Sunday 6 January 2013

NATO N flank AAR

1985 – Cold War Gone Hot
Action on NATO’s northern flank
It’s the dog days of August 1985.  Earlier, in July, youthful audiences across the globe watched Queen open the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium, despite growing East-West tensions.  Since then, diplomatic relations have completely broken down and internal pressures on the Soviet military have increased to the point where, at 04:00 hours CET on 4th August, massive Soviet and Warpact armoured and mechanised forces crossed the border between East and West Germany, heading west towards the ports of West Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.
To the north, across the Baltic in Scandinavia, Soviet Forces from the vicinity of Murmansk, crossed the border with Norway and occupied the town of Kirkenes almost without a struggle.  Simultaneously, Soviet airborne and air assault regiments attacked key portions of the route south through Norway, including the small harbour town of Bjerkvik, on the main auto-route south to Narvik.  Bjerkvik was assaulted by a helo-inserted Soviet Motor Rifle Regiment, lacking any armour support or ground transportation.  Despite determined resistance by hastily assembled Norwegian reserve units, the town and harbour were quickly occupied with minimal losses (10-15%) to the Soviet forces.  With Soviet armour heading south from the North Cape and sea transport resupply from Murmansk, including armour, transports, reinforcements and other assets, en route from Murmansk, all the occupiers of Bjerkvik had to do was hold the immediate vicinity of the town and harbour to keep the route to Narvik clear.
Offshore, RN, US Navy and other NATO warships were contesting the Greenland-Iceland gap with the Soviet Northern Fleet, but a small amphibious landing force with carrier support, with a full USMC Brigade embarked, had slipped in shore and were preparing to land, with the aim of recapturing the town and harbour, eliminating the Soviet defenders and preparing a warm reception for any Soviet ground forces attempting to advance on Narvik.
Further background details can be gleaned from Gen Sir John Hacketts “future history” books on the Third World War, written at the end of the 1970’s.
The game
This was the setting for a game played between myself and Ian Shaw at the Deeside Defenders Club last Thursday using 6mm minis.  For me it was an introduction to playing Cold War Commander and a chance to play with a bunch of USMC toys that I had, plus some borrowed from Ian as mine weren’t all ready.  For us both, it was a chance to try out a scenario for the Cold War Commander Arctic Strike 2013 mega-game planned for later this year.  The game was played on an approximately 9ft x 6ft table, blue cloth for sea, carpet tiles in various shades of green and beige for land and beach terrain, about half the clubs small hills, and foam rubber and cocktail stick trees.  Although they didn’t take part in the game, some eye candy was added by a pair of Ian’s 1/300 scale scratch built Norwegian coastal frigates, plus a North Sea supply vessel.

The Soviet defenders comprised three infantry battalions of 9 infantry stands, all with RPGs, 120mm mortar, HQ and SAM stands.  Off table assets comprised three batteries of towed arty in emplacements.  Ian had chosen to dig field defences for two battalions and garrison the town with the third plus the CO.  He placed a small number of sniper elements along the tree-line of the northern shore of the fjord to harass any potential enemy movement here.

The USMC brigade also comprised three battalions, each of three companies of three stands, an  81mm mortar, a .50 HMG and a Dragon ATGM team, one in LCM-8s (Alligators), one in LVTP-7s and one helo borne in CH-46 Sea Stallions.  Assets included naval gunfire (three batteries equivalent) with an FAO in a UH-1, and one flight each of A6 Intruders, F4 Phantoms and AV-08 Harriers with a FAC in a Bronco.  A USMC tank Co of M60s was to be brought in by LCM-8.  My plan was to land by LCM and LVTP on the beaches to the south of town, under cover of NGF and air strikes, and neutralise the occupiers of the field defences there, then advance on the town.  The battalion in helos were held in reserve, although they were eventually deployed in turn 3.

The USMC had initiative and moved first.  LCM-8s were restricted to 15cm moving once per turn so moved c. halfway to the shore.  LVTP-7s were permitted two moves of 15cm while afloat so moved 30cm around the headland.  Both FAO and FAC moved along the shoreline towards the town and the CO hovered above the LVTPs.  The Soviet response was to call in artillery support and the battalion 120mm on the LCM-8s, hitting and suppressing a number of units, including the battalion HQ.  Turn 2 saw the LCMs milling around just offshore in some disarray, while the LVTPs advanced up the beach.  The FAO and FAC failed to activate.  The Soviet turn continued indirect fire, from off table and the battalion 120mm mortar, on the LCMs, which again suppressed quite a few units.  The two platoons closest to the LVTPs launched ineffective RPG fire.

In turn 3, the FAO again failed to activate – new binoculars for him - while the FAO called in first an F4 strike, which was forced to abort due to SAM fire, then an A6 intruder strike, which made it through the air defences, targeting the battalion 120mm mortar using ICM cluster bombs.  Deviation was small and the bomblets rained down on the entire battalion, hitting and suppressing all but one platoon and the HQ was KO’d.  The LVTP-mounted infantry then disembarked and close assaulted the suppressed platoons in front of them, rolling up c. 50% of the battalion.  Due to suppression, the LCMs again milled around just offshore.  With the 1st Soviet battalion in disarray and taking severe losses, it seemed a good time for the CO to call in the helo-borne battalion to be in a position to assault the town next turn, which he did successfully.  The Soviet response was limited – no HQ for 1st Batallion and most of the 2nd Battalion out of range, except for two platoons at the edge of town and the 120mm battalion mortar, which took out two of the helo inserted marine platoons.

Turn 4 saw the LVTP companies close assaulting the remaining dug in Soviet infantry, eliminating all but two platoons, although a determined defence by one platoon eliminated an entire USMC company – some accurate close range  RPG fire on the LVTPs and some dogged defence in the trenches.  The FAO called in all three naval batteries on the 120mm mortar in the town, hitting most of the defenders closest to the marines on the edge of town and just missing the lead marine platoons.  The FAC then called in an F4 strike on the 120mm mortar, again using ICM cluster bombs, although napalm would have been as effective.  This eliminated most of the forward defenders on the edge of town as well as the SAM and the regimental CO.  The FAC then failed to activate for the Harrier AV-08 – having, I can only presume, decided to keep assets back for the 3rd Battalion in their field defences on the far side of town.  The 3rd USMC Battalion failed to activate, despite the now undefended town, while the LCMs were now free to reach the shore, ready to disembark next turn.  The Soviet response in turn 4 was severely limited as the 1st Batt was reduced to 2 stands, 2nd Batt had a suppressed HQ and the CO had been lost, and 3rd Batt couldn’t see any targets as the bulk of the town was in the way.
At this point, we concluded the game.  The Soviets were close to break point and the USMC were on the verge of occupying the town.  With only one static battalion in field defences north of the town in any position to react, it was deemed that the USMC had achieved it’s objectives (OOORAH!).  With the brigade TOWs on 4x4’s, LAVs, engineers and Hawk ADS due to come ashore as follow-up forces and the M60 company intact, a warm reception should be waiting for any Soviet armoured force moving on Narvik.
Reflections on the game
Although not quite played to a conclusion, the game was fun to play for me, as the USM had lots of nice toys to play with (NGF, various helos, Bronco, A6, F4, AV-08, LVTPs, LCMs, etc.).  Not sure about Ian as he was limited to the infantry batallions and some off table artillery.  The USMC is quite vulnerable in assault, being mainly infantry, unless they are well supported by naval gunnery and some good air assets.  Without the F4, A6, AV-08, ICM/napalm assets and naval guns to suppress infantry in BUAs or dug in, it would have been a very different outcome.  The use of cluster bombs/napalm are particularly effective aids to winkling out dug in infantry, but only if followed up by close assaults (i.e. fully combined arms approaches).
Brigade/Regiment (plus assets)-sized actions are about the right level of play for CWC in a day or evenings play.  The game is unpredictable, but generally rewards good use of all-arms, and is great fun to play.

Sorry - no photos - forgot the camera.  Will post some piccies of the USMC as I finish them.

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