Category Archives: Battle Reports

Conducting a Hasty Attack

There seems to be some interest in a recent post I made on Twitter regarding a Modern Spearhead game played on a very small table. I thought it worthwhile expanding briefly on the game here.

As regular readers will know we normally play reinforced brigade level actions. However, for this game my I wanted an introductory game for a player who wasn’t familiar with Modern Spearhead, though he was familiar with the Spearhead rules in general. Now, we use the ground scale of 1” to 125m which in the alternate scale in Modern Spearhead means movement and ranges are reduced. For example a main battle tank is visible moving in the open at 12” and something like BMP or T-64B moves around 8” per turn, or less if moving and firing. This provides plenty of manoeuvre room on a 1.8m x 1.2m table.

This time I wanted to reduce the forces involved so we could focus on the process of combat. After some thought I decided on a small Soviet Hasty Attack, from march column, against a single NATO battalion deployed in defence. With just one defending battalion I opted for a table just 24” wide and 36” deep. That equates to an area 3km wide by 5km in depth. With such a small table we must assume that all the normal manoeuvre, so critical in a typical game has occurred off-table and now the clash occurs.

While I initially considered using West Germans I eventually opted for a French infantry battalion, some three VAB companies, supported by the battalion’s mortar company. This was bolstered by a two additional support companies to introduce different weapon systems. In particular a company of AMX-10RC and two VAB ATGW platoons. Off table was a Roland SAM system and a weak artillery battalion of just two batteries of F3 self-propelled guns with a handful of fire missions. The French commander deployed in three areas. In the centre an infantry company with an AMX-10RC platoon on a hill. On the left the remaining two AMX-10RC platoons with two infantry platoons deployed in a wood. On his right, withdrawn somewhat, another infantry company was deployed around a farm complex. Further back two VAB ATGW platoons armed with HOT provided additional anti-tank support.

Below, a view of the French centre showing an infantry company supported by a platoon of AMX-10RC armoured cars.

The Soviets comprised two BTR-60PB battalions, each with an attached tank company, though without AA as I was trying to restrict the multitude of Soviet weapons systems the Soviet commander needed to contend with. The frontage was such that only one battalion could attack at a time, which meant of course the second would likely be the follow on force. This aligned to my original concept of the advanced elements of a Motor Rifle Regiment deploying for a hasty attack.

These battalions were screened by the remainder of the Divisional Reconnaissance company, now understrength. They were supported by the off table the Soviet Regimental artillery battalion (122mm D-30) and very limited support from an understrength 2S3 152mm Battalion. Finally, there were two sorties of two Su-7 Fitters available. I felt these elderly aircraft were not going to unbalance the scenario too much.

The Soviet commander focussed his advance down the left flank where much of his initial battalion was screened by a stream from the French centre. Clearly he expected the enemy to be astride the more central road, which they were!

As you would expect the advance was led by reconnaissance elements. However, despite his best efforts some Soviet platoons, advancing more centrally, were engaged by the French centre with Milan and AMX-10RCs with predictable results causing some initial consternation. This provided a good example of the strengths and weaknesses of ATGWs. With some BTRs burning, but with the Milan firing posts detected, Soviet divisional artillery assets were tasked with a bombardment of the French centre. However, this artillery was limited as the same guns were needed for the suppression of French SAM systems (off table).

On the Soviet left the advance made good progress with the outnumbered French company initially holding its fire, with the exception of the battalion 120mm mortar, until the advancing Soviets entered the dedicated ATGW platoon kill zone, this being held back behind the infantry on high ground. Once engaged by the combination of small arms and HOT missiles the Soviets began their expected artillery fires, though these were however limited by French artillery targeting command and control assets. Below, the French right in the foreground is under some pressure.

However, the farm position on the French right was compromised and under with it under heavy attack likely to succeed the Soviet second battalion was released. It was soon apparent that this battalion would follow the first battalion before likely breaking out and outflanking the French centre. As this second battalion moved forward it crossed a portion of the French centre and in so doing suffered casualties.

Yet, with the French right collapsing the French commander was forced to relocate his uncommitted company on the left. Below, it can be seen advancing.

Moving from its concealed position the company commander was expected to flank the Soviets. Unfortunately, as the company moved forward it was attacked by three Su-7 Fitters (one model) using conventional bombs.

Unfortunately, with our gaming window at an end we had to call time. However, the tactical exercise had provided an excellent game. It involved several of the rules I had hoped to introduce. These included electronic warfare, counter battery fires, ATGWs, air support. An ideal combination for the new player. Despite all these extras the complexity didn’t distract the Soviet commander from his focus on delivering a reinforced battalion level attack. As such it provided an excellent introductory game. I think the scenario warrants further refinement after which I will place it on line, including some suggestions for playing it as a solo game.

Advance to Speilhofen

Igor Korabelnikov, commander of the 242nd Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment, sat on the side of his BTR-60 command vehicle surveying the scene before him. The 1st battalion of the regiment was now moving passed his headquarters. In all the regiment contained over 100 BTR-60PB combat vehicles, which of course were divided amongst the three motor rifle battalions. The regiment also contained a tank battalion of T-64B tanks. As was the doctrine these were allocated by company to each of his three motor rifle battalions. Some 100m away there was a roar, Igor glanced slightly to the side as several T-64s accelerated and in the process produced a puff of engine smoke as their drivers pushed the 40 ton monsters forward. For a moment Igor pondered how many of these machines would be burning on the battlefield by nightfall.

The position to the division’s front, his regiment’s area of operations, was believed to be held by a single enemy battalion in a generally central position, though it was expected to be reinforced. His orders were clear, the regiment was to advance and seize two areas of high ground and a town, all ideal blocking positions should the enemy counterattack. It seemed a difficult task, knowing how determined British resolve had been in the area recently. However, he hoped the support assets allocated by division would assist. Yet the afternoon was disappearing quickly. Time was critical, especially if reconnaissance reports were to be believed.

The 1st Battalion (1/242nd) was to advance in the centre to seize a wooded ridge some 1000 metres in length where it would deploy in a blocking positions opposite reported enemy positions. The 3/242nd was to advance on the right, it’s final position was more open but if the reconnaissance was to be believed the enemy was not yet in the area. Therefore the battalion should be able to seize several defensive positions before the slow moving enemy could reach the area. Finally, 2/242nd would conduct a flanking movement on the left, thus avoiding a large wood. They would then advance gaining a low ridge running from the southwest to the northeast, known as Speilhofen ridge. Again enemy forces were likely to be delayed and then further slowed by a stream, but here speed was critical.

As noted earlier Korabelnikov had been allocated several fixed wing and rotary support assets and it was with the 2/242nd he placed the air ground controller. To enable the interdiction of the MiGs he was assured that artillery fires on enemy air defence radar would be prioritised.

It wasn’t however until 6pm that the various elements of the regiment crossed their start lines and pressed forward. In all cases the battalion commanders were soon reporting delays. To the north 3/242nd was reporting that a stream was slowing the advance, while in the centre the BTRs were slowed by the undulating ground.

Above, a portion of 1/242nd advances in the centre while below in the north 3/242nd is delayed by a stream.

Even in the south the advance of 2/242nd was behind schedule with cornfields and rutted farmland slowing the BTRs.

Below, the general situation clearly showing the advance of 2/242nd, visible in the foreground. Speilhofen ridge can be seen ahead of the battalion, while the town of Speilhofen is on the right. In the distant right centre elements of 1/242nd can be seen advancing on their objective, a wooded ridge.

Despite the delays the centre the advance by 1/242 Battalion would successfully achieved its objective, and without enemy interference. Though the battalion commander reported enemy artillery fires on open ground to their south of the ridge. This was latter found to be an artillery delivered minefield dropped in an area that the British believed would be a Soviet route of advance.

Above, the battalion advancing from the right. An area of minefields is visible near the slopes of the wooded ridge. A British battalion is deployed on the left.

1/242 Battalion would eventually secure its objective and successfully deploy along the wooded ridge line. From here enemy infantry in a wood 400 yards were observed and FV432s in the open some 1700m distance, as is illustrated below. The latter was successfully engaged by self-propelled 2S3 artillery fires. Reports later identified the target as the British Brigade Headquarters!

Around the same time enemy air defence radar was detected operating near the battlefield. Soon after divisional 152mm artillery fires were authorised, silencing the enemy radar. It was later confirmed the radar was part of a forward deployed Rapier SAM system.

From reports compiled after the action both combatants were active in attempting to shape the battlefield using electronic warfare. Clearly the Soviets were focussed on locating air defence radar. After this threat was neutralised Soviet efforts focussed on disrupting radio communications. British efforts meanwhile more focussed on jamming Soviet air defence radar.

In the north the advance by 3/242nd was however poorly executed. The ground here was more open and the battalion commander failed to consider this when making his dispositions. His headquarters and the allocated Regimental ATGW Company, secured one area of high ground. Other assets deployed in nearby woods. However, his third company and supporting tanks were pushed too far forward.

While securing this dominating spot height the company was engaged by a Chieftain company causing heavy casualties and the loss of the high ground. Some enemy mechanised infantry were detected supporting their armour. This was engaged by the regiments D-30 artillery, but in the process the D-30 battalion was itself silenced by British counter battery fires.

Above, 3/242nd advances, while below the now over extended battalion is engaged by enemy.

Meanwhile, in the south, the regiment’s main effort was being made, the seizing of Speilhofen ridge, which was also the focus of a British mechanised battalion. Below, the British battalion advances on Speilhofen ridge from the northeast.

Normally two Soviet battalions would have been allocated to the task of securing such an important feature, but only one was of course available. Acknowledging this division allocated additional resources. The attached air ground controller was authorised to request fixed wing air support and, should the situation require, rotary wing attack helicopters in the form of Hind Mi-24s. As will be recalled the battalion, the 2/242nd conducted a flanking movement and arrived in the area of operations as planned. The battalion moved in a generally northwesterly direction approach the ridge line from the southeast. Some minor elements were detached to secure the town of Speilhofen which sat due east of the ridge and provided views of a portion of the area north and west of the ridge.

It was this detachment that was first to identify enemy elements advancing on Speilhofen ridge from the opposite side. Alerted to the threat the Soviet battalion halted its advanced and deployed for action.

Advanced elements of the British battalion, having failed to detect the Soviets, advanced on to the ridge. One squadron of Chieftains, some 12 in number, crested the ridge supported by just a platoon of infantry in FV432 armoured personal carriers. Before them an entire Soviet battalion awaited.

The Soviet artillery observer was prompt and the full force of a 152mm artillery battalion fell on the enemy infantry with predictable results. Then several MiG-23s began their attack runs on the ridge line. The MIGs were armed with cluster bombs and with no enemy air defences present, the enemy Blowpipe teams to far back, the air attack seemed certain of success. Below, the MIGs begin their attack run against British tanks on Speilhofen ridge. The model represents three actual aircraft.

However as the jets climbed the Chieftains remained operational, a result of all attack rolls being a one!

Now it was the turn of the Soviet infantry and armour. The Chieftains were engulfed in ATGW and tank fire. Several vehicles were destroyed but certainly not all, actually just one model!

For the next 20 minutes the ground forces engaged in a deadly exchange until around 10pm with light fading enemy aircraft were detected. The first attack was by Harriers armed with anti-radiation missiles. Fortunately the aircraft allocated to this task were forced to break off, yet the battalions problems were far from over. Attacking low and at speed a further group of Harriers, this time armed with unguided rockets. The pilots came in with great skill but the air was too thick with missiles. As a result the enemy rockets failed to find targets.

Meanwhile the ground battle continued. The Chieftains now in hull down positions continued to ply their deadly business and with darkness intervening a company of T-64Bs were burning.

While firing spasmodically continued both commanders at this point determined to break-off the action. The British were reluctant to press their advantage on the Soviet right. While on the bloody Soviet left the burning T-64s provided a reminder of the deadly efficiency of British gunnery. Yet the British commander, or at least the deputy brigade commander as the Brigade HQ had been previously destroyed, determined to retire while a new air defence umbrella was established.

This ended our engagement which was a clear draw. The scenario was generated using the Scenario Generation System, with both players conducting an encounter scenario using their Defend Lists. The complete failure of the Soviet air strike, as well as that of the British Harriers, was clearly frustrating to both players, though for different reasons. The use of artillery to deliver mines was intriguing, though in this case unsuccessful. Yet, luck aside it was clear that both commanders needed to look carefully at refining their basic tactics. Both had failed in several areas. Fortunately the only casualties were those of miniature models.

The miniatures illustrated are all 6mm models from Heroics & Ros range. The Soviets from my collection the British from Robin’s.

Pudkin’s Legacy

It was 48 hours since the division crossed the border and, like some other divisions, Major General Yuri Snesarev‘s 94th Guards Motor Rifle Division had encountered strong opposition. However, a gap in the enemy frontline had been located. Indeed, if the reports from the Divisional Reconnaissance Battalion were to be believed the battles of the previous day had been so successful that a rupture of the BAOR line had been secured. Now ahead of the 94th Guards was a British infantry formation and likely poorly supported by tanks.

Snesarev let his deputy divisional commander Tikhon Sergeev complete his briefing, pondering the situation in his mind. The enemy positions have been detected in the centre around the town of Lutterhausen and stretched north. The advanced elements of the division would advance from the south of Lutterhausen swinging elements from two regiments in a generally northwesterly direction, behind the town, to secure the long ridge that stretched several kilometres from the northwest of Lutterhausen. The primary formations were two tank battalions from the 74th Tank Regiment. These were to be supported by two BTR Battalions from the 288th Motor Rifle Regiment. One BTR Battalion, the 1/288th, would secure a holding position in the south west on the left of the 74th Tank Regiment. The second, the 2/288th, would be held in reserve directly east of Lutterhausen for flank protection. Yes, it made sense.

Above, the town of Lutterhausen, before the Soviet advance. The town itself was of no military significance, unlike the ridge to the rear.

But was the position a trap, or had the British commander by positioning forward really left his position vulnerable to a flanking attack? How would he reinforce his flank? Surely the British ability to move reserves forward would surely be restricted by such a forward defence?

His thoughts however were interrupted by the movement of the divisional political officer. Damn him, Snesarev thought, his anger rising. If it wasn’t for weasels like Boris Pudkin he could take more time for further reconnaissance. Pudkin was relishing his role and today it was Pudkin, and the unstated threat that his presence provided, that was driving the new push despite Snesarev‘s misgivings. Regaining his composure Snesarev focussed on the briefing. Sergeev was now all but completed and within minutes the orders group had broken up, commanders returning to their respective units.

It was late in the afternoon when the T-64Bs, BMPs and BTRs crossed the start line there advance made good time, despite the terrain that now funnelled the advancing units into narrow defiles. This was most noticeable on the left where the BTRs and T-64s of the 1/288th we’re particular restricted by woods and rising ground. It was of course not long before reports were filtering in to Divisional Headquarters.

Above, the 1/288th Motor Rifle Battalion are visible on the left and 1/74th Tank Battalion on the right.

Below, 2/74th Battalion advances. The battalion comprised some 30 T-64B tanks and was supported by a BMP company as well as Regimental AA assets.

The first enemy report was from the centre, near Lutterhausen, two platoons of Chieftain heavy tanks were detected advancing, some eight in number. One was advancing from the northwest and the other platoon on the potentially exposed right flank of the 74th Tank Regiment.

Above, a British Chieftain platoon advances from concealed positions on the Soviet right flank. Deployed in penny packets the Soviet commanders did not fully appreciate the threat, at least at first.

Yet, the 2/74th commander was quick to react. The British tanks, increasing in number and now supported by Milan teams deployed in a wood to the battalion front, plied their deadly trade with skill.

The enemy tanks were particularly effective, while the Soviets reply was not. Fortunately the enemy ATGW teams were less effective. Despite this several T-64s were soon destroyed. It was not long before several BMPs were hit by advanced artillery rounds fired from off table FH-70 towed guns. The situation was quickly deteriorating.

About 8pm, in an effort to stabilise the Soviet right flank, the reserve battalion, the 2/288th was committed. The BTRs pushed directly west towards Lutterhausen, their attached T-64B company adding significantly to their offensive capability. This attack focused on a British localised counterattack on the 2/74th Tank Battalion’s right flank. The British here were quickly overcome.

Above, the general situation in the centre. The two tank battalions of the 74th Tank Regiment are in the centre and left. The BTR reserve can be seen advancing in the right foreground.

On the Soviet left the advancing BTRs of the 1/288th Battalion were, as noted previously, delayed. When finally released from the confines of the advance they spilled out on to a plain dominated by rising forested ground to the southwest and the village of Stendorf to the north. As the battalion deployed more T-64s erupted in fireballs, curtesy of yet more Chieftains moving east towards Stendorf. The battalion deployed as best it could, yet again the enemy had gained the initiative.

Below, the village of Stendorf in the centre foreground. The 1/288th Battalion comprising BTR-60PBs and T-64Bs are on the left, while on the right elements of the 74th Tank Regiment are visible. In the distance an understrength British battalion prepares to engage the 1/288th Battalion.

Meanwhile to the right the 1/74th Battalion was heavily engaged. The advancing battalion, squarely in the centre and the Soviet main effort, had been restricted by the a large wood and the small village of Stendorf. As the battalion emerged on to the British right flank of the defenders around Lutterhausen the battalion was engaged by a further Chieftain platoon held in ambush on a spot height some 1500 metres distant. Unable to locate the enemy and partly obscured by a hasty British smoke screen Soviet casualties quickly increased. The battalion commander was clearly panicked, Snesarev made a mental note. The commander would clearly need to be replaced.

To add to the debacle around 8pm British Lynx helicopters added their weight to the battalion’s discomfort. Their TOW anti-tank missiles being deadly in their execution.

Above, the situation in the centre where the 74th Tank Regiment is heavily engaged.

Soviet ZSUs were moved forward, having been delayed by the chaos of the constrained advance. However, the situation continuing to worsen. Finally around 9pm two massive Soviet smoke screens engulfed the area. The aim being to prevent further Soviet casualties.

No fewer than two Soviet 152mm artillery battalions smothered the area in smoke. Yet if this wasn’t sufficient this was supplemented by direct fire by the 122mm guns of the 2S1 battalion attached to the 1/74th Battalion.

Above, the Soviet advance by the 74th Tank Regiment stalls. Both smoke screens are visible.

As darknesses’ veil enveloped the battlefield Snesarev’s attack had clearly failed. However, Snesarev concerns were not simply the burning vehicles and stalled advance. Clearly the fault rested with the divisions political Officer, Comrade Pudkin. His interference was intolerable and the result would be his legacy. How could Snesarev free himself from the interference of this amateur, without himself ending up in Siberia?

The scenario was of course developed with the Scenario Generation System, with the Soviets conducting a Hasty Attack. Unfortunately the game was not complete when time was called. However the outcome was clearly a bloody Soviet defeat with Soviet forces falling in to a well considered trap. Miniatures were from my own and my opponent’s collection with all miniatures from Heroics & Ros.

Erlabrunn Heights

Major General Viktor Golubev’s was pleased with the recent engagement against the British at Dielingdorf, where the British defenders were shattered after a brief, but determined action. Briefly he considered what could happen if the next line of British defences were breached. Could the Soviet armoured reserves be then committed to the next phase of operations? The roar of a T-64 engine only metres away however bought him back to the task at hand. He regained focus, before such things could be considered he needed to brush aside the British now blocking his advance.

The British commander had approached his brigade’s defensive in an interesting manner, if the reports of the reconnaissance teams were accurate. Strong dispositions were detected on the left, perhaps two battalions, where the key ground was well protected. Meanwhile on the Soviet right a withdrawn battalion dominated the high ground near Erlabrunn. However an equally important ridge further was unoccupied. Of more concern was in the centre where the town of Augsdorf seemed undefended. Was it a trap, which would result in his forces being engaged in costly attacks on Augsdorf, or could were the British forces stretched extremely thinnly and could they be dislocated by a rapid drive forward?

Above, the area of operations viewed from the south. The British right is in the foreground, while Erlabrunn is visible in the top left. The town on the right centre is Augsdorf and is one of five objectives, others are marked by red markers.

Above, the British right, while below the British left near Erlabrunn. Chieftain tanks supported by mechanised infantry are well positioned for defence. Note the three bridges dominated by the Erlabrunn Heights, two of which would see much fighting.

Golubev’s plan was without doubt complex. Part of his plan allowed for further reconnaissance after which reserve battalions would be committed. In addition advanced units could approach their final objective, the Erlabrunn Heights on the British right. The combination of reserves, flank movements and reconnaissance would, he hoped, confuse the British defenders of the Soviet final main effort. The phases can be described as follows:

Phase 1: 1st Battalion of the 68th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment (1/68th), equipped with BMPs, would advance on the right against the British left, crossing the FEBA at 1600, turn 1. The battalion would ignore the high ground on its left but rather mass on the right of a small river for future attacks. After advancing 3km the battalion would deploy into defensive positions around 1730. 2/68th meanwhile would conduct a deep flanking move designed to arrive in the area of operations at 1900, or turn 6.

Phase 2: At 1630, turn 2, the Divisional Reconnaissance Company would advance towards and through Augsdorf. As 1/68th battalion went into defensive positions the reconnaissance company would complete its sweep of Augsdorf. Should Augsdorf be undefended the company would continue west before seizing an area of wooded high ground. Here it would act as a covering force for operations on the right.

Phase 3: With the planned flanking movement by 2/68th due to arrive at 1900 the advanced 1/68th BMP battalion would at 1930 renew its advance. This would be combined with Hind gunships which would fly over the advancing troops and engage the main British positions around the Erlabrunn Heights.

Phase 3: 1st Battalion of the 244th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment, operating BTR-60s and supported by a company of T-62s tanks, was held in reserve. At 1930 it was envisaged it would move directly forward and add weight to the attacks conducted by the battalions of 68th Motor Rifle Division. At this time the enemy would be aware of the focus of the main effort and would likely reinforce his left flank with one battalion.

Phase 4: The 2nd Battalion of 244th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment would either remain in reserve, being a threat in being, or sweep forward to secure Augsdorf, assuming it was clear.

Each Motor Rifle Regiment would be supported by the regiment’s own 122mm artillery battalion. The attack would  further supported by two additional 152 battalions drawn from division. Air defences comprised layered SAM systems combining battalion, regimental and higher level assets.

Above, 1st Battalion of the 68th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment moves forward towards Erlabrunn which is visible in the distance. Below the battalion deployed into defensive positions near Erlabrunn awaiting the next phase, a timed order.

In the centre the Divisional Reconnaissance Company, comprised of BRDM-2 armoured cars moves towards Augsdorf. The Soviet commander was concerned a detached infantry company could be deployed here. As it transpired it was not garrisoned and the armoured cars continued forward.

By 1500 the British commander had begun to reposition his forces, moving his right flank reserve towards his left. At 1930 the Soviet 2nd Battalion of the 68th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment moved into the area of operations and both battalions moved into the attack.

With the situation now changing rapidly both battalions of the 244th Guards Motor Rifle battalion were ordered forward.

Above, the general situation with 244th MTR in the foreground and 68th MTR moving to the attack in the top right. The Divisional Reconnaissance Company is visible in the top left and is about to be engaged by British forces, as can be seen below. Interestingly British fire here was relatively ineffective allowing the reconnaissance elements to begin a withdrawal. While eventually the company broke they gained valuable time for other forces.

Around Erlabrunn the fighting was intense. As two BMP battalions began their attacks Hind helicopters moved in to eliminate British tanks. Yet it was far from one sided. Well trained Chieftain crews targeted advancing T-64s causing heavy casualties while artillery strikes focussed on supporting Soviet infantry. In retaliation Soviet forward observers requested fire from 152mm self-propelled artillery and caused heavy casualties among the British mechanised infantry.

Soon British counter-battery fires fell on Soviet artillery, though with limited impact. However, British electronic warfare teams were more effective. Having abandoned their usual task of silencing SAM systems they instead focussed on identifying command and control systems. Soviet radio traffic was however limited and instead artillery fires by heavy artillery switched from suppressing 2S3 artillery assets to targeting forward observers.

Meanwhile the other British battalions were now on the move and the Soviet left was under significant pressure as two British battalions engaged a single Soviet battalion deployed in and around Augsdorf.

Below, the British move towards Augsdorf to the right of this photo. Here the T-62 tanks struggled to slow the advance of Chieftains and mechanised infantry, though ATGWs caused some casualties.

However, the advancing Soviets continued to bring pressure around Erlabrunn where combinations of tanks, motorised infantry and artillery stripped away the outnumbered British defenders.

Above, T-62s and motorised infantry engage the British defenders around while Hind helicopters, hopelessly ineffective, engage British Blowpipe teams in the background. Below, the 2nd BMP battalion engage the opposite end of the British Erlabrunn position.

With light fading around 2200 hours the defenders of Erlabrunn Heights, having suffered heavy casualties, began to fall back. Their position had becoming untenable, yet isolated platoons held on preventing the Soviets from securing their final objectives. The much needed Soviet breakthrough had not been achieved, the British had finally stopped the Soviet Bear!

The game was an outstanding success for both players with intense moments as two competing plans developed and played out. From a scenario perspective the scenario was developed with the Scenario Generation System with the British commander selecting to reinforce his defend list with an Option A, while the Soviet player conducted a Hasty Attack without reinforcement. Consulting the victory conditions, and accounting for reinforcements, the game was a narrow winning 5-4 draw to the Soviets. The game, viewed from the British player perspective, can be found here

Golubev’s Gamble

Major General Viktor Golubev’s pondered the maps in front of him. Yet again he was committing elements of his division, the 27th Guards Motor Rifle Division, in a hasty attack against the British, the second time in less than 24 hours. Desperately he hoped that the division would achieve the much needed breakthrough, especially given the divisions political officer seemed to be particularly interested in the divisions performance…

The battle area comprised the town of Dielingdorf in the southwest. From here a long ridge dominated the battle area as it travelled in a generally northeasterly direction. High points on the ridge were clearly critical objectives as they provided excellent observation points. Three other points of high ground were also critical, as the dominated the road network in the area. Reconnaissance indicated the British were deployed in brigade strength centred on three areas with each likely to be battalion strength. The British left was well forward at the northeastern end of the ridge, while the two remaining battalions were deployed further back. That of the centre seemed to be armour heavy.

Reports from regimental reconnaissance assets indicated two key heights on the left were not held. An obvious plan was a main attack here which would secure two objectives easily. Then a second stage operation, possibly with a deep flanking movement through Dielingdorf to unhinge the British right flank. Below, a portion of the British right flank viewed from the east, where such an attack would have fallen. Dielingdorf is to the left and not shown.

The British right, the left in the photo, is held by a mechanised infantry battalion while the British centre is held by elements of an armoured heavy battalion sized formation. Both are reinforced by ATGW systems. Of course at the time of planning this level of detail was not available to the Soviets. One of the two undefended objectives is in the foreground.

After some consideration Golubev’s opted for an alternate attack to which he allocated elements of two regiments. The 68th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment equipped with BMPs, and the 243rd Guards Motor Rifle Regiment operating BTR-60s. Each regiment would attack with two battalions forward, with each battalion supported by a company of the respective regiments T-64B tanks.

One battalion of 243rd MTR (BTR) would advance in extended order secure the two outlying and undefeated objectives in the southern sector. The battalion operating with little support was exposed to ambush by concealed British covering forces. Once these two objectives were secured the battalion would deploy into defensive positions. The focus of this defensive posture was in the centre where the battalions attached T-64Bs could provide a degree of protection to the main attack.

This main effort would comprise the second battalion of the 243rd MTR (BTR) and the 1st Battalion 68th MTR (BMP) with both battalions attacking the British positions on the northeastern end of the Dielingdorf ridge. The BTRs would likely be attacking frontally, before swing southwest, while the BMPs would attack along the length of the ridge. Meanwhile the second battalion of the 68th MTR (BMP) would conduct a short flank march. The battalion would attacking the rear of the British position before pressing deeper into the British rear capturing a second area of high ground. Attached to this flanking movement was the divisional reconnaissance company, which was tasked with pressing forward at speed to secure this position.

Each regiment would have the support of its own 122mm artillery battalion, limited fires from a divisional 152mm battalion. Further, towed 203mm guns were on-call for SAM suppression and counter battery fires. The divisional area was well protected by long SAM while each battalion was supported by a range of AA systems. Finally, several flights of Mig-23 and SU-7s were on call for ground attack.

Above, the British left flank well forward. To the left the the British centre is visible, well back, while in the rear the secondary objective of the 2/68th MTR battalion.

By 9am the Soviet forces had crossed their start lines. In the south 1/243rd MTR pressed forward over open ground towards its two objectives. Below, two companies of BTRs move through an area of fields. The battalions integral 120mm mortar company begins to deploy to while T-64Bs, drawn from the regiment’s tank battalion advance in support. Each battalion was supported by either SA-9 Gaskin or ZSU-23-4 self propelled AA as well as SA-7.

Below, a general view of the battle with the Soviets advancing from the left. The two sections of the Dielingdorf Ridge are clearly visible. Dielingdorf itself is visible in the very top centre. Objectives are marked by red markers. Three Soviet battalions are visible with a BMP and BTR battalion in the left foreground.

Unlike the Soviet left, the main attack on the right, against the British left was engaged almost immediately. British Chieftains tanks focused their efforts in engaging Soviet tanks at extreme range. However the orientation of the Soviet attack meant not all British tanks were able to engage.

Below, British combat teams on the heights reposition while one Chieftain troop pivots to engage. On the right British Milan teams deployed in a wood engage T-64s of the 1/68th MTR Battalion while Chieftains deployed near the British Battalion HQ in a farm add their weight. During this part of the attack British artillery was particularly active. From the high ground on the ridge British forward observers called in a near unceasing artillery fires on BMPs of the 68th MTR.

Lieutenant Colonel Anatoly Borovkov, commanding the 1st Battalion of the 68th Motor Rifle Regiment provides a brief overview of the initial engagement from his journal:

“The battalion’s BMPs, advanced rapidly towards the ridge with the tanks in close support. As we crested the ridge just after around 9.30am we were met by a storm of fire from British tanks some 1500 yards distant and ATGWs launched from a wooded area 1000m to our front. Much to our relief the fire was generally ineffective. A stark contrast to the hell produced by the relentless artillery fires that focussed on the BMPs. Several vehicles were decimated by direct hits while others were disrupted by the continual pounding. However, junior officers quickly regained control and while our tanks engaged the enemy armour the rifle companies pressed forward engaging enemy infantry.”

Despite a determined effort by British EW teams to jam radio communications Soviet forward observers were soon directing 122mm and 152mm fires at identified enemy positions. Later they would be reinforced by the 120mm tubes of each battalion. The 2S3 battalion allocated to the attack was quickly located and struck by M107 counter battery fires.

Above, the BTR battalion continues to advance. The wooded area and the ridge both caused some delay to the BTRs. Attached to this battalion was an air ground controller. As soon as the Divisional EW teams had accurately located enemy SAM sites dedicated artillery battalions were to conduct SAM suppression fires. Then Mig-23s and SU-7s were to be unleashed. Unfortunately, the British Rapier crews were well trained and frequently turned off their radar frustrating the Soviet attempts to locate them.

While the attack on the British left flank hung in the balance the 1st BTR battalion completed its advance in the Soviet centre and left. Above, 1/243rd MTR Battalion secures its objectives. As they did the attached T-64s deployed to cover the flank. In the distance elements of a British armoured regiment can be seen moving to support the battalion further along the ridge.

Below, a view of the advancing British regiment. Shortly after the T-64 company engaged the British Regiment’s right flank at ranges of 1500.

However, it was on the British left that the battle was to be decided. Finally, the 2nd BMP battalion from 68th Motor Rifle Regiment entered the battle space. While one company moved into the flank of a wood marking the British extreme left two additional BMP companies, supported by attached tanks, pressed deep into the British rear. Simultaneously the divisional Reconnaissance company, acting as a flank guard, moved against the battalion’s follow-on objectives.

Above, the battalion advances on the now exposed British left. The British Battalion HQ is located in the farm area, while rear area SAM are further to the rear.

Below, the overall situation. The BRDMs of the Reconnaissance Company can be seen in the right foreground moving at speed. Their objective is the hill in the right foreground.

At this point the British battalion on the northeastern section of Dielingdorf Ridge, broke having suffered heavy casualties. As it fell back in retreat Soviet forces consolidated their position on the ridge while the 2nd BMP Battalion pressed forward.

This Hasty Attack scenario was developed using the Scenario Generation System. Both players supported their main forces with an Option A reinforcement. Under the scenario the general location of the British forces were known when Soviet planning was completed, but not the actual dispositions. It was later revealed that the British commander had set deployed a trap, using undefended objectives, to lure the Soviets forward into a prepared killing zones. The alternate Soviet plan had been, without doubt, a significant gamble which could have gone very wrong. Indeed, during the course of the attack there were several critical moments the British, despite being outnumbered, looked likely to break at least one, possibly two, attacking Soviet battalions. Such a situation would have unraveled Golubev’s attack. In the end however the arrival of the flank marching battalion decimated the already unhinged the British defence. A fascinating, and very well balanced action. I look forward to another…

Achtung Panzer!

Three days had passed since the invasion began. During these desperate days both NATO and WARPAC formations had suffered heavy losses and both were committing reserve formations, or in the case of the Soviets, follow-on formations. Generalmajor Hans-Henning von Sandrart, commander of 11th Panzer Grenadier Division, had allocated one of his brigades, the 32nd Panzergrenadier Brigade, to hold the left flank of his divisional room. Opposite, his Soviet counterparts were committing elements of a reserve Motor Rifle Division, moved west prior to the offensive. Now, elements of this fresh division were advancing in a hasty attack on the West Germans.

The commander of 32nd Panzergrenadier Brigade, Ludwig Esebeck, had under command three battalions. They were the 311th Panzergrenadier Battalion, the 312th Panzergrenadier and the 313th Panzergrenadier. Each comprised three companies one of which was of Leopard 1A1A1 tanks. In direct support were various AA systems and the brigades artillery battalion. Available for counter battery fires was a battalion of M107 self-propelled artillery.

The brigade’s operational room was considerable, especially for an understrenth formation. Divisional intelligence expected the initial Soviet formations would comprise two Motor Rifle Regiments supported by artillery and fixed wing aircraft operating in close support. Based on this scenario, and with limited resources, Esebeck opted to deploy two battalions forward on a key ridge with a company of each battalion holding flank positions.

Above, the main ridge flanked by a town on the left and a village on the right.

The brigade’s third battalion, the 311th, would hold the brigade’s left but would deploy considerably further back. Likely routes of advance were covered and each battalion had local reserves. However, should the enemy advance along an unexpected route, Esebeck determined his small battalions would operate in a flexible defence. Following standard doctrine each would be prepared to reposition to reinforce another.

Below, the general situation with the Soviets entering from the left. The German left flank is in the right foreground.

Soviet forces were soon on the move and advanced German forces reported several Soviet tanks battalions supported by BMPs, along with BTR mounted infantry moving against the 32nd Brigade’s left flank. Indeed, as reports came in from advance positions it was soon clear that an entire Soviet Tank Regiment, comprising T-55s, T-62s and BMPs, was advancing at speed. This regiment was supported by significant portions of a BTR Regiment. It seemed the intelligence officers were mistaken in their assessment!

Below, the Soviets advance with a tank regiment in the foreground. The BTR battalions are just visible in the distance and are themselves supported by tanks and ATGW systems and self-propelled artillery.

Below, elements of the 311th Panzergrenadier Battalion prepare to engage the Soviets. The small village of Gerbertshofen can be seen on the left, complete with a garrison of a single panzergrenadier platoon.

The advancing Soviets Motor Rifle battalions were first to be engaged when Panzergrenadiers in Gerbertshofen requestedfire support from the brigade’s 155mm artillery. A series of accurate fires destroyed a company of advancing infantry. This was soon supplemented by direct fire from supporting Leopards.

Below, the Soviet attack presses forward. Gerbertshofen has now been reinforced in an attempt to prevent a direct attack. Casualties on the German Panzers are now mounting as the Soviet armour engages. While German artillery fires continue to cause heavy casualties on Soviet infantry. However, without a dedicated artillery observer the fires are not always concentrated falling on three seperate Soviet battalions.

While the Soviet attack clashed with Panzergrenadiers and Leopards around Gerbertshofen, the battalion’s left flank began to fall back towards higher ground in an effort to further protect the battalion’s flank. Below, a Marder equipped company can be seen in its revised position. On the hill Gepard AA remain vigilant. The red marker denotes a game objective.

It had been apparent for some time that the 311th Battalion was under heavy pressure. As a result Esebeck ordered the 312th Panzergrenadier Battalion to move to support it. This was to be completed in two phases to prevent additional Soviet formations attacking and securing key positions in the centre and right. In turn the 313th Panzergrenadier Battalion would reposition to a more central position.

Above, 312th Panzergrenadier Battalion conducts its second phase move. 313th Battalion, partly visible in the top right, will next reposition on the ridge. German tactical flexibility here was extremely important and each order change was successful despite Soviet radio jamming missions. On the extreme left elements of a Soviet BTR battalion can be seen deployed in a covering position to protect the Soviet left against a flank attack.

Above, Soviet armour prepares to advance over the a stream, with the intent of overwhelming the 311th Battalion and breaking into the German rear. The village of Gerbertshofen can be seen and is still in German hands. The Soviet plan required this village to be taken allowing supplies to be bought up for the exploiting Soviet tanks.

Below, another Soviet tank battalion moves forward. A number of Soviet battalions had reached the end of their command arrows. Now, German radio jamming missions added to the Soviet command problems. At this point the 311th Panzergrenadier Battalion was almost at breaking point. A concerted Soviet effort in fading light would have been devastating.

However, 312th Battalion had itself now moved on to the high ground to the rear of 311th Battalion. Once completed the Brigade’s position was stabilising, though it remained fragile.

At this point, with light fading, the Soviet attack began to slow. Clearly, the Soviet commander was in a strong position and the use of massed armour had clearly pressed the German defence to breaking. The 311th Panzergrenadier Battalion was significantly outnumbered and only the flexibility of German forces to reposition allowed the position to be maintained. Soviet artillery was both limited and ineffective, in stark contrast to German artillery fires. However, the Leopards of 311th Panzergrenadier Battalion, available only in company strength, stood no chance against the concentrated deployment of so many Soviet tanks. Achtung Panzer indeed!

Baltic Diversions

The deteriorating political situation in Europe during the summer of 1985 resulted in the forward deployment of elements of the French 7e Division Blindée (7th Armoured Division) to reinforce the Danish military. This reinforcement being itself a direct result of a number of Danish formations themselved having moved forward to forward deployment areas while Danish reserve formations had not yet fully mobilised. The French deployment, effectively a reinforced brigade, would result in one of the early clashes between French ground forces and the Soviets once hostilities began.

Soon after the Soviet forces crossed the West German frontier a series of naval landings occurred along the Baltic by Polish and Soviet Naval infantry. The landing by the 336 Naval Infantry Brigade would result in the dramatic clash between elements of the French 7e Division Blindée. As the naval infantry pushed inland French forces deployed to seize key terrain and conduct an aggressive couster-attack to halt the Soviet expansion of the bridgehead.

Limited intelligence of the immediate landing came from Danish covering forces, as well as reconnaissance flights by French Mirage jets. The staff of the 7e Division Blindée quickly developed a likely scenarios open to the Soviet commander. It was expected that a two naval infantry battalions would advance rapidly to seize two towns in the area of operations, the largest being Agestrup on the Soviet right and the smaller, Glattrup, in the Soviet centre. A third battalion would, it was expected, be directed towards a large ridge on the Soviet left. The Orders Group believed that a fourth battalion, possibly comprised of armour, would be held initially in reserve but would likely operate with this 3rd Battalion to advance against the French right and seize a key bridge on the Fensholt-Kildekrog road. Subsequent intelligence revealed this fourth battalion, of armour, was allocated out in support to the various naval infantry battalions.

To counter this scenario, and seize the initiative in the sector, elements of 7e Division Blindée were issued the following orders. Firstly, 35 RI (Regiment d’Infanterie) would advance on the French right secure a key road bridge and deploy in a blocking position to halt any Soviet expansion. Secondly, the main French effort would be on the French left where a daring operation was planned. Speed would be essential. The large town of Agestrup if seized by the enemy would be costly to retake. 5 RD (Regiment Dragons) would launch a rapid deep flank march that was to arrive on the enemy’s right flank. It was hoped this rapid attack would catch many of the Soviet forces in the open before they reached Agestrup. Simultaneously the 170 RI, mounted in VAB wheeled transports and lacking integral armoured support, would advance in support. One company would advance in road column directly towards Agestrup. To the left another company would advance across the rolling countryside. The third company, supported by specialised HOT ATGW vehicles and a divisional reconnaissance company, would secure a long ridge and deploy to overwatch positions. The attack would be supported by two self propelled F3 155mm battalions, retained in divisional support, as well as a TR-155 155mm towed artillery battalion dedicated to counter-battery fires.

Above, the general situation with elements of the French 5 RB advancing on Agestrup, which is a five sector town in the left foreground. Soviet forces are advancing from the left with the town of Glattrup beyond Agestrup, and a long ridge top left. The French 170 RI is advancing from the right while 35 RI is just visible on the top right as it advances to its blocking position on the French right.

Below, another view of elements of 5 RB as they advance on Agestrup. The Soviet battalion here scattered on seeing the advancing French AMX-30 tanks and supporting mechanised infantry in AMX-10Ps. While many Soviet BTRs were able to reach the eastern sectors, and others deployed in the woods, the Soviet Battalion HQ was destroyed.

Below, a company of from 170 Regiment d’Infanterie, mounted in VAB APCs advance rapidly by road towards Agestrup seen here passing through a small Danish village. To allow this rapid move the command arrow for the regiment was drawn directly down the road.

Supporting the regiment was an ATGW company equipped with HOT armed VABs. Behind the VABs are jeeps of the divisions reconnaissance company. The reconnaissance company would push forward after the ATGW vehicles had deployed into overwatch positions.

As the VAB equipped 170 Regiment d’Infanterie raced towards Agestrup the tanks of 5 RB started to manoeuvre to the flank and behind Agestrup where the tanks would eventually engage the rear of the Soviet forces. Desperate to halt the advance of the French armour Soviet Forward Observers, operating in support of the naval infantry, directed a massive Mutiple Rocket Launchers strike, below.

Fortunately casualties from the strike were limited, though several platoons were suppressed. The massive fire signature of the MRLs allowed French counter-battery teams to locate the MRLs. French artillery now targeted and destroyed the 140mm MRLs. This was the first of three Soviet MRL systems that were engaged in a series of effective French counter-battery fires.

Below, elements of the 35 Regiment d’Infanterie advance to secure a bridge on the French right. The regiment comprised three companies of mechanised infantry and one of AMX-30s. An AMX-13 DCA is visible on the right foreground and provided local AA protection. A Roland SAM system, providing expanded protection for the battle area is to the right.

Both French and Soviet forces conducted a series of electronic warfare radar location missions to identify and then target enemy radar systems as they shaped the battlefield for later air strikes. Long range Soviet SAMs were located but due to their range could not be targeted. However, local radar controlled gun systems were located, targeted and silenced.

Soviet operators were also active and located French Roland SAM. Additional Soviet MRLs as well as frigates firing in support struck the Roland deployed on high ground on the French right.

The tracked Roland SAM system was suppressed by these massive strikes, yet surprisingly the Roland systems soon recovered and relocated. Now, French artillery located this second MRL and silenced it.

However, the Soviets now had a window and with the Roland temporarily inactive a stream of Soviet SU-17s swept in to engage 5 RB near Agestrup.

Above, SU-17s engage AMX-13 DCA self-propelled AA gun systems, mechanised infantry and tanks using smart bombs. The use of these stand off weapons limited the ability of the DCA to disrupt the air attacks, especially with the Roland suppressed. While casualties from the air strikes were heavy, the regiment remained undeterred and 5 DB continued it’s advance.

Both combatants also conducted a series of radio jamming EW missions in an attempt to degrade and disrupt enemy communications.

The rapidly advancing infantry of the 170 RI looked likely to gain a foothold in Agestrup. However, the Soviet Naval Infantry also moved quickly. Just as the advanced VAB company arrived at Agestrup the final sector of the town was garrisoned by the Soviets, as can be seen above. All five sectors were now under Soviet control. Rather than assault the town 170 RI  would now switch to supporting the French main effort, a drive against the Soviet rear. Agestrup would be bypassed.

Above, AMX-30s of the 5 RB engage Soviet ATGWs. The support fires by self-propelled F3 guns were ineffective and the Soviets ATGWs were eventually overcome by tank fire.

Indirect fires by Soviet self-propelled 122mm guns were generally ineffective. However, after location the Soviet weapons were also subjected by heavy counter-battery fires by two French artillery battalions resulting in some 50% casualties, forcing the remaining Soviet guns to relocate.

Below, as the French armour pushed deeper some companies targeted towed Soviet ZSU-23 artillery and mortars while others engaged Soviet infantry and PT-76s. French armour and infantry would soon move into the woods catching a company of PT-76s redeploying.

Facing a now desperate situation Soviet commanders requested fixed wing air-support. Again Soviet EW teams located French Roland SAM which were immediately targeted by the third MRL battalion. Again the MRL failed to destroy the French SAM, and were themselves located and hit by further massive French counter-battery fires. However, for critical moments, the suppressed Roland were off-line and during that time a flight of Yak-38 aircraft conducted an attack using ICM.

Despite the air strike French resolve stiffened. Yet again the French armour moved forward. However, the advance would be short lived as Soviet naval Helix attack helicopters appeared over the Soviet rear. With no local AA systems operational the French armour was all but defenceless against this new threat.

Above and below the Helix gunships, allocated to tank busting, engage the AMX -30s of 5 RB. Visible on the left elements of a second naval infantry battalion can be seen forming a second defensive line while in the top left French reconnaissance teams fall back from Soviet positions.

Unable to continue the advance the 5 RB was forced to retreat. Now, and effectively unsupported, the advanced VAB companies of 170 RI broke-off their own advance, falling back to defensive blocking positions.

The Soviet Naval Infantry Regiment had secured its bridgehead. The French commander, accepting defeat, took some satisfaction that with the destruction of so many Soviet artillery systems. Two Soviet battalions were eliminated and two others had suffered 50% casualties. The Soviet 336th Naval Infantry Brigade would be unable to conduct offensive operations for some time.

This entertaining Mutual Encounter scenario was developed using the Scenario Generation System. Both forces comprised a basic 850 points. The French forces were however reinforced by an Option B, with a victory point penalty. Unfortunately the French fixed wing aircraft, that comprised much of this reinforcement option, were not engaged. The final result was a significant Soviet victory.

Drive on Mantinghausen

The following covers a recent Soviet hasty attack on a British defensive sector set in 1982 using a scenario developed with the Scenario Generation System. Both the British and Soviets opted for an Option A reinforcement. I’ve provided a little additional detail around the Soviet planning as background. The Soviets were commanded by Robin and I, while Andrew commanded the British.

Various thoughts ran through Major General Viktor Golubev’s mind as the divisional operations officer completed the orders group. Had he considered the enemy deployments sufficiently? The reconnaissance reports indicated he would be engaged against a British brigade comprising tank and mechanised infantry. While the maps indicated the terrain on the enemy right was more open indications of ridge lines and British armour heavy formations were of concern. Was his decision weight his attack against the British left correct? Would the attack through a large wood against the high ground that dominated the forward centre of the British position be successful? Certainly he was concentrating his effort as the attack would initially utilise two mechanised battalions, soon rising to three. Would the battalions have sufficient strength to press on to the secondary objectives where a second British mechanised battalion was located. But what of the British tanks? His intelligence officer indicated the British armour would remain in place, but would it? There were so many variables to consider. Then his mind was drawn his two regimental commanders tasked with the divisions immediate objectives. He wondered if each of his commanders were up to their respective tasks or if the would flinch at the critical moment? Would they make sufficient use of the resources allocated? Only time would tell…

By 3pm the advanced elements of the attack were committed. Elements from two Motor Rifle Regiments were allocated to the phased assault with each regiment allocating two reinforced battalions to the advance. On the left the BMP equipped regiment advanced in two groups. The first was tasked with advancing and clearing a large wood and small village before swinging left to secure high ground. Reconnaissance suggested the wood line would be held by infantry, yet the threat of British counter battery fires precluded pre-planned fires. Instead, it would be a silent attack with the artillery on-call. To the left of the battalion a second BMP battalion was held in reserve to provide flank protection and support for follow-on operations.

To the right of the BMP Regiment elements of a BTR Motor Rifle Regiment advanced. The 1st BTR Battalion was to advance along a route that ran parallel to the BMP battalion so it would strike the flank of the woods while potentially clearing a key village on the battalions right flank. In support a further BTR battalion would advance on flanking movement to the right of the village. Delays for this battalion were expected due to the approach march required. However, it would provide additional elements which would ensure the village, the other initial objective, was secured. On the extreme right a divisional reconnaissance company was tasked with deep reconnaissance of secondary objectives. The BTR Regiment would then press deeper into the British flank securing the secondary objective while the BMP Regiment would halt the expected British armoured counter-attack. In support of the four reinforced battalions were each regiment’s 122mm D-30, a divisional 152mm battalion as well as two battalions of 203mm towed guns for deep counter-battery fires. The SAM systems were prepared and included Gaskin, Gecko and Guideline and supplemented by ZSU and SA-7.

Above, the view from the north with Soviet forces entering from the east (left). The immediate Soviet objectives are the high ground on the centre left, behind the village and the village in the left foreground. The secondary objective is the village in the right foreground.

Below, the 1st BMP Battalion advances towards its primary objective, the small hill that dominates the village on the right. The BMPs, supported by a company of T-64B tanks soon came under fire by Abbots and light mortar fire. Swift Soviet counter-battery fires forced the Abbots to relocate. While Soviet radio jamming disrupted many new requests for support fires.

To the right of the 1st BMP Battalion the 1st BTR Battalion advances, shown below. Supported by T-62 tanks this battalion was soon engaged by dismounted Milan teams, just visible in the wood line, of British 2 Para. Again British artillery fires, from a second artillery battalion, supported the defence. These fires caused increasing casualties among the Soviet forces. However, again the British self-propelled guns were hit by Soviet counter-battery fires. Suffering casualties the Abbots were forced to relocate. The village on the centre right though an objective was to be bypassed initially while the battalion concentrated on the main attack. Eventually 2 Para would fall back leaving a now isolated company to hold this village.

The artillery fires were not all in the Soviet favour. Divisional level D-20 152mm guns attempted to neutralise the Milan teams. These were almost immediately located and hit by British counter-battery M110. The entire Soviet battalion was eliminated. The M110 were however located by Soviet M-1955 towed guns. Suffering casualties they too were forced to relocate.

Below, another view of the advancing 1st BTR Battalion. The situation was critical and with casualties mounting the political officer at Regimental HQ was “encouraging” the Regimental Commander to press forward.

Below, the Soviet 1st BMP Battalion presses its advance towards the woods while a platoon of T-64B tanks and ZSU-23-4 support the BTR advance by engaging the Milan. The BMP Regimental D-30 towed 122mm guns also conducted artillery fires against these Milan. After firing for a period the towed guns were moved to a secondary location to avoid British counter-battery fires.

Using combinations of armour, ZSUs, 122mm artillery and 120mm battalion mortars the Milan teams were finally eliminated.

Above, the Soviets BMPs press forward. With the British paratroopers deployed mostly within the woods, rather than on the edge, the BMP mounted infantry advanced into the woods where they drove back the British paratroops. Again the village was ignored.

Behind the village elements of a British mechanised battalion can be seen on high ground and moving into the wood in a desperate effort to support the British paratroops. The forward deployment of this British battalion was unexpected. The BMP battalion’s towed 120mm mortars were particularly active supporting this sector and caused considerable disruption to the British infantry. The 120mm mortars were now themselves subjected to a massive counter-battery fire by M110, with devastating results.

Meanwhile, on the British right, the unengaged armour heavy battalion had been ordered to move from its defensive position in a counter-attack. Above, a portion of the battalion deployed before the Soviet attack, mechanised infantry were deployed in the town behind the village in the foreground. The ridge provided a strong blocking position and any attack here by Soviet formations would have ended in disaster, despite the small number of British tanks.

Below, the Chieftains on the move. The small two contour hill on the right is the BMP battalion initial objective. The British armour heavy battalion is now operating without mechanised infantry and is about to pass through elements of a seperate mechanised infantry battalion and attack the 1st BMP Battalion left flank. A difficult task which impacts greatly a formations ability to engage enemy.

Below, the British armour moves over a ridge line and advanced elements begin to engage the 1st BMP Battalion at 1500m. Additional dedicated ATGW systems, concentrated T-64Bs or helicopters would have been extremely useful at this point!

Instead with rapidly fading daylight the Soviet reserve battalion was committed. It now advanced against the exposed British right flank.

Above, British Scorpions, forward of the Chieftains, engage the rapidly advancing BMPs while T-64Bs begin to engage Cheiftains. In the centre right BMP SA-7 teams deploy to high ground. The Soviet commander was continually concerned about British Lynx or fixed wing air attacks, which never appeared!

Unfortunately, we had to call time at this point with the game very much in the balance. The engagement had been excellent and highlighted many of the strengths of Modern Spearhead, when combined with a well balanced scenario. With neither the Soviets or the British having a complete understanding of the enemy force suspense was maintained throughout. The well coordinated British defence had proven a difficult task to penetrate. Yet supporting attacks and maintaining a focus of effort had rewarded the Soviets, though their objectives were yet to be secured. Artillery fire had been heavy and both protagonists had exhausted their main counter-battery assets. The flank marching Soviet BTR battalion having arrived late was now pressing forward. Supported by D-30 122mm artillery this, along with the other D-30 artillery battalion of the BMP Regiment, would now provide much needed artillery support. EW missions, in the form of Radio Jamming, had proven useful to the Soviets. The threat of British air strikes had failed to materialise, though the threat haunted the mind of one Soviet commander! Meanwhile the other Soviet Regimental commander lamented the lack of Soviet helicopters or fixed wing air support. He argued they would have been very useful providing critical support against the advancing British armour. He was correct, perhaps next time…

Defence of Neuwallwitz

Last night three of us deployed some models for what was to be excellent 1982 encounter set in Europe. The scenario was developed, as is the case for almost all our Modern Spearhead games, using the Scenario Generation System.

The Soviet offensive had entered its third day and the progress made in many sectors was starting to take its toll on advanced units. Frontline forces were suffering heavy casualties, fuel and ammunition supplies were strained while artillery and air support assets were dropping below operational levels. Most concerning gaps were appearing in the SAM umbrella. While much had been achieved and many towns liberated the resolve of enemy forces was becoming more determined. Near Neuwallwitz British forces, in brigade strength, were preparing to unleash one of a number of hasty attacks to recover ground and to apply pressure to WARPAC forces.

Soviet forces in the vicinity of Neuwallwitz comprised three Motor Rifle Battalions deployed in a blocking position over a wide area. Each of the three BTR battalions was allocated a company of T-64 tanks and deployed in battalion sized defensive positions. These battalion positions were generally centred on a village with the component a companies deployed to cover likely attack routes while retaining tanks in overwatch and very limited assets in reserve. The regiment was reinforced by an additional T-64 tank battalion and artillery in the form of the regiments 122mm artillery and very limited divisional artillery. Most other assets were allocated to divisional offensive operations.

Above, the Soviets deployed with British forces advancing in the top left from the left long table edge. The Soviet left flank is in the foreground.

British forces comprised two mechanised battalions (FV432) and an armoured battalion of Chieftains. Companies from one mechanised battalion and the armoured battalion were reorganised to create an armour heavy battalion and an infantry heavy battalion which would form the main attack force. The remaining mechanised battalion would form a reserve and follow on force while providing flank protection. Significant assets were allocated in support including corps counter-battery artillery as well as fixed and rotary air support.

The main thrust would fall on the Soviet right where both British battalion sized groups advanced. The first objective was a series of hills providing ideal firing positions for the planned assaults on the first village, Langenhals, which formed part of the Soviet defensive positions on the Soviet right. No sooner had the British forces crossed their start lines than British electronic warfare moved to a higher level. The shaping of the battlefield was clearly underway with the progressive detection of Soviet SAM systems.

On the more traditional battlefield, as the British mechanised infantry advanced, they came under effective artillery fires by Soviet D-20 152mm towed guns. The resulting fires caused heavy casualties. Below, a British mechanised platoon is suppressed by Soviet artillery fires.

However, the British response was swift and soon the Soviet D-20 artillery battalion was silenced by long range 175mm counter-battery fires. Soviet artillery in support of the was now limited to artillery assets of the Motor Rifle Regiment itself, primarily a 2S1 122mm battalion and a scattering of mortars.

As British forces continued their advance the next phase began. With Soviet on-table SAM either neutralised or ineffective due to poor disposition, a flight of Lynx helicopters deployed forward and immediately engaged a Soviet tank company deployed on a small hill. The position provided excellent support for the advanced company deployed in a Langenhals. While these T-64s, as well as a another company, managed to destroy several Chieftains the position was soon untenable. Suffering heavy casualties from the Lynx’s TOW the hill was abandoned.

Above, Lynx helicopters engage Soviet forces on a small hill before relocating to another sector, below, to continue their tank hunting closer to the village of Langenhals, on the left.

The Soviet Brigade commander, aware of the deteriorating situation now ordered two order changes. First, he ordered his reserve tank battalion forward to reinforce his exposed right flank. A robust debate took place among the Soviet commanders with the Tank Battalion commander taking a more aggressive approach. The T-64s lurched forward and advanced with speed to stabilise the right flank. Below, the reserve battalion moves forward at speed. The village visible is Elstervorstadt, which forms a second defensive position on the Soviet right.

Unfortunately their advance was too aggressive and the exchange of fire between the Chieftains on the British extreme left, while not one sided, was clearly in favour of the British.

A second order change was issued to the 1st Motor Rifle Battalion, positioned on the extreme left of the Soviet Brigade position. This battalion begin a flanking manoeuvre which would result, in time, for an attack on the British flank. The battalion, minus one company left to hold the original left flank would take considerable time to make such a relocation.

Below, the general situation on the Soviet right. The Lynx has relocated and is engaging Soviet armour in the centre, equally successfully! The village of Langenhals is on the left, while the village of Elstervorstadt is on the right.

Meanwhile British infantry platoons prepared to close assault the village of Langenhals.

As they formed up effective Soviet artillery fire caused significant casualties. Those British platoons that did assault were now at a disadvantage as the Soviet and British infantry engaged in desperate combat in the side streets of Langenhals. Unfortunately for the British, their attacks failed and the remains of the British mechanised company fell back heavily disorganised and combat ineffective.

As night fell the commanders took stock. One Soviet tank battalion had suffered a morale test, though it remained operational. One British battalion and another Soviet battalion had suffered heavy casualties and any more, for either, would have resulted in a morale check. Soviet artillery and air defence was severely compromised. In contrast while British heavy artillery strikes were almost exhausted Abbots and fixed wing assets in the form of Harriers remained uncommitted. Further, a third British infantry battalion remained in reserve. Yet the fact remained that despite an extremely a well planned and executed British attack, all objectives had been held by Soviet forces, just…

Havraga & Zrakor – 9th October 1973

The following is an after action report from a Arab-Israeli War wargame fought using Modern Spearhead and 1/300th miniatures. The game was played on an 8′ x 6′ table which with the reduced ground scale of 1” equals 125 metres. The area of battle was thus 12km in width and 9km in depth. The wargame involved three players. Two commanded the Egyptian divisional sized formation while a third commanding two under strength Israeli brigades. The wargame was fought to a conclusion in five hours following game set-up.

The engagement was based on a situation on the 9th October ’73 when Adan’s (Israeli) division was advancing towards the “Artillery Road” which was some 12km from the Suez Canal and runs parallel to the canal. Forces available, as well as the scenario, have been altered to correspond to the Israeli expectation at the time of an Egyptian armoured breakout around this date. The following narrative is from the perspective of Maj. Gen. Avraham “Bren” Adan…

My briefing with Southern Command was completed at 0300 hours and by 0600 my briefing with my brigade commanders was well underway. The coming day was to be a critical one as intelligence reported massing of Egyptian Armour in my sector.

Some 3km west from the Israeli forward edge of the battle area the Artillery Road snaked it’s way north to south. Two significant sandy hills rose up west of the Artillery Road, commanding the Artillery Road as well as the Ma’adim and Spontani roads that ran from behind the Israeli lines west to the Suez. These later two roads were some 8km apart. The larger of the two hills was named the Havraga, which was situated in the south. The other, but equally critical, was the Zrakor. Some 5km separated these features. A number of other areas of raised ground were to be found in the operational sector.

The operational orders set down by Egyptian High Command called for the Egyptians to expand their bridgehead to the Artillery Road driving the Israeli’s back from it. Significant armoured elements, some 240 tanks, had been allocated to the Egyptian commander. This allowed him to follow Soviet doctrine, which required an early breakout.

I was ordered to keep the Artillery Road open and my two weak brigades in this sector were able to operate some 50 tanks each. Gonen however, stuck to the concept of capture of an Egyptian bridge across the canal. For this reason my orders where clear, that if a strike could be launched on the canal I was to be open to it. However, after the costly battles of the 8th we were all aware this was likely to be a battle of containment with little chance for armoured breakthrough.

The Egyptian forces engaged in our sector included the 4th Infantry Brigade from the 2nd Infantry Division. This formation consisted of three infantry battalions and one tank battalion. Support included a Sagger ATGW company from divisional assets. This brigade was initially deployed 4km west of the Artillery Road, where it had been located overnight. The Egyptian infantry brigade’s tank battalion, some 40 T-55’s remained in reserve. This primary formation was in turn supported by two armoured brigades.

The first was the 15th Independent Armoured Brigade with three tank battalions and one mechanised infantry battalion with a total strength of some 100 T-62 tanks. These vehicles had only recently joined the Egyptian army and were deployed in limited numbers, the 15th being one of only two brigades equipped with them. Their 115mm guns were to prove a significant improvement on the 100mm guns in the T54 and T55, but their limited numbers were to limit their battlefield effectiveness.

The second Egyptian armoured brigade deployed in my sector was the 23rd Armoured Brigade, from 24th Mechanised Division, with three tank battalions with it’s attached mechanised infantry battalion. This formation also fielded a total strength of some 100 tanks, but this time older T-54 and T-55 tanks. Finally additional support was provided by 120mm mortars as well as 122mm and 152mm artillery from the 2nd Infantry Division.

Those elements of my division operating in the sector were made up of two under strength brigades. The first brigade was that of Natke’s and consisted of two Centurion battalions each with an attached mechanised infantry company.


The second brigade was that of Gabe’s with two Magach battalions each with an attached mechanised infantry company. Other brigades were held in reserve or operating in other sectors. I was however able to allocate limited artillery support and Gonen had advised that air support would be made available as the day progressed.

The battle started with the 4th Egyptian Infantry Brigade advancing forward, from the positions they held overnight, towards the Zrakor and part of the Havraga. From this position they were to support the advance of the armoured formations.  Critically, only part of the Havraga feature was to be secured initially. The Egyptian commander expected this hill to be held in strength by Israeli troops delaying his advance for too long. We however had been abandon this following yesterday’s battles. Unlike the Egyptian bridgehead our doctrine allowed the use of a flexible defence. Terrain and ground was less important than the use of movement in defence.

As stated before two brigades were available for the operations in my sector. Natke’s was equipped with Centurions, and Gabe’s Brigade equipped with new American M60A1 Patton tanks. By mid morning our advance was well under way as we approached the forward edge of the battle area. My forward command post, moving in four Zelda armoured personal carriers, moved to a vantage point with a good view of the battlefield before halting in a swirl of dust and sand. My brigades continued forward carrying out a cautious advance along the front operational zone from the east at four points.

One battalion from Natke’s brigade advanced and took up a defensive position on the Israeli right flank while the brigade’s second battalion took up a reserve position in the centre. Both were east of the Artillery Road. A number of the Centurions were deployed forward on a small hill.

Gabe’s brigade, on the left flank, was deployed in a similar way. Though one battalion, with the brigade recon, pushed forward to one end of the Havraga – the opposite end of which was held by Egyptian infantry. This advancing Patton battalion, under Ehud, was spotted by elements of an Egyptian infantry battalion and some infantry were moved to counter this move while recoilless rifles were hastily deployed to protect the flank.

The Egyptian commander at this stage released two of the three T-62 battalions from the 15th Independent Armoured Brigade who were held in reserve on the Egyptian right flank. These advanced with great speed towards the Havraga in an attempt to seize this dominating terrain feature and thus deny it to Ehud’s advancing battalion. However, Ehud’s battalion continued to move forward, seizing the ground only minutes before Egyptian tank battalions entered effective range on the plain below. The ensuring battle on this flank was to last for several hours.

The Egyptian infantry were initially able to cause some disruption to the Ehud’s advanced battalion. Each Egyptian Infantry Brigade includes an anti tank battery of 107mm recoilless rifles. These found the range of Ehud’s recon platoon Zeldas as they drove back an advanced RPG equipped infantry company. Several Zeldas burst into flame as the recoilless rifles opened fire at 750 metres. Platoon commanders requested covering fire from the brigade’s 120mm mortars to silence the advanced recoilless rifle platoon and allowing the Zeldas to retire out of range. The battle around Havraga now entered it’s second phase.

This was to see several attacks by the T-62 battalions of the 15th Armoured Brigade with supporting mechanised infantry in BTR-50 APC. Israeli electronic warfare missions allowed radio location finders to locate the main Egyptian artillery FO in the area and silence him with a counter battery strike while the Magach tanks cut through company after company of Egyptian T-62 tanks. The engagement taking place at ranges from a few hundred metres to some 2000 metres as the lines of Egyptian tanks and supporting infantry moved up to engage the Ehud’s battalion. After some 4 hours of fierce fighting the 15th Armoured Brigade was spent, while the Ehud’s battalion was down to almost 50% effectives. The Havraga was secure.

On our right flank and simultaneously with the advance by the 15th Armoured Brigade, a second Egyptian armoured brigade was ordered forward. This brigade, 23rd Tank Brigade, was equipped with T-55 tanks and was drawn from the 24th Mechanised Division. This brigade, like the 15th Armoured Brigade, had crossed on the night of the 7th October. Also like the 15th, it advanced with two battalions in front and a third held in reserve. As before the infantry was allocated in support to the tank battalions.

As Natke’s Centurions opened up the Egyptian commander realised his Saggers, while deployed on high ground of the Zrakor, were not able to engage the Centurions due to the distance to the Israeli positions. Our forces were indistinguishable from the Egyptians in the area. Frantic efforts were made by the Egyptian commander to get the infantry battalions moving, but with no results. The infantry were to remain uncommitted for the duration of the battle. The 23rd Armoured Brigade was now engaged in a deadly battle with Natke’s advanced Centurion battalion without the pinning attacks of the Egyptian infantry that his original plan called for.


As the Egyptian T-55s rolled forward Natke, whose forward command post was with the advanced battalion, requested a series of air strikes. The Skyhawk pilots streamed low in twos and threes over the next two hours as the armoured battle raged below. However, heavy AA cover from SA6 missile systems across the canal as well as ZSU-23-4 self propelled AA guns advancing with the Egyptian tanks, resulted in heavy losses to the attacking aircraft for little result.

Natke, still concerned his position would be overrun or outflanked, requested reinforcement. Ordering his reserve battalion to move from the centre and swing right with an aim of hitting the Egyptian 23rd Armoured Brigade in the flank. This battalion had significant ground to cover and was to arrive some two hours later as the battle in this sector was all but over. In the meantime the advanced battalion was to hold on by itself.

As the battle progressed Egyptian casualties continued to mount. The commander of the 23rd Armoured Brigade ordered forward his own reserve battalion just as his supporting artillery was finally silenced by further Israeli counter battery fire. This final battalion was to have little effect on the battle however. As they moved into range so did Natke’s second Centurion battalion, sealing their fate. Eventually the Egyptian 23rd Armoured Brigade broke off after heavy fighting.

Meanwhile fighting on the Havraga continued. Israeli casualties mounted after another T-55 battalion was committed to the fighting. It was only a matter of time now before Ehud’s Battalion would be over run, having faced no less than five Egyptian battalions in rolling attacks over the course of the day. But the valley below and the slopes up the Havraga were a stark testament to the quality of Israeli troops against these modern Soviet supplied tanks. It had been a hard fought battle at great cost to both armies.

At this stage the pace of battle slowed and both forces began to disengage. The Egyptian infantry remained within 1.5km of the Artillery Road and began to dig in. The armoured thrusts had been contained and blunted with heavy Egyptian casualties. However, the Egyptian commander could be pleased the bridgehead was, at least for now, secure.