Category Archives: French

Baudenbach Ridge

Last night the Soviet Bear was on the offensive once more. Now, the Soviets were supposed to be facing elements of BAOR but unfortunately the British player had to cancel. While Mrs Thatcher has ordered an investigation on why British forces were not ready to take their place in the line, the glorious French were called on for duty once again. The scenario, developed using the Scenario Generation System, found the Soviets launching a deliberate attack – the French player having forgone the option of a spoiling attack.

As General Pierre Sancelme waited for inevitable Soviet attack he pondered his deployments, and as is often the case, had second thoughts. Then, his mind wandered. Just five days ago he had been with his family at Landau. How quickly times had changed. Now his division were starting to consider themselves veterans. If the Germans and Americans could not stop the Soviet advance, perhaps the French could delay the Soviets while additional French forces moved forward. Certainly casualties over the the past days had been mounting. It was true since the previous action the battered 5th Armoured Division and while some reinforcements had arrived the various regiments remained understrength.

Below, the area of operations. The Soviet forces will enter from the right.

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Again Sancelme opted for three regiments forward. But this time he was determined to fight a more mobile battle with at least one of the regiments repositioning early. With again a considerable divisional room to hold the three forward fighting regiments (battalions) were stretched. Sancelme placed the 153 Regiment d’Infanterie, a VAB equipped infantry regiment, in the centre around the town of Anselfingen, with a further company forward in the village of Pressat. Below, elements of 153 RI deployed around Anselfingen. The village of Pressat in just over the river, and not shown.

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On the right was 2nd Groupement de Chasseurs, while on the left was 24th Groupement de Chasseurs. Both were mechanised regiments each with two mechanised companies and elements from two tank companies, though understrength and each fielding around 12 AMX-30s each. Divisional artillery assets were limited. Just 12 tubes from 12th Regiment d’Artillerie would be available. Instead, the various regiments would need to rely on their intrinsic 120mm mortars, carefully dispersed to lesson the impact of counter-battery fires.

With a pause in the Soviet advance Sancelme had thrown out small covering forces on the centre and left. Both these sectors were subjected to aggressive reconnaissance. It was likely both areas would be the focus of the initial Soviet assault, though he wondered about his right and how weakly it was held…

At 2pm reports came in of a massed advance against the French left. Two Soviet Motor Rifle Battalions were tasked with securing the ridge and woods northeast of the town of Baudenbach. A Tank Battalion and Divisional Reconnaissance Battalion moved forward further to the right in a turning movement against the French left. Two of the Motor Rifle battalions were directly supported by 2S1s while the advancing regiments had additional fires from divisional 2S3 assets on call. In all the Soviets were advancing on a width of just 2kms and elements of seven artillery battalions in various levels of support.

As expected a series of massed artillery strikes began to hit various French positions. On the left the high ground The ridge running east to west near Baudenbach was hit by concentrated fires by three artillery battalions. This included BM-27 rocket launchers firing improved conventional munitions as well as two army level 240mm mortar battalions. Advanced mechanised platoons were also subjected to concentrated 2S3 fires, a mix of ICM and conventional HE. Despite these horrific fires all advanced elements emerged combat effective from these initial bombardments – though all shaken! Sancelme had reiterated to his regimental commanders the importance of deployment in reverse slope or secondary positions. As a result many positions which were later targets of equally hit by artillery fires were unoccupied.

By 2.30pm and with French positions still subjected to artillery fire Soviet armour moved into range of advanced French positions. 1st Company, 24th Groupement de Chasseurs would engage the Soviet T-80s that advanced by short halts on the ground below for around three hours. Constrained by terrain and harassed by French tank fire and occasional French 155mm artillery fire, the Soviet T-80s milled around in some disorder unable to adequately gain the upper hand while casualties slowly mounted.

Above, 1st Company 24th Groupement de Chasseurs engages Soviet armour. To their left a covering force of French mechanised infantry is deployed in the woods where it was subjected to pre-planned artillery fires.

When 1st Company was initially engaged, and expecting a movement by motorised rifle infantry to support stalled Soviet armour, Sancelme ordered 153rd Regiment d’Infanterie to conduct a spoiling attack. It was to pin the Soviets and support the advanced elements of 24th GC.

Below, 153 RI can be seen conducting its spoiling attack. In the left rear elements of 24th Groupement de Chasseurs can be seen in a reverse slope position behind the first Soviet objective, denoted by the red marker.

Shortly after 2nd Groupement de Chasseurs was ordered to conduct a rapid movement from the right flank to the left deploying to 24th Groupement de Chasseurs’ rear and therefore bolstering the French left rear.

The VAB equipped infantry regiment moved quickly to draw off Soviet infantry. Confused fighting took place along the eastern outskirts of Baudenbach and stretching to within 400m of the positions 1st Company, 24th Groupement de Chasseurs on Baudenbach Ridge.

Unfortunately, the attack by 153 Regiment d’Infanterie was broken up with little gain by Soviet infantry fire, well supported by 152mm artillery fires and in some cases 2S1s firing in direct support. A subsequent order to retire was issued too late and as a result the regiment broke – a result of further casualties during its withdrawal. Survivors would however reform around a kilometre from their original position.

Meanwhile, while one Soviet battalion was held up in the valley two others had pressed forward and were soon engaged against the French second line. Here additional AMX-30s and mechanised infantry exchanged fires with advancing T-80s supported by BMPs.

Above and below, the battle around the French left. Below, the 1st Company of 24th Groupement de Chasseurs has finally been overwhelmed has been overcome and Soviet forces press forward, despite further ATGW fires from other French companies.

Simultaneously, elements of 2nd Groupement de Chasseurs are by now deploying to bolster the French left. Below, AMX-30s and AMX-10s move under the cover of 24th GC’s attached AMX-13 DCA, a self-propelled 30mm AA system.

Despite the arrival of 2nd GC casualties are now mounting for the French. With 153 Regiment d’Infanterie heavily weakened and the 24th Groupement de Chasseurs finally taking significant casualties, a result of four hours of relentless fighting, it was time to break off. As 2nd Groupement de Chasseur was deployed to cover the retirement 24th Groupement de Chasseurs was ordered to disengage after a heroic defence around Baudenbach Ridge. Now the division’s reserve regiments, comprising the three Regiments Cuirassier, would be engaged against the Soviet juggernaut…

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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…

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.

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 sometime.

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.