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, 28 January 2014

Review - Book, Air Battle Central Europe, Alfred Price, 1986

Richard C over on Cold War Hot Hot Hot gave this such a glowing review that I felt an overwhelming desire to acquire one. It s quite literally another of the Cold War Classic must have titles, given that you are interested in gaming the Air Land component. For me that was one of the critical aspects of warfare in this period, playing the period without it would be like wargaming Afghanistan with no representation of ISTAR, you would be missing one of the key enablers.

Why is this book a gem it explains all facetes of the air battle with amazing clarity, the author an ex officer in the RAF brings both his own experience to bear and the experience of those he interviews. Each of the chapters focuses on a different aspect of air warfare and is underpinned by the knowledge of a serving officer currently flying in that role, which brings with it a fantastic level of detail.

I found the whole thing riveting, despite its association with the Boys in Blue and read it pretty much cover to cover. Having said that the structure of the book with each chapter focusing on a different role makes it a very effective reference vehicle and I have been back to it on numerous occasions since that first read.

The chapters cover:

  • The view from the top - Commander 2 ATAF
  • Integrating the land air battle a soldiers point of view - G3 Air Staf, HQ NORTHAG
  • The air defence battle - F15C, 32 Fighter Sqn USAF
  • The long punch - F111E, 79 Tactical Fighter Sqn USAF
  • The bridge Droppers - F111F, 494 Tactical Fighter Sqn, USAF
  • The Airfield Bashers - Tornado GR1s, 17 Sqn, RAF
  • The Carpet Bombers - Tornados, Jagschwader 31, German Air Force
  • The Jump Jet Dimension - Harriers, 3 and 4 Sqn, RAF
  • The Battlefield Brusiers - A-10, 509th Tactical Fighter Sqn, USAF
  • The Intelligence Gatherers - US RF-4C Phantom Recce, 1st Tactical Reconnaissance Sqn, USAF
  • The Tank Swatters - British AT Helicopter Regiments, 635 Sqn, British AAC
  • The Electronic Foxers - EF 111 Raven, 42 Electronic Combat Sqn, USAF
  • The Wild Weasels - F4G and F4E Phantoms of 52 Tactical Fighter Wing, USAF
  • Guardians of the Baltic shore - Tornadoes and F104s, Marine Flieger Geshwarder 1 and 2, German Navy
  • Protecting the lifeline - No 11 Group, RAF Fighter Command
  • Air Battle Central Europe an Overview - This pulls together the information from the preceding chapters in a coherent summary.

I would say this is the most digestible book I have read on the subject, it's sadly the only book I have read and the only one I feel I need to read so comprehensively and effectively does it address the topic. There are some highly useful books on operations and warfare that are right dull reads, this isn't one, if you have an inkling to understand the Air Land dimension in the later stages of the Cold War you need to read this book.  The red covered version is the US release published 1987 and the Blue the UK published 1986, bizarrely I have both but have yet to compare the content.

Richards Review on Cold War Hot Hot Hot is a little more comprehensive than mine and provides an equally ringing endorsement, it's worth a read as well . If you can land a copy on or below £4 its a steal, to be frank its worth a lot more than the second hand price.

 Air Battle Central Europe @ Amazon

Other Book Reviews:

Saturday, 25 January 2014

ORBAT - The RAF in Germany in The 1980s

The aim of this post is to provide an overview of RAF Germany in the mid to late 80's. It will be part of a series of posts that starts to examine the NATO context of Air Land warfare, developed in the Air Land Battle and the Follow on Forces Attack doctrines of the late 80s. Without  consideration of these you are not really representing warfare as it would have manifested on the Central front at this time. The aircraft of RAF Germany contributed to 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force (2ATAF), this included Dutch, German, US and Belgian Squadrons.  In addition to the forward deployed units the aircraft strength would have been increased in time of War by reinforcement from France, the UK and US.

During the period Squadron size varied between 10 - 18 aircraft organised in flights of 4 although this did vary. Actual squadron size would appear to have been follows:
  • Harrier Squadrons in Germany 18 aircraft, from 1977, prior to 1977 12.
  • Puma Squadrons, 16 aircraft,
  • Chinook Squadrons10 aircraft,
  • Tornado, Jaguar and Phantom Squadrons, 12 aircraft.
There were originaly 3 Squadrons of Harriers 3, 4 and 20, each of 12 aircraft. 20 was disbanded in 1977 and the remaining aircraft distributed amoungst the other two Germany based Squadrons.

The principal Aircraft deployed and their primary missions were:

Whilst this was the RAFs contribution, air superiority aircraft could come from any of the National Air Forces supporting 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force.  Equally strike and Close Air Support would be drawn from other NATO nations as part of the 2ATAF plan and the RAF could also end up supporting other nations.

Having said that for my British Forces I'll be using Harrier GR3's for CAS with some Tornadoes GR1s mixed in for Air Mobile operations in Depth. I'll use a Phantom FGR2 for my Air Supeiority marker and look to incorporate US F-4G Wild Weasel Phantoms and A10 Warthogs as part of the overall CAS/BAI package. 

108 A10s were forward deployed with the 81st Tactical fighter wing which had 6 18 Aircraft squadrons in the UK but would have forward deployed to Germany in time of War, with 3 Squadrons supporting 2 ATAF.  This could included working from dispersed locations and they were a significant element of the Allied Anti Tank effort.

The F-4Gs belonged to the 52nd Tactical fighter Wing which comprised 3 Squadrons each consisting of 8 F4G and 16 F-4E Phantoms, their primary role being the destruction of enemy air defence assets

Prior to the Tornado entering service in 1980 RAF Strike aircraft would have been Jaguars and Buccaneers and CAS/BAI provided by Harrier GR1 with the Hunter being the CAS/BAI platform of choice prior to 1969.

So for my NATO air land battle component I intend to put together a package that looks like:
  • 2 Flights Harrier GR5
  • 2 Flights A10
  • 1 Flight F-4G Wild Weasel
  • 2 Flights Tornado
  • 1 Flight Phantom FGR2
  • Army Air Corps Aviation Regiment
 This I imagine will take a while.

The A10s here are from the collection of the Guilds Panzerfaust 200 and were snapped in action as part of this years Waidhaus Gap game.

Other Posts of Interest


Squadron History of Current Squadrons
Air Land Battle, Center for Naval analysis

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Wargames Units - 468 MSB, Divisional Forward Detachment at Waidhaus

Soviet forward detachments were either provided as march security elements or as enablers of operational manoeuvre that were focused on resolving Tacticle combat problems in order to allow the units they were supporting to maintain a high rate of advance. As such they were inevitably highly task organised in order to achieve their mission. They were usually formed from the units of the divisional army or front second echelons and upto 30% of the second echelon could be employed in this way.

468 MSB at Waidhouse is a heavily reinforced example of the type it was composed of:
  • 2 Tank Companies (T-72A)
  • 1 Motor Rifle Battalion (BMP 1P and 2)
  • 2 Artillery Battalions (2S1 and 2S3)
  • 1 Anti Tank Company (BRDM 2 + AT5)
  • 1 Anti Aircraft Company (ZSU 23-4 and SA 9)
  • 1 Engineer Mobility Support Detachment

The two Tank companies are both Revell T-72 As, which are a little light weight for a late period game but they are waiting for me to get my T-72Bs and BVs finished, these are built straight from the box, crew are by liberation with decals being from a variety of sources the best being the QRF white stenciled numbers. Having two tank companies attached to an MRB is unusual, but was noted in 5% of post war exercises in Lester Graus analysis in his paper The Soviet Combined Arms Battalion - Reorganisation for Tactical flexibility. The frequency of this type of task organisation was also observed to be increasing towards the end of the period (TBC).

The late period MRB is the core element of 468 MRB forward detachment, figures are a mix of liberation and Elhiem all painted in sun Bunies, some of the figures wear the Afghanistan issued field service cap, my assumption being that soldiers are the same all over and if you have one you'll probably wear it. Immagery from both the Chechen conflict and afganistan suggest uniform discipline was lax. the battalion is configured for the late period with specific platoons for AGS 17 and Air defence. Vehicles are a mix of ACE BMP 2s and BMP1s that have been converted to 1Ps with the addition of an AT 4 launcher. I think the MTLB in this picture is S&S.

468 MRB for the Waidhaus mission has two battalions of Artillery attached, Lester Grau noted this configuration in .5% of post war exercises. The post on Soviet Artillery explains how artillery units were cascaded forward and how they wer task organised. in addition these units may take a far more active role in the direct fire battle than there NATO counter parts, something we did not manage to explore in the Waidhaus game. Both the battalions are configured as late period battalions with 24 Guns in three batteries with each battalion being capable of deploying upto two OP units. Ammunition resuply trucks are also represented. the 2S3s and 2S1s are S&S with some of the 2S3s being drawn from Mausmanns collection.The BRDM 2Us are ACE as is the PRP 3 (BMP SON) and SNAR 10 crew figures are liberation. trucks are mostly ICM.

In addition to the task organised units 468 MRB also has attached a number of elements from its parent Regiments support companies these include:
  • Anti Tank
  • Air Defence
  • Engineer
The Recce elements that were on board were part of the lead MRR rather than 468 MRB and would be working on the mission of the MRR under separate Command and Control arrangements but would be operating in advance of the main body and potentialy along side forward detachments as in this case.

The Anti Tank Company is built using S&S BRDM 2s with the BRDM 2s with AT 5 having been converted to include the Gunners sight. The Anti Tank Company forms a very useful reserve component and this proved to be the case in the Waidhaus game, dealing with the initial counter moves by the German Recce Leopard 1s and if the game had developed I suspect it would have been critical to dealing with the Leopard 2s of 123 PzBtl?

The Air defence company again built using S&S models, was drawn from the parent regiment, this to me looks like an inherent weakness of the Soviet system as the NATO deep battle doctrine developed with second echelon at Division and Army level being highly likly to be subject to BAI and CAI but in many instances would have lost a proportion of its Air Defence. Leaving them wholly reliant on divisional and army level air defence.  The later cold war period would allow the deployment of an Air Defence Battalion consisting of a 2S6 Battery and a SA14 battery sad to say like the T-72Bs they are still a work in progress.

The final component of 468 MRB was a manupouver Support Detachment (link) This included a Sapper platoon, Sapper and NBC Recce, counter mine, gap crossing and route clearing capabilities, together with a Motor Rifle Company for security and additional labour.

468 MRB was a heavily task organised Motor Rifle Battalion which in this form may have fitted in at the lighter end of the scale for what the Soviets referred to as Brigades. it fits in with the tradition of reinforced task organised forward detachments that developed from operational concepts trialed by the Soviets in the closing stages of World War Two, exemplified in Vistual Oder offensives and the Manchurian campaign. These elements wer also a responce to NATOs deep battle and Air Land battle concepts which saw the Soviets shift emphasis from the second echelon to these Forward deployed Manouver support and enablement groupings with estimates that up to 30% of the deployed force npmight be committed in such roles.

At Waidhaus 468 MRB was assisted in its role by air assault elements focused on 901 DShVB, these primarily had the task of blocking German reserves reinforcing Waidhaus from the South. This was a key part of the Soviet evolving doctrine in the mid to late 80's before they adopted a more defensive doctrine. For the game 901 DShVB was task organised with:
  • 396 GvOVP Medium and Heavy Lift Squadrons,
  • 490 OVBP Assault Squadron
  • Elements of 199 OVE BU, who provided Command & Control, ECM and Liaison aircraft.

901 DShVB with transport, escort, command and control and EW elements, the battalion has two parachute infantry companies, an armoured companie and a range of support weapon platoons including Anti Tank, Air Defence, AGS 17 and 81mm Morter, they have been reinforced by the addition of a 120mm Morter platoon, not sure where from :). The parachute infantry company's include support elements including PKM sections and AT-7 sections and have been heavily task organised with the battalion support platoons creating potent light force units. figures are a mix of Liberation and Elhiem, aircraft are from a variety of sources including; KP, Matchbox, Zvezda and Italeri.  

490 OVBP Attack Helicopter Squadron, was the final component of the force comprising 5 flights of hinds, interestingly they did not dominate the battle, their impact being constrained by the air superiority rule and the amount of German air defence. These squadrons were a key component of any air assault opperation, and might be seen as the "tank" component of the air assault team creating effective anti armour capability that could Manouver around the infantry element, The aircraft are again drawn from a mix of sources including; Italeri, Airfix, Zvezda and Matchbox.

Detailed References for the tactical formations and groupings discussed will be found in the references of the related posts, particularly the Orbat and TTP posts.

Related Posts:

Review - Book, The Soviet Conduct of Tactical Manoeuvre


TTP-Forward Detachments and Tactical Air Assault


Scenario - Storming The Waidhaus Gap
ORBAT - Soviet Air Assault Capability Part 1, Overview and Lift Assets
ORBAT - Soviet Air Assault Capability Part 2, Army Air Assault Battalion
ORBAT - Soviet Task Org, Fronts in the Western TVD

Wargames Unit:

Wargames Unit - Soviet Late 80's Independent DShV Battalion
Wargames Unit - Soviet Late 80's MRB
Wargames Unit - The German Army at Waidhaus
Wargames Unit - Soviet, Combat Helicopter Regiment, Assault Helicopter Squadron
Wargames Unit - Soviet, Combat Helicopter Regiment, Attack Helicopter Squadron


AAR-Storming The Waidhaus Gap, Part 1 Ground and Deployment
AAR-Storming The Waidhaus Gap, Part 2 Soviet Air Land Battle
AAR-Storming The Waidhaus Gap, Part 3 Counter Attack


Storming The Waidhaus Gap, 19 Mb

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Review - Book, Confrontation, The Strategic Geography of NATO and the Warsaw Pact

I picked up on this books existence from a TMP thread, if your interested in wargaming the cold war this is an invaluable reference, why? Put simply gaming a war that never happened is an easy thing to do in a trivial way but requires a level of involved study if it is to be in any way a recognisable representation of the conflict in question. For this you need to understand:
  • force composition
  • force quality
  • force doctrine
  • equipment
  • force quality, equipment, organisational and doctrinal evolution against time
  • the political context and its evolution
  • the geographical context

whilst items 1-5 are covered to a level in many references the geographical context is generally poorly understood and poorly discused. In this book Hugh Faringdon not only sets out to analyse the geopolitical nature of the Cold War against a range of well understood Geo political models which he does in part 1, the basics of Security and `war, he also examines the detailed nature of the Terrain across the Central Front.

In part 2 The Map of Confrontation, he looks at the specifics of the conflict the two superpowers their associated alliances, the regional areas of potential conflict and the effects of the geography on the nature of the conflict. Why is this important well its a comprehensive independent analysis of the force distribution composition and the effects of the physical and social geography on operations. This is examined from the perspective of the current operational plan and deployment and from the perspective of History, primarily world war 2. In this he provides a wealth of understanding of terrain, its impact and the deployments together with a range of very useful maps.

why should you be interested in this as a war gamer, well in one fairly inexpensive volume he succinctly summarises what must amount to years of geographical, historical and contemporary military and political analysis. This book was written in 1986 and was based on information available at the time so like all models some of this will be wrong but it provides a readily digestible framework against which cold war games and campaigns can be framed and can save a lot of effort studying maps and google earth to pick the right spot for the game.

the first two scenarios I penned took a degree of study of the ground against the operational context to find places that would allow me to explore the nature of the operational and doctrinal activity that I wanted to develop. With this volume it was a matter of reading to identify location and deployment and understand the potential impacts a significantly reduced work load.

quite simply a gem, as ever its not that digestible cover to cover but once you have familiarised yourself with what it has to offer it will remain an invaluable reference for an eternity. If you are into scenario generation and want to understand the geographical context to the operations you are creating this is a gem of a book. If your games are based on points values and imaginary terrain it is not for you. A great buy if you can find a decent second hand copy below £13.

Confrontation, The Strategic Geography of NATO and the Warsaw Pact @ Amazon

Other Book Reviews:

Review - Book, Mil Mi 8/Mi - 17 Rotary Wing Work Horse and War Horse
Review - Book, A History of Soviet Airborne Forces 
Review - Book, Soviet Tactical Aviation
A History of Soviet Airborne Forces
Soviet Tactical Aviation
Armies of NATO's Central Front
Red Thrust, Central Front
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