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

Monday, 27 October 2014

Review Book - Red God of War, Soviet Artillery and Rocket Forces

Red God of War is not surprisingly a book that focuses on the history and development of the Russian/Soviet Artillery Arm. It was written in 1985 by  Chris Bellamy a Royal Artillery officer, it draws extensively on Russian language sources and is published and edited by Brasseys defence publishing.  Red God of War is a comprehensive review of Soviet Artillery written by a proffesional military officer for a proffesional military audience, despite that it is a very readable book.  The book covers its subject in four chapters the first two being:
  • A Tradition of Excellence
  • An Arm of Service
These chapters were of lesss interest to me and set the modern Arm of Service in the context of its historical development. They articulate the evolution of doctrine procedure and culture and the pre eminence of the Soviet Artillery Arm in the Soviet Armed forces as well as providing a view on the men that shaped it. The remaining two chapters are where the real meat of the book lies from the perspective of the modern wargamer, these are:
  • The Deadliest Weapon
  • Artillery in Modern War
The deadliest weapon examines the development of post war artillery systems in a conversational style that tries to look forward from 1985 to future developments and emerging concepts as well as covering current systems.  For a book published in the 1980s this is a comprehensive and useful review of the subject although more and better data can be found in books published since the cold war ended.  Having said that Bellamy provides useful and insightful comment into Soviet design clearly articulating the strengths of their systems. 

The book covers the full range of Soviet Artillery capability including:
  • Munitions
  • Mortars and Gun/Mortars
  • Guns and Howitzers
  • Multiple Launched Rockets
  • Free flight Rockets and Missiles 
  • Command and Control Systems
He also discusses the relative merits and uses of nuclear, chemical and conventional weapon systems although Air Defence Artillery is not covered.  In his final chapter we get to the heart of the book which is an excellent review of Soviet Doctrine on the employment deployment and use of Artillery. 

This section clearly sets out the concepts for the use of artillery in the different phases of support and looks at both offensive and defensive operations.  This includes a detailed look at the different types of offensive operations and an informative if mathmatical review of Soviet Fire planning norms.      More importantly he includes a detailed discusion on fire planning, types of fire and fire effect together with Soviet methods of allocating fire and fire units.  He goes onto review the progression of an Artillery battle and sets it all within the  context of the organisational structure of the Arm of service.

Bellamy unlike many authors starts to identifies the reasons for the varience in Soviet and NATO use of Artillery. That being a fundimental disparity in numbers at nearly all levels of command.  The Soviets had sufficient for their purpose and NATO did not, requiering by necessity NATOs Artillery to be more flexible in its use. 

As for value for money this is a difficult one, I picked my copy up for £35 and at this price and given my interest in fighting the Soviet Army with its attendent integrated Artillery, Air and Aviation support, it is a very useful text however this is not everyones cup of tea.  The current going rate is £65  and at £65 its a harder decision or put another way there are a list of other books and toys I'd probably put the mony towards first.  

If you are interested in Soviet Artillery deployment and want to understand it better and can pick up a copy for less than £30 I don't think you will be disapointed with what is an excellent contemporary treatise on the subject much referenced by a range of other authors including the US Armys Soviet Army Studies Office.

Red God of War: Soviet Artillery and Rocket Forces @ Amazon

Other Book Reviews:

The Essentials of Cold War Soviet Doctrine and Organisation

Thursday, 23 October 2014

ORBAT- Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability Part 3, Non Divisional Artillery Assets

This could be a bit of a long post as it looks at both evolving capability and concentration of Artillery fire power in respect of artillery support to the Breakthrough Attack.

The Soviet Army over the 1970s and 80's significantly increased the amount of non Divisional Artillery held at Army and Front level.  In the West the main purpose of  units at Corps and Army Group level would be deep fires and counter battery.  Whilst this was a consideration for the Soviet systems these units would also be used to create the concentrations of tubes required by Soviet planning norms to support a break through attack and to focus combat power on the main axis of advance.

The TTP post Breakthrough Attack covers the detail of this and shows how an attack would be mounted against a formed defence in depth or an enemy fortified region.  A Breakthrough attack required heavy concentrations of Artillery, expressed in various sources as between 60 - 110 barrels per km or 350 across the frontage of the attack. Isbey reports this as follows:
  • A minimum of 100 tubes (4/5 Battalions) per km for Breakthrough, he further refines this based on the nationality of the target.
    • 110 against German or American Divisions, 
    • 100 against British 
    • 90 against Dutch or Belgium
  • 80 tubes for Hasty Defence 
  • 40 tubes per km on a minor axis of advance 
The Breakthrough operation would focus considerable force on a single portion of the enemys line in order to force a flank and restore manoeuvre which was the preferred method for doing business.  The non divisional Artillery units would be massed to achieve that effect.  These units could either be allocated under command by cascading units forward from higher levels of command for the operation or in support for particular aspects of the operation in line with the Artillery doctrine discussed in more detail in the post:  1980s MRR and TRR, Part 4 Artillery.

The Non Divisional Artillery units deployed a number of capabilities not available at divisional level and below.  These capabilities when cascaded forward would significantly enhance  the support  available to the attack and offered alternatives to WMD. Some key systems are worthy of discussion in a little more detail, primarily these are:
  • BM 27 Uragan Bomblet, Scatmin and  Thermobaric.
  • BM 30 Smerch Bomblet Scatmin and Thermobaric
  • 2S4 Tylupan PGM 3OF25 Smel'chak
  • 152mm PGM 2K25 Krasnopol complex deployed by 2S3 and 2S5
  • Nuclear Capable Artillery; 2S7, 2S4 

Other than significant weight of fire from concentrated artillery assets the Soviets introduced three other technologies into the mix in the mid to late 80's period:
  • Precision Guided Munitions, 
  • Thermabaric rounds  
  • Improved Conventional Munitions
all of which improved the performance of artillery attacks against formed defences. Expence of munitions precluded their blanket use but units would generally hold stocks on wheels and would receive specific supply for specific missions.

Thermobaric Artillery Munitions

The principal evidence for the Thermobaric capability is based on the demonstration of weapon systems at the 1993 Nizhny Novgorod arms show and deployment in Chechneya and Afghanistan.  The effects of these weapon systems are covered in the first post on Soviet Breakthrough capability.  Thermobaric munitions were available for:
  • BM 22/27 Uragan. The system came into service in 1977 the capability was developed later; capability displayed 1993, assumed available from 1985.
  • BM30 Smerch came into service 1987 (Janes) with thermobaric rocket capability, capability displayed in 1993.  Smerch would have been deployed to the front level Artillery divisions initially. The BM30 used the 9M55S rocket ; containing100Kg of Fuel Air Explosives.

Thermobaric weapons have proven to be effective against the following types of target.
  • Personnel in the open
  • Individual field defences
  • Strong points and bunkers
  • Minefield clearance
  • clerance of landing zones
Thermobaric munitions are most effective when used with either precision guided munitions or Multiple Launch Rocket Systems which enable pin point delivery or rapid saturation of areas. Conventional artillery systems would fail to get close enough to the target or deliver sufficient quantity to an area rapidly enough to acheive effect.

Precision Guided Artillery Munitions

The Soviets initially deployed Precision Guided Artillery munitions to effect in Afghanistan in the mid 80's fielding both the P30F25 Smal'chak and the 2K25 Krasnopol systems at about this time based on a common set of technologies.  The artillery deployed precision guided munitions relied on the deployment of the 1D15 Laser Targeta Designator with the OP team.

All of the references on these munitions highlight them as more robust and effective than comparible US systems such as Copperhead having a much lower illumination period for aquisition and more robust ammunition amoungst other differences.  The 2S4 system was primarily deployed to engage and destroy bunkers and strongpoints whilst Krasnopol was seen as an option against more mobile targets including Armour and Artillery systems.  The paper on  Krasnopol covers the system, the organisation of units and its employment constraints in significant detail with capability being consolidated in selected batteries in divisional Artillery Regiments.

The deployment of precision guided munitions against dug in enemey would signicantly improve the performance of the attacking force as being able to reliably place a 130kg HE round onto or within meters of the target will almost certainly ensure its destruction. Ensuring the destruction of bunkers and positions that were proving difficult to deal with enables the attacking force to disassemble a defence.

There are some excellent examples from Afghanistan covered in the High Precision Tulip 240mm Mortar paper which amply illustrate the effect.  In these cases a high rate of fire is less relevant to destructive capability though weather can be a limiting factor.  Elements of the soviet procedure and the performance of the systems meant they were somewhat less vulnerable to this than others.

Normal scales of PGM ammunition outlined in the FAS artillery article would be  5% of unit stocks on wheels but this could be increased for specific missions.

Improved Conventional Munitions

The Improved Conventional Munitions primrily employed by the BM-22 Uragan and BM -30  Smerch provided both bomblet and SCATMIN capability.  These provide a means for area denial and  more effective destruction of soft and armoured targets. Such capability could be used to disrupt mobile elements manouvering in depth to engage the breakthrough such as reserves and artillery systems.  This is not dissimilar to Soviet concepts for the employment of persistent Chemical weapons and provided a viable alternative to this level of escalation.

BM 27 could engage to a range of 30km and its munitions included;
  • 9M27K1; containing 30 N9N210 anti material Bomblets
  • 9M27K2; containing 24 PGMDM AT mines with 3 - 40 hour Self Destruct time
  • 9M27K3; containing 312 PFM-1 APMines
  • 9M59; 9 directional charge bottom attack mine (developed later)? 16- 24 hour self destruct time, I assume this was developed later due to the munition id number.
BM-30 could engage to a range of 70km and its munitions included:
  • 9M55K; containing 72, unguided fin stabilised HE-Frag submunitions
  • 9M55K1; containing 5 Para retarded MOTIV-3F top attack Anti Armour sub munitions.
  • 9M55K4; containing 25 AT Mines with a 12-24 hour self destruct

Whilst similar capabilities now exist for the BM-21 these seem to have been a post cold war development. These munition types and firing systems were in some cases in extremly limited supply but the concentration of capability down on a very small sector for the execution of a breakthrough would mean that at that point they would be inevitably deployed.

Nuclear Capable Artillery Systems.

By the end of the Cold War 2S3, 2S5, 2S4 and 2S7 all had nuclear munitions available I have yet to find data for these which does more than to state; munition name, range and for some yield.  So I have assumed these are all in the Kiloton yield range. In terms of control the High Powered Artillery Brigades deployed from the strategic reserve to front level certainly possessed this capability as did the various SSMs which are in plentiful supply throughout the Non Divisional Artillery elements.  The SSMs I assume would largely be used by Front and Army to prosecute deep targets.  Leaving Nuclear support to the Attack to the Artillery systems.

The munitions deployed were as follows:
  • ZBV 2, 152mm 1 Kiloton Yield 17.4 Km Range
  • ZBV 3, 203mm 2S7 assumed 1 Kiloton yield range 18-30km
  • ZBV 4 assumed 1 Kiloton yield 9-18 km

In addition to the unique capabilities that non divisional artillery assists could deploy a significant proportion of assets at army and front level would also be deployed to support the Breakthrough operation adding mass to the effect.  A review of what was available from what units will give a good feel for the numbers of systems.

Army Artillery Assets

The Assets that could be drawn upon from Army included  upto 320 guns  and launchers in 16 - 20 Battalions as follows:
  • Divisional Artillery Regiments from the Army 2nd Echelon Divisions 1 - 2  Divisional Artillery Regiments, unto 152 Guns and Launchers from 6 Artillery Battalions and 2 SSM Battalions.
  • The Army Artillery Brigade 96 Guns from 4 Battalions
  • The Army Rocket Launcher Brigade , 54 launchers from 3 Battalions of 18 Launchers BM 27
  • The Army Scud Brigade 12-18 Launchers from 3 Battalions of Scud B

The Army Artillery Brigade comprised 4 or 5 Artillery battalions as follows:
  • 2 152mm Gun battalions equipped with 2S5 or 2S3/130mm M46 towed gun 
  • 2 or 3 Gun Howitzer battalions equipped with D-20 ML 20 or M1987 Towed Gun Howitzers. 
  • In the 4 battalion configuration 24 guns would be deployed per battalion 
  • In the 5 battalion configuration 18 guns would be deployed per battalion
Front Artillery Assets

The Fronts artillery assets could include the assets of any Army and its Divisions in the Fronts second Echelon but I have not included these but they could add over 300 additional systems.  The dedicated Artillery Units included the Front Artillery division, the high powered Artillery Brigade and the Front SSM Brigade which between them could muster a further 402 Guns and Launchers.

The Front Artillery Division comprised 6 Artillery Brigades around 19 Battalions and a reconnoissance battalion as follows:
  • 1 Gun Brigade in WGF 2S7 , 72 Guns in 4 Battalions of 18 Guns
  • 2 Gun Howitzer Brigades in WGF 152mm 2S3 or M1987 towed, 144 Guns, each brigade 4 battalions of 18 guns
  • 1 Howitzer Brigade in WGF 122m D-30 or M-30 towed, 72 Guns in 4 Battalions of 18 Guns (this is what happened when D-30 got replaced by 2S1)
  • 1 Rocket Launcher Brigade in WGF BM27/22 or BM30 (from 1989), 72 launchers in 4 Battalions of 18 Launchers. In BM30 Brigades, Battalions were reported to contain 12 Launchers.
  • 1 Anti Tank Brigade 4 Battalions each of 12 ATG and 9 BRDM 2 + AT5 (not included here)
The nuclear capable High Powered Artillery Brigades, 4 Battalions would be allocated to a front from the reserve of the supreme high command and included:
  • 2 Battalions of 12 2S7
  • 2 Battalions of 12 2S4

The Front SSM Brigade was as the Army SSM Brigade so another 12-18 SCUDs depending on battery size.  The Broad policy for attaching artillery is shown in the diagram below.

The net effect was a large concentration of Artillery systems and a range of capabilities that would either exploit WMD or use weapons with similar effects.  The preferred option for dealing with a formed defence was WMD which would inevitably restore a degree of freedom to manoeuvre quite quickly although with a whole range of other consequences.  It would be dependent on political clearance and was less likely to occur the later one went into the period as Nuclear parity was achieved, Soviet doctrine evolved and other options became available.

The next question to pose is how would it all have been deployed.  The Soviets were masters of the operational level of warfare and were very capable of concentrating force whilst deceiving the enemy as to their intent.  The need to maintain the remainder of the line and too deceive would inevitable draw off some of the available combat power. To look at this I allocated 1/3 of the available firepower to units involved in economy of force operations and secondary attacks and 2/3 to the assaulting unit.  This policy was applied at both Army and Front level which dissipates the ability to concentrate assets further putting roughly 50% of the reinforcing assets in the breakthrough sector.

The other factor thats not really covered in the "norms" is the allocation of fire assets throughout the enemies depth so of the 50% available is a proportion dedicated to or time sliced to depth fires.  This would include the longer ranged systems such as the SSMs BM-27s, BM-30s, 2S5s and 2S7s together with the fronts Air Army, Air Assult and EW assets.

On that basis my assaulting divisions DAG could contain 110 Guns which would be split across the 4km frontage, supporting assaulting battalions and providing depth fire tasks:
  • 2 Battalion 2S5 (36)
  • 1 Battalion 2S7 (18)
  • 1 Battalion M1987 (18) 
  • 1 Battalion BM 27 (18)
  • 1 Battalion BM 30 (12)
  • 2 Battalion SSM (8)

each of the Assault Regiment RAG could contain 132 Guns focused on support to the 2 assault battalions and across the regiments 2km frontage:
  • 4 Battalion 2S3 (96)
  • 2 Battalion MRL (1 Regiment supported by a battalion BM27 and a battalion BM 21) (36)

each of the 4 Assault Battalions could contain 36 Guns including their organic mortars, these would support the immediate assault and the assaulting companies and the suppression of the immediate enemy depth, It is likely that the 2S1 battalions might support using direct fire:
  • 1 Battalion 2S1 (employed in the direct fire role) (24)
  • 1 Battery 120mm Mortar (8)
  • 1 Battery 240mm Morter firing PGM (4)

This achieves around 129 Tubes per Km in the assault sector of the assault division so meets the top level planning model, I have used a mix of 24 and 18 gun Battalions at all 18 gun battalions this would be closer to the model.  Each battalion in the assault would see supporting fires from the RAG and elements of the DAG for the assault phase this could look like:

From Own Resources
  • 1 Battalion 2S1
  • 1Battery 120mm Mortar
  • 1 Battery 240mm Morta
From RAG
  • 2 Battalion 2S3
  • 1 Battalion MRL
From DAG
  • 1 Battalion MRL (50% of the time)
  • 1 Battalion 2S5/2S7/1987

These numbers would fluctuate based on phasing and situation with more effort going into the depth as the battle progresses.  Superimposing Fires were also available from Front and Army assets but these were more likely to be focused on the depth targets and the simultaneous engagement of the enemy throughout the depth of his defence,  something that the Soviet force was well organised to do.

All this would place the full range of Conventional and Improved munitions at the disposal of the assault battalions who would also be supported by the direct fire Thermabaric capability discussed in  last months post on the Army Independent Flame Thrower Battalion

Given the frontages described this was probably falling on a Single NATO Battle group maybe a little more dependent on boundaries an interesting challenge for NATO and one that would require a mobile and rapid response if it were to have any chance of halting it.

Having said that this is a deep battle not a wide one and it is important to plan the engagement with the Soviet forces having to fight through to the depths required taking on multiple layers of the NATO defence in either a series of games or over a number of tables and for NATO to be able to cause attrition in the Soviet players depth. The key is I suppose that the Breakthrough Battle was not about manoeuvre but about brute force in the first instance, its aim was to restore manoeuvre.  With thought balanced games could be created they just might not play out in an evening.

My goal here will be to represent the systems available to the regiment and some elements of the DAG just to introduce some different models.  So the 2S1, 2S3, 2S4, BM21, BM 27, BM 30 and probably 2S7 and M1987. I have a desire for a Scud but that might have to wait and I have yet to find a 2S5 and don't fancy scratch building a battalion.

BM27 Weapon systems.net

Jane's Armour and Artillery 2002/2003
Soviet/Russian Armour and Artillery Design Practice 1945 to Present
Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army, D Isby, 1988
Red God of War, Bellamy, 1986
Offensive Operations, Sidorenko, 1970
Tactics the Soviet Way, Rechinko, 1984
FM 100-2-1 The Soviet Army Operations and Tactics
FM 100-2-3 The Soviet Army Troops, Organisation and Equipment  

Other Posts of Interest:

ORBAT - Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 1 overview
ORBAT-Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 2 Army Independent Flamethrower Battalions
ORBAT-Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 4 Frontal Aviation
ORBAT - 1980's Soviet MRR and TRR, Part 4 Artillery
ORBAT - Soviet Divisional Units, Part 2 MRD Artillery Regiment
TTP-Soviet Breakthrough Attacks
ORBAT - Soviet Task Org, Fronts against NORTHAG
ORBAT - Soviet Task Org, Fronts in the Western TVD
Wargames Unit - Soviet Late 80's Flamethrower Company Group

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Wargames Unit - Soviet Late 80's, Flame thrower Company Group

The Flame Thrower Company Group was a composite Flame Thrower Unit formed by the Army Independent Flame Thrower Battalion to support a Motor Rifle Regiment.  It Consisted of a Flame Thrower Company of 2 Platoons and a Flame thrower Tank Platoon from the Flame thrower tank Company.  Details of the organisation and composition together with the associated research and thinking can be found in the post ORBAT-Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 2 Army Independent Flamethrower Battalions

I have built this unit as part of my Soviet Breakthrough Capability project and it is the first of a number of breakthrough related unit's I will be producing.  The TOS-1 is produced by modelcollect and can be sourced direct through them or through Brian at the Hobby Den.  It has been built straight from the box.

The BMP 2 and BMP 2D are both produced by S&S, and I have a sneaking suspicion this is about the only BMP 2D that you can get these days.  Both vehicles are simple resin models that require a reasonable degree of preparation before building but build into reasonable representations of the Wagons. The Weapon systems are all white metal.  

I must admit to a bit of an aversion to resin BMPs but having built these two am pretty pleased with the results.The vehicles are airbrushed with Tamiya XF-13 JA Green and the panels are oversprayed with a mix of JA Green and Tamayia XF-65 Field Grey, the pin was has been done using the Humbrol Blue Grey enamel wash and weathering is an on going experiment with air brush and washes, in this case the Humbrol enamel Dust Wash featured heavily.  The Decals are either QRFs white number set or from model collect.

For the Figures I have used Elhiems Cold War Soviet Range which have had Green stuff hoods added so they could be painted up in Sunbunnies in line with the rest of my Infantry.  The figures are actually carrying RPG-22s but I am using them to represent RPO-A teams.  

The RPG-22 gunner comes in CWR-18 a pack of three with a sniper and a SA-7/14 gunner and if your building a late period Motor Rifle Regiment you need a lot of SA-14 so quite a useful set from my perspective.  I am told Shaun at S&S does an RPO-A gunner but I have yet to find it on the S&S site.  

All up an unusual and interesting unit that I can't wait to get into action against my dug in Brits, although to some extent I need to build the BTR regiment to go with them as BTR regiments would be more likely to carry out this type of assault operation against a formed defence rather than the BMP regiment.  How the Soviets conducted the Breakthrough can be found in the TTP post on Breakthrough Attacks

Related Posts:

ORBAT - Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 1 overview
ORBAT-Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 2 Army Independent Flamethrower Battalions
ORBAT-Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 3 Non Divisional Artillery Assets

Friday, 10 October 2014

TTP - Soviet Breakthrough Attacks

Whilst there are a lot of references on how the Soviets conducted offensive operations a number of these present quite a confusing view as the different components tend to be presented together.  This post looks specifically at the Breakthrough attack and how it was conducted at the various levels of command.  This enables a range of games and forces for games to be considered that sit within the context of such opperations which makes structuring the opposing forces easier given the lack of historical example.   

The Soviet Army of the Cold War classified the offence into three different types of engagement.
  • The Meeting Engagement
  • The Breakthrough
  • The Pursuit
The meeting engagement and the pursuit were both conceived to deal with fluid situations in the abcence of a formed defence and would be led by the more mobile elements of the force primarily the Tank and BMP equiped Motor Rifle units and formations operating in close cooperation with forward detachments and heliborne forces of the DShV. These operations in the context of the NATO defence plan would initialy be conducted against the covering force and once the main defence had been breached. 

The Breakthrough was the least favoured of the three types of engagement from the Soviet perspective. It would be used when a formed defence was encountered with depth that could not be defeated by manoeuvre. The principal goal of the breakthrough was to create a gap and in their words restore a flank that allowed manoeuvre operations to once again commence.  

FM 100-2-1 has a variable number of armies in a front and the image below shows 5, the model I am using has 2 Combined Arms Armies, 1 Tank Army and 1 Air Army. A Front depending on its posture, size and the composition of its echelons could attack on a frontage of between 150km - 350km.   At 350km this would place all of the fronts Armies in the first echelon this would leave no 2nd Echelon, Reserve or exploitation force although elements to create these capabilities could be withdrawn from the armies.  At 150km this would see two armies in the first echelon leaving one Army to cover the other roles.   The Diagram below shows the variable frontage of the armies dependent on their role in the operation and illustrates how those with a deeper envelopment role would attack on a narrower front and be supported by Air and Aviation to achieve their goals.

The Breakthrough engagement was an operational level activity that would be planned and coordinated by an Army or a Front.  I assume therefore that either a Front or an Army had to be denied the oppourtunity of manoeuvre in order to trigger the action.  This would require a solid defence across a frontage of between 80km - 150 km as a minimum and probably anchored on some fairly difficult terrain.  If the Front were denied freedom of manouver then the Beakthrough opperation would be deemed to be strategic and would gain significantly more support from Front Artillery, Air, Aviation and other assets. If only the Army were denied freedom of movement then the level of support available from Front might reasonably be expected to be much less.

At Army level only one Breakthrough opperation would be conducted at a time this allowed a significant level of Force concentration in terms of Armour, Artillery, Air and Logistic assets.   The most likly force to be considered for such an action would be a combined Arms Army.  This concentration of force created an effective target for nuclear or conventional fire strikes hence its growing unpopularity as a method of conducting buisness.  As an example of the concentration required the Artillery density needed in for a Breakthrough I have seen variously expressed as 60 - 100 tubes per km or 350 tubes for the Breakthrough Division.  Whilst the overall frontage of that division may be 10-15km the attacks would be heavily echeloned and delivered over a much reduced frontage.

The level of concentration would be dependent on the depth and level of preparation of the enemys defence.  So a prepared defence in depth with obstical belts, prepared field and anti tank defences would be met with the more extreme levels of force

The Breakthrough operation doctrinaly would be conducted by a single Division on a 4km frontage attacking with two regiments in the Divisional first echelon each of which would be likely to constitute itself with two battalions in the first echelon and one in the second their would be a variety of options for the regimental and divisional reserves. Unlike the diagram below the first echelon would probably use the BTR regiments.  It is likly that at least one of the Army's other Division's would be engaged in an economy of force action holding the remainder of the Army's front and mounting diversionary attacks.  The armies total frontage could be as little as 45-50km, the Division conducting economy of force and diversionary operations covering over 2/3rds of that.

The level of support from Army in the holding sector would be much less than the Assault sector though sufficient to achieve the aim and deceive the enemy as to the Army Commanders intent. As such it would need to portray the right signature in terms of equipment and activity.  It seems likley that this Division would be reinforced by units from the Army and Front level Anti Tank Regiments in order to help cover its extended frontage but would receive lower allocations of other assets such as Artillery, Engineers and Chemical Troops.

As well as seeking to pin a proportion of the defending force it might also seek to draw the enemy reserve away from the main operation.  What is clear is that the missions and attacking force structures of units in this sector would be very different to those in the Breakthrough sector.  The Army conducting the break through operation would have a much reduced frontage but would be expected to break through to the operational depth of the enemy.

In the model of the Breakthrough I am developing for my scenarios the remaining three divisions would:

  • Form a second Echelon of two MRDs 
  • Form an exploitation force based on a tank division 
  • Form a reserve which might be based on the divisional anti tank Regiment and the independent tank Regiment. 
The precise nature of the echelonment would change to suit enemy and terrain and did not have to be consistent at all levels of command so considerable variety exists here.  Second echelon forces would be fed into the attack to maintain momentum and develop the gap.

Elements from the Second Echelon may well be designated to provide Forward Detachments for the exploitation force and or provide task organised elements to that force which would reduce their available combat power.   Their Divisional Artillery elements would be reduced to reinforce the first echelon as would artillery assets down to divisional level in the Fronts second echelon although these assets together with Divisional Level assets of the 1st echelon would be regrouped to the 2nd echelon as it was committed.  Depending on the nature of the defence and the level at which the operation was being conducted, Front or Army the exploitation force might be provided by either an Army or Front level Operational Manoeuvre Group.

The Operational Manoeuvre Group and its associated Forward Detachments would be held ready to exploit the breakthrough once achieved this would be supported by Army Front and Potentially strategic Air Mobile and Airborne assets ranging in Strength from Bn to Brigade.

Divisional operations would be feasible but toward the end of the period these were more likely to be Brigade level operations using assets from the Airborne divisions.  It seems likely that Attack Helicopter Squadrons, DShV and Airlifted Motor Rifle Companies would initially support the Assault before transitioning to the exploitation force.

As with all Soviet offensive opperations the intent was to engage the enemy simultainiously throughout his operational depth and through out the duration of the attack.  This would mean that the Soviets would simultainiously attack in depth with:
  • Air, 
  • Aviation, 
  • Air Assault, 
  • Long Range Artillery including the Scud Brigades and Frog battalions, 
  • Reconnaissance and Descent forces including Electronic Warfare assets 

Targets for the depth assault might include:
  • Mobile Reserves
  • Reserve Positions
  • Constraints in terrain that reinforcements might have to deploy through
  • Headquaters
  • Nuclear Capable Artillery
  • Artillery concentrations
All that is a lot to fit on a war-games table particularly when you game in 20mm. From the wargaming perspective the Brakethrough attack offers the oppourtunity for a wide variety of games focused on different asspects of the operation.

Games could be linked as part of a campaign offering the opportunity to explore different aspects of the ensuing action. Setting games in such an operational context would allow scenarios to be constructed with coherent force structures and victory conditions. Ideas might include:
  • The initial Assault by a reinforced Assault Battalion supported by elements of the Regiment and its second Echelon.
  • A Break through Attack by heavily reinforced Soviet units with Air and Aviation components opperating in the Soviet and NATO rear targeting reserves 2nd echelon forces headquaters and artillery units.  Whilst NATO air could target Soviet Artillery and follow on forces.  This could be fought across multiple tables with a number of players and would make a a good big game or mini campaign.
  • The committal of the first Echelon Regiments 2nd Echelon battalions in attacks on the subsequent objectives.
  • The commital of the 2nd Echelon through the fractured 1st echelon in order to widen or deepen the breach in the NATO defences. This would place the remnants of the first echelon on table in fire support positions as a reduced strength second echelon that had given assets to the exploitation force as committed through them.  This could be played at any organisational level, Regimental Divisional or Army, the nature and type of the opposing forces would change as the attack would be commencing at varying depths of the defence.
  • The exploitation of the break through.  The comittal of the Forward detachments through the remnents of the Soviet attacking force into the depth of the NATO defence.  This effectively would be the start of the pursuit a subject that will be looked at separately.
  • Counter Attacks by NATO reserve units as the break through progress into the NATO depth.
  • Diversionary Attacks by more lightly configured Soviet Units against entrenched NATO forces with Objective targets that would trigger the committal of NATO reserves rather than the taking and holding of ground.
  • Premptive counter attacks by NATO into the more lightly held Soviet Sectors.
  • Air Assault Raids on NATO depth targets HQs and Nuclear assets.

Some of the concepts expressed in the Big Force on Force Blog around their campaign would seem to provide a useful framework in which to run a series of linked games focusing on tactical action within the overall context of an opperaional scenario where the outcomes of individual games can have an impact on subsequent games.

This would allow the Breakthrough to be looked at in some detail whilst keeping the force levels down to manageable proportions an approach which is a lot more manageable than the big game.  The linked outcomes enables NATO players to achieve effect and be given victory conditions that permit the Soviet attack to progress, victory for NATO might be more than holding the ground and would acknowledge the unbalanced nature of the scenarios created.

There are posts on The fronts in the Western TVD and Fronts against NORTHAG that give a high level view of the disposition of Warsaw pact forces into fronts and looks at the different scenarios for their commitment and the possible plans the Soviets might have used to attack NORTHAG.  The operational context for the attack on CENTAG can be found within the Wissenberg counterattack  scenario description, download and the associated scenario posts.

The advantage of setting the operational context at a level of detail is that creating realistic force compositions for the Soviet force is much easier as they are more dependent on the Army and Front operational goals and allows a more credible representation of a war that never happened.