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Soviet Ampulomet


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#1 Mark 1

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Posted 27 December 2018 - 10:20 PM

I'd like to suggest adjustments to the equipment listings for that early war Russian wonder-weapon, the Ampulomet.

 

In the v2.3 full download equipment book, the Ampulenjot ([sic] Ampulomet seems to be correct to Russian language sources) is listed on page 57.07.10 as a fixed weapon with the same stats as a flamethrower.  To wit:  ROF = 1,  HE OV = 7,  HE FP = 12, and notation Flame: 3.

 

I don't think that adequately captures the characteristics of this particular soldier's delight. 

 

First, it was not fixed.  It is often compared to the Blackard Bombard, which was often installed in fixed sights (as is notable from remaining concrete pedestals across Ol' Blightey).  But while these two devices may have been inspired by similar concerns, and may have looked somewhat similar, they was in fact no real similarity in function or doctrine. 

 

Some pics I have found:

 

441259-1.jpg

 

981faef756dc.jpg

 

The Ampulomet was mounted on a Y monopod, which could be set on a base, or a sled or wheeled carriage for pulling by hand much like Russian HMGs. It was intended to be a Rifle Battalion's close-in AT weapon. It fired a glass ampule of flammable liquid, using a 12 gauge shotgun blank, that was supposed to shatter on impact with a hard target, with a chemical ignitor substance (maybe phosphorous?) in an internal sub-container which would then cause the whole mixture to burst into flames.  The ampules were pretty much just round balls of glass.  There was no form of stabilization for the ampule in flight -- it was a smoothbore tube and a round (approximately) projectile, like the muskets of an earlier era, but with a 125mm musket ball made of glass filled with liquid sloshing about.

 

They were short ranged, inherently inaccurate against fixed targets (much less moving targets), not particularly likely to destroy a tank if they did occasionally hit one, and perhaps as likely to shatter when fired as when striking anything softer than steel.

 

Here is a Russian language source:  https://worldoftanks...satz_artillery/

 

From that source, an approximate translation:

 

 


Ampulomet - A Picky Pipe on Wheels

Soviet engineers were also tempted by the cheap and quick. In the 1930s, 125 mm glass and later tin ampoules filled with incendiary fluid were developed for dropping from aircraft. It is unknown who decided to bring this weapon down from the skies. It is only known that the development of the ampulomet began at the Moscow Kirov factory #145.

The result was a pipe on wheels, officially accepted into service under the index "125 mm ampulomet mod. 1941". The ampoule was projected by a 12 gauge blank.

 

Initially, the ampulomet was not considered an anti-tank weapon, but in 1941 the situation demanded that everything that could theoretically destroy a tank must fire at them. The impact from a 125 mm ball of flame was considered more impressive than a lesser sized bottle of incendiary fluid.

However, "must be" and "is" are two different things. Usually when historians discuss the effectiveness of ampulomets in anti-tank roles, they recall a story from D. Lelyushenko's 30th Army in early December of 1941. An engineer arrived in one of its battalions with 20 ampulomets. Lelyushenko decided to personally try out this novelty. Lelyushenko replied to the engineer's description of how to load the ampulomet: "too complex and too long, the German tanks will not wait".

On the first shot, the ampoule burst in the barrel and the ampulomet burned up. Lelyushenko demanded a second attempt, and the situation repeated itself. The enraged general prohibited the use of this unsafe weapon by his troops and had the remaining ones crushed with a tank. It is hard to say how accurate this story is, but Dmitriy Danilovich Lelyushenko had a rather difficult character.

Lelyushenko was not the only one to encounter the problem of premature bursting. In April of 1942, the 370th Infantry Division attempted to use ampulomets. Use in combat did not pan out, as the soldiers were unable to get within the required 100-150 meters of the enemy, and the results of training exercises were not encouraging:

"1.  Out of the 12-15 burst ampoules at training exercises in the 307th division, 8 did not ignite.

2.  10-15% ampoules fired at exercises at the HQ burst in the barrel. 

3.  Out of 52 ampoules tested, taken from various crates stored at warehouse #1801, 19 burst in the barrel, which is a failure rate of 36.5%.

 

The cause of the premature bursting is due to low quality manufacturing: ampoules are not properly welded and were presumably not checked for robustness when produced. Without firing, it is impossible to determine a faulty ampoule visually."

 

It is not difficult to understand the soldiers that did not want to go to battle with such a weapon. The attempt at a fast and cheap solution harmed the quality of the weapon. Yes, it was used on several parts of the front, but the ampulomet was not destined to end up among the weapons of victory. It remained a symbol from difficult times when even a pipe on wheels had to be taken into battle.

 

It's not too hard to kit-bash some up if you are inclined to equip your 1941 Red Army forces with them. Just put a shorted 120mm mortar barrel on a Russian wheeled HMG mount, (whether you clip off a Tula M1910 or an SG43 hardly makes a difference), or just leave it with a shortened bipod by using the center/front section of the mortar (clipping off the base). At least at 6mm it's a pretty easy winner.

 

I would propose that this weapon be treated as:

Russian small crew as a base, mobility of a Russian Tula M1910 team, accuracy of a panzerfaust Klien 30, and the target impact of a molotov cocktail. 

 

That would be:  Movement A/B = 2/3,  OM1 = -5,  OM2 = -10, OM3 = NO      ROF = 1,  HE OV = 5,  HE FP = 7

But with an added special note, that when firing, if a natural 1 or 2 is thrown, the crew suffers a hit rather than the target.

 

At least that's how I will play them.

 

Might add a bit of color to Barbarossa games.

 

-Mark


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