Front Defensive Operations

frontdefense

From the Heavy OPFOR Operational, here is a picture of a front-sized defensive operation. My first thought upon seeing it and counting the divisions, besides any political concerns, is – “Does NATO even have enough forces to break through it without a huge amount of technological superiority”?

This particular diagram is something of an idealized best case, as the front has both a second-echelon tank army to counterattack and several independent divisions as “combined arms reserves”. But still. I’d have to ask…

  • How much of a force multiplier are the initial belts (which were expected to be overrun?)
  • How much of the artillery and missile forces can survive and fire effectively on the attackers as they approach?
  • Most importantly, what’s the overall context?

 

 

Weird Wargaming: Payday

Payday: The Heist

The focus of this Weird Wargaming is the game series that started off as an obvious homage to classic heist movies and became a struggle against a world-controlling super-conspiracy that ended with confronting an evil dentist in a cave underneath the White House.

The Payday Gang themselves are more customizable, and their opponents shouldn’t be too much of a problem to come up with. Bulldozers have heavier armor, cloakers are stealth and possibly melee-based, tasers use electricity, and shields should be obvious. Not all of the specials are suitable for all kinds of rules, so use common sense.

The big issue is choosing between “hard” and “soft”. In “hard” mode, there’s at least a pretense of grounding, everything has to be stealthed if possible, and even loud heists are, by definition, short. In soft mode, closer to the game, the gang massively outclasses its opponents individually and can take on gigantic waves of people. All this depends on the rules and the theme, but Payday certainly offers a lot of chances.

 

Using Paratroopers

One of the biggest problems with using paratroopers besides the limit on airlift, and why they’ve just been high-readiness/at-least-theoretically higher skill infantry in real practice, is the cost-benefit with their operations. This is very tricky.

The Practical Reasons

Apart from situations where there just is no other way to move in quicker (ie, over bodies of water/other gaps), airborne landings, particularly on a very large scale, have faced the issue of either being unnecessarily risky and complicated for the task at hand or simply being too weak to accomplish anything (especially in a situation where everyone has a lot of heavy forces).

The impression I’ve gotten is that anything bigger than a company-sized landing force is dicey, and anything bigger than a battalion is really, really dicey. Yes, if everyone had giant Mi-26 sized helicopters and/or the landing forces had mechanized equipment of their own (ie, BMDs/Sheridans) it would help, but only somewhat.

The Literary Reasons

On the other hand, the literary reasons for big airborne operations are obvious. Just look at Band of Brothers, to say nothing of considerably more obscure works of fiction that range from Marching Through Georgia to Northern Fury H-Hour.

  • They’re big and dramatic all by themselves.
  • Because they’re often centered around (seemingly) important targets, it makes the actions of the protagonists look bigger.
  • Because airborne forces are inherently limited, it means drama can be maintained against a seemingly weaker opponent (a pretty extreme example of this is Marching Through Georgia, where the Draka are otherwise utterly superior to their opponents and paratroopers against a panzer force are the only way to have something even slightly even).

Autoloaders in Soviet tanks

Why did the Soviets so eagerly adopt autoloaders for their tanks? I don’t have any direct primary sources supporting it, but I have some hunches.

  1. Size. Soviet/Russian tanks have always had substantial size/weight limitations for transporting them along the entire length of the rather large country. This explains a lot, including why there was less (which is not the same as no) focus on tanks fighting other tanks, as opposed to using artillery and ATGMs. If the autoloader can make the tank smaller by removing one of the crew, it helps a lot.
  2. Making crew training less relevant. If you have a gigantic force of in-and-out conscripts, you don’t want to rely on something that relies a lot on individual skill.
  3. The third, which I saw in an intelligence piece on the Soviet tank company, stated “in understrength units there may be no loader in tanks other than those of the company and platoon commanders.” I’d really like to see more evidence for this, although it does say understrength.

There’s probably more like how it makes using bigger guns easier, but those are the biggest three that come to my mind. I also like to think of how the inevitable national bias would change if it was, for whatever reason, the opposite. Instead of tales of arm-wrecking autoloaders, there’d be sniggering of “we have high-tech auto-loaders, and the Soviets are still having people stuff the tank with shells-look at how they’d get tired.”

The Motorcycle Regiment

The motorcycle regiment was one of those obscure units in military history. At least according to one Soviet World War II organization, it was essentially a reinforced motorcycle-heavy battalion with motorized artillery and, at least on paper, a tank company, that could act as a forward detachment or be broken up into recon patrols without issue. Some descriptions have them being multi-battalion formations.

A postwar set of field regulations on regimental operations describes it as follows.

A motorcycle regiment (battalion) is a tactical unit (small unit). It is made up of battalions (companies) and other small units. The regiment (battalion) is intended for conducting reconnaissance of the enemy. In addition, it has the capacity to:.
— pursue the retreating enemy, destroy headquarters and signal centers, and disrupt the work of the enemy rear;
— destroy enemy airborne landings;
— seize crossings, important lines,, and objectives, and hold them until the arrival of friendly troops;
— protect the exposed flanks of friendly troops.
The motorcycle regiment and battalion can carry out reconnaissance missions operating as an entity or as small units which are designated as reconnaissance detachments and separate reconnaissance patrols.
Independent of the character of the combat mission to be carried out, the motorcycle regiment and battalion may be reinforced with artillery, tanks, self propelled artillery, small units of special troops, and air support.

The motorcycle regiment was made obsolete by increased mechanization (the recon battalion in later large units fills more or less the same role), but it’s one of those unconventional formations I have a strange interest in.

Adding A Tank Manufacturer

So this thought came to me from a throwaway line in Sidney Sheldon’s Master Of The Game about how the main character’s conglomerate started manufacturing tanks in World War I (along with other war material). How hard is it to slip a tank company into an alternate history?

There’s two boring solutions. One is that it’s easy if the story calls for it, with a focus on armored vehicle economics not usually being beneficial to a book (especially a Sidney Sheldon one). Another is that they can, especially during the World Wars, be just a contractor that built tanks designed by someone else (see a lot of railroad locomotive plants in World War II). A third is that they end up as the main winner for a gigantic wartime or Cold War contract and just become what General Dynamics Land Systems (to give one example) is in real life. A fourth is if severe politics (read-no reliable import partners) are involved.

But privately designed tanks for private sales? That’s tricky. There’s really only a few windows, the interwar and middle Cold War periods. Otherwise, you just have a glut of WWII surplus/early Cold War military aid or an equally huge one of advanced technology/later Cold War surplus.

And even then, for every success like the Vickers MBT, you have failures like the AMX-40 and Osorio, to say nothing of one-customer wonders like the Stingray. Both political power and economies of scale are tough to overcome. Yet there’s always the chance of getting an export order and then having the exported tanks do well enough to trigger more interested customers. It still isn’t going to come close to the T-55 or Patton, but it can work.

The Survivalist’s Legacy

I really think the review of the first Survivalist book, Total War, was the moment that Fuldapocalypse really broke out of the cage I’d originally put it in. I’d already been tiptoeing away from the specific “198X conventional World War III” books, but even then had just pushed mostly to other “big war thrillers”.

This was something where I acknowledged in the review that my entire paradigm wasn’t made for something like this. It wasn’t immediate, but it put me on the path to first changing and then eliminating the formal categories altogether. It also made me review (and read) a lot of “Men’s Adventure” books, a subgenre that I intend to write a lot more about.

Oh, and for whatever weird reason, I binge-read the entire series. I’m still strangely impressed by that.

 

The Second Soviet-Finnish War

Based on various general doctrine goals and precedents in similar regional conflicts, I’ve put together a hypothetical Second Soviet-Finnish War. No direct external intervention on behalf of the Finns, no other conflict it’s in the middle of to distract them.

I haven’t done any formal wargaming, but still came up with this outcome:

  1. The Soviets overrunning all of Finland in around a week, maybe a little more. I’m using their best-case on-paper rates of advance against China, which, though not a perfect analogy, was also underequipped, had lighter infantry and a doctrine focused around them, and had rough terrain in the border regions.
  2. Low/mid single-digit thousands killed (assuming a gigantic invasion force, the Finns standing and fighting, and the Soviets willing to press the attack, all of which are reasonable).
  3. Tank losses in the mid-high hundreds, with a similar amount of other AFVs. How many aren’t repairable is an open question.
  4. I want to say around mid-double digits for aircraft. That’s the biggest question mark.

The Finnish armed forces are, of course, wiped out, at least conventionally.

I’m sure this can and will be disputed. For instance, using a 30 km/day advance rate (rough terrain, NATO opponent) means it’ll take almost three weeks to reach the western coast from the eastern border. Of course, the Soviets can withstand three weeks of vicious attrition a lot better than the Finns can. They also likely wouldn’t need to overrun the entire country to accomplish their political goals, but this is a spherical cow scenario.

Soviet Planned Rates Of Advance

This covers a variety of ideal/aimed for Soviet advance rates, citing translated primary sources when possible. The actual ability to meet these rates in practice would depend greatly on circumstances. All figures are in kilometers per day.

_ _ _ _ _ _

Late 1940-mid 1950s (conventional): 25-35 infantry, 40-50 tank armies [Front Offensive Operation, 1974]

Late 1950s (nuclear): 45-60 [Front Offensive Operation, 1974]

1960s (nuclear) 60-70 [Front Offensive Operation, 1974]

Late 1960s (conventional): 35-40 [Front Offensive Operation With Conventional Weapons, 1969]

1970s-80s (Europe): 40-60, 30 (Southwest Theater, Mountainous) [Voroshilov Lectures, Front Offensive Operation, 1977 ,  Heavy OPFOR Operational]

1970s-80s (China, other weaker opponent): 70-100 [Voroshilov Lectures]

1990s-2000s (conventional, GENFORCE-Mobile): 30-40 (optimistic), 20-30 (optimistic, poor terrain) 15-20 (modest) [Generic Enemy: Mobile Forces]