Welcome to Cold War Gamer, a blog I am using to record my Cold War wargaming projects. These range from fictitious Cold War hot projects to historical conflicts that took place around the globe throughout the Cold War era, all modelled and gamed in 20mm. The blog includes links to various resources useful to the Cold War Gamer.

My current projects include: Central Front; British & Soviet. South African Bush War; Angolans and South Africans. Soviet Afghan War; Soviets and Afghans

Friday, 26 September 2014

Review - Web Resources, The Essentials of Cold War Soviet Doctrine and Organisation for free


As a Change from my normal reviews of books I thought I would cover a number of the many Free ePublication resources available on the internet that can provide a comprehensive view of Soviet Ground forces from the 60s through to the 1980's.  My principal area of interest is in the 1980's as in this decade more than any other the pendulum of advantage see sawed between the major protagonists.

There are numerous web sites covering the subject area the ones I find most useful are nearly all US government sites, for which Historians every where should be eternally great full, these are:
Contained within the archives of this lot are some exceptionally useful documents and books.  The trick here is to try a variety of search terms around a subject to see what comes up.

FM 100-2 Series of Manuals.  


The FM 100-2 series of Manuals can be downloaded from the FAS site along with a large number of other US Army Publications.  They are  Published in 3 sizeable Volumes and cover the US Armys unclassified view of the Soviet Army as follows:
These pretty much cover the ground that Isbey does in Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army although I find him slightly more digestible, to read but less easy on the pocket.





FM 100-2-1 The first publication essentially lays out the doctrine of the Soviet Army with respect to Operations and Tactics.  It covers Offensive operations at the Operational and Tactical level and Defensive Operations including Withdrawal and Relief. It Then goes on to examine the doctrine associated with various supporting activites including:
  • Reconnaissance
  • Fire Support
  • Artillery Support
  • Anti Tank Support 
  • Air Defence
  • Air Support
  • Smoke
  • Engineer Support
  • Electronic Warfare
  • NBC
The book is comprehensive in it's approach and structured in a way that makes it a readily consumable reference. The document is an excellent first port of call on Soviet Doctrine representing the US Armys consolidated and Unclasified view of the Soviet Army, but is to say the least a dry read. Not one I have read cover to Cover, the publication was written during the Cold War and the latest version was published in 1991 so comes with the usual caveats on intelligence based documents.



FM 100-2-2 covers Specialised Warfare and Rear Area Support and is the volume I have used least it deals with operations under special conditions and variously covers:
  • Airborne Operations
  • Heliborn Operations
  • Amphibious Operations
The Heliborn Ops section is particularly weak and if you want to understand the development and deployment of DShV assets you will have to do a lot more reading.  The volume goes on to describe Unconventional Warfare and River Crossings before focusing down on operations in difficult environments, Desert Cold Weather Urban Operations, Night Operations and Rear Area control and Logistics.

This to my mind is the weakest of the three volumes, A useful start point on the understanding that you then need to delve deeper in other resources.



FM100-2-3 is probably my favourite and in truth my nose is rarely out of it. Its an excellent reference on organisation, and a reasonable reference on equipment.
  • Chapters 1-3 cover a general look at structure personnel and training, enough said.
  • Chapter 4 is by far the most useful outlining the organisation of Soviet Forces from Section to Front including some level of detail on the majority of Structures that fit into that space.  There are a few notable exceptions the Army level Flame thrower Battalion is one. The main caveat remains the unclassified nature of the data, equally some of the more esoteric units are covered fairly superficially with reference to only their main equipments.  At Division and below the coverage is comprehensive. 
  • The final chapter number 5 looks at equipment in this it does not cover Ships but deals with most other items. The picture quality tends to be very poor in the PDF versions although the information is reasonably good and is primarily focused on performance, it might be considered a little superficial when compared to something like JANES Armour and Artillery systems particularly versions published post 2000 however it is free.
All up an excellent series of references free to download if your interested in Cold War Soviets you really ought to have a set.

SOVIET Publications


The FM 100-2 series of pamphlets take a US perspective on the Soviet Army and their are a number of PDFs that can round out this view notably:

Tactics the Soviet way is a Soviet publication translated and published by the US Airforce in 1984.  This Copy can be found in the DTIC archive it covers the principals of modern combined arms combat including the Offensive, Meeting Engagements and Defence.  It really talks to the principals governing the different types of operations and is intended as a Guide to the Soviet Officer Corps as such it includes a wide variety of examples to illustrate the points raised.  It, I am afraid, is also a dry read but offers a different perspective to the US written offerings on the subject.  I find it useful when looking at specific operations for Scenarios.




Tactical Reconnaissance, A Soviet View.  This is a very comprehensive guide to a Soviet view of reconnaissance. It covers the full range of assets that may be deployed from Patrols to Communications and Radar reconnaissance before dealing with a variety of recconaisance skills and activities at a level of detail. It is very much a handbook for the Soviet Recconaisance leader discussing different types of patrols and the methods for gaining information.  In line with the Soviet definition of Razvedka it also covers the assembly processing and dissemination of Intelligence.  Some interesting perspectives but quite hard work extracting worthwhile gaming material.

The Rusian Army in the Cold War by Feskov sets out to articulate the ORBAT and the evolution of the ORBAT of the Soviet Army throughout the Cold War it does this in significant detail and is a Russian Language work.  Running sections through a translator can work particularly with the tabulated data where only the titles and the column headers need translating. These can yield a significant level of detail around what units were ware and what units they were comprised of although this can be labour intensive to extract, it will however reveal what regiments and units were part of a particular division at a particular time.  The Table below outlines the composition of regiments and units in Motor Rifle Divisions.


Soviet Army Studies Office




Sitting within the DTIC repository is a whole set of work written by the Soviet Army Studies Office this includes the works of such notables as David Glanz and Leicester Grau.  Amongst the articles below are David Glanz,s original paper on The Role of Forward Detachments in Tactical Manoeuvre and J Holcombe's excellent work on Artillery. These Articles will enhance the views provided in the more weighty volumes outlined above.

Artillery
Recce
Defence
Operational Concepts
Force Structure and Organisation


Other Book Reviews:









Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Review - Model 1/72, modelcollect TOS-1 Buratino




The TOS-1 Buratino is a direct fire multiple rocket launcher used to deploy thermobaric munitions over an area of 400m x 200m or a very big flame thrower with a 4km range.  It was trialled by the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980's and deployed in Chehneya in the 1990s.  I have assumed it was available in Army Level Flame thrower battalions in the late 80's and that thinking is covered in the post on Army Independent Flame Thrower Battalions.




This post aims to review modelcollects very atractive 1/72 scale model of the TOS-1 Buratino. I bought the model when it was first released by modelcollect but I have been a bit slow in getting it built,  which is a shame because it is an excellent kit.

I bought my version over the internet from China and experienced no issues other than the reasonable delay in shipping from China.  Since then Modelcollect have established a warehouse in the UK and Brian at the Hobby Den is also stocking them. Price was around £11 with P&P on top which I think given the quality of the kit is good value.  The only alternative I am aware of is the ACE model which is now OOP, difficult to find and the T-72 hull is a challenging build.




The Model comes extremely well packaged and organised, sprues for the turret assembly being in one plastic bag and the Hull in another. The band tracks are in a solid container by themselves and the metal hull wrapped in buble wrap sits within the box.   The instructions are comprehensive clear and the sprues are clearly identified and numbered.  The mouldings on my copy were crisp with no flash and the level of moulded detail is very good.  The plastic used is a little softer than say a Revell kit however I did not think that this presented any issues in either assembly or the quality of the finished model the detail is not quite up to Revell's crispness but is very good.




As an added bonus the hull is packaged to be built with or without ERA I have seen no images of the TOS-1 with ERA and the instructions don't cover it so assume that it is a standard packaged item so there are some very useful additions to the spares box.



Removing some of the smaller parts from the spru was challenging at times and care needs to be taken especially around the assembly of items that form part of the front deck assembly.  Cleaning up the spru attachment points are about the only prep work required although both the front idlers needed a little attention with a drill.  Other than that assembly was a breeze, with all parts having clear location points, even the plastic band tracks proved easy to fit and glue using super glue and they are well detailed.



Sadly you won't want that many of these in your army as the model is a delight to make. In terms of stowage and crew I am leaving the vehicle unadorned. The vehicle can be modelled with hatches open so there is scope for adding crew.   In pictures the system is shown with litle stowage and limited markings I  have constrained myself to the vehicle identification number on the launcher all of the immages I have seen include numbers in the range 001- 010.




The top immage shows a TOS-1 with an unditching beam and the bottom gives an indication of the exhaust staining as well as the very basic numbers.  The other interesting items in the bottom pic are the camouflage scheme which is in  line with schemes deployed in Europe in the late 80's and the truck in the background seems to have a GSFG CA symbol on the door.



The last two images are of the support vehicles which would make a great conversion option for a T-72 hull and would make a great addition to the unit, needless to say I have yet to go that far.

For markings I have used the decals supplied with the kit but have just used a platform number although options are included for a variety of unit and honorific markings. A separate discusion on how Soviet vehicles are marked is included in the post on Decals and Soviet Vehicle markings



I have painted my model in line with the rest of my Soviet Army which now I have converted to air brush is outlined in detail in the MTLB post but uses Tamiya XF-13 JA Green washed with a dilute solution of  badab black. The panels being over painted using a mix of JA Green and Tamiya XF - 65 Field Gray, the pin wash used the Humbrol Blue Grey wash .




The vehicle has been mounted on a pre cut MDF base from East Riding Miniatures which have been covered in white glue and sand before being painted and will later be covered with a range of basing materials.  




All up a great looking model of an interesting subject and a key component of my interest in Soviet "Breakthrough" Capability.



References:



Wednesday, 17 September 2014

ORBAT - Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability Part 2, Army Independent Flame Thrower Battalion




The Army Independent Flame Thrower Battalion has always been a little difficult to pin down,  FM 100-2-3 identifies it as being part of the organisation for a Soviet Army although it is hard to find evidence for the detail of the units organisation and structure.  Putting this post together has therefore involved a deal of speculation and conjecture to fill in the gaps around the available facts.



Flame Throwers in the Soviet Army have traditionally been employed by chemical troops, who have provided a range of units covering:
  • Flame Throwers
  • Smoke Generation
  • Chemical and Biological detection and decontamination
There are references to the use of flame thrower equipped troops in a number of doctrine publications. Tactics a Soviet view (1984) identifies there use in the chapter on the offensive identifying that they can be used for clearing entrenched enemy in prepared defences. In FM 100-2-2 the section on Urban Operations outlines the organisation for an assault group that would would contain flame weapons as follows:
  • A Motorised Rifle Company
  • One or Two Tank Platoons
  • Anti-Tank Guns
  • An artillery battery in the direct fire role
  • A combat engineer platoon
  • Flamethrower and Chemical Specialists



The same section goes onto look at the task organisation for these units into groups as follows:
  • Attack or Seizure Groups consisting of a motorised rifle platoon reinforced by tanks
  • A Covering and holding group consisting of a motorised rifle platoon reinforced with anti tank guns
  • A fire support group including attached artillery in the direct fire role and Chemical troops with flamethrowers
  • A group of Combat Engineers equipped with bangalore torpedoes and mine clearing devices



The section also articulates some general concepts that are applicable to both Urban operations and more general break through operations against formed defences.  These are that a Division attacks:
  • on a Frontage of 4-6 Kms
  • in two echelons at all levels of command.  
All this demonstrates the doctrine was in place that required flame thrower equiped units to be deployed when faced with either urban operations or the clearance of fortified or heavily defended belts.  Their application in these areas is borne out by use in both the Afghanistan and Chechen conflicts.

Flame Thrower Dismounted Companies

The principal weapon systems deployed by the dismounted flame thrower companies have been the LPO 50 and TPO 50 Flame throwers and the RPO series of thermabaric rocket launchers.

David Isby talks about flame thrower equipped units using LPO-50 and TP0-50 in his section on Engineers.   He notes that these weapons were deployed by Assault Engineers although nearly all other sources clearly attribute the operation of flame throwers to Chemical Troops.



The LPO-50 is conventional Flame Thrower firing a jet of flame 50-70m and contains enough fuel for 6 Bursts.  The TPO-50 was a heavier trolly mounted variant.




The RPO-A or "Sheml"is a recoilless, shoulder launched rocket with a thermabaric warhead that was introduced into service in 1984 and replaced the more traditional LPO-50 back pack flame thrower. David Isby notes a gradual transition with the RPO-A augmenting the LPO-50 in the first instance.  The weapon was used to equip flame thrower platoons and these were deployed in both Afghanistan and Chechnya. Evidence from both conflicts notes that these platoons would be attached to Motor Rifle Battalions as required.  In Chechneya these assets were employed to clear villages as well as cities.  



At one stage it was proposed that the flamethrower platoons would become a permanent feature of the Infantry battalions as they were used so extensively. Whilst this did not happen the proposed organisation of the flame thrower platoon would seem a good model to use for the dismounted element of the Flame Thrower Battalion.  The platoon proposed consisted of two APCs with 14 Gunners and 28 RPO launchers split into two sections one mounted in each vehicle. 




In Afghanistan their is evidence that sections were mounted in BTR series vehicles and in Chechnya BMP2.  The Current Flame thrower battalion has a company mounted in MTLB and a company in BTO.  Other than the BTO which did not enter service until well after the Cold War ended you have a reasonable degree of choice for transport.  At the moment I am torn between BMP2 and MTLB.

The modern Russian Army has at least two flame thrower battalions each is  equipped with 1 Company of TOS-1 and 2 Companies of Assault infantry one in MTLB and one in BTO.  I have read somewhere but cannot currently find the reference, that each Assault company contains only two platoons.  This seems a reasonable structure for the Cold War Battalion.

Flame Thrower Tank Company

Both David Isbey and the current Russian Army include Flame Thrower capable tanks within the Flame Thrower equipped units. David Isbey identifies the TO-55 as being present in Assault Engineer Regiments and goes onto state that a platoon of tanks would directly support motor rifle troops engaged in urban operations and when attacking fortifications or a fortified zone this is in line with the historical evidence from Chechnya.

The TO-55 was a conventional flame thrower tank based on the T-55 that could fire a Jet of Flame unto 200m.  Sufficient fuel was carried by the vehicle for a maximum of 12 bursts.


The other vehicle of interest here is the TOS-1 Buritano.  The TOS-1 is a short range direct fire 220mm Multiple Rocket Launcher based on a T-72 chassis that entered service in the late 80's or early 90's depending on your reference.  Nearly all references agree that it was trialled in Afghanistan prior to the end of that conflict.

The vehicle can fire either a full salvo of 30 rockets or can fire pairs of rockets.  These can engage targets up to a range of 3,500m,  this range has increased with the development of the TOS-1A to around 6,000m, minimum range is stated as 400m.  The Area of coverage quoted is 400m x 200m and I assume this is for a full Salvo so an individual missile approximates to 70m x 35m.



Reports from Chechnya also discuss the deployment of TOS-1 in support of infantry operations and here they identify that 2 vehicles would be used to reinforce the Regimental Artillery Group.  It is worth remembering that the Soviet Army's doctrine on the use of Artillery encourages direct fire engagements so this is not a particularly unusual approach.



Possible Organisation of the Battalion

Based on this evidence you have to ask what organisation would make sense?  
  • A regiment in the Assault would probably only put the Flame units in the first echelon and assaults against fortified zones and Urban areas would be made with 2 echelons at all organisational levels.  A regiment would need to provide support for two of the three battalions at any one time.  This is similar to the doctrine used for the use of  armour in offensive operations.
  • The evidence form Chechnya and Afghanistan notes that a flame thrower platoon supported a battalion.
  • The evidence from Chechnya that 2 TOS-1 would support a Regiment under the control of the RAG suggest that a platoon consisted of 2 TOS-1, I assume the TO-55 was operated in platoons of 3.
  • Janes Armour and Artillery states that only 24 TOS were produced and speculates these would be deployed at front level, although there would seem to be no obvious unit for them to deploy to.  Interestingly 24 vehicles give each army independent flame thrower battalion in GSFG 4 vehicles and this would provide sufficient for a company of two platoons of two vehicles for each. 
  • This begs the question why you would deploy this type of unit to a Tank Army which was doctrinally not likely to be engaged in the sorts of operations where these equipments would be of use this would potentially mean that sufficient capability existed to push TOS-1 wider potentially covering the Northern and Central Groups of Forces. 



A Likely Orbat for the Flame thrower battalion would seem to be:
  • 2 Assault Companies each of 2 Platoons of 2 Sections of 7 Men deploying 14 RPO-A 
  • 1 Tank Company of 2 Platoons
For my Flame Thrower units I am going to assume the Soviet Army would task organise a group of two dismounted Flame Thrower platoons and a Tank Flame Thrower platoon to support a regiment.    The Army Flame thrower battalion proposed would be capable of supporting two regiments and this was sufficient to support a single Divisional breakthrough operation or Urban Assault where the Division would generally be assaulting with two regiments in the first echelon.

Of interest the planning norms for artillery support to such operations in term of the number to tubes required per km also suggest that an Army could support only one breakthrough operation or Urban assault at a time.  Given the way that Artillery in the first echelon is reinforced by the Second it is also feasible that a similar principal might be applied.  

As ever in the Cold War the introduction of Offensive weapons late in the period fell foul of the changing political and economic circumstances that drove the Cold War to its conclusion.  As ever different political circumstances would have lead to different outcomes, particularly if a situation in which conflict would have started could be imagined.  Having said that based on the above the proposed Flame thrower battalion organisation and equipment would seem both reasonable and sufficient given the Soviet Army's doctrine.

Wargames Orbat

The Battalion will be equipped as follows:
  • Pre 1984 - TO-55 Flame tanks and LPO-50 (the LPO-50 organisation would deploy 2 Flame throwers per section and sections would probably be of 8 men)
  • Post 1985 - TO-55 Flame Tanks, with a mix of LPO-50 and RPO-A
  • Post 1989 - TOS-1 and RPO-A for Armies in the forward group of forces.
  • There is evidence to suggest that a purpose built BMP2 was introduced to carry RPO teams, I believe this was a result of operations in Chechnya.  MTLB, BTR or BMP 1 or 2 would seem reasonable.
As I play a Modern adoption of Rapid Fire and use model scale of 1:3, I intend to generate an  Flame thrower Assault support group of:              

  • 1 Tank Company of 1 TOS-1 Buratino or TO-55,
  • 1 Dismounted Company of 2 BMP 2 or 2MTLB  and 4 RPO-A, 1 Officer

Rapid Fire Rules Amendments
         
I suppose the other aspect that needs to be considered is the corresponding effects though I am inclined to keep damage as a flame weapon, perhaps modifying the in building rule, which currently states no casualties but catches fire and has to be abandoned.  Other than that it would seem sensible incorporate the range, area of effect and PHit of the relevant rocket systems.



I do confess that my interest in this capability is not only stimulated by a desire to understand what the Soviets did but also to build and deploy the rather handy looking TOS-1 produced by Modelcollect

References:



Saturday, 13 September 2014

Review - Models 1/72, Hobby Den MTLB




The MTLB was produced from 1970 and included over 80 different variants across the estimated 12,000 vehicles produced.  The primary role of the vehicle was as an Artillery Tractor for Anti Tank or Towed 122mm artillery systems. Additionally the vehicle was used for APCs, Engineer, Anti-tank, Air Defence, Artillery Command and Observation Posts, Air Defence Command and Observation posts and Chemical Reconnaissance.  So a very versatile vehicle, within my forces I currently use them in the Artillery tractor, Command and Observation Post and 120mm Mortar tractor roles and have sufficient to mount a couple of motor rifle battalions if I had a desire to have a Finish or Northern Norway game.



I am aware of 3 different models on the market though I am sure their are more.  The 3 I have used all have their merits and cover quite different price points and skill levels as follows:
  • ACE currently out of production, if you look hard you can still find them for around £14 a unit.  They build to a very nice model of the system but come with the usual ACE challenges.
  • S&S The S&S model is the simplest of the lot with about 3 parts and has its limitations but it is also the cheapest at £9 including P&P which is excellent value.
  • In the middle of the field is the Hobby Dens offering and the subject of this review at €15 which approximates to £12 most of the time.



The Hobby Dens model is a resin and white metal re-cast of the old MMS metal MTLB and is a great looking model when built. Both my copies were crisply cast in cream coloured resin with no air holes or significant defects leaving no work to be done on the hull before assembly.  Resin has been used to produce the body of the vehicle and the turret with the hatches doors, weapons and tracks all being cast in white metal.  The white metal parts are well cast with excellent levels of detail and are generally flash free requiring little preparation before assembly.



Assembly is straight forward and simple, unusually for resin models hatches can be modelled open or closed which provides a lot of options for crewing the wagons as this includes the hatches over the crew compartment as well as the driver and commander.  all the hatches have associated receased hull areas  which allow crew figures to be set into the model.  It's a shame more manufactures don't take the same approach.  





The completed model builds into a nicely detailed representation of the vehicle which captures the hull shape well.  The model is a little larger than the ACE kit but works well with the 1/72 BMPs and tanks that I deploy it with.  All up a great model and one which with the demise of the ACE kits I will be using in my motor rifle battalions from now on.



In Soviet service they are generally seen very lightly stowed even when photographed in a range of the post Cold War conflicts.  As ever un-ditching beams are a feature of Soviet vehicles and there would appear to be a number of options for stowing them on the vehicle.


Either across the back as in the image from South Osettia above or along the side in what looks like a purpose built bracket.   Other than that I have seen images with tarpaulins/boxes stowed on the rear deck or along the side.  The only images of vehicles I have seen festooned with packs belong to the US Army's OPFOR. The marking options pretty much follow those outlined in the post on Soviet vehicle markings with Numbers and formation symbols appearing on the rear door and hull side.


The exact position on the hull side can vary with some vehicles sporting them on the rearward part of the angled front.


So with this in mind I have lightly stowed my MTLBs, using plastic rod and green stuff to place an un-ditching beam on to the right hand side of the vehicle along with a tarpaulin and crate on the back decks.




The two models having a slightly different arrangement of equipment.  Stowage is variously by Black Dog, Goffy.  The crew figure is one of Ellhiem's German tank Crew which make pretty handy Soviet Tank crew as well, The Driver in this instance could have been made for the model.





I have painted the vehicle in line with my other Soviet equipment in green, although having converted to an airbrush I am now using the following paint scheme:
  • The vehicle is given an overall coat of Tamiya XF-13 JA Green, and is then washed with a dilute solution of  badab black.
  • The panels were then painted over using a mix of JA Green and Tamiya XF - 65 Field Gray.
  • The detail was then picked out with a pin wash of Humbrol Blue Grey Wash.


  • The stowage, tracks and crew figure were painted with a variety of Vallejo colours, the whole vehicle was then sealed with a coat of Tamiya Matt clear and the decals were then applied using Micro set before receiving another coat of Tamiya Matt Clear
  • The vehicle was then weathered using the Humbrol dust wash and an overspray of Tamiya XF-59 Desert Yellow


I decided to mark the vehicle using both a vehicle identification number and a unit symbol, the unit in  the Soviet army being the regiment.



The decals used were from the modelcollect large decal sheet which has a variety of regimental markings and stencilled numbers although the numbers lack the variety of size need for the rear door and these I got from a Scotia set.



The MTLB is based on laser cut MDF bases supplied by East Riding miniatures, these are covered in a mix of sand and white glue before painting.  Once dry a range of basing materials have been used to create the vegetation on the base.


This is quite an exceptional model of the MTLB and stands up well in comparison to the ACE kit, I would even go so far as to say that I prefer it and in a number of areas it has better levels of detail.  Next years project is a BTR equipped regiment with a towed Artillery Battalion so I expect I will be making a few more.