Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Steel Beasts ProPE - Infantry Tank Cooperation in Polyvalent Brigades of the Ejército the Tierra (Spanish Army)

In 2012, the Fuerzas Armadas Españolas (FAS, Spanish Armed Forces) have started a reorganization process that will mix and match battalions from the Spanish Army (Ejército the Tierra) into so-called "polivalent brigades". With two main flavors (threaded/heavy and wheeled/light), the purpose is to cover as much possible threats and increase deployability without bankrupting the government. The underlying trend? An absolute love for wheeled vehicles.

Those are tanks, not wheeled vehicles! I know, keep reading.
Let's imagine that Ukraine can't shake the Russian Army from Donets. NATO responds. Blah, blah, blah (if I drop my best Tom Clancy impersonation here, it will be even less believable). But here is the deal: we have with us today the newly organized Brigada de Infantería Acorazada «Guadarrama» (mechanized infantry brigade, heavy) which has been polivalent-ized (not a real word) with some assets from the "San Marcial" Light (and wheeled) Infantry Brigade.

But wait, there are more assumptions! The soldados from the San Marcial Brigade brought Piranha IIIH vehicles! I wanted to try the real BMR wheeled vehicle that the Spanish Army uses, but is not available for Steel Beasts. There is off course the VEC, which uses the same chassis as the BMR, but the former has a cannon ... I need to keep my fire power as low as possible and the Piranha IIIH has MGs.
Soooo ... After all the assumptions above, we have a section of two Leopard 2Es and a platoon of Piranha IIIHs. A Russian force is retreating and has left a delaying party of one T-80U tank and a platoon of mechanized infantry. The Russians are making a stand in a small town in front of the Spanish forces.

As the commander of the Spanish forces' advance guard, my mission is to engage the Russians and keep our avenue of advance clear of enemy forces.

As I approach my forces into the tiny town, I am reminded about the proper use of tanks and mechanized infantry. One thing that remains mostly true is that combat in built-up areas is dangerous for tanks and should be left to the infantry. There are passages about this in Panzer Tactics: German Small-Unit Armor Tactics in World War II (by W. Schneider) and if I remember correctly also in Truppenführung: German Army Manual for Unit Command in World War II (edited by B. Condell). Both sources tell that assaulting built up areas is an infantry mission (the tanks just support).

One great example of the above is the German attack on Wilkowischen (Lithuania, 09Aug1944).

The built up area was assaulted by panzergrenadiers (black arrows attacking towards the north), while the tanks skirted the town (east arrow pointing north) and blocked the Soviet reinforcements. This figure is from The History of Panzerregiment Großdeutschland, by H.J. Jung, page 236. 
In a few words: built up area for infantry, open terrain around the built up area for tanks.

Which brings us to my mission. I will not use the tanks to assault the town and I will bring up my infantry for that. But because I have my infantry in light Piranha IIIH vehicles I need to make sure that there are no nasty BMP-3s or tanks within the town. Yeah, the reconnaissance has been lousy. C'est la guerre! Wait, wrong language ... Así es la guerra! 

So the opening move is to lead with the tanks. I move them forward to find out where the Russian armor is.

First right into the town, then as distance closes I start moving my tanks towards the flank of the town. They can see a lot of infantry in the town, but are ordered not to engage those forces. We are on an armor-hunting mission.
Well, the Russians are not making too much effort on hiding inside that building. This the view from the thermal sight of a Leo 2A gunner. The range is 1,500 meters. More than enough to keep the tank safe from hand-held antitank weapons.

One BMP-3 tries to get away from the town. It is quickly taken care of by the tanks' main guns.

While taking care for threats in the town, there is incoming fire from the distance. A Russian T-80U manages to score a couple of hits on one Leo 2E tank. After three hits from my tanks' sabot rounds, the T-80 is completely destroyed.
An in-game AAR view of the fatal round on the Russian T-80 tank.

While my two tanks continue their flanking move, a second BMP-3 shows the tiniest corner of hull. It was hiding behind a building.
At this range, it was a done deal. First immobilized, then completely destroyed. This is an in-game AAR view of the first hit.

Right across that dense tree line, my tanks complete their move into the flank of the town. The last BMP-3 is caught from the rear and his turret goes airborne ...

Now it is the turn of the infantry to assault the village. The Piranha IIIHs move forward, with their MGs blazing fire into the enemy in the town.
At 900 meters or so from the town, far enough to avoid hand-held AT rockets but close enough for our MGs to be effective, the dreadful moment of disembarking my troops. 
All the Piranha IIIHs are delivering suppressive fire into the buildings. Many ENY infantry teams are killed by the incoming MG fire. The movement forward is slow, but I don't see my men suffering casualties so far.

My infantry clearing the town, with one vehicle in support. That building on fire was due to HE rounds from my Leopard tanks coming from the left of the picture. Although the tanks didn't come close to the town, they were able to detect the ENY infantry and engage it.
When my infantry teams reach the far side of the town, the mission is complete.
Earth-shattering successes:
  • Engaged and destroyed enemy armor with my tanks
  • Assaulted the town with infantry, eliminating a whole Russian platoon
To my absolute pleasure, none of my dismounted infantry squads suffered a single casualty. I owe this success to the proper use of the "suppress here" command for the vehicles and the use of infantry orders for fire and maneuver while in 3D view. See screenshot below.


Miserable failure:

  • I got a Piranha IIIH too close to the town and it got mauled really bad. To make matters worse, the infantry was still mounted on it. 

The closing was due to my careless command: I had the infantry force split in two sections and in the heat of battle I lost track of the second section, I am sure I accidentally commanded this vehicle forward. I left the infantry mounted because I wanted that section to be readily available to follow and assume if things went awry for the other section.
En fin, you live and learn.



Chris said...

Very cool JC.

Anonymous said...

Hello JC,
I'm pleasantly surprised by the high survival rate of your infantry.
When attacking in the open I'm usually having far worse results.

But then also I don't use the supress-command ...
So thx for reminding me of it !

And thx for this vignette !


florian said...

Hi JC !

What would you say how good/bad is infantry modelled in Steel Beasts ?

Oh, and by the way...
I was the guy with the "The Angry Wargamer" blog.
Had to change the name, looks like there are already some "angry" wargamers out there.

Anyway, i renamed it to:

Would be nice if you could update the link, thanks !

JC said...

Thanks for your comments.

Koen, you should try it. I had my hombres going forward across open terrain, the AFV guns blazing suppression from a distance. Pure beauty!

Florian, way to go! Congratulations! I've updated my link but your site is not throwing me a feed. A feed would be helpful so viewers get an update every time you post.