Friday, January 16, 2015

BATREP: "...Stryk a Heavy Blow..."


Last night we played the second game of our mini campaign, pitting our formations assembled from a Stryker Brigade (Blue) and a Motorised Division (Red).

As the Red player, I had won the previous battle retaining the initiative, which meant I would again be the attacker.  I had allocated two campaign points to influence the next scenario type, since I didn't want to get bogged down by one of the low results when rolling on the battle type table. These included a 'Deliberate Attack' or (even worse) a 'River Crossing'. Lucky I did this, since I rolled low but as a result of the modifier the scenario generated was another 'Hasty Attack' by Red.
 
The terrain was generated using my terrain generator system from my "Oz Invaded" campaign system. I was pretty happy with how it worked. The resulting battlefield is shown below:

 
The visibility for the battle would be moderate (overcast), with the wind blowing from the South. The terrain was quite open, with very few hills, a couple of small towns and a large number af fields. The fields were classed as "Low Crops", and most were surrounded by "Low Hedges". In FFT, neither of these terrain types block LOS, but they do provide light cover. There was one area of Orchards, to the WNW of the southern town, which was classed as "High Crops" (does block LOS).  The objective for the battle was a hill covering the main road through the battlefield, also linking the two towns. The terrain around the objective was open all around, with only a couple of approach directions covered from LOS to within assault distance. I had to occupy this objective within eight turns (preferably seven), without taking excessive losses.

After the last Hasty Attack scenario, I thought Blue might approach the battle a little differently. Like last time, they were limited to deployment in their third of the table, but I thought they might try a more active defence, moving forward initially to seize favourable delaying positions forward of the objective. In particular I thought the two towns may be important to the Blue defence as strong-points. The northern-most town was in the Blue deployment zone and could be occupied by them during deployment. The southern town was outside the blue deployment zone, but was reach-able in their first turn. Luckily, however, I would be moving first, with an opportunity to try and prevent this.

I sketched out four broad outline concept plans to approach the attack:



A - double envelopment.
This would allow me to make my assault from turn 6 if all went well in my preliminary moves

B - broad frontage.
This would allow me to manoeuver simply, make my assault from turn 4,
with good coverage across the battlefield, but limited troops attacking the main objective.
C - frontal attack.
This would allow me to manoeuver simply, make my assault from turn 5,
with some risk on my flanks, but good troop concentration attacking the main objective.
D - left flanker.
This would allow me to manoeuver relatively simply,
assaulting from turn 7 in good concentration, and  from a good covered approach on the flank.
Of these, I discounted plans A and D as very marginal whether I would have enough time to conduct the attack if accounting for several turns of potential delay due to enemy action. Plan B did not really give me enough troops for a hard fight on the objective.

So I developed plan C as the simplest most achievable plan for my mission. But I had to try and minimise the flank risks where possible, using my supporting assets. The detailed Red plan is shown below:


I would immediately move at full speed up the road from the SW to seize the southern town with a small advance detachment comprising my Brigade Engineer and Recon companies. These had five platoons of troops combined, which when dismounted within the town would be hard to counter-attack and drive out. Their move would be covered by a WP smoke-screen, and the woods to the east of the town (a likely deployment area from which the US infantry could take the town) would be hit with an ICM artillery strike.

Concurrently, on the northern flank, the Divisional Aviation battalion (my attachment choice for the game) would enter the table travelling in "high mode" (allows them to move any distance, but they become susceptible to off-table SAM fire). In turn two, they would adopt "Nap of Earth" mode. The transport helicopter company would land the battalion's company of air-mobile infantry (plus an attached company from 221 battalion) in the clearing to the NW of the northern town, whilst the attack helicopter company (with a platoon of Mi-28s and a platoon of Gazelle scout helicopters) would take up an overwatch position behind the tree-line, ready to engage any opposition. The Infantry would occupy the northern town, using their ATGMs to overwatch the objective from the north preventing interference with the subsequent Brigade assault onto the objective. If the northern town was occupied by enemy troops, the air-mobile infantry would at least 'piquet' the enemy in the town, preventing them from moving out or otherwise interfering with the Brigade assault.

Also on turns one and two, but approaching from the west, my Brigade AT Company (BTR-90s) would move rapidly up the road and adopt an overwatch position in the tree-line overlooking the objective and the heavy woods to its NE (another suspected enemy position). My Brigade UAV platoon would monitor the area to the rear of the objective.

On turn two, my Brigade's three infantry battalions and the tank battalion would move from the west, forming up behind the tree-line for an assault onto the objective in turn five. The movement and assault would be covered by artillery fire, including the Brigade SP Artillery Battalion, and two companies from the Divisional MRL (BM-27) Battalion. An assault on turn five would hopefully give me time to take the objective, including allowance for one or two turns of delay by enemy action (eg. enemy fire slowing movement, or laying of nuisance delaying FASCAM minefields). 

The Blue plan is below:

 
Blue again had two Stryker infantry companies. One would be dug in (hasty entrenchments) and defend centrally, from the light woods to the south of the objective. The second company would defend from the heavy woods to the NE of the objective.

This time, a full company of three platoons of M1A2 SEP was taken as the Blue attachment. They also had a Platoon of Infantry attached to forma a tank-heavy Combat Team (CT). These were positioned on the Blue left flank on the South of the battlefield, covering the road and approaches to the southern town. They also had an alternate position identified on the main objective.

For artillery support, the Stryker Battle-group had the Brigade's battalion of M-777 towed guns, firing ICM. 

The plans over-laid on each other...
Turn 1:
Blue deployment
southern-most position; the Tank Company

The central Stryker Company position, infantry dug-in. 

The northern US defensive position.
The Red battalion mortars all fire their smoke screen.
Unfortunately the southern most one lands off target, leaving a gap in the screen.
As planned, the Red engineer Company and Recon Infantry raced forward in their role
as 'Forlorn Hope' to seize the southern town.
Unfortunately for them, the M1A2 CT was perfectly positioned to inflict great carnage on them,
engaging and destroying all the advancing infantry in their APCs.
A few infantry platoons bailed out, only to be destroyed the following turn.
Not a good start...
The Red Brigade AT Company moved up into cover in the centre,
ready to take up its position the following turn.
 
The Divisional Aviation Battalion entered on the NE corner of the battlefield, as planned.


One of the Mi-17 platoons was shot down by off-table SAMs,
with the two Infantry platoons carried destroyed in the fiery wreckage.
Turn 2:


The Red smoke shifts to screen the centre of the battlefield.

The Red Gazelle and Mi-28 helicopters of the
Attack Helicopter company take up their position in overwatch.
The remaining four infantry platoons are landed in a clearing by the Mi-17 Hips...
...and quickly move into cover in the heavy woods to their south.
The Stryker battalion recon platoon (positioned in the north)
calls in artillery on the air-mobile infantry, suppressing a platoon.
The 21st Motorised Brigade enters in the centre, from the W.
The Brigade advances in two columns, with 211 and 212 Infantry Battalions in the left column,

and 213 Infantry and 214 Tank battalion in the right column. 
 
Red recon observation posts call in artillery (152mm ICM)
on the US tanks in the south, suppressing one platoon.
 
Turn 3:

The Red units moved from column into their assault (line) formation
within the covering terrain to the W of the objective.
The final assault would be across about 8-10" (800-1000m in real world terms) of open ground,
so not much to look forward to for the poor Red infantrymen.
 
The US tanks snipe at a few exposed platoons on the southern flank of the Red Brigade.
They destroyed several tank and infantry platoons.
 
The Mi-28 platoon was destroyed by the US Stinger platoon, without firing a single shot.
This is the second game where they have achieved nothing!
Turn 4:

As the Red commander, I panic and deviate from my plan.

My troops were in position and deployed into assault formation a turn earlier than expected. But whilst they were in cover, they were still in LOS and taking fire and suffering casualties whilst in their Form-Up Point (FUP). Unlike last game, the US Stryker Infantry did not withdraw - they had stayed in their positions and were now inflicting some significant casualties on my tanks and APCs preparing to assault. My plan had been to assault through the objective on turn five and I had pre-planned artillery fire, commencing in turn five, to suppress the enemy positions when I assaulted.

I moved my troops in beautiful assault formation out of their cover towards the enemy positions.

But due to the mounting casualties, I needed to assault whilst I still had a sufficient force. So I did, but with only light artillery support and a WP smoke screen from the battalion mortars.
They remained mounted to protect from artillery, and to move up further and dismount the following turn.
I paid heavily for this action.

Half my assaulting troops were wiped out,
predominantly by fire from the Stryker MGS platoons,
and the defending Infantry platoons' Javelin ATGMs.


The 211 Motorised battalion (top of picture) suffered horrific losses
leading the assault on the northern US company,
significant enough to force a "two-thirds losses" unit quality check,
which it failed and the battalion disintegrated.

The Red Airmobile troops had moved through the woods, threatening the northern flank of the northern US infantry company position. A US platoon was diverted from their defence to defend against this threat, and the Red infantry were destroyed in the ensuing fire-fight.

The Red Gazelle platoon was destroyed by US artillery.



The US Tank CT changed its orders,
and moved down off the hill onto a position on the southern flank of the Red assault (bottom of screen).  
 Turn 5:

The Red assault continued.
The smoke-screen was lifted and the pre-planned artillery fire was adjusted
(now that I had observers in the assault) onto the defending positions.

Two companies of BM-27 MRLs and a battalion of 152mm ICM suppressed
the forward defenders in both Stryker Infantry defensive positions.

Then the remaining tanks and Infantry assaulted.
In the North, 212 battalion...
... was destroyed
without making significant inroads against the defenders there.
In the centre, poor positioning of the US M1A2s meant they could not fire on the assaulting Red forces. The combined tanks and infantry assaulted the US infantry company, destroying the whole company. But in the process 213 Infantry and 214 Tank battalions also became combat-ineffective and were unable to continue the fight. At the end of turn five, the 21st Motorised Brigade was in very bad shape and withdrew, conceding the battlefield to the US defenders.


Aftermath:

The battle had been a blood-bath. It's hard to imagine how it could have gone any worse from the Red perspective? I had smashed my units against the defender's positions and all of my battalions had been broken. On the flip-side, one of the US Styker companies had been destroyed, plus a few other platoons here and there. The casualties for Red had been very high, however the good news was that the majority were lost due to quality checks of one form or another, meaning the majority of these would return to my formation after the battle. But it was a bad defeat in terms of campaign momentum, since I lost the initiative and suffered heavy exhaustion for my formation. I also lost significant numbers permanently from my force (from those destroyed outright during the game; in the casualty recovery process, only a third of these are recovered).

In the post-battle process, both sides spent heavily from their 'Campaign Points' reserve to make up for the heavy casualties. The US force was able to completely replace their losses (inflicted at such cost to Red), and Red replaced some of theirs. After all of this was done, the progressive campaign status is shown below.



Of note is that Red has lost over a full infantry battalion (16%). Additionally, a full company of tanks (16%), and some of the specialist Brigade support companies have suffered losses (particularly the Engineers). Some of this specialist support in future will have to come from the Divisional attachments if required). After conducting two attacks, this is probably to be expected. The good news for Red (if you can call it that) is that they have plenty more troops in their force.

Exhaustion levels for both campaign formations are climbing.

Next game, Blue has seized the initiative and will be conducting a Hasty Attack. This will give us a chance to test the two forces with their roles reversed?...

Lessons Learned:

The frontal assault option turned out not to be a good one for the Reds. It was a good lesson to re-learn that attacking through the enemy's main killing ground is not a good idea. One of the other options, attacking from a flank, would probably have allowed me to minimise the defending firepower my troops were subjected to.

Assaulting in BTRs through the open against defending tanks, MGS and infantry with ATGMs will cause heavy casualties. I would have been better off taking a slower, but more covered attack direction. Or dismounting my infantry and conducting a slower attack on foot. My desire to simplify the coordination of the attack, and to conduct it quickly to ensure I had plenty of time, led my not to consider the full costs of my plan.

My helicopters again did nothing. I'm losing faith in them. Or maybe I just haven't worked out yet how they should properly be used?

The Air-mobile infantry could have been better coordinated with the other assaulting troops. They did manage to divert part of one of the defending companies, but were destroyed piecemeal because they attacked before the main assault.

The Blue force had better flank security this time, which meant they didn't feel the need to withdraw from their prepared positions. As a result, they were able to stay and fight, inflicting very heavy losses on the attackers. In the future, I need to try again to threaten the flanks, forcing the indecision and doubt that caused Blue to withdraw and give up their defence prematurely last game.

As over-watch forces, my Brigade AT company (with BTR-90s) is extremely limited by their lack of thermal sights. My own smoke-screen blocked their visibility for the majority of the game. I'm going to have to be very careful about how these are used in future.

I really don't have much answer to the M1A2s. They are extremely hard to kill with the troops at my disposal, so I need to really consider how I can at least neutralise their effect on my forces?

I forgot to deploy my Brigade UAV platoon!! I had paid the points and it would have been very useful for calling in artillery (I actually had some on call for this game...). So this was an annoying and stupid oversight.

 

5 comments:

  1. Yet another great AAR - I hope you do figure out the helicopters, as I would love to see more of them, especially after seeing the photograph of the Aviation Battalion deploying.

    The Blue forces have been lucky not to have permanent losses - or is that due to the rules/campaign system?

    Not using all of your artillery assets - for shame! ;-)

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  2. The campaign system allows you to recover a portion of casualties after the game:
    1/3 of 'destroyed' stands;
    2/3 of 'failed quality check' stands; and
    all 'failed 2/3 unit lost casualty checks'

    After all of this, Blue would have permanently lost 2x Infantry and 2x Stryker stands, plus an MGS stand.

    The system also allocates 12 campaign points at the start, to be spent after each game (max 5 per game). One of the uses of these is to restore permanent casualties (1CP=1 stand restored).

    So he was able to restore all 5 stands lost. I also restored 5 stands, but lost far more than that!!

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  3. Those massed tanks give me the willies! Another great report, looking forwards to seeing Blue Force on the offensive!

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  4. Great AAR also For me! Until now ai played mainly in 15 and 20mm with some"incursion"in 6 mm..but your reports are tempting me about 3mm.still have some "issue"regarding figure size..but should be produced some like modern russian also for western countries..i could surrender!

    ReplyDelete