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

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Wargames Unit - Soviet Late 80's, Flame thrower Company Group

The Flame Thrower Company Group was a composite Flame Thrower Unit formed by the Army Independent Flame Thrower Battalion to support a Motor Rifle Regiment.  It Consisted of a Flame Thrower Company of 2 Platoons and a Flame thrower Tank Platoon from the Flame thrower tank Company.  Details of the organisation and composition together with the associated research and thinking can be found in the post ORBAT-Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 2 Army Independent Flamethrower Battalions

I have built this unit as part of my Soviet Breakthrough Capability project and it is the first of a number of breakthrough related unit's I will be producing.  The TOS-1 is produced by modelcollect and can be sourced direct through them or through Brian at the Hobby Den.  It has been built straight from the box.

The BMP 2 and BMP 2D are both produced by S&S, and I have a sneaking suspicion this is about the only BMP 2D that you can get these days.  Both vehicles are simple resin models that require a reasonable degree of preparation before building but build into reasonable representations of the Wagons. The Weapon systems are all white metal.  

I must admit to a bit of an aversion to resin BMPs but having built these two am pretty pleased with the results.The vehicles are airbrushed with Tamiya XF-13 JA Green and the panels are oversprayed with a mix of JA Green and Tamayia XF-65 Field Grey, the pin was has been done using the Humbrol Blue Grey enamel wash and weathering is an on going experiment with air brush and washes, in this case the Humbrol enamel Dust Wash featured heavily.  The Decals are either QRFs white number set or from model collect.

For the Figures I have used Elhiems Cold War Soviet Range which have had Green stuff hoods added so they could be painted up in Sunbunnies in line with the rest of my Infantry.  The figures are actually carrying RPG-22s but I am using them to represent RPO-A teams.  

The RPG-22 gunner comes in CWR-18 a pack of three with a sniper and a SA-7/14 gunner and if your building a late period Motor Rifle Regiment you need a lot of SA-14 so quite a useful set from my perspective.  I am told Shaun at S&S does an RPO-A gunner but I have yet to find it on the S&S site.  

All up an unusual and interesting unit that I can't wait to get into action against my dug in Brits, although to some extent I need to build the BTR regiment to go with them as BTR regiments would be more likely to carry out this type of assault operation against a formed defence rather than the BMP regiment.  How the Soviets conducted the Breakthrough can be found in the TTP post on Breakthrough Attacks

Related Posts:

ORBAT - Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 1 overview
ORBAT-Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 2 Army Independent Flamethrower Battalions

Friday, 10 October 2014

TTP - Soviet Breakthrough Attacks

Whilst there are a lot of references on how the Soviets conducted offensive operations a number of these present quite a confusing view as the different components tend to be presented together.  This post looks specifically at the Breakthrough attack and how it was conducted at the various levels of command.  This enables a range of games and forces for games to be considered that sit within the context of such opperations which makes structuring the opposing forces easier given the lack of historical example.   

The Soviet Army of the Cold War classified the offence into three different types of engagement.
  • The Meeting Engagement
  • The Breakthrough
  • The Pursuit
The meeting engagement and the pursuit were both conceived to deal with fluid situations in the abcence of a formed defence and would be led by the more mobile elements of the force primarily the Tank and BMP equiped Motor Rifle units and formations operating in close cooperation with forward detachments and heliborne forces of the DShV. These operations in the context of the NATO defence plan would initialy be conducted against the covering force and once the main defence had been breached. 

The Breakthrough was the least favoured of the three types of engagement from the Soviet perspective. It would be used when a formed defence was encountered with depth that could not be defeated by manoeuvre. The principal goal of the breakthrough was to create a gap and in their words restore a flank that allowed manoeuvre operations to once again commence.  

FM 100-2-1 has a variable number of armies in a front and the image below shows 5, the model I am using has 2 Combined Arms Armies, 1 Tank Army and 1 Air Army. A Front depending on its posture, size and the composition of its echelons could attack on a frontage of between 150km - 350km.   At 350km this would place all of the fronts Armies in the first echelon this would leave no 2nd Echelon, Reserve or exploitation force although elements to create these capabilities could be withdrawn from the armies.  At 150km this would see two armies in the first echelon leaving one Army to cover the other roles.   The Diagram below shows the variable frontage of the armies dependent on their role in the operation and illustrates how those with a deeper envelopment role would attack on a narrower front and be supported by Air and Aviation to achieve their goals.

The Breakthrough engagement was an operational level activity that would be planned and coordinated by an Army or a Front.  I assume therefore that either a Front or an Army had to be denied the oppourtunity of manoeuvre in order to trigger the action.  This would require a solid defence across a frontage of between 80km - 150 km as a minimum and probably anchored on some fairly difficult terrain.  If the Front were denied freedom of manouver then the Beakthrough opperation would be deemed to be strategic and would gain significantly more support from Front Artillery, Air, Aviation and other assets. If only the Army were denied freedom of movement then the level of support available from Front might reasonably be expected to be much less.

At Army level only one Breakthrough opperation would be conducted at a time this allowed a significant level of Force concentration in terms of Armour, Artillery, Air and Logistic assets.   The most likly force to be considered for such an action would be a combined Arms Army.  This concentration of force created an effective target for nuclear or conventional fire strikes hence its growing unpopularity as a method of conducting buisness.  As an example of the concentration required the Artillery density needed in for a Breakthrough I have seen variously expressed as 60 - 100 tubes per km or 350 tubes for the Breakthrough Division.  Whilst the overall frontage of that division may be 10-15km the attacks would be heavily echeloned and delivered over a much reduced frontage.

The level of concentration would be dependent on the depth and level of preparation of the enemys defence.  So a prepared defence in depth with obstical belts, prepared field and anti tank defences would be met with the more extreme levels of force

The Breakthrough operation doctrinaly would be conducted by a single Division on a 4km frontage attacking with two regiments in the Divisional first echelon each of which would be likely to constitute itself with two battalions in the first echelon and one in the second their would be a variety of options for the regimental and divisional reserves. Unlike the diagram below the first echelon would probably use the BTR regiments.  It is likly that at least one of the Army's other Division's would be engaged in an economy of force action holding the remainder of the Army's front and mounting diversionary attacks.  The armies total frontage could be as little as 45-50km, the Division conducting economy of force and diversionary operations covering over 2/3rds of that.

The level of support from Army in the holding sector would be much less than the Assault sector though sufficient to achieve the aim and deceive the enemy as to the Army Commanders intent. As such it would need to portray the right signature in terms of equipment and activity.  It seems likley that this Division would be reinforced by units from the Army and Front level Anti Tank Regiments in order to help cover its extended frontage but would receive lower allocations of other assets such as Artillery, Engineers and Chemical Troops.

As well as seeking to pin a proportion of the defending force it might also seek to draw the enemy reserve away from the main operation.  What is clear is that the missions and attacking force structures of units in this sector would be very different to those in the Breakthrough sector.  The Army conducting the break through operation would have a much reduced frontage but would be expected to break through to the operational depth of the enemy.

In the model of the Breakthrough I am developing for my scenarios the remaining three divisions would:

  • Form a second Echelon of two MRDs 
  • Form an exploitation force based on a tank division 
  • Form a reserve which might be based on the divisional anti tank Regiment and the independent tank Regiment. 
The precise nature of the echelonment would change to suit enemy and terrain and did not have to be consistent at all levels of command so considerable variety exists here.  Second echelon forces would be fed into the attack to maintain momentum and develop the gap.

Elements from the Second Echelon may well be designated to provide Forward Detachments for the exploitation force and or provide task organised elements to that force which would reduce their available combat power.   Their Divisional Artillery elements would be reduced to reinforce the first echelon as would artillery assets down to divisional level in the Fronts second echelon although these assets together with Divisional Level assets of the 1st echelon would be regrouped to the 2nd echelon as it was committed.  Depending on the nature of the defence and the level at which the operation was being conducted, Front or Army the exploitation force might be provided by either an Army or Front level Operational Manoeuvre Group.

The Operational Manoeuvre Group and its associated Forward Detachments would be held ready to exploit the breakthrough once achieved this would be supported by Army Front and Potentially strategic Air Mobile and Airborne assets ranging in Strength from Bn to Brigade.

Divisional operations would be feasible but toward the end of the period these were more likely to be Brigade level operations using assets from the Airborne divisions.  It seems likely that Attack Helicopter Squadrons, DShV and Airlifted Motor Rifle Companies would initially support the Assault before transitioning to the exploitation force.

As with all Soviet offensive opperations the intent was to engage the enemy simultainiously throughout his operational depth and through out the duration of the attack.  This would mean that the Soviets would simultainiously attack in depth with:
  • Air, 
  • Aviation, 
  • Air Assault, 
  • Long Range Artillery including the Scud Brigades and Frog battalions, 
  • Reconnaissance and Descent forces including Electronic Warfare assets 

Targets for the depth assault might include:
  • Mobile Reserves
  • Reserve Positions
  • Constraints in terrain that reinforcements might have to deploy through
  • Headquaters
  • Nuclear Capable Artillery
  • Artillery concentrations
All that is a lot to fit on a war-games table particularly when you game in 20mm. From the wargaming perspective the Brakethrough attack offers the oppourtunity for a wide variety of games focused on different asspects of the operation.

Games could be linked as part of a campaign offering the opportunity to explore different aspects of the ensuing action. Setting games in such an operational context would allow scenarios to be constructed with coherent force structures and victory conditions. Ideas might include:
  • The initial Assault by a reinforced Assault Battalion supported by elements of the Regiment and its second Echelon.
  • A Break through Attack by heavily reinforced Soviet units with Air and Aviation components opperating in the Soviet and NATO rear targeting reserves 2nd echelon forces headquaters and artillery units.  Whilst NATO air could target Soviet Artillery and follow on forces.  This could be fought across multiple tables with a number of players and would make a a good big game or mini campaign.
  • The committal of the first Echelon Regiments 2nd Echelon battalions in attacks on the subsequent objectives.
  • The commital of the 2nd Echelon through the fractured 1st echelon in order to widen or deepen the breach in the NATO defences. This would place the remnants of the first echelon on table in fire support positions as a reduced strength second echelon that had given assets to the exploitation force as committed through them.  This could be played at any organisational level, Regimental Divisional or Army, the nature and type of the opposing forces would change as the attack would be commencing at varying depths of the defence.
  • The exploitation of the break through.  The comittal of the Forward detachments through the remnents of the Soviet attacking force into the depth of the NATO defence.  This effectively would be the start of the pursuit a subject that will be looked at separately.
  • Counter Attacks by NATO reserve units as the break through progress into the NATO depth.
  • Diversionary Attacks by more lightly configured Soviet Units against entrenched NATO forces with Objective targets that would trigger the committal of NATO reserves rather than the taking and holding of ground.
  • Premptive counter attacks by NATO into the more lightly held Soviet Sectors.
  • Air Assault Raids on NATO depth targets HQs and Nuclear assets.

Some of the concepts expressed in the Big Force on Force Blog around their campaign would seem to provide a useful framework in which to run a series of linked games focusing on tactical action within the overall context of an opperaional scenario where the outcomes of individual games can have an impact on subsequent games.

This would allow the Breakthrough to be looked at in some detail whilst keeping the force levels down to manageable proportions an approach which is a lot more manageable than the big game.  The linked outcomes enables NATO players to achieve effect and be given victory conditions that permit the Soviet attack to progress, victory for NATO might be more than holding the ground and would acknowledge the unbalanced nature of the scenarios created.

There are posts on The fronts in the Western TVD and Fronts against NORTHAG that give a high level view of the disposition of Warsaw pact forces into fronts and looks at the different scenarios for their commitment and the possible plans the Soviets might have used to attack NORTHAG.  The operational context for the attack on CENTAG can be found within the Wissenberg counterattack  scenario description, download and the associated scenario posts.

The advantage of setting the operational context at a level of detail is that creating realistic force compositions for the Soviet force is much easier as they are more dependent on the Army and Front operational goals and allows a more credible representation of a war that never happened.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Review - Model, Cromwell models, 1/72 MT-LBu (ACRV)

The MT-LBu is an Artillery Command and Observation post varient of the MT-LB family of vehicles but with a raised and extended hull to facilitate its use as a Command Post.  It comes in a wide variety of fits variously covering communications, observation equipment including radars and fire control computer systems that aid in the adjustment control and cordination of Artillery fire.  The vehicle is also used in a variety of other units including Air Defence.  As such the vehicle is a fairly essential component of any Soviet force. 

Sadly I know of only two models both currently Out of Production the first is the MMS model which I believe is now owned by the Hobby Den but has yet to be offered for sale.  The other is by Cromwell and is the subject of this review, I was told when I received my four models that they would not be making more as the mold was degrading.  I obtained mine through the good offices of Charles McClaren (email) who offers a great service as he lives close to the Cromwell shop and will nip round confirm availability, pick them up and pop them in the post.  The cost of the model was £13.50

The model is part of Cromwells 1/76 Combat Ready range which means its simple but simple in the case of Cromwell should not be confused with either a lack of detail or quality of casting it just means that the models have very few parts.  In this case the parts include the commanders hatch the armoured covers for the forward windows, the turret mounted MG and the ducts for chaneling the wash from the tracks when the vehicle is in the water.  The Turret includes a useful recess which easily accommodates acrew figure.

The model is extremly well cast with no pin holes, however the tracks which are molded with the vehicle come with a significant amount of resin sprue which needs careful removal with a saw and is a bit of a painful job.  On my model about 4 of the gaps between the Road Wheels were also obscured with resin which is the reason it has been dropped from production.  The options here were to drill them out or ignore them. Iwent for the idle optiona and whilst visible does not detract unduly from the vehicle.  There was a level of flash associated with the smaller parts but this was easily trimmed away.  Care needs to be taken with the armoured window covers as its easy to over trim.

I reviewed a number of images both on line and in books hull numbers tend to be placed on the hull side forward of the vehicle centre or on the hull side at the front of the vehicle.  Immages included hull number only and hull number with unit symbols.  I have seen no images with markings on the rear door although a number and unit marking could be added here as well.

I could find no images showing unditching beams but a variety of vehicle equipment could be stowed on the side of the vehicle this can be seen to include from the pictures above.
  • Stowage Boxes
  • Vehicle Equipment
  • Tentage
I crewed the vehicle with one of the Soviet Vehicle crew figures available from Wee Friends, these are quite small and work well with 1/76 vehicles.  I used decals from a model collect sheet which included unit symbols and number and is covered in the Modelling - Cold War Soviet Vehicle Markings and Decals post.

Painting is in line with the rest of the Soviet vehicle fleet using Tamiya XF-13 JA Green and XF - 65 Field grey and the detail of which is outlined in the MTLB post.

Baseing is always a bit of debate and is more valuable when airbrushing as fingure grease can seriously wreck a paint job.  As ever I am using pre cut MDF bases from East Riding Miniatures covered in white Glue and Sand before painting and livenng up with a variety of foliage products.

In summary nice simple resin model that paints up well and is a good physical representation of the vehicle sadly OOP which is a shame as with my Soviet artillery obsession I always feel I need more. The hot rumour is Shaun has one close to being production ready and I think Brian has one in with the MMS modern stuff, hopefully we'll see one in the not too distant future.


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.

Operational Concepts
Force Structure and Organisation

Other Book Reviews: