In the last article, I looked at using West German and British forces to support a US based force. Since writing that article, Battlefront released updated force charts that integrate the “allied formation” slot into all the forces (including a Warsaw Pact variety for Red Thunder/Volksarmee – a pt.3 article will follow) so lets look at the reverse – US forces supporting other nations.
‘Fluff’ing the Pillows – the case for thematic selection
From a theming point of view, the concept makes sense. For the USMC, the ‘fluff’ has a Marine Amphibious Force (II MAF) conducting two unopposed amphibious landings in Denmark to relieve a LANDJUT (Danish and West German forces) that has been pushed back into Danish territory.
As such, its not beyond the pale to have a West German force that is holding the line being relieved by helicopter deployed marine forces or a land column of armour and LAV. On the other hand it will be awhile before the British seem a Leatherneck (unless one is home-brewing Brit Mech without the FV432 as Royal Marines in the icy north).
Similarly, the NORTHAG forces would have been bolstered by US forces deploying from the states into pre-positioned equipment and the ‘fluff’ has the rapid reaction force of the 82nd being deployed into Europe to help clear the way for a counter-attack into the East. Having the lead elements of the 82nd taking ground for a West German advance, or a “platoon” of Armoured Cavalry, fresh from the depots, arriving at the front to hook up with a British infantry battalion forming a new line are entirely plausible scenarios within the Team Yankee scenario, thanks to the ubiquitous of the US Army in Europe.
So, having made the case, let’s have a look at what the US can do for its allies.
The ground rules here are that the home nation formation needs to be pulling its weight as its got to survive in good spirits. We will also be working to an 85pt UK tournament limit. As a general rule, an armoured formation should be about 40-50 pts and an Infantry/Light armour formations should be in the region of 20-30 points. The lists need to be good all rounders and able to deal with Soviet spam-drel (lots of BMP-2), leaf blower (Afghansty with maxed air support) and T-55 horde lists. Blue on blue (boo) is not considered here.
Lets consider each of the US formations in turn, and come up with some outline strike packages to bolster the allies:
US Army Light Division Recce Squadron (Humvee Company)
I like to call this “just add TOW”. A maxed out formation is a little under twenty points but brings 12 TOW launchers, 8 0.5 cals and 6 MK.19 toting Humvee to a force. Each Humvee has scout and decent mobility (in line with most wheeled vehicles) so can be a handy way to provide both anti-tank and recce capability. The main downside is that it has no in-formation artillery or infantry support to hand and that it’s a formation made of glass cannons; If not used correctly it will dissolve quickly under fire.
US Army Huey Infantry Combat Team (82nd)
The Huey formation gives an allied army two-three big infantry platoons (that pass morale on a 3+) that can sport a 60mm mortar, light machine guns and two of the Dragon ATGW. The infantry can be carried by helicopter which opens up some possibility, and can be supported by up to six Humvee mounted TOW (2 in the scouts, 4 in the TOW platoon), plus up to ten Sheridan light tanks with the Shillelagh anti-tanks missile. As such it can bring additional recce and anti-tank capability as well as just a mass of infantry.
US Army Armoured Cavalry
I think of this as a tank delivery system. It allows an allied formation to gain a US tank platoon at a 5pt surcharge which pays for a couple scout platoons to join along! Of course, it can be so much more as the Armoured Cavalry can bring their own M109 artillery, 4.2” mortars, AH-1 gunships and even a platoon helicopter mounted infantry along. The challenge is to stop the cavalry taking over the force! The UK and West Germany both have M109 but neither has access to the full range of artillery shells the US does so a battery of M109 tagging along is something to consider.
The only real downside is the HQ being mounted in a very vulnerable M113. It makes it somewhat difficult for him to assist the IPM1 without being nuked.
US Army Armour Combat Team (M60/M1)
Compared to the Armoured Cavalry, the Armoured Combat Team requires a bit more investment in points as it has an armoured HQ and two mandatory tank platoons. Whilst that precludes the IPM1, and even the M1 in useful numbers will breach our 50pts budget, it does work well for getting the M60A3 into battle. The M60A3 can beat the Chieftain and Leopard 2 for numbers and the Leopard 1 for hitting power and protection (both armour and bigger platoons for morale protection!). The M60A3’s AT20 can deal with East German armour well and hold its own versus the Soviet examples although its own armour struggles versus the AT22 125mm. The Armour Combat team can also bring scouts, mortars, anti-tank vehicles and infantry but generally the allies have better options for all those fields. Just load up on M60!
US Army Mech Combat Team
The US Mech Infantry sits in an uneasy middle ground that gives it few benefits as an allied formation. Its infantry have numbers compared to the West German M113 platoon but its anti-tank and skill is less such that the West Germans are sticking with the home side. The Brits just beat it in every aspect except the relatiely unimportant one of M113 vs FV432.
Its also beaten by the Armoured Cavalry as a means of delivering US armour as an ally – the Cavalry require far less of a premium to act as an IPM1 delivery system and bring more options to the table.
USMC Tank Company
The USMC M60 have a better remount and courage than their army counterparts but a lower spec of tank, lacking thermal vision and laser range finders. On the assumption we want just tanks then this can provide them in bigger, more hardier, platoons of five tanks than the four-strong platoons of the US Army. To my mind the fancy gadgets of the US Army are largely moot in most scenarios and can be mitigated in others. I’d also argue that the USMC brings better formation support with it than the US Army Combat Teams. For a start we get USMC infantry in helicopters or Amtracks which beat the Mech platoon in all but raw number of M47 Dragon posts. We then also get to add the excellent LAV as a scout platoon, plus Humvee mounted TOW and scout options.
If you want to add M60 to a NATO force then this is the superior option in my mind.
USMC Rifle Company
With its big 3 x 3 fire team platoons, there are no NATO infantry platoons that can rival the USMC for getting boots on the ground (although the US Airborne comes close with 12 teams versus the USMC 14 teams, assuming both fully tooled up). A ‘courage’ and ‘rally’ of 3+ makes them the ultimate hard chargers although an assault of only 4+ does mean they may take a bit longer to do something when they arrive! The biggest advantage compared to the other US infantry is the SMAW team – the Shoulder launched Multi-purpose Assault Weapon is the US equivalent of the Carl Gustav team, with near identical stats but a little hindered by being a two man team (so hitting on only fives in the assault). It gives the US some useful point defence versus enemy armour, BDD armour or not. At least tille ERA arrives.
Combine that with the versatility of being able to be mounted in helicopters in place of the amphibious AAvP7; plus some excellent in formation support of M60A1, LAVS, up to 4 TOW equipped Humvee and a 6 strong .50/Mk.19 support platoon, means the USMC probably just edges the 82nd out as the go to US infantry ally.
USMC LAV Company
The LAV company is an interesting allied choice. It brings three platoons of armoured scouts sporting a useful, fast firing, autocannon and good mobility. The formation can also bring in a pair of 81mm mortars for smoke and a quartet of AT missile vehicles with the Hammerhead rule. All of this for a little over twenty points. If a force lacks recce or anti-BMP capability then this may be the answer. A possible downside is the lack of access to USMC infantry and armour so its very much a single role formation.
So, that are the options to hand – but what works well with the two other NATO forces to hand? Let’s take a look at each in turn.
Great Britain – The thin DPM line.
The British Army’s strength lies in the Infantry, as well it should. The last article noted that it packs a punch versus both armour (through the Carl Gustav and plentiful Milan) and Infantry (through copious GPMG and the good old fashioned bayonet). Clearly any force will be based around the infantry as its main component.
The ‘weak’ point for the British is its tank and cavalry options. I caution on the word ‘weak’ as neither is that bad. The Chieftain lacks mobility and side/rear arc protection compared to its peers but packs a punch as much as a Leopard 2 does and, with Stillbrew, can match it for front arc defence. The Scorpion and Scimitar are fast and hard hitting recce options but can’t do both at the same time due to their low tactical move.
But, Brit tanks do have much cooler camo
In support, the Royal Artillery brings the excellent (if somewhat overstated and under-pointed) Tracked Rapier SAM to cover the majority of its anti-air needs but lacks a true multi-role AA gun option to back that up, the Blowpipe being something of a hodgepodge solution. The artillery options are somewhat underwhelming – an 8 gun volley not being as useful as it was in the WWII days of v3! On the other hand, the RAF provides excellent cover in the BL755 armed Harrier.
So, what can the US bring to aid the British? Clearly Infantry will be of little use so the focus is on the US armour.
M47 Dragon need not apply
In terms of MBT the US has two main options:
The M60 family arguably bring little to the Brits. They have a better moving rate of fire, certainly. But their speed is no better than the Chieftain in any scenario and they really need to get flank shots to maximise their potential of the 105mm. Worse, that lack of speed is not compensated by better armour – worse even than the non-Stillbrew Chieftain Mk.9. Clearly Patton is not the answer
The Abrams offers more possibilities. The 105mm still can’t match the Chieftain’s 120mm, but it can beat/match the British workhorse for armour, and gas-turbine power means it can run rings around the chronically underpowered Leyland L60, whilst also crossing terrain better than the Mk.10 and still putting two shots out! Suddenly that M68 gun isn’t having to worry about the front – its gunning for the soft side armour and AT20 FP2+ can be deadly there!
As further insurance, for an extra point a tank, the IPM1 improves the armour durability for no loss in mobility.
Therefore, an Armored Cavalry Troop with an M113 HQ, two sections of M113/M901 Scouts (providing some spearhead options) and a quartet of IPM1 can give a solid bit of mobility to the British whilst still allowing points for a trio of Milan reinforced infantry platoons, some mortars and a Rapier section to keep the IPM1 covered against all but a full “Leafblower” assault.
At the other end of the armour scale are the two US light cavalry options.
The LAV company struggles to justify itself against the CVR(T) Squadron. Both are the same points, but the Scimitar and Scorpion CVR(T) have better armour, better cross-country and terrain mobility, better crew skill and harder hitting main guns. The LAV can move and fire more efficiently, has “anti-helicopter” for its main gun (Scimitar crew would argue that so should theirs!), has better tactical and road dash speeds, and has amphibious and Thermal Vision. But the latter two factors seldom come up and most CVR(T) players have learned to live with the idiosyncrasies of Shoot and Scoot. The LAV does look good and that certainly has to count for something!
The LAV-AT is cheaper than Striker, but Striker packs a harder punch and better chassis. All in all, the “Donkey-Wallopers” win out over the Leathernecks on this one.
The other option is the Humvee mounted Light Divisional Recce Squadron. Whilst the gun armed Humvee doesn’t compare to the CVR(T), its the fact that it bringing two TOW armed buddies that makes it appeal, all whilst still retaining scout and spearhead.
For 19pts you get 26 Humvee that can put out an awesome barrage of anti-infantry, anti-softskin/light armour and anti-tank fire. Combining a 66pt MILAN heavy infantry formation (also sporting three Chieftain Mk.10, 4 Rapiers and 4 81mm mortars) with a TOW heavy Humvee formation makes for a defensive force that makes Soviet armour (light or heavy) dissolve whilst still having mobility for the attack/free-for all missions.
West Germany – A few good men.
West German armies have one big problem, they are too good for their own…erm good. By that I mean you are paying a lot of points for fearless veteran equivalents, further exasperated by being in the only NATO IFV to date – the Marder, or arguably the best NATO Gen 3 tank – the Leopard 2.
The Germans can make great tanks. Who knew?
West German infantry platoons suffer from being the smallest in NATO (a mere three MG stands and 2 Milan stands). West German armour platoons suffer from having the most expensive tank in the game. But, you can at least combine the two in composite formations that have one of each as core choices. The Germans also gain from having the excellent Gepard/Redeye combo in most formations too.
When you need a twin gun, radar steered, plane and BMP killer. Accept no substitutes.
Another thing the Germans have is the Leopard 1. It lacks armour, and only has AT19 for its main gun. But it cheap and it goes like a greased whippet so it can put that stabilised AT19 somewhere the Soviets don’t like.
My presumption is that a West Germany Marder infantry player will use a Leopard 1 Panzerkompanie in support if he wants cheap tanks or will take a Leopard 2 platoon in one of his infantry slots for a high end option. The latter burns points so quickly there is little scope for an ally and the former renders the M60 option moot (playstyle will come into it – some may prefer the extra thickness of armour and higher AT).
To my mind, the only infantry option that lends itself to an armoured ally is the M113 PanzerGrenadier Kompanie. The restructuring of the forces chart to integrate Panzertruppen into Leopards eliminated to support option slot Leopard 2. That left the high end Leopard 2 option tied to another formation, effectively adding an 8pt premium (a Marder HQ and one platoon) to the cost of a Leopard 2 platoon.
Instead of automatically going German, we could look at the IPM1 equipped Armored Cavalry troop. The IPM1 is 2pts cheaper than a Leopard 2 and is better armoured. Its only AT20 versus the AT22 of the Leopard 2 but, like the Leopard 1, it can put that AT20 where it counts.
The formation can also bring the M113/M901 combo in. At the same cost as the Luchs platoon, it trades having two 20mm autocannons for an anti-air .50 and a TOW missile that says gone to ground – very handy. More importantly, the Armoured Cavalry can bring a big (12 stands) Infantry platoon in by helicopter. That big infantry platoon can really help the West Germans by getting stuck into clearing Warsaw Pact infantry out of building or making a nuisance of itself by holding an objective in a way that five stands can’t!
Of course, knowing the strength of the Germans is their armour, we should really be looking at how we can support a Leopard 1 or 2 Company. We can assume that either company has burnt about 55 points (4xGepard+Redeye, then either HQ+4×3 Leo 1 +2×2 Luchs; or PzGr HQ, PzGr Plt and 3 Leo 2) so we have 30 points to play with.
A US Mech Combat Team offers no real advantage over the M113 PanzerGrenadierKompanie. What we need is some nice bulky infantry platoons so its going to come down to the choice between USMC and US Army helicopter mounted riflemen.
The USMC Infantry options has two big platoons (both with 2 SMAW, one with 2 M47, one with one M47) of infantry. We have some options at no cost – we can ditch the Amtracks in favour of helicopters and we can swap out two infantry in each platoon for M60 LMG. For the last few points we can either go with a 6 Humvee MG platoon that provides a tremendous base of fire for anti-infantry work (good if supporting a Leopard 1 company who have enough fire to deal with BMP hordes), or two platoons of 2 TOW Humvee to provide further anti-tank fire – useful when supporting the Leopard 2 which will be suffering from a lack of quantity anti-tank to thin out the hordes.
The US Army Huey rifles have slighter smaller infantry platoons but still bring 11 teams each to the fight – a big improvement over the small West German platoons. Both platoons bring a pair of M60 LMG for anti-infantry work and M47 to help thin out horde armour (T-55 or BMP) and has enough points left to bring a 4 strong TOW Humvee platoon, plus a 4 strong scout platoon with another two TOW posts. As such, I think I lean to the US Army on this one. It can help with both things that West Germans can struggle against – massed Afghansty and massed light armour.
Another alternative to bringing infantry is to double down, stay mechanised and look to the US light armour. Both LAV and Humvee equipped Light Divisional Recce Squadron weigh in at about twenty points (LAV maxed save mortars, Humvee maxed) giving the Germans ten more points to play with and can help deal with the threat of massed infantry or bulk armour. Pair up 13 Leopards, 3 Jaguar 2, 4 Gepards+Redeye and 4 LARS with minelets with 14 LAV and 4 LAV-AT and a BMP company will be shredded. The only real issue to be encountered is a lack of options for dealing with dug in infantry on the attack and the fact that you have an army of glass cannons!
Hopefully that gives you some ideas on how to make use of Stripes and the new ally rules to integrate the US war machine into your existing NATO force.
In part 3 we will look at how the Warsaw Pact can make use of its glorious socialist union to conquer the US reinforced NATO.
Time to use my “write a Warsaw Pact article” playlist
In the meantime, good hunting!