Way back in the distant days of 2017, I started painting up some East Germans for Volksarmee. Based around a core of T-72M and T-55AM2, I haven’t taken it for a spin for a while and, with the new Warsaw Pact book in my hands, it’s time to reassess, refit, re-engage.
The early 80s
Let’s take a look at the Volksarmee-era force first:
Two platoons of T-72M provided some solid, mobile, firepower though it didn’t have much-staying power.
A company of T-55AM2 provided some bulk to keep the formation in contact and force the enemy into a crossfire but never worked that well in the role due to low mobility (slow firing and cross 4+) and having a bit too much bulk to allow effective maneuverer.
Facing Duncan’s Dutch, the games were usually close but the Leopard 2 proved a tough nut to crack, even with the T-72M and Spandrel all sporting AT21. The Carl Gustav also proved something to be wary of as the bazooka plates on my tanks provided no protection.
Another observation was that Hail’s salvo template proved tricky to use effectively on the offence, as my force started to trip over “danger close” keep out zones.
So, not a terrible list but there was defiantly room for improvement.
The introduction of the T-72B gives the East Germans a tank that can better face the Leopard 2. For a start, it has a 50% chance of surviving a hit from a 120mm and secondly its own 125mm receives a bump to AT22, meaning it has a 50% chance of its return shot defeating the armour of the Leopard 2. Of course, it’s still only got half the shots and isn’t as nimble (having just a standard stabiliser, not an advanced one) but it’s still a big step up.
Additionally, the introduction of ERA armour allows the T-72B to shrug off flank M72 and Carl Gustav rounds and even gives a chance of shrugging off a flank APILAS hit. Being flanked by HOT equipped helicopters will still be an uncomfortable experience though
All of this does come at a cost and, for every 6 T-72M I did have I can only afford 4 T-72B.
Knowing all this, I had two options:
The obvious first step was to keep the T-72M formation but swap the T-55AM2 company for a T-72B one. Nine T-55AM2 for three T-72B is almost a straight swap in points terms and I’d argue that three T-72B gives 11 T-72M far better backup. Additionally, I’d be inclined to drop the Spandrels and use the points saved to get AT-8 missiles for the T-72B, giving them the ability to reach out and touch someone and really focus everyone’s attention on them in the centre whilst the T-72M try and work the flanks in a classic “horns of the buffalo” attack. I even have a point left to dump the Hails in favour of three Carnations in formation. I also swapped the Spandrel for Gaskins.
In this scenario, the reserve element can either be both T-72M companies, one of them plus the BMP, or one of the T-72M companies, the T-72B, plus the Gaskins or HQ. It depends on what the enemy has and what I can get away with.
Of course, if three T-72B is a force multiplier then a whole force based around them must be even better?
Excess for Sucess
I used the T-72M force as a starting point, initially keeping the non-tank formation units and force support the same. My original force had 47pt invested in the tank and three “companies” of three T-72B plus an HQ came in at 44pts, freeing up three points. I ploughed two of those back into the third T-72B platoon to give it AT-8 missiles for some long-range punch. The remaining point was used to change the Hails to Carnations, bringing another unit into formation. Finally, I felt the Spandrel were somewhat redundant so I swapped them for Gaskins to bolster my relatively weak anti-air contingent beyond just Shilka and MANPADS.
At 75pts I need to have a 30pt reserve which is aligned with two T-72B platoons plus either the HQ and Shilka depending on what the air threat was. At this point, I started to wonder if the mid-sized BMP-1 company was the right unit to support the force. The BMP-1 is showing its age against NATO MBT, struggling versus M60 and being utterly unable to deal with anything heavier. Additionally, the T-72B can assault Carl Gustav armed infantry with relative impunity so the infantry is less needed to clear out enemy infantry in all but built up or difficult terrain. I decided to drop the BMP company to a single platoon, keeping its MANPAD, freeing up 6pts. I bolstered the first T-72M company to four tanks to give them some better resilience till the other two companies arrived from reserves.
I was fairly happy with the force at this point and the feedback from Duncan was that he was fairly unhappy with it, so all seemed good.
Now, no doubt you’ve noticed that I’ve been working to 75pts. This mainly came about from a local decision to only play 75pts on the FLGS 6×4 tables to stop the table from getting choked up. However, with the barn offering space for 8×4 tables, let’s take a look at what I’d do for 100pts.
The first major addition is an air component. At one point I almost dropped a platoon of T-72B to fit in for SU-22 Fitter but I talked myself out of it. I feel you need to go big or go home with air and I really need to pair the Fitters with at least a flight of Hinds to split the enemy anti-air. At 100pts I could afford to do this so in went four each of the Hinds and the Fitters, the latter receiving Karen missiles to help hunt NATO heavy tanks.
In the formation itself, I decided that massed NATO medium tanks might be an issue so I dropped one platoon of three T-72B for six T-72M. This still left me an HQ T-72 then a company of four and three T-72B. The T-72B could dominate the enemy’s attention whilst the T-72M darted down a flank undercover to set up a crossfire opportunity. For missions with reserves, the air element and either four T-72B or six T-72M would go off the table, still leaving two platoons of T-72 and the rest of the formation on table.
Happily, most of the force already exists in a painted state so all I need to do is paint up a couple of boxes each of T-72B and SU-22 Fitters. I should also really get round to painting up some East German figures in place of the Soviets I’ve been using!
I’ll try and fit all this in between painting up WW2 desert so stay tuned!