Sunday, December 1, 2013

Steel Beasts ProPE 3.0 - Light Armored Vehicles Woes

This weekend I've been messing around a bit with the ASLAV-25 and no matter what I do, I end up outgunned by the enemy.

In this custom-made scenario, a troop of ASLAVs (a mix of 25s and PC types) has gained early control to a crucial cross-roads and a Co (-) of M1A1 AHs moves up to avoid a massacre. The whole thing is totally hypothetical, featuring Australian troops against Cold War era Soviet equipment (!).

The tactical situation. In 5 hours or so, the enemy (Regiment strength) is expected to show up via the road at the center of the red arrow and secure the cross roads in the big town at the center. An Australian Cavalry troop has temporarily outmaneuvered the Soviets and is expecting an enemy forward detachment (Bn -). Objective TIGER is a hill that commands great fields of fire over the future enemy axis of advance. An Australian tank company (-) is some kilometers behind, moving towards the objective. 

ASLAV 25s from A Company, 1st Platoon, taking positions east of the town and oriented towards objective TIGER.
One of the tank platoons, racing towards the town.

An enemy reconnaissance vehicle crests the hill at objective TIGER. The engagement lasts a few seconds too much for my taste. Despite multiple hits by the ASLAV 25s (gunner's sight shown in the picture), the enemy vehicle keeps firing back before being destroyed.
I ordered the two tank platoons to move directly towards objective TIGER. By the time the second tank platoon is crossing the town at full speed, the first serious threat shows up on the south flank (red icons).
The second tank platoon in the reverse slope of objective TIGER. Yes, I have completely ignored the south flank for the time being and moved into the objective  area with the tanks.
Three infantry squads are ordered to dismount from their ASLAV PCs and to move forward, near the tanks. The ASLAVs are left behind, near the boundaries of the town.

Before the infantry makes it up the objective hill, enemy BMPs are engaged and destroyed by the tanks. 

The crest of the hill at objective TIGER lights up with multiple enemy contacts, including T-80s. At close range, the two Australian tank platoons destroy every single one of the enemy vehicles.
On the meantime, the 4th platoon (4 ASLAV 25s) gets a serious beating from enemy tanks advancing through the south flank. It was very difficult to place and keep this platoon in a turret down position  in the town (the urban terrain messes up formations very easily).  In this picture, only two ASLAV 25s have survived the onslaught, one is shown here. An unlucky ASLAV 25 is burning in the mid background. 
One of the great things about Steel Beasts ProPE is the sound implementation: an enemy vehicle could be heard nearby and I commanded this ASLAV 25 to search and destroy it. Without any infantry available (all of it is near objective TIGER), the ASLAV 25 moves cautiously through the town.
The enemy vehicle, a light armored wheeled reconnaissance one, is found and engaged immediately. The range is almost a stone throw.
The enemy fires back and there goes our suspension. Fire, fire, fire ...
Luckily, the enemy vehicle is destroyed. An ASLAV CS is called up to do the needed repairs to the suspension. That's a 35 minutes work!
A couple of kilometers north, objective TIGER is almost secure. Infantry moves in, supported by tanks. 

Scenes of unspeakable destruction at the objective. That's an enemy T-80, destroyed by one of our tanks.
The cleanup at the objective is slow but thorough. Only the M1 tanks are used for combing the area. There is little left of the enemy.
The southern side of the objective witnessed some very close range shootouts. Fortunately, almost all of the targets found were already immobilized.

This must be the closest range I ever shot anything from an M1 tank in combat.
The fields of fire from objective TIGER are fantastic. In the background, the valley the enemy will likely use for its advance.
The tanks took over the narrative because they virtually won the engagement. I was very surprised to find the ASLAV 25s so weak in combat, but I admit that nobody ever intended to fight with them at such close range and in broken terrain without a significant escort of infantry.



Doug Miller said...

Just upgraded to 3.0 last week. Looking forward to regaining my armor chops.

Very neat scenario, JC. I'm actually surprised the LAVs held up as well as they did in an environment with MBTs on the prowl.

JC said...

Hi Doug,

It's the M1s, nothing else. Without them around the hot spots, the LAVs are toast.

I recall destroying a T-80 with an ASLAV 25 some time back ... Now, I just can't manage to dent a Toyota with it. :)

Carlos Ribeiro said...

There is a CCCP side of this mission?

JC said...

Hi Carlos,

Yes. The red side is a forward detachment (-), Soviet, Cold War era.

Thanks for reading,


NW said...

The 25mm has been criticized for its lethality and penetrative power in the past. Which rounds were you firing at the BRDMs in particular but other light AFVs as well? At some aspects, HE might provide better lethality than AP, for instance using HE against the flank of a BMP or on BTRs and BRDMs is generally effective. These vehicles have a deal of "void space" that AP tends to cleanly punch through without hitting critical things, and since the armour mass being penetrated is so little - in comparison to MBT targets - you're generally unable to exploit behind-armour effects relying on a great deal of spall from the armour itself, as with APFSDS penetrations of MBTs.

We're seeing a shift to heavier guns in IFVs, generally 30-40mm, and this is a good thing I think, if only because of increased HE throw weight. The idea is that the gun needs to be used more like a cannon than a machinegun, so the decreased ammo capacity and cyclic rate (usually) is perceived as less of an issue. For serious killing, strapping an ATGM to it is still the preferred solution in all cases.

Would you be interested in trying the scenario with CV9040s or Uhlans and seeing how the increase in firepower serves you?

Panzer_Leader said...

Nice scenario and write-up and good to see the Australian Army getting some coverage!

However, I have to point out the ASLAV is used by the Australian Army in a reconnaissance role and is not intended to go toe-to-toe with heavy units - its frontal armour can be penetrated by 14.5 mm. Unlike US reconnaissance which has traditionally favoured use of firepower, Australian reconnaissance uses the "sneak and peek" method, employing cover, concealment and movement to survive - the radio is its deadliest weapon. When employed this way the ASLAV's 25 mm should only be used in self defence or to defeat light units such as BRDM, BTR or soft skins. Indeed the "infantry" in the ASLAV-PCs are actually assault troopers and used in a way more akin to US cavalry scouts (think dismounted OPs) than line infantry. When used this way I think you'll find the ASLAV much more useful. The only pure reconnaissance vehicle I believe is better in Steel Beasts is that British classic, the Scimitar - but it's not amphibious, which was a specific requirement of the Australian Army.

Gibsonm said...


Entertaining but not very doctrinal. :)

We don't use a CAV Troop to hold ground. they aren't Mech Infantry.

As your scenario accurately points out they don't have the protection to engage in a slug fest and in addition the four, four man fire teams carried by the two APC variants aren't enough boots on the ground.

In addition with the advent of Ver 3.002 the M1A1 (HA) is no longer the best proxy for "our" M1s.

The M1A2 SEP with disabled Commander's sight (disables the CITV) is a better choice.

Smaller issues are that our Tanks and Cavalry are Troops from Squadrons, not Platoons from Companies.

Happy tp help you tune this as required.


Royal Australian armoured Corps.

Gibsonm said...

These notes on ASLAV:


Might be of assistance

(This doesn’t necessarily reflect current endorsed ADF doctrine for the vehicle’s employment but provides general guidance on how they are currently employed and how this can be replicated in SB Pro PE).

Platform Characteristics

- The ASLAV provides good operational mobility at the cost of some tactical mobility (there are places a wheeled AFV can’t go that a tracked one can, but a wheeled AFV can do a convoy escort or self deploy at 110Kph, whereas a tracked one needs to travel on the back of a truck or railcar).

- In terms of the other parts of the AFV design triangle, the ASLAV has high firepower at the cost of low protection (the light weight helps with the mobility parameter).

- The platform is designed to, if required, use its superior firepower to engage likely threat vehicles (mainly their reconnaissance assets) at a range where they can’t effectively engage the ASLAV. The ASLAV is not protected enough to trade blows with an MBT or most IFV.

- This fits into the usual Australian approach to reconnaissance being reconnaissance by stealth (OPs, etc.) rather than say the US doctrine of aggressive reconnaissance which laid the foundation for the ACR type structure.

- It can certainly be used in raids against logistic nodes or HQs but not to assault a MDP.



Gibsonm said...


An Australian Cavalry Regiment consists of:

1 x Regimental HQ (RHQ)
4 x Line or Sabre Squadrons
1 x Operational Support Sqn

The Sabre Sqns provide the cbt power and reconnaissance capability while the Operational Support Sqn provides the major logistic spt elm in the Regt.

Each Sabre Sqn consists of:

1 x Sqn HQ (SHQ)
3 x Sabre TPs
1 x Admin TP

SHQ comprises 6 x ASLAV (2 x ASLAV-25, 4 x ASLAV-PC – to use SB Pro PE terminology)

Each Sabre TP comprises 6 x ASLAV (4 x ASLAV-25, 2 x ASLAV-PC and each ASLAV-PC carries a section of dismounts)

A TP can be employed either as a 6 veh TP or as 2 x “Patrols“ each consisting of (2 x ASLAV-25, 1 x ASLAV-PC and a section of dismounts).

This provides flexibility in being able to cover two tasks with a Patrol each, but a Patrol has less endurance on a task than a TP (but this is beyond the timeframe of most SB Pro PE scenarios).

Admin TP provides the Sqn Officer Commanding (OC) with an integral logistic effort, albeit not as large as the Operational Support Sqn available to the Commanding Officer (CO).

Its structure varies but its probably safe to work on:

1 x ASLAV-25
1 x ASLAV (Amb)
1 x ASLAV recovery vehicle
7 x ASLAV log vehicles / Trucks as available.



SHQ will often be missing one or both of the ASLAV-25s as the OC and Sqn Sergeant Major (SSM) move around the battlespace personally influencing the battle or moving to / from RHQ, etc.

The remaining four vehicles will normally move as two groups of two vehicles each. One group will remain in location while the other “steps up” to a new location. Once the step up group are in the new location and have established communications with the Sqn and assumed command, the static pair will pack up and move to join the step up group.

In SB Pro PE terms therefore this 6 vehicle grouping would be best represented by:

2 x single ASLAV-25 units
2 x units of ASLAV-PC (each of two vehicles)

Sabre TPs

If moving as a TP then the ASLAV-25s usually take the lead with the PCs in the rear. So a “Two Up” formation would be 2 x ASLAV-25 on the first bound, another 2 x ASLAV-25 on the second bound (behind the first) and the pair of ASLAV-PCs on the third bound in depth.

In SB Pro PE terms this is best represented by two icons:

One of 4 x ASLAV-25
One of 2 x ASLAV-PC

The four ASLAV-25s would normally use “overwatch” or “bounding overwatch” (to use US terms) with the ASLAV-PCs following to the rear.

Replicating this type of movement might require the configuration of:

One of 2 x ASLAV-25 (lead pair)
One of 2 x ASLAV-25 (second pair)
One of 2 x ASLAV-PC (trailing pair)

Creating a single six vehicle icon is possible but then you may find that adopting the “Assault” and “Echelon” type formations could well expose the ASLAV-PCs when normally they are protected by the ASLAV-25s.

Similarly there can be issues with “March” formations where you could end up with the ASLAV-PCs leading instead of being last.

Troop Patrols

If moving as a Patrol then the ASLAV-25s again usually take the lead with the PCs in the rear. So a “Two Up” formation would be 2 x ASLAV-25 on the first bound and the ASLAV-PC on the next bound behind.

The lead pair would still employ mutual support with one vehicle moving (covered by the other) and then reversing the roles. Unlikely for both vehicles to move at once unless the threat was low or time available meant that risk had to be accepted.

In SB Pro PE terms this is best represented by three icons:

One of 1 x ASLAV-25
One of 1 x ASLAV-25
One of 1 x ASLAV-PC

Again creating a single Patrol icon is possible for ease of control but can generate some unexpected results.

JC said...

Woah! Thank you so much for the comments!

I just assumed the Australian reconnaissance forces would fight for information. My bad.

There is a lot of information to digest from these comments. But I am looking forward to get it right.

More about this topic is coming.



Gibsonm said...

Last post (let you digest it).

Sure to an extent but they aren't "fighting for information" here, they are just defending the town.

The scouts have a "weapons locker" type setup where their weapons match the role.

In the back of each ASLAV-PC is a Javelin as well.

In reality the Tp leader would tell his guys - "take the Jav".

In SB terms, for this mission, you'd need to dismount the infantry and change the rifle team into a missile team in the Mission Editor. MG team no change.

I think you'd find that a couple of Javs would give the recce more teeth in this scenario.

Secondly you have a Sqn (or near enough) holding the town. A Tp might deploy there to provide early warning that the enemy was coming, but a Sqn normally has a frontage of 20 - 40Km+. SO you end up with a "Line of Surveillance" not just a point.

Finally (minor one) the call signs are all "messed up" from and Aust point of view. So "1 Tp, A Sqn" is "11" not "1A" but that's easy to fix if you use the right call sign template.



Gibsonm said...

Oops (really the last one),

If you read here:

The opening setting information and Scenario One will give you an idea of frontages and employment.

Stopping now. :)

badanov said...

Wouldn't Australian field commanders crossattach their units to make them more effective? It seems to me that no army deploys into combat with just their book TO&E. A lot of crossattaching takes place to make the tactical unit better suited to its task.

A recon troop reinforced with an M1A2 or with heavy infantry would make a formidable recon element.

Gibsonm said...

Except that is NOT how we do recce.

Cross attaching does happen to form BG's or CTs but Recce remains a BDE or higher resource.

The Recce units are well forward (20 - 60Km +) while the Mech and Tanks are in the main force.

Aust recce IS NOT an old school heavy US ACR.

Gibsonm said...

If you have a look here you'll see a worked example:

Chris said...

fantastic discussion in comments!

Doug Miller said...

When I read this post originally I wondered to myself if this scenario would end up summoning the good Colonel Gibson. I've benefited a great deal from his real world experience when lurking on the Steel Beasts and CMSF forums.

This is a fantastic discussion!

Doug Miller said...

The information on squadron frontages and recce unit distance to the front in revelatory to me. A frontage of 20km to 40km+ plus is much, much longer than I ever imagined.

That makes me rethink scenario development ideas in any number of sims...

Gibsonm said...

Sir, I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage but glad I could help.

Doug Miller said...

You'd have no way of knowing me since I've never posted on either forum, but I've read your posts with great interest. Knowing your background I immediately thought of you when I first read JC's AAR.

Anonymous said...

Great write-up. Always enjoy reading your stuff. Love SBPE myself. Particularly love those screenshots of the T-80, they look so badass! Perhaps some day we will get them crewable.

Gibsonm said...

Don't wish to hijack the thread but here are two AARs that might provide some guidance (unsure how to embed a link so I'm afraid its old school copy and paste):


Hope you enjoy the season in whichever way your culture / beliefs celebrate it.



glaterza said...

Hi! sorry for the necroposting, been quite busy for a while.
I´ve been reading LtCol Mark comments with interest. They recalled my reading of a couple of very interesting (and free) books by the US Combat Studies Institute:
"Scouts Out! The Development of Reconnaissance Units in Modern Armies" and "66 Stories of Battle Command"

In the first one, the author
analyses light vs heavy paradox in recce troops: too heavy, and it gets used as a manouver element. Too light, it´s not survivable and ends screening the flanks or rear security

And in 66 stories, though they are exercises, the sheer magnitude of them gives you the feeling of how all elements interact in a modern battlefield. And, it sometimes validates McGrath´s theory: facing an impossible frontage, Cav is used as a normal combat element.

Both totally worth the reading!
So, coming back to our case, although not doctrinal, It ´s a nice "What it?"
Food for thought
Argentine Marines

glaterza said...

by the way,

Gibsonm said...

Happy New Year and thanks for your information. :)

Since my last comment we conducted the last part with CT LYNX.

I've consolidated all three parts here: