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Cold War: The (Massive) Narrative AAR


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I have been slowly playing through Cold War's campaigns and standalone scenarios and have been completely blown away with the fidelity of the singleplayer experience. The AI plans have almost universally been some of the best I've seen in any title. It's been immersive. As I often do when I play, I started snapping pictures and making small gifs. When I arrived to scenario 3 in the US Campaign I thought "I should start making an AAR." So, I paused, went back to play the NTC campaign, a few of my favourite scenarios from the Soviet perspective, and started writing. 

I've learned two things: I can't write to save my life, and I really enjoyed it regardless. I already have 6 AARs completed of my experiences and will share them with you all, if only to distract. They strike a more narrative tone, but I have done my best to explain the tactics and decisions. I will label the scenario/mission at the start of every AAR. Without further ado...

 

Prologue:

Kiev Military District, Ukraine SSR.

It was a clear, late spring day somewhere south of Kiev. The open pastureland was starting to show the signs of recovery following the harsh winter. Grass grew tall and the sea of mud was firming up into dry terrain. To any casual observer it would seem a scene of idyllic pastoral calm.

Bc8XgjJ.png

It is a façade. The calm is shattered in an instant, and a brutish ballet begins.

01.gif

A thunderous barrage deforms and rapes the landscape. It builds to a howling, shrieking crescendo. A cacophony of mortars, howitzers and “Grad” rockets form the orchestra. The impacts smother two wooded hills with a mix of high explosive, smoke, and chemical irritants similar to CS gas. It was all the fury and violence of war, at its apparent worst.

This was not war, however. Merely a facsimile of it. An exercise. To the stern-faced evaluators observing from several kilometres away, and the attached state TV camera crews, it was real enough. Real enough for citizens of the Soviet Union who would watch these scenes play out on their TVs, real enough for Western defence analysts who would pore over every frame of the video, and real enough indeed for young conscripts sat waiting in their tanks and personnel carriers a few kilometres away, in readiness behind a low ridge.

br9Ep9f.png

Belly crawling forward among tree, bush and scrub on this same ridge, were more of these young Soviet conscripts. These men were equipped with heavy weapons:  machine guns, recoilless rifles, grenade launchers and potent anti-tank missiles. They would soon make their presence felt, reaching out into the roaring inferno across the open field, destroying any target they could see which remained unharmed from the bombardment. Their missiles began reaching out, flying towards real and simulated targets. TV cameras panned, keeping up with the missiles, visible as green dots against the background.

muIymSj.png

fELbbGC.png

The evaluators would duly note “hits” recorded by these weapons and, using an intricate set of rules and modifiers, adjust the amount of fire (and therefore casualties) the unit would be deemed to receive when they began their attack. The prospects were good: everything appeared to be within nominal parameters for this drill. The artillery was on target, the missile fire accurate.

As the artillery fire began to abate, the MRB commander – a tough, professional soldier who had been through several prestigious state academies and had seen service in Afghanistan – knew the time was right to begin his attack. Ensconced within his personnel carrier, his voice simultaneously filled the headset of every vehicle commander of this force: begin, armour forward, came the command.

A company of T-64s, a marvel of Soviet technology and a demonstration of its single-minded design philosophy, rumbled up the ridge they had sheltered behind. Taking effective hull down positions, their imposing 125mm cannons crashed out in volleys, striking targets on the forward edge of the forested hills.

06.gif

The fire is deemed highly effective, scoring several “kills” of enemy vehicles.  With this report crackling through his headset from the tank company commander, the MRB leader issues the next orders, this time via pre-assigned codeword. Repeating himself so there could be no confusion, he tersely speaks: Hornet, hornet, hornet. The unit roars forward as one.

Again, the tanks lead, pushing up and over the ridge at top speed. They fire, with much less accuracy now, on the move, too fast for even the gyro stabilizers to compensate. It is no matter, movement now is key, rather than fire. 

07.gif

As they pass the exposed area, their rate of advance slows again. Their fire becomes highly effective once more, volleys crashing out across the valley. The observers would note “losses”, of course, losses would always result as an attack neared an objective. They were well within normal parameters, however. What was expected, acceptable, in the science of the attack.

08.gif

Then come the personnel carriers, surging over the ridge. They move with alacrity behind the armour, in two extended lines.

pnYIjbY.png

With pinpoint timing, the artillery fire redoubles on the wooded hills, once again smothering the MRB’s objectives. Any surviving enemy who would chance a shot at these vulnerable vehicles would undoubtedly be discouraged by the howling high explosives.

bfUlcUP.png

Again, losses are incurred by the observer/evaluators. Not enough, however. Again, everything is within acceptable parameters.

The MRB closes with shocking speed, crossing several hundred meters in only a few minutes. The momentum and impetus is irresistible. Most of the tanks halt 500 meters away from the wooded tree line, redoubling their fire into and around it. A handful of T-64s move forward with the personnel carriers to provide intimate support. They close the distance aggressively, moving through the final rounds of their own artillery. This particularly impresses the camera crews, still diligently recording, delighted at the realism of the exercise.

An2OaWY.png

1TLlIwL.png

The vehicles rumble into the woods, their heavy machineguns thumping away at silhouette targets meant to simulate enemy infantry in their foxholes. Then, the orders come: “Dismount! Forward!” Soviet infantry scramble out of rear hatches and side doors, over engine decks, and into action. Units move in an extended line, firing bursts from their assault rifles. Occasionally, a squad halts at the knee, spraying down foxholes with automatic fire and rocket propelled grenades. They press forward, moving with astonishing speed, newer conscripts desperately sucking for air as they gallop forward.

NeKu8Jg.png

Leaning out of the hatch of his command vehicle, the MRB commander witnesses his forward companies safely debussing on the objectives. Smoke, as planned, begins to land at the edges of the hills, isolating them from one another. Exultant, for he knows his unit is performing excellently, he urges forward the remainder of his force. Not onto these terrain objectives, these are not of the greatest importance, but beyond them. Breakthrough.

The tanks form into two columns and  roar through the hole ripped in the enemy’s defence, and the MRB commander pushes his command group, air defence vehicles and his third company through in the vacuum they create. They fire as they move, riflemen spraying the smoke-shrouded treeline from open cargo hatches on the rear of the personnel carriers.

fqQxSmV.png

YWr5PuM.png

***

“15 minutes.”

“What was that, comrade Colonel?” the TV producer asks, overhearing the supervising Colonel despite the dull thuds and crunches in the distance.

“15 minutes. That’s the average time it usually takes to complete this drill.” He explains.

“Is that good?”

The Colonel laughs, “Yes, 15 minutes is quite acceptable… this commander has done it in 12.”

The dismounted infantry may take hours, in reality, to comb through the wooded hills and defeat the surviving enemy infantry. That they would suffer heavily whilst doing so was not in dispute, nor was it of any particular importance. Even the uninitiated TV crewmen could deduce that. The real takeaway, the true objective, was that most of a tank company and an entirely unscathed set of motor riflemen were through the enemy’s defensive position. Havoc would ensue, and the destruction of the notional enemy unit was almost presaged. What the Colonel observing knew, and that the TV crewmen did not, was that inexorably, inevitably, behind this breakthrough would come a tank battalion, then another regiment, and then entire brigades. Victory would follow. It was as simple as that.

Notes/Thoughts

So, the scenario played here was "Soviet Tactical Doctrine 1 (MRB)" by Miller. I wanted to play because I thought it would make a great little compare and contrast piece to how the US would have to do things, especially in the NTC campaign. It's also just a solid concept for a mission, and a trend that I hope continues. For the absence of doubt, I played it straight, precisely as the briefing guides you to do. 

I also think there's some subtle criticism to be made, through the scenario, of how we know the Soviets trained in reality. Big, choreographed exercises. Useful for producing units that knew a series of SOPs and battle-drill evolutions, perhaps not as useful for producing units that know how to keep pushing through when BTRs and BMPs are exploding. They weren't organic like say, I feel the NTC was. Keep that in your minds for now. 

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2 hours ago, Rinaldi said:

I also think there's some subtle criticism to be made, through the scenario, of how we know the Soviets trained in reality. Big, choreographed exercises. Useful for producing units that knew a series of SOPs and battle-drill evolutions, perhaps not as useful for producing units that know how to keep pushing through when BTRs and BMPs are exploding. They weren't organic like say, I feel the NTC was. Keep that in your minds for now. 

I suspect I agree with this. My specific feelings about this scenario is that the lessons it's teaching are the most fundamental ones - particularly around coordination with artillery and the importance of mass (especially when it comes to overcoming deficiencies in spotting). I have seen people fail this scenario, which means I think it's doing it's job.

The second training scenario pair takes those same basic principles and puts them in a significantly more complex scenario, with a lot less hand-holding. That scenario is still simple, but there's a good progression from the absolute basics, into something more applied.

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3 hours ago, Rinaldi said:

I have been slowly playing through Cold War's campaigns and standalone scenarios and have been completely blown away with the fidelity of the singleplayer experience. The AI plans have almost universally been some of the best I've seen in any title. It's been immersive. As I often do when I play, I started snapping pictures and making small gifs. When I arrived to scenario 3 in the US Campaign I thought "I should start making an AAR." So, I paused, went back to play the NTC campaign, a few of my favourite scenarios from the Soviet perspective, and started writing. 

I've learned two things: I can't write to save my life, and I really enjoyed it regardless. I already have 6 AARs completed of my experiences and will share them with you all, if only to distract. They strike a more narrative tone, but I have done my best to explain the tactics and decisions. I will label the scenario/mission at the start of every AAR. Without further ado...

 

Prologue:

Kiev Military District, Ukraine SSR.

It was a clear, late spring day somewhere south of Kiev. The open pastureland was starting to show the signs of recovery following the harsh winter. Grass grew tall and the sea of mud was firming up into dry terrain. To any casual observer it would seem a scene of idyllic pastoral calm.

Bc8XgjJ.png

It is a façade. The calm is shattered in an instant, and a brutish ballet begins.

01.gif

A thunderous barrage deforms and rapes the landscape. It builds to a howling, shrieking crescendo. A cacophony of mortars, howitzers and “Grad” rockets form the orchestra. The impacts smother two wooded hills with a mix of high explosive, smoke, and chemical irritants similar to CS gas. It was all the fury and violence of war, at its apparent worst.

This was not war, however. Merely a facsimile of it. An exercise. To the stern-faced evaluators observing from several kilometres away, and the attached state TV camera crews, it was real enough. Real enough for citizens of the Soviet Union who would watch these scenes play out on their TVs, real enough for Western defence analysts who would pore over every frame of the video, and real enough indeed for young conscripts sat waiting in their tanks and personnel carriers a few kilometres away, in readiness behind a low ridge.

br9Ep9f.png

Belly crawling forward among tree, bush and scrub on this same ridge, were more of these young Soviet conscripts. These men were equipped with heavy weapons:  machine guns, recoilless rifles, grenade launchers and potent anti-tank missiles. They would soon make their presence felt, reaching out into the roaring inferno across the open field, destroying any target they could see which remained unharmed from the bombardment. Their missiles began reaching out, flying towards real and simulated targets. TV cameras panned, keeping up with the missiles, visible as green dots against the background.

muIymSj.png

fELbbGC.png

The evaluators would duly note “hits” recorded by these weapons and, using an intricate set of rules and modifiers, adjust the amount of fire (and therefore casualties) the unit would be deemed to receive when they began their attack. The prospects were good: everything appeared to be within nominal parameters for this drill. The artillery was on target, the missile fire accurate.

As the artillery fire began to abate, the MRB commander – a tough, professional soldier who had been through several prestigious state academies and had seen service in Afghanistan – knew the time was right to begin his attack. Ensconced within his personnel carrier, his voice simultaneously filled the headset of every vehicle commander of this force: begin, armour forward, came the command.

A company of T-64s, a marvel of Soviet technology and a demonstration of its single-minded design philosophy, rumbled up the ridge they had sheltered behind. Taking effective hull down positions, their imposing 125mm cannons crashed out in volleys, striking targets on the forward edge of the forested hills.

06.gif

The fire is deemed highly effective, scoring several “kills” of enemy vehicles.  With this report crackling through his headset from the tank company commander, the MRB leader issues the next orders, this time via pre-assigned codeword. Repeating himself so there could be no confusion, he tersely speaks: Hornet, hornet, hornet. The unit roars forward as one.

Again, the tanks lead, pushing up and over the ridge at top speed. They fire, with much less accuracy now, on the move, too fast for even the gyro stabilizers to compensate. It is no matter, movement now is key, rather than fire. 

07.gif

As they pass the exposed area, their rate of advance slows again. Their fire becomes highly effective once more, volleys crashing out across the valley. The observers would note “losses”, of course, losses would always result as an attack neared an objective. They were well within normal parameters, however. What was expected, acceptable, in the science of the attack.

08.gif

Then come the personnel carriers, surging over the ridge. They move with alacrity behind the armour, in two extended lines.

pnYIjbY.png

With pinpoint timing, the artillery fire redoubles on the wooded hills, once again smothering the MRB’s objectives. Any surviving enemy who would chance a shot at these vulnerable vehicles would undoubtedly be discouraged by the howling high explosives.

bfUlcUP.png

Again, losses are incurred by the observer/evaluators. Not enough, however. Again, everything is within acceptable parameters.

The MRB closes with shocking speed, crossing several hundred meters in only a few minutes. The momentum and impetus is irresistible. Most of the tanks halt 500 meters away from the wooded tree line, redoubling their fire into and around it. A handful of T-64s move forward with the personnel carriers to provide intimate support. They close the distance aggressively, moving through the final rounds of their own artillery. This particularly impresses the camera crews, still diligently recording, delighted at the realism of the exercise.

An2OaWY.png

1TLlIwL.png

The vehicles rumble into the woods, their heavy machineguns thumping away at silhouette targets meant to simulate enemy infantry in their foxholes. Then, the orders come: “Dismount! Forward!” Soviet infantry scramble out of rear hatches and side doors, over engine decks, and into action. Units move in an extended line, firing bursts from their assault rifles. Occasionally, a squad halts at the knee, spraying down foxholes with automatic fire and rocket propelled grenades. They press forward, moving with astonishing speed, newer conscripts desperately sucking for air as they gallop forward.

NeKu8Jg.png

Leaning out of the hatch of his command vehicle, the MRB commander witnesses his forward companies safely debussing on the objectives. Smoke, as planned, begins to land at the edges of the hills, isolating them from one another. Exultant, for he knows his unit is performing excellently, he urges forward the remainder of his force. Not onto these terrain objectives, these are not of the greatest importance, but beyond them. Breakthrough.

The tanks form into two columns and  roar through the hole ripped in the enemy’s defence, and the MRB commander pushes his command group, air defence vehicles and his third company through in the vacuum they create. They fire as they move, riflemen spraying the smoke-shrouded treeline from open cargo hatches on the rear of the personnel carriers.

fqQxSmV.png

YWr5PuM.png

***

“15 minutes.”

“What was that, comrade Colonel?” the TV producer asks, overhearing the supervising Colonel despite the dull thuds and crunches in the distance.

“15 minutes. That’s the average time it usually takes to complete this drill.” He explains.

“Is that good?”

The Colonel laughs, “Yes, 15 minutes is quite acceptable… this commander has done it in 12.”

The dismounted infantry may take hours, in reality, to comb through the wooded hills and defeat the surviving enemy infantry. That they would suffer heavily whilst doing so was not in dispute, nor was it of any particular importance. Even the uninitiated TV crewmen could deduce that. The real takeaway, the true objective, was that most of a tank company and an entirely unscathed set of motor riflemen were through the enemy’s defensive position. Havoc would ensue, and the destruction of the notional enemy unit was almost presaged. What the Colonel observing knew, and that the TV crewmen did not, was that inexorably, inevitably, behind this breakthrough would come a tank battalion, then another regiment, and then entire brigades. Victory would follow. It was as simple as that.

Notes/Thoughts

So, the scenario played here was "Soviet Tactical Doctrine 1 (MRB)" by Miller. I wanted to play because I thought it would make a great little compare and contrast piece to how the US would have to do things, especially in the NTC campaign. It's also just a solid concept for a mission, and a trend that I hope continues. For the absence of doubt, I played it straight, precisely as the briefing guides you to do. 

I also think there's some subtle criticism to be made, through the scenario, of how we know the Soviets trained in reality. Big, choreographed exercises. Useful for producing units that knew a series of SOPs and battle-drill evolutions, perhaps not as useful for producing units that know how to keep pushing through when BTRs and BMPs are exploding. They weren't organic like say, I feel the NTC was. Keep that in your minds for now. 

Great stuff!

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Boeing Yard, Fort Irwin, California

CPT Wren could feel a very strong headache coming on. It wasn’t the unbearable, searingly-dry heat, (well, it was the heat in part) so much as it was the logistical nightmare his company, and his Battalion Taskforce writ-large, had been dumped into. They had just arrived at the Boeing yard, serving as an initial assembly and equipment collection point for their rotation at the National Training Centre. The officers and senior NCOs were in absolute, collective shock at what greeted them. They had left most of their equipment behind at Ft. Stewart, with the promise that they would be provided with well-maintained, pre-positioned gear on arrival at Ft. Irwin.

The sight of the Battalion XO standing amidst the metaphorical wreckage, hands on hips, with an evil countenance on his face revealed how stretched the truth of that promise had been. If looks could kill, the MAJ would’ve struck down every civilian contractor in the yard by now. The displeasure radiating out of the Battalion XO was echoed by the companies’ XOs. Wren’s second in command, 1 LT Booth, looked like he was contemplating homicide whilst talking with the civilian contractors mounting MILEs gear to the Company’s M150 tank destroyers.

They had left behind relatively cutting-edge equipment, which they had left in top shape, back at their home posting. What greeted them were older models of M60 tanks and TOW launchers, lacking the excellent thermal sights they had come to rely on. The TF’s sister battalion that had just come back from rotation had never warned them about this. They had been put through the wringer and had warned his unit that the infamous OPFOR didn’t play by the rules.

Looking over at the rundown, dated equipment in poor repair, Wren couldn't help but feel that this was part of an elaborate plot to put them off balance before the rotation even began...

Chapter 1.1: The Hasty Attack

 

Near Brown Pass, National Training Centre, Fort Irwin.

The operations group had gathered around a sand table, essentially a scaled-down presentation of local terrain, to plan how they would kick off the mock war for the barren, craggy desert. Wren could feel the sun beating down on his exposed neck as he looked down. He had wisely kept his steel helmet off for the briefing, preferring a patrol cap. It offered some slight relief to the sensation that he was in an oven, and that he particularly was being burned in the pan.

The immediate mission was straightforward, in principle. Brigade had informed them that the lead elements of an enemy Motor Rifle Regiment (MRR) had entered the area of operations and was suspected to be heading towards one of several passages through the corridor. The enemy’s general intent was not difficult to divine: secure one of these features and allow the regiment to debouch onto the desert and deploy for an attack. The TF was to establish contact with the enemy’s forward elements, fix them and, if possible, destroy them. Follow up operations would then commence against the main body of the MRR.  

These first fights would devolve to the companies. The NTC was intended to train the army to fight a step down, that is, a company was expected to go toe-to-toe with an OPFOR battalion, and a battalion with a regiment. It was a tough ask. It put a lot of pressure on guys like Wren, but it also forged these junior leaders into the backbone of America’s army.

The NTC’s entire concept was one big, tough, ask. It had thus far put units, sometimes inadequately trained, always under-equipped, against a dedicated opposing force, or OPFOR. The US Army had played around with the idea of an opposing force before. What had resulted was a hokey B-movie routine simply called the “Aggressors.” They had no foundation in reality, no equipment that bore any relation to something in service, and failed completely to reflect any one of the many likely enemies the United States would face. The Aggressors, like the men who were tasked to portray them, had nothing worth fighting for. Units that rotated in to display them liked getting killed early and often, so they could get a hot meal at the mock casualty clearing stations. It was schlock, and the army had known it.

Fort Irwin, it’s dedicated OPFOR, and the MILEs system (think one giant game of angry laser tag) had changed all that.

Cover%20Photo.png

This OPFOR had one task: play the Soviets better than the Soviets themselves, and brutalize their enemy whilst doing so. The fact the OPFOR was also expected to meet training standards as a US unit made it a nightmare opponent: a ruthlessly competent enemy that knew your playbook back-to-front.  The first bunch of battalions that had rotated through the NTC had come away shocked, and not infrequently in tatters. Wren’s TF had the advantage of learning from these initial rotations. Two TFs from sister brigades in their division had already gotten their NTC-issued hidings and had diligently and openly disseminated their experiences. They were, theoretically, the best prepared unit yet to come prepared for the fight.

This was their first opportunity to prove that. The Battalion S-2, a highly competent officer with a Master’s in psychology, had put his money down on the idea that the enemy’s lead elements would head for Brown pass. Wren’s area of responsibility. Considering this, the TF Commander had indicated he was willing to throw significant weight behind his company team. Combat aviation, and armour retained under task force control for support of his team, if need be. There were two courses of action: let the lead MRB come through the pass and hit them hard in the bottleneck or push through and find them in the open. The resources his CO was willing to allocate would change depending on the decision, but he trusted his CPT enough to reach one on his own and held his peace as to which he would have preferred.

Wren thought for a moment…Allowing the enemy to come through the pass was the “textbook” solution. It was canalizing terrain and would allow him to get the most out of his company team. It would be a mainly defensive operation, greatly aiding his chances of avoiding heavy losses. Thing is, textbook was obvious. The textbook made for poor reading in this situation, thought Wren. The first option ceded initiative to an OPFOR he knew was lean and mean on the offensive, especially one going to plan. He interrupted his thoughts with a question:

“Are you able to allocate me any of the scouts?” he asked his CO.

“No can do. We need them to tie into the armour battalion TF operating in the Southern Corridor, they can’t put dismounts in those hills as readily as we can.”

If he fought in Brown Pass himself, he would need to seriously contest the high valley mesas, or else the OPFOR would get observers up there and make any type of hasty defence untenable due to artillery fire. He wanted scouts for that, rather than have to put too much load on dismounted foot patrols taken from his platoon. The CO’s answer settled the dilemma. Wren reached over and pushed the little blue block representing his company team through the pass on the sand table.

00A%20-%20Sand%20Table.png

He could see in his mind, the actual terrain leaping up around him. Wren had always had an eye for terrain, and he knew he could make the most of it here. The “open” ground north of Brown Pass was anything but. It was a series of plateaus, a giant natural staircase, that provided good cover to all but the tallest of vehicles and would allow a commander (on either side) to switch from a long-range engagement to a close-in one at a moment’s notice. The exit of the pass also had a craggy pair of mountains, impassable to vehicles, but perfect for dismounts. Pushing through would make that terrain all his. He intended to use it to its fullest effect.

00C%20-%20The%20actual%20ground.png

Preparing for tomorrow’s operations meant it was going to be a long night. Wren, his hard-pressed XO and the platoon leaders had a lot of work to do to make the plan a reality. Wren also had to find the TACP, frustratingly absent at the briefing, and try to integrate the combat aviation into the plan, as he wouldn’t be able to have it “on call” and flexible once the rounds were flying back and forth.

***

16th October, 0900 Hours

01%20-%20Moving%20out.png

They were through Brown Pass, without any enemy air interdiction. At least, 1st Platoon was through. So narrow was the defile, so real the threat of OPFOR air attack, that the Company team was deliberately strung out. This meant that, for 2LT Bunting’s forward group, if there was a fight, it would be his alone for some measure of time. His job was to fix the enemy for the rest of the Company team to manoeuvre aggressively. It was an important, high-risk task and a sign of the trust Wren put in his senior platoon leader. With Bunting’s platoon was the two M150 TOW vehicles, on loan from 1LT Benner’s platoon. The group was moving in staggered column, along a sandy trail, towards a low ridge that denoted the northern mouth of Brown Pass.

Bunting, riding in the lead M113 with a Dragon team and the assigned forward observer, looked over his shoulder. A pair of Cobras was providing intimate support and were hovering just behind Hill 165.5. Suddenly, one of the Cobras raised itself up a bit more and fired off a TOW missile with a hiss and a pop. Contact?

02%20-%20Airpower%20goes%20to%20work.png

Contact! Urging his track forward, his driver cautiously nosed the M113 in fits and starts up the ridge. Calling a halt, he could see high, hanging dust clouds in the vicinity of PL “Yazoo”, one of several reporting lines to help the TOC track the advance of both B Company and the OPFOR. It quickly became apparent that multiple enemy BMPs were moving fast towards the mouth of the pass. More than he could handle in an open fight. Bunting reacted fast, and with clear-headedness. They had expected this. The Cobras were making the enemy squirm and push with haste, that could play to his advantage. The little bowl his group was in was excellent defensive terrain from which he could pin the enemy. Signalling over the platoon radio, as well as with his hands from the cargo hatch, he ordered his squad tracks into an umbrella-shaped defence.

03%20-%20Hasty%20Defence.png

The flying column cover being provided by the Cobras was showing its worth. Behind excellent positions, the Cobras took turns launching TOWs, which raced at knee-height over the desert to slam into BMPs’ flanks. Wren, hearing Bunting’s contact report, got the word back to TOC quickly. The planned F-16 strike went in 5 minutes after the initial contact report, and they laid their clusters in, presumably with devastating effect.

04a%20-%20Helos%20rack%20up%20kills.png

04b%20-%20Airpower%20continues%20to%20go%20to%20work.png

The OPFOR recon leader stayed calm. He must have known his best bet now was to get forward and to grab the enemy by the belt. The BMPs surged forward. They would be in Bunting’s perimeter within minutes if the Americans didn’t react strongly.

05%20-%20BMPs%20surge%20forward.png

The TOWs weighed in, however, at Bunting’s command. They fired from excellent hull down positions along the low ridge he established his fighting position from. To Bunting’s chagrin, their first few shots are wildly off target. The TOW crews were inexperienced and clearly a bit awe-struck at the sight of a company of BMPs ruthlessly pushing through air attack. It takes two engagements to finally find their nerve – and their targets. A BMP burns.

05a%20-%20TOWs%20engage%20(edited).png

Then the enemy weighs in with their own fire support. A thunderous crush of artillery impacts just to the left of Bunting’s track. He buttons up to avoid the angry, buzzing shards of shrapnel. The OPFOR artillery is off target but still denies a large part of this excellent battle position to him. More alarmingly, it kicks up the high, hanging dust Bunting has already learned defines the NTC’s desert terrain. Soon his attached TOWs are telling them they can no longer actively engage threats through the dust. ****, this is going to get close and messy, thinks Bunting.

“Earl, get that ramp down and get your ass out with the Dragon, get up there!” he screams to the mounted Dragon team, ducking back down into the cargo compartment.  “Evans, get posted somewhere on this ridge and the Chucks going!” he continues, calmer now, to the attached FO.

05c---Dragons-dismount-to-deal-with-the-close-in-BMPS.gif

The BMPs were only 600 meters or so away now. The vagaries of the terrain were making themselves felt. BMPs were flitting in and out of sight, and the TOWs continued to have trouble engaging, only managing to pick off the occasional BMP.

SPC Earl, the platoon’s Dragon gunner, calmly sets up on a bit of the ridge, determined to cover the short front of the Platoon’s BP. He ignores the artillery, as best he can, and adopts the awkward cross-legged firing position, waiting for the first enemy to pop up over the plateau. A pair of BMPs shortly obliges him, even halting momentarily, to his delight. One is shortly burning. The TOWs catch a lucky break soon afterwards and tally two more BMPs.

05d---and-immediately-KO-rushers.gif

In a furious five minutes, Bunting’s small force and air cover appeared to have mauled an enemy company. There was no time to rest on their laurels, however. Another platoon of BMPs, seeing the carnage to their front, smartly pull to their left, disgorging dismounts and creating smoke, and then surge past Bunting’s right flank, towards Point 199.1. Through gaps in the smoke, Bunting is able to track the line of enemy dismounts, and he spots in the distance even more BMPs – the enemy’s main security element?

The Cobras have ceased fire, displacing so as to avoid enemy anti-air fire. A wise move, to be sure, but a poorly timed one from Bunting’s perspective. He has no way of raising them quickly again, lacking a direct communications line to them. It was entirely his fight now.  

Movement is key to any defence, but especially a hasty one. The TOWs were ordered to displace to cover the burgeoning threat on the right flank, but this takes them dangerously close to the enemy artillery fire. The TOW crews find themselves constantly ducking back down to avoid shrapnel.

06---TOWs-displace.gif

Nevertheless, they can re-engage, picking off a few of the flankers. 

06a---and-re-engage.gif

Then, out of the smoke - and through its own artillery - surges a single enemy BMP. Bunting, too focused on the immediate fight, had never strictly given orders to his squads to dismount in the reverse slope. Luckily, his experienced NCOs read in between the lines and dismounted on their own initiative and had liberally handed-out LAWs to their men whilst doing so. The BMP is engaged effectively by these disposable rockets and is swiftly knocked out.

06b---Reverse-slope.gif

 

***

This is a beefy chapter, and I don't want to bore you to death...bite sized chunks. To be continued (as for the Normandy DAR, the backlog of photos do was larger than thought, apologies). 

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Posted (edited)

Man, crickets on this? Really? Good to know Putin has won the PR war on the CM forums without even knowing this place existed. 
 

Another great chapter. I’m sure the performance of CPT Wren at the NTC is likely to make some heads explode. That is, if they touch grass and take a long enough break from Ukraine posting. 

Edited by IICptMillerII
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8 hours ago, Rinaldi said:

Boeing Yard, Fort Irwin, California

CPT Wren could feel a very strong headache coming on. It wasn’t the unbearable, searingly-dry heat, (well, it was the heat in part) so much as it was the logistical nightmare his company, and his Battalion Taskforce writ-large, had been dumped into. They had just arrived at the Boeing yard, serving as an initial assembly and equipment collection point for their rotation at the National Training Centre. The officers and senior NCOs were in absolute, collective shock at what greeted them. They had left most of their equipment behind at Ft. Stewart, with the promise that they would be provided with well-maintained, pre-positioned gear on arrival at Ft. Irwin.

The sight of the Battalion XO standing amidst the metaphorical wreckage, hands on hips, with an evil countenance on his face revealed how stretched the truth of that promise had been. If looks could kill, the MAJ would’ve struck down every civilian contractor in the yard by now. The displeasure radiating out of the Battalion XO was echoed by the companies’ XOs. Wren’s second in command, 1 LT Booth, looked like he was contemplating homicide whilst talking with the civilian contractors mounting MILEs gear to the Company’s M150 tank destroyers.

They had left behind relatively cutting-edge equipment, which they had left in top shape, back at their home posting. What greeted them were older models of M60 tanks and TOW launchers, lacking the excellent thermal sights they had come to rely on. The TF’s sister battalion that had just come back from rotation had never warned them about this. They had been put through the wringer and had warned his unit that the infamous OPFOR didn’t play by the rules.

Looking over at the rundown, dated equipment in poor repair, Wren couldn't help but feel that this was part of an elaborate plot to put them off balance before the rotation even began...

Chapter 1.1: The Hasty Attack

 

Near Brown Pass, National Training Centre, Fort Irwin.

The operations group had gathered around a sand table, essentially a scaled-down presentation of local terrain, to plan how they would kick off the mock war for the barren, craggy desert. Wren could feel the sun beating down on his exposed neck as he looked down. He had wisely kept his steel helmet off for the briefing, preferring a patrol cap. It offered some slight relief to the sensation that he was in an oven, and that he particularly was being burned in the pan.

The immediate mission was straightforward, in principle. Brigade had informed them that the lead elements of an enemy Motor Rifle Regiment (MRR) had entered the area of operations and was suspected to be heading towards one of several passages through the corridor. The enemy’s general intent was not difficult to divine: secure one of these features and allow the regiment to debouch onto the desert and deploy for an attack. The TF was to establish contact with the enemy’s forward elements, fix them and, if possible, destroy them. Follow up operations would then commence against the main body of the MRR.  

These first fights would devolve to the companies. The NTC was intended to train the army to fight a step down, that is, a company was expected to go toe-to-toe with an OPFOR battalion, and a battalion with a regiment. It was a tough ask. It put a lot of pressure on guys like Wren, but it also forged these junior leaders into the backbone of America’s army.

The NTC’s entire concept was one big, tough, ask. It had thus far put units, sometimes inadequately trained, always under-equipped, against a dedicated opposing force, or OPFOR. The US Army had played around with the idea of an opposing force before. What had resulted was a hokey B-movie routine simply called the “Aggressors.” They had no foundation in reality, no equipment that bore any relation to something in service, and failed completely to reflect any one of the many likely enemies the United States would face. The Aggressors, like the men who were tasked to portray them, had nothing worth fighting for. Units that rotated in to display them liked getting killed early and often, so they could get a hot meal at the mock casualty clearing stations. It was schlock, and the army had known it.

Fort Irwin, it’s dedicated OPFOR, and the MILEs system (think one giant game of angry laser tag) had changed all that.

Cover%20Photo.png

This OPFOR had one task: play the Soviets better than the Soviets themselves, and brutalize their enemy whilst doing so. The fact the OPFOR was also expected to meet training standards as a US unit made it a nightmare opponent: a ruthlessly competent enemy that knew your playbook back-to-front.  The first bunch of battalions that had rotated through the NTC had come away shocked, and not infrequently in tatters. Wren’s TF had the advantage of learning from these initial rotations. Two TFs from sister brigades in their division had already gotten their NTC-issued hidings and had diligently and openly disseminated their experiences. They were, theoretically, the best prepared unit yet to come prepared for the fight.

This was their first opportunity to prove that. The Battalion S-2, a highly competent officer with a Master’s in psychology, had put his money down on the idea that the enemy’s lead elements would head for Brown pass. Wren’s area of responsibility. Considering this, the TF Commander had indicated he was willing to throw significant weight behind his company team. Combat aviation, and armour retained under task force control for support of his team, if need be. There were two courses of action: let the lead MRB come through the pass and hit them hard in the bottleneck or push through and find them in the open. The resources his CO was willing to allocate would change depending on the decision, but he trusted his CPT enough to reach one on his own and held his peace as to which he would have preferred.

Wren thought for a moment…Allowing the enemy to come through the pass was the “textbook” solution. It was canalizing terrain and would allow him to get the most out of his company team. It would be a mainly defensive operation, greatly aiding his chances of avoiding heavy losses. Thing is, textbook was obvious. The textbook made for poor reading in this situation, thought Wren. The first option ceded initiative to an OPFOR he knew was lean and mean on the offensive, especially one going to plan. He interrupted his thoughts with a question:

“Are you able to allocate me any of the scouts?” he asked his CO.

“No can do. We need them to tie into the armour battalion TF operating in the Southern Corridor, they can’t put dismounts in those hills as readily as we can.”

If he fought in Brown Pass himself, he would need to seriously contest the high valley mesas, or else the OPFOR would get observers up there and make any type of hasty defence untenable due to artillery fire. He wanted scouts for that, rather than have to put too much load on dismounted foot patrols taken from his platoon. The CO’s answer settled the dilemma. Wren reached over and pushed the little blue block representing his company team through the pass on the sand table.

00A%20-%20Sand%20Table.png

He could see in his mind, the actual terrain leaping up around him. Wren had always had an eye for terrain, and he knew he could make the most of it here. The “open” ground north of Brown Pass was anything but. It was a series of plateaus, a giant natural staircase, that provided good cover to all but the tallest of vehicles and would allow a commander (on either side) to switch from a long-range engagement to a close-in one at a moment’s notice. The exit of the pass also had a craggy pair of mountains, impassable to vehicles, but perfect for dismounts. Pushing through would make that terrain all his. He intended to use it to its fullest effect.

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Preparing for tomorrow’s operations meant it was going to be a long night. Wren, his hard-pressed XO and the platoon leaders had a lot of work to do to make the plan a reality. Wren also had to find the TACP, frustratingly absent at the briefing, and try to integrate the combat aviation into the plan, as he wouldn’t be able to have it “on call” and flexible once the rounds were flying back and forth.

***

16th October, 0900 Hours

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They were through Brown Pass, without any enemy air interdiction. At least, 1st Platoon was through. So narrow was the defile, so real the threat of OPFOR air attack, that the Company team was deliberately strung out. This meant that, for 2LT Bunting’s forward group, if there was a fight, it would be his alone for some measure of time. His job was to fix the enemy for the rest of the Company team to manoeuvre aggressively. It was an important, high-risk task and a sign of the trust Wren put in his senior platoon leader. With Bunting’s platoon was the two M150 TOW vehicles, on loan from 1LT Benner’s platoon. The group was moving in staggered column, along a sandy trail, towards a low ridge that denoted the northern mouth of Brown Pass.

Bunting, riding in the lead M113 with a Dragon team and the assigned forward observer, looked over his shoulder. A pair of Cobras was providing intimate support and were hovering just behind Hill 165.5. Suddenly, one of the Cobras raised itself up a bit more and fired off a TOW missile with a hiss and a pop. Contact?

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Contact! Urging his track forward, his driver cautiously nosed the M113 in fits and starts up the ridge. Calling a halt, he could see high, hanging dust clouds in the vicinity of PL “Yazoo”, one of several reporting lines to help the TOC track the advance of both B Company and the OPFOR. It quickly became apparent that multiple enemy BMPs were moving fast towards the mouth of the pass. More than he could handle in an open fight. Bunting reacted fast, and with clear-headedness. They had expected this. The Cobras were making the enemy squirm and push with haste, that could play to his advantage. The little bowl his group was in was excellent defensive terrain from which he could pin the enemy. Signalling over the platoon radio, as well as with his hands from the cargo hatch, he ordered his squad tracks into an umbrella-shaped defence.

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The flying column cover being provided by the Cobras was showing its worth. Behind excellent positions, the Cobras took turns launching TOWs, which raced at knee-height over the desert to slam into BMPs’ flanks. Wren, hearing Bunting’s contact report, got the word back to TOC quickly. The planned F-16 strike went in 5 minutes after the initial contact report, and they laid their clusters in, presumably with devastating effect.

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The OPFOR recon leader stayed calm. He must have known his best bet now was to get forward and to grab the enemy by the belt. The BMPs surged forward. They would be in Bunting’s perimeter within minutes if the Americans didn’t react strongly.

05%20-%20BMPs%20surge%20forward.png

The TOWs weighed in, however, at Bunting’s command. They fired from excellent hull down positions along the low ridge he established his fighting position from. To Bunting’s chagrin, their first few shots are wildly off target. The TOW crews were inexperienced and clearly a bit awe-struck at the sight of a company of BMPs ruthlessly pushing through air attack. It takes two engagements to finally find their nerve – and their targets. A BMP burns.

05a%20-%20TOWs%20engage%20(edited).png

Then the enemy weighs in with their own fire support. A thunderous crush of artillery impacts just to the left of Bunting’s track. He buttons up to avoid the angry, buzzing shards of shrapnel. The OPFOR artillery is off target but still denies a large part of this excellent battle position to him. More alarmingly, it kicks up the high, hanging dust Bunting has already learned defines the NTC’s desert terrain. Soon his attached TOWs are telling them they can no longer actively engage threats through the dust. ****, this is going to get close and messy, thinks Bunting.

“Earl, get that ramp down and get your ass out with the Dragon, get up there!” he screams to the mounted Dragon team, ducking back down into the cargo compartment.  “Evans, get posted somewhere on this ridge and the Chucks going!” he continues, calmer now, to the attached FO.

05c---Dragons-dismount-to-deal-with-the-close-in-BMPS.gif

The BMPs were only 600 meters or so away now. The vagaries of the terrain were making themselves felt. BMPs were flitting in and out of sight, and the TOWs continued to have trouble engaging, only managing to pick off the occasional BMP.

SPC Earl, the platoon’s Dragon gunner, calmly sets up on a bit of the ridge, determined to cover the short front of the Platoon’s BP. He ignores the artillery, as best he can, and adopts the awkward cross-legged firing position, waiting for the first enemy to pop up over the plateau. A pair of BMPs shortly obliges him, even halting momentarily, to his delight. One is shortly burning. The TOWs catch a lucky break soon afterwards and tally two more BMPs.

05d---and-immediately-KO-rushers.gif

In a furious five minutes, Bunting’s small force and air cover appeared to have mauled an enemy company. There was no time to rest on their laurels, however. Another platoon of BMPs, seeing the carnage to their front, smartly pull to their left, disgorging dismounts and creating smoke, and then surge past Bunting’s right flank, towards Point 199.1. Through gaps in the smoke, Bunting is able to track the line of enemy dismounts, and he spots in the distance even more BMPs – the enemy’s main security element?

The Cobras have ceased fire, displacing so as to avoid enemy anti-air fire. A wise move, to be sure, but a poorly timed one from Bunting’s perspective. He has no way of raising them quickly again, lacking a direct communications line to them. It was entirely his fight now.  

Movement is key to any defence, but especially a hasty one. The TOWs were ordered to displace to cover the burgeoning threat on the right flank, but this takes them dangerously close to the enemy artillery fire. The TOW crews find themselves constantly ducking back down to avoid shrapnel.

06---TOWs-displace.gif

Nevertheless, they can re-engage, picking off a few of the flankers. 

06a---and-re-engage.gif

Then, out of the smoke - and through its own artillery - surges a single enemy BMP. Bunting, too focused on the immediate fight, had never strictly given orders to his squads to dismount in the reverse slope. Luckily, his experienced NCOs read in between the lines and dismounted on their own initiative and had liberally handed-out LAWs to their men whilst doing so. The BMP is engaged effectively by these disposable rockets and is swiftly knocked out.

06b---Reverse-slope.gif

 

***

This is a beefy chapter, and I don't want to bore you to death...bite sized chunks. To be continued (as for the Normandy DAR, the backlog of photos do was larger than thought, apologies). 

Great stuff! This is what Combat Mission was made for.

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6 hours ago, Bil Hardenberger said:

@Rinaldi, you are creating a masterwork here.  I have only skimmed this one, but really look forward to reading it and soaking up the detail.  All the more interesting because this is one of my scenarios (with a LOT of help from @George MC ).

Bil

Thank you, truly. I enjoy the NTC, so much more so when compared directly with the Soviet training scenarios. Which leads me to address this: 

 

On 5/31/2022 at 10:17 PM, domfluff said:

I suspect I agree with this. My specific feelings about this scenario is that the lessons it's teaching are the most fundamental ones - particularly around coordination with artillery and the importance of mass (especially when it comes to overcoming deficiencies in spotting). I have seen people fail this scenario, which means I think it's doing it's job.
 


Yep, and it clearly accomplishes its goal and it's useful to do this. In reality too, but only to a degree. It's a good first port of call but without more organic training scenarios (like the NTC) it leaves an individual with a superficial understanding. Which you will see when we get to the Valley of Ashes part of this, but you already know how that one ends. 

In the game the NTC gets people used to three things very quickly: good enemy soft stats, functional technological parity and taking losses. People either choose to accept those realities going into the title, or put it down and go back to Shock Force 2. 

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On 6/6/2022 at 9:13 PM, Rinaldi said:

Chapter 1.1: The Hasty Attack

Continued...

Wren had been monitoring the fight, listening to Bunting control the point element. Things appeared to be going well, but he could tell the pressure was on. Each report from his senior platoon leader was rising an octave, a sign he knew well from countless exercises was a sign of stress. He urged the main body of his force on, because it was clear that contrary to fixing the enemy, Bunting appeared to be getting pinned himself. By 0908 hours, Wren and the balance of the company team arrived in the hasty fighting position. The cross-attached armour platoon under 1LT Harmon pushes forward, taking hull down positions all along the ridge.

07%20-%20Main%20body%20join.png

The moment had come to take the fight forward. Wren required only a couple of minutes to appraise himself of the situation, his track nudging itself in next to Bunting’s. Whilst the company leader was briefed by his point platoon leader, the company mortars set up a hasty firing position. They were soon firing a repeat mission at the OPFOR dismounts, who were still working their way around the right flank of the Company’s position. 

07a%20-%20FDC%20set%20up.png

The situation was still very confused, but Wren was able to come up with a straightforward scheme of maneuver based on what appeared apparent:
 
  1. He knew there was remnants of a BMP platoon to the right flank, practically on PL Toto. 2nd Platoon would sweep and clear them off the heights with priority of company mortars.
  2. Tank platoon (-) to punch straight towards PL Yazoo. TOWs and the rest of the tank platoon to support by fire. Air power, if he could raise it again in time, would support.
  3. 1st Platoon to remount, rearm, and follow and support (2). 

08%20-%20Scheme%20template.png

It was a good plan, all things considered, but it was based on shaky info in a highly fluid situation. Wren was still giving his tasking orders when 1LT Harmon broke in with a contact report. A single T-72 had just been knocked out by his unit at close range, and there was an unspecified amount of BMPs making smoke and driving (once more) towards the high ground on the right flank.

09a%20-%20Engaging%20T-72.png

FO teams that climbed the craggy cliffs on the left flank firmed up these reports in due course. The OPFOR appeared to be going all in on the Company’s right flank, and Wren duly modified Harmon’s mission to sweep to the northwest, rather than directly north, to account for this.

10%20-%20BMPs%20to%20the%20NW.png

Wren keyed his microphone, and issued his FRAGO:

“All callsigns this is Bravo 26. Orders: Situation. One times Mike Romeo Charlie approaching north, vicinity phase line TOTO. Mission. Destroy. Groupings and tasks. Bravo 22, move northwest, orient north, assault one times Bravo Mike Papa platoon.  Bravo Tango, you are the main effort. Move towards phase line YAZOO, orient northwest. Provide one times support tango each to Bravo 24 and Bravo 22.  Bravo 21 and this call sign, to follow and support Bravo Tango. Bravo 24, continue with current task. Acknowledge and questions, over?”

A satisfying chorus rolled in over the company net from his platoon leaders, all repeating some variation of acknowledgement and indication of no questions.

Supporting by fire, the TOWs open the engagement, reaching out to touch the enemy as they began to expose themselves in their approach.

10a%20-%20SBF%20engages%20(edited).png

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The OPFOR increasingly show signs of being disoriented, caught off guard. What had been a single-minded effort to seize key terrain was becoming a fight for survival. The worm was turning, with initiative firmly passing to Wren’s company team. Roaring forward in column behind a wedge of three M60s, Wren was greeted by the satisfying sight of his joint fires coming to bear. His hurried call for further gunship support had been answered, and he could see TOW and rocket fire creating havoc, black spires of smoke testament to their effect. Then, a few hundred meters to his front, he could see Harmon’s M60s fire a volley. The RTO’s radio crackles, and the young PFC awkwardly hands the receiver to him in the cramped cargo space:

“Bravo 26 this is Bravo Tango. Am engaging three times B-M-P, repeat I am engaging three times BMP, you may want to hold your callsign back sir, out.”

11%20-%20Sweeping%20NW%20to%20intercept.png

Somewhere off to their right, 2LT Renfro’s reinforced platoon was snaking forward in column, forming the right arm of a pincer. Renfro did his best to ensure his group kept, as far as the terrain allowed, the main effort in sight. He knew Wren intended this attack to be mutually supporting.

“Bravo Tango send to Bravo 26.”

“This is 26. Send.”

“Have engaged and destroyed three times BMP. Am resuming advance. Out”

The enemy’s second echelon had been caught in the open and devastated by the balance of the tank platoon. What the slow-moving sweep does not kill, the overwatching TOWs and trailing tank does. Caught off guard, the BMPs attempt to make smoke and reverse into some approximation of a hull down position. Their dismounts likewise attempt to find cover, but most are chopped up badly by the M113s. It is a testament to the professionalism of the OPFOR that, despite the unfolding disaster, they are still able to put down heavy, often accurate, return fire. One tank is penetrated and suffers crew casualties, and Harmon’s tank has its main gun damaged in the exchange. The BMPs die hard, but die they do.

11b.gif

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Harmon’s Platoon NCO, who had been in the trail tank with the TOWs, now moves forward to take over for his leader, whose disabled tank falls back. With most of the BMPs destroyed, the fight returns to the infantry, and surviving OPFOR dismounts fight tenaciously from every scrap of cover and concealment the terrain can provide. Renfro’s unit mops up the shattered BMP platoon, .50 calibers thumping as the infantry bound forward.

12a%20-%20Mopping%20up.png

One of 2nd Platoon’s Dragon teams identifies two BMPs in ambush near the main effort’s position, and duly report and engage them. The wisdom of ensuring the platoons remained in mutually supporting distance is made clear by this incident.

12b%20-%202nd%20Platoon%20Dragon%20engages%20(edited).png

By 0918 hours, Wren’s command group and most of 1st Platoon had outflanked OPFOR dismounts by climbing Hill 165.5 and had begun to pour fire down their flank. Despite the dominating position, the American infantry take accurate, shockingly accurate, return fire. Three casualties are suffered in the exchange, but the result is preordained. Bunting, with the other half of the platoon, bounds forwards. With grenade and bayonet, the OPFOR dismounts are either killed, wounded, or captured. It is an ugly, intimate firefight – not what the casual observer would expect in desert terrain.

13b%20-%201st%20Platoon%20react.png

By 0926 hours, the fight is over. Individual survivors are picked off, caught in a crossfire between the vehicles of 1st and 2nd Platoon’s as they attempt to escape the close assault. Word filters down from brigade, to TOC, from TOC to Wren: ceasefire, assume a hasty defense and stand by for further orders.

 

***

The lead OPFOR battalion commander was perturbed. This was not the type of aggressive response he expected.  He was not an overly prideful man, he knew a battle lost when he saw one, but he was also not accustomed to defeat. Not on his home turf. He could turn the enemy’s success into defeat, the enemy Battalion was pushing through separate passes, outside of mutual support, and the company-sized force that had just savaged his combat reconnaissance patrol and forward security element was now out on a limb, outside of the mutual support of its sister companies.

He knew he needed to redouble his efforts and try to catch the enemy while they were either rearming or attempting to pursue his lead force. The surviving forward officer reported his men were going firm, as was expected of him, to try and fix the enemy for as long as possible.

“Adjutant, get me Regiment. Request release of the armour reserve.”

They would be ready by this afternoon. It should be soon enough.

16%20-%20End%20Rep.png

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@ Rinaldi,

I'd love to see more of your NTC AARs from the base Cold War game. These first two are excellent and engaging (no pun intended) examples of planning and execution.

On a related note, the books "Defense of Hill 781" and Dragons at War: 2-34 Infantry in the Mojave" provide a wealth of additional material for NTC-centric scenarios set during the early 1980s. McDonough and Bolger's books are both written in an easy-to-understand and immersive style that puts you in the "seat of the action" as the protagonists undergo their trial by fire in the Mojavian high desert.  

https://www.amazon.com/Defense-Hill-781-Allegory-Mechanized/dp/0891414754

https://www.amazon.com/Dragons-War-2-34-Infantry-Mojave/dp/0891412468

Keep up the great work and I eagerly look forward to seeing more in the near future!

 

 

 

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22 hours ago, Bil Hardenberger said:

Agreed.. I'd like to see how @Rinaldi approached the Red Pass defense.

Well lets just say Wren stays in character as to his choices. As to the results...a weird one, and possibly a topic for discussion when we arrive there. 

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Posted (edited)
On 6/9/2022 at 1:40 PM, Martellus said:

On a related note, the books "Defense of Hill 781" and Dragons at War: 2-34 Infantry in the Mojave" provide a wealth of addition...

 

Both highly recommended reads, that have graced my book shelf for quite some time.

KdYLwcU.jpg

I think there's some criticism to be made, with hindsight, of some of Bolger's sources, but the book is a product of its time and he worked with what he had to hand. As a resource for future map makers and scenario designers though it's a goldmine, I agree. 

Now, without further ado...

On 6/8/2022 at 12:00 AM, Rinaldi said:

Continued...

 

Chapter 1.2: Pursuit, Interrupted

 

16th October, 1300 hours

It had taken much longer than Wren was happy with for the order to resume the advance to be given. Problems had developed at the Brigade level, with the neighbouring task force reporting extremely heavy resistance as they conducted their own movements to contact. The hold order, Wren found out, was born out of a worry that the spread-out companies of his own TF would get defeated in detail or hit in the flank by the enemy’s reserves, which had clearly not been needed elsewhere.

So, both B Team and the surviving OPFOR bided their time and licked their wounds. All was not still, though: violence had occasionally punctuated the time since his morning’s fight had ended. Mortars, and the odd machinegun burst had kept both sides’ security elements discomfited, and had equally frustrated the infantry’s attempts to dig any type of scrape in the rocky desert floor.

Wren had hoped he could make the most of the late morning to reconstitute and rearm his forces. No such luck, however. The Battalion trains had been incredibly overstretched between the widely separate teams and canalized geography. The Battalion XO had managed to push forward much needed fuel to his tracks and tanks, and even hot food for the men. Nothing further was forthcoming. The TOWs, already low on ammunition, would have to make do with what they had. He was likewise running low on Dragon missiles in his rifle platoons.

Worse still, his tank platoon was still down to only three effective tanks. With no crew casualty replacements, the stricken tank was too undermanned to be worth a damn, and he had sent the disappointed crew back to Battalion. The Platoon leader’s gun would require legitimate maintenance, and he was effectively a machinegun bunker. Command devolved to SFC Rosenberger, the tank platoon NCO. Vehicular woes did not end there, two M113s had broken down (little surprise, given the state they were in when his unit collected them) late in the morning, and they were still in no condition to fight by H-hour.

Nevertheless, word had come down at 1100: B Company Team was to pursue and destroy surviving enemy in vicinity North of Brown Pass. The rest of the tank platoons were being returned to the control of their parent company and would follow and support Wren’s efforts. It had now become a Battalion-level affair, to a degree. H-hour had been set to 1300 hours. He had been warned by the TF’s S-2 to expect the enemy to redouble their effort with the injection of more combat power in his AO, likely armour. The time had come.

00B%20-%20Scheme.png

The plan was simple: Hug the same key terrain he had anchored his company on earlier that morning and attempt to continue that right-wheeling attack his unit had been completing when the stop order arrived. He integrated an air and artillery interdiction effort, once again, into the scheme; making the most of his trip back to TOC to liaise with combat-aviation and the Battalion FIST. Fires would land, and Cobras would prowl about on the likely axis of advance for any reinforcing enemy armour. Wren did not feel fully satisfied with the plan: it was predictable and merely a repetition of the morning’s efforts, but it was what he could do with the little time (and resources) he had. It would have to do.

B Company team had assembled once again in the small bowl that denoted the exit from Brown Pass. Just like that morning, the lip of the bowl provided an excellent battle position and location from which to provide cover. Sure enough, as soon as the lead vehicles creeped into a hull-down position to establish such positions, they reported and destroyed a lone BMP. The assaulting forces snake forward even as this occurs.

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Something's up...and something's wrong.

The SBF and the point elements all report the same thing: enemy dismounts retreating from PL Chariots towards PL Stripes. Why fall back now? Wren ponders.

Whatever the OPFOR have planned, for now, Wren doesn't interrupt his own. It only takes a few minutes for 2LT Bunting to report his dismounts and Rosenberger's tank section, in position. They will form the anchor on the mountainous left flank. The infantry, established on the cliffs, have set up OPs/LPs and anti-tank blocking positions. The tanks take an attack-by-fire position at the base of this same terrain and begin coaxing the enemy infantry earlier seen falling back.

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All is soon revealed when the SFC reports that he has contact with enemy armour, in about company strength, approaching from the north.

A flurry of code words are fired over the net, signalling the pre-arranged artillery and combat aviation missions. Cobras, loitering to the west, swiftly respond and take firing positions. Artillery confirms fire for effect with cluster munitions. The intention is to give the OPFOR armour a hot reception. Too hot of one.

It doesn’t quite go as planned. The flight leader of the pair of helicopters reports coming under heavy fire and cancels his engagement after only a single clear-cut kill. They must evade swiftly, practically bouncing off the desert floor to break radar lock and line of sight. Having anticipated more of the same from this morning, the OPFOR commanders had attached a “Shilka” – an anti-air gun tractor – to the relief force.

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The vehicle spits out fire like a dragon, breaking up the Cobras’ attack without much effort. Rosenberger announces he is beginning a direct fire engagement, but two tanks M60s fighting off an entire armoured company is long odds by any measurement.

Then the artillery weighs in. The T-72s boldly surge through it and are out of the danger zone quickly. Wren and his FO scramble to begin shifting the fire. 

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Having emerged from the maelstrom, the T-72s open fire. It is only the combination of excellent hull-down positions and frequent jockeying that spare Rosenberger, his wingman, and the supporting positions from being removed from the fight immediately.

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Things, to put it mildly, were not looking hot. CPT Wren knew he had lost control of the battle. There was little he could do now: he had played his cards, and the OPFOR hadn’t even looked at them. A direct-fire engagement was roaring across the entire length of the desert and all the infantry and their carriers could do was find some cover. The Sioux were closing in, whooping and hollering, and all his command could do was return fire, as best they could, and await the Cavalry.

Return fire they did. B Company’s heavy-hitters were stationary and in good cover, whereas the enemy was in the open and on the move. Speed protected the OPFOR to a degree, but they would need to halt, or slow their rate of advance, to give accurate return fire. Despite the mounting pressure on their battle position, Rosenberger’s wingman puts a T-72 down. Then, the TOWs secure two kills themselves, exhausting the remaining ammo on these vehicles. 

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The fierce defensive fire buys precious minutes. Under heavy fire and mounting losses, the OPFOR Tank Company leader issues brisk orders to begin advancing more cautiously. What was once a surging wave becomes a series of aggressive bounds. Fire becomes much more accurate, as a result, and Rosenberger’s luck finally runs out. In swift succession, his tank, then his wingman’s, are destroyed. One burns fiercely, its entire crew killed.

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With the tanks duelling at extreme range, Wren finally feels secure enough to attempt to get back into the fight. OPFOR dismounts were still attempting to filter back to safety, and he reintroduces himself to the battle by ordering the M113s from Bunting’s platoon to move forward and engage them. They put down heavy enfilading fire, and the hapless enemy fall steadily to the thumping fire. Bunting’s M60s can reach out at this extended range, albeit less effectively, to add to this fire.

Reports confirm that about 5 OPFOR T-72s are still operational. Slowly wrestling the initiative back from the enemy, Wren begins coordinating with his supporting assets a renewed joint-fires effort on the now stalled-out enemy. Ten minutes. Ten minutes until these assets could be guided onto target. Realising that the enemy ADA was still out there and exposed, Wren tells his counterpart to prioritize the Shilka. He gets an affirmative response from the tank leader.

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“This is Tango 26. Roger Bravo 26, we’re going to go for that ADA. Wait one.”

The imposing line jockey forward and backwards over the next couple minutes, again duelling with the T-72s, as they search out for the high value target. A SSG on the third engagement spots the Shilka, and in a remarkable feat of gunnery, guides his gunner on for a kill.

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“Tango 26 send to Bravo 26: tell the birds they’re in business. Out.”

CPT Wren, and the surviving elements of the company team, had at last found their equilibrium. A plan had formed in his mind, clear and apparent, and involving all elements. Risking excessive radio communications, he runs it past the Tank Company leader. The aggressive-minded cavalryman agrees without much hesitation.

He issues his orders: 1st and 2nd Platoon’s Dragons to work forward on the high ground and engage T-72s on the left flank of PL STRIPES, Renfro (and the sole combat effective tank) to take his platoon and carriers to mop up the enemy dismounts, all the while the Tank Company surged forward in bounds towards STRIPES. Mortars would support Renfro, air and artillery the tank company. It was just similar enough to the original scheme that the pivot could be done quickly and without confusion, but unlike the original plan, it properly involved the tank company.

The Dragon gunners get moving, hustling to be in position before the air and artillery signal the start of the attack. Soon they are putting fire down on a pair of T-72s hidden from the Tank Company’s sight. They report no penetrations, but the heavy hits undoubtedly effect, to a serious degree, the enemy armour’s ability to participate in the coming fight. 

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Then the combined fires of the Cobras and cluster munitions renew. No radio communication is necessary, with the tanks getting a primetime view of the cluster munitions impacting among the enemy’s positions. Their young 1LT issues the order to attack. Wren, hanging out the cargo hatch of his command track, sees this movement over his right shoulder, and orders his own men to go.

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The T-72s, now largely stationary, feel the impact of the cluster artillery much more keenly. It disrupts their return fire, as the bomblets cause spalling and much discomfort within the fighting compartment of the vehicles. The initial bounds of the heavy company proceed unmolested in large part thanks to this.

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The OPFOR had not been idle during this impasse either, however. Their own artillery falls on the assembly area of B Co, and Bunting and Renfro’s men find themselves chased all the way back to their M113s by impacting high explosives. A Dragon team are cut down. Despite the heavy fire, the Company is able to remount, and make it away and clear out of the heavy shellfire before more misfortune can befall them.

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Armour begins to dominate the fight, though not entirely. As the heavy team fights slowly forward, bounding by platoons down from the high ground, Renfro’s platoon is able to hit OPFOR dismounts in the flank, sweeping along the plateau just in front of PL CHARIOTS. It’s hardly a battle. Exhausted from their morning ordeal and caught in the middle of a raging firefight between two groups of tanks, the OPFOR are swept away. 

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The friendly tanks bound through, and past them, and report PL CHARIOTS crossed by 1328 hours. Then, inexplicably, the enemy armour rumbles out of their hasty battle positions and once again attempt to surge forward. The firefight rapidly accelerates to a conclusion, as the outnumbered T-72s take a shellacking from the M60s. 

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Outnumbered and outgunned, by 1333 hours all that remains of the OPFOR armour are shuddering, popping wrecks, most burning fiercely. The hard-bitten OPFOR dismounts scatter if not compelled to surrender, and escape and evade into the desert, no longer a coherent fighting force. Those that survive the trek back to safety will be in no condition, physically, to fight.

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Exhaustion blankets the two companies and like an insidious fog, it slowly creeps across the entire task force. Heat, thirst, hunger, the release of adrenaline, and sheer physical fatigue root men to the spot. CPT Wren and his sweat-soaked counterpart from the tank company have difficulty even getting their swollen tongues to move when they deliver their situation reports back at the TOC:

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To everyone’s immense relief and satisfaction, the LTC, after hearing their reports, had some good news: They were getting 24 hours for much-needed maintenance and rest. Then, between the 17th and 19th of October the unit would be in the Northern Corridor, conducting live-fire exercises. They would be spared the attentions of the OPFOR until after that time.

The officers and men of B Company, salt-stained, hot and exhausted, slept like the dead that evening. 

Edited by Rinaldi
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