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

Friday, 20 January 2012

ORBAT - 1980s British BG - Part 3 Equipment Change

In creating a realistic British 1980s battle group, other than understanding the limits imposed by the parent brigade composition and the concept of mission orientated task organised groups the other key element to reconcile is the rate of change of equipment that was experienced over the decade.  The cold war peak military strength probably occurred around 1989 - 1990 and started to decline rapidly thereafter based on an increasingly stringent series of defence reviews.

In The late 70s armoured and mechanised units were equipped with ChieftainWombat, Fv432 and the CVRT family.  All were starting to be seriously challenged by the latest generation of Soviet equipment and the pace of change in the soviet arsenal. In addition the British Army still had larkspure radios, SLRs, Charlie Gs and the new camouflage was still shiny.

By the end of the decade they were equipped with Challenger 1 including the Thermal Observation and Gunnery systemWarrior, Milan with its MIRA thermal immageing sight, MLRS, new webbing, helmets, boots, SA 80, and 94 mm LAW, some tank regiments had significantly reduced the numbers of tanks fielded and the army had shrunk in size by a margin.

The 1980s were a decade of significant change and representing realistic formations over this period has a number of challenges.  Whilst the rate of introduction of new equipments was rapid, they were not introduced to all units simultainiously and it took 5 or 6 years to complete major equipment revisions such as the introduction of Challenger 1. in addition scalings of equipment varied between different types of unit and within brigades. Whilst this gives a wide variety of equipment and organisational options for the wargamer some of them are very time sensitive.

The key equipment changes

  • Chieftain upgrades, laser range finder and IFCS were added pre 1980,  Stillbrew armour 1986, TOGS 1988 - 1989, 
  • Challenger 1 introduction 1983 - 1989, TOGS upgrade 1985 - 1987.  Whilst the early mark 1 tanks had the TOGs barbet fitted the thermal imagers were not fitted until 1985.
  • Add on armour packs as used during Gulf War 1 were available from 1990

The Challenger 1 roll out program was as follows;

  • 1983 -1984 7 Armoured Brigade, 2 Regiments, 
  • 1985 -1986 4 Armoured Brigade 2 regiments, 
  • 1987-1988 20 Armoured Brigade 2 Regiments, 
  • 1989, 22 Armoured Brigade 1 Regiment. 
So none of the "Mechanised brigades" 6th, 11th, 12th  and 33rd ever received Challenger 1. The Original plan called for 9 Type 43 regiments. So it is reasonable to assume that regiments were type 43 until post gulf war 1, it's not clear if options for change in 1990 impacted on the plan to deploy 9 Regiments most sources state that the last unit was converted in 1989.

Infantry Systems
  • Warrior introduction 1988 - 1994
  • Add on armour packs as used in Gulf War 1 were available from 1990, It seems likely that they would have been deployed in subsequent conflicts.
  • Warrior for Milan Platoons 1990. In 1991 a further 100 Warriors were bought to provide a scaling for all Milan platoons.  These vehicles allowed the missile to be fired from a mount on the turret.

  • Milan introduction 1980, MIRA upgrade post 1982 probably 1985,  improved warhead upgrade 1984, tandem warhead 1993
  • Milan Compact Turret introduction, probably  around 1987 withdrawn from service when Warrior replaced FV 432 for Milan Platoons? The 1986 edition of the modern British Army notes it was planned to come into service.  Prior to MCTs introduction mobile sections used Spartan.
  • Saxon introduction 1983 - 1985, 19 Inf Brigade, not clear if TA Brigades received them for regular and TA Battalions.
  • Spyglass introduction 1987 - 1988?
  • OTIS Introduction 1987 - 1988?
  • IWS Introduction ? 
  • SA 80/LSW introduction 1985 -1990?
  • 94mm LAW 1988 - 1990? 
  • Clansman Radios 1981 - 1984

The Warrior roll out progrram was as follows;

Throughout the roll out period infantry battalions equipped with Warrior were referred to as Armoured Infantry, those equipped with FV432 were known as Mechanised Tracked, and those with Saxon as Mechanised wheeled.
  • January 1988, 7 Armoured Brigade, Grenadier Guards, 
  • September 1988, 4 Armoured Brigade ,1 Staffords, 
  • January 1989, 6 Armoured (Mechanised) Brigade, Royal Scots,
  • September 1989, 6 Armoured (Mechanised) Brigade, 1 RRF, 
  • January 1990, 22 Armoured Brigade, 2 R Anglian. 
  • September 1990, 20 Armoured Brigade, 2 R IRISH. Assumed on the bases of the only unconverted armoured brigade
  • January 1991, 33 Armoured Brigade, 3 LI. Assumed, 3 LI converted after arrival in Paderborn in Feb 1990
  • September 1991, 33 Armoured Brigade, QO Highlanders, Assumed on the basis that the 3LI conversion is known to have occurred
The program was scheduled to continue until 1994 converting 2 battalions per year, but was overtaken by the 1992 impact of options for change which left the army with  only 8 Armoured Infantry battalions. This was followed by the reorganisation of the Germany and UK based forces in 1994.  11th Armoured (Mechanised) Brigade in 1st Armoured division and 12th Armoured (Mechanised) Brigade in 4th Armoured division did not therefore appear to convert.  3rd Armoured Division was the only all Warrior formation.

Artillery Systems


The key points seem to me to be:

  • Only armoured brigades fielded Challenger 1, 
  • Early deployment of Warrior was restricted to armoured brigades that probably fielded type 43 regiments, It was unlikely that infantry companies from different battalions in the same brigade would field FV 432 and Warrior. 
  • Mechanised Brigade battle groups can not be fielded with Warrior before 1989. 
  • Post 1990 all Armoured Brigades were equipped with Warrior.   
  • A Brigade with a mixed Challenger Cheiftain fleet did not exist before 1989 and then only as an Armoured Brigade. This does make a Challenger, Chieftain battle group a feasible option.
  • Prior to 1990 Milan and FOOs were mounted in FV 432 , which means they would probably only be seen in Warrior with add on armour packs. 
  • Thermal immageing was not really available before 1985 and not in Cheiftain before 1988.
In addition to all that, AS 90 just scrapes in but was immediatly rolled into the 1994 brigade reorganisations and Challenger 2 didn't make it. For those that want to what if the what if and ultimately Cold War Hot on the central front is a work of fantasy, then these systems either introduced into the pre 1993 divisional and brigade structures, if the Berlin wall is still up or in the post 1993 divisional and brigade structures if it came down and then went back up might provide some entertaining scenarios.

The next post in this series is 1980s British Battle Group - Part 4 Recce Group.



  1. Thanks mate a really informative and useful post. Core info.
    Good Drills!

    1. its a reasonable model I have some updates to make, Javalin went into TA air Defence in 1987 and I found the MIRA date for Milan but keep loosing it. There is 1 major anomaly we have identified around 33 Bde, a "Mech" Bde in 3 Div, due to a change in the Arms Plot of Cavalry Regiments. HCR ended up in 33 Bde with CR1 instead of moving to one of the armoured brigades, which just demonstrates the pain of trying to track this information.