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, 21 September 2012

ORBAT - Soviet Task Org, Fronts in the Western TVD

In considering the development of War Games scenarios for the cold war a few context elements are requiered in order to be able to consistently develop them in a logical way that allows the war gamer to create realistic task organisations at the level of play. My principal area of interest is NATO Brigade or Soviet Regiment and below. The easy way to do this are to use the unit peacetime Orbats, in both NATO and the Warsaw Pact there was specific mission orientated force tailoring that went on and for the Soviets in particular this could be significant when looking at the Regiment or Battalion in the context of the Divisional, Army and Front level operations.

In adding the extra bits it's difficult to justify the composition without some level of definition of the high level plan, through developing a high level plan for both sides you can quickly start to develop a number of scenarios in a linked campaign in which the force structures for each side, for each engagement are logical within the wider operational and force context. I find that it also stimulates the thinking around different types of organisation and games specifically when there are no historical events around which to base the scenario development.

This post will aim to set out the structure of the Fronts in the Western TVD that I will then use to drive the overarching campaign context for a series of linked scenarios set in different parts of NATOs Central Front.

Victor Suverov in his book inside the Soviet Army, proposed in part 3 Combat Organisation, that the peacetime deployment of forces in the Western TVD did not represent the structure of the force that would appear and this basic tennent is reinforced in a number of other sources. Suverov went onto suggest that:
  • A Soviet front has a clear structure essentially two combined arms armies, a tank army and an air army, along with a variety of supporting units and sub units.
  • Units of the Warsaw Pact would be incorporated in detail into the structure of the Soviet commands below army level. The numbers suggest that this would be at Army level and below ie: some Armies would only contain Warsaw Pact Allied units particularly with CGF and the CSLA and NGF and the PPA.  
  • His analysis of the forces available within GSFG, CGF, NGF and the Russian MDs of the Western TVD including those of the Warsawpacts CSLA, NVA, and PPA suggested that they contained sufficient force to create 4 Fronts and a Group of Tank Armies.  Where 3 Fronts would sit in the first echelon and 1 in the second.
  • He asserted that in order to acheive this some redeployment of Divisions Units and HQs would be requiered.

This has always made a degree of sence, particularly given the level of effort the Soviets always went through to decieve there enemies, It was logical that the Army and Front structures observed in East Germany were unlikely to be what we would fight.  Some High level analysis of the units available demonstrates that his concepts were indeed feasible with minimal additions from the MDs of the Soviet Union within the Western TVD.

For my Scenarios I intend to represent a Front containing 2 CAA, 1 TA and an Air Army, with a subordinate Army structure for:

 CAA's as:
  • 4 MRD
  • 1 TD 
TA's as 4TD.

This is more structured than what was seen on the ground in GSFG and CGF and represented by the TO&Es presented by the US FM 100 series of manuals. Ultimately it makes Scenario design a lot easier and seems to fit the Soviet way of doing buisness passing units between the echelons within an organisation and supporting forward from the higher formation assets determined by the mission need and the definition of the principal axis of advance.

For my Scenarios in Southern Germany I have organised the Central Group of Forces into a single unified front of two combined armies and a tank army as follows:

22 CAA (Soviet)
  • 30 Gds MRD
  • 18 Gds MRD
  • 48 MRD
  • 15 CSLA MRD
  • 31 TD
  • 2 CSLA MRD
  • 19 CSLA MRD
  • 20 CSLA MRD
  • 3 CSLA MRD
  • 1 CSLA TD 
  • 15 TD (Soviet)
  • 4 CSLA TD
  • 9 CSLA TD
  • 13 CSLA TD (T-55)

In respect of the supporting troops my general assumption is that these are deployed as represented in FM 100-2-3.

Given The way Soviet Artillery, Engineering, Anti-tank capability and reserves of Armour, Aviation and Air Assault units were allocated from front to Army to Division and the manor in which Forward detachments were task organised and deployed I find that some understanding of where the Front was going and what it was unto helps to structure my thinking for Scenarios and put some context on the very wide scope for task organisation which existed within elements of the force on the main effort between the echelons or when representing exploitation forces such as Operational Manoeuvre groups.

GSFG can be similarly structured into Two Fronts around five balanced Soviet Armies reorganised in line with Suverov's assertion and an Army formed from the NVA each consisting of two CAA and 1 TA.  With the broad outline of the supporting elements again reflecting Fm 100-2

I have not examined the NGF nor the Western Military Districts in detail yet as the scenarios I am currently interested in creating would involve NATO forces from Canada, Germany and Britain and the bulk of that action sits either on the North German Plain, or on the Southern flank of CENTAG on the boundary between II Ge Corps Area and XX US Corps.

The interesting part of this exercises is that whilst the numbers quoted in Suverovs book don't add up, when that evidence itself is examined the theory seems highly plausible. Which just leaves the T-64, T-72, T-80 debate to resolve.

Warsaw Pact Orbat 1988
FM 100-2 Specialised Warfare and Rear Area Support, Chapter 3 Heliborn Operations
FM 100-3, Soviet Troop Organisation and Equipment
Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army, Isbey, 1988
The Third World War, August 1985: A Future History
The Soviet Conduct of Tactical Maneuver: Spearhead of the Offensive
Inside the Soviet Army


  1. SO MUCH INFORMATION!!!!! I struggle to read my American warpower book (1980 1?) and my new "comics"- soviet war planes (1975-6) soviet ground and rocket forces (1975-6) Helicopters (1975-6 mostly militatry) and uniforms and weapons of the USSR (1975) all those comics are the same and I think that they are just parts of the great Soviet Warpower book (1980) that is availible at the school library (I bought/ was given the American Warpower book from the Library because it is falling apart, I have used a lot of tape to hold it together :-( )

    I really enjoy your site though I do not understand all the terms, I under stand the concept of an Orbat but not the real meaning... also would you be able to help me understand the meanings of uniform types... ie. waling out/ parade and parade on duty?

  2. Order of Battle I use to describe the organisation and equipment of units strictly speaking it is probably more of a list of units within an Nations Army. It tends to be used interchangeably with the US term TO&E or Table of Organisation and Equipment. I also use it to cover task organisation which is the mixing of components from different Units to provide Mission focused groupings.

    Drop me an email with your other questions and I'll see what I can do, glad your still enjoying the blog Gowan