Seleucian Special Forces APC

Stable Diffusion gave me a chance to make something I’ve long imagined: A truck-APC belonging to a Seleucian (one of my OPFOR countries) Motorized Special Forces unit. First, the picture itself.

There are many existing heavy-duty pickup conversions like this: An armored pickup with the bed replaced by a capsule that’s even more fortified.

(You get the idea)

Now for their organization: Seleucia’s large “Special Forces” components are motorized to varying degrees. The quotation marks are because few of them are what NATO would consider “special forces”, with many being simply conventional troops with better training and motivation than the other ragged masses of that country’s huge army. Still, Seleucian motorized SF have shown their capability.

A Seleucian motorized SOF battalion is similar to a light infantry one, only with armored personnel carriers. As the mere “transport” capacity is prioritized, motorized SOF often ride in older and/or cheaper vehicles-like armored pickup trucks. APCs frequently hide after dropping off their dismounts. A common defensive tactic for Seleucian commandos is to drive close to an ambush site, conduct the ambush on foot, then scramble back to their carrier and move to another one later on.

However, it is not uncommon for Seleucian motorized SOF to accompany heavy units of tanks and SPGs in conventional operations. Here they fight similarly to Stryker/BTR style infantry in faster wheeled APCs of other countries. In conventional defensive operations, motorized SOF have a somewhat unusual role as mobile antitank detachments. Thanks to their skill, mobility, and flexible organization, SOF battalions with large amounts of of anti-armor weapons can be used similarly to the tank destroyers of other nations.

The Saxon and BTR-152 are examples of the basic style of APCs frequently found in Seleucian motor SOF units. Tracked vehicles, mostly basic ones like M113s and MTLBs, are rarer but not unheard of, especially where the terrain suits them.

Review: Cadia Stands

Cadia Stands

Of all the Warhammer 40K factions, my absolute favorite by absolute far is the Imperial Guard (or as they’re supposedly called now, the Astra Militarum). So I had to read Cadia Stands, about the 13th Black Crusade (definitely) and one guardswoman’s struggle to survive and escape-supposedly. I mean, the saying correctly went “Cadia Broke Before The Guard Did”, meaning that the forces of Chaos had to literally destroy the world to win.

The book is kind of disjointed. There’s a lot of battle vignettes. Minka Lesk, the young guardswoman in question, is supposedly the main low-level character. But she’s mostly just basically there and little different from all the other Imperial viewpoint figures. So, did I not like it?

NO! HERESY! There’s little wrong with a bunch of battle vignettes, and this is the kind of subgenre that’s incredibly hard to get exactly right. So while it’s not the best, this is a perfectly serviceable action novel.

Review: Invisible Armies

Invisible Armies

Author, historian, and (sadly) political commentator Max Boot takes the reader through thousands of years in Invisible Armies, his chronicle of irregular and asymmetric war throughout history. Let’s just say that I’m no fan of either his past or current viewpoints on contemporary politics and leave it at that. Not just because I don’t want to get political here, but because it’s basically irrelevant to the actual book. (Which is a huge point in its favor, I might add.)

Said book is a masterwork of popular history. It has the weaknesses of its format in that by design it can’t go into too much detail, and no doubt there are some inaccuracies that I couldn’t tell but which someone more invested in the subject matter could. But it also has the strengths of it in that the facts are presented in an extremely engaging way.

There’s one central point made throughout the book, which is that contrary to both recent high-profile examples with small sample sizes and “fourth-generation war” thunderers, the default outcome for an insurgency is loss. Most of the time, it either fails completely or can’t progress past its initial strongholds. There’s also the less novel reminder of almost all successful ones having the support of an outside state.

As something that both explains and demystifies unconventional war, I highly recommend this book.

Review: Mercenaries in Asymmetric Conflicts

Mercenaries in Asymmetric Conflicts

I hate being disappointed by a book. But Scott Fitzsimmons’ Mercenaries in Asymmetric Conflicts was one of the most disappointing nonfiction books I’ve recently read. Or disappointing books in general, to be honest. It sounded good-studying the military cultures of different groups. When I started it, the stated influence of Kenneth Pollack made me even more interested.

Then the actual content emerged. The book is written in one of the thickest and least pleasant versions of academic-ese I’ve seen. If this was stylistic, I could forgive it as writing style is one of the most “natural” things and hardest to change. Plus, you know, it is an academic text.

But it also applies to more than that, which tips it over the edge. The book only talks about military performance in terms of different “theories”, as if they were some abstract phenomenon. It was one of the least helpful ways of approaching the matter, and almost the opposite of how Pollack did so in his own books.

Once the walls of jargon are slogged through, the final conclusion basically amounts to…. Well… Ok. The final conclusion is basically “Better trained and skillful armies with a good internal culture perform more capably, even if they’re at a material disadvantage.” That’s not exactly a big shock.

There is some good information on obscure in the Western Hemisphere African conflicts, but there are undoubtedly better sources on those that don’t involve huge amounts of pretentious analysis. I just can’t recommend this book.

Review: Tomorrow’s Soldier

Tomorrow’s Soldier

David Alexander’s Tomorrow’s Soldier is a book that you’d expected to be dated based on its subject matter. It’s a 1999 popular account of the WARS AND WARRIORS OF THE FUTURE. And it is dated. It’s also somewhat shallow even by the standards of the time.

It’s still interesting, but isn’t really a rigorous study. The descriptions basically consist of trends that were obvious even at the time (ie, more digitization/etc…) and the obligatory description of wunderwaffe like power armor. This is a little less triumphalist than some other books of its nature, but it isn’t really more substantive.

This felt like a throwaway book even when it was written. And now it’s an older throwaway book. So I’m not really recommending it except as a curiosity. I do wonder if the same “David Alexander” who wrote this was the same “David Alexander” who wrote the ultra-middling Marine Force One. If so, it would be fitting.

Review: A Dream Of Empire

A Dream Of Empire

A recent work of alternate history by someone with the pen name “Grey Wolf”, A Dream of Empire is about a war between 19th Century Britain and a surviving Byzantine/Eastern Roman Empire. There are lots of characters. And there are airships. Because this is an alternate history work set in the 1800s, there has to be airships.

This isn’t bad, but it feels a little overstuffed and shallow. It’s trying to be a “big war thriller” and a spy thriller, but that’s hard to do with something that’s one third the length of a normal book, much less a big and sweeping one. That’s the literary critique. The alternate history nerd critique is that a Byzantine Empire surviving, Victorian semi-steampunk, and airships are all genre archetypes, if not cliches.

You could do a lot worse for the very low purchase price than this book. But it could have also been a lot more and a lot better than what it actually was.

Operation El Paso

OPLAN El Paso was a proposed campaign in the Vietnam War to block off the Laos trails by land. One southern and two American divisions would deploy by air and hold the terrain. This corps-sized blocking force could theoretically do what no amount of airpower realistically could: stop the flow of troops and supplies south.

It may have been a missed opportunity to decisively change the (conventional) course of the Vietnam war-or a chance for the northerners to inflict a huge number of politically sensitive casualties on the Americans in a place where it was near its supply bases and they were farther. If one of the people responsible for the plan was skeptical that it could work, you know it could very well end up going the way of the similar Lam Son 719.

Review: Handbook of Military Knowledge For Commanders

Handbook of Military Knowledge For Commanders

One of the biggest treats I’ve read is the translated 1980s Chinese document called the “Handbook of Military Knowledge For Commanders”. Exactly as it implies, the document is a hundreds of pages long and highly deep look into the Cold War’s least advanced and most secretive major army. Because of this, it’s an excellent resource not just for the Cold War PLA, but also many of the client states/units equipped, trained, or even just inspired by it. As well for less-advanced (compared to major powers) armies in general.

A lot of this contains basic stuff that any field manual reader won’t find surprising. The layout, at least of the translated version, leaves something to be desired. And there are a few translation quirks like keeping the romanized Chinese word “Fendui”, instead of just saying “units” or “subunits” (as would be appropriate for the context.) In fact, the document has the worst of both worlds in that it shows “Fendui” but not the original characters, making it confusing for both English and Mandarin native speakers.

Still, this is an excellent study of not just that specific army at that point in time (mid-1980s), but also of many principles applicable to all forces at any time. If you have the time to dig through four hundred pages of field manualese, it’s well worth your while.

Review: White Horizon

White Horizon

TK Blackwood’s 1990s continued Cold War gone conventionally hot series continues in White Horizon, an excellent installment. The Fuldapocalypse not only continues apace but features the powerful but often overlooked country of Sweden as a major setting. Featuring everything that has made the past installments so good, this was a joy to read.

The only real “problem” was teasing a successor. But that’s a good problem to have. This shows that the “cold war gone conventionally hot” subgenre still has quite a bit of life in it.