Last night’s Modern Spearhead game, a hasty attack by Andrew’s new Soviet Tank Regiment has me pondering yet again how to create an effective defence. Andrew has this wonderful ability to conjure up very different armies. I never really no if I will be fighting T-55s using second line equipment, Naval Infantry supported by PT-76s, helicopters and aircraft, or some new monster such as the T-80s I encountered last night.
I tend to think I can operate a flexible defence, especially with NATO, so that a specific battalion plays can change its role in the defence. An ability to react, reposition battalions and counterattack, are all key requirements. But yesterday’s massed armoured thrust caused me serious problems.
My French defend list comprised three battalions, or regiments in French organisation. Two mechanised, with AMX-30 tanks and AMX-10P mechanised infantry, while the the third was comprised infantry in VABs. Deployment required two battalions forward with a third in reserve and guarding the flank. I expected a pinning attack in the centre and a flanking action against my left flank. Other options, and there were several, could have had seen alternate avenues of advance. In my plan the most likely counterattacks would have been with my reserve or the VAB battalion against an exposed centre.
Above, part of the the French 1st Regiment (Battalion) in defensive positions. The town on the left was taken by Soviet Divisional Reconnaissance Battalion as stage one of a move against the French left. Below, the same position from a different angle showing more of the French centre and forward left, as well as the advancing Soviets.
Unfortunately my defence was almost immediately paralysed. I just didn’t feel I could effectively manoeuvre against a bristling armoured formation which would have seen the outnumbered and advancing AMX-30s stripped out by T-80s and the AMX-10Ps quickly overcome. Manoeuvring the VAB equipped battalion was even worse. Lacking any armour and with fewer Milans their ability to counter armour is much reduced in defence, never mind on the offensive.
Despite what must read like a degree despondency, the game was fascinating. The engagement opened with Soviet shaping of the area of operations with electronic warfare locating French air defences quickly followed by fires by BM-27 rocket launches and 2S5 artillery assets. Their was no Soviet aircraft though so this at least had limited impact. As the divisional reconnaissance moved towards its initial objective three tank battalions each allocated a BMP infantry company and some 2S1 artillery for direct fire support moved forward.
French artillery attempted to suppress the BMPs while the French infantry engaged with Milan. The terribly outnumbered AMX-30s gave a reasonable account of themselves but were silenced by return fire. Then, as the T-80s advanced they were engaged with Milan. Here at least there was some hope as the Soviets, despite heavy artillery fire had considerable difficulties dislodging the French infantry. French artillery continued to fire but their fires were interrupted by relocation – to avoid the expected devastating counter battery fires.
Above, a view from the Soviet lines. The BMPs are suppressed by artillery fires. A 2S1 can be seen behind the advancing T-80s. Below, the advanced French positions have been neutralised and Soviet armour continues forward. French artillery fires now target the T-80s in a desperate attempt to disrupt the attack.
So where does this leave me, or more accurately my French? Reasonably capable against Motor Rifle formations the defend list’s inability to be more than a speed bump to massed armour will certainly see me reevaluating it’s composition and, more importantly perhaps, it’s use…