I’ve used the term “Cuban T-72s” to refer to a very interesting phenomenon in fiction, especially contemporary fiction. Which is to say, something that’s technically inaccurate but makes an incredible amount of intuitive sense. And it’s technically achievable as well. What is a Cuban T-72?
Well, despite being one of the premier Soviet clients, Cuba has never operated T-72 tanks. T-72s are, of course, a common Soviet export tank. So even though Cuba historically never moved beyond the T-62 despite being actively engaged in Angola, if a thriller novel or alternate timeline had them operating that autoloaded tank, I would let it slide.
So if the rest of the work is pretty good, I can let things like wrong calibers off the hook. Especially if there’s an understandable reason why the author would think that way. Note that this only applies to small things like that-someone like Ian Slater who constantly gets the easiest-to-check facts wrong is not a “Cuban T-72.”
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.
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.
The term “nuclear triad” is a familiar one. It means the three main delivery systems-aircraft, land installations, and naval ones. Or rather, the three main American delivery systems. See, it’s easy to see the grouping of three when you have only deployed three types of strategic platforms: Silos, aircraft, and submarines.
From this American point of view, mobile ICBMs in use by other countries fit into the land part of the triad, and the oft-proposed surface ship bases would fit into the naval part. However, the proposed anchored capsules on the bottom of the sea have more in common with silos than mobile submarines.
So in a different world where nuclear basing was more widespread, the term “Tetrad” or “Pentad” could be used. A tetrad of silos, mobile land missiles (whether via truck, train, hovercraft, or Wienermobile), aircraft, and submarines. Or a pentad of all that plus surface ships.
What do you get when you push an inherently limited genre as far as it can go? Probably something like Progear, a 2001 Capcom arcade “shmup”, the classic Gradius-type arcade game where you control a little spaceship moving around on a scrolling field. Only this “spaceship” is a World War I-type fighter plane, and the game has a very dieselpunk theme that I like. The graphics are very good, being (or at least looking like) beautiful sprites in an age of polygons.
The story is utter nonsense, and I have to wonder how much of it is due to iffy translations and how much is due to just limited information. Basically a group of young pilots have to fight off a conspiracy of posh Victorians led by a lion-man, and I’m not making that up. It feels like you only got ten seconds of a thirty-minute show and had to piece everything together from there. But this is a classic video game where such stuff was par for the course.
The gameplay is nothing to write home about, as it’s the same “fire away, use limited power ups, and try and dodge at least some of the impossibly large number of projectiles heading your way” formula. But that’s a fun formula for a reason. And whether by accident or design, one boss seemed to mock the formula. In a game where your ship faces right and only right, the boss tries to counter by…. moving to the left of the screen. Too bad you have homing missiles.
This is not a deep game, even by the standards of arcade classics. It’s not the most polished or fair game. But it is quite the fun game, and a sign of how far “handmade” graphics could go.
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.
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.
So first I must say that I owe a lot to the Battle Order website and channel for inspiring me. Go check it out. Anyway, the GENFORCE-Mobile document, while a tour de force overall, has surprisingly little on the absolute smallest unit tactics. It does say that the basic and mobile forces do use very similar tactics (it’s just the latter have more training on them). Anyway, there isn’t much to say for the high-intensity doctrine. Primarily use lines, squads are unitary without teams, the vehicle commander doubles as squad leader, and that’s that.
The table of orders and equipment does (by virtue of looking at quantities of in a platoon), have one RPK variant and one RPG variant (marked as an RPG-29 in that example) per squad in the mobile forces, similar to historical practice. The company weapons platoon has an array of light ATGMs (marked as Metis, but those would probably be superseded) and PKM belt-fed machine guns.
(Strangely, the early 199X OPFOR squad is actually weaker on paper dismounted than its predecessors, with only one magazine machine gun instead of two belt-fed ones).
The legacy regular army, basic forces, or whatever you call them uses this doctrine relatively unchanged. But what about the new ones?
I had the Sovereign Union’s mobile corps using tank-based IFVs. There have been similar attempts in actual history, yet I figured these would be the more interesting. Basically the priorities shift a lot here. The historical BMP-3 is skewed in exactly the wrong direction. Instead of a glass cannon packed with all kinds of boom-makers, the focus is on shielding the newly-important resource with tank-level armor.
So in this timeline the BMP-3 is one of those things that only sees small amounts of use in its home country, but nonetheless achieves success on the export market. The Mobile Corps in All Union primarily rode into Romania with either BMP-2s or IFVs based on existing tank platforms. Whereas the historical T-64 APC proposals were an act of desperation, these have a deliberate goal of more protection and mass production ability, similar to the Israeli tank-APCs of real life.
Two real Soviet surplus IFV proposals are two from Ukraine, the circa 36 ton “Vavilon” on the T-64 chassis and the 46 ton “Berserk” on the T-84 (upgraded T-80) one. Apart from trading protection (the Vavilon was advertised as having STANAG 6 30mm AP protection and being able to withstand a 125mm round from 500 meters, likely against the front) for weight and logistical issues, the armament is pretty standard IFV fare: A 30mm autocannon, various machine guns and grenade launchers, and ATGMs. Crew of both is three for the vehicle itself and up to eight dismounts.
Now for the fun part.
Option A: 7+3 Unitary
Composition: Squad leader/vehicle commander (rifle/PDW), vehicle driver (PDW), vehicle gunner (PDW), 1-2x machine gunner (LMG), 1x rocket launcher (RPG), 1x assistant (rifle+RPG ammo), 1x rifle grenadier (self explanatory), 2-3x riflemen (rifle). One of the riflemen could be a “deputy leader” who commands dismounts when the commander stays with the vehicle.
This is the smallest and most conservative organization. It’s designed to duplicate the BMP procedure of having one empty paper-strength seat so that platoon/company troops can ride along. It fights like a standard unitary squad.
This also fights as a unitary squad, although a marksman is moved to squad level and the deputy commander who controls the dismounts is a permanent table position. Still fights as a simple unitary squad. Marksman is optional
Option C: 4-4-3 Fireteam
Composition: Squad leader/vehicle commander (rifle/PDW), vehicle driver (PDW), vehicle gunner (PDW). Fireteam A: Team leader (rifle), team machine gunner (LMG), team launcher (RPG), rifleman (rifle, ammo for MG/RPG). Fireteam B: Team Leader (rifle), team machine gunner (LMG), team launcher (RPG), rifleman (rifle, ammo)
This is a massive divergence and features the dawn of the fireteam, with two four-man elements and two RPG launchers (with one of the riflemen possibly a marksman). Naturally, more advanced formations and dismounted maneuvers are used.
My personal choice for the sake of the All Union story would be Option B. It’s still similar enough to be comfortable, informal task-organized teams can still easily be formed if need be, but is also more advanced. Not just having a squad marksman but in having a specific dismount commander, which makes it easier for the APC to act as part of a separate “armored group“.
Surrounded by all kinds of danger, a threat can come out of nowhere and kill you. This describes war, but it also describes roguelikes, the kind of deliberately unfair randomized video games that have occupied a niche for decades. Naturally, someone had the great idea to combine them. The result was the Armoured Commander series, with the second installment being the subject of this review.
You are a tank in World War II. You can command just about any kind of tank in any campaign at any point during the war. Try and survive in a world of ASCII graphics and constant threats. The deliberately ultra-retro UI gives the game a bit of a learning curve, but I didn’t consider it too hard. A more intentional “issue” is that you get what you want. I learned the hard way that a Renault FT means you’re slow, you’re weak, you’re inaccurate, and the commander has to do a ridiculous amount of multitasking.
This is an excellent game for anyone who likes roguelikes and/or tanks.
Now that the main war has finished, I feel comfortable reviewing the World War III 1987 blog. Now, I must admit that I’m benefiting a lot from the context I’ve learned since I’ve started Fuldapocalypse. Part of it is that there are too few 198X Cold War Hot works of fiction instead of the too many. But another part of it is that web serials (which this ultimately is) and traditional books are apples and oranges. Or, to be more accurate, the relationship between them is like that between baseball and cricket, boxing and mixed martial arts, or rugby and American football. All involve hitting a ball with a bat/pileups of burly players/beating one’s opponent up, but anyone with knowledge of both would admit to big differences and often a lack of overlap.
Likewise, writing a book and writing a serial both involve creative writing, but they also have different priorities and require different skillsets to really excel at. And I can say that as a serial, the WWIII87 blog succeeded very. The first thing a serial needs to do-and I mean needs, is be punctual with updates. While there were understandable human slip ups, the update schedule was nonetheless brisk.
The update schedule was good, and so was the content of said updates. I could quibble with a lot of things, but I don’t really have the heart to go “no, the combat power of that division was (X) instead of (Y)” or nitpick minor technical details or circumstances. There are just too many soft factors and confounds in a hypothetical Fuldapocalypse to really call any one outcome plausible, especially given the unlikeliness of a sustained conventional conflict (Cold War era field manuals from both sides are very clear-a third world war is likely to start off conventionally, but highly unlikely to end that way). Let me just say I’ve read substantially worse and leave it at that.
I do have to take issue with the plotnukes, which do the Hackett style of “trade two cities” (Madrid and Gorky/Nizhny Novgorod), and which serve as a Deus ex Atomo at the end. Though even there there isn’t a real good way to do them. I think the least contrived option, which I really haven’t much of in other fiction is to have them deployed tactically against field formations but not strategically against targets in cities or deep beyond the front (kind of like a local version of Arc Light’s skewed extreme counterforce strikes to make a large exchange survivable). Like faster than light travel in science fiction, you just have to try and stay consistent and run with it. And I’ll admit the nuclear ride, when the story goes there, is a little bumpy to me. There’s also a little too much focus, IMO, on detailed actions in the peripheral theaters, which made the pace on the truly important Centfront somewhat slower than I would have liked.
That being said, this is a good effort and my hat’s off to the writer. My personal journey since starting Fuldapocalypse and reading so many books has broadened my mind, and the serial has progressed throughout this blog’s existence. Congratulations and good work!