Today Lee starts his looks at the Dutch forces in NATO with an in-depth review of the forces they bring to the table.
Like the other two NATO nations in the book, the Netherlands were a founding member, putting aside their previous policy of neutrality after WWII made a mockery of it. Initially operating purely within their borders, concerns on the ability of the Dutch contingent to reach the front in a crisis saw a Brigade sized force forward deployed within the northwest of Germany. This brigade would be expected to hold the area south of Hamburg long enough for the rest of 1st Korps (NL) to arrive.
The Dutch, like most of mainland Europe’s armies was a conscript force with professional elements. With the emerging school of thought that a third world war could be fought and won by the west without the need to go Nuclear, so long as the West improved its conventional firepower, the Dutch followed the US and West Germany in increasing its conventional forces. With UK draw-downs in the decade (along with France, Canada and Belgium), this meant that the Dutch equalled the UK in force size. equipment also improved with the Leopard 1 being replaced by the excellent leopard 2 and the infantry being equipped with well armed and armoured locally manufactured YPR-765 IFV.
All of this combines to give the Dutch as many lists as the French! Admittedly the Leopard 1 and 2 formations are variations on a theme, but still. Lets take a look.
The Force – 4.Divisie
As we can see the Dutch get a variety of formations to choose from, setting up some possibilities for multi-formation combined arms forces. They do suffer a little in depth of support, with the majority coming from the nearby German forces of 3rd Panzerdivision.
Let’s take a look at the formations:
As mentioned, the two tanks use a similar formation layout so I’ll cover them together. The only difference is that a Leopard 1 Eskadron has to have two Leopard 1 Pelotons as its compulsory choice, with a further two available, one of which can be swapped for a YPR-765 Pantserinfanterie peloton.
The Leopard 2 also have four Leopard 2 peloton available, but only one is compulsory. The other compulsory choice can be a Leopard 2 Peloton but can also be a YPR-765 Peloton and, lets face it, will be in all but the largest games!
Both formation only have a single tank in the HQ. Both formations have a PRAT anti-tank Peloton, M113 C&V Verkennings Ploeg (team), and PRTL Peloton as in-formation support. This makes both excellent self-contained forces, although perhaps only the cheap Leopard 1 can really fully enjoy such rich support!
The “mechanical stats” of both Leopards compares to the German model, with similar armour, re-mount, mobility and anti-tank, as one would expect. The differences exist purely on the “crew” stats with lower skill and morale (both 4+ instead of 3+) values. Assault and “Hit on” values remain constant at 4+.
Interestingly, whilst this translates into a small but useful points saving on the Leopard 2 “per tank” cost, the Leopard 1 does not receive much in the way of a benefit for being inferior to its German counterpart. There is some recompense in the formation support (the PRAT arguably beats out the Jaguar 2 as an anti-tank platoon thanks to the larger platoon and ‘hammer head’ trait) so the Dutch option isn’t without merit, but one can’t help feel they are probably the lesser of the five NATO Leopard 1 options.
Of course, on the flip side, they are probably the better of the NATO Leopard 2 options. Like the Germans they can get away with having only one compulsory choice be expensive but deadly Leopard 2, but they can do so on a cheaper point basis with no real impact other than a lower morale; the advanced stabilisers and low cross check make the skill impact on movement orders less of a factor. Over a HQ and a platoon of four tanks (you big spender you), the points saving is enough to buy a couple platoons of M113 C&V recce vehicles to help position the tanks better.
The PRAT anti-tank platoon combines the chassis of the YPR-765 with the ‘Hammerhead’ elevating TOW launcher of the ITV and, for good measure, makes it a four-AFV strong platoon. It’s hard not to like, other than its unfortunate name, and makes an ideal over-watch unit for the Leopard 1 to provide some ranged high-end anti-tank.
The PRTL is basically the Gepard with a different radar set-up but that has no impact on its performance in game. It is marginally cheaper due to lower skill and morale ratings, and it has a maximum platoon size of three PRTL rather than four or six Gepards, making for a slightly more fragile unit. It can also take a MANPAD attachment, much like its German equivalent, but this one has the new FIM-92 Stinger with its larger warhead granting a higher firepower (4+) than the Redeye used by the Germans.
Whilst it is a smaller platoon, I still think the PRTL and Stinger combo will be a must buy for the Dutch.
YPR-765 Pantserinfanterie Compagnie
The Dutch infantry feel like a curious mix of Americans and British. You have a platoon structure that feels very British thanks to its size and the presence of Carl Gustav teams (although these are smaller stands with an Assault 5 stat), plus the presence of two ATGW teams. The American influence comes in with the stat line – all 4’s bar the infantry save – and the fact that the two ATGW aren’t the deadly Milan but in fact the slightly less impressive (though still deadly to any IFV or old model tank) M47 Dragon. I’m not sure if it’s a typo but the infantry also lack any night fighting keywords although the Dragon teams do list Thermal Imaging which suggests this may be accurate.
The highlight of the infantry peloton is its transport – the YPR-765 Pantser-Rups-Infanterie (PRI), or armoured tracked infantry. The YPR-765 shoots to the top of the NATO IFV leaderboard (Marder and AMX-10P being the other two in-game). It has the best armour, the best main gun (a BMP shredding AT8 – matching the US 25mm introduced with the LAV) with a capability matching “anti-helicopter” ability, all with no impact on mobility; it even floats!
Until the Warrior (better armour and better main gun) or Bradley (similar or slightly better armour, similar main gun but a TOW missile launcher backing it up) come along it will rule the roost.
The infanterie peloton get to ride in four of these capable IFV in a full strength platoon which, along with the Dragons, and then the Carl Gustav at lose ranges, will stop a BMP company in its track – potentially with just the firepower one platoon puts out! Of course you need to make sure that you shoot first; Front Armour 3 is the best in town but it still won’t stop a hail of 30mm shells, let alone an AT-5!
The formation has to field at least two platoons of infantry, but that’s no bad thing. These guys have a battlefield role beyond being a Leopard 2 delivery system, unlike the German Marder infantry. Indeed, I’d almost be inclined to run the third slot as infantry and back the formation up with a Leopard 1 supporting formation unless the meta swings heavily to Russian main-battle tanks (and if that is your local meta then I envy you!).
The infantry also bring their own artillery in the form of a battery of three 120mm mortars. In reality these were towed beind more YPR-765 but, continuing Team Yankee’s hatred of dedicated gun teams, the background has the government buying M106 (to be fair, already used with the US 107mm mortar in the Verkennings Eskadron) from the FMC corporation (who we know also just got an order from Canada for similar reasons, clearly FMC do well out of WWIII!) to carry the 120mm instead. Background aside, this gives the infantry a small but relatively hard hitting, at FP3+, for its point artillery battery. It can also drop smoke which is always useful.
The rest of the formation is rounded out with the same support options as the armoured formations, making for a well-rounded self-supporting formation.
As noted in the overview, it was great to see Battlefront allow the French and Dutch more than just the two lists per country. It gives us some of the more interesting unique formations such as the Verkennings Eskadron. The nearest existing equivalent to this is the US Armoured Cavalry formation which has a similar mix of recce platoons, armoured platoons, plus some infantry and artillery support. However, its not a perfect parallel as we get mini-platoons of the main battle tanks rather than full size ones as the US use. This stops the Verkenninsg being a Leopard 2 delivery system, or at least not an effective one, as the Armoured Cav can be in the US list (albeit with IPM1 obviously). You have to want to use this formation for its own sake!
The reason for these small platoons is, as pointed out to me by the commentators on the overview article, that Team Yankee is effectively sundering a larger structure. Much like the “Tour of Duty” US Armored Cavalry, the Verkennings “Platoon” is almost a mini company with two scout sections and a tank section, plus a HQ section with an infantry squad and a mortar. There would be up to three such “platoons” in a squadron. Much like the move to “‘Nam”, this platoon has been split with each of the sections becoming a platoon in its own right and the Infantry and Mortars from the collective HQ sections being grouped into their own platoons. I guess it saves some complications in rules (the old Tour of Duty “platoons” required a special rule for dispersed sections) but it renders the individual sections brittle.
The Verkennings Eskadron requires two to six C&V Ploeg’s to be taken, along with one to three Leopard Verkennings pelotons, so we can see the original three “platoons” still aped in the formation structure; there’s just nothing compelling us to take one section of tanks for every two sections of M113 C&V, after the compulsory choices.
The M113 C&V is the Dutch version of the M113 ½ recce vehicle that was also adopted by the Canadians as the “Lynx”. The Dutch version differed by having all three crew in the front, wheras the Canadian version had the radio operator facing to rear, manning a pintle gun as needed. Whilst both initially had a pintle mounted .50 cal M2 as the main armament, the Dutch up-gunned theirs with the same 25mm autocannon as the YPR to give it more punch if encountering Warsaw Pact recce vehicles.
The M113 C&V uses the same aluminium armour, transmission and running gear (less one roadwheel each side) as the bigger M113 so unsurprisingly matches the APC in armour and mobility . As a pet-peeve, despite the Commander having to act as gunner (and occasional loader) for the 25mm, they somehow don’t have the same penalty to tactical movement as the British CVRT where they only need to load the gun!
All things considered, the M113 C&V is an excellent little recce vehicle that combines a good mix of mobility, firepower and, for its weight, armour. Its only hampered by the small platoon size of two tanks – so don’t get hit!
The Verkennings Leopard Peloton comes in Leopard 1 and 2 variants and they can’t be mixed. They consist of two tanks with stats similar to the armoured squadrons. They provide the recce element with firepower but the platoon size and Team Yankee’s morale system conspire to make them a bit brittle when the enemy starts to find its mark.
The Verkenninsg Eskadron is rounded out by two support platoons; A 3 tube Mortar battery using the US M106 107mm heavy mortar vehicle to provide smoke and some mid strength artillery fire, and a M113 mounted “Tirailleur” infantry platoon. The latter has a decent squad size (4 GPMG teams, 3 Carl Gustav Teams and 3 M113) but no ATGW. Still, it’ll hold an objective or clear enemy infantry out of a building well enough.
It should be noted that the Verkennings don’t get in-formation support from the PRTL or PRAT.
The Verkennings Eskadron is the kind of formation I like to see included in the book. Its craziest enough that I want to try fielding it, but I suspect the small platoons sizes will mean it bleeds victory points in a win or breaks far too quickly for a loss. At the very least, the great looking M113 C&V does at least appear in the other formations as a recce choice.
Dutch support comes in the form of three items.
The first is a PRTL Peloton that is the same as the one in the majority of formations. It gives the Verkennings some AA support but can also be used to push numbers of this great BMP shredder in the other formations.
We then have the ubiquitous M109 self-propelled gun, the Dutch using the long barrelled A2/A3 versions with an impressive 96” range but no special rounds, and a YPR-765 OP vehicle to provide some spotting support. It should be noted that the OP can only be taken with the M109 or the M106 120mm mortars. The Verkennings M106 or allied LARS doesn’t trigger its availability.
Sadly, the one thing I wanted to see in support didn’t make the cut; Dutch F-16 Fighting Falcon Vipers as an air support choice. As the first non-UK fighter I worked on in real-life I was hoping Leeuwarden or Vokel based Vipers (being useful for future Team Yankee versions and used elsewhere in NATO), sporting 20mm Vulcan, cluster bombs and AGM-65 Maverick missiles like a 5+ save de-tuned A-10, might appear. Alas they did not.
So, sadly no original Black radome Block 1’s
The Dutch instead get Luftwaffe support in the form of a flight of Tornado, along with up to two flights of PAH helicopters, a LARS batterie and some Roland SAM. It’s a good selection of units to fill some obvious holes in the Dutch arsenal, the LARS being an always welcome unit with its salvo template and mine laying capability.
In closing, it’d be easy to dismiss the Dutch as “cheap Leopard 2, move on”, on the basis that Canadians do Leopards better and British arguably do Infantry better; relegating the Dutch to “generic NATO”.
But scratch beneath the surface and there’s a lot more to the Dutch. They have the best IFV in NATO so far, carrying a relatively decent infantry platoon that compares very well to a US Mech platoon. They may struggle versus MBT (assuming they aren’t backed up by Leopard and PRAT) but the main threat is BMP and they can deal with them quite happily. Even the MBT is handled with some clever list building as I will cover in the future.
Now, we just need Battlefront to cover Korps Mariniers as part of UK/NL Amphibious Force in the Northern Front!