Today chief archivist of the “Shoot and Scoot” podcast, Darren “not actually a hitman” Hart, takes a look at fielding a more-forgotten part of the Canadian force of the Cold War, the Canadian Air Sea Transportable (CAST) Brigade.
When I saw the release of the Nordic Forces, I instantly became excited. In part, I was excited because Duncan would finally get his S-tank.
I was excited, again in part, because it meant a plastic Centurion / Churchill for Lee.
And in part, I was excited to hear Eddie commit to a Finnish force we all know he would never finn-ish….
My real excitement, though, was about a force that hasn’t been mentioned yet…
Expanding the Team Yankee lists to the Northern Flank offers a bunch of thematic gaming options to replicate the potential options. Many of these options have some real flavour to them. Beyond the Nordic Forces themselves, there are a number of marine contingents that were designated to support on this flank, including the United States Marine Corps, the Royal Marines, Dutch Marines, etc. And, nearly lost in all of this is the Canadian Air Sea Transportable (CAST) Brigade.
When an update was announced for the rest of NATO, including the Canadians, I couldn’t contain my excitement. It was time to consider a CAST force.
The CAST Offs
The CAST Brigade was an ill-conceived notion pursued by the Canadians in the early 70s.
At that time, the Canadians had moved their key force based in West Germany, 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (4 CMBG), from the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), and shifted it south to act as a reserve for either the US VII Corps or the GE II Corps. NATO allies were outraged that that Canada didn’t appear to be pulling its weight. The CAST Brigade was offered by Canada to counter this discontent.
The CAST Brigade would consist of three mechanized infantry battalions, an artillery regiment, and an armoured reconnaissance squadron, with supporting engineer, logistics and medical units pulled together from other organizations as required. It was based on 5 Groupe Brigade Mecanisee du Canada (5 GBMC, the French version of CMBG) which is based in Valcartier, QC.
But how would you model this force?
If Canada was serious about its continental commitments, then it is possible that there would be no Leopard C1 tanks to support the Northern Flank, and if Leopard 2s were made available, then those would likely be committed to 4 CMBG over CAST. Could I build a NATO force without a Main Battle Tank?
M113 Mechanized Company
A Canadian mechanized company isn’t that expensive, points wise. A HQ, three platoons, four vehicle mounted mortars, three M150 sections, and a Coyote patrol or a Lynx patrol comes in at 42 points. I think it’s reasonable that the Coyote might make it to Norway – maybe LAV-25 “borrowed” from USMC stocks, although 4 CMBG would have first pick of any M113 TUA vehicles that might have become available, leaving the CAST Brigade the “cast-off” M150s.
The purist will note, though, that the Coyote didn’t enter service in Canada until 1990, after the CAST idea was abandoned.
If we did that twice (!), and made a platoon in each company have the Eryx missile, then that would be 80 points. (Again, the purist might note that the Eyrx didn’t enter service in France until 1994, and in Canada after that…)
There are still lots of points for some Canadian support with only 80 points committed to the two mechanized companies. I’d add 3 M109s, an M1113 OP, and a full section of 6 M113 Blowpipes to this, which adds 16 points, for a total of 100pts.
However, this has two drawbacks. First, this would be a hard force to attack with, since most of the AT has no moving rate of fire, so advancing into an armoured force would require a fair bit of Canadian ingenuity. In defence, an entire mechanized company would need to be held in reserve. That is 8-9 reserve rolls. Also, lets count the M113 models you’d need….. It is 53. Even for me, that seems excessive.
So let’s assume our base force remains the mechanized company, with the Canadian support. One possible option is a troop of 4 Canadian Leopard 2s, giving a one drop reserve of some pretty great tanks. Great enough I can’t see Canada being allowed to use them in the North over using them to defend the West German plain, so let’s take another look. It is potentially viable though.
What about a Leopard C1 Squadron in “support”? A squadron with a HQ tank and three full troops, or 13 tanks total, comes in at 43 points, so one could add in a small reconnaissance patrol as well, and bring the total to 99 points. This seems more thematic, even if Leopard C1s were not designated to be part of the CAST Brigade. 13 tanks bringing AT 19 and a bit of speed seems pretty good. Still, it might be a hard fight to attack with this force, and on the defence the Leopard squadron would be four reserve rolls, so less than ideal.
This whole CAST idea is looking less and less wonderful… Let’s change tack, and look at some of the new additions.
What if Canada realized that it simply lacked the sealift capacity to move a mechanized force to Norway, and instead committed a lighter force that could be moved in planes? Enter the Canadian Airborne Regiment.
Here we have a formation, that with EVERYTHING in it would be only 62 points. If we added the full M109 platoon (battery), OP, and a full Blowpipe air defence platoon, plus had four US Cobras with TOW in support, we would hit 100 points.
Yet, once again, we have a force that needs to attack to have everything on the board. If it defends, it would pretty much need to have at least three units in reserve, which would make it hard to use (for example, that might mean all the high-end AT in the Cobras is off the table. It is also 20 Hueys and 4 Cobras, so one might need to love helicopters…
Those are three options to model the CAST Brigade on the northern flank, incorporating the new elements from the Canadian part of the NATO book, to fight alongside the Nordic Forces.
I think there is some good game play options with the Canadians, and I think a purely historical force is possible, but it isn’t optimized. Think, though, of the modeling options, and what one could do with snow camo!
Hopefully this has given you some ideas of how to use the Canadians on the Northern Flank!