Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Faulty observation plans work best when combined with faulty direct fire plans

My topographic map reading skills suck ...

The game: Battle Group Commander: Episode One (ProSim)
The mission: counter-recon, do not let enemy reconnaissance units to reach FOB Jack. I will not go into the OPORD included in the scenario (not too much space to post), but my guess is that this is basically a "guard" mission.

Just so you understand how I am fighting this battle, my plan follows ...

(You can skip these bullet points if you are in a rush)
  • Likely Enemy Avenues of Approach: I have to cover a 14+ km-wide sector of rolling hills and there are no significant terrain obstacles in it. For the time being I settled for north, center and south as the avenues of approach available for the enemy.
  • Likely Enemy Scheme of Fire and Maneuver: I am at a loss here. The enemy force is likely composed of BMP1s, which are no slouch ... and I fear they have ATGMs too (?). Since the terrain is so homogeneous, I cannot identify which approach route would be best for them. The enemy can do pretty much anything he pleases. If the BMP1s have ATGMs, they can use it at 3-4 km ranges. Gah! Not nice ...
  • Where to kill the enemy: Given that my forces have to spend some considerable time traveling southeast from FOB Jack, I settle for 3 counter-recon boxes (CRBs, one per platoon), centered roughly 1 km northwest of phase line Thomas (PL Thomas). I know, I know, too close to FOB Jack.
  • Organize and emplace direct fire systems: Each platoon gets a sector covering more or less 1/3 of the company sector. Each platoon is to organize into a hunter Sabre CVR occupying an observation post (OP) on PL Thomas and a killer team of 3 Sabre CVRs, hidden from enemy view and overlooking their CRBs some 600 meters northwest of their respective OPs. The reason I choose this (sorta) hunter-killer organization is because I'm on the wrong side of the attrition equation (i.e. outgunned). I would like to get a sight of the OPFOR as early as possible but still give the guys manning the OPs a chance of a hasty mutual support from the rest of their platoons if things go sour. My troops disposition has no depth, and I am too close to FOB Jack. I'm skating in thin tactical ice, but I'm taking my chances.
  • Hasty obstacles and indirect fires: have none of those. Sigh.
  • Critical events: the first sight of the enemy. Seriously. I am hoping I can see the OPFOR all at once (or in a short period of time) early in the battle, predict their avenue of approach and mass my troops to one or two of the CRBs.

Fast forward 20 minutes into the battle. 3rd Platoon is at the north sector, 1st Platoon at the center and 2nd Platoon is still racing to occupy their position in the south sector (see screenshot below). Note in the north and south sector, the lone "hunter" Sabre CVRs in their OPs right at PL Thomas. The rest of their Platoons (the units under the "3" and "1" flags) wait for their chance, hidden from the enemy ... That's what I thought!

Right at this point, two enemy vehicles are spotted (the yellow icons near the bottom of the screenshot). I then pause the game to see which one of the "hunters" (the guys in the OPs) is spotting the prey.

None! It is the "killer" team of 3rd Platoon spotting the enemy. I wrongly placed this platoon on the side of a hill after confusing it for a depression in the map. They were supposed to be hidden (doh!), but my mistake is paying off. At least to this point in the battle.

ProSim games have this line of sight (LOS) tool which allows you to see how much of the terrain can be seen from each unit. It looks like a fan, with rays traced out ending where the LOS stops. These LOS fans are yellow in the game, but I modified them into red for a better view in the screenshots.

The LOS fans from the north and center OPs. The unit at the center OP can't see anything coming from their south. The unit at the north OP has a better view of the battlefield, but has a blind spot right where the enemy is located (yellow icons).

The LOS fan from the center "killer" team is quite small and that's good (they are supposed to be hidden). The LOS fan from the 2nd Platoon is quite limited too.

The LOS fan from the "killer" team at the north (3rd Platoon) is actually the one that reaches the enemy vehicles (yellow icons).

... I can only hope I don't run out of fools luck!


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