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

Sunday, 17 July 2016

ORBAT Soviet Late 80's Breakthrough Capability, Part 4 Frontal Aviation

As part of the Breakthrough battle the front could allocate elements of Frontal aviation in support of the depth fire battle enabling the simultaneous engagement of the enemy throughout his depth and to increase the effectiveness of the engagement of the enemy in the immediate combat zone.

Frontovaya Aviatsiya  FA was the largest component of Soviet Air Power comprising some 5,000 aircraft and 5,000 helicopters distributed across 16 Air Armies.  A Tactical Air Army was an integral part of a Front which for the purposes of my Cold War representation consisted of 2 Combined Arms Armies, 1 Tank Army and 1 Tactical Air Army.

The purpose of Frontal Aviation was to provide Air Support to the front throughout the fronts area of operations and the enemies depth this area can be described as a box approximately 300km wide to 500km deep. In addition to the ability to deliver Air to Ground attack from Aircraft or Helicopters, the Air Army also possessed Reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare, Air Superiority and Transport Assets.

The Primary role was Air Support to the Ground Operation with the Tactical Air Army being subordinate to the Front, the other assets within the Air Army, Fighter Divisions and Reconnaissance Regiments, being used to create the conditions under which this could occur. The principal uses of the Air Armys assets were:
  • Striking targets beyond the range of Artillery
  • Increasing tempo by adding air delivered ordnance to direct and indirect fires
  • adding flexibility through quick response in fluid tactical situations

Composition, Organisation and Equipment

The Various Air Armies composition varied depending on where they were. Based on Suverovs model of the Front and his view on the force composition and structure in the Forward Group of Forces then 16 Air Army would split into two with one supporting each of the two fronts.

An outline composition for an Air Army supporting a single front could look like this:
  • 3 Fighter Divisions ( IAD )Mig-23 Flogger, Mig-29 Fulcrum (90% of the Force), 
  • 2 Fighter Bomber Divisions (IBAP) Mig 27D Flogger (60%), Su-17 Fitter (40%)
  • 1 Independent Air Attack Regiment (OShAP) SU-25 Frogfoot
  • 1 Bomber Division (ADIB) Su -24 Fencer
  • 3 Attack Helicopter Regiments (OBVP) Mi 24 Hind. Mi-8 Hip
  • 1 Fighter Recce Regiment (ORAP) Mig-25R Foxbat, Mig-25BM (ECM) Su-17M4R, Su 24 MR, Su-24MP
  • 1 Helicopter Transport Regiment (OVP) Mi-24, Mi8, Mi-6
  • 1 Mixed Helicopter Regiment (OVP) Mi-8, Mi-6/26
Aircraft are organised in flights of 4 with 3 Flights to a Squadron (12) and 3 Squadrons to a Regiment  (36) and 3 Regiments to a division (108).  There was some mixing of aircraft types within Squadrons and regiments but in general a regiment tended to operate aircraft of a single type for fighter, Fighter Bomber.  The range of aircraft covers the types that could have been used against the role stated at the back end of the Cold War.

Like Artillery covered in the last Post on Breakthrough operations the great thing about Aircraft is that they are very easy to concentrate on an axis or in support of a mission and can add considerable weight of fire at critical moments in the battle.

weapon systems

A wide range of air to ground munitions were available to fighter ground attack aircraft in the late 80's.  Like NATO the Soviets had been improving the effectiveness of aerial delivered munitions through both precision guidance from the air, precision guidance from the ground and the development of a range of Scatterable mine and submunition capabilities.

The critical developments from the perspective of Breakthrough were those that could be used to break down a formed defence and could be used to replace the dependence on Nuclear weapons seen in the 60’s.  To my mind this puts the focus on the improvement of bombs rather than in developments of Surface to air missiles which because of cost and availability would tend to be used on higher value targets. 

Guided Bombs

The Soviets developed a range of precision guided munitions in the late 70s and by 1979 had deployed a number of 500kg Laser Guided Bombs these included Bunker Busters, HE-Frag and Thermobaric munitions. These systems were used in Afghanistan and by 1987 they had up scaled these to include 1500kg bombs.

Collectively known as KAB (Korrektirujemaja Aviacionnaja Bomba) the weapons have a significant stand off range.  The KAB-500 series having a maximum range of 10 km and can be delivered by MiG-27K, Su-22M3/M4, Su-24M and Su-25. The KAB – 1500 series can be from altitudes of 1 km to 15 km providing a maximum standoff of 18 - 20 km from the higher altitudes with the delivery platforms being primarily the Su 24 during the Cold War. 

  • KAB-1500L-Pr-E Penetrating bunker buster with sub calibre war head
  • KAB-1500L-F-E Blast Fragmentation warhead
  • KAB-1500-OD-E Thermobaric warhead
The LGB - KAB 500 L was deployed from 1979 and the KAB 1500 L from 1987 the weapons used a semi active homer which delivered a 7m CEP they were  Air Designated and I have found no reference to ground designation.  The improved LG variants were not delivered until after the end of the Cold War. 

The 4.5m long KAB-1500L guided bomb is a bit of a beast designed to hit stationary ground and surface targets, these include:
  • Railway and Motorway Bridges
  • Dams
  • Defence Enterprise
  • Large Ammunition Depots
  • Fuel and Lubricant Storage
  • Railway Junctions
In my mind it would also be a useful weapon to deploy against static battlefield targets such as defended positions and as such offers the potential to deliver Nuclear like effects from a more conventional platform. 

The TV Guided KAB 500 KR and KAB 1500TK entered service from 1987 and delivered an improved 4m CEP. The Satellite guided systems were not deployed until 2003 so more Bear Resurgent than Cold War. The SU 24 cleared for 3 KAB 1500 or 7 KAB 500 with the Su 17 capable of carrying 2 KAB 500

Cluster Bombs

The other set of weapons of interest in the Breakthrough context are Cluster Bombs.  Cluster munitions release or eject smaller submunitions and were deployed extensively by all sides during the Cold War, primarily they increased the area of effect of the payload and more efficiently distribute the effects within that area than a single equivalent sized bomb can achieve.  As such they are more efficient at engaging area targets.  The Soviet Union was a pioneer in the development  of the Cluster bomb with use from the 1930's, The principal family of munitions available to them in the Cold War was the RBK 250 family of bombs. Sub Munitions carried include:

  • Anti Personnel AO 2.5RT 2.8Kg Pre fragmented, designed to split on impact bounce then explode. 
  • Anti Personnel  AO-1 SCh, 
  • Anti Personnel PFM-1 2.5 lbs, AP Mine 
  • Anti Tank PTAB 2.5, 5lbs Heat
  • Airfield Cratering

The RBK Razovaya Bombovaya Kasseta is a single use bomb cassette which could then be loaded with a number of sub munitions generally either the fragmentation or Anti Tank sub munitions.

In the 1990s details of a larger and improved RBK 500 bomb were released with new sub munitions its not clear if these were available in the later years of the Cold War. But if like me you stretch the back end of the Cold War though to 1993 when the Soviets withdrew from Germany then they fit. New sub munitions included:
  • AO-2.5 RTM pre fragmented anti personel/anti materiel
  • BETAB airfield Cratering cluster bomb
  • PTAB-1M anti tank,  2lbs Heat penetrates 9" of steel fin stabilised
  • SPBE anti tank, 30 lbs anti tank with EFP warhead, Drouge stabilised
  • SPBE-D anti tank
The munitions can be carried by Mig 23/27, 29, Su 17, 24, 25, 27

Command and Control

The Soviet system to control air assets in the fronts area of operations occurred at two levels.  The first of these dealt with the routing of aircraft to and from their missions and the second the allocation of assets to missions and the prosecution and selection of targets.

The Control and Target Identification post was equipped with Radar and signals equipment and communicated with the air assets to control their movement, it was primarily a battlefield air traffic control system which had no role in mission planning. 

The forward air liaison teams deployed to the forward CPs at each level of command from front to regiment and occasional battalion dealt with the target selection and prosecution of engagements. The Air assets like artillery assets could be allocated in support of specific formations and units and I suspect it is these units that received the Forward Air Liaison teams.  Targeting like artillery would be conducted through the direction of assets by the controlling HQ ie the combined arms commander in conjunction with the Liaison team, rather than by request.

The Air Controllers at Regimental level would clear targets and identify friendly troop locations for attacking aircraft, these air controllers were usually experienced Pilots, I have yet to find any evidence of ground target marking capability.  All the teams would be equipped with either BTR Series or MT-LBu command and Observation post vehicles which were supplied to both artillery and air observation parties, the specific BTR 60 variant being the BTR 60R-975.

The Soviets tend to employ aircraft to engage deeper targets and aviation to attack closer targets all though assets of both types will be utilised for pre planned operations and air delivered fire strikes can be used to superimpose fire effect on top of artillery fires.

Modeling and Gaming

The purpose of the research was of course to enable me to expand the Soviet horde to include some air support that could help deliver some serious effects on to the NATO position in the event of a breakthrough battle developing on a table top near me.  To this end I will be adding:
  • 2 Su 17 representing two flights of 4 Su 17 equipped with  Kab - 500L and CBUs from the IBAP
  • 1 Su 24 representing 1 Flight of 4 Su 24 equiped with 2 Kab - 1500L and CBUs from the ADIB
  • 1 BTR 60 Forward Air Control Command and Observation Post
Having spent the time researching the aircraft munitions it would be good to create models with the Weapon load outs required. Since I started  writing this article back in 2014 a number of new weapons sets have been released along with a number of aftermarket resin accessories that enable that to be acheived the main ones I am using are:
For this project the main sets used are the Hasegawa Russia Weapons Set which supplied 2 Kab 1500Ls for the Su 24. The Dragon Modern Soviet Aircraft Weapons set 3, Rockets and Bombs which supplied the CBUs and the North Star Kab-500L set which supplied the load for the Su 17s.

when completed these birds will join my existing Frontal Aviation assets which include:
  • 1 Mig 29 representing 1 flight of 4 aircraft from the IAD
  • 1 Mig 23 representing 1 flight of 4 aircraft from the IAD
  • 2 Su 25 representing 2 flights of 4 aircraft from the OShAP
  • 2 Mig 27 representing 2 flights of 4 aircraft from the IBAP
  • 5 Mi 24 representing an Attack Helicopter Sqn from the OBVP
  • 5 Mi 8 representin an Assault Helicopter Sqn from the OBVP
  • 4 Mi 8 representing a Medium Transport Helicopter Sqn from the OVP
  • 2 Mi 24 and 1 Mi 6 representing a Heavy Transport Helicopter Sqn from the OVP
key elements of the Air Armies together with the DsHV and a range of Engineer capabilities were amongst those hit by the change to a more defensive doctrine in the late 80's as Glasnost and perestroika started to bite. I generally view this as a politically instigated doctrinal change motivated by the changing political landscape that evolved in the closing moments of the Cold War, in a timeline that would have led to war these changes may well have not occurred, it is also worth remembering that up scaling aircraft assets can be relatively easy given that the ground support and logistic elements can accommodate it. Which I suppose is my justification for playing late Cold War scenarios using assets such as those described in this post.



Friday, 17 June 2016

Review Book - Abel Archer, Modern Rapid Fire Rules

Well it's been a while since I posted. A busy period for family and work - however I was asked a question about the rules I use, and it's a fairly frequent question so I thought I would knock out a quick post on the subject.  I got hooked on Modern gaming after joining the Guild forum in around 2008.  I was familiar with RF through WW2 gaming and when the Guild held a big game in 2010 I soon volunteered. The first game was held in Ireland and used Rapid Fire adaptations produced by Piers Brand. In the subsequent two Cold War big games they were adapted in a number of areas by John Dowman and Rob Rowell.

Tim's picked these up and done an excellent job of enhancing what were a fairly loose collection of ideas and turning them into a coherent set of rule additions making them a lot more attractive and digestible.  They are designed to be used in conjunction with Richard Marsh and Colin Rumford's Rapid Fire Rules which can be purchased in paper or electronic format from the Rapid Fire Website.

The focus for the rule set is the early 80's the period of the first game and Tims area of interest. They contain vehicle stats for the period Orbats and Scenario ideas to get you started.  The Orbats covered are:

  • British Battle Group
  • Danish Battle Group
  • Dutch Battle Group
  • US Armoured Cavalry Sqn
  • US Battle Group
  • NATO Divisional and Corp Assets
Warsaw Pact
  • MRR Advance Guard and Main Body
  • TR Advance Guard and Main Body
  • Divisional Assets.
The rules adapt easily enough for the late 1980's period and can be used for Ultra Modern and near future with a little thought.

They include a range of rule mechanisms adopting the original set to the modern period and accommodating the evolution of fire power, observation systems, gunnery systems, armour and aircraft. They sit firmly in the world of Rapid Fire which was always a simple abstracted game system, but one that played fast.

What I have always loved about Rapid Fire is the way the units are abstracted allowing battle groups to be reasonably represented by 10-15 models, this allows you to game in 20mm on a table top at battle group level with ease and with thought to extend into the operational level.

I suppose a number of things that I like best about Cold War gaming are enabled by these rules:
  • 20mm is a great scale for armour modeling with vehicles and figures sufficiently large to look great when done.
  • The models and figures can easily be adapted and enhanced
  • The extensive ranges of plastic models and resin kits mean most of the armies can be pulled together, and they look great.  
  • The Orbat abstractions enable a reasonable game to be played out at battle group level on a 6 foot by 4 foot table without it all looking too daft.
  • The rules are simple and straight forward to learn and enable games to be completed relatively quickly.
  • With a bit of thought and a lot of really useful plastic boxes you can store it all in a reasonably big cupboard.
  • You can with the aid of a small hall some friends and a pile of scenery pull it all up to the operational level which is really where the action was going to happen in the Cold War and where the odds evened up between the Warsaw Pact and NATO armies.

All up a great contribution from Tim to the Cold War gaming community, Tim's Abel Archer rule adaptations are free, available for download and come in PDF format.

Other Book Reviews:

The Race to the Swift

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Modelling - Converting Hobby Den's BTR 60PB to a BTR 60PU

As part of creating artillery and air defence units for the breakthrough project I kicked off a year or so ago I discovered a need for some armoured command vehicles.  The thought was to use specific communications vehicles rather than the k variants found in Motor Rifle Battalion and Company headquarters.  Armoured command vehicles were produced by the Soviets for the BTR 60/70 and 80 series vehicles and these were used extensively within the units I had in mind. 

The obvious choice was the  BTR-60R-145BM or one of its more modern variants the vehicle is a turretless version of the BTR 60, fitted with:
  • A collapsible frame antenna 
  • The AMU 10m telescopic mast 
  • The AB-1-P/30 generator, 
  • 5 Radio sets 
  • A TA-57 field telephone.  
The vehicle also seems to attract the designation BTR 60 PU and  is visually similar to the BTR 60PU-12 an Air Defence command vehicle which would also be useful.

An analysis of the available imagery identified the following tasks to complete a conversion from a BTR 60 PB into the required command vehicles:

  • Fill Hole in hull for turret
  • Build a box to represent the AB-1-P/30 generator
  • Create some stowage box's for the side of the vehicle
  • Create a representation of the AMU 10m telescopic mast
  • Represent the stowed antenna tube on the top deck together with its end caps
  • Mount jerry cans on sides of vehicles 

  • The BTR 60PB I have chosen for the conversion is produced by the Hobby Den, which is an imposing resin and white metal kit with some clever ideas that give you a lot of crewing options as hatches are white metal castings that fit over recessed hull areas providing scope for crewing options at much reduced effort compared to other resins where the hatch and hull would need drilling and a new hatch creating to achieve the same effect.

    Since I commenced this project a number of other models have come onto the market giving a degree of choice in the models that can be used notable amongst these is the S Models BTR 60 PB kit.  The quality of both the resin hull and the white metal wheel set and hatches has been good on all the copies I have received with small amounts of flash on the white metal parts and almost no air bubbles on the resin hull and turret.  The base of the turret is marginally convex but this was not really relevant to the model being built.

    The conversion is very straightforward and can be done with the frame antenna erected or folded.  To simplify the problems around building the frame antenna I attached it directly to the hull . This avoided the needs to build the mounts and created a robust structure. I also simplified the frame from a double tube to a single tube. The frame supports and the frame itself were made from lengths of brass rod and to ease the problems of height adjustment I used green stuff to attach the frame to the upright frame supports.

    Both the AMU 10 Telescopic mast and what I have termed the stowed antenna tube on the hull roof were cut from plastic rod.  The use of a cover fashioned from green stuff for the AMU 10 got around the need to model the detail at the top of the telescopic mast, although this could have been produced using  the mast components that come with ACEs BMP-1Ksh.

    The Generator box was the final component of the fixed vehicle equipment and this was created through layering plastic strip to create an oblong box structure that would be easy to replicate consistently given that I needed a few of these vehicles.   All the other components I viewed as part of stowing the vehicles as the images I had collected showed a degree of variability in type and placement.  The Images variously show jerry cans and a large external stowage box mounted on the left and right hand side of the vehicle. which goes on which side seems to vary.

    Stowage baskets are also seen mounted over the rear engine louvers and there are a number of images with command vehicles supporting a number of roof mounted stowage boxes.  Unusually for Soviet vehicles but less so for command vehicles in general these wagons are often seen with a variety of additional equipment.  

    I have confined my stowage to include the Jerry cans on the right hand side and a large irregularly shaped stowage box on the left.  In addition I added a folded tarpaulin/tent on the roof made from green stuff and marked using a wet knife blade to create the straps folds and creases.  To get the various boxes and jerry cans to mount effectively on the hull it's necessary to file away some of the hull side hatches.

    I commenced painting the vehicle with a pre shade of the lower hull wheels and underside of the vehicles using Tamiya XF-69 NATO Black. The model was then sprayed with Tamiya XF-13 JA Green, using a lighter coat on the lower hull ensures it remains a darker shade.  The panels were then picked out with Tamiya XF-65 Field Grey. A pin wash was applied using the Humbrol Black enamel wash and a blue grey filter applied to selected panels and hatches using a diluted Humbrol Blue Grey enamel wash.  The raised detail was dry-brushed using a mix of Vallejo Russian Uniform and Buff. Detail was then painted in as follows:
    • Vallejo Black Grey for the HMG, Sight blocks, jerry cans and wheels
    • Vallejo sky grey was used for tools.  
    • Vallejo Medium flesh washed with Agrix Earthshade was used for wooden tool handles
    • Vallejo Khaki grey was used for the canvas stowage, washed with GW's Agrix Earthshade before being highlighted with a mix of Khaki grey and buff.

    The vehicle was then weathered using a heavy wash of Vallejo Mahogany Sand primarily targeted at the recesses, before the whole was over-sprayed using Tamiya XF-59 Desert Yellow. 

    Markings consisted of a regimental symbol and tactical 3 digit number, with the number coming from QRF and the regimental marking from the model collect large decal sheet.

    The vehicle is based on laser cut MDF bases supplied by East Riding miniatures, these are covered in a mix of sand and white glue before painting. Once dry a range of bsing materials have been used to create the vegetation on the base.



    BTR-60PB Mini Walk-round Prime Portal
    BTR-60 Army Guide
    BTR-60PU-12 Walk-round

    Other Posts of Interest: