Unconventional Army Formations

I’ve been looking at two unconventional military formations. The High-Tech Light Division proposals of the 1980s (brought to life in the form of the 9th Infantry Division), and the various plans to mechanize the US’s airborne infantry.

This led to me reading the book “AIR-MECH-STRIKE” by the infamous Mike Sparks.

The failure is when they stop talking about mechanizing airborne forces (which does have a lot of precedent behind it) and start talking about “AIR MECH STRIKING” the entire military, ripping apart heavy armored units in favor of their zippy-airborne operations, and yanking the helicopters away from existing divisions. Aviation assets would be concentrated at high levels similar to Cold War Soviet practice of focusing on the operational level.

Out of fairness, they do keep M1 and M2 AFVs in the proposal. Which begs the question of how often the AIR MECH units would go deep in practice. That is a question the authors shy away from. The three hypothetical scenarios given in the book are an attack against a ragtag force threatening Afghanistan with a handful of T-55s, a North Korea scenario which is tailor-made for the AIR MECH forces to jump in and save the day, and a Kosovo scenario that is laughable in its overoptimism (easy and over in ten days, against an enemy that showed that they weren’t to be underestimated).

Most of the book talks about organization and the exact gizmos employed, with little space devoted to how they’d be used. As a contemporary critique in Armor Magazine by LTC Steve Eden (page 48) noted, the buried secret to the AIR-MECH unit’s success is precision indirect weapons-which, if working as well as claimed, would turn any unit, regardless of organization, into a juggernaut.

Then there’s the secret weapon-the M113 GAVIN. (Yes, this is where the meme got started). Now, in the book’s context, it’s a lot more forgivable, since the term Gavin is only used to refer to a heavily modified M113 that I’m still skeptical could be airdroppable and have the equipment upgrades they want at the same time. Sparks later retconned it into being a name for the APC overall.

I just have the gut feeling that the AIR-MECH units would, the majority of the time, fight as conventional mechanized infantry in vehicles scrunched-up to fit a requirement that they would rarely execute. Either that or be deployed in an overambitious 21st century Market Garden.

_ _ _ _ _ _

The HTLD is more interesting. There’s a plan for an “assault gun” (either the Stingray or AGS could work), buggies, and zipping Humvees containing the line infantry. While it’s still a little dubious in terms of facing a combined arms force, the Cold War background makes it more tolerable. After all, it was raised along with the heavy divisions and didn’t pretend to be a substitute for them. (That the requirement was for air-transportability rather than droppability helped a little).

What doomed it was interservice politics-to be truly effective, it needed new specialized equipment, but that came at a time when the Army wanted every M1A1 it could get. So it limped along with stopgaps such as TOW-Humvees and conventional M60 tanks until being disbanded post-1991.

I do like to imagine a “semi-objective” HTLD, with the in-production Stingray and commerical buggies being used. While I don’t think the HTLD was still a good idea, it’s at least an interesting one.

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Command Fiction: Fisherman’s Knowledge

This vignette is based on the latest preliminary release in the Northern Fury series. In it, you command an improvised naval flotilla assembled by a crafty Soviet division commander for a hop across the Trondheimsfjorden.

I immediately thought of a background that could give the commander the knowledge to raise the flotilla successfully. The player, controlling one of the division’s regimental leaders, is not so gifted, as evidenced by this line in the introduction

“You can barely hold back a retch at the stink emanating from one of these dilapidated old working boats.”

_  _ _  _ _ _ _

March 9, 1994, near Leksvik, Norway.

Anton Mikhailovich Yatchenko never thought he’d be glad to sense the smell of fishing boats again as he hurried south for one more furtive inspection.

It was either join or spend my whole life being a fisherman like my father and grandfather and great-grandfather. And now I’m back to square one. Oh well.

The ad-hoc multi-service force was poised to try something really, really crazy. Yatchenko in his heart did not expect himself or anyone else in his force to survive it. Much less the infantrymen in the lead regiment, and for the lead battalion-that was a horror of its own.

But the major general wasn’t going to try something he knew wholeheartedly couldn’t work. Having seen and crewed fishing boats like the ones in his new flotilla, he felt there was a chance they might-might be useful for an amphibious assault.

“We have nothing to lose. Either we take Trondheim and run low on supplies or run out of supplies without taking Trondheim-do not make this a Gallipoli and lose your nerve.”

Speaking with the unlucky regimental commander who was picked for the first wave, Yatchenko noticed him suppressing a gag as he passed near a fishing boat.

“And-uh, make sure the troops in the fishing boats can handle the conditions. I don’t want them collapsing from er-seasickness- before they hit the beach.”

Even in the darkening skies, Yatchenko could see his subordinate blushing slightly.

_ _ _ _ _

The scenario, Northern Fury 12.1, Something’s Fishy, can be found here. I was hesitant to include the ranks because I wasn’t sure of them-I think it’s major general and colonel, but don’t know enough about Soviet/Russian ranks to be sure.

Post-Soviet Snags

I like obscure conflicts in Command, even hypothetical ones.

However, there’s one (not insurmountable, but still present) issue I’ve fond with would-be post Soviet conflicts. The issue comes from the Soviet-era force structures. In many ex-bloc states, a conflict in the scenario editor ends up in an unequal squash. Surplus aircraft with little standoff capability go against top-of-the-line air defenses designed to stop the USAF.

Thankfully, there are workarounds. Plot ones like saying the missiles aren’t totally deployed, in-game ones using WRA and proficiency changes to make the SAMs less effective, or, in the case of large countries, taking place in an area where the best defenses wouldn’t be stationed anyway.

Command Fiction: The Orphan Field

This Command Fiction involves an attempt to show a scenario concept I’ve always liked-the player controlling an unambiguously inferior faction.

_ _ _ _ _

The babies were the small array of fighter planes, the scraps left over from the great power’s conflict. There had been forty babies there. Now, there were only a few. The air defense commander himself had arrived, giving the crews the earful of a lifetime. All the planes had to be ready, all the missiles had to be ready, all the radars had to be ready, and all the ELINT stations had to be ready, because they were going to be in for the fight of their lives.

When the Big Day came, the base had reason to be proud, for it did everything right.

It had lost. Lost as cruise missiles slammed into it. Lost as the four babies that got aloft were immediately downed. But it had lost fighting. The defenses were active, and they-unlike the nation’s other two airbases-had at least staged at all.

The base even launched two more babies the next day for a ground attack. They got shot down, but points for trying.

And points for making the rubble bounce at what would become Orphan Field instead of attacking the field army. Most people after the war, assumed Orphan Field was named in memory of the people who died defending it, leaving their children as orphans. Only a few knew the truth-that it became an orphan field once it lost its baby fighter planes, and that was the reason for the name.

But They’re Superheroes

So, I was considering a concept that was on the level of Operation Eagle Claw in terms of absolute failure. A special forces raid that goes horribly wrong.(This is no doubt inspired by me reading about special forces slip-ups, because even the best are still human and still make plenty of mistakes)

Only problem is, it has to be a mistake on the planning level, and the background organization has had enough experience in both conventional and low-intensity war that it should have a pretty good idea what its forces can and can’t do.

Solution: Have it be masterminded by their new superhero department, who brush off any criticism of the plan, because hey, these are literal superheroes!

A Superpower Coincidence

Now, there’s arguably little that’s truly original. This is why, when I make my superhero fantasies, it’s not difference of powers that I focus on so much as difference of character.

But one bizarre coincidence, notable in almost how exact it is, and how coincidential it is, has stood out. See, there’s a character who can manipulate time, using it as de facto teleportation to outmaneuver enemies.

That describes Overwatch’s hero and mascot Tracer. But it also describes a supervillain in a notorious tie-in comic made twenty-five years before. The comic was NFL Superpro, one frequently trotted out as one of the worst of all time. The villain was, with a name fitting the football style, Instant Replay.

Instant Replay appeared twice, the second time also having an oddly coincidental connection to Tracer, as he had been phasing in and out of time uncontrollably, then semi-controllably. In both cases, he was defeated in a few panels (although the second time, the Superpro needed the help of his non-superpowered niece. Really).

So, either this is a massive coincidence, or someone at Blizzard decided to base a prominent figure in their newest flagship game on a throwaway villain in a decades-old throwaway comic. The latter is unlikely, and Instant Replay’s own style bears similarity to GI Joe’s Snake Eyes.

But it’s still an interesting thing to behold.

 

Infamy 2 Reached

I’ve finally reached the second level of infamy in Payday 2 (which requires you to reach the level cap and then earn $200,000,000 per level). I love the game, but its high-level play isn’t really for me.

Why? There’s less room for error, both on your part and from the unreliable internet players who go alongside you.

Weird Clothing

I have a strange liking of supervillains wearing bad 1970s suits. I think it’s a combination of  two characters. The first was the Marvel supervillain Arcade, who was (note the past tense) a ridiculous filler villain who threw superheroes into ridiculous dangerous amusement parks.

(Sadly, he turned into a bloodthirsty long-haired figure who gained plot-induced superpowers of his own and presided over a ridiculously blatant Hunger Games/Battle Royale ripoff. That story is one of the few that I’ve removed from my personal continuity-I like the classic villain too much)

The other was Gene Hackman’s portrayal of Lex Luthor in the 1978 Superman movie. Hackman refused to go bald for the film (save for one scene), so he had to wear ridiculous “wigs” on top of his bad 70s suit. Both characters were made in 1978, and I doubt their styling was a coincidence.