Forming a Panzer Grenadier Brigade

I’ve always been somewhat surprised that the West Germans are infrequently seen in these parts. Especially as the West German formations formed the backbone of NATO armies by the 1980s. Continuing with my occasional posts on forming armies this article looks at forming a Panzer Grenadier Brigade for use in the Scenario Generation System.

Now, I suspect the use of West Germans formations under the Scenario Generation System is reduced by the points system. In particular West German formations are relatively expensive due to the use of IFVs. A contrast to the American M113 or British FV432 combat team which is relatively inexpensive. My West Germans were my first NATO army under Modern Spearhead and they remain an interesting, and I feel, capable army. As is the norm here I based my West Germans around 1982. The two lists I will present here are based around Panzer Grenadier Brigades and I feel provide a reasonably balanced force structure. However, rather than provide a list I hope a few of you find a little inspiration.

A Panzer Grenadier Brigade has four basic battalions. A Panzer Battalion, two Panzer Grenadier Battalions and a Mixed Battalion. The last having no HQ under peace conditions. Each battalion comprises three companies. These three companies can be cross-attached or operate without cross-attachment.

Let’s begin by looking at the armoured options. The Panzer Battalion comprises three companies and excludes an infantry component unless through cross-attachment. At the moment I have Leopard 1A2, Leopard 1A1A1 and Leopard IIs in my collection which allows me to model several different formations. For now I will focus on the Leopard 1s and will look at the Leopard 2 in another article.

The Leopard 1 went through several upgrades and for my purposes the Leopard 1A1A1 is the most common in 1982. It has many of the physical characteristics of the Leopard 1A5 allowing me to use the excellent Heroics & Ros Leopard 1A5 casting to represent the Leopard 1A1A1. Above, Leopard 1A1A1s supported by a company of Marder equipped panzer grenadiers. A Brigade HQ, represented by an M577 command stand, can be seen in the rear.

The Leopard 1A2 was produced as part of the 5th batch of Leopards. It was not upgraded during the main upgrade program. As a result, and most notably, it didn’t receive the add on turret armour. The model I have are, I believe, from Skytrex. These models were gifted to me several years ago by Steve Weiss a SH/MSH gamer in New York as part of an “moderns aid package”. Historically the Leopard 1A2 were mainly deployed in the 6th Panzer Grenadier Division. As such they often exercised with Danish forces. Below Leopard 1A2s, supported by a panzer grenadier company in M113 APCs, cross a small stream.

Each Panzer Grenadier Battalion comprised two companies mounted in Marders while the third is in M113s. Cross attachment, by company, is particularly important to achieve combined arms and I almost always base my battalions on a mix of companies. That said, as each platoon contains Milan a degree of independence can be maintained and a Panzer Grenadier Battalion could operate without panzers. One particular strength these battalions is the Marders. The Marder IFV, being a true mechanised infantry combat vehicle, provides considerable protection for the infantry from enemy artillery fires. This is especially so when under Soviet 122mm fires. In addition the combat factors, a result of the infantry, vehicle and ATGW systems, provide a capable system weapons system in 1982. In contrast the M113 mounted companies provide less offensive and defensive power but have a lower points cost.

In my view a critical part, and sometimes overlooked part of these Panzer Grenadier battalions, is the M113 mounted with a 120mm mortar. These indirect fire weapons provide each battalion with a degree of organic fire support. Useful, and almost always available, the are useful in suppressing enemy infantry. However, being self-propelled they are less prone to counter-battery fires, though do remember to move them frequently!

The fourth battalion is the Mixed Battalion. It comprises a panzer company and two panzer grenadier companies in Marders. Unlike the Panzer Grenadier battalions it lacks a mortar section and unless mobilised an HQ platoon. I believe that elements from the Brigade HQ form the headquarters, though details are conflicting. I have decided to represent this HQ by a Marder element.

Specialised anti-tank systems were a critical part of the West German force structure. Each brigade had one company. Some Brigades fielded the Jaguar 1 armed with the HOT ATGW system, which had mostly replaced the earlier Jaguar armed with ATGW SS11. Other brigades fielded a company of Jagdpanzer Kannone. I must admit my personal favourite is the old and increasingly ineffective Jagdpanzer Kannone which retained a 90mm gun. The 90mm guns were sourced from decommissioned M47 tanks and the vehicle has a number of similarities to the excellent, in WWII terms, Jagdpanzer IV.

Above, Jaguar 1s deployed along a woods edge, while below a company of Jagdpanzer Kannones deployed in ambush in field and woods. Many Kannones would be upgraded to Jaguar 2, armed with TOW, while others would soldier on in reserve formations until 1990.

Other core components of the brigade include the brigade’s own artillery battalion. Equipped with the excellent M109G with its improved howitzer with a range of 18,000m is effectively an M109A1. Self-propelled and held in brigade support it can be called in reasonably easily by fighting stands and recon elements. Divisional assets include additional artillery systems in the form of FH-70 towed guns and 110mm rocket battalions. Both are able to support with fires into the battle area. However, the FH-70 is useful for deep fire missions against enemy artillery or air defence systems. Very useful if your opponent plans to deploy towed artillery systems.

West German formations, unlike some NATO allies, had a solid anti-aircraft arsenal. Each division comprises specialist man portable SAM as well as Gepard self-propelled gun systems. This is further supplemented by Roland SAM at Corps level. Below, Gepards provide support for elements of a Panzer Grenadier Battalion.

Fixed wing air support has an ability to quickly overcome an enemy concentration. As importantly it can strike at any part of the brigade battle area. I usually ensure a Forward Air Controller is present, but when points are restricted a reconnaissance stand, an HQ and even fighting stands can request support.

Below, relatively inexpensive Alpha Jets overfly Luchs reconnaissance elements. These light attack aircraft can be armed with rockets, bombs or Improved Conventional Munitions (ICM). Consideration should be given to the weapon load. For example if the enemy is likely to be on the offensive ICM can be more useful than rockets.

However, to achieve success the enemy air defences must be reduced. The obvious way to do this is via artillery strikes on located radar SAM systems. However, Phantom fighter bombers can also be used. Their avionics and countermeasures are useful and potentially allow the use of weapons such as smart bombs to suppress enemy missile systems. Subsequent attacks can then be made by other aircraft armed with more traditional weapon loads.

The PAH-1 helicopter, armed with HOT, can be a useful weapons platform to countering enemy armour and for targeting AA systems allowing fixed wing support to be more effective. Like the fixed wing aircraft I tend to operate these as options in the list. This forces my opponent to consider his air defences in both attack or defensive postures, without me having to always commit to using a specific system each game.

Having described a few of the elements available I will now provide some sample lists which I hope provide some inspiration. You will note some companies are under strength, representing casualties. There are a couple of variations from the official TO&E, I will cover these off in future posts.

The Attack List is the most self explanatory. I see it being used hasty attack scenarios and for encounter situations, when the Scenario System selects this list. I don’t believe it is useful for or the West Germans in general should attempt a deliberate attack. It contains three manoeuvre battalions with reasonable indirect fire support. The Panzer Battalion could be used massed but more typically one or two companies are allocated out combined arms battalions. An under strength Jaguar company provides heavy ATGW support while a range of artillery is available. A range of options include fixed wing air support, additional artillery for counter-battery fires or air defence suppression. Care should be made when allocating resources to battalions so as the overall attachment limits are not exceeded. Of course the brigade is not well suited to frontal engagement, so try and use manoeuvre to gain advantage, forcing your enemy to redeploy. The sample Attack List can be found here.

The Defend List is more complicated and with fewer points more difficult to achieve meaningful combined arms. In defence the three battalions are thin on the ground and each is limited in armour. Unlike the previous list armour is already attached with one battalion of the brigade presumed to have been deployed elsewhere. The Mixed Battalion is small and should act as a mobile reserve reinforcing the other battalions. This not withstanding careful deployment of the fighting stands and support weapons will be required. Often a brigade commander will be tasked with a difficult situation or be on the offensive. In these situations the options can be selected to bolster the defence, disrupt the enemy or add teeth to the fighting battalions. Options include air support designed to attack advancing enemy vehicles, additional AA systems and additional artillery. The Option B is specifically design for the spoiling attack scenario where a commander conducts a preemptive attack before an opponent can launch a deliberate attack. This provides reinforcements, additional artillery and most importantly additional mechanised AA systems. The sample Defend List can be found here.

Hopefully this short primer will have been of use and just perhaps you will be tempted to deploy some West Germans to stop the WARPAC invasion…

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