Home Forums Modern Team Whiskey – Fulda Gap Batrep 2 Reply To: Team Whiskey – Fulda Gap Batrep 2

Just Jack


No reason to watch me, man, I’m boring.  And Dr Robertson’s your father, eh?  Well, I’ll be Gilligan if you’ll be The Professor 😉  We do need to hear more about this being shot and stabbed by relatives, though.

Once again, I largely agree with what you’re saying, but not 100%, so I’ll only address those issues.  Though first, I’m with you on the ‘breakthrough’ aspect; our joke was that they don’t take out targets, they take out grid squares.  But surely you must agree with me that playing a game where the NATO player puts all his stuff on the board, sits back, and has the Soviet player roll 10,000 D6s to eliminate all but one of your tanks and a the cook’s truck, then follow it with a regiment of tanks and another of mechanized rifles, isn’t the most stimulating experience.  So my concept has been that the massively overwhelming barrage has already occurred.  That’s partly why we’re seeing orders of battle that don’t match T/Os, we’re dealing with what’s left.  And because I build a roster and follow characters, I can’t be truly realistic; realistic would have been (for the first battle): what’s on the board (a mech inf company, two tanks, and some TOWs) is all that’s left of Team Whiskey, the rest (a mech inf company and three and a half platoons of tanks) was destroyed in the initial barrage.

That’s real, but I’m not willing to do that.  And I admit that I don’t sit down before each battle and work out what happened to everyone on each side that’s not there, i.e., two tanks dropped due to mechanical problems, one mech inf plt was detached to guard the Brigade CP, three were destroyed by Su-25s on the road march here, and all these others were destroyed by the opening arty barrage, and that’s why I have these forces on the battelefield.  Because of the non-standard T/Os, my whole assumption is that the rest of the platoon/company/whatever is not here because of stuff like that.  But, I digress.

“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.”
Well, I disagree with that, and it’s exactly what I mean by my comment “we’re seriously underestimating them.”

“Soviet artillery was primarily a break-through tool and was thus massed to reinforce success and withheld to starve failure.”
The Soviet artillery was a break-through tool for the first day (and other, large offensives/counteroffensives that might have taken place should NATO have been able to keep them from reaching the sea in a very short amount of time).  After that, they were mechanized and towed-artillery that was meant to keep up with the armored elements to support them in pursuit operations.  Maybe I’m not getting your point, but the arty wasn’t going to be left behind after the initial decimation of the West German border (and others).

Not sure why you put the second part in there; reinforce success is a basic tenet of everyone’s idea of maneuver warfare.  So, I agree, but what for?

“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.”
Got it, and agreed, and you’ve got mobile warfare in there so disregard my comment above.  But then that begs the question, what were they doing if not supporting the maneuver elements?

“There was a constant tension in the Soviet Army from the early 1960’s to the late 1980’s between centralization and responsiveness.”
My understanding is there was not tension, there was a lack of capability (to put rounds onto un-surveyed targets).  I mean, are you saying they had the ability to be as flexible and accurate with arty as NATO, but decided not to?  I suppose I can see your point if what you’re saying is that they believed in mass fires rather than battery-level fires.  But serving up massed fires isn’t the issue, we’ll get to that in a second.

“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.”
I’m not sure I follow (never had a system where an FO could call in a fire mission?); you can’t be saying they didn’t use FOs, I know you know they did because I’ve seen you discuss it in other posts.  Are just trying to say they couldn’t call in a battery/battalion level fire mission?  The Soviets did train for battalion-level fire missions, whether they would have used them is another matter as they quite liked massing fires rather than divvying them out (which I think we both agree on).

So, do we agree that the Soviets had FOs?  More on that in a minute.

“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.”
I have real problems with your statement that the Soviets remained rigid with their doctrine because they believed comms would fail.  They did have pretty unreliable VHF/HF radios, that’s true, but they had whole battalions of wire dogs to run slash wire out to everyone for field phones, and they did it constantly.  Hell, they even made extensive use of motorized couriers.  So radios were an issue, but comms in general was not.

“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.”
My understanding of things is that comms issues has nothing to do with centralizing artillery control.  My understanding is that they centralized 1) it in order to be able to meet the shifting priorities of mobile warfare, and 2) because they believed in applying overwhelming firepower to whatever objective they were after.  They did not believe in Economy of Force operations, they were told to ignore their flanks (how successful they would have been at that no one will ever know; it’s easy to say that over a map, quite different when you’re out in the field and don’t know what’s left or right of you, or worse, you know there’s enemy units out there and you’re being told to ignore them), and if the enemy had a single squad and they had ten battalions, they were going to send ten battalions.  That line of thinking, from what I understand, was pounded into them, in every aspect of their military.

“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.”


“…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.”
This is where we are so close, but seem so far away.  People say things like, you can’t have a motor rifle company requesting that stuff, those are Army-level assets!  What those people are somehow not realizing is that there are no magical Army/Corps/Division/Task Force troops, i.e., they are not some ‘other’ guys, they are simply the guys in that Army, and ultimately that Army breaks down into Corps, Divisions, Regiments, Battalions, to eventually arrive at a rifle, or mech, or tank company that is actually at the point of contact for the entire Army.  And where do you think the Army CG had his Arty commander put his FOs, and what do you think the Army CG had his Arty commander make as priority targets?

Do people really think that the FO is riding around, all by his lonesome, without a care regarding what’s happening to the infantry units to his left and right?  Do you think that those infantry unit commanders are not asking for arty support, and do you think he doesn’t want to do it, even though the Army CG, via his chain of command, said ‘you will go out there and support this attack by directing the fires of ‘x’ artillery regiment???

There is no denying that there is friction in the planning process when you have a centralized arty chain of command separate from the maneuver chain of command, and there is no denying there is a lack of capability when you don’t train your troops to call in arty fire missions because your doctrine says we mass fires and thus limit ourselves only to accepting calls for fire from the designated FO.  But you can’t act like the Arty command has a separate mission than the maneuver command; you are not going to fire arty on a target that doesn’t affect your maneuver elements, and so, even in the Soviet military, the maneuver element commander has a say on where and when arty gets used, it is just run up a separate chain of command, via what is basically a single point of failure, thus delaying the arty fire missions, or, in some cases jeopardizing them altogether.

And regarding your comparing it to NATO, you’re kind of off-base there too.  Much has been made in modern times (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc…) of a squad-leader being able to call in a fire mission, and get it!  What’s missing from the equation is an enemy that has tanks, IFVs, air support, and arty of their own.  The issue is not in capability; in the Army and Marine Corps, grunts (well, all Marines, grunts and arty guys in the Army) are taught ‘call for fire’ in Boot Camp.  The issue is, in the Cold War Gone Hot environment, one of availability, the fact there would never be enough arty to go around.  And so conceptually, we did (still do, we just have arty and the enemy doesn’t) it the same way as the Soviets: calls for fire went to a central location (a Fire Direction Center, or Fire Control Center) where your request was matched up against assets and priorities and then approved or disapproved.

The difference there, as you pointed out, is that in NATO the maneuver unit commander had the arty under his control (organic or chopped to him), while the Soviets placed it under an arty group commander.  So both sides had calls for fire going to a centralized location, and had someone other than they guy calling for fire deciding on whether that mission would be supported or not.  If the Soviet Arty Group Commander didn’t support the Army CGs scheme of maneuver he’d probably be shot on the spot, so the the Soviets didn’t lack flexibility in calls for fire because the Arty Group Commander decided whether to shoot the mission or not (he’s looking at the chart tacked to the wall of the tent to see what priority the mission has); just like in NATO, the decision was made based on priorities set by the senior commander.  Think of it this way: NATO simply pushed the title of ‘senior command’ downward in echelon in order to be faster in making the decision and responding.  If you think about it, NATO was forced to do that because we never had as much arty as the Soviets (I don’t want to get into a doctrinal ‘what came first, chicken or egg’ debate as to why NATO had so much less arty).

Now what the hell does that mean???  My wife is Thai, so I hear that a lot, but I don’t think it means the same thing 😉

In summary, my belief is that Soviet response to on-call fire missions, particularly if they had been able to pre-register the targets, is not as quick as NATO, but not as slow (or unlikely to happen) as you have stated.  I know you’re a fan of pubs; I need to find it!  There’s a pub that has the FO riding with the lead battalion in hasty attack (mounted mech rifle) whose sole purpose in life is to call in battalion-level arty fire missions to suppress NATO ATGMs, and he had to do it the hard way (calling in 8-digit grids) as the targets were not pre-registered.  It had diagrams and everything; it was going to be slower than us because the call for fire was still going all the way up the chain of command, then all they way back down to the supporting arty battalion, but it was going to happen!

So, I see your complaining about the length of my posts, and I raise you! ;0

I rambled so much that I’m not sure I made any points; eh, with that much writing, there has to be at least one point in there.  Take care man, talk to you soon.