Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hasty Defense at the Fulda Gap- Steel Beasts ProPE AAR - Part 2: Tactical Plan

This a continuation of a previous blog entry. Today, the tactical plan.

The eyes of the company (+) -sized combat team I am commanding: and M3A2 (a cavalry infantry-fighting vehicle) at the very hot edge of our sector.
First, a correction. In my previous entry I indicated that the enemy force is a tank-heavy Soviet regiment. That was wrong: it's actually a Soviet tank battalion reinforced by a mechanized infantry company. Still outnumbered, still scary if you ask me ...

Please right-click and open in a new window or tab if you want to read this. OPORD is in, listen up!
The mission is a defense in sector against a battalion of Soviet T-72Bs reinforced by a mechanized infantry (BMP-2) company. My forces are two platoons of M1A1 (HA) tanks, one platoon of mechanized infantry (M2A2) and a small supply and combat supply train. I have indirect fire support from three batteries of M109 self-propelled howitzers. Reconnaissance units (4, 2 vehicle teams/sections of M3A2s) are on the ready at the front of our sector.

Please right-click and open in a new window or tab if you want to read this. These are designer's notes.
As you can read in the designer's notes, there is a slight twist in this scenario: if any enemy unit of any size crosses a line in the rear of my sector, the scenario ends automatically in a defeat. Great! Not only I have to stop the tide but also I have to prevent smuggling infiltration!

Below is a screenshot of my sector as I received it.

An 8 km wide, 10 deep sector of beautiful German country side. Note the phase-lines: I will be referencing to them on occasion.
Tactical planning is not a simple task and it requires a lot of thought. The convoluted route from which I arrived to my tactical plan is beyond the scope of this blog entry. But still, here are some brief notes.

  • I want to concentrate my tank force ...
  • ... on small-sized enemy teams ...
  • ... taking advantage of the slight edge the M1A1 has over the T72-B in terms of range and target acquisition
Remember the article I mentioned in the previous entry? I don't feel that the mission, the size and terrain of the sector or the the enemy force lend themselves to an ambush approach. The enemy may choke up here and there, but he will be still racing towards our rear with other elements elsewhere. So, a series of engagements with the so-called "aimed fire" will be the thing.

Let's take a look at the terrain. I've divided the width of my sector in four chunks, and I will show you images of each starting from north to south.

At the north edge of my sector there is narrow and relatively deep valley. The enemy may use this approach but he will be liable of  bunching up on a perfect kill zone. This view looking east, towards the enemy's approach.
Moving a couple of kilometers south from the previous valley, the terrain is a bit broken with many patches of woods. This view looking east, towards the enemy's approach.

This is the center of our sector just behind phase line Knight. I can't imagine better tank terrain than this glorious plain. This view looking east, towards the enemy's approach.
And finally, an image of the south flank of our sector, looking east towards phase line Knight. Here the terrain is a bit more broken but not as much as in our north flank. There is plenty of potential battle positions with good and long fields of fire. Most importantly, there are small hills that provide excellent cover.

Regarding the enemy's probable course of action, I am guessing the enemy will prefer the center and south approaches, as they offer better terrain and fields of fire for their tanks. But I will have to provide the means to maintain the north flank watched upon  and eventually just in case.

As for my forces, there is simply no way to be everywhere if I want to concentrate forces. So I chose to concentrate my two tank platoons in a series of battle stations at my south flank, nearby phase line Knight. Depending on the findings of my scouts across the width of the sector, on order they will engage the enemy sequentially from south to north. That's my company's main effort. The supporting effort will be my 3rd platoon (mechanized infantry) deployed in a defensive position at my center with fields of fire over that superb tank terrain that I showed above. They are tasked with delaying or at least maintain contact with an enemy thrust through the center of my sector.

You may wonder why I didn't chose to concentrate my forces at the center plain that looks so appealing. I declined from such a thing because I am wary of the enemy having so much real state to deploy an outrageous amount of tanks. Keep in mind I have only 2 platoons of tanks and that the enemy has one battalion of them. Attrition can catch up with you really fast after a couple of untimely tank losses ... That's what I read in that article.

The tactical plan. Right click and open on a new tab for a better view. Starting from south to north: (i) 1st and 2nd Plt. (M1A1 tanks) occupy a series of battle positions in front of engagement area Pirc, attacking by fire enemy forces moving west. Be ready to move on order to battle positions south of engagement areas Checkmate and Reti. (ii) 3rd Plt. (M2A2 infantry fighting vechicles), delay and/or maintain contact with enemy forces moving into engagement area Checkmate. Be ready to move on order to battle positions south of engagement area Reti or observation posts north of your current position.

That's pretty much it and I hope it works.

I don't want to give you the impression that I left the scouts at the front at the mercy of the enemy. I spent as much time planning for their mission as I did with the main effort. The least thing I want is to go blind in the north flank of my sector.

A scout M3A2 vehicle at the center of my sector. He looks a bit too exposed at this stage (deployment) but I gave this team an order to occupy a battle position that will eventually put all the vehicles in a hull-down position. Note the excellent field of view this battle position has.
The view from an scout battle position at the north of the sector. This time a bit more hull down-ish. Still, a great field of view.
Steel Beasts ProPE allows the player to plot battle positions and routes during the planning phase. This is very useful because things get hairy pretty fast in armored warfare. Having your routes selected beforehand is so convenient. In this screenshot, I have instructed this scout team to get the hell out of his battle position (route indicated in a pink line) 1 minute after he observes enemy forces. This is to avoid the scout team to stick around the position if he spots enemy tanks or enemy scouts. The former will just crush them, the latter will put artillery fire on them a couple minutes after they see them. 


Harold said...

Great reading stuff! Love to buy the game but pricing and strange installing holds me of.
Any chance it will become more commercial / cheaper?



NW said...

Harold: No, there's no chance that it will be commercialized in the model propagated by computer games. It is not a computer game, it is a simulation, and the developers are offering SB Pro PE as a civilianized (classified information removed) training supplement for soldiers off duty or for enthusiasts. There is a lot of content for the sim and the mission editor is about as good as the Operation Flashpoint/Armed Assault series' editor, which has kept that series going for 12 years now.

The installation isn't strange. There is a USB dongle that one must use to run the simulation, this is identical to having the disk in the drive to play. No problems there.

If you have any interest in modern armoured combat either from a crew station up to about regimental level, then I recommend SB Pro PE. It also happens to be the only choice in this category; other 'sims' lack critical features.

Doug Miller said...

I'm interested to see how this plays out. I find that it's absolutely essential to plot battle positions and routes prior to the engagement. Not doing so has always resulted in a defeat for me.

To me, this is the major differing factor between this sim and so many other "games;" the planning is made explicit and essential. I wish more simulation/game engine were capable of handling the mission planning function as SBPro.

Harold, I agree with JC here- no chance of commercialization, and there just isn't a choice when it comes to armor sims. If you want the real deal SBPro is it.

Harold said...

Tnx both!

For know i stick with Combat Mission & Command Ops. Did ask a demo license today.



JC said...

Hello, folks.

Good move there Harold with the demo license. That will allow you to know before you invest in this simulator.

Yes. When I started with Steel Beasts I was not too fond of pre-plotted stuff, but in the frantic world of mechanized combat we should not shy away from an opportunity to have something under control! :)


Anonymous said...

Hello JC,

A though battle is awaiting you, I'm afraid.
Be prepared !

Looking forward to the outcome, always a pleasure to read your vignettes.
Put on a link on the SB-forum to this site.

Rgds, Koen

JC said...

Hi Koen and it's always great to have you around here.

Thanks for the referral. I hope that I can write this one up pretty soon.


Anonymous said...

FYI, there were no T-72's in the GSFG. The only T-72's one would encounter early on in such a conflict would be the NVA. In this scenario you should use T-80's if representing 8th Guards Army near Fulda.

Lieste said...

Though the T80U is far too advanced ~ a T80B is less protected ~ it has less base armour and earlier ERA than the T80U that came after it.

While incorrect, the T72B is probably a 'better' analogue (in SB no ERA, but heavier armour), or perhaps the T72M1/T72A, representing the T80 'base' protection level reasonably well.

You should add the GLATGM (4 per vehicle) to reflect the capabilities of the T64 and T80 vehicles, even though these wouldn't be found on most/all T72A vehicles.

Anonymous said...

"FYI, there were no T-72's in the GSFG. The only T-72's one would encounter early on in such a conflict would be the NVA. In this scenario you should use T-80's if representing 8th Guards Army near Fulda."

The T-72Bs represent an approximation to what is available in SB. There are three versions of the scenario, even one against T-80s and another against T-62s I think, which represent different time periods or realities, who knows. It doesn't really matter now does it? Or are we just trying to snipe? (yeah probably).

Anyway, the vehicle stable in SB is constantly expanding, so who knows, maybe more T tanks are in order to allow different situations (I sure hope so!).