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, 4 March 2014

ORBAT - 1980's British Air Defence

The British Army in the 80s had three principal means of engaging hostile air targets:
  • All Arms Air Defence
  • Blowpipe/Javalin Low Level Air Defence Batteries
  • Rapier Low Level Air Defence Batteries 
of these the first was largely an ad hoc response by units under attack although they would be subject to Air Defence weapons control states and the other two were units of the Royal Artillery and deployed as part of the wider Air Defence Plan.  Weapons used include, Machine Guns, Turret mounted canons, Blowpipe, Javelin and Rapier.


Rapier was deployed as an area air defence system in tracked and towed varients it had a range of upto 6800m with a ceiling of 3000m and could be fired by day and night and in poor visibility.  The tracked variant was purchased following the cancellation in 1978 of an order for Iran and entered service with the British Army in the early 80s.

The primary advantage provided by the tracked varients was its rapid time into action 30 seconds against 15 minutes.  In addition the launcher deployed 8 missiles rather than the 4 carried on the towed system. Key updates to the system included:


Blowpipe and Javelin were  low level point defence system deployed by both the regular Army and TA during the Cold War. After a lack luster performance in the Falklands conflict the MACLOS Blowpipe was replaced by the SACLOS Javelin amoungst the regular units in the early 80s and in the TA units by 1987. Javalin was replaced by the laser homing Javelin S 15 in 1993 which was inturn replaced by Starstreak in 1997. Javalin had a range of 4,500 m and a ceiling of 5500m.

All Arms Air Defence

All arms air defence was the third option available and largely involved firing bullets into the path of aircraft from shoulder controled and turret mounted machine guns and Cannon's. The canon fire included the 30mm Rardon weapons in Warrior and Scimeter that were provided with an air defence graticule. MGs included the GPMG mounted on Louch poles issued at a level of 1 per Platoon.

The firing of the GPMG in the air defence role from effectively the hip was also taught, hitting targets was always interesting.

Air Defence Units

A range of Air Defence units were deployed by the Royal Artillery to support the British Army of the Rhine and in Particular 1st British Corps.

Rapier equipped Units
  • 12 and 22 Air Defence Regiment RA were the two Germany based Rapier Regiments. The regiments were equipped with 24 Towed Rapier and 24 Tracked Rapier in 4 Batteries. 
    • Each Tracked Battery included 12 launchers 12 M548 and 2 Saxons.  I have assumed its organisation to be 3 troops of 4 launchers and 4 M548 with battery HQ in Saxons, 1 Blind Fire per Troop. 
    • Each Towed Battery included 12 Launchers and 6 Blind fire Radars according to SOHB. towed by  1 Ton and 3/4 ton Land Rovers.  I have assumed its organisation to be in three troops of 4 launchers with 1 Blind fire per troop.
    • Most likely deployment of blind fire to my mind is 1 per troop across the 6 troops.

  • 16 AD Regt RA was a UK based Air defence Regiment.  The regiment deployed 48 x Towed Rapier (SOHB states 40) in 4 Batteries.  I have assumed that these are manned and equipped in line with the towed batteries in 12 and 22 Air Defence Regiments.

Javelin equipped units
  • Regular Army Medium Artillery Regiment Javalin Batteries.  Each of the M109 field regiments included a Javelin Air Defence Battery. This had 36 launchers, I have assumed that these were organised in 3 troops each of 12 Launchers.  They were carried in CVR(T) whilst the Battery HQ used Saxons.  SOHB details 14 AFVs per Battery, which I would assume to be 12 CVR(T) and 2 Saxon. The units and Batteries were as follows:
    • 40 Fd - 10 Assaye AD Battery, 1st Armd Div
    • 2 Fd - 46 Talevera AD Battery, 3rd Armd Div
    • 47 Fd - 43 Lloyds Company  AD Battery, 4th Armd Div
    • 43 Gibralter Battery 24 Air Mobile Bde

  • TA Air Defence Regiments.  Each of the TA Air defence Regiments equipped with Blowpipe or Javalin deployed 16 Launchers in a Battery.  I have assumed these batteries included 2 Troops each of two detachments of 4 Launchers.  Transport was land rover 3/4 ton vehicles with Trailers.  The units and their roles were as follows:
    • 102 Ulster AD Regt RA (V) 2 Bateries only. BAOR Reinforcement role.
    • 103 (Lancashire volunteer Artillery) AD Regt RA (V), 4 Bty, 2nd Infantry Division
    • 104 light AD Regt RA (V) 4 Batteries,  BAOR Reinforcement role.
    • 105 Sottish AD Regt RA (V) 4 Batteries BAOR Reinforcement role.
In addition The RAF regiment provided air defence of the Harrier sites and main airfields

Deployment options

Area Air Defence, The Rapier systems were area Air defence systems and as such did not come under control of units but provided a matrix of air defence assets that could cover a Brigade or Divison.  Rapier units would rarely be under operational control of units.

Point Air Defence.  Blowpipe and Javelin were for point defence of targets so would be allocated to the defence of a target. these could be units, or features such as Bridges Roads or supply dumps.  Javelin units would often see themselves placed under operational control of units.  This task organisation would be dependent on the unit mission.

Allocation of Assets


Each of the Armoured Divisions received,:
  • 1 Battery of 36 Javelin 
  • 2 Battery of 12 Rapier 1 Tracked and 1 Towed.  
if this force deployed evenly then effectively each brigade would have:
  •  1 Javelin Troop of 12 Launchers 3 Detachments of 4 Launchers 
  • 2 Troops of Rapier one tracked and one towed (assumed). Each of 4 launchers
Whilst not necessarily allocated to units, it would seem reasonable to allocate a javelin detachment  and upto a maximum of 2  Rapier troops that might be considered to be capable of engaging targets overflying the battle groups air space depending on the detailed disposition of the Brigade and where the represented units sat in relation to the air defence assets. 

The Corps Rear Area

The Corps Rear Area was under 2 Divs control and would have the following units allocated to its air defence:
  • 103 Air Defence Regiment 64 Javelin/Blowpipe
  • 16 Air Defence Regiments 3 Towed Batteries, the other was not committed to BAOR. Batteries acceding to SOHB were each of 10 Rapier and 10 Blind fire Radar.
  • 1 Towed and 1 Tracked Battery from 12 or 22 Regiment is suggested in the sources however  I suspect that the tracked units would have remained forward and that potentially the reserve division with the more mobile role might have been supported by two tracked Batteries whilst the Corps Rear Area took two towed batteries.

The remainder of the TA Batteries would be allocated as required so would reinforce over the top of the air defence pattern depending on what needed protecting.  This would provide an additional 40 reinforcing detachments of 4 launchers from the 10 Batteries within the 3 Regiments allocated to this role.  An even distribution would put roughly three additional detachments in each Brigade area to look at the protection of:
  • gun lines reserves, 
  • supply depots 
  • routes 
  • bridges 
  • HQs 
So units deployed on specific tasks such as  reserve demolitions or as reserves might expect extra assistance.

UKLF, AMFL and the Commando brigade probably had their own assets though other than 20 Battery that supported the commandos I have yet to track this down.

So what am I doing from a gaming perspective? I will deploy the following assets in order to cover upto two battle groups from a Bde operating across a number of different scenarios.
  • 2 Tracked Rapier Troops each @ 1 Tracked Rapier and 1 M548
  • 1 Towed Rapier Troop @ 1 Rapier + 1 Ton LR, 1 Blindfire + 3/4 t LR
  • 2 Regular Javelin AD Detachments each @ 1 CVR(T), 1 Javelin Team
  • 2 TA Javelin AD Detachments each @ 1 3/4 T LR + Trailer, 1 Javelin/Blowpipe team
  • 1 AD Battery HQ @ 1 Saxon
This will provide sufficient to cover a forward deployed or reserve Brigade in either of the forward divisions or to play out a game in the rear area covered by 2 Division.

There are a number of confusion factors when analysing the references but I suspect these are related to organisational change over time in a number of different organisational structures. As ever with un verified and conflicting data we can only make assumptions until better evidence surfaces.


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  1. that really is impressive work sir!

    Your whole site....is just impressive! :)

    I love those Saxons....

    1. thanks Keith, one of the reasons for doing this is the Saxon which is an interesting looking beast. One arrived this week so a review of that still to come :0

  2. Im thinking I need a 15mm one and a sci fi'd version

    keep up the great work, I get exceptional pleasure reading your stuff at work :)

  3. Great images of Rapier, ex T battery 12 Regt RA.