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 23 September 2018

Review Book - Red Armour an Examination of the Soviet Mobile Force Concept, R Simpkin, 1984

So this was the summer reading, all part of a project called Deep Battle that I have yet to really start writing about or indeed executing but have been researching since about 2015. Over a wet week in Wales I have been ploughing my way through the 12 essays in this book by Brigadier Richard Simpkin who wrote a series of books on military manoeuvre warfare theory in the mid to late 80s and participated in the wide ranging discussion that went on at that time within NATO with regard to managing the Soviet threat.  Of the essays I am interested in I have now read most of them 2-3 times.  The ideas are complex and Simpkin is rarely an easy read.  Working at it in order to understand what he is saying can be very rewarding. 

Red Armour, an examination of the Soviet Mobile Force concepts does pretty much what it says on the tin in that it provides, in its 12 essays, a thought provoking and revealing analysis of Soviet Operational doctrine.  Unlike the Race to the Swift which looks at a variety of maneuver warfare concepts and extrapolates these into the future. This collection of his work focuses on Soviet operational concepts as they had evolved by the height of the Cold War in 1982-83.

The Three parts of the book cover, resources procedures and concepts and each part contains four essays which  discuss at varying levels of detail the following topics:

Part 1 Resources
  • Manpower
  • Philosophy
  • Technology
  • Ground
Part 2 Procedures
  • Control and Support
  • Movement and Deployment
  • Obstacle Crossing
  • Parameters of Tank Force operations
Part 3 Concepts
  • The deep battle
  • The tank force concept
  • Soviet mobile operations
  • The NATO centre
For me the nuggets are in part 2 and 3 which focuses on the procedures and the concepts and illustrates the Soviet thinking by contrasting it to NATOs more positional approaches.

In Part 2 I found the particular essays on; Control and Support, Movement and Deployment and Obstacle Crossing the most useful as they really start to drive at the how at the operational level. examples of points of interest include the Soviet use of Primary routes at high traffic densities whilst holding secondary routes in reserve and clear of significant traffic to enable the flexibility to restructure the order of march accelerating assets and units as needed, this together with the the ability to line switch elements between axis of advance provides the conditions for achieving surprise.  Whilst Simpkin challenges the Soviets ability to achieve the levels of flexibility the approaches could deliver and highlights the tactical risks this exposes them to, I am not clear that he considers these objections in the light of Soviet control approaches which include dedicated movement control organisations deployed along routes at relatively high densities in comparison to Western Armies.

In Part 3 his summary of the deep battle discussion he provides one of the most succinct descriptions of both the theory and the terms that I have come across and his articulation of Soviet Mobile Operations in contrast to the more positional and ground focused doctrines of NATO really start to drive home the key differences between the two.  This starts to highlight what the Soviets focus on in terms of objectives - the enemy rather than the ground, and whilst I have read this in many books the way he contrasts this with the ground focused objectives of NATO doctrines really drives the point home.

His treatment of the principal periods of the Cold War and how the Soviets shifted from the use of Nuclear weapons to provide the conditions for maneuver to the need to exploit strategic surprise in the later period to a similar effect is thought provoking and credibly illustrates the potential impacts that could be achieved even in the absence of Nuclear weapons.  He reasonably challenges the effectiveness of interchangeability of resources in a non nuclear phase although he does not explore the increased scale of indirect fire assets or their increasing effectiveness as the book was written in 1983 and pre dates a number of these changes.

From the Wargames perspective what this all enables is the development of the framework of operational concepts that you need to develop in order to set tactical scenarios in the operational context.  In replicating historical battles in other periods this context is provided by the historical events, in gaming the Cold War, you need an operational and strategic picture to set the action against in order to create realistic scenarios, this is particularly true when dealing with the Soviet Union.  

The driver for this is the subject of Red Armour the Soviet Unions thinking at the operational level. Understanding their focus on the operational rather than the tactical is critical to understanding how they would deal with different situations and the forces that would be brought to bear. In short why NATOs tactical and equipment superiority would be nullified by one of the more sophisticated approaches to maneuver warfare available.  Translating that to table-top games is a challenge all of its own.

I snapped up my copy of Red Armour for £40 about a year ago and at that price I think its a worthwhile addition to the collection if you have an interest in developing table top scenarios in the wider operational context, if you are looking for the detail of what the Soviets did rather than the thinking behind it that can be accessed more cheaply and effectively elsewhere. Current prices on Amazon are running at £200 plus and at that price I would be inclined to leave it on the shelf.

AFM Volume 2, Part 2, A Treatise on Soviet Operational Art, 1991

Monday 2 April 2018

Review - Book, AFM Volume 2, Part 2, A Treatise on Soviet Operational Art

This was a truly great find by Andy Miles who kindly posted it onto the Red Storm Rising facebook page.  It's not quite the British equivalent to the FM 100 series, it was written in 1991 from the perspective of understanding Soviet Operational Art as the British along with most Western Nations had given this particular subject a stiff ignoring for most of the Cold War. As the author puts it, the Western Nations experience of operations during WW2 was at a different order of Magnitude to the Soviet and points out that whilst the Western allies deployed some 3 Army Groups comprising 91 Divisions on a front of 400 km, in 1944 the Red Army had 10 fronts with 57 Armies and over 560 Divisions and Corps deployed on a frontage of 3200 km.

AFM Volume 2 was produced in 3 parts and whilst this review focuses on Part 2, I will look to pick up on parts 1 and 3 at a later date, for completeness the parts are:
So what's different between this and the FM 100 series, its based on a similar variety of sources including the Vorisilov Lectures, which it contextualises against a late 80s Force structure and is fundamentally focused on the conduct of operations at Army and Front level, and the general Force Composition and task orginisation required to deliver that. I think it does this well focusing on the Soviet Approaches to Offensive and Defensive Operations, it also provides a variety of commentary on effectiveness and some interesting discussion around both drivers for change and the future, which is where it differentiates itself from the FM 100 series.

Equipment and Organisation is considered at a high level and with only sufficient detail to facilitate the main discussion and demonstrate the mapping between doctrine technology and force structures, which frankly the Soviets were masters of.

 It  broadly follows the structure of the Vorisilov Lectures material and includes a deal of informed comment, the main chapters cover:
  • Equipment and Organisation
  • Operational Planning, Context and Concepts
  • Strategic and Operational Marches
  • Offensive Operations
  • Operations in the Enemys Depth
  • Defensive Operations
  • Combat Support
  • Air Operations
  • Amphibious Operations
  • Logistics
  • Command Control and Communications
Annexes include High level org charts and Broad equipment TOEs for Divisions, Armies and Fronts both within and outside of the Western Group of Forces

This is a book that you can either read or dip into, having said that the approach to dipping into it is likly to be go read the whole section on offensive opps and related elements on combat support. The Upside over reading the Vorisilov Lecture material is that the hard work of placing it in the context of the late 80s has been done and this work draws on wider material as well.

The author CJ Dick of the Soviet Studies Research Centre understands his subject well and attempts to explain the Soviet concepts as they stand rather than trying to equate Soviet military thought to  western ideas, an approach taken in a number of the US manuals which generates some very confusing discussions on echelonment and reserves amoungst others. These subjects are covered with far more clarity in this volume.

I particularly like the categorisation of the Cold War period into a number of Eras based on the prevailing doctrine and the discussion around its impact on force structures and organisation. These are articulated as:
  • The Nuclear Era. Doctrine and force structures dominated by the concept of Combat under nuclear conditions
  • The Era of a Conventional Phase. This period was dominated by the impact of two ideas.  The first was driven by the NATO's adoption of flexible response, which would lead to a Conventional Phase at the start of any war and if surprise could be achieved and Soviet Operational art delivered offered the potential of a conventional victory. The other was the vulnerability of tank heavy formations in conventional war demonstrated during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. 
  • The Era of Conventional War. The result of the INF treaty and the failure by both the Warsaw Pact and NATO to upgrade their nuclear capabilities, lead to a belief in the increasing likelihood of an extended conventional phase or the possibility of a wholly conventional war
This is then neatly mapped to the evolution of the organisations and structures that occured over this period.  The rate of change that was feasible for an organisation the size of the Soviet Army also receives some attention. All of this starts to provide a degree of clarity to the variation in content of key sources on the organisations and structures employed within the WGF at different points in time.

Looking at the diagrams and discussion it seems clear that this work fundamentally underpins The Genforce Mobile Force Handbooks written in 1997 as OPFOR guides which provide excellent commentary on what was essentially Soviet organisation and practice but which because they are OPFOR guides I have always had concerns over how they were adapted and how representative they were of what was rather than what was aspired to.

Some of the organisational structures proposed in both this and AFM volume 2 part 3, Soviet Tactics are quite different from what is discussed elsewhere and I have yet to digest what that means and how or whether to reflect it into my current projects. 

As well as this post I have updated the Post on free resources on Soviet Organisation and Doctrine.  All up an excellent find, resource and for free well worth a read. I have a physical copy of the Vorisilov Lectures Operational Art and would love to find a physical copy of this to add to the collection but so far have looked without success. An excellent perspective on Soviet Operational Art


Red Banner The Soviet Military System in Peace and War, C Donnelley, (1988) @ amazon
AFM Volume 2, Part 2, A Treatise on Soviet Operational Art
AFM Volume 2, Part 3, Soviet Tactics
Voroshilov Academy Lectures
Review-Web Resources, The Essentials of Cold War Soviet Doctrine and Organisation for Free
Genforce Handbook, Mobile Force Part 1, Operational Art and Tactical Doctrine, 1997
Genforce Handbook, Mobile Force Part 2, Tables of Organisation and Equipment, 1997

Sunday 25 March 2018

Review Models - 1/72 S&S Kraz Truck

First post for over a year I think, nothing earth shattering, a review of S&S's Kraz 255.  The 7.5 ton Kraz 214 and 255 trucks provided extreme off-road logistic capacity to the Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces from 1959 through to the end of the Cold War.  The Kraz 214 was produced between 1959 - 1963 and the Kraz 255 entered mass production in 1967 and remained in production until 1994. The Trucks are visually similar, so models in 1/72 can be broadly used to represent either. 

The vehicle provided the platform for a range of variants which included; the TMM vehicle launched bridge from 1974, The carriage and launch vehicle for the PMP ribbon bridge, and the carriage vehicle for the BMK-T bridging boat, together with a number of engineering earth moving and construction variants.  I am using them to provide the transport capability in the Headquaters of my MRR Engineering Company.

The S&S Model is a robust but effective war-games model and is cast in resin and white metal. It can be purchased with or with out the canvas tilt and I have both versions, it cost at the time of posting £11.50 which included P&P.  The models I received were cleanly cast with limited holes and flash.

Other manufactures produce versions of this vehicle notably Armory and Armada but both these manufacturers produce for the modelling fraternity with associated complexity and price.  The model whilst cleverly constructed would provide challenging to convert as the chasis is effectively a component of the truck body so would need to be replaced in order to produce either a TMM or PMP variant. 

After some minimal clean up construction was straight forward and completed quickly with no significant issues, the only thing that slows you down is the amount of time it takes for the super glue to set.  Images of the vehicle show little in the way of stowage so I have left the model in its original state.

I have painted the vehicle in line with my other Soviet equipment in green, although I have been working on evolving my style
  • The Vehicle underside is sprayed in NATO Black XF- 69 before being fixed to the base
  • The vehicle is given an overall coat of Tamiya XF-13 JA Green, and is then oversprayed with NATO Black XF-69 to create an overall dark green colour.
  • The panels were then sprayed with JA Green.
  • The Tilt was painted with Olive Drab XF-62, the areas between the tilt supports were oversprayed wit Nato Black and the ridge was over sprayed with Olive Drab. The whole activity was a bit iterative until the required effect was achieved.
  • The detail was then picked out with a pin wash using Humbrol Black Wash.

  • The wheels were painted with Vallejo Black grey 70852 and then washed with a mix of Vallejo Khaki Grey 70880 and Buff 70976, before being dry brushed with Vallejo Black grey
  • Windows were painted with Vallejo Black Grey
  • The lights front and back were painted with Vallejo Flat Red 70957, Light Orange 70911 and Sky Grey 70989.
  • The doors then received a coat of clear before decals were applied with micro sol then the whole vehicle was sealed with a coat of Tamiya Matt clear.
  • A small amount of chipping was carried out on selected areas of the vehicle using Vallejo Black Grey, Mahogany sand 70846 and Sky Grey
  • The vehicle was then weathered using an overspray of Tamiya XF-59 Desert Yellow.

The truck has been based on laser cut MDF base supplied by East Riding Miniatures,  being a bit of a beast this is 6 cm x 13 cm in order to accommodate the size of the vehicle. These are covered in a mix of sand and white glue before painting.  The base is painted with Citadel Gorthor Brown and dry brushed with Vallejo Desert Yellow 70977.  Once dry a range of basing materials have been used to create the vegetation on the base.

All up a great little model that provides a useful addition to my Cold War Collection and provides a degree of variety in the truck options otherwise available for a Cold War Soviet Army.