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domfluff

Syrian and Russian Mech infantry doctrine

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First, a quote from:
https://balagan.info/soviet-order-of-battle-and-doctrine-in-the-cold-war
 

Quote

No Arab army has ever utilized Soviet Tactical Military Doctrine. The reason being that Soviet “Military Advisors” never taught doctrine or tactics. When one hears the phrase “Military Advisor,” one generally thinks of US Special Forces or British SAS. Soviet “Military Advisors” were not Spetnatz, in fact, many were non-military. The Soviets were Technical Advisors, many being civilians employed by the contractor who built the weapons system, much in the same way that Martin-Marietta provided civilian advisors to the US Army for the Lance and Pershing I, IA and II missile systems. Soviet Technical Advisors provided advice on training and maintenance to the host nation, not tactics.

This is further evidenced by the fact that the 1973 Arab-Israeli war was the genesis for the creation of the US Army’s AirLand Battle 2000 doctrine. It had always been assumed that the Arabs used Soviet tactics and the Israelis used Western tactics. A captain at one of the war colleges wrote a paper identifying the Arab armies as using classic Western Style warfare and the Israelis using a modified version of standard Wehrmacht tactics. A review of all Arab-Israeli conflicts confirmed this and led to the question: What exactly is Soviet Tactical Doctrine?

The US began collecting books written in the Soviet Union about WWII and interviewing surviving German officers in the east and west and Warsaw Pact military defectors. To their horror, the US realized that it had completely misunderstood Soviet tactical warfare and began reviewing and rewriting their own doctrine, leading to the AirLand Battle 2000 doctrine. The Israelis were discovered to be using a combination of Wehrmacht and Soviet doctrine.

This quote is unsourced, and I'm really curious if it's accurate. 

Still, I've been trying to understand Russian infantry doctrine in CMBS. Reading The Russian Way of War: https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/Hot Spots/Documents/Russia/2017-07-The-Russian-Way-of-War-Grau-Bartles.pdf

This cleared up a number of issues for me, especially in how the platoons are supposed to operate.

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The interesting part to me is the split into manoeuvre and fire teams (with a single LMG), making the squad more similar in practice to WW2 Commonwealth or German mainline army, rather than Panzergrenadiers or modern US rifle squad, with symmetrical fireteams that can cover each other. Notably, the BMP and the fireteam are supposed to be set up in cover and concealment, when they dismount at all. Much is made of the BMP's inability to spot when the dismounts are out - but I would suggest that this is because they're dismounting a little too soon - the BMP gains protection through firepower, and for that the squad stays mounted until necessary. In practice, and especially against Javelins, this might become necessary far sooner than intended, but that's the point where theory hits reality.

In CMBS, BMP motor rifle platoons have two spare slots in each BMP, for a total of six seats - this can and should be used with the "Add Specialised Team"  feature to add:

AGL (2 men)
AT units (2 or 3 men, depending on the type of ATGM chosen)
RPO (2 men)
Air Defence (1 man)
Engineer (breach team) (4 men)

(If the armour is not massed centrally, then the correct armoured support for a BMP Platoon is one tank, if any).

This is crucial, I think. I've been playing some CMBS PBEM recently, and I've been really impressed with the power of these attached units. RPOs in particular have impressed me - they haven't been killing vast numbers of Americans  by themselves, but they've been excellent at winning firefights in urban terrain. Every time I fired off one of those it felt like winning, since the return fire slackened off considerably and helped gain fire superiority.

So, Syria.

Syrian BMP units have nine man squads, with two LMG. This means that the platoon does not have the additional space for attached units, and the flexibility that provides. It also means that they don't have the two MMG's that the US platoons have, and form a huge part of their tactical flexibility.

So you have a platoon that looks like it's made up of US-like symmetric squads, but doesn't have the flexibility that goes with that. I've heard it said that the Syrians do not use fireteams in reality, but I don't have a source for that either, and it doesn't make a ton of sense to me.

The Syrian mech inf. company does have a weapons platoon with four MMGs, an HQ and a forward observer in two BMPs. the FO is clearly there to manage the Company mortars (mostly 120mm), and presumably in CMSF 2 we'll get an on-map option for these, with transport. Four MMGs would mean that you could parcel out two MMGs to the two up front platoons (assuming your basic two-up formation), so perhaps that's the point? The FO then could be in a position to support both in-contact platoons, or could directly support one of them. The HQ unit also has a radio, so you could have an FO and a worse version of an FO, perhaps.

So, assuming that the initial quote is correct - "A captain at one of the war colleges wrote a paper identifying the Arab armies as using classic Western Style warfare"  - I can see that being a sensible outcome from the squad and platoon organisation - you can operate the Syrians much like a US platoon, albeit one with mostly Soviet-era kit, and generally poor training.

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A bit like the Jesuits "Get Them Young, and the Possibilities are Endless"

First group of Syrian kids arrives in Russia for military education

Eight kids from the Syrian “School for Late Heroes’ Children” have arrived to St. Petersburg and are now preparing themselves for studies in various Russian military schools, a popular daily reports.
The head of the Syrian Culture Center in St. Petersburg, Waddah al-Jundi, has told Izvestia daily that the eight children are expected to begin their studies in Russian military schools on September 1, as part of the recently signed agreement that allows Syrians to study in Russian military schools for free, given that they prove their knowledge of Russian and pass all necessary medical tests.

Russian Forces in Syria and the Building of a Sustainable Military Presence - I

Abstract

The Syrian Army has inherited a few of the norms and customs the French used for running army affairs following the French occupation. These did not include any provisions on regulating the army. After the Baa’th Party came to power, particularly after Hafez Assad had assumed office, the norms and customs guaranteeing minimum rights for army soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and officers faded gradually, leaving room for cronyism and allegiance to individuals and to the regime as the sole guarantor for the military to gain their rights. Leaders of military units became almost governors of their own units where nothing could take place without their blessings

The Russians became fully in charge of the Syrian Army and started to instil rules and regulations that would ensure discipline and transform the army to a professional force capable of actual missions on the ground. Such rules included entrenching among Syrian soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and officers’ allegiance to Russian military officers and meant to subdue and prevent them from exercising their authority. This has established the Russians as the de facto leaders in the minds of members of the Syrian army.

This has mainly shifted the responsibility for all the atrocities committed by the Assad forces under the Russian leadership to the Russians together with the regime’s officers and leaders. Despite their inability to make decisions, they are responsible, in terms of political structure and posturing, for all cases of genocide, chemical attacks, displacement, starvation and other violations.

It has therefore become difficult in the Syrian context to separate between the Russian leadership and the Syrian Army, except in terms of differentiating between the leader and the follower, a divide that Russia has been working on consolidating in the media and in its diplomacy as an entity “assisting to achieve peace and combat terrorism”, while it undoubtedly deserves the description of “occupier” with its ability to run a lot of important issues on Syrian soil.

 

I'd be surprised if in the past/present Russian allied Arab Officers don't attend or at least visit for courses in Russian Military Colleges / Academies like they do in the West with 'Sandhurst sheikhs' - or the Russian Military way of doing things  'courses' came to them.

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Just a quick point - with the above Soviet/Russian mech inf. squads - in CMBS, BMPs have six man squads, and BTRs/MT-LB's have seven, matching the diagram. The "Split squads" command separates these into the listed fireteams, with the RPG joining the manoeuvre element.

Looking at the CMSF 2 demo, there seems to have been some significant changes to the Syrian TO&E.  In CMSF 1, the Mechanised infantry squads are nine men strong, with two RPK LMG's, whereas the ones in Passage at Wilcox seem a lot more "Russian" - seven men, with a single PKM. The Motorised infantry squads in The Alamo seem to be nine men, with a single RPK. There's clearly a weapons platoon in the company with four PKM MMGs still. Each of those Motorised and Mechanised platoons has a single RPG-7 team, (in addition to the RPG-7V's inherent in the squads) but it's possible those are just attachments? In any case, the mech infantry HQ is a seven man squad with PKM, SVD and RPG-7.

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Also of note is that the Syrian army get dismounted AGL's in Breaking the Bank in the CMSF 2 demo, which I don't think was the case in CMSF 1. There's clearly been some major work in re-doing the Syrian army TO&E.

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A Soviet attack, conducted well, with the right forces is boring, predictable, and almost unstoppable.

For a variety of reasons the Arabs were no more able to do this even with Soviet equipment than the ARVN were able to have the same kind of success as the French or Americans despite being similarly equipped. http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/AD_Issues/amdipl_17/articles/deatkine_arabs1.html

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I'm a little confused with the Syrian radio situation (going by the CMSF 2 demo).

Squads have "radio contact" C2 links when the HQ is in the BMP (using the BMP's radio), implying that the squads carry radios? 

But the HQ doesn't have radio contact with it's squads when outside of the BMP (and placed out of LOS/earshot).

The HQ unit on foot doesn't have a C2 connection to the Company HQ, but still have one to an off-map Battalion HQ, and can call in off-map artillery, implying that they must have a radio?

Likewise a subordinate unit has C2 connection to the Platoon HQ and the Company HQ only if all three units have line of sight connections - if the HQ is in a BMP for the radio contact, then the subordinate will be able to contact the Company HQ, but not the Platoon HQ, and if the Platoon HQ is outside the BMP then the reverse is true.

Obviously the Syrian C2 is worse (no GPS, etc.), but I'm confused as to how this is actually working.

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I would think that there would be platoon and company signalers with manpacks, and the sections would have vehicle radios (as you point out) at the very least.

I would be surprised if sections didn't have some sort of radio link to platoon HQ when dismounted.

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1 hour ago, domfluff said:

The HQ unit on foot doesn't have a C2 connection to the Company HQ, but still have one to an off-map Battalion HQ, and can call in off-map artillery, implying that they must have a radio?

Interesting.  You might be onto something here.   

However the ability to call in off map artillery probably does not mean anything.  It is often referred to as the field telephone abstraction.  As long as the leader is alive and has calling privileges he can always call for fire with or without a radio.  It's specifically the Leader individual who has artillery calling rights. This applies to any team with arty call privileges, whether HQ or FO. 

But everything else, besides the ability to call artillery, indicates something might be off. 

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2 hours ago, domfluff said:

The HQ unit on foot doesn't have a C2 connection to the Company HQ, but still have one to an off-map Battalion HQ,

No the Platoon HQ does not have C2 to the battalion HQ - the Company HQ does. That control is showing the chain of C2.

2 hours ago, domfluff said:

and can call in off-map artillery, implying that they must have a radio?

Re artillery: abstraction as @MOS:96B2P said (this is for game play reasons), re radio: no it does *not* imply that.

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2 hours ago, domfluff said:

Also of note is that the Syrian army get dismounted AGL's in Breaking the Bank in the CMSF 2 demo, which I don't think was the case in CMSF 1. There's clearly been some major work in re-doing the Syrian army TO&E.

Very cool.  In the original CMSF only the Brits had vehicular mounted MG's and AGL's that could be dismounted and used on foot.

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22 minutes ago, IanL said:

No the Platoon HQ does not have C2 to the battalion HQ - the Company HQ does. That control is showing the chain of C2.

Re artillery: abstraction as @MOS:96B2P said (this is for game play reasons), re radio: no it does *not* imply that.


Good to know, thank you.

Any idea why the Syrian platoon squads would show radio C2 to the platoon leader whilst he's in a BMP, but not outside of one?

Outside they're only showing voice or visual contact, or none when moved out of LOS and audio range. Inside the BMP the squad has radio contact with the Platoon leader (and the platoon leader has radio contact with the Company HQ, but that's not surprising - the BMP has a radio and the company HQ has a Radio Operator.)

e.g.:

HQ in contact visual and audio contact with squad

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HQ out of audio range and LOS with squad:

moTnLku.jpg

(This is what I'd expect to see if the platoons had no man-carried radios. I don't think any are depicted, but that doesn't necessarily mean much).

HQ out of LOS and audio range with squad, but inside a platoon BMP:

T0xIbpM.jpg

Which only makes sense if the squad has a radio, surely?

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Assuming it is a bug - that does mean that C2 awareness becomes really important with Syrian units. In particular, it will mean an actively moving HQ unit, sharing spotting contacts between platoon squads, but potentially running back into the squad BMP to share those contacts with the Company as a whole.

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Cool thread.

I've always had issues using Warsaw pact equipment with Western tactics -- as do most players. Whenever I read articles about the doctrine, the equipment makes more and more sense. Suddenly, BMP 2s and '72s are useful tools and not trash cans to be discarded. However whenever facing the Syrians in CMSF, I always see them making the same mistakes. I'm sure CMSF in 2018 would be a different story, entirely. Very interested in learning more about Warsaw pact tactics, but can't find many sources.

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1 hour ago, domfluff said:

Assuming it is a bug

It does look wrong. I'll fire up a test case in the latest build and report if necessary.

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8 minutes ago, DerKommissar said:

I've always had issues using Warsaw pact equipment with Western tactics -- as do most players. Whenever I read articles about the doctrine, the equipment makes more and more sense. Suddenly, BMP 2s and '72s are useful tools and not trash cans to be discarded. However whenever facing the Syrians in CMSF, I always see them making the same mistakes. I'm sure CMSF in 2018 would be a different story, entirely. Very interested in learning more about Warsaw pact tactics, but can't find many sources.

The two links above aren't a bad start, particularly The Russian Way of War. There's definitely a paucity of information out there, especially at the lowest tactical levels.

The quote above:

Quote

A Soviet attack, conducted well, with the right forces is boring, predictable, and almost unstoppable.


Is probably correct, but I still think there's a lot of room for nuance that isn't really clear. 

The basic idea - the russian/soviet-style mechanised infantry attack (bombardment, leading with tanks, then BMPs, which optionaly dismount and clear) is brutal and straightforward - clearly the BMP is designed to be fought from as much as possible, and to provide protection to itself through superior firepower. This implies the kind of foreplanning that a successful Command Push requires - your recon forces are there to identify and engage the most pressing threats, your indirect suppresses or destroys, and you push through with overwhelming firepower in a fairly simple manner.

I suspect that fighting against ATGMs is something of an unsolved problem for all concerned - Israel certainly didn't solve it in Lebanon, and CMSF is a pretty similar scenario in many regards. From Red's perspective, Javelins are a huge problem for the Syrian and Russian forces to deal with in a CM attack, and I'm not convinced there's anything like a good solution, just some least-worst ones.

The thing that's most illuminating to me about The Russian Way of War is the old "Soviets specialise, Western armies generalise" adage - it wasn't really clear to me *how* that's supposed to work, until I clocked that you have all that extra space in BMPs doing nothing. With this, this means that a given platoon can be dedicated to a defensive, ATGM role, and another can be set up for assault, etc. That suddenly made the weaker Soviet platoons make a lot more sense to me - the default platoon is weaker because it's half finished.

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Just now, DerKommissar said:

Warsaw pact tactics

This is line tactics. Like in old times, but with wider intervals and vehicles. Company columns deploy there, platoon columns deploy here. I read textbooks, they are focused on right formation. Russian 2000 manuals are different, more fire and maneuver elements. In late Soviet - no. Infantry manual of 1938 is more sophisticated than manuals of 70-s.

Soviet style attack is attack in ideal line formation, perfectly timed. Infantry attacks behind tanks last 300m, bmps stand back and support by fire. (Squads maintain 50 m intervals so bmps wouldn't hit them in backs) In open terrain without big obstacles this tactics is very dangerous. But it can be ruined by defile or any obstacle that must be passed: corner of a wood, hill, town. Or minefield. One platoon will slow down, second will be too fast and line crashes... Bunch of bmps make ideal target for a ATGM battery.

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