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Rod Robertson

Just Jack:

The price of eternal vigilance is very little sleep, and I’m watching you very closely!

Dr. Robertson was my father! I’m just Robertson, or Rod or Evil-Roddy or as my father used to call me, ” you fat-faced bastard!”. And he was the nice parent! My mum was ex-US Army and served as a nurse in WWII. You did not cross that lady and live without deep regrets ever-after! So, Jack, feel free to call me whatever you think you can get away with without breaking forum rules as I know you’re just joking and there is no way you could offend me even with your acutely honed Marine vocabulary and intensity. I’ve been shot and stabbed by relatives so friends and acquaintances have a high bar to reach to get under my skin.

Now, to the Cold War! Yikes, I wrote a note saying my apologies for triggering a lengthy response and I get an Opus Magnus on the scale of the Gettysburg Address back! What you wrote was eloquent and elegant and I largely agree with your rational for how your games are designed, planned and executed. However the Soviet Army was a giant kinetic bludgeon, not a surgeon’s finessed blade. Soviet Doctrine in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s changed in flavour but not in substance really.

Soviet artillery was primarily a break-through tool and was thus massed to reinforce success and withheld to starve failure. Where NATO might task a battery or a battalion, the Soviets would task battalions, Regimental Artillery Groups (RAG’s), Divisional Artillery Groups (DAG’s), Army Artillery Groups (AAG’s) and larger level AG’s to support both breakthroughs and mobile warfare. There was a constant tension in the Soviet Army from the early 1960’s to the late 1980’s between centralization and responsiveness. But the Soviets never adopted a system where a FOO could call in anything from his own battery to a divisional or a corp level stonk. This was because NATO’s system was based on secure radio communications and the Soviets did not believe that NATO’s communications would survive EW jamming, nuclear generated EMP and inefficient use in an NBC environment. They also believed that they could not count on reliable and secure communications and so kept artillery control centralized at the expense of responsiveness and flexibility.

The Soviets centralized much of their artillery into these artillery groups to allow for effective command and control in an environment which was hostile to communication and thus decentralization. So a motor Rifle Regiment Commander or battalion commander would find some or all of the artillery needed to support his operation was not under his command but rather under the RAG or higher level Artillery Commander’s command and control. Soviet FOO’s and fire control teams would report requests to the RAG HQ which would then decide who got the fire support. After breakthroughs had been made and a more fluid maneuver warfare was occurring the command structure did not change. For supporting a meeting engagement during a march attack Soviet forces could expect little artillery support. They would have available their own organic artillery like 120mm mortars and perhaps some SP Arty directly off the march, often firing directly at the enemy rather than in an indirect role. The chief task of this artillery was the destruction, suppression or the blinding of enemy antitank defenses to allow a successful march attack to succeed or to allow the Soviet formation to bypass the strong points in the enemy’s defenses.  If a march attack failed or a hasty attack was chosen instead then rapid deployment of some or all of the RAG/DAG would occur and there would be more arty for support and likely less use of direct fire over open sights by the SP arty. If a deliberate attack was called for more complete deployment and more thorough fire support would occur. This is how the Soviets reconciled centralization with responsiveness but you will notice that, platoon, company, battalion and often even regimental commanders had limited if any control over their artillery support and FOO’s could only request/suggest fire missions and not call them in from all levels like NATO FOO’s could. In the Soviet Army the decisions were made by the artillery group commanders and not by the maneuver formation commanders or the FOO’s attached to those maneuver elements. La!

Cheers and good gaming.

Rod Robertson.