This was the first scenario of what will hopefully be a series of the scenarios set in my fictional 1981 Third World War. The operational situation on the is pretty much that postulated in SPIs 'Central Front' series of games. NATO has managed to bring significant reinforcements and are formed up around their main assembly areas, but the combat units have not yet moved to their war positions, so it is very much a race to form a solid front before the Warpac forces can forestall them. This produces quite an interesting and mobile operational situation. I'm mainly planning to focus on the area of operations of the BAOR, which in 1981 was still centered around four smallish Armoured Divisions each organised into Task Forces instead of brigades. The general scheme of operations was for 1st-3rd AD to occupy the main battle zone in front of the Weser whilst lucky old 4th AD was tasked with 'aggressive delay' ie a headlong charge into tidal wave of oncoming Soviet armour. In front of 4th AD was the Inter-Allied Covering force, hard up on the border with the even more thankless task of delaying the Warpac juggernaut.
The first battle covers the opening hours of the Warpac attack, both sides had independant briefings, which works so much better than when each side knows what the other has got and what their objectives are.
Covering Force, 31st June 1981
The Soviet invasion of Iran a week earlier and subsequent exchanges of fire with US forces in the Gulf prompted the Soviet leadership to initiate an all out attack on NATO to preserve the integrity of the USSR. The BAOR barely had time to mobilise to war strength and form up in their assembly positions before Soviet tanks were rolling over the border and the sky was black with Warpac aircraft.
British 1st Corps is moving to its war positions, 4th AD in the van tasked with aggressive delay, 1st, 2nd and 3rd AD to hold the main battle zone behind Hannover. The border is covered by the inter-allied covering force, in this sector BG 15/19 KRH from 2nd AD. The BG is tasked with conducting a delaying action from the DDR border back to the Forward Line of Troops (FLOT). Divisional engineers have been conducting hasty obstacle preparation and the BG has been reinforced combat elements to provide a firm base. At this stage of the deployment, most of the divisional artillery remains out of range.
Conduct a delaying action back to the FLOT (baseline). Identify the enemy axes of advance, inflict losses, harry and delay the enemy.
Forces (D6, regular morale unless indicated otherwise)
2nd Div Armoured Recce BG (15/19 KRH)
BGHQ: 1 x Mech HQ
2 x medium recce squadrons: 2 x Scimitar troops ea
1 x Mech Infantry Combat Team (A/1 KORB)
1 x Swingfire battery
1 x (independant) Armoured engineer company. three dummy minefields, three (str 2) minefields and three road/bridge demolitions are available to deploy.
German Heimatschutzen platoons or companies in some BUAs (D12, morale poor).
2 x batteries of Abbot in Direct Support (immediate fire)
1 x section of Harriers and 1 x section of Lynx may be available for ground support but the air situation is currently dire. Helicopters have more chance of getting through.
Set up anywhere west of the border. Infantry may be entrenched and dispersed. All terrain features are pre-registered for fire.
3rd Shock Army is pushing out of Magdeburg like an uncoiling spring. 10th GTD is tasked with clearing the march routes and lateral communications along the Mittelland Canal while main forces push directly along the Autobahn to Braunschweig south of the canal. Once the route is clear, the way is open to the rolling plain leading to Hannover.Division and Front artillery are firing a massive programme in support, and our air attacks have achieved surprise.
Push forward rapidly, bypass centres of enemy resistance which can be left to second echelon forces and exit mechanised forces from the far side of the battle area.
Forces (D8, regular morale unless indicated otherwise)
61st and 62nd Tank Regiments, 10th Guards Tank Division, Cat I
each: RHQ: 1 x Mech HQ, 1 x recce Co, 1 x Engineer Co, 1 x AA Co
3 x Tank Bn (T64): 2 x tank Co ea
1 x BMP Inf Co
1 x SP Arty Bn (SP 122mm): 2 x SP 122, 1 x Btty HQ
1 x Hind and 1 x Su-17 may be available each turn.
1 x Air assault Bn (2 x para, 1 x Mi 8 helicopter)
Division and Front artillery are firing a huge artillery programme. The barrage is 4km deep, advancing at a rate of 2km per turn. All hills, woods, towns, and river crossings targetted.
Enter along roads leading in from the east in pre-combat formation, but don't need to be in road column. Separate road for each regiment.
Villages and towns provide concealment and cover (-1 to hit), woods provide concealment.
Hills are rolling and not an obstacle to movement, stationary units may find concealment on them. Marshes are a serious impediment to vehicular movement.
The weather is good.
Area of Operations
The Soviet view has already been presented on Tim Gows blog, but briefly the Warpac forces assigned a regiment each to the northern and central roads, but the central regiment was tasked with crossing the canal NE of Wolfsburg and avoiding the BUA altogether.
15/19 KRH adopted a fairly up front defence with their mechanised infanty dug in at the southern crossroads covered by minefields and a company of Heimatschutzen in the northern village again covered by minefields, both positions were supported by troops of Scimitars with the FV438 Swingfire battery in the north. Critical road junctions were demolished in a number of places (indicated with blue counters).
|A/1 KORB digs in.|
|A somewhat blurry photo of the forces defending the northern road junction.|
|The southern village is suppressed by artillery fire.|
|Desperate fighting in the north, one Russian tank battalion is disorganised in the minefields, but the Heimatschutzen are suppressed and sneaky Russian recce units are moving around their right flank.|
|Soviet heliborne assault against the left central crossroads.|
There was heavy fighting in the north as one Tank regiment tried to batter through the defences, Swingfire in particular proving very effective against the massed armour. In the centre the second regiment bypassed the village to the south and captured the canal bridge intact while its regimental AA company drove off the only NATO airstrike which had penetrated the Warpac air umbrella.
The Soviet airforce was much in evidence with numerous airstrikes from SU-17s as well as attacks from Mi-24 Hinds while the massive artillery barrage succeeded in suppressing the entrenched defenders of the villages.
The critical event was probably the Soviet air assault shot in by Hinds against the crossroads north of Wolfsberg which landed right on top of the armoured engineer company as it attempted to demolish the road junction. This coincided with enough T-64s getting close enough to their lightly armoured opponents to knock out the FV438s and roughly half the Scimitars. At this point 15/19 KRH decided to fall back, while 10th Guards Tank Div bypassed Wolfsberg entirely, leaving the city to follow up formations.
The up front defence had been a costly exercise but it had succeeded in pinning many Soviet units in their deployment areas even if it hadn't inflicted many losses. The Soviets had also given up on Wolfsberg as an axis of advance, leaving one major road open the west north of the canal for the leading regiment of the division. They had succeeded in pushing back the recce screen and making a deep penetration into the operational area of the covering force.