The introduction of the the Belgians in WW3: NATO Forces finally completes the NORTHAG set to face off versus 3rd Shock Army. But is a case of completeness over utility, or are the Belgians bringing something new to the party? I decided to try and draft a list to see if there is anything here so let’s look on.
On a first glance, the Belgians seem much like their Dutch counterparts.
Flat 4s on the soft stats?
A deep dive into FN’s 1980’s catalog.
Infantry mounted in FMC Corporation’s stab at the IFV market?
A grab bag of German and US kit in support?
A M109 and Gepard shaped check
So far, so NATO. But there are some “devil in the detail” differences to differentiate the Belgians from their taller cousins to the East. The one thing that stands out in the Belgian list is that there are no Belgian “high value” units, by which I mean a unit that is 20-40 points. These are handy for list building as they can give us a way to tailor the list for the inevitable 40% reserves. The Belgians can mitigate this by drawing on their allies; the British armour box can bring in Chieftain Mk.10s (24pts for three) or Challengers with (39 for three) or without (33 for three) ROMOR armour.
That said, let’s take a look at what we can build.
Leopard 1 Tank Eskadron
It’d be fair to say that there are stronger Leopard 1 formations in NATO but the Belgian take is “adequate”. It’s hindered a little by having a single tank HQ and troops of only 3 tanks, so the HQ and all four tank platoons still wouldn’t be enough satisfy a 40pt reserve chunk! The Leopard itself has little to distinguish itself from its peers, being very similar to the Dutch examples; Confident Trained with no “Brutal” round. Still, the Leopard is a pretty decent medium tank, even at a baseline.
The formation does let us bring in an infantry platoon (at the cost of a fourth tank platoon), a Gepard AA platoon and a recce troop with Scimitars. That’s not a bad selection of in-formation support though, again, other nations can boast more diverse unit mixes.
Building a force around this formation, I took the infantry platoon in the optional fourth box and equipped it with the AICV-B25 IFV and an APILAS upgrade. I then maxed out the remaining Leopard boxes, giving 10 Leopard 1 tanks for 30pts, bringing us to 39pts. A Gepard platoon to provide AA cover brought us to 45pts.
I skipped the Scimitar box because I could see some worth pairing this formation with…
Belgium were a big user of the British CVR(T) family for its reconnaissance needs and the Verkennings Ekadron resembles a British Medium Recce, consisting as it does have HQ Spartan APC, two to four Scorpion or Scimitar Troops, a Striker guided missile launcher troop and a recce infantry platoon in Spartans. The Striker and its Swingfire missile provides the heaviest hitting Anti-Tank in the Belgian origin units.
The Belgians tended to use mixed Scimitar and Scorpion units which, oddly is not reflected here; we have to choose one or the other in each troop. As most will know, the Scorpion can threaten medium armour in the flanks and IFV/Recce vehicles from any angle whilst the Scimitar can shred light armour. Both are impacted by “Sneak and Peak”, limiting the tactical move to 6”, but can use ‘Scout’, ‘Spearhead’ and its fast dash speed to mitigate this penalty. Oddly, despite being only Skill 4+, and skill being very necessary to keep the CVR(T) alive, the Belgian Scimitar/Scorpion are the same cost as their skill 3+ British equivalents.
Despite all this, we can create a useful formation to complement our Leopards. I take a HQ, two Scorpion and one Scimitar troop and a Striker troops for 22pts, bringing us to 67 points.
To round out the force, we turn to the Force support. We lack any artillery support so four M109 and an OP (to mitigate the average skill of the Belgians) provide some 155m artillery to dig out dug in infantry and provide some smoke cover.
A British Chieftain Troop, upgraded to Mk.10 standard (Stillbrew) provides a significant chunk of points for a reserve unit that means we only need to place the British MBT, a Leopard troop and a CVR(T) troop in reserve.
There are two points left, so I go back to the AIFV infantry and give them a Milan 2. Generally a single ATGW in an infantry platoon is a bit of a trap, firing it will give the position of the infantry away, allowing “Brutal” 125mm fire to better land hits. We can mitigate this by having the Milan mounted in one of the AIFV, using the Milan Mount rule.
That leaves us with this.
Ideally we want to attack, the Leopard, AIFV and Scorpions tackling the enemy head on whilst supported by the M109 and long range cover from the Chieftains and Strikers. If forced to defend in a fighting engagement then we put the Chieftains, two leopard Troop and one CVRT troop in reserve whilst the Leopards and Strikers do their best to tackle any enemy armour till the reserves arrive.
Ultimately, I’m not feeling this force. It puts a lot of firepower in reserve and I think whatever strength the Belgians have lies in the infantry and we aren’t maximising it here. So let’s take a look at the last Belgian formation.
AIFV-B Infanterie Compagnie
The Belgian AIFV-B Infanterie Compagnie can’t escape comparison with the Dutch YPR-765 PantserInfanterie Compagnie. Both use similar IFV, have very similar formation structures and very similar soft stats. The main differences are in kit, with the M47 Dragon and PRAT TOW carrier giving way to MILAN 1 and 2 posts whilst the M113 C&V with the Dutch force has its equivalent in the Scimitar CVR(T) Troop with the Belgians.
The Belgian infantry platoons can be carried in AIFV-B-C25 IFV, AIFV-B-.50 APC or M113. These were mixed at a company level (replacing the old AMX-13 APC) and possibly even at platoon level, apparently. Mount aside, the infantry inside always consists of 7 FNFAL/MAG teams, a Blindicide bazooka and a mortar. The antique Blindicide can be replaced by the new French APILAS missile and, unless you are strict in playing 1985, I’d say this is an auto-include. There is also the option to add a single MILAN 1 or 2 post. I’d normally shy away from a single missile in an infantry platoon but it can be useful for running points for reserves as we will see.
The Infantry are backed up by a battery of 106mm mortar carriers, a Scimitar recce troop and anti-platoon equipped either with MILAN posts or antique KanonenJagdPanzer. The third infantry platoon box can also be used to field a Leopard platoon. All in all, it’s a flexible formation, lacking only the Gepard platoon that the tank formation can field.
To field this formation, I take basically all the boxes; a HQ in AIFV-B-C25, a full strength platoon with APILAS in AIFV-B-C25, a full strength platoon with APILAS in AIFV-B-0.5, a Leopard platoon, a MILAN-2 Platoon, a Mortar platoon and a Scimitar Troop. That gives a decent mix of firepower and capabilities, lacking only anti-air and a decent high firepower artillery unit. Thankfully I hadn’t even used half my point so that was easy to rectify!
I turned to the support and took a four-gun M109 battery and a Gepard platoon. Combined with the “anti-helicopter” 25mm autocannons on the AIFV and .50’s on the APC, that should deal with most moderate air threats, though a Russian or French leaf blower list could be problematic.
Of course I still had points left. I was hoping to get an OP but the one drop reserve of a ROMOR Challenger Troop is a greedy mistress and bought me to 100pts.
Its certainly a list. The Infantry could certainly hold an objective, aided by the Leopards, whilst waiting for the Challengers to arrive. But I started to worry that it was putting a lot of eggs in one basket.
I took another stab at it. The infantry formation stayed more or less the same except the MILAN was downgraded to the MILAN 1, the Leopard was moved to Force Support, freeing up the slot for a third infantry platoon. These received a MILAN 1 team for reasons that will be explained shortly. The Scimitar platoon also needed to be trimmed to a single patrol of two CVR(T).
The M109 battery and Gepard platoon remained but the Challenger platoon was downgraded to a Chieftain Mk.10 troop. Same 120mm gun but a slightly more sensible price point and still decent armour tanks to Stillbrew applique armour. The remaining points bought two flights of two Lynx AH Mk.1.
The reserve here would the Chieftains, the Leopards and the third infantry platoon (the Milan getting it to 10pts).
I’m still debating which of the two lists I actually like. The 2nd one is less optimal for defending as it isn’t quite compatible with Deep Reserves, but could Attack or Maneuver. The first works quite well as a Defend list and can do the other two stances but the number of shots on table falls by a dramatic degree.
So, are the Belgians in for completeness or do they bring something new to the table? Its likely more the former, honestly. That isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. You can’t have NORTHAG and not have the Belgians. Plus the army lists you can generate are certainly workable if not as brutally efficient as some of the other NATO lists. Its probably fair to say that you will be playing Belgians because you want to be, rather than seeking an advantage.