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 Border War; Angolans and South Africans. Soviet Afghan War; Soviets and Afghans

Sunday, 12 February 2017

ORBAT - Soviet Divisional Units, Part 2 MRD Artillery Regiment

This post looks at Artillery support within the Division and specifically at the composition of the Divisional Artillery Regiment, how the capability changed over the period and how it might be represented within games and scenarios.

The organic components of Divisional Artillery units were  broadly consistent across both the MRD and TD however their detailed composition varied, these Artillery units included:
  • Artillery Commander and his Staff
  • Artillery Regiment
  • Frog Battalion
  • Anti Tank Battalion (not in TD)
  • Artillery Battalions of subordinate MRR/TRR
Whilst in other armies air defence would be a component of the Artillery in the Soviet Ground Forces this was a separate arm of Service.  The Anti Tank Battalion's deployment and grouping have been considered in an earlier post and I'll leave the Frog Battalion for another day.

Equipment and Organisational Change

The composition of the Divisional Artillery Regiment and the amount of organic artillery available to the Division varied significantly over the period from the 1970s through to the end of the 1980s and whilst my focus is on the 1980s it's worth understanding this as it accounts for a variety of conflicting information presented across the various sources which can lead to confusion if the general pattern of transition is not understood.

In the 1970's the MRD's Artillery Regiment comprised two battalions of towed 122mm D30 Howitzers  and 1 battalion of towed 152mm D1/D20 guns, in a TD this was 3 Battalions of towed 122mm D30 guns. Each regiment included 3 Batteries of 6 Guns and most units used trucks as the gun tractors.

By The end of the Cold War units would have an Artillery Regiment equipped with self propelled guns, in MRD's this could include 3 battalions of 2S3, in TD's 2 battalions of 2S3 were more likely.  In both cases batteries were of 8 guns and the regiments included an MLRS Battalion also of 3 batteries of 8 Launchers. The 8 gun and 8 launcher batteries seem to have been largely confined to GSFG.

The MLRS units were incorporated into the divisional Artillery Regiments in the mid 70s and 2S1 and 2S3 started to be introduced to replace the towed guns and howitzers from around 1973.  As individual Regiments transitioned from the D30/1/20 /MLRS mix through the introduction of initially a mix of 2S1 and 2S3 and then to all 2S3 units this created the conditions for a variety of Orbats to exist within the divisions of any particular Army or Front at a given point in time.  The limiting factors on the transition and the principal cause of the variability being the rate of production and the sheer size of the Soviet ground forces, of note 2S3 production did not complete until 1993.

The broad roll out following acceptance in 1971 as outlined by Zaloga was:
  • From 1973 1 2S3 battalion to each MRD Artillery Regiment: A MRD could include 2 D30 battalions and 1 2S3 battalion
  • From 1973 1 2S1Bn to each Cat 1 TD: A TD Could include 12S1 and 2 D30 battalion 
  • From mid 70s 1 122mm D30 battalion was replaced by 2S3 in TDs: TDs could include 1 2S1, 1D30 and 1 2S3 Bn 
  • Cat 1 MRD received 6 battalions of 2S1 two in the Artillery Regiment and 1 in each of the maneuver regiments:  MRD Artillery Regiments could have a composition of 2 2S1 battalions and 1 D1/20 or 2S3 battalion. (this also rather defeats the view of BMP units having 2S1 battalions and BTR units having D30 equipped battalions)
  • Cat 1 TD received 6 battalions of 2S1 taking them to 3 2S1 battalions or 2 2S1 and 1 2S3 battalion. 
  • Additional 2S3 battalions were deployed releasing 2S1 Battalions to the maneuver regiments
  • All this did not happen as a simple sequence and the different policies and deployments interacted with each other unpredictably.

So what does this mean from the Wargames perspective, there were a lot of options, it was a big army, the role out did not complete before the economic impacts at the back end of the Cold war began to hit.  You have a lot of choice, my late period Divisional Artillery Regiment has one 2S1 battalion and two 2S3 battalions. For operations the Soviet Army task organised units into Artillery Groups which introduced a lot more variation and are discussed further below.

The weapons thrown up by these changes were re used, initially they increased the Regimental artillery from a battery to a battalion and as towed assets in these units were replaced with Self propelled platforms then the size of Army and Front Artillery brigades were increased. The quantity of organic Artillery in the division including the regimental Artillery units therefore increased from a likely minimum 78 Guns in the 70's to  a maximum 192 guns by the end of the Cold War.

The broad equipment change time line over the period with respect to Artillery equipment looks like this:
  • 1963 D30
  • 1966 PSNR 1 Ground Surveillance Radar
  • 1971 2S3 entered production
  • 1972 2S1 entered production
  • 1973 first deliveries 2S1/2S3
  • 1974 ACRV IV 12 Series Vehicles
    • IV13 Battery fire direction centre, 
    • IV 14 Battery Command Vehicle with PN44 night sight and D11M-1 Laser range finder,
    • IV15 Battalion Command vehicle with additional radios, 
    • IV16 battalion Fire Direction Centre with Field Artillery computer
  • 1975 SNAR 10 Target detection and fire adjustment
  • 1975 PRP 3 with PN 61 Image Intensifier, D11 Laser Range Finder, IV 520 Fire Control , Computer, dismountable D13 LRF (I think this came later), RL 126 ground surveillance radar
  • 1975 2S3M upgraded loader increased rate of fire
  • 1976 PSNR-5
  • Late 70s DK-1 Dismountable LRF Sage Gloss at Regiment and Division
  • 1980's 9M28 Rocket Grad P (Airburst)
  • 1980 PRP 4 as PRP3 but with PN 71 Thermal Imager a D14 LRF and PSNR -5 ground Surviellance radar
  • 1983 ACRV upgrade
  • 1986 152mm PGM 2K25 Krasnopol complex deployed by 2S3. The 122mm Kitalov 2 complex was a post Cold War system deployed in 2002
  • 1987 2S3M1 Gunsight and data terminal to receive display command information from IV 13
  • 1988 PRP 4M

So not dissimilar to Western developments with the principal areas of change being:
  • The Introduction of Self Propelled Guns.
  • The Introduction of dedicated Command and Observation Post vehicles specifically equipped for role.
  • The development, deployment and improvement of target acquisition systems including radars, lasers, and night observation systems.
  • The development, deployment and improvement conventional munitions to include PGMs and sub munitions.
  • The development and deployment of data systems for processing and passage of command and fire control data.

A wide range of munitions were available for both 122mm and 152 gun systems for the 2S3 these included:
  • OF-540 HE
  • OF-25 HE Frag
  • BP-540 HEAT-FS
  • Br-540B AP-T
  • OF-38 Krasnopol Laser Guided
  • S1 Illuminating
  • ZH3 Smoke
  • and Nuclear Warheads with a 2kt yeild

The impact of all these changes were quite considerable in terms of the effectiveness of Soviet Artillery the impacts included;
  • Increased protection of the gun crews, 
  • More rapid displacement between fire positions, 
  • Reduced time into and out of action, 
  • Improved target acquisition 
  • Increased range, of munitions and target acquisition capability
  • Reduced time to resolve targets at greater ranges
  • Increased speed of transmission of artillery data reducing engagement times and data errors.
  • Increased speed of processing fire missions, through use of fire control computers
  • Improved Lethality, both through munitions developments higher rates of fire and the increase in size of the fire unit from battery to battalion.
These increases in the scale efficiency and overall destructiveness of Soviet Artillery over the period and acted as a significant counter to NATO proliferation of handheld anti tank weapons and enabled the Soviet Army to reduce its doctrinal dependence on nuclear weapon use.

The Divisional Artillery Regiment

The Organisation of the Divisional Artillery Regiment is outlined in the diagrams below, TD's would generally only deploy two battalions of 2S3.  Both Isbey and FM 100-2-3 contain detail on the composition of the various Sub Units.

From a Wargames perspective the main elements that we might want to represent will be rules dependent, from my point of view these are:
  • Command and Control Battery
  • 2S3 Battalions
  • BM 21 Battalion
  • Target Acquisition  Battery
  • Regimental Aid Point
The gun battalions and BM 21 battalions are  broadly similar organisation and include:

For my games I use a vehicle scale of 3:1 so I represent the battalion as 3 batteries with each battery containing:

  • A supply truck, either a Zil 131 or a URAL 4275, 
  • A command vehicle either an IV 12 Series COP/FDC (2 batterys per battalion) or a BTR 60 PU radio vehicle (1 battery per battalion and effectively representing the Battalion HQ). 
  • 2 firing platforms 2S1/2S3 or MLRS depending on the unit type.  
From the battalion I deploy two OPs using the ACRVs as theoretically this organisation could generate seven OPs if required:

  • 4 from the COPs (IV13/15) 
  • 1 from the PRP 
  • 2 additional flanking OPs which would be created on an Ad Hoc basis from battery staff and vehicles.
The Regimental Command and Control Battery

A BTR 60 Command Wagon represents the 3 ACVs admittedly 2 are MTLBus but I have a lot of them in the unit already. Other than that I have added 1 UAZ 469 and 1 Gaz 66.  I also included a PRP 3 which might seem a bit strange.  

One of the things I wanted to resolve within the HQ was the representation of PRP 3. Because of the way the PRPs are distributed with three sitting  in the Regimental Artillery battalions (one each) and three in the divisional Artillery battalions (one each) and one in the Target Acquisition Battery.  You end up with no representation of the vehicle due to the 3:1 vehicle scale, which is a shame as its a good looking wagon. Technically two would be deployed within the division (at 3:1) to accommodate this I added one to the Regimental HQ and one to the Target Acquisition Battery

The Target Acquisition Battery

It's a bit of a challenge to work out what's going on here and with this organisation having components that would sit in the off board force and the onboard force it needs to be divided up.  This is how I viewed it;
  • Recce Platoon @ 2 BTR 60/70/80 + 2 LRF - represented by 1 BTR 60
  • Comms Platoon @ 1 UAZ 452 Compute, 3 UAZ 469, 3 Gaz 66 - 1 UAZ 469, 1 Gaz 66
  • Surveillance Radar Platoon @ 1 SNAR 10, 1 PRP3, 1 Counter Mortar Radar - represented by 1 SNAR 10, 1 PRP 3 (see above for explanation).  The SNAR 10 would normally be deployed along side Artillery COPs.
  • Sound Ranging Platoon @ 4 Gaz Vans, This example of the 1B19 Complex provides a view - 1 Van
  • Topo Survey Platoon - not represented
  • Met Survey Platoon - not Represented
  • Radar Platoon - 3 radar direction finder, 3 Gaz 66 - 1 Gaz 66 and a PSNR -1 or 5
So In Summary 1 BTR 60 ACV, 1 UAZ 469 & Gaz 66, 1 SNAR 10, 1 GAZ VAN, 1 GAZ 66 + Radar.  I have found no source data that attributes the number of vehicles to the platoons within the Target Acquisition Battery so have applied some thought and generated the answer. If anyone knows of better data on this I would be grateful for any pointers as to a more accurate representation. 

Regimental Medical Point

FM 100-3-2 covers the Regimental Medical Point under the MRR and I have assumed its the same for all regiments.  The core of this is a treatment section and one or two collection sections. I assume of the four Ambulances available three are in the collection section and one in the treatment section and the other sections all collocate with the treatment section. I have gone for a three vehicle representation of a Gaz 66 for the Treatment section and 1 UAZ 452 for each collection section.


Krasnopol was a Precision Guided Munition(PGM) for 152mm Artillery pieces deployed in the late 80s. PGM's effectively allowed artillery firing in the indirect fire role to engage point targets such as vehicles or field defences.  This was achieved through laser target marking and steerable control surfaces on the projectile allowing for in flight course correction.  The amount of correction possible  was limited so the round had to be lobbed into the right space relative to the target and the observer for the whole thing to work. Rounds were provided for all the major 152mm systems in Soviet service. The complex consisted of the OF 39 projectile and a D15 Laser Target Designator together with a couple of command devices one for the gun line and 1 for the OP.

Getting the round in the right place at the right time from the right direction to acquire the illuminated target was critical to success, as was the need to limit the time the target had to react. All this required a degree of thought to be applied to the process, as such engagement zones needed to be recced and engagements planned. This required a degree of preparation of the target zone and the gun line which would improve hit probability and reduce the effectiveness of any target counter measures.  Clearly more Ad Hoc engagement would lead to a lower probability of hit.

Krasnopol was allocated in sets, each set included;
  • 50 Rounds 
  • The shot synchronization system
  • The LTD.  
A battalion might be allocated 4 sets for a total of 200 rounds.  Common practice seemed to allocate one battery as the Krasnopol Battery and one platoon within that battery as the Krasnopol Platoon .  This platoon would carry 140 of the 200 rounds with the remainder being spread across the rest of the battalion. One LTD would go to each Battery COP and 1 to the Battalions mobile reconnaissance post (PRP 3).

In order to engage the OP had to position between the target and the gun line within a 15 degree arc and within 7kms of the target.  Rounds would be fired in succession into the target area either on command of the OP or every 30 seconds.

Krasnopol seems like very useful addition to the indirect fire inventory of the Divisional Artillery Regiment and one which makes the deployment of the related COPs a consideration from both a task organisation perspective and enabling targets to be engaged. I can think of a number of scenarios where It would be interesting to explore the impact of this such as the deployment of the Anti Armour Reserve at divisional or regimental level and the deployment of the Advance Guard.

Artillery Groups and Control of Fires and Units

With the Artillery assets at its disposal the division artillery staff would form a Divisional Artillery Group (DAG) and a number of Regimental Artillery groups (RAG).  The Division would be allocated assets from Army and Front and allocate assets to its subordinate Regiments enhancing the organic capability.

RAGs would generally only be composed for the units in the first echelon. The implication from the Xenophon lessons on Divisional Artillery is that all the divisions artillery assets would be allocated between the DAG and the first echelon RAGs. RAGs for the 2nd echelon units would be composed prior to that echelon being committed effectively being withdrawn from the first. The staff planning data for these add hoc groups were:
  • DAG 4-6 Units
  • RAGs 3-4 Units (For lead Echelons only)
Clearly these would be impacted by the priority of the axis of advance (main or secondary) and the type of operation, advance, breakthrough or pursuit.

Battalions would be allocated fire units from RAG as required this would generally be when acting as an advanced Guard, Forward detachment or for an assault. The composition and distribution of non organic assets has been covered in earlier posts on the MRR and Non Divisional Artillery Units which contain examples of such groupings and provide a view on the range of units from which these elements might be drawn.

In addition reinforcing fire from the Army Artillery Group and the Front Artillery Group could be superimposed by the higher headquarters as it saw fit or as part of a fire plan.

Groupings and hence control of the Artillery units would change with the different phases of the Plan.  In general the DAG would retain control in the preparatory fire phase, then resources and control would shift to the RAGs for the Assault phases before being transferred to the 2nd Echelon as they were committed.  Fire Units Ammunition and Time slots could all be held in reserve.

I aim to explore this further in a TTP post about the deployment and use of divisional artillery after I have digested some more of the data in the Xenophon archive.

Wargames Representation

Whilst the Divisional Artillery Regiment does not easily lend itself to most peoples idea of a 20mm table top action there are a number of ways its assets can be included in games, although I do admit that you have to try hard. There are a number of mechanisms which allow exploration of their use and role, these include;
  • Direct incorporation into the onboard elements as a focus of the scenario an example might be penetration of NATO forces into the depth of the divisional defence where Reserves and Artillery elements might be the core components of the Soviet Force. Such games can be built as stand alone scenarios or be components of a mini campaign.
  • Representation as off board support providing the Divisional wrap of supporting fires and Air Defence, in this instance the elements needing to be represented would be limited to on board Target Acquisition components.   
  • Representation on subsidiary boards enabling aspects of the depth fire battle to play out using Air, Artillery, Air Defence and follow on Maneuver assets as part of a larger game. Personally I like this approach and a variety of additional commands can be generated around the Artillery, Air and Air Defence aspects allowing examination of both deep and rear operations, both of which had significant impact on the outcome of the engagement being fought.  Without additional players the scope is more limited as there is a significant amount of thinking needed and additional game mechanics to play through that would otherwise consume too much time.
  • Linked Games, pre game play and mini campaigns offer approaches to resolving the issues outlined in the subsidiary board approach and if the number of players are limited offer a way to explore elements of Deep and Rear opps.  The detail of the sequencing of the games then becomes the major challenge.
  • Smaller Scale, heresy so not considered further :). Not my particular poison but alternative scales 1:300/600/700 offer the opportunity to develop these aspects in a more manageable space both from a cost and storage perspective, my problem is I am far to in love with the joys of 20mm to go there.

What gets represented and how the support is applied is a key component of designing the scenario and something for the TTP post and some scenario ideas I have been working on.  Both the Big games covered on the blog the Wisenberg Counterattack and Storming the Weidhouse Gap contained significant artillery components. 

Models and Availability

Having identified that you want to build something as challenging as an Artillery Regiment and you have managed to convince your self that it will get the odd outing. Sourcing the models isn't always easy, the table below outlines a range of suppliers for the vehicles required to represent in whole or part the Divisional Artillery Regiment.

Whilst the coverage of the vehicle fleet is fairly complete now with the release of conversion sets by S&S for the BTR series vehicles some of the ground equipments will require scratchbuilding if they are to be represented, notable ones include:
  • Counter Battery Radars
  • D15 Laser Target Designator
  • DK-1 Laser Range Finder (Imagery of this is proving a challenge to find)
where I have already written a review of the relevant models they can be found here:


Other Posts of Interest

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Review - Web Resources, Voroshilov Academy Lectures

The Voroshilov Academy lectures cover a range of material presented at the Soviet General Staff academy during the 1970s.  The Content was translated in the late 80's from the Notes of an Afghan Army Colonel who attended the academy.  They are presented in the Xenophon Archive along with notes from his attendance at the  Frunz Military Academy for the Ground forces in the 60s.  As such the material presented presents a view from the 60s on the Tactical/Operational level Division and below and the 70s on the Operational/Strategic level, Army and Front.  This needs to be born in mind when reading, as whilst the general scope and intent of the doctrine presented had a degree of consistency with the the late 80s period organisational constructs, equipment and in a number of areas core operational doctrine varied over this time frame.

Having said that they present a wealth of detail that whilst some of it is readily available elsewhere there are significant components that are not. As an example I found the archive whilst hunting for material on Soviet Air Defence Electronic Warfare units at Army and Front level. They were covered here at a level of detail along with their operational deployment and use, in other sources only the existence of the unit is acknowledged at best. So a useful source but one that needs to be consumed with an understanding of the Historical context of the evolution of the Soviet Armed forces across the 60's 70's and 80's if it is not going to lead to further confusion.

In terms of content the Archive covers:
  • Front, Army and Division Operations
  • Air Army Operations
  • Operations of Specialist Branches including: Artillery, Engineer, Signal and Reconnaissance
As such this rounds out the extensive free material on the Soviet Armed forces provided else where and covered in previous posts.
The detail as might be expected focuses on those things that are the business of the staff;
  • Planning
  • Staff procedures
  • Orders, 
  • Control of operations 
  • Organisation structure and deployment of headquarters
Whilst these things are not of direct interest to the gamer, unless you are planning a raid on an Army, Divisional or Front Headquarters the information required to support the staff is also included such as organisation, doctrine and perhaps more interestingly planning yardsticks.

The archive presented offers a great way to consume the material but the same material has also been published as a number of books which can be found on line or can be purchased from Amazon amongst others.

The online source for the books is the DTIC repository:
and the CIA broke the content up into a number of papers focused on specific areas with additional analysis and comment.  Examples include:
All up a number of very useful resources if your interested in setting games in the context of the wider operational and strategic picture or understanding the types of resource available at higher formation level and working out how you could get them on a table top, which is always a bit of a challenge.

Other Web Resource Reviews:

Review - Web Resources, SSVC on You Tube 
Review - Web Resources, Soviet 16th Air Army
Review - Web Resources, Fire and Furry Cold War Orbats and Modern Resources
Review - Web Resources, M136 Exercise Picture Archive
Review - Web Resources, Armoured Acorn Web Site
Review - Web Resources, War for Slow Readers
Review - Web Resources, CIA FOIA Site
Review - Web Resources Airpower Australia
Review - Web Resources, DTIC on Line

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Cold War Projects 2017

Last year was largely a year off from gaming and related activities hopefully this year will see a little more activity on the modelling writing and gaming fronts.  This post really sets out to explain the different projects I am working on and how they might progress this year.  All of them are fairly large multi year undertakings some of which have been running since I started this blog

I suspect the primary focus will remain the Soviet Armed forces as I have a number of fairly large projects in progress that I am keen to try and close out on or move forward depending on their current stage of development.  For those of you who have not had the time to fight their way through the amount of material in the blog these are:

  • Forward Detachments
  • Breakthrough Battle
  • Deep Battle

Forward Detachment

The forward detachment project seems to be completing. The main components of the project are:
  • BMP Motor Rifle Regiment that can be fought as an early 80s or late 80's force
  • Divisional Anti Tank Regiment
  • DShV Bn and Associated Airlift and Support
  • Frontal Aviation Ground attack assets
whilst the topic has been fairly well covered there are a number of areas I have yet to explore in detail around the various force components of the BMP MRR and how they might be organised and deployed by the MRR commander and these have quite a bit of potential to spin out into a number of smaller scenarios around their use.

Principal Posts

Wargames Unit - Soviet Late 80's MRB
Wargames Unit - Soviet MRR, Anti Tank Reserve
Wargames Unit - Soviet MRD, Anti Tank Battalion
Wargames Unit-Soviet Late 80's, 2S1 Battalion
Wargames Unit - 468 MSB, Divisional Forward Detachment at Waidhause
Wargames Unit -Soviet, Combat Helicopter Regiment, Assault Helicopter Squadron
Wargames Unit - Soviet, Combat Helicopter Regiment, Attack Helicopter Squadron
Wargames Unit - Soviet Late 80's Independent DShV Battalion

Breakthrough Battle

The Breakthrough Battle project has largely been researched and written up,  much of the required equipment has been bought although there is still a fair amount to go.  Currently the scope of the project  includes:
  • BTR Motor Rifle Regiment
  • Divisional Artillery Regiment
  • Army & Front  Artillery reinforcing units
  • Divisional, Army & Front Air Defence Assets
  • Frontal Aviation Ground attack assets

This project should provide a number of posts around:
  •  reviews of models, 
  • ORBAT posts around the specific force components not yet covered, 
  • Wargames units as I finish them 
  • Possibly the odd scenario although in truth there is a lot of work here to do on building the force and a viable opposition before any gaming can really take place.

Principal Posts

ORBAT - Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 1 overview
ORBAT-Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 2 Army Independent Flamethrower Battalions
ORBAT-Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 3 Non Divisional Artillery Assets
ORBAT-Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 4 Frontal Aviation
Wargames Unit - Soviet Late 80's, Flame Thrower Company Group

Deep Battle

I started researching Deep battle in 2015 and have yet to start to write the material up currently I think there will be a number of major operational elements:

  • Exploitation and Pursuit forces, Tank Regiment & Army and Front River Crossing assets
  • Strategic Desante, Spetznaz, VDV Regiment and Naval Infantry Battalion
  • Deep Fires, Air, Rocket and Artillery, I think there might be the odd Scud Brigade in here

I hope to be blogging around each of these project areas over the next 12 months and probably over the next few years as these projects always take a long time to mature both from the perspective of developing an understanding of the subject and building up the requisite forces to fight the battles.

As this project has yet to get past the research stage I have yet to write anything significant, and like the Breakthrough project its a fairly large and complex and because of the distances and forces involved challenging to translate to the table top in 20mm.

I have bought the odd model and have some force elements already covered in a limited fashion, primarily the VDV and elements of the exploitation and pursuit forces which fall out of the Forward Detachment project.


As well as the posts relating to the three main projects their is also a lot of material on the operational and organisational context to battles in the late Cold War period.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

ORBAT Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 4 Frontal Aviation

As part of the Breakthrough battle the front could allocate elements of Frontal aviation in support of the depth fire battle enabling the simultaneous engagement of the enemy throughout his depth and to increase the effectiveness of the engagement of the enemy in the immediate combat zone.

Frontovaya Aviatsiya  FA was the largest component of Soviet Air Power comprising some 5,000 aircraft and 5,000 helicopters distributed across 16 Air Armies.  A Tactical Air Army was an integral part of a Front which for the purposes of my Cold War representation consisted of 2 Combined Arms Armies, 1 Tank Army and 1 Tactical Air Army.

The purpose of Frontal Aviation was to provide Air Support to the front throughout the fronts area of operations and the enemies depth this area can be described as a box approximately 300km wide to 500km deep. In addition to the ability to deliver Air to Ground attack from Aircraft or Helicopters, the Air Army also possessed Reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare, Air Superiority and Transport Assets.

The Primary role was Air Support to the Ground Operation with the Tactical Air Army being subordinate to the Front, the other assets within the Air Army, Fighter Divisions and Reconnaissance Regiments, being used to create the conditions under which this could occur. The principal uses of the Air Armys assets were:
  • Striking targets beyond the range of Artillery
  • Increasing tempo by adding air delivered ordnance to direct and indirect fires
  • adding flexibility through quick response in fluid tactical situations

Composition, Organisation and Equipment

The Various Air Armies composition varied depending on where they were. Based on Suverovs model of the Front and his view on the force composition and structure in the Forward Group of Forces then 16 Air Army would split into two with one supporting each of the two fronts.

An outline composition for an Air Army supporting a single front could look like this:
  • 3 Fighter Divisions ( IAD )Mig-23 Flogger, Mig-29 Fulcrum (90% of the Force), 
  • 2 Fighter Bomber Divisions (IBAP) Mig 27D Flogger (60%), Su-17 Fitter (40%)
  • 1 Independent Air Attack Regiment (OShAP) SU-25 Frogfoot
  • 1 Bomber Division (ADIB) Su -24 Fencer
  • 3 Attack Helicopter Regiments (OBVP) Mi 24 Hind. Mi-8 Hip
  • 1 Fighter Recce Regiment (ORAP) Mig-25R Foxbat, Mig-25BM (ECM) Su-17M4R, Su 24 MR, Su-24MP
  • 1 Helicopter Transport Regiment (OVP) Mi-24, Mi8, Mi-6
  • 1 Mixed Helicopter Regiment (OVP) Mi-8, Mi-6/26
Aircraft are organised in flights of 4 with 3 Flights to a Squadron (12) and 3 Squadrons to a Regiment  (36) and 3 Regiments to a division (108).  There was some mixing of aircraft types within Squadrons and regiments but in general a regiment tended to operate aircraft of a single type for fighter, Fighter Bomber.  The range of aircraft covers the types that could have been used against the role stated at the back end of the Cold War.

Like Artillery covered in the last Post on Breakthrough operations the great thing about Aircraft is that they are very easy to concentrate on an axis or in support of a mission and can add considerable weight of fire at critical moments in the battle.

weapon systems

A wide range of air to ground munitions were available to fighter ground attack aircraft in the late 80's.  Like NATO the Soviets had been improving the effectiveness of aerial delivered munitions through both precision guidance from the air, precision guidance from the ground and the development of a range of Scatterable mine and submunition capabilities.

The critical developments from the perspective of Breakthrough were those that could be used to break down a formed defence and could be used to replace the dependence on Nuclear weapons seen in the 60’s.  To my mind this puts the focus on the improvement of bombs rather than in developments of Surface to air missiles which because of cost and availability would tend to be used on higher value targets. 

Guided Bombs

The Soviets developed a range of precision guided munitions in the late 70s and by 1979 had deployed a number of 500kg Laser Guided Bombs these included Bunker Busters, HE-Frag and Thermobaric munitions. These systems were used in Afghanistan and by 1987 they had up scaled these to include 1500kg bombs.

Collectively known as KAB (Korrektirujemaja Aviacionnaja Bomba) the weapons have a significant stand off range.  The KAB-500 series having a maximum range of 10 km and can be delivered by MiG-27K, Su-22M3/M4, Su-24M and Su-25. The KAB – 1500 series can be from altitudes of 1 km to 15 km providing a maximum standoff of 18 - 20 km from the higher altitudes with the delivery platforms being primarily the Su 24 during the Cold War. 

  • KAB-1500L-Pr-E Penetrating bunker buster with sub calibre war head
  • KAB-1500L-F-E Blast Fragmentation warhead
  • KAB-1500-OD-E Thermobaric warhead
The LGB - KAB 500 L was deployed from 1979 and the KAB 1500 L from 1987 the weapons used a semi active homer which delivered a 7m CEP they were  Air Designated and I have found no reference to ground designation.  The improved LG variants were not delivered until after the end of the Cold War. 

The 4.5m long KAB-1500L guided bomb is a bit of a beast designed to hit stationary ground and surface targets, these include:
  • Railway and Motorway Bridges
  • Dams
  • Defence Enterprise
  • Large Ammunition Depots
  • Fuel and Lubricant Storage
  • Railway Junctions
In my mind it would also be a useful weapon to deploy against static battlefield targets such as defended positions and as such offers the potential to deliver Nuclear like effects from a more conventional platform. 

The TV Guided KAB 500 KR and KAB 1500TK entered service from 1987 and delivered an improved 4m CEP. The Satellite guided systems were not deployed until 2003 so more Bear Resurgent than Cold War. The SU 24 cleared for 3 KAB 1500 or 7 KAB 500 with the Su 17 capable of carrying 2 KAB 500

Cluster Bombs

The other set of weapons of interest in the Breakthrough context are Cluster Bombs.  Cluster munitions release or eject smaller submunitions and were deployed extensively by all sides during the Cold War, primarily they increased the area of effect of the payload and more efficiently distribute the effects within that area than a single equivalent sized bomb can achieve.  As such they are more efficient at engaging area targets.  The Soviet Union was a pioneer in the development  of the Cluster bomb with use from the 1930's, The principal family of munitions available to them in the Cold War was the RBK 250 family of bombs. Sub Munitions carried include:

  • Anti Personnel AO 2.5RT 2.8Kg Pre fragmented, designed to split on impact bounce then explode. 
  • Anti Personnel  AO-1 SCh, 
  • Anti Personnel PFM-1 2.5 lbs, AP Mine 
  • Anti Tank PTAB 2.5, 5lbs Heat
  • Airfield Cratering

The RBK Razovaya Bombovaya Kasseta is a single use bomb cassette which could then be loaded with a number of sub munitions generally either the fragmentation or Anti Tank sub munitions.

In the 1990s details of a larger and improved RBK 500 bomb were released with new sub munitions its not clear if these were available in the later years of the Cold War. But if like me you stretch the back end of the Cold War though to 1993 when the Soviets withdrew from Germany then they fit. New sub munitions included:
  • AO-2.5 RTM pre fragmented anti personel/anti materiel
  • BETAB airfield Cratering cluster bomb
  • PTAB-1M anti tank,  2lbs Heat penetrates 9" of steel fin stabilised
  • SPBE anti tank, 30 lbs anti tank with EFP warhead, Drouge stabilised
  • SPBE-D anti tank
The munitions can be carried by Mig 23/27, 29, Su 17, 24, 25, 27

Command and Control

The Soviet system to control air assets in the fronts area of operations occurred at two levels.  The first of these dealt with the routing of aircraft to and from their missions and the second the allocation of assets to missions and the prosecution and selection of targets.

The Control and Target Identification post was equipped with Radar and signals equipment and communicated with the air assets to control their movement, it was primarily a battlefield air traffic control system which had no role in mission planning. 

The forward air liaison teams deployed to the forward CPs at each level of command from front to regiment and occasional battalion dealt with the target selection and prosecution of engagements. The Air assets like artillery assets could be allocated in support of specific formations and units and I suspect it is these units that received the Forward Air Liaison teams.  Targeting like artillery would be conducted through the direction of assets by the controlling HQ ie the combined arms commander in conjunction with the Liaison team, rather than by request.

The Air Controllers at Regimental level would clear targets and identify friendly troop locations for attacking aircraft, these air controllers were usually experienced Pilots, I have yet to find any evidence of ground target marking capability.  All the teams would be equipped with either BTR Series or MT-LBu command and Observation post vehicles which were supplied to both artillery and air observation parties, the specific BTR 60 variant being the BTR 60R-975.

The Soviets tend to employ aircraft to engage deeper targets and aviation to attack closer targets all though assets of both types will be utilised for pre planned operations and air delivered fire strikes can be used to superimpose fire effect on top of artillery fires.

Modeling and Gaming

The purpose of the research was of course to enable me to expand the Soviet horde to include some air support that could help deliver some serious effects on to the NATO position in the event of a breakthrough battle developing on a table top near me.  To this end I will be adding:
  • 2 Su 17 representing two flights of 4 Su 17 equipped with  Kab - 500L and CBUs from the IBAP
  • 1 Su 24 representing 1 Flight of 4 Su 24 equiped with 2 Kab - 1500L and CBUs from the ADIB
  • 1 BTR 60 Forward Air Control Command and Observation Post
Having spent the time researching the aircraft munitions it would be good to create models with the Weapon load outs required. Since I started  writing this article back in 2014 a number of new weapons sets have been released along with a number of aftermarket resin accessories that enable that to be acheived the main ones I am using are:
For this project the main sets used are the Hasegawa Russia Weapons Set which supplied 2 Kab 1500Ls for the Su 24. The Dragon Modern Soviet Aircraft Weapons set 3, Rockets and Bombs which supplied the CBUs and the North Star Kab-500L set which supplied the load for the Su 17s.

when completed these birds will join my existing Frontal Aviation assets which include:
  • 1 Mig 29 representing 1 flight of 4 aircraft from the IAD
  • 1 Mig 23 representing 1 flight of 4 aircraft from the IAD
  • 2 Su 25 representing 2 flights of 4 aircraft from the OShAP
  • 2 Mig 27 representing 2 flights of 4 aircraft from the IBAP
  • 5 Mi 24 representing an Attack Helicopter Sqn from the OBVP
  • 5 Mi 8 representin an Assault Helicopter Sqn from the OBVP
  • 4 Mi 8 representing a Medium Transport Helicopter Sqn from the OVP
  • 2 Mi 24 and 1 Mi 6 representing a Heavy Transport Helicopter Sqn from the OVP
key elements of the Air Armies together with the DsHV and a range of Engineer capabilities were amongst those hit by the change to a more defensive doctrine in the late 80's as Glasnost and perestroika started to bite. I generally view this as a politically instigated doctrinal change motivated by the changing political landscape that evolved in the closing moments of the Cold War, in a timeline that would have led to war these changes may well have not occurred, it is also worth remembering that up scaling aircraft assets can be relatively easy given that the ground support and logistic elements can accommodate it. Which I suppose is my justification for playing late Cold War scenarios using assets such as those described in this post.