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

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Review - Model 1/72, S&S 2S1 Model

The 2S1 entered Soviet service in 1971. It initially replaced towed artillery batteries in tank divisions, tank regiments and BMP equipped motor rifle regiments. By the 1980s regimental batteries were being increased in size to battalions and by the late 80s BTR regiments in GSFG were recieving them. The vehicle mounts a 122mm D30 Gun and swims with little preparation and together with the D30 towed gun provided the mainstay of regimental artillery.

These vehicles are the main equipments in my Motor Rifle Regiment's Regimental Artillery Group covered here. As with all things Soviet it has had a long life and is still in service globally with many nations, so another of those very flexible pieces.

Fabbri make a ready assembled version, Ace and Armo both make more intricate versions. The ACE model is difficult as the instructions are unclear around the track assembly. This review focuses on the S&S model which if you are into volume production is a good bet, being the easiest to obtain and construct, both the others are aimed more at the modelling market than the war gaming.

The model is cast in resin, the hulls and turrets of the eight versions I have recieved over the last three years have been clean and free of bubbles, the model requiers little preparation before assembly. The barrel is cast in white metal and on the latest versions recieved from Shaun is flash free, assembly is straight forward.

The vehicle is instantly recognisable as a 2S1 with the shape size and major features being clearly represented. The only niggle to my mind being that the angle of the cut away on the forward left hull corner is probably a little sharp. I have not attempted to add any extra detail to my vehicles and could find little evidence of the vehicles in use with any significant stowage.

The obvious conversion job is the UR-77 Meteorit, an explosive hose mine clearance system. the options are to either scratch build the turret or to kit bash using the turret supplied with the ACE kit avoiding the difficult hull construction.

The other is the RKhM "Kashalot", but as this was built on a shortened chasis, conversion of the resin hull might not be the best way forward.

I have painted 2S1 in Vajello Russian Green, weathered using washes of vajello Khaki and khaki grey. The decals are from a variety of ace or ICM kits. TL Modelblaus Soviet set might also be useful particularly if you wish to represent Naval Infantry versions.

Other 2S1 resources on the web that you might find useful are:

Sigga, Modelling madness
Ace, KG Wings
ACE 2S1, on the way, kit review
Armo 2S1, on the way, kit review
2S1 Walk Around, Prime Portal
UR-77 Walk Around, Prime Portal
UR-77 missing lynx, Braille scale forum thread

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Review - Books, The British Army In Germany an organisational History 1947 - 2004

This book provides the reader with an excellent reference to the evolution of the British Army of the Rhine and its successor organisations.  The sections of the book take us through the major periods of change, articulating the impact of the change before detailing the ORBAT. The evolution of the divisional structure and the introduction of new equipment is covered in the descriptive components along with the ongoing reduction in size of the British Army.  ORBAT detail is provided down to the level of major units (Battalions/ Regiments) and independent subunits. This includes unit titles and when they were rotated.  The sections cover:

  • 1946 - 1950, 
  • 1950 - 1960, 
  • 1970s, 
  • 1980s to the end,
  • Reinforcements, 
  • Berlin 1948 - 1994
  • Exit BAOR.
This book does not provide detailed organisational information for the unit either infantry battalions or cavalry regiments but that is available in plentiful supply else where. Instead it provides the information on what units were in what formations at what time and what they were broadly equipped with and where they were based. This I feel provides invaluable context and allows realistic construction of forces to be created within the historical framework of what was available, a truly useful and illuminating reference for anyone interested in the British Army in Germany during the Cold War.

Other Book Reviews

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

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Review - Web Resources CIA FOIA site

Central Intelligence Agency, Freedom of Information Act Web Site

I came across this gem of a site recently it contains a significant number of declassified Top Secret reports that cover the whole of our period of interest. Some of these are quite significantly redacted but all are largely useable where they are on topic.  So far I have explored the fairly obvious search terms of Soviet, Motor Rifle Division and Tank Division and have returned a number of Interesting documents that throw considerable light on the geographic and temporal distribution of Soviet equipment and organisational change.  In addition the reports within the archive cover such topics as command and control, operational use and some concept of what the oppositions plan might have been.

Useful articles recovered to date include:

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Wargames Unit - Soviet MRR Regimental Artillery Group

The Soviet Artillery Battalion in a Motor Rifle Regiment by the mid 80s consisted of 3 x 6 Gun Batteries and a number of command and observation post vehicles as well as supply vehicles.  For the 2010 big game we represented this battalion as being understrength using a vehicle scale of 1:3 it became 2 x 2 Gun batteries. To which I added a couple of Command and observation post vehicles. I have of late taken to giving each battery a supply truck as well but failed to include them in these photos.

The 2S1s are all by S&S and the BRDM 2Us are by ace stowage is Goffy and crews by liberation miniatures.

The vehicles are based for Northwest Europe or Africa and can be used easily for games on the Central Front, Afghanistan and Africa, The vehicles entered service in 1974 and are still in use today.

In addition to the 2 batteries of 2S1s I can also field a battery of 2 BM21, from the divisional MRL battalion, the concept of any grouping being that it can be reinforced to meet the mission needs. 

With the MRL battery I currently use a PRP 3 as the observation unit, this would exist in each regiment and in the divisional artillery Recce battery in very low quantities so it is a bit of an ad lib, but a nice looking wagon and unusual subject.  It entered service in the 70s and was equipped with radar, night viewing devices and a mortar for firing illuminants, it was also known as BMP-SON.

The PRP 3 is an ACE model and is lightly stowed in line with the BMP 2 fleet, the BM 21s are by ICM and are a very nice model, though not completely straight forward to assemble. 

The last shot is of a composite, tank regiment from the 2011 Guild big game, reinforced by elements of the divisional recce.  It has it's RAG located behind the central group of tank companies and the regimental HQ. The vehicles are drawn from the collections of a number of Guild members, including Hincmar, Rutger, John Green and Myself.

Friday, 17 February 2012

ORBAT - 1980s Soviet MRR and TR, Part 1 Deployment and ORBAT

The Soviet Motor Rifle (MRR) and Tank Regiment (TR) in the 1980s had a broadly stable organisational structure with little significant structural change. Equipment change was however quite dramatic as the cold war arms race heated up in the final years of the cold war just prior to the collapse of the soviet union in 1991. Currently my concept of the cold war ends in 1993 with the withdrawal of the forward deployed groups of forces by the Russians.

The factors that affect the composition of the wargames force based on the Soviet Tank or Motor Rifle Regiment are location, base organisation, equipment change and task organisation which in the soviet force was governed by the Echelon system as well as factors such as march security. The intent of these posts is to articulate the impact of these to identify what can be fielded in the 1980s in order to create scenarios that would have been historically feasible.

in dealing with the Soviet Army it is always worth remembering that such a vast organisation changed quite slowly and whilst units in GSFG were armed with the latest equipment units in different readiness categories elsewhere continued to deploy older and or cheaper versions of key equipments for a considerable time, this could be as long as 10s of years. This offers considerable flexibility in the type of force deployed in any game.  On top of this the Soviets seldom threw hard ware away and tended to backload it to lower readiness units in less critical sectors or provide it to client states in Africa and the Middle East. A nice example of this is the T34, which equipped some mobilisation only units and of course was prevelant in client states in africa throughout this period.

This post will look at the impact of location and the basic structure and a subsequent ones will examine the impact of equipment evolution, the echelon system and task organisation.

The Groups of Soviet Forces that would likely be involved in action in central Europe, include the Northern Group of Forces in Poland, Group of Soviet Forces Germany and The Central Group of Forces in Chezceslovakia.  These forward deployed forces together with the European military districts inside the Soviet Union of Baltic, Byelorussia and Carpathia formed the Western TVD (strategic Direction) or theatre of operations. Other Theatres that might contribute forces directly include the South Western TVD aimed at Turkey and the Northern TVD aimed at Scandinavia.  An overview of Cold War Soviet Military Districts is here.

Inside the Soviet Army written by a Soviet defector noted that from within the Western TVD and the Warsaw pact forces local to those countries  unto 4 Fronts and a Group of Tank armies could be created. Each Front broadly consisted of an Air Army two Combined Arms Armies and a Tank Army. With the  NVA incorporated then GSFG could create 2 Fronts, Central Group of Forces including the CSLA would form another Front and together these constituted the 1st Echelon. The Northern Group of Forces with the PPA constituted the Front in the 2nd echelon.  The 3rd echelon a Group of Tank Armies could be created centred on the Byelorussia MD, the whole being aimed at Western Europe.

In the forward groups of forces the divisions were all Category A, in Byelorussia they were a mix of Category B and C and in the remaining Military Districts of the Western Theatre a Mix of category B and C. The so what in all that is that whilst the initial actions of any conflict would be conducted using the latest equipment, in units with the most lavish equipment scales follow on forces would be equipped with a more diverse range of tanks and APCs and be subject to a degree of orginisational variability, making for a wide variety of options for any Soviet force at a moment in time.

Guild Big Game 2011, 1st Echelon MRR seizing crossing
 points, 2nd Echelon MRR preparing to cross.

Within GSFG conventional wisdom holds that the broad transition progressed from T55/T62 combinations in the 60's through T62/T64 in the 70s to T62/64/80 in the 80's. Within this there were some interesting nuances relating to the introduction of Laser Range Finders, Tube launched missile systems, composite armour and reactive armour, many of these were delivered as upgrades to the in place force. In general older equipments provided the training stock or were found in the independent tank regiments attached to Motor Rifle Divisions.

Of interest and difficult to identify is the broad division between the deployment of T64 and T72. My current assumption is that T 64 deployment was prioritised to the forward Group of forces and that T72s were primarily used in the European Military Districts.  This assertion is indirectly supported by the composition of the Byelorussian forces following the decomposition of the Soviet Union.  In 1994 they deployed a mix of T54/55, T62, T64 and T72 with the largest single type being T72. The Osprey Tank War central front asserts that armour in both Central and Northern Group of forces would include significant numbers of T 72, which seems also likely of the Southern Group of Forces but not stated.  In addition to the broad equipment policy the forward deployed units were also subject to greater equipment scalings.

Guild Big Game 2011, BMP 1 MRB, passing through the 2S1 Battalion
of the 1st Echelon MRR

The motor rifle regiment and tank regiment were key building blocks in the development of soviet force structures.  The MRR consisted of the following elements:

3 Motor Rifle Battalions (2 BTR and 1 BMP) in MRD, and 1 BMP only in TD
1 Tank Battalion, with companies of 10 or 13 tanks, 13 in MRD by mid 1980s
1 122mm artillery Battery or Battalion, towed in early MRD or SP in TD, BMP equiped MRR and some later BTR MRB.
Recce Company
Anti Tank Battery
Air Defence Battery
Engineer companies

Regimental HQ, Supply, Repair and Medical elements

MRB, T-72, BMP 2, Revell, ACE and Liberation Miniatures

Tank Regiments were of similar structure but with 3 Tank Battalions and 1 Motor Rifle Battalion, an additional MRL battery and no AT company, Tank Regiments in MRD did not include a Motor Rifle Battalion.  Motor Rifle Regiments in Tank Divisions were equipped with BMP.

BTR equipped units contained additional Anti Tank platoons which in the forward Group of Forces could be over strength.

BTR, MRB - Figures and Vehicles Liberation Miniatures

Throughout the 80s there were relatively minor organisational changes to the overall structure of the MRR or TR.

  • An increase in artillery from a gun battery to a battalion of three batteries (around 1984), on reflection I decided tripling the quantity of Artillery constituted a major change.  Some BTR Regiments in the forward group of forces started to receive 2S1 to replace D 30 towards the end of the period (1984?).
  • Regimental Air Defence Batteries, migrated from 2 Platoons of 2 vehicle SA 9 Gaskin or SA 13 Gopher and 2 Platoons 2 vehicle ZSU 23-4 to 2 Platoons of 3 2S6 and 2 Platoons of 3 BMP 2 each with 3 SA 14 launchers.  The SA 9 equiped BTR and early BMP MRR whilst SA 13 equipped later BMP and Tank Regiments the 2S6 evolution was also confined to BMP and tank units.
  • Regimental Recce retained a Track, Wheeled and MC Sect, with tracked migrating from PT 76, through (1980) BMP 1 to (1984) BMP 2.
  • Regimental Anti Tank, MRR only, maintained structure and migrated equipment AT 3 to AT4 AT5.

In addition to the changes in the composition of the Regiment there were also changes to the MRB and TB, with the MRB undergoing the most significant, structural change in the 80s. This included changes to the composition and size to the:
  • Morter Platoon the original 82mm mortars were replaced by 120mm mortars in the late 70's and the Vasilek automatic mortar started to replace 120mm in BTR and or BMP units by the end of the period.
  • Air Defence Platoon SA 7/14 assets were originally distributed to companies but were then grouped into an AD Platoon with 3 BMP from 1984, by the end of the period this was reflected in BTR units probably from 1989.
  • from around 1984 an AGS 17 platoon with 3 BMP was added in BMP equipped battalions, this existed in BTR battalions at company level but included additional transport. By the end of the period (1989) they were centralised in BTR units
  • Anti Tank Platoon, BTR MRR only, enhanced size in forward Groups of Forces.
  • Weapons section was created at company level with Anti Tank (AT 7) and Machine Gun (PKM) elements within the companies of BTR (3+3) equipped battalions and machine Gun squads in BMP (0+6) companies. (1989)
Most of the other changes over the period were created by swapping old equipment for new, or from different equipments being used in different units.

The next post in this series is 1980s Soviet MRR and TR - Part 2 Tank Change


MRD 197919841989
MRR BMP 197919841989 BTR 19791984, 1989
TD 1979, 1984, 1989
TR 1979, 1984, 1989
Tank War Central Front, Osprey
Military Balance 1993 - 1994, IISS
Warsaw Pact Orbat 1989
Inside The Soviet Army Today, Osprey
Inside The Soviet Army, V Suverov
Weapons and Tactic of The Soviet Army, Isbey
ORBAT- 1980's MRR and TRR Part 2Part 3, Part 4 

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Review - Model 1/72, ACE BMP 2

ACE models, you either love them or hate them, over the last couple of years I have become an admirer of this firms products.  They offer a range of limited production run kits, which frequently means a lot of flash and fit issues with limited instructions which cover what goes where, mostly, but does little to cover off the assembly sequence. This means a bit more thinking and effort is required in order to complete the models. I have made nearly 20 of their BMP kits now and so feel sufficiently experienced in their construction to offer some advice to the as yet uninitiated, that's not to say I do it with any degree of finesse as I mass produce to meet the needs of a large Soviet force.

The BMP 2 entered service with Soviet Army in the early 80s and by the late 80's they had probably replaced the BMP 1 in the forward deployed groups of forces.  The principal changes associated with the BMP 2 were a two man turret, 30mm canon AT4/5/6 launcher capable of being fired from under armour and a corresponding reduction in the amount of troops carried.  In order to accommodate the extra weight and still swim additional buoyancy was required that accounts for the more boxy shape on those equipped with track guards.  The Vehicle can be used from the 1980s to the present day and has seen active service all over the globe, so a very versatile addition to the collection.

Basic Assembly Issues

The difficult bits in assembling this model is the hull assembly and the track assembly around the front sprocket.  

The first is managed by spending an amount of effort preparing the hull sides and base with a file or sanding stick to ensure the hull sides and hull base fit well together. The return roller holes toward the upper edge of the hull side should be drilled if needed before assembly. I generally get the base of the hull sides attached and leave this to dry before attempting to resolve any miss allignment of the angle of the hull base bow and the hull sides. If the hull rear is fitted at this time getting the sides vertical is easier. With the base of the hull sides secured clamps can be used to ensure that the hull front bonds well or you can sit and hold it.  This is a bigger problem on the BMP 1 kits I have had than the BMP 2 kits.

I then attack the tracks before adding the hull top.  I add the road wheels and return rollers to the hull sides and assemble the front sprocket but don't add to the hull as shown in the picture above, which was taken before I had developed a process to reduce the pain of adding the tracks.  In order to resolve track fit over the front sprocket the easiest method I have tried is as follows:
  • Remove front sprocket teeth, over that part of the arc that will be covered by track links.
  • Remove guide horns on underside of track links, going over sprocket
  • Clean front and rear of track link
  • Assemble
  • Attach to hull
  • on the lower portions of the track removing the inside guide horns can ease track alignment if your road wheels are not straight
  • Assemble remainder of track, file and fill where required
I then fit the hull top which never quite meets between the front and the rear, I tend to leave the gap at the rear, the better option is probably the front as the splash plate will cover any mess left from filling and filling.  Paying plenty of attention to fit and fileing to achieve it pays a dividend. The remainder of the assembly is quite straight forward but continuing to check fit before assembly remains the watch word.

The major omission from the vehicles is representation of the firing ports which I have personally not rectified but would be relatively straight forward to produce from Foil or plastic sheet.  I Have batch assembled upto 4 vehicles at a time and oddly this can be more efficient as it is best to wait for the bonds to cure on the hull assembly before completing the tracks and hull top fit, as well as the waits for filler to cure when fitting the hull tops.

Having endured the pain, the BMP 2 is really a very good model compared to some of their earlier offerings, the final result is always very worth while and beats resin versions by a mile. 

Stowage on Soviet vehicles is always an interesting question, as the soviet soldier was given little equipment and therefore little gets strapped on the outside, although they do have the odd habit of putting the crew on the outside.

Pictures from Afghanistan, Chechnya and Georgia give a slightly different view to that seen of vehicles in Europe and I have opted for something in between. I have seen one immage of a cam net on top of the tarpaulin secured to the hull side but have not represented that.

 The elements I chose to represent are as follows:
  • The unditching beam that appears in a lot of picture, I made mine from plastic rod with green stuff securing straps.  The key thing to note here is that the beam needs to be longer than the track width.
  • Some hessian wrapped cam nets/tarpaulins around the turret were added made from rolled green stuff before being marked with a wet knife.
  • The occasional box tarpaulin was placed on the back deck, this is impossible to do with out obscuring the upper hatches or optics but assume like many British vehicles that the upper hatches were not routinely used.
  • I only included launch tubes on half the vehicles but added the rest of the launcher on all

Painting and Decals

The vehicles are painted in Vajello Rusian Green like all my soviet equipment. The Decals are a white numbering set produced by QRF for there 15mm vehicles.  The AT 4/5/6 launch tubes are painted in Vajello Russian Uniform,  the Tarpaulins and Canvas elements are Vajello english uniform, washed in Devlin Mud and highlighted in Vajello Khaki mixed with buff. Deck grills are Vajello black grey, straps Vajello Grey Green. Weathering is done with washes of Vajello Khaki and Khaki Grey. 

ACE have re released this model with considerable improvements a review of the latest product can be found here

Other Resources:

ACE BMP 2D Review on the way models
Henk of Holland Ace Modern Soviet Vehicles
ACE BMP 1A1 OST KG Wings Review
ACE BMP 2 Review on the way models
ACE BMP2, ACE Models page
Military Photos BMP 2
Prime Portal BMP2 Walk around
Military Vehicle Photos BMP 2
Review - Model 1/72, ACE Re Release

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Review - Web Resources, DTIC Online

DTIC is the US militaries Defence Technical Information Centre and they host a large online repository of Military information covering Science, Equipment Organisation and Doctrine.  The repository rolls back to the cold war and includes much of what was published by the Soviet Army Studies Office, now the Foreign Military Studies Office.

A search using Soviet Army Studies Office as the criteria will yield a raft of useful information about the cold war and immediate post cold war period on the Soviet Military.  Some of these are articles published in US military publications of the time others are reports.

Useful Titles include:

The Soviet Combined Arms Battalion - Reorganisation for Tactical Flexibility, This includes a discussion on the evolution of the Motor Rifle Battalion from 1949 - 1989 and an analysis of 500 post war exercises conducted by the Soviet Army and published in either there military or Press to determine likely task organisations by the Soviets.  The article then goes on to conceptualise the evolution of the Combined Arms Battalion.

Soviet Battalion in Defence, which talks at some level of detail on the organisation of the soviet battalion in defence including the use and application of fires, engineer, reconnaissance assets and the preparation for and conduct of the defensive battle.

All these articles represent contemporary intelligence analysis and as such will inevitably be inaccurate.  Having said that the level of analysis is more than I'm personally going to have a go at, and represent a solid alternative to learning Russian and as I am rapidly discovering trying to piece together change that you physically experienced 20 years ago can be difficult to re create with any degree of accuracy.

Other useful search terms include:

The Journal of Slavic Military Studies
Combat Studies Institute

Wargames Unit - Soviet early 80's MRB

This post describes how I represent Soviet the early 80's Motor Rifle Battalions in my MRR  the unit is based on the Guild Red Tide 2010 Orbats produced by Piers Brand. I am currently working a series of Posts to describe the Motor Rifle and Tank Regiments deployed over the 1980s and will be revising this unit when I have finished the research, It represents a unit deployed on the central front either as part of the CSFG or held within the Soviet Military districts of the Western TVD.

It represents a BMP 2 equipped Motor Rifle Regiment supported by a Company of 12 T-72 and an artillery Command and Observation Post which would come with the associated battery or battalion of guns. The T-72s are the Revel version which based on reading to date represents a T-72 A, The BMP 2s are ACE and are reviewed in detail here,  The MTLB and BRDM 2Us are also from ACE.

The AGS -17 is grouped with the Battalion HQ along with a sniper, commander radio operator and SA 7 operator. The rifle companies currently include 1 RPG, 1 LMG/GPMG, 1 Commander and 6 Riflemen. All the figures are Liberation Miniatures.


ORBAT - 1980's Soviet MRR and TRR, Part 1 Deployment and ORBAT
TTP - Soviet Forward Detachment as a Covering Force
Wargames Unite - Soviet Early 80's MRB