Here comes the (Armored) Cavalry!

(you have no idea how hard it was not to put the “u” in that…)

Today Lee looks at the Armored Cavalry  Troop list for Stripes

As already detailed, Stripes is not short of options for the US player.  The book lends itself well to multi-formation lists that create interesting synergies but it still has scope for solid single formation lists and one of the most versatile in the book is the Armored Cavalry Troop*.  It can act as a useful supplement formation or a strong single formation in its own right.

(*Troop in this context equates to a company, not a platoon as it would in a UK context!)

The role of the Armored Cavalry in the US Army (Europe) was to find and fix the enemy, allowing other elements to then engage and destroy the enemy, or to form a defensive line along the, now revealed, line of advance.  Either way, the Cavalry had to have enough punch to slow the enemy down whilst also having the speed to scout and find the enemy in the first place.

To accomplish this role, the Cavalry had a diverse range of equipment within its structure this included:

Scout vehicles – Eventually these would be the M3 Bradley  (one day…) but in the meantime, a composite unit of one M113 and one M901 ITV, each carry foot scouts to dismount and conduct observation away from the vehicle.  The dismounts, not modelled in the game, act to grant the pair of vehicles “Scout”, increasing their survivability.

Armour – M60A3 with some units being lucky enough to field the M1 and IPM1 (albeit not in 1985 in the real timeline, at least)

Aircraft/Infantry – The Cavalry had its own aviation troop with scout helicopters (sadly the Kiowa isn’t represented in game), AH-1S Cobra gunships and Helicopter-mounted Infantry for recce use.  In the game, the infantry function more like any other Huey mounted Rifle platoon.

Artillery – The unit also had organic artillery assets in the form of self-propelled mortar (M106) and artillery (M109) artillery pieces

What that grants us is a formation that really only needs to look to the rest of the force diagram for some air defence.  Otherwise it’s a one stop shop of combined arms including its own air arm.

Those familiar with Armoured Cavalry from Vietnam (see below) will note that the dispersed composite ‘platoons’ of the old organisation are replaced by multiple small independent “section” platoons, but we can still see a rough grouping of 3 “platoons” each of one tank section and 2 Scout sections with the HQ Section mortars in their own unit.  With the exception of the departed HQ section, we can still recreate some of the peculiarities of a multi-platoon Troop.

Armoured Cav – Vietnam style!  Big Platoons with multiple sections (Tour of Duy book).  Not the 3-tank ‘tank section’.  The rules don’t limit us to just 3 tanks in a unit but its a good self limitation to try and live by!

The formation has a mandatory requirement of a HQ M113, two scout platoons of 1 M113 and 1 M901 each, plus one tank platoon – this translates pretty well to a traditional Armoured Cavalry “Platoon” (although I’m told by TY the tanks had been separated out to their own company and attached as required – J series organisation).  We thus only need to spend 5 points, plus the cost of the tanks, to meet minimum requirements.  This in itself can be quite useful as a way of adding a platoon of tanks to the Airmobile Rifle and Humvee formations that would otherwise not be able to benefit from them as the force structure lacks an “independent” tank box.  Additionally, the two “light” formations, lacking any organic ‘cheap’ artillery, could benefit from the cavalry’s mortar platoon of 3 M106 4.2” mortar carriers.  Just over a quarter of an 85pt force gains us two scout platoons, a platoon of medium armour and a useful HE and smoke capable artillery unit.  Not a bad ancillary formation!

The Armoured Cavalry also shines as a core tank formation and lets us efficiently field the star of Stripes, the IPM1.  Whereas the M1 always felt a bit over-costed and under-capable in terms of survivability, the IPM1 renders the tanks near invulnerable to BMP Spam and feels more useful for its (not inconsiderable) points.  The gun is no more lethal (still a respectable AT20) but you’re around for more turns to try and use it and the IPM1’s unchanged, excellent, mobility to reap havoc with Soviet armour.

By going with Armored Cavalry over an Armored Combat Team we gain a few advantages:

  1. We don’t need to pay for a tank HQ. It’s a double edged sword as its often useful to have the CO next to the tanks and an M113 won’t cut it in that regard. But we can use the points to make at least one of the platoons full strength, making it stronger with the current morale rules.
  2. IMHO, the airmobile Rifle Platoon is better than the M113 Mech infantry one as a support unit. Its somewhat situational, I’ll admit, but we get a larger airmobile infantry platoon, equipped with LMG at the loss of two M47 and the M113. Whilst a useful BMP/T-55 killer, the M47 Dragon is not going to cut it versus T-64.  The M113 have their uses but an airmobile platoon can, in certain missions, spring some nasty surprises on the enemy thanks to blitzing the helicopters and passengers.

With baby No.2 here, I need to try and re-use as much as I can from my first aborted attempt at a US force.  So whilst it would be great to go with historical M60A3. I already had the startings of an armoured force from when the game first came out, assembled but unpainted (save the Cobras) and thankfully I had assembled the M1 as the IP variant because I wanted bustles overflowing in stowage!

A quick inventory check showed:

  • Ten IPM1
  • Four ITV (two painted)
  • Three M113
  • Three M113 (unassembled, with mortar options)
  • Four M163 VADS
  • Four AH-1 (all painted save the rotors)
  • Four M109

For the UK standard of 85pts, I am looking at the following force:

There wasn’t an immediately obvious way of slotting in the M109 or AH-1, although both were available in the formation.   I’ll keep them to hand for now.  The only new purchase is the UH-1 Hueys, Infantry Platoon and Chaparral.  Not bad!  That said, unlike the modern MOD, austerity isn’t compromising performance.

We have two, 3 tank, platoons that can swat aside anything short of an AT-5 (so going to get killed Spandrel’s on 1’s all the time now…).  We have a mortar platoon that can drop smoke in front of a Storm platoon that may threaten them and two scout platoons to try and help them get into a useful position.  The M901 part of the scouts can also force the enemy to either waste time shooting them or ignore them and risk losing a tank to a TOW missile.

The aero-rifles is smaller than I’d like but is backed up with an extra Dragon and a pair of M60 LMG.  It can either act as an objective sitter, able to stop all but the most well executed assault, dead; or it can be more active, blitzing from their UH-1 to seize an objective.

The big threat to the IPM1 is enemy air support.  The bigger turret still can’t stop an AT-6 Spiral in the side or a Kh-25 Karen from any direction.  The VADS has always done me well for dealing with point defence but it has a limited range and firepower.  A four strong Chaparral platoon provides an impressive 72″ range and 8 FP3 shots to keep Frogfoots at bay and mop up any Hinds.  An alternative plan is to back the VADS with some Humvee carried Stingers, and use the points saved to bolster the infantry, or add the two missing scout sections that I really should have to join the 2nd tank platoon so that I can feel like I’m doing Armoured Cav ‘properly’ (or at least as much as I can till I replace the IPM1 with M60A3).

As an interim step I’m going to use the recently introduced NATO Allied to help motivate me.  Rather than trying to paint an entire US force in one go, I’m going to utilise my existing and fully painted West Germans as a core force and add an “Armoured Cavalry Platoon” consisting of a HQ section (Formation HQ and Mortar(s)), Tank Section (IPM1 Tank Platoon) and the two Scout Sections (2 x Scout Platoons of M113/M901). These will act as an allied formation for a German force consisting of a Marder PanzerGrenadier Formation with 3 Marder platoons, some Gepards with Fliegerfaust teams and some Jaguar 1 tank destroyers, plus some German force support of LARS and an OP.  Being allies, the US can’t draw on its own force support so no need to rush to paint the VADS or M109!

We’ll look at allies in detail in a future article.

So there we go, now all I need to do is paint it and then we can see if anyone can “Stop the Cavalry” (cue trombones)

[Since writing this in the tail end of October (we do this stuff well in advance of publishing, when we can), Hard Knox Games wrote an excellent post on the Battlefront Forums looking at the organisation and equipment of the 1980’s Armoured Cavalry that I highly recommend a read.  I just wish he had chosen a different thread title!]

5 thoughts on “Here comes the (Armored) Cavalry!

  1. Those Scout platoons got any special rules? At least spearhead. Otherwise the look just like a throwaway platoon for a single spearhead move. 1 Kill is enough to make them run.

Comments are closed.