My OPFOR Countries

Screenwriter Stephen E. de Souza has a catch-all Latin American country called “Val Verde” he uses whenever a politically neutral country in that part of the world is required for one of his movies. (In Arnold’s Commando, John Matrix wiped out the entire military of Val Verde by himself.) I have made several Val Verdes in my brain that I’m in the process of putting down in writing, and which may become more than just an order of battle chart.

They are:

Cardona

Cardona is the conventionally weakest OPFOR country and the closest to de Souza’s Val Verde in terms of theme. It draws from both South American and Southeast Asian influences (if I wanted to be really shameless, I could have it have large conveniently Spanish-speaking regions and equally large parts with native Asian languages.)

Cardona’s military is large in numerical terms but lightly equipped and is focused on internal control rather than external invasion. It also has no shortage of irregular groups of all shapes and sizes.

Seleucia

Named for the Seleucid Empire, Seleucia is a catch-all Middle Eastern OPFOR country. Like its namesake, it features terrain from the Mediterranean to the Altais. A diverse and fractious nation, it is at times (ie, when the scenario calls for it) a strong state and at times a weak one. But even at its conventionally weakest, it’s still more powerful in material terms than Cardona is.

Seleucia can be the opponent in everything from irregular warfare to Gulf War level major battles. It also can have nuclear weapons in some cases.

Teutonia

Named after a form of Germany, Teutonia is the developed western European country. The most technologically advanced of these states for the time period, it was once a world power and remains a continental one.

In addition, Teutonian exports are found all over the world, including in the other two mentioned countries. Teutonia is a nuclear power if the tech level of the scenario allows it.

All three will be elaborated on, possibly in prose form… (winks)

The Hungry King

High-intensity warfare uses up a LOT of artillery shells. Like, a lot. How much? Well, these charts from the Light OPFOR Tactical (for eastern calibers) and FM 101-10-1/2, 1987 edition (for western calibers) give a notional example. They’re not identical-the OPFOR norms chart is shells fired towards a target while the FM 101-10-1 one is shells used up by a certain artillery piece per day-but they both show how much metal and explosive is going to fly (the answer: A lot).

Artillery is called the “king of battle”, and the king can get very, very hungry sometimes. Moving large quantities of heavy, highly explosive shells is no small feat, and to succeed or fail with that task means the difference between victory and defeat. A conventional Fuldapocalyptic World War III in the 1980s would have a massive quantity of artillery shells fired every day.

The Plutonium Red Team Study

In the mid-1990s, a “Red Team” (simulated adversary) was launched by the Sandia national laboratory. It looked at all the processes for disposing of excess plutonium (especially after the fall of the USSR) and studied their potential vulnerabilities for unsavory acquisition of nuclear materials. The report is a very interesting read.

Everything from fuel assemblies to mixed/ceramic encased disposed plutonium is studied. The vulnerabilities studied include both accessing it at the storage site and separating the weapons-usable material. It’s quite interesting, yet gives the impression that most nuclear thieves would need to be employed by either a state or the cast of Payday 2. Which is kind of the point, showing the difference between more and less plausible points of failure.

Review: The Russian Way of War

The Russian Way of War

One of the biggest surprises of the initial part of the 2022 Russo-Ukrainian War was that the former did not fight according to its paper doctrine. At all. Lester Grau and Charles Bartles The Russian Way of War is an excellent attempt at explaining said doctrine for a western audience. As anyone who’s studied them knows, they’ve left quite the paper trail. While sources like the VDV Textbooks Collection can provide them online in Russian fairly handily, this translates them to English.

And it translates them to English well. I have a few quibbles. The biggest is the authors taking an overly optimistic view of vehicle adoption, perhaps taking propaganda sources a little too much at face value. But the rest of it is well-done and evenhanded. The only real “problem” I’ve noticed is that I’ve read so many OPFOR documents that much of what they’re saying is already familiar.

But that’s a good “problem” to have, and I was still enlightened by this book. Every wargamer wanting to do missile-age combat involving the Soviets/Russians should read this.

Airfield Construction

Notional airfield construction times from the 1987 Staff Officer’s Handbook

Although obviously outside the scope of this simple spherical cow chart, I do wonder when the point would come when more engineer battalions would pass the point of diminishing returns. Nine women can’t make a baby in a month, after all.

A Heavy OPFOR army/corps has an organic engineer brigade with heavy equipment that would presumably halve the time required. Fronts will also include at least one engineer brigade. The construction of airfields and other base areas is a stated mission of those high-level assets. (If only the Russians had spent 2021 building and refurbishing better depots right on the borders instead of just piling up the rusty AFVs…)

Fatadin Mukhamedov

In one of those weird footnotes of aviation history, Mukhamedov, like Stavatti in the west, has been a maker of so-called “paper planes”. The company owes its existence to Fatadin Mukhamedov, a Soviet/Tajik engineer who had a successful career with the big bureaus (for instance, the Dushanbe center of Mikoyan) before striking out on his own. No actual aircraft were produced by the Mukhamedov bureau before Fatadin’s death in 2013, but the bulk had one specific shape.

Mukhamedov designed everything from fifth-generation fighters to gargantuan transports with the same distinctive circular inner wing. The most practical and achievable design was an advanced jet trainer/light strike aircraft for the competition eventually won by the Yak-130. Not coincidentally, the design may have found its way to Iran as the would-be HESA Shafaq. All of the other circular planes were just interesting and distinctive dreams.

But, in other timelines, dreams can come true….

Review: The Soviet/Russian Aircraft Carriers

The Soviet/Russian Aircraft Carriers

It’s time to ring in the new year with…. another history book. This one is Simon Beerbaum’s book on Soviet and Russian aircraft carriers. It’s not just about the Kiev and Kuznetsov classes, which I feared it might have been. On the contrary, it has everything from pre-WWI czarist proposals to post-revolution plans for converting surplus ships (with limited technology/resources, it would have been easier to finish a large warship as a carrier rather than an armored, big-gun battleship) to never-weres like the Ulyanovsk and Project 11780 Kherson “Ivan Tarava” helicopter amphib based on the Kiev.

This is an amateur enthusiast project, so it has issues with formatting and inconsistent quality in the line drawings. Those are small issues, and if I had a bigger gripe, it’d be that far too little attention is given to the actual air wings of those carriers-the entire reason they’re built. It’s vague, especially when there’s no shortage of equally fascinating never-were carrier planes as well (from the Yak-141 to navalized MiG-23s to other exotics).

Still, this book does what it sets out to do. For a country whose carriers have arguably all been prestige peacocks, a lot of designs were made. If you want an intro to these flattops, you could do a lot worse than this book.

Soviet-Romanian War: Background

I’ve talked before about a Soviet-Romanian War that’s a kind of “Soviet Gulf War“. There have been many obstacles to me actually writing such a thing, ranging from “what do I do with it” to “it’s a little eerie seeing Russia’s OTL buildup and interventions, including currently off Ukraine…”. But I figure I might as well get the rivet-counting parts of it down now while they’re fresh in my mind.

The Setting

It is the year 199X. The USSR is still intact. The reason isn’t because, as in Northern Fury, the August Coup succeeded. Here, it never happened, and the result is a “Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics” ( Союз Советских Суверенных Республик ), which allows for the continued use of the “USSR”, “Soviet Union”, and “CCCP” abreviations. The resulting semi-decommunized USSR has varying degrees of freedom and business openness, and is best symbolized by a flag: Still red, but with the hammer and sickle replaced with a light green vertical stripe on the left and a darker blue one on the right (to symbolize Central Asia and the Western Slavic republics).

Its economy has also been better improved from the historical collapse, but it retains its gigantic spending on the military. Having a bigger pie and more access to the Asian tech industry helps a lot. The result is that one of my favorite OPFOR models, the “Mobile Forces“, can finally be put into practice.

Meanwhile, to its west, the renegade Romania has clung on. But the time has finally come to eliminate it…

(Yes, I haven’t thought of the casus belli yet. Oh well.)

The Combatants

The USSR is able to deploy the Dniester and Danube Fronts. The Dniester Front is to the north and is composed mainly of national-level deployment forces and local ones in the Ukrainian and Moldovan military areas. The Danube Front stages out of Bulgaria (the most docile Warsaw Pact ally), and consists mainly of Bulgarian units with a smattering of Soviet ones, often in support roles. The only other foreign ally participating in a major role is a by-now-fairly-stabilized Afghanistan, contributing a motor rifle division and various mountain/commando units to the Dniester Front.

Investment has paid off, as the new pride and joy of the Red Army, its “mobile corps” are ready and set to participate in the invasion. A new generation of equipment has entered service. Many of the local participants are less well-equipped (in Bulgaria’s case, sometimes severely less so). The force contains thousands of tanks, artillery pieces, and aircraft, many of them new.

Opposing it is a force long considered the bottom of the Warsaw Pact barrel. Romania has had time to introduce some external and indigenous weapons systems. It has also semi-openly planned for a conventional delaying action followed by irregular resistance since the Ceausescu/Soviet split. But it remains hopelessly outclassed.

The Plan

The Dniester Front will do the bulk of the heavy lifting, sweeping through Romania. The Danube Front’s main goal is to cut off Bucharest and the Yugoslav border to head off reinforcement or escape in that direction. The biggest airborne and special operations since World War II will be conducted to aid the advance, secure the western side of the Carpathian Mountains, and interfere with the Yugoslav crossing.

Romania’s plan is to simply hold off long enough to set up a guerilla oppositions. In addition to all their other problems, an insistence on holding down the more Hungarian northwest, if only with security troops, lingers. (Hungary proper cares little for either side and has almost no intervention ability).

The Outcome and the Story

Ah, now that’s what I want to write about. I have many vignettes in my mind as of now but less of a coherent narrative. Still, I think I’ll have fun trying.

World War 199X

The Zapad-99 exercise, the first massive maneuver conducted since the fall of the USSR, shows some interesting insight into the conduct of a World War III in the 1990s instead of the classic 1980s. The conduct of the exercise went essentially like this:

  • The OPFOR, or “Hypothetical Enemy”, as is the official Russian term for such things, launched a giant campaign in the Baltic/Belarusian region, overwhelming the overmatched CIS troops with air and missile power.
  • Kaliningrad was overrun by the Blueeaglelanders.
  • In the most famous and controversial part of the exercise, a limited nuclear “escalation by deescalation” after the fall of the exclave was conducted in which bombers attacked several important targets with cruise missiles. Two Tu-95s and two Tu-160s were successfully launched, and the missiles on those are enough to cause monstrous damage. (that’s 36 AS-15s with 200kt warheads. Ouch.)
  • Said targets are likely to be NATO bases in Europe and American bomber and logistics bases in the continental US.

To a degree, this era has already been explored, however imperfectly, in Arc Light and Red Hammer 1994. Northern Fury takes place in the 1990s but assumes a stronger, intact USSR and conventional weapons (at least for now…)