Sometime before Christmas 2000 I played a square Armoured Brigade c1986 dug-in against a Soviet Category-1 Tank Division commanded by Phil Shaw, the full description of which will have to wait a later issue. Suffice to say they pretty much destroyed each other although it was a major flank march, and air support, that swung it in the Soviets favour, that and the minefields I blocked all the bridges with which prevented me (the British) launching a counter-attack.
The game confirmed the weakness in the British air defence and artillery at the time, and shows how much we would have been reliant on American airpower to hold the line. Conversely the combination of Soviet layered air defence types made RAF support ineffective given the numbers I had available.
This article originally appeared in the SOTCW's Journal No.39 (Early 2001).
The EW rules proved easy to use and useful, but we didn't commit helicopters soon enough to form an opinion. My Abbots were easily outranged even by regimental 122mm 2S1s and suffered accordingly to counter-battery fire. No system proved over-effective individually, especially ATGW, so it shows a good balance in the way the firepower and detection works in the rules. Dug-in Chieftain Stillbrews did prove virtually indestructible frontally however, but we did allow that they couldn't claim this cover bonus when cluster-bombed, as overhead cover would be unrealistic. Airstrikes are very effective and the Su-25 is overrated with a bomb factor of 2, this giving it the same attack avionics as an F-15E Strike Eagle. A simple and effective rule we added was to allow one aircraft flight per battle group fielded, which gave the British Armoured Brigade 4 Harrier GR3s, and the Soviets 16 flights, up to 2 of which could be Su-25, the rest being Su-17 and MiG-23 / MiG-27; or up to 4 being Su-24 if he used pre-planned strikes.
I still have problems with the movement under defend orders of uncommitted units. For instance, I had one battalion deployed with 3 companies up front fairly spread out in line. When the one company on the extreme flank came under attack from a tank regiment, I wanted to counterattack with the other companies, thereby hitting them in the flank as they queued up to cross the one bridge. As they are only allowed a 45º turn then a move, it took 2-3 moves to even turn the 'spare' companies to face the action, before they could even move effectively, by which time it was too late. How realistic this is I don't know, but it is frustrating. Perhaps it takes a more subtle use of the changing orders rule - by merely pivoting the Bttn HQ 45° or 90° (a sort of attack order with no distance, which then reverts to hold orders) would allow any units within the battalion to turn that much for free, then turn their 45° allowed under the movement rules. Of course, as the Bttn HQ was under fire at the time, the chances of success were limited anyway.
There was some confusion in the Soviet command structure in the game, which I hope to look at next article, along with a corrected Soviet 1986 Tank Division TOE and Army assets. A major point of discussion was Soviet doctrine for indirect artillery fire assets, which we will also cover next article, hopefully with a battle report as well.
Mark continued his series of articles in the SOTCW's Journal 40 (June 2001) and we have reproduced it here in More MSH Thoughts.
John Moher, one of Modern Spearhead's co-authors, replied to some of Mark's comments above in the SOTCW's Journal 48 (Christmas 2003) and you can read his reply here in Thoughts & Responses.
Contributor: © 2001 Mark Bevis.