Category Archives: Cold War

Spots on your Leopards

In years gone by I’ve tended to find myself using Soviets and typically found myself facing my regular opponent’s British. However, of late I’ve managed several games where I’ve used West Germans. It’s been an enjoyable change and as we have had the games in sequence it has allowed some evaluation of what’s worked and what hasn’t. Indeed, across the last three games the West Germans have found themselves conducting a hasty attack, advancing in an encounter, and last night facing a massive Soviet deliberate attack. This mix has offered plenty of variety in itself.

Further, both my opponent and I have been experimenting with very different force combinations. When conducting the hasty attack I opted for Leopard 2 as the armoured component, the first time in many years where I’ve used Leopard 2s. I just think they are too expensive and unbalancing. As I was fighting infantry, rather than armour, the low anti-infantry factor of the Leopard 2 was particularly frustrating, but it was different!

Then in the second game, above and below, I switched from my normal three battalions to just two battalions to face massed T-80s in a fascinating encounter game. Again using Leopard 2s both my opponent and I were struck by the power of these tanks, though possibly him more than I, which was pleasing.

In last night’s encounter I dropped back to Leopard 1s and effectively just two manoeuvre battalions. I was supported by a weak dismounted security battalion but they clung to the confines of a town desperately calling in artillery fires and dodging incoming artillery shells.

Anyway, this time the West Germans faced a massed Soviet deliberate attack, where my opponent selected an reinforcements (an Option B) and what seemed like half the Soviet armies heavy artillery assets. Thank goodness I had some Gepards to drive away of his Hinds and some Phantoms to give Ivan something to think about!

My opponent has likewise has used plenty of variety. First Naval Infantry without any armour. This was then followed by a T-80 Tank Regiment and more recently elements drawn from two understrength Motor Rifle Regiments.

All this has reminds me of how important changing you force structure is. If you have the opportunity, and some additional models, give it a try. Your games will have plenty of variety which has to be a good thing. In the meantime I’m going to continue to count spots on my Leopards, be they one or two, and perhaps seeing how many Jaguars I can use, among other things…

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Air Defence Suppression

A fascinating aspect of Modern Spearhead is the integration of both land an air elements within the same battlefield space. Much of the detail of these air operations is of course subsumed into the mechanics of the rules. As a result only a portion of the technicalities are considered and then these only when they directly impact ground operations. This short article looks at the basics of air defence suppression in Modern Spearhead.

I am a particularly convinced of the value of fixed wing air support. A successful strike even by a small number of aircraft can result in significant enemy casualties, ideally of high value targets. For a defender this can be critical as aircraft can target anywhere in the battlefield area, potentially delivering a critical blow to the attacker. For the attacker swift support by fixed wing aircraft can quickly overwhelm a difficult defensive position or disrupt a counterattack.

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Of course your enemy will likely have invested in air defence systems and will include either all, or a part, of the following:

  • Battalion level assets which typically include light man-portable surface to air missiles or gun based AA systems. These provide localised protection and are often of limited capability. Examples include Gepard, Vulcan, Blowpipe, ZSU-23-4 and SA-7.
  • The medium range surface to air systems with improved capability and that are allocated for point defence and are sometimes allocated for specific operations. Examples include Gaskin, Gecko, Rapier and Roland.
  • Higher level systems which provide a wider umbrella for the divisional or corps. Typical examples include Hawk and SA-6 Gainful.

An ideal air defence incorporates elements from all three. This will decrease the impact of airstrikes, either by reducing the effectiveness or in causing the aircraft attack to be broken off. Some systems will be mobile.

Countering such an air defence can be difficult. It can be countered completely, or simply degrade for a portion of time. Typically the mechanisms to achieve this include:

  • Location through detection using radar location during the electronic warfare phase, followed by air defence suppression, or elimination, by long range divisional artillery fires in the artillery phase.
  • Degradation of capability by radar jamming in the electronic warfare phase, immediately followed by airstrike. This is more difficult for WARPAC nations.
  • Air defence suppression by the employment of fixed wing aircraft using smart bombs or anti-radiation missiles.
  • Suppression of on-table air defence by attack helicopters.
  • A combination of a number of these.

Now let’s look at an example of air defence suppression.

In our most recent game the Soviet defender, using a Naval Infantry Brigade, was subjected to a hasty attack by a West German Brigade. The German main effort comprised two battalions, including a Panzer Battalion equipped with Leopard 2s tanks. This battalion was and supported by Roland and two Gepard platoons. No West German off table SAM could assist the advancing battalions.

With much of the Soviet land based weapon systems challenged by the Leopard capabilities the reduction of these was critical. Therefore the Soviet commander attempted to suppress the West German air defences before launching an air attack on the Leopards. The attacks played out in the following order.

First was an attack by SU-17 Fitters armed with smart bombs. Smart bombs are a stand-off weapon meaning the Gepards were unable to engage. The target was a Roland and Leopard and the aircraft was engaged with Roland at a -2. The artillery suppression were ineffective due to the German vehicle types. With the Roland operational the SU-17 Fitter attack was aborted by effective, or more accurately lucky, missile fire.

Next the Soviets attempted suppression of the massed AA assets of the battalion by BM-21 rocket launchers. The SU-17 smart bomb attack, below, was repeated. This time the aircraft did not abort, however the smart bomb attack was unsuccessful in its attack.

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The Soviet commander then committed his naval Helix attack helicopters to suppress the AA systems. They can be seen below attacking at long range and were therefore outside Gepard range. One Helix was eliminated by Roland, the other failed to successfully attack.

Below, another view of the squadron of Helix helicopters, each model represents 2 to 4 actual aircraft.

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With the BM-21s reloaded a second rocket strike fell on the West Germans, this time suppressing a Gepard. The remaining Helix conducted another attack, now destroying a second Gepard which had moved into range but was unsuccessful in its own attack. Simultaneously, a Yak-38 Forger attacked Leopard tanks using improved conventional weapons. Below, the Yak-38s attempt an attack run on a West German Panzer Battalion.

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Fortunately, for the Leopards the Yak was shot down prior to completing its attack run by Roland.

In each attack the West Germans were generally fortunate. They suffered few suppressions from artillery fires and their systems performed well when engaging attacking aircraft or helicopters. Their decision not to support the attack with off-table SAM was flawed, and of course was a result of limited resources. The Soviet failure to jam German radar reduced the effectiveness of the fixed wing aircraft and I am sure will not be repeated. The Soviets are also known to be evaluating their use of improved conventional munitions, aircraft squadrons and smart bombs. A fascinating example of air support and air defence suppression on the table.

Contemplating Defence

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…

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…

Cold War French

French forces of the Cold War 1980s have an interesting selection of vehicles which have, for many years, had a certain appeal to me. As a result a few years ago, when I was looking for a Cold War project, the French were an obvious candidate.

I use the Scenario Generation System to generate most of my scenarios so it’s no surprise I used this as the basis for my forces. I then selected to build forces drawn from an armoured division. Interestingly, a French armoured division isn’t particularly large and can have a variable number of regiments. These divisions are larger than most NATO brigades but smaller than NATO divisions. Further, depending on which division is selected, a considerable range of equipment can be found. I found “Armies of NATO’s Central Front” by Isby & Camps particularly useful in determining the equipment make up of my initial force. However, have a look at my Cold War TO&E section for the basic organisations available.

When determining my force structure I felt that one armoured regiment, two mechanised regiments and an infantry regiment would provide the basics formations. To these basic regiments I would then add in various support units for variety.

Above, elements of an armoured regiment, AMX-30 tanks and AMX-10Ps, on the advance. Below, several platoons of a mechanised regiment deployed in defensive positions. The one in front of the town is considered to be deployed in the outskirts and receives a cover bonus.

Below, another view of elements of the mechanised regiment. This photo shows deployed Milan with the AMX-10P IFVs in support. All miniatures are from Heroics & Ros.

My Attack and Encounter List was built around three regiments, remember these are battalions. First, there is an under strength armoured regiment with a mechanised infantry company. The armour is not outstanding, but ideal for manoeuvre and can put down reasonable firepower. Secondly, there is a mechanised regiment, with elements from the two tank companies and the two mechanised infantry companies where the infantry have a Milan within each platoon. Both these regiments have the excellent AMX-10P which has proven useful as it provides a degree of protection for the infantry from artillery fire. Finally, an infantry regiment mounted in VABs, and without armour and fewer Milan per regiment, provides a reasonable covering battalion.

Support formations include a range of gun and AA systems, a useful divisional recon company and artillery. Options to reinforce the regiments depending on the scenario include Mirage fighter bombers, counter battery artillery and additional ATGM systems.

You can find a sample Attack List here. Several items have been included but the quantity set to zero. One obvious item not included is a Brigade HQ, as all regiments are under command of a Divisional HQ which is off table and therefore free.

Above, AA systems in the form of AMX-13 DCA armed with 30mm guns and AMX-30 Roland deployed on high ground. Where the French are lacking however is man portable SAM, a fact not lost on the French deployments to Chad which were bolstered by Stinger purchases.

I am a strong believer in fixed wing air support and initially the Mirage III is providing that role. The Mirage, when armed with Improved Conventional Munitions can be effective against counter attacking Soviet forces, so it’s ideal as an option in an encounter battle where it can quickly neutralise a threat.

The defend list was more problematic. Eventually I opted for three regiments but selected two mechanised regiments and an infantry regiment. As always hard choices need to be made when resources (points) are limited. The defend list is in some ways a misnomer. It is often used in encounter scenarios and it’s commander short on resources can find himself conducting limited advances or spoiling attacks.

A Defend list therefore needs to be self contained but, with additional support, capable of offensive action. Some specific consideration needs to be given to the options that the Scenario Generation System uses to convert a Defend List into a list in a Spoiling Attack Scenario. For this I have opted for additional support from Mirage fighter bombers and additional artillery systems. You can find a sample Defend List here.

One variation of the above, and one I particularly like, is the use of various armoured cars. By 1984 the AMX-10RC, as shown above, was in service. Armed with a 105mm gun it provides excellent firepower if weak on defensive capabilities. 

Above and below views of AMX-10RC armoured cars advancing with a divisional recon company in jeeps.

I see the AMX-10RC being most useful in defence, where they provide ambush fire on advancing enemy formations. I also need to try a couple of other armoured car types, some of which look particularly unusual! Perhaps this last point is important and something I like about my Cold War French – they make a change from the normal Americans and British.

Building a Soviet List

Having been asked for a couple of orders of battle from recent games I thought a good place to start was a current list I’ve been experimenting with. That is the Soviet list, with a couple of modifications, I used in the “Golubev’s Gamble” scenario.

I of course generally use the Scenario Generation System to generate my games, so the following is based around this system. In particular a scenario set in the 1980s involving an Attack or Encounter List has a 850 points budget. This basic 850 point list can be further supplemented by a selection of options.

In the past I have based a number of lists on a single Soviet Motor Rifle Regiment with a range of supports. However, I recently used a list based on two under strength regiments. Now, in these previous lists I alternate between formations built around BMP and BTR Regiments. I have a preference for BMP based Motor Rifle Regiments, as tracked vehicles are not slowed by hills and fields which feature often on our gaming table. However, historically a greater number of regiments in a Motor Rifle Division were equipped with BTRs. Therefore I frequently field BTR based regiments. After all the Scenario System works best if different formations are used. This time however I opted for a mix.

You can download a copy of the Soviet Order of Battle I used in “Golubev’s Gamble” scenario here.

As you can see there are four manoeuvre battalions. On the offensive a single battalion can be suffer casualties quickly therefore operating them as a regiment allows more firepower to be concentrated. However, with four battalions on the table points will always be at a premium. As a result each of the battalions is under strength. Of course if you are considering using this list feel free to change the composition of the battalions. Possible options I have considered are changing the tank types, reducing AA or adding in additional fighting or support stands.

One of the challenging aspects of Modern Spearhead is the allocation of resources in the planning phase even before the models are placed on the table.

With one of my regular opponents often fielding fixed wing and rotary air support this list is reasonably well equipped with AA systems both on and off-table. Reading some of the reports of previous games you will see one of my opponents frequently attempts to silence my off table SAM systems using M107 guns. As a result I’ve selected off-table SAM which are well out of range of his guns. However, these M107s, when not targeting SAM systems, will be firing counter-battery fires. In an attempt to disrupt these fires I have selected a battalion of M-1955 guns with for my own counter-battery fires. A slightly less expensive option would be towed S-23 180mm guns or perhaps even another battalion of 2S3 for more direct support of my attack. However, unlike the M-1955s both can easily be targeted by the M107s. Clearly each has strengths and weaknesses.

I have only added one Option A into the list. I need to expand some of these options in future, but with the enemy “listening” I can’t give too much away. In general I use the optional reinforcements to add variety and potentially catch an opponent off-guard. Over the years I have found fixed wing air support useful as such attacks can be overwhelming forcing a sudden and critical outcome. Even a weak air attack can be useful as it reminds an opponent of the need for his own AA. In this list the Mig-23s are armed with Improved Conventional Munitions, a useful weapons load against an enemy conducting a counterattack. In my most recent game the air support wasn’t called in, but I imagine next time it will. Certainly it will if I can silence his SAM, but that’s for another time.

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…