Today, Lee looks at the new units from ‘Red Thunder’, the new Soviet book for Team Yankee.
Red Thunder builds on the three previous Warsaw Pact releases; the initial Team Yankee Soviet force (representing the Czech based soviet forces), the Afghansty mini briefing, and the East Germans. As such, Red Thunder brings everything, equipment wise, from those three sources into one book, giving the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG) access to BTR-60, BRDM and Spandrel alongside the T-72A, BMP-2 and Hind mounted infantry already flying the Red Banner.
But, Red Thunder also brings some new units to the table too. Two, the T-64 and BTR-60, have been known for a while but the remaining three have been kept under wraps until now. Let’s take a look at what they all bring to the table.
*It’s never referred to as the B version in the book but its the most likely version given the missile capability and ’85 timeframe
The T-64 is one of the iconic beasts of “Cold War Gone Hot” wargaming, broadly comparable to the Chieftain of similar vintage. It reflected a quantum change in design philosophy from the T-55 family by trying to match NATO on technology rather than just relying on quantity. The final tank was expensive, maintenance intensive and considered something of a failure in some schools of thought, leading to the cheaper T-72, but still managed to achieve 9,000+ built and made up the majority of Soviet tanks in the forward formations in East Germany. It combined composite armour with a very good gun (the smoothbore 125mm that would equip all further Soviet and Russian Federation tanks), a decent stabiliser and fire control system and, the biggest change, an auto-loader.
I’ve been looking forward to the T-64, more so since seeing the photos of the smart looking model at Salute. Let’s take a look at it:
There’s really nothing wrong with that, is there? Better armour than a T-72, better mobility than a T-72 thanks to its advanced stabiliser, an optional long range AT punch (a flat +2 pts to equip the whole company) which throws an interesting tactical option in. Its better or equal to the T-72 in every way. Its worth noting that the Songster is the first ATGW that can be fired from a moving ground vehicle too – could be handy on larger tables! ERA (appearing in the mid-eighties) and a better RoF to reflect the automatically indexing hydraulic autoloader would have been nice, but let’s focus on what we got.
I can’t go too much into points, but it’s here that the T-64 has an Achilles heel. Much like the real world equivalent, it’s pricier than a T-72 and the T-72 can kill a NATO tank just as effectively. Lets face it, the T-72 struggles to make it into most lists as it is.
Now, the better armour certainly helps versus the Milan and Leo 1 so the T-64 is certainly an attractive choice for a tank based force (I can see a couple of boxes of these bad boys in my future). We also know that M60s are coming later in the year so I’d expect to see them survive well vs them as well.
The wheeled APC makes its debut as a model, even if rules wise it appeared in Volksarmee. A plastic kit, the BTR-60 provides a cheap, no thrills, APC that allows for an Infantry Company 10pts cheaper than its BMP-2 equivalent. This could be a good way of giving a tank battalion (not needing the extra punch that a BMP provides) a cheap objective holder or assault force for clearing out infantry from buildings.
The BTR-60 itself is thin skinned, is limited in mobility by its wheeled nature, and has little anti-tank punch but its 14.7 and co-axial MG can at least chase down infantry and soft skins like the LARS after its done its job of bringing Infantry near to the objective (preferably out of sight and behind cover).
The rest of the new units are force support options
This was a surprise to see, but certainly not an unwelcome one. The SA-8 Gecko is a large, wheeled Surface to Air Missile system that combines six command guided missiles with an acquisition radar, back-up optical tracker and all the control antenna – all on one giant turret. This makes it broadly similar to the British Tracked Rapier, albeit if the Blindfire Radar had been stuck on the back of the carrier along with the missile launcher.
In game, the Gecko brings a huge anti-air punch (FP 3!) with a long range (longest in the game at this point) and a high rate of fire (3, similar to Rapier). A unit of four of these will absolutely dominate a battlefield, especially combined with a cheap platoon of Gaskins. It does have its downsides; the overloaded chassis makes for a low cross check of 5+ – not that you should need to move! Its also soft skinned so really needs to keep out of sight. But critically, its about twice the points of an SA-13 and about quadruple that of an SA-9! Some careful choices will need to be made about raw hitting power versus redundancy!
But it looks to be an awesome piece of kit and I’ll probably get some just to paint and try out. It’ll scare the hell out of NATO air the first time they face it!
The Spandrel introduced Warsaw players to dedicated ATGW launchers that the NATO guys got, and Red Thunder continues this with the lesser known 9P149 “Shturm-S” or Storm. This combines the old MT-LB tracked APC/artillery tractor with a retractable launcher for an AT-6 Spiral (9K114 Shturm) missile – as used on the Hind. Unlike the Hind, the Storm can just sit still and exploit the full range of the missile, providing the Soviets with their own ITV/Swingfire style launcher – albeit without the neat “hide behind a wall” tricks.
The Storm is hard hitting, relatively cheap (only marginally more expensive than the Spandrel), has good mobility in dash and cross stats, a surprisingly good re-mount of 3+, but only the minimum amount of armour to be called “armoured” – it really is a glass cannon like most the NATO ATGW vehicles. It needs to sit back and “snipe” targets using the full extent of its impressive 56″ range to stay out of trouble. The fact it can out-range all NATO ATGW to date means it may be useful for acting as a counter to the ATGW launchers, especially the Jaguar that can’t fire around corners!
Overall, I like the look of the Storm on a first analysis and will no doubt find a way to fit a platoon into my force.
2S3 Acacia Heavy Self Propelled Artillery
Acting as the Warsaw Pact answer to the M109, the Acacia packs a FP2 template punch to really rattle NATO infantry forces.
The interesting addition is the Krasnopol projectile.
Functioning (keep that OP alive!) and acting as the Warsaw pact equivalent of the Copperhead, the round is less powerful against main battle tanks (AT4 vs an average Top armour of 2), but, being brutal and FP1+, could still be a useful way to clear out ATGW teams, both infantry and track based, as well as enemy air defences. The real hindrance to this is the cost – increasing the cost of the SP gun by 25%.
Artillery still feels like it struggle to find a place in either side, even with the increasing presence of infantry forces since Iron Maiden came out. But the Acacia does feel like an option at least worth considering.
So there you go, a quick round up of the new units unique to Red Thunder. Next we’ll look at the formations in Red Thunder – catch you then!