WWIII:TY – AMERICANS – Saved by the Cavalry! M3 Bradley in TY

Today Lee looks at the M3 Armored Cavalry Troop and adapting his US force to it.

My US forces in Team Yankee have taken a somewhat meandering path!  When Team Yankee came out, I went heavy on a couple boxes of the starter box and some M113 which gave me most of a company of M1 Abrams, a four-ship flight of AH-1 Cobras and enough M113 for a VADS platoon, a couple ITV sections, a three-tube mortar battery and enough left over to cart an infantry platoon around.  Frustratingly the store’s order of infantry never arrived!  All of this lent itself to an Abrams Combat Team.
Whilst it wasn’t in the game, I built my M1s as the larger bustle IPM1 because I preferred the look.  I then painted…well, just the four Cobra and a M901 section as a MERDC test.  The Germans (West and Best) had diverted my attention…

With the arrival of Stripes, I was suddenly presented with even more options and the one that leaped out at me was the Armored Cavalry.  As a teenager, I had Tom Clancy’s book “Armored Cav: A guided tour of an armored cavalry regiment” (sadly long since lost on one move or another) and replicating it in Team Yankee was appealing, even if the Bradley was still an edition away.  The formation itself felt like a mini army with all the elements of combined arms built in.  I reorganised the M113 and M901 into scout sections, put a full strength IPM1 platoon in, the Cobras, the mortars, bought some Revell 1/100 Blackhawks because, you know, 1980s and… did nothing with it.  Because, frankly, I didn’t want to do M113 (as much as I love the kit).

I wanted M3 Bradleys.

Finally, with “WW3:TY – Americans” (oh, how I miss Battlefront’s past naming policy) we have the Bradley!  So, its time for attempt number 3 at doing the US in WWIII.

The Mount – M3 Bradley

It Cavalry so let’s talk about the mount first.

The M3 Bradley is, essentially, a version of the M2 Bradley IFV optimised for the armed scout role.  It trades personnel carriage (only needing to carry two dismount scouts) for extra ammo for its main weapons, adds better quality sensors for its sights but packs the same armament as its IFV sister. This means we still sport a stabilised 25mm autocannon and a TOW missile launcher to deal with bigger targets, making it one of the most heavily armed vehicles with “Scout” in the game.  Its armour can stop small arms and resist HMG fire, but, even unarmoured, large calibre autocannons or better will still easily hurt it, so its best to rely on its best armour; not being seen to be hit!  The biggest temptation to face will be not looking for trouble with that TOW launcher.

Interestingly there are some subtle differences to the M2 version in that the M3s moving rate of fire drops to 2 whereas the IFV version shoots at the same RoF 3 on the move as it does halted.  I’m not sure if that’s a typo or a reflection of doctrine.
EDIT – Wayne has confirmed this is a typo that will be corrected in FM101.

The 25mm has anti-helicopter so it can help deal with any lurking HINDS, especially with the 1-2 punch its TOW offers; fire the 25mm in the enemy turn then switch to missiles in the next to finish off anything left.  Its obviously better to let the dedicated assets deal with it, but it all helps when the leaf blowers rustles your way!

The M3 Armoured Cavalry Formation

Let’s look at the formation itself.

At the HQ level we now don’t have a piddly little M113 for the boss to ride in.  Instead he has options!  He can take a ride in an M3 (or M3A3) for a low cost, stealthy, option or he can go for armour and mount an Abrams (M1, IPM1, M1A1 or M1A1HC).  This mirrors the real world organisation where the CO would be in one element (tank or scout) and the XO in the other.  It’s just a shame you can’t have both, though I guess it would only come up in a larger game.

After that, we basically swap the M113 sections of the Stripes organisation for M3 sections, with two to six in the formation.  These are still fielded in pairs which is a dicey proposition for morale and means you need to pick your fights with the Bradley element, preferably using range and concealment to stay in safety whilst dealing TOW launched blows.  

The light element is then backed up by the heavier punch of the tank element with one to three tank platoons.  These must be an Abrams troop of one of the four flavours.  It should be noted that there doesn’t appear to be anything precluding mixing types of M1 platoon though.  So, you could have an M1A1(HC) HQ, a platoon of M1 and a platoon of M1A1.  Its nothing that I would be inclined to do, but I wonder if its an oversight given the M113 versions precludes mixing M60 and M1s.

Next we get to one of my favourite features of the Armoured Cavalry, the in-formation support.  As I mentioned, Armoured Cavalry is almost an army in itself, really only lacking in-formation anti-air assets.  The M106 SP heavy mortars and M109 SP Howitzers provide artillery HE and smoke (and more, with the M109s special rounds), useful for masking an approach, softening up an objective or breaking up an attack.  Finally, the air cavalry element provides infantry in the form of a Huey Rifle Platoon and attack helicopters in the form of a flight of either the AH-1 Cobra (which need to upgrade to TOW2 due to the Bradley) or AH-64 Apache.  I sometimes struggle with the worth of attack helicopters in Team Yankee, especially on a 6×4 table where its far too easy to be in everything’s threat envelope), but having them in formation certainly makes them feel more worthwhile.

There is a trade off here.  I found the M113 based cavalry a good delivery system for other capabilities, either as a way to add M1IP as an allied contingent to another NATO force (M1IP, and a cheap HQ and two M113 sections as a “tax” that then hid to keep the formation happy), or as the (theoretical admittedly) basis for a NATO leaf blower with the in-formation AH-1 joining with one or both of the support copter slots and AV-8B (modelled as F-16), some M-60 and a small rifle platoon.  The higher buy-in cost of the M3 means that may be less of an option here, so the Bradley may be a better choice for those who want to concentrate on the Cavalry alone as I do.

The Force

The aim of the force is utilise as much of my existing force as possible, if only to limit how much I need to build!  This will give me a base to add more stuff to later (like plastic A-10).

The mandatory stuff is fairly easy, I need to take two platoons of M3 so the only decision is whether to field them as baseline or A2 uparmored models.  Its only a point’s investment so I go uparmoured as I don’t plan to defend.

The HQ requires some more thought.  Mounting them in a tank certainly keeps them safe, but I suspect points are going to be tight so I choose to put them in an M3A2 too.  That may have to change with battlefield experience but I need to buy a box of five so at least its a use for the fifth Bradley.

Given I have built a bunch of IPM1, the tank choice is largely made for me.  I opt for a full strength platoon so that it can act as the majority of my reserves.

Right, on to the optional units.  More Bradleys and tanks would be fun, but I need to round out my combined arms.  The M106 battery is almost an auto include at a mere 3pts for a smoke barrage and decent FP artillery.  I pair this up with the in-formation M109 battery which can reach out further and also drop mines to slow down a massed enemy armour advance, plus a FIST OP.

Another auto-include is the Huey Rifle Platoon.  This unit gives the formation a decent sized block of infantry, even at minimum strength.  The extra Dragon is a near mandatory upgrade (even bad AT is better than no AT) and I’ll try and get as many M60 teams in as possible to help with defensive fire.  The 60mm light mortar is less useful but also worth throwing in to use up a point.  I opted for a small but reinforcved platoon, giving me five SAW fireteams, two M60 LMG teams and a pair of M47 Dragon missiles.  Not a bad little defensive force.

Finally for the formation is a quartet of AH-1 Cobra.  The (mandatory) upgrade to TOW2 improves the punch, though I suspect its largely overkill versus most of the Warsaw Pact stuff in the local META. There’s a bit of me that wonders if the points wouldn’t be better spent on a tank for the HQ and more Bradley so, again, its something to see how it does.

The final bunch of points is used to shore up anti-air defences.  A platoon of VADS provides point defence around the M1 whilst the Stingers provide area coverage.  Combined with the Bradley’s anti-helicopter capability, this should suffice against the lone platoon of Hinds that is the majority of the air threat.  I may well replace the VADS with an extra pair of M3 down the road.

The force naturally falls into two blocks – a reserve block of the M1 and VADS and an on-table block of artillery, cavalry, infantry and helicopters.  The stance will generally be “manouevere” allowing me to defend without worrying about deep reserves and also largely avoiding meeting engagements which hurt the Cobras. 

As a final aside, whilst this will be painted in desert tan, the IPM1 are not strictly appropriate for the Gulf as the ones sent were quickly replaced by M1A1 before the shooting started, as can be seen by the forces of 2nd Armoured Cavalry at the Battle of 73 Eastings.  I thought it would be interesting to run the maths on swapping out the M1IP for M1A1 (thought the tanks involved may have actually been the (HC) version).

Getting that 120mm in means sacrificing one tank from the squad, plus the M109, though the surplus 3 points does mean that I can squeeze in more infantry to better hold ground.  I was going to drop the Cobras as I thought the army was entorely Apache based by that point but it turns out 2nd Cavalry did still have TOW equipped Cobras.  I think I still have three Abrams on the sprue so I may well build up a platoon of 120mm armed M1s.

Of course, writing lists is easy, now I need to paint a force.  I guess its time to find the appropriate Vallejo Model Air colour for US Desert Storm camo!