament, munitions can have qualitative differences as well (i.e. inferior munitions can result in misfires) . For armour this would mean the abililty for the infantry to resist enemy attacks, further lowering casualties. Casualties are based on the munitions consumption over a certain time, multiplied by the forces killing rate, however an increase in munitions can also have diminishing returns.
    Germany had about 50% of the Soviet personnel in the summer of 1943, present on the Eastern Front and for Kursk we have: 1,507,166 men for the Soviets committed vs 780,000 Germans with 177,847 vs 55,261 casualties respectively, inflicting more than 300% of the casualties on the enemy. The CEV was about 2.54 or 2.68 according to Dupuy and Zetterling, which yields a disparity of roughly 250%.
    What we are looking for is a quotient between K(German)/K(Soviet).
    deltaY= 2,54*[K(G)/G(S)]^0.5*(780,000/1,507,166)^(1-0.5)
    3,22 =1,83*[K(G)/G(S)]^0.5
    K = 3,1
    If we increase the Soviet output of munitions, quality of armament etc. by a certain factor, then a German soldier would have a casualty infliction potential beyond >1500% on the opponent, despite being “equally armed”. This seems unlikely.

    People can continue to ignore this or fire off their insults and pursue their narrative, but I do not care about personal feelings or national bias, this is a cold analysis, stating otherwise from a (researchers perspective) is indeed “embarrassing”.

    You could rougly take the SQRT of asset loss rates, since the efficiency is based on a product of skill, circumstances, equipment etc., dividing individual effectiveness yields the qualitative difference, which is also in good accordance with Soviet units field reports, “these paper characteristics are utopic”.
    Another example, listing the Soviet study from the tank research center, AFV “comparative combat value” ratings, for 1943: Panzer III @1.0 (some sources even suggest that this is the 1940 G model), Panzer IV (F2,G,H) 1.27, T-34 (I assume the F version) 1.16, IS-2M 1.66, Panzer V Panther 2.37 (in 1944 the T-34-85 is listed @1.32) – this is rather artificial, but it gives us insight into the Soviet evaluation.
    This is a very rough calculation:

    For 1943: SQRT[(TLoss(Soviet)/TLoss(German)]=(22,400/6,362)^0.5=1,88
    The average normalized to T34/76= 1+[(1,21+0,11-0,16)/3]=1,4. According to the Soviet report, German tanks should be on average 1.48 times superior to Soviet tanks in their combat performance. Multiplying with effectiveness (this is problematic as I do not have tank crew efficiency, I am sure TDI has better data on this, so I just took the average CEV from my calculations):


    Concluding otherwise is a grave mistake, as it heavily influences military studies and any judgement model.

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