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

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Review - Web Resources, SSVC on You Tube

SSVC were the organisation that used to make and probably still do make the bulk of the Services information and training films.  A number of their titles from the early 80s have been placed on You Tube by a variety of people and are worth watching if your interested in gaming British in the Cold War period.  They provide some insight into what the British Army got up to but are also an excellent source of detail on what it looked like and there is excellent footage in a number of the videos of SLR equiped Infantry and exercise stowed FV432s chieftains M109s and Abbots.   Todate I have only looked at one or too but they are worth a look.

Thanks to Nick Dives from the Guild for finding this little collection and passing it on.

Other videos include:
  • Fighting in Woods
  • Individual Field Craft
  • Section Fire and Manouver
  • It Could be You
  • Recce Patrol
  • Fighting Patrol
If you served in the Army from the late 70s through to the early 80s I'm sure they will bring back some memories, for those of you that didn't they represent a bunch of videos of historical interest illustrating as they do the look of personal and equipment as well as some great examples of early 80s voice procedure when Pronto, Shelldrake and Sunray were all still chatting away before the arrival of the more modern call sign system, clansman radios and officers with regional accents.

Cold War British Army Training Videos @ You Tube

Saturday, 26 January 2013

TTP - Forward Detachments and Tactical Air Assault

The Soviet Army had a doctrine of creating forward detachments to support ground manoeuvre and supporting these with Air Assault capability. Each division in the first echelon of an Army might establish one battalion as a forward detachment drawn from a unit in its second echelon in addition each army might supply a regiment for the same purpose from one of the second echelon Divisions On the main axis of advance it would be quite conceivable to find multiple forward detachments deployed across a Divisions frontage.

Their focus was on acheiving critical missions in order to maintain the momentum of the advance rather than in engaging all enemy met as such they would seek to avoid combat prior to their objective. Each Forward detachment would be task organised to allow it to operate independently of the parent formation and to achieve its objectives, objectives could typically be 30-35km beyond the forward line of own troops. This could only be achieved in relatively fluid situations following breakthroughs, during meeting engagements or in the enemy covering force zone and with appropriate task organisation and support by air aviation and depth fire assets.

Objectives would be focused on allowing the parent formation to maintain momentum towards its objective and as such could be focused on the ground or the enemy, typically these might include: 
  • Securing River Crossings 
  • Securing Defiles and Junctions
  • Seizing and holding key objectives
  • acheiving surprise through rapidity of manoeuvre
  • Disruption of enemy defensive preparations and the cohesion of the defence
  • penetration of hastily prepared positions
  • Attack of Enemy HQs
  • Blocking enemy counter attacks
The principal deduction is that a Combined Arms Army operating on a two division frontage could create 5 such battalions whilst on a three division frontage 6. 

DShV Units would routinly be task organised to support the forward detachments and on occasion act as forward detachments in their own right.  The DShV missions would be conducted primarily at company and battalion level as discussed in the Orbat Air Assault posts. Given that each BTR equiped MRD  could deploy 3 Companies capable of air assault (9 total in the Army)  and the army had 3 Companies in its Air Assault Battalion and the Front had 9 in the Air Assault Brigade the doctrine of supporting the ground forward detachments with Air Assault capability seems well resourced with regard to the combat assets.   Without Drawing on front level assets an Army could easily constitute 12 Air Assault Companies one of which could be BMD equipped.

The impact of this would be that the second echelon Battalions in each MRR would be minus a company, and the second echelon MRR would be short a battalion.  The First Echelon would be composed of fully formed regiments.

The role of the DShV elements in these operations would be to facilitate the forward detachment in the seizing of its objective, allowing it to maintain a high tempo of operations, this could include all the missions outlined above.  In esscance the Air Assault companies would support the manoeuvre of the forward detachments and or act as forward detachments in their own right.  In turn the forward detachments would facilitate the manouver of the regiments and divisions by clearing the path in front them or preventing enemy interference with their manoeuvre, allowing a high tempo of advance to be sustained on the principal axis of advance.  Critical to achieving this was the appropriate task organisation of the group to achieve the assigned mission which to my mind is the appeal of these organisations in wargaming.

Task Organisation

Lester Grau in his work the Soviet Combined Arms Battalion, Reorginisation for tacticle flexibility 1989, analised a variety of Soviet post war exercises and Military articles in order to construct a view of likly force composition.  In only 12 exercises of the 551 examined was task organisation absent, though what is not clear was the level of the exercise.  For Tank units attached to a Motor Rifle Battalion he noted the following:

  • 1 Tank Company 80% 
  • 2 Tank Companies 5%
  • 1 Tank Battalion .2%
  • 2 Tank Platoons 1%
  • 1 Tank Platoon .7%
  • No armour 11% Most likly in defence and mountainous terrain

Attachments of Motor Rifle Troops to tank battalions only occured 59% of the time with 44% being the attachment of 1 Company and the remainder being 1 or 2 Platoons. On 1 Occasion 2 Companies were attached attachments also included individual squads.

Motor Rifle Battalions frequently included attached Artillery battalions:

  • 2 Battalions 0.5%
  • 1 Battalion + 1 Battery 5%
  • 1 Battalion 34%
  • 2 Batteries 5%
  • 1 Battery 21%

additional supporting artillery fire could be applied on top of this.

He provides similar statistics for engineers reconnaissance air defence and anti tank assets.  He noted that the most common grouping was an MR battalion grouped with a tank company, Artillery battalion and an engineer platoon and that this task organisation was most likly when the unit had been tasked to act as a forward detachment or advanced guard the attachments grew in number and size from 1975.  However the detail of the task organisation is always mission dependent and as can be seen there was significant latitude in the boundaries applied.

What this evidences is a Soviet doctrine of significant flexibility in task organisation particularly for the forward detachments,  it evidences a greater degree of flexibility than represented elsewhere and in some respects a more flexable approach than a number of NATO armies though to some extent the Soviet approach to command and control of Artillery made some of this inevitable .  David Glantz in The Conduct of Tactical Manouver extends the concepts covered in this paper to include the support of air assault components the detail of the task organisation of these assets can be found in Soviet Air Assault Capability Part 2

The Doctrine of employment of Forward Detachments offers significant potential for some very interesting games and our next game "Storming the Waidhaus Gap" looks at the interaction of these two soviet elements in the context of engageing the NATO covering force.


Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Terrain - Modern Utilities and Infrastructure

Part of the Modern landscape is created by a variety of distribution and utility services, these range from petrol for vehicles, electricity distribution and generation, water and water treatment, telephony mobile and fixed, radio and telivision all of which have impacted on the landscape.  This post looks at Power, Water and Petrol with the production of a Water Tower, Petrol Station and a bunch of electricity pylons and telegraph poles.

These pictures provided the inspiration for the Petrol Station and the Water Tower.  Both of which were scratch built.

As can be seen from these pictures the Water Tower is made from some old favourites in the junk modeling world, a Yogurt Pot and the card board centre from a roll of Kitchen Paper. Both of which required fairly significant work to disguise there origins. The initial attempts at this seen in the picture above involved building some detail onto the smooth surfaces with cardboard and plasticard and then trying to change the surface texture using wall filler.  This still left me with a yogurt pot or more accurately creme fresh pot sitting on a less obvious long toilet roll.

In the end the trick proved to be rounding out some of the hard edges under the lid around the top and between the pot and the toilet roll.  which I thought created a more convincing effect.  Bizarly the original inspiration looked more like the yogurt pot on the toilet roll. The guard rail around the top was added using brass rod and wire.

The Water Tower was then painted "white" in Ocher tones and mounted on an MDF base. 

The Garage was built more in line with the techniques described for the other buildings that I have covered in this series of posts.  An MDF Hard board base onto which was mounted the petrol pumps, building and raised flower bed.  The buildings windows were plasticard with frames built from Plastic strip whilst the walls were constructed from molded plastic sheets.  The cover over the refuling area is MDF edged with plasticard and the small walls were built from strips of Foam core covered in wall filler.  The Garage represents a small filling station and was built under scale to keep the foot print down to a manageable size.

The building and pumps were painted "white" in grey tones and the fore court Grey overwashed with lighter tones and finally weathered with Kahki washes.  

The pylons were Hornbys rather expensive offering and whilst not really representative of pylons in Europe do add a distinctively modern flavour to any game, they have been based on MDF and whilst the base has been painted the pylons are not.

The Car park is another MDF Foam core offering with the surface detail just painted on.  I have an intent to do something similar but a little bigger with more features in the parking area.  You can never have too many car parks and they add usefull areas of grey to built up areas.  The Telegraph poles are Dapol and based on coins.

In addition to the major terrain pieces I have a range of what I call micro terrain designed to create a bit of character these range from the tin outhouses/sheds through to wheely bins from hornby mounted on coins to ground dumped containers and a range of small utility huts and roof detail that can sit on or alongside other structures.  The pavements and low ground cover are used to edge roads around built up areas and help to define the extent of the "Urban" space.

Other Posts in this Series:

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Review - Books, Red Thrust Central Front

Red Thrust by Steven Zaloga was written in 1989 and looks at a series of vignettes set within a central european cold war conflict. Each chapter examines a different Soviet Arm of Service and each vignette is followed by an analysis and discussion which look at aspects of the doctrine and the evolution of weapons and forces, both NATO and Soviet this of course was written at the time of the cold war and was trying to predict forward so has limitations.  The Chapters cover the subject matter as follows:

Ch 1 Operational Planning and Operational Art
Ch 2 Motor Rifle Troops
Ch 3 Tank Troops
Ch 4 Spetznaz
Ch 5 Attack Helicopters and Air Assault
Ch 6 Artillery
Ch 7 Air Support
Ch 8 Chemical Warfare

The Vignettes sit within the overall context of a Danube crossing operation in Southern Germany and the various stories come together to describe the operational action.  Some of the Vignettes particularly around the core arms of service, tank and motor rifle are not particularly illuminating as the methods of operation of these Arms tend to be reasonably well understood at the level of description provided in the vignettes.  The vignettes on Spetznaz, Air Assault, Artillery and Air Support are more useful as they illustrate the progress of the operation in the context of the doctrine in areas that are less well covered else where.  The analysis components are where the real value of the book lies but these sadly comprise less than 50% of the book. 

Ultimately looking at Soviet combined arms doctrine from the perspective of a single arm is difficult as their whole approach to war fighting emphasised its prosecution in a combined arms environment. The fact that the book is tying to examine the impact of future equipment change identified as coming into service in the 1990s is another limitation if your intent is to use it to understand what the Soviets intended to do at the backend of the cold war. The book is of interest none the less and I found the predictions interesting in the context of how the 1990s played out.  If you can find one at a low price its worth a look but be prepared to be disappointed with some of the chapters, I found Chapters 5-8 the most useful.

Red Thrust: Attack on the Central Front- Soviet Tactics and Capabilities in the 1990s @ amazon

Other Book Reviews:

The Soviet Afghan War, How a Super Power Fought and Lost
Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army
Soviet Air Land Battle Tactics
The Military Balance
Encyclopaedia of the Modern British Army
The Soviet Conduct of Tactical Manoeuvre
First Clash
The Third World War
The British Army in Germany

The Cold War Bookstore contains links to over 60 Cold War titles covered in my book list

Friday, 11 January 2013

Review - Models 1/72, Airfix FV107 Scimitar

The CVR(T) series of vehicles are one of the more enduring vehicles on the planet with their design origins back in the Malayan Campaign and enduring still with our deployed forces in Afganistan. This particular beast is the Scimeter which with Scorpion provide the mainstay of formation and close reconaisance throughout the back end of the cold war. The Scimitar equipped the close reconaisance platoons of Mechanised track and Armoured Infantry Battalions and always needed to carry more equipment than you could possibly get in it.  This lead to a degree of central and local modification of external stowage solutions throughout this period which radically altered the shape of the base vehicle.

The kit itself is relativly straight forward to construct except for the tracks which were particularly painful to get to stick.  The principal problem is that the kit represents an early version, devoid of external stowage and including the floatation screen which was abandoned quite early in the vehicles existance when the British Army gave up swimming rivers having realised that the main issue was getting out on the other side. Leaving the flotation screen in place inhibits the ability to build and attach correctly the various stowage bins and containers that were added. Compare the build from box picture above with the vehicles as used that it sits between.  Effort is required to adapt the kit to be more representative of vehicles deployed in the mid to late 80s.

Having built the hull and basic turret I removed the flotation screen with Knife and file.  The vehicles were then crewed and stowed.  Crews came from SHQs gulf war range which being quite small 20mm figures make good crew.

The principle stowage items added were external stowage boxes simply constructed from plasticard.  The main one being the large box on the hull rear.  Webbing items which were draped over the hatches were built from green stuff and antennas from brass rod.  Ammo boxes, jerry cans, sleeping matts and canvas rolls came from Goffy.

The vehicle had cam nets added from non elasticated bandage soaked in white glue and hessian rolls attached to various parts of the lower hull which were draped over the track and front of vehicle to eliminate deep shadow when the vehicle was static and cammed up. Painting was in line with the guide provided in the FV 432 post and the crews DPM uniforms are in line with the DPM painting guide.  Markings came from the model trans British decal set.

The CVR(T) series are some of my favourite vehicles but require a bit of effort to get the period look and feel right. No British cold war army should really be without them and there are numerous models on the market in addition to the Airfix one.  It is not however particularly difficult to take the basic Airfix model and turn it into something more representative of the period.  Currently the kit is quite difficult to find a few are still popping up on e-bay, hopefully Airfix will get it back in production sometime soon.


FV 101 Scorpion (better example of the cold war hull)
LEP Scimitar (post cold war hull stowage, reasonable example of turret)
ORBAT 1980's British BG - Part 4 Recce Group
Review - Model 1/72, Britannia FV432 Painting Guide for British Vehicles
Painting British Army DPM
Review FV107 Scimetar Review @ Miniatures.de

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Review - Model, Revell 1/72 Mi 26 Halo

Happy New Year, the first post of 2013 and following hard on the heals of the late 2012 obsession is the continuing development of a Soviet Air Assault force.  The heavy lift component of which is to be largely supplied by the Mi 26 Halo. The Halo entered service with the Soviet Armed forces from about 1985 and is still flying today. Whilst the Hook was a revolution for its day the Mi 26 started to make the Soviet DShV vision a realisable reality given the equipment scaling and organisational size of the Front Helicopter Transport Regiments of the time.  Where the 24 Mi 6 could deliver 24 BMDs the Mi 26 could deliver 48 with the same number of airframes. Both Zedveda and Revell offer 1/72 versions of the Mi 26 at the time of wrighting the Revell version was cheaper by a couple of pounds, but judging by its lack of availability is looking like a discontinued item.

The Revell kit is fairly straight forward to build, inevitably with a kit this size there are a few challenges given the flexible nature of the material its made from.  As with the Mi 6 Model you need to assess the model befor choosing what interior detail to leave out as a significant amount of the models structural integrity comes from a number of the interior components.  Whilst I did not build in the cockpit detail any component that seemed to offer strength to the hull construction was built in.

Having built two of these beasts there are a couple of fun bits to watch out for, on the first aircraft I built I put the hold floor in the wrong way round, the second model was less calamitous but the cabin ceiling remains a challenge and needs to be glued in stages.  The Aircrafts hull needs similar treatment with the alighnment and location of the cabin floor and cieling into the opposite half of the hull requiering a fair bit of attention. The real pain of the build however is the main flight deck windscreen which has to be bent and forced into place a challenge to most peoples patience. Other than that the buildphase is a dream

Once built it is a great looking model and an impresive beast of a chopper even if like me you build it without the rotors.  In 1/72 scale its 50cm long and dwarfs other models, for real it has the load capacity of a hercules.  If you want to put air assault armour on the table from an air assault force you either need a few of these or some of  Rodens An 22s in order to run an air landing or parachute operation, which is tempting but expensive in this scale.

Painting this aircraft without an air brush is a challenge requiering numerous thined coats of paint if brush marks are to be avoided.  I painted mine in Vajello desert yellow with the disruptive pattern in Russian Uniform and wheels windows and exhausts in black grey.  The underside was painted sky grey.  Pannel lines were picked out in GW Agax Earthshade (brown) before being washed with dilute solutions of the base colour or cam colour as appropriate.

The aircraft is mounted on a 3" Corsec flight stand which in turn is mounted on a CD ROM which works well even for an aircraft of this size.  The Flight stand unscrews allowing the aircraft to be depicted airborn or on the ground.  


Mi 26 - Development History
Mi 26 Walk Around
Mil's Heavylift Helicopters (Red Star)
Soviet Tactical Aviation
ORBAT - Soviet Air Assault Units Part 1, Overview and Lift
FM 100-2-3 The Soviet Army Troops, Organization and Equipment


Revell 04645 Plastic Model Kit 1:72 Mil Mi-26 Heavy Helicopter @ Amazon
ZVEZDA Mil Mi-26 Soviet Helicopter 1:72 - Model Kit Z7270 @ Amazon