My 2019/2020 Demo Game: The Cassinga Raid, Angola 1978 (Part 4): The Game!

At long last, all that research, scenario-writing, model-making and terrain-building finally paid off last weekend as our Carringa Raid game took the prize for Best Demo Game at Warfare 2019!  As regular readers will know, I only do demo games at shows for the celebrity status, adulation, free drugs and groupies, but where these are not forthcoming a nice trophy will do… 🙂

I’ll post the full scenario up later for others who want to play it, but here’s the report from Saturday’s game.  We actually played the game twice (when I say ‘we’, it was mostly Paddy and Richard who did the playing, while I did a bit of umpiring and A LOT of talking to people), but my phone used up all its photo-storage on the Saturday afternoon, so I didn’t get any photos of the sunday game or the rest of the show! 🙁

Rules used are Battlefront: WWII, which needs very little modification for such a low-tech engagement, beyond using the specific unit cards, which can be downloaded from the Battlefront: WWII Unit Card Generator.

The Battle of Cassinga was one of three main elements of Operation REINDEER, which was the first major ‘external’ operation conducted by the South African Defence Force (SADF) with the intention of attacking the People’s Army of Namibia (PLAN), the military wing of the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) in its ‘safe harbour’ base areas within Angola.  The assault was initiated by devastating airstrikes that coincided with SWAPO-PLAN’s morning parade.  This was then followed by the drop of a parachute battalion, which then performed a ground assault before being extracted by helicopters, but not before coming under attack from Cuban tanks and mechanised infantry.  While a military success for the SADF and a disaster for SWAPO-PLAN, the battle provided anti-South African forces with a propaganda coup and remains an extremely controversial and contentious subject to this day… But it does make a very interesting wargame…

Above:  The map for the historical South African assault plan.  The scattered drop, caused by poor planning and mis-scaled maps, caused the drop to be far more scattered (this was reflected in both our games) and this plan was heavily modified ‘on the fly’.  The scale for this map is 1 square = 1km = 2 feet of table.  Note that I’d originally planned to do this on a 6′ x 8′ table and drew the map accordingly, but then realised I could fit all the action happily onto a 6′ x 6′ table, hence the overlaid grid.

Above:  An overview of the battlefield at 0800hrs.  As Commander Dim Hamaambo’s SWAPO-PLAN forces hold their morning parade in Cassinga, the sound of jet engines approaches…

Above:  The initial air-strike, conducted by SAAF Canberra bombers carrying hundreds of 10lb ‘Alpha-Bombs’ (small, spherical anti-personnel bombs) lays waste to a 500m x 800m swathe of central Cassinga.

Above:  The casualties on the parade square are horrific, with around 50% of the assembled revolutionary cadres being cut down in this cowardly attack!

Above:  Further aerial death arrives in the form of SAAF Buccaneer fighter-bombers.

Above:  One section of Buccaneers attacks the tented training camp outside Cassinga and again, inflicts massive casualties on SWAPO.

Above:  A second section of Buccaneers attacks the anti-aircraft gun position on the western edge of Cassinga and succeeds in destroying some of the guns.  Tragically for SWAPO, the anti-aircraft gunners were caught napping by this surprise attack.

Above:  Not to be outdone, a section of Mirage III fighters dives down to strafe the parade square, adding to the carnage.

Above:  With Cassinga burning, a large formation of C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall transport aircraft, carrying Jan Breytenbach’s Composite Parachute Battalion, climb to drop altitude and disgorge paratroops on to six Drop Zones around the town.

Above:  Due to an error of scale on their planning maps, some of the drops are catastrophically scattered, particularly on the eastern side of the town.  Breytenbach, along with most of the Battalion Headquarters, Mortar Platoon and part of Bravo Company, lands either in or on the wrong side of the river.

Above:  Alpha Company are probably the most scattered of all and one of its sections comes within a whisker of being lunch for a crocodile…

Above:  Some of Alpha Company land right on top of SWAPO positions around Cassinga, with the Company HQ landing right next to the surviving anti-aircraft gun position!

Above: Yet more of Alpha Company land close to the Training Camp and are intermingled with 11 Independent Platoon.  One section of 11 Platoon goes missing during the drop and is never found.  This means that 11 Platoon is one-third understrength right from the outset.

Above:  9 Independent Platoon land relatively well-concentrated near their objective at the northern end of Cassinga, but initially struggle to organise themselves in the moments following the landing.

Above:  At the top-left of the picture, Charlie Company lands concentrated and in good order.  they quickly move to establish a blocking-line near the cemetery.  Meanwhile, in Cassinga, Commander Hamaambo has survived the air attack and desperately tries to rally his troops.  Some run to defensive positions, while others jump into vehicles and attempt to drive to the safety of the Cuban garrison, 10 miles away at Tetchamutete.  However, the moving trucks become easy prey for prowling Buccaneers.

Above:  At the southern end of town, Delta Company and the Anti-Tank Platoon land well, though alarmingly close to SWAPO positions.  Wasting no time, the paratroops rally and launch an immediate charge on the SWAPO trenches.

Above:  Quickly overwhelming the defenders, Delta Company and the Anti-Tank Platoon clear the trenches and push on to storm the SWAPO Engineer Company HQ at the southern end of the town.  Some of the engineers attempt to escape by truck but are swiftly dealt with by the Anti-Tank Platoon’s RPGs.  However, some of the engineers manage to hold out in a trench and bunker complex beyond the HQ building.

Above:  On the western side of Cassinga, Alpha Company manages to destroy the remaining anti-aircraft gun, but comes under intense fire from the trenches and buildings beyond.  Captain Swart, commanding Alpha Company, is cut down by SWAPO fire and his men take cover while their mortars lay down smoke-screens.  The advance into town has temporarily stalled, though the rest of Alpha and Bravo Companies are finally starting to arrive following the scattered drop.

Above: On the northern edge of Cassinga, 9 Independent Platoon assaults a series of fortified brick buildings that are thought to be accommodation for Cuban advisors.  However, the troops in residence are actually the ‘elite’ SWAPO Reconnaissance Company who, while a cut above the rest of SWAPO-PLAN, prove to be no match for the paratroopers and are quickly pushed back along the trench-line.

Above: Back at the southern end of Cassinga, the Anti-Tank Platoon has dealt with another truck attempting to break out of encirclement.  Meanwhile, Delta Company has finally destroyed the SWAPO Engineer Company and stormed its fortifications, though not without loss, as a section of paratroops is killed while storming the bunker complex.

Above: With Dimo Hamaambo rallying the last of his surviving revolutionary cadres in the eastern trench-line, a Mirage swoops down to make a strafing-run along the trench-line.  However, the South African pilot hasn’t noticed a DShK heavy machine gun lurking among the sandbags… By the time the pilot sees the tracer it’s too late and his aircraft is riddled with .50-calibre bullets.  Trailing smoke and flame, the Mirage streaks over the town to explode in the bush beyond.

Above:  Dismayed by mounting losses and the sight of the Mirage crashing into the bush, Breytenbach orders his airborne reserve, Echo Company to drop onto Charlie Company’s DZ, with the intention of reinforcing the stop-line on the eastern side of town and closing the fist around SWAPO.  However, the addition of Echo Company to the force will now mean a third helicopter lift!

Above:  Echo Company lands well and moves swiftly to take up positions near the cemetery and prevent any escape from Cassinga.

Above:  The orbiting Cessna 185 Forward Air Control aircraft spots some SWAPO attempting to escape into the bush and calls in a Buccaneer strike.  SNEB rockets shred the fleeing guerrillas and the survivors are soon rounded up by Echo Company.

Above:  Dimo Hamaambo, with the last knot of SWAPO survivors, is still holding out in the trenches at the north-eastern corner of Cassinga.  9 Platoon has now cleared the northern villas and moves forward to assault an imposing bunker.  Charlie Company also now move forward, crossing the open ground to support 9 Platoon’s attack.  Alpha and Bravo Companies meanwhile, sweep through the town, clearing the buildings as they go.

Above:  As is always the case with our games, anyone is free to join in the fun and a young chap by the name of Nathaniel joined us to take command of Charlie Company for a few turns.  He had a challenging task ahead of him; assaulting SWAPO who were deeply dug-into a bunker.  Paddy (Breytenbach) passed him three dice to roll, as Richard (Dimo) looked on, confident that his sandbag and log walls would protect him… “Oh no!” cried Natahniel, “I’ve rolled three zeroes!” 🙂

Above:  Commander Dimo could only look on in despair as he rolled his customary ‘1’ and Breytenbach smugly scooped another SWAPO unit into the bag…

Above:  With SWAPO finally neutralised, the first wave of Puma helicopters arrived to fly out the casualties, the PoWs and the two Independent Parachute Platoons.  The rest of the battalion busied itself in searching the town for documents and heavy weapons, as well as with preparing a defence against the predicted Cuban counter-attack.

Above:  The second lift arrived and Alpha, Bravo and Charlie Company Companies embarked, leaving only Delta and Echo Companies, plus the depleted Anti-Tank Platoon, Battalion Headquarters and Mortar Platoon.  Before the helicopters have even lifted off, the sound of tank-engines is heard…

Above:  The Anti-Tank Platoon, holding the former SWAPO Engineer HQ at the southern end of Cassinga, have laid an anti-tank minefield in a narrow strip of open ground, just where any vehicles coming up the road would have to go off-road to avoid a burning truck… A Cuban BRDM-2 armoured car and T-34 tank pass through without incident, though the second T-34 strikes a mine and blows up spectacularly!

Above:  The mine-strike is quickly followed up with a full-scale ambush as the Cuban column is subjected to a volley of RPGs, though to little effect!

Above:  Cuban Motor Rifles frantically bail out of their BTR-152 personnel carriers and rush forward to support the tanks.  However, a Buccaneer appears and destroys a second T-34 with SNEB rockets!  As 60mm mortar bombs land among the Cubans the Buccaneer returns for a second pass, but is driven off by concentrated anti-aircraft fire from vehicle machine guns and some hastily-deployed ZPU-2 anti-aircraft guns.

Above:  Having circumvented the minefield, the survivng T-34 pushes forward, but comes under a heroically suicidal close-assault by the commander of Delta Company, accompanied by a section from the Anti-Tank Platoon and the Assault Pioneer Section!  The Mortar Platoon screens their assault with smoke, but withering fire from the tank and it’s supporting BRDM crushes the valiant charge.  However, their comrades are swift to take revenge, destroying the BRDM and a BTR with long-range RPG fire and driving off the T-34, which retreats back up the road in a state of some panic (somehw managing to traverse the minefield unscathed).  A FAPLA (Angolan Armed Forces) Motor Rifle Company moves forward to deal with the South Africans…

Above:  Meanwhile, on the eastern side of town, the Cuban Motor Rifle Company, supported by a truck-mounted FAPLA company, starts to clear the trenches and buildings in the south-eastern corner of Cassinga.

Above:  However, as the Cubans push forward, a steady trickle of casualties is inflicted by the combined efforts of Echo Company and the Mortar Platoon and the Cubans make slow progress.

Above:  The FAPLA Motor Rifle Company charges the dug-in survivors of Delta Company, but suffer a withering hail of defensive fire.

Above:  Having suffered heavy losses, the FAPLA Motor Rifles pull back to cover.  The T-34 has moved forward in cautious support, but somewhat unsurprisingly, can’t be persuaded to push forward.  Seizing the opportunity, the survivors of Delta Company and the Anti-Tank Platoon make good their escape and withdraw back to Breytenbach’s HQ north of the parade square.  However, they are forced to leave their wounded and the bodies of their comrades to the tender mercies of the Cubans.

Above:  Similarly on the eastern side of Cassinga, mounting casualties among the Cuban Motor Rifles means that they too are reluctant to push forward, despite the threats of their political officer!  The sound of returning helicopters can now be heard…

Above:   As the Pumas swoop in to land on the northern LZs there is a mad rush as the South Africans sprint for their ride out of Cassinga!  The Cuban and FAPLA troops are too far away to intervene and can only watch in frustration as their prey escapes!

Despite the loss of a Mirage and a last-minute flurry of casualties (exacerbated by leaving them behind for the Communists to recover), the SADF amply completed their objective and extracted with more Victory Points than SWAPO (just…).  However, there is the small matter of SWAPO’s automatic 500 VP Sympathetic Western Media Bonus to consider… 😉

My thanks to Paddy Green and Richard de Ferrars for being the prime-movers in running the game (twice!) over the weekend.  Thanks also to Steve Uden for providing the ‘front of house’ all day Saturday and thanks to all those old friends and new who we met over the weekend.

Thanks especially to Phil Chang and Dave Thomas for their excellent company, leading an innocent Welsh boy like me astray on the Friday night…

For once I was absolutely truthful when I told my wife that I was ‘only drinking in Moderation’…   😉


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My 2019/2020 Demo Game: The Cassinga Raid, Angola 1978 (Part 3): Smuggy McSmugface…

I’ll post a proper battle report up later (we actually managed to fully play the game twice, but my phone ran out of photo-storage at the end of the first day…), but the game’s first outing at Warfare 2019 in Reading went well… 😀

It was great to finally meet so many people who I’ve only known through the wonder of the interweb, as well as a stack of friends both old and new! 🙂


Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Battlefront: WW2, Cold War, Cold War - Angolan Border War, Games, Warfare (Show) | Leave a comment

My 2019/2020 Demo Game: The Cassinga Raid, Angola 1978 (Part 2 – the Playtest)

As discussed last time, I’ve spent the last few months building the terrain and forces for a demo-game of the Cassinga Raid, with the intention of going around a few of the UK wargame shows, starting with Warfare in Reading, then Crusade in Penarth, Partizan in Newark and perhaps some others.

So with the terrain built and the troops, tanks and aircraft painted, I took the game down to the Carmarthen Old Guard last week, to get it all set up, check that everything ‘fitted’ and to have a bit of a playtest of some of the scenario mechanics; primarily I wanted to see if my ideas for conducting the opening air-strikes and para-drop worked and if the initial battle between the South African Paras and the SWAPO-PLAN guerrillas would be a good game or too overbalanced toward one side or the other.

As discussed last time, the rules to be used are Battlefront: First Echelon, which is my Cold War adaptation of Fire & Fury’s Battlefront: WWII.  That said, with this being such a relatively low-tech war, we can just use the straight Battlefront: WWII rules with the appropriate unit cards and a few scenario rules covering the helicopter extraction.

Above: The calm before the storm.  In the Angolan town of Cassinga (known to SWAPO-PLAN as Camp Moscow), the bulk of the garrison masses on the parade-square to salute the flags of Angola and Free Namibia and to receive their work and training orders for the day.  Other SWAPO troops are on sentry-duty in the trenches, while on the north edge of town, the new recruits conduct their own parade in their tented camp, while bored anti-aircraft gunners doze in the morning sunshine…

Above:  But what’s this?  It looks as though their Cuban fraternal revolutionary comrades are conducting a fly-past in their honour!   But hang on, those engines don’t look right for Illyushins… Four South African Canberra bombers in line abreast unload 300x 10lb ‘Alpha-Bombs’ onto the parade square.  The spherical, football-sized bombs hit the ground, bounce once and then explode ten feet above the ground, saturating an area 500m x 800m with shrapnel.

Above:  Close behind the Canberras come four Buccaneers, who release 1,000lb bombs onto the anti-aircraft positions and training camp.  A pair of Mirage III fighters then strafe the survivors of the earlier attacks.  Behind all of this comes a wave of C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall transport aircraft, who start to disgorge paratroops all around the town.

Above: The parade suffers around 20% casualties in the initial bombing-run, while trucks and buildings burn.  Comrade Dimo Hamaambo, the camp commandant, was fortunate enough to be in his house (the red-roofed building) at the time and managed to escape by the skin of his teeth!  The shocked survivors are in various states of disorder.  Meanwhile, the Training Unit has suffered around 40% casualties and the section of ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns has been knocked out.  And yet the battle has only just begun…

Above: Commandant Rhys Breytenbach conducts the para-drop for Charlie Company, on the eastern side of the battlefield.  Unlike the historical battle, most of the paras dropped fairly well-concentrated around their DZs.  Two sections land in the ponds of the eastern valley and a lot of sections land Suppressed or Disordered (in game terms), but none are lost, which is a good start.  [Note to self: Make them drop from a higher ‘altitude’ above the table next time… 🙂 ]

Above:  A Mirage III adds to SWAPO’s misery by conducting a strafing-run through the carnage on the parade-square, causing a few more casualties.  At the bottom-left of the photo, Breytenbach’s headquarters group, combined with Captain McQueen’s Bravo Company, has quickly rallied and is making a bee-line for the centre of the town.  On their left, Captain Swart’s Alpha Company has landed more scattered; elements have managed to reach one of the AA positions, but is being badly shot up by the surviving ZPU-4 AA gun in the second AA position, as well as by the infantry and a 60mm mortar section of the SWAPO 1st Detachment in the trenches north of Comrade Dimo’s house.

Above: Back at Breytenbach’s DZ on the western side of the town, the battalion Mortar Platoon, along with Bravo Company’s mortar section, set up their weapons and prepare to conduct fire support.  They are almost immediately in action as Charlie Company calls for support in interdicting some fleeing enemy troops on the eastern side of town, while Alpha Company calls for support in suppressing the ZPU-4, which has already eliminated one section of Paras.

Above: The SWAPO ZPU-4 AA section, along with the 1st Detachment, make a brave stand against the enraged South African Paras, but are finally overwhelmed by the combined efforts of the HQ, Alpha and Bravo Companies, aided by the Mortar Platoon.  comrade Dimo escapes by the skin of his teeth, fleeing along with the parade survivors for the safety of the eastern trench-line.

Above:  On the eastern side of town, Commandant Forbes’ Charlie Company has managed to extricate itself from the bog and sets up a stop-line around the walled cemetery on the eastern side of the town.  Nevertheless, some SWAPO units from the 3rd Detachment manage to slip past their cordon, through a wide gap to the south-east.

Above:  At the southern edge of the town, Captain Smitt’s sorely-understrength Delta Company manage to storm the SWAPO Engineer Company HQ thanks in no small part to effective supporting fire from Lieutenant Peters’ Anti-Tank Platoon.  However, flanking fire from elements of the SWAPO 4th Detachment in the southwestern trenches (at the bottom-left of the photo), plus an 82mm B10 Recoilless Rifle section, cause them serious problems and one of the Delta Company sections falls victim to SWAPO fire during the assault.  To make matters worse, the SWAPO Engineer Company quickly manages to rally in the trenches beyond the HQ buildings, while the 4th Detachment is soon reinforced by the rest of their unit, who have somehow managed to survive the parade (and the subsequent strafing by a Mirage and rocketing by a Buccaneer) unscathed!

Above: At the northern edge of town, Lieutenant Witt’s 9 Independent Platoon has managed to discomfit the ‘elite’ SWAPO Reconnaissance Company by directing a large volume of suppressive fire onto their accommodation buildings.  One of the SWAPO sections flees and falls back to the safety of the second building.  The Recce Company Commander is made of sterner stuff and holds his ground, though is similarly forced to fall back when the South Africans assault the house.  Witt’s men move forward, though soon find themselves under effective fire from the second house.

Above: In the northwestern corner of the battlefield, Lieutenant Botha’s 9 Independent Platoon has no such trouble and quickly overwhelms the hapless SWAPO Training Unit with a bayonet-charge on their tented encampment.  A couple of SWAPO sections attempt to flee but are ruthlessly cut down and Botha’s men move on to join the assault on the town.

Above: The SWAPO Recce Company, having been forced out of its comfy accommodation, now largely panics and flees eastward, unaware of Charlie Company’s presence there.  However, one determined section holds out in the orange house and delays Witt’s 9 Platoon long enough for the rest of their company to escape.

Above: In the south, Delta Company attempt to maintain the tempo of the advance by attacking the SWAPO Engineer Company in the trenches.  However, the Engineers have recovered their wits, while Delta Company no longer has the support of the Anti-Tank Platoon, which has been left behind at the main road.  Flanking fire from the bunker first disorders one of the Para sections and further fire from the trenches finishes them off.  Nevertheless, the Company Commander and a section of Assault Pioneers reach the trenches and engage in close combat with the SWAPO Engineer HQ Section, but fail to deliver the killer-blow and the SWAPO Engineer commander falls back once again.  Emboldened, the SWAPO Engineers prepare to mount a counter-attack on the severely-weakened Delta Company, which is now reduced to 50% strength!  The South African Anti-Tank Platoon moves forward to assist, but they have their own problems, being still under fire from the 82mm B10 and 4th Detachment’s 60mm mortar.

Above: Charlie Company moves forward, across the open ground, from the cemetery to the outer trenches on the eastern side of Cassinga.  There they engage in a firefight with the survivors of the SWAPO 2nd and 3rd Detachments, who have rallied around Comrade Dimo in the main trench-line.  However, this also means that SWAPO elements are now slipping away on either side of Charlie Company’s line.

Above: Called in by the Forward Air Controller in the orbiting Cessna 185A, a Buccaneer returns to perform a rocket-strike on surviving SWAPO positions.  However, previously unseen 12.7mm DShK heavy machine guns open up and throw off the pilot’s aim.

Above: The South African mortars are directed to switch their fire onto the heavy machine guns.

Above: Hot on the heels of fleeing SWAPO units, Breytenbach’s HQ arrives along with Bravo Company on the bloody parade square.  One heroic SWAPO 4th Detachment section has volunteered to stay behind to cover 4th Detachment’s withdrawal (they are now slipping away to the south, around the rear of Delta Company and the anti-Tank Platoon) and these glorious Heroes of the Revolution successfully fight off a close assault by the enemy before coming within a whisker of killing Breytenbach himself!  However, the rest of Bravo Company has now finished clearing the previous trench-line and soon swamps the lone SWAPO section with fire, before finishing them off with a close assault.

And that was where we had to leave it!

All in all a good play-test, albeit a little slow, as nobody apart from me knew the rules.  It will be A LOT quicker at the shows, where I’ll have a core of players who know the rules intimately and we’ll be able to get to the second phase of the battle; namely the helicopter extractions and Cuban armoured counter-attack.

Nevertheless, it was an interesting tactical situation at the end of the game.  On the South African side, the HQ Company, Bravo, Charlie and the three Independent Platoons were all intact, though Alpha and Delta had lost two sections apiece, meaning that Alpha had suffered 25% casualties and Delta a whopping 50%.  Echo Company had not been called in, so was still sitting pretty in its C-160s, orbiting just south of the border.

On the SWAPO side of things, the Engineer Company was still intact and resisting doggedly against the South Africans at the southern end of the town.  Survivors of 3rd Detachment, a DShK heavy machine gun section and Comrade Dimo himself were moving south to join them and may well have held the bridge long enough for the Cubans to relieve them.  The 1st Detachment and their supporting AA guns and B-10 had been wiped out, while the 2nd and 3rd Detachments had suffered around 50% casualties apiece.  The 4th Detachment had lost one section heroically mounting a rearguard at the parade square, but the rest of them were slipping away to the south, together with a section of B-10 and DShK.  In the north the Recce Company had lost one section, but the rest had managed to escape encirclement.

So at the close of play, the South Africans had inflicted losses of 27 sections out of 54 on SWAPO – exactly 50%.  In return they had lost 4 sections.  So a fairly comprehensive victory for the SADF, but by no means complete, as formed SWAPO units were still resisting in the town and the timescale for the operation was slipping…

Thanks to all at Carmarthen Old Guard; Rhys, Aled, Chris, Andy and Alan for play-testing the game!

Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Battlefront: WW2, Cold War, Cold War - Angolan Border War, Games, Scenarios, Warfare (Show) | 5 Comments

My 2019/2020 Demo Game: The Cassinga Raid, Angola 1978 (Part 1)

As mentioned in recent posts, I’ve spent the last few months building terrain-boards, painting troops and sticking together aeroplanes for my forthcoming demo game at Warfare 2019, which will be held on the weekend of 16th/17th November, at the Rivermead Leisure Centre, Reading.  I’ll then be taking the game to some more shows – Crusade 2020 (Penarth, 25th January 2020) and Partizan 2020 (Newark, 17th May 2020).

The scenario I’ve chosen is the Cassinga Raid, which took place on 4th May 1978, being an airborne assault by South African paratroops on the Angolan town of Cassinga, which at the time was a major base for SWAPO-PLAN guerrillas.  The battle was an extremely controversial one and the propaganda war rages on between both sides.  Nevertheless, it is an extremely interesting tactical situation and in my opinion worth wargaming.  I’ve based my scenario on the dissertation by General Edward McGill Alexander, which is the most comprehensive and balanced account of the battle produced to date.  The rules to be used are my Battlefront: First Echelon variant of Fire & Fury Games’ Battlefront: WWII.

So to the terrain…  This is my scenario map.  I was originally going to do it as a 6’x8′ board, but then decided to cut it down to a 6’x6′ board.  The grid in the centre of the map shows the arrangement of the nine 2’x2′ boards, arranged 3×3.  In terms of ground-scale, a 2′ square equates to 1 km square.

After much deliberation regarding building materials, I decided to use high-density 2′ square polystyrene boards: 9x 25mm-thick boards to form the base and 9x 12mm-thick boards, which would form a top-surface into which the trenches, rivers and gullies would be cut before sticking on to the base-boards.  The upper boards were then stuck onto the base-boards using PVA glue:

Once the boards were stuck down, I used Polyfilla to smooth the western river-valley and the boggy eastern valley.  I then used a sanding-block to finish off the Polyfilla, to smooth off the sharp and ragged edges of knife-cuts and to carve the course of the main road.

To add detail to the trenches, I cut about a hundred matchsticks in half and pushed them into the polystyrene every inch or so along the trench-walls, to give the impression of reinforcing posts.  I then topped the trench-edges with a load of pre-made resin sandbag strips by a company called Combat Zone Scenery.  I have to say that the sandbags are rather over-scale for 15mm figures, as in scale they’d be the size of coal-sacks, but they do look effective.  At this time I also added some corners for some very simple bunkers, using polystyrene off-cuts and made some separate bunker roofs out of card and sand and I also used some plastic tubing as culverts for where the main road crosses the boggy valley.

I then slapped some more PVA glue on the boards (carefully avoiding the sandbags and the bits I wanted to leave smooth as rivers and ponds) and spread some sand to give the surface texture.  I used builders’ sharp sand instead of the fine ‘play sand’ I use for model-basing.  Once the sand was dry I sprayed the two valleys, the drainage-ditch and the trenches with dark earth spray-paint, to give them a deeper, darker soil colour, a dark base-colour for the water areas and some shadows in the trenches and bunkers.

The river was then painted in using ‘Teak’ coloured Wilko’s acrylic varnish.  From looking at the area on Google Earth I could see that the eastern valley is dotted with numerous ponds and soggy patches, so these were also added using varnish.  I also added a trickle of varnish to the drainage ditch.  Three very thick coats of varnish seemed to do the trick for the water-features and gave a very nice, glossy finish.

Next the boards needed painting and for the base colour I used Sandtex Middle Stone exterior paint, which is a fairly dark, greyish sand colour and quite closely matches my model base colour, which is Humbrol 72 Khaki Drill.  The two boards shown above have had their water-features varnished and have been painted in Middle Stone.

The next phase of painting was to pick the roads and footpaths out in a lighter shade of cream and finally the whole board was treated to a light dry-brush of white (avoiding the sandbags and water-features).  Now to get the flock out…

For the flock and undergrowth I decided to use the excellent Woodland Scenics range (which I buy in the UK from Hattons) and to ‘colour-code’ areas of terrain in order to clearly define different terrain-types for ease of play.  For the two boggy valleys and the drainage ditch I painted those areas with PVA glue and stuck on lots of Woodland Scenics ‘Clump Foliage’ in a mixture of Mid Green and Light Green.  I then flocked around them with Blended Turf flock, to give a fairly lush green colour.

For the ‘Bush’ terrain that covers most of the table, I again painted the areas with PVA and then sprinkled on some Woodland Scenics ‘Underbrush’ in Olive Green.  That was then followed up with coarse-grade Burnt Grass flock.

I decided to leave the designated helicopter Landing Zones as bare earth, but flocked the other open areas with dappled flock in ‘Earth’ shade.

Concurrently to building the terrain boards I was also making trees from plastic Woodland Scenics tree armatures.  Unlike all the other trees I’ve made lately, these are not based.  Instead I take sewing needles and heat the ‘eye’ end of the needle for around ten seconds in a candle-flame.  The hot needle is then pushed up the trunk and easily melts its way into the plastic to a depth of about 10mm before setting hard (and/or your thumb if you’re not careful and/or wearing good gloves!).  These then can be simply stabbed into polystyrene terrain-pieces; they look a lot better than based trees and don’t damage the boards at all.

Most of the trees were foliated using Foliage Clusters in Mid Green and Light Green, while the rest were covered in Foliage Mesh in the same shades.  By sheer fluke I happened upon the ideal glue for the job, namely Bison Contact Adhesive; I went to my local shop seeking my usual UHU or Bostik, but all they had was Bison, which I hadn’t heard of.  It’s not as runny as UHU, isn’t as stringy or smelly as Bostik and is a lot tackier than either of them, so instantly grips the foliage firmly as soon as it touches.

I need a walled cemetery for the eastern side of the battlefield, so decided to make a generic cemetery that could be used pretty much anywhere from Angola to Normandy.  The walls and gates are from Peter Pig, while the graves are from Magister Militum.

While I’ve already got some grass & wood ‘hootches’ that are useable for Angola, I need some solid brick buildings, so bought these from Peter Pig.  A quick google for Angolan houses suggested some appropriate colour-schemes.

I need some anti-aircraft gun positions, so thought that these Vietnam artillery positions from Timecast might fit the bill.  However, while excellent models, they are a little too large for my puny AA guns and didn’t look ‘right’ during our dress-rehearsal game, so I’m considering other options.

I also need a small tented camp, so this single-piece resin camp model by Peter Pig fitted the bill.  I’ve added the flagpole and SWAPO flag.  I’ve also made two more stand-alone flagpoles, flying the SWAPO and Angolan flags, to be stabbed into the terrain-board in front of the town parade square, as well as some road-signs for a bit of extra detail.

I’ve already covered the aircraft in my previous posts here and here.  While I already had 95% of the required ground units in my collection, there were a few items that were needed for the game.  First was a small company of Cuban T-34/85s.  I already had one T-34/85 by Peter Pig, so bought two more and stuck a Cuban parade-flag on one of them for a bit of ‘local colour’.  Cuban vehicles in Angola were painted standard Soviet Green, but did sometimes have very large turret numbers painted in white, so I added those for a bit of extra interest.  For the rest of the vehicles, my collection already contains all the required items, namely some Ural-375 trucks and UAZ-469 jeeps by Peter Pig, a load of BTR-152s by Skytrex and GAZ-66 trucks and a BRDM-2 armoured car by QRF.

While I’ve got all the SWAPO-PLAN, FAPLA and Cuban infantry I need from Peter Pig, I still needed a few more South Africans, so painted these up a few weeks ago.  They’re Peter Pig Israelis, which are perfect for 1980s South African Paras, but slightly wrong for the 1970s, in that the rifles should be the FN FAL R2 and not the R5 (Galil copy) and the helmets should be British pattern in bare green steel, rather than the cloth-covered plastic helmet of the 1980s.  However, there aren’t really any suitable figures, so 1980s South Africans will have to do.

In the next part I’ll post some photos of Saturday’s dress-rehearsal game, but here’s a taster…

Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Battlefront: WW2, Cold War, Cold War - Angolan Border War, Games, Partizan (Show), Scenarios, Warfare (Show) | 6 Comments

The Great Angolan Gecko-Hunt (Operation FOX, December 1983)

This week I actually managed to get down to club (the Carmarthen Old Guard) and get a game! 🙂

As previously mentioned, I’m going to be running a demo game of the Cassinga Raid (Angola 1978) at Warfare 2019, in Reading on 16/17 November and will be doing a full dress-rehearsal of that game in club tomorrow (Saturday 2 Nov).  I therefore wanted to play a small Angola scenario in club to get myself re-familiarised with Battlefront: WWII rules, as it’s been a year since my last game.

I’m in the (long and drawn-out) process of adapting Battlefront: WWII to the Cold War era (re-titled ‘Battlefront: First Echelon’), but relatively low-tech wars such as the Angolan Border War require very little adaptation.

This scenario is loosely based on an action undertaken by the South African Defence Force (SADF) Combat Group 1, part of Task Force X-Ray (i.e. 61 Mech Battalion Group) at the tail-end of Operation ASKARI in late December 1983.  The primary objective of Operation ASKARI, like most ‘external’ operations into Angola, was to destroy and disrupt the infiltration units and base areas of SWAPO-PLAN before they could start their annual infiltration of South West Africa (modern-day Namibia) during the Wet Season.  South African orders were to avoid direct confrontation with the Armed Forces of Angola (‘FAPLA’) and their Cuban advisors (which included complete Cuban combat units).  However, as always happened, SWAPO-PLAN were intermingled with and defended by FAPLA and Cuban units and the campaign quickly changed into a direct battle between the SADF and FAPLA/Cuban Army.

During these battles against FAPLA/Cuban forces, SADF electronic warfare units noticed the presence of an entirely new threat operating in the garrison town of Cahama; the Soviet SA-8 ‘Gecko’ (9K33 Osa).  Task Force X-Ray was given a new mission; to draw out and capture an intact SA-8 system.  Artillery and air attacks on the Cahama area would act as ‘beaters’, hopefully driving the SA-8s south toward the village of Ediva and the waiting Task Force X-Ray.  This new mission was given the code-name Operation FOX.

Above:  The village of Ediva sits a few kilometres south of Cahama, alongside the main Cahama to Xangongo road and is presently occupied by a Motor Rifle Company of FAPLA’s 3rd Brigade.  They have an attached forward observer with a battery of ZIS-3 76mm guns in Direct Support; these guns have been instrumental in halting previous attempts by South African units to cross the river and attack Ediva from the west.

Above:  On the north side of Ediva, a mixed AA Battery consisting of an SA-8 ‘Gecko’ and ZU-23-2 twin 23mm guns scans the skies for South African aircraft.

Above:  But here comes trouble… The SADF assault on Ediva is being conducted by Task Force X-Ray’s ‘Combat Group 1’.  This group consists of a company of mechanised infantry in Ratel 20 infantry fighting vehicles, an armoured car squadron equipped with Ratel 90 fire support vehicles, an AA group equipped with Ystervark SP 20mm guns, an 81mm mortar group equipped with Ratel 81, a battery of G2 140mm guns (WW2-vintage British 5.5″ guns) and a Buffel armoured recovery vehicle.  The mech infantry and armoured cars have been mixed as three ‘Fighting Elements’, each consisting of a mech infantry platoon and an armoured car troop.

Above:  As FAPLA troops lurk unseen among the hedgerows and houses of Ediva, Fighting Element ‘Alpha’, led by the troop of Ratel 90s, advances cautiously up the main road.  SADF infantry dismount from their Ratel 20s just as the first 76mm shells start to land around them.

Above: 1km to the east, Fighting Element ‘Charlie’ advances along a dirt road running roughly parallel to the main riverside road.  However, the leading Ratel 90 is ambushed by FAPLA infantry armed with RPG-7s and immediately bursts into flames.

Above: The rest of Fighting Element ‘Charlie’ returns fire and a BTR-152 is destroyed while attempting to flee.  However, the RPG-toting FAPLA infantry slip away into the bush.

Above:  In the centre, Fighting Element ‘Bravo’ has been ‘bundu-bashing’ across country to reach Ediva and emerges from the bush right in front of a very startled BTR!  Both sides exchange fire at point-blank range around the corner of a hedge and by some miracle the Ratels are all suppressed, while the BTR escapes unscathed!  The driver slams the BTR into reverse and withdraws as fast as he can toward the village.  However, he doesn’t make it… The Ratel 90 crews recover their wits and 90mm HEAT rounds slam into the BTR.

Above:  Although  the FAPLA troops are hard-pressed by the SADF, help is on the way from 3rd Brigade at Cahama.  The 3rd Brigade’s T-54 Tank Company, accompanied by an SA-9 ‘Gaskin’ SAM system, appears on the main road.

Above:  A second BTR-152 Motor Rifle Company, plus battalion headquarters and 76mm artillery observer, arrives on the eastern back-road.

Above:  As the leading T-54 appears on the road ahead of them, Alpha’s Ratel 90s open up with a furious barrage of 90mm fire, all to no effect as the T-54’s thick armour shrugs it off!  The T-54 halts and takes aim, easily destroying one of the Ratels.  The Ratels open fire for a second time, though this time score an effective hit and the T-54 starts to burn.

Above:  As their Ratels duel with the T-54s on the main road, Alpha’s infantry weathers FAPLA artillery and uses the cover of the hedgerows to approach Ediva.

Above:  On the eastern road, Charlie’s surviving Ratel 90 spots the approaching column of BTR-152s, but is forced to defend itself against a bold (though doomed) attack by an isolated FAPLA infantry section.

Above:  This gives the FAPLA column time to dismount from their BTRs before the Ratel turns its attention back to them and picks off the (now empty) lead vehicle.  The FAPLA infantry move up through the bush, determined to make the Ratel taste RPG…

Above:  However, in the centre things are turning against FAPLA as Bravo, with the assistance of a section from Charlie, assaults and overruns FAPLA infantry dug-in among the hedgerows.

Above:  Supporting fire from a BTR in Ediva does little to slow the South African advance and the appearance of a Ratel 90 forces the BTR to withdraw back into the village.

Above:  The SADF headquarters group prepares to move forward with the Buffel (on the right) to recover the SA-8 once it has been captured.

Above:  With casualties rapidly escalating, FAPLA start to pull back.

Above: Although inflicting significant losses on FAPLA, the SADF’s cautious attack has allowed the SA-8 to slip away through the bush, back to the relative safety of Cahama.


The infantry are all by Peter Pig, the T-54s, BTR-152s and SA-9 are by Skytrex and all other models are by QRF, except for the Ystervark, which is a conversion by Martin Small of Peter Pig’s Bulldog APC.

The terrain-cloth is by Tiny Wargames, the trees are made from armatures and foliage of various types by Woodland Scenics, the buildings are by Peter Pig and the roads and rivers are by QRF.

Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Battlefront: WW2, Cold War, Cold War - Angolan Border War, Games | 2 Comments

Angola Air Support (Part 2)

SAAF Mirage F1AZ

As mentioned last month, in November I’ll be putting on a demo game of the 1978 South African airborne assault on Cassinga, during the Angola ‘Border War’.  This scenario requires rather a lot of South African air power, so I’ve been making new models and sprucing up old models for the game, as well as digging out some more models from the war that haven’t seen the light of day for ten years or more.

I covered the SAAF’s Mirage F1, C-160 Transall, SA-330 Puma, Impala Mk II and Buccaneer S Mk 50 in the last article, so here are a few more aircraft from that war, as well as a small tutorial on how to convert a Shapeways 1/100th Cessna 175 into a SAAF Cessna 185A air observation post:

Above: The mainstay of the SAAF’s fast jet fleet at the start of the Border War was the Dassault Mirage III, of which South African had been a very early customer during the 1960s, having bought 15x Mirage IIICZ and 3x Mirage IIIBZ trainers.  This was followed up in the late 1960s with a further purchase of 16x Mirage IIIEZ, 3x Mirage IIIDZ trainers and 4x Mirage IIIRZ reconnaissance aircraft.

However, the SAAF’s Mirage III fleet was getting rather long in the tooth by the mid-1970s and the SAAF was looking for a replacement.  The Mirage F1 seemed to be the ideal candidate and negotiations were started with Dassault to enable licenced manufacture of the F1 within South Africa.  However, international sanctions against South Africa were ramping up and there was simply not going to be time to start a South African production line, so Dassault frantically rushed out a delivery of F1s to South Africa before sanctions stopped trade.

With fewer Mirage F1s than expected, the SAAF was going to have to keep the Mirage III in service for longer than planned and so with secret Israeli assistance, they began upgrading their Mirage IIIEZ  fleet.  This project eventually produced an advanced version of the Mirage III called the ‘Cheetah’, but this aircraft did not enter service until the 1990s; long after the reason for its existence had passed.

In the meantime, the Mirage IIICZ soldiered on and at Cassinga the Mirage IIICZs of No. 2 Squadron provided a Combat Air Patrol over the operation, as well as conducting strafing attacks against ground targets with the 30mm cannon.

Models of the Mirage III are readily available in 1/100th, with Heller and Tamiya both having produced plastic kits.  However, this one is a die-cast model by Italeri-Fabbri – originally painted in Israeli markings, I’ve repainted it as a SAAF machine.

Note that national and unit markings were routinely deleted from SAAF aircraft over Angola, so that does make painting the things slightly easier (though if you want to mark them, SAAF decals can be found in the Tamiya 1/100th Buccaneer kit, as mentioned previously).  The only markings here therefore, are the aircraft’s registration number, the ubiquitous ‘Mirage III’ logo and the ejector seat warning triangles.

Above: The arrival of the MiG-23ML ‘Flogger’ in Angola in the late 1980s came as a very nasty surprise to the SAAF, who had become rather used to getting their own way against the more typical MiG-17s and -21s.  The MiG-23ML was a considerably more capable aircraft than the older MiGs and Sukhois and also had the edge over the SAAF’s Mirage types.  Although marked as Angolan Air Force (FAPA-DAA), they were routinely flown by experienced Cuban pilots, as well as some Soviet and East German advisors, making them an extremely dangerous prospect for the SAAf to take on.

Following an engagement in 1988 where a SAAF Mirage F1 crashed on landing after being damaged by a missile from a Cuban-piloted MiG-23ML, the SAAF had to concede that they had lost air superiority over Angola.  This incident, as well as the increasing threat from large numbers of Soviet-supplied SAM-systems such as the SA-13 ‘Gopher’ and advanced MANPADS such as SA-16 ‘Gimlet’, forced the SAAF to withdraw its more vulnerable aircraft such as the Impala Mk II the theatre and restrict most of its operations to night-time.  Nevertheless, the SAAF still managed to shoot down twenty-five MiGs and Sukhois during this period (though no MiG-23s), for the loss of one Mirage F1 to an SA-13.

My MiG-23ML attacks UNITA forces during our Operation MODULER game at Bovington in 2008

Our MiG-23ML model was converted by Martin from an extremely rare MiG-27 ‘Flogger D’ plastic kit by Takara (the MiG-27 was the dedicated ground-attack version of the MiG-23).  The conversion basically involved changing the shape of the nose-cone from the MiG-27’s chisel-shape to the pointed radome of the MiG-23. and removing the long tail-rake that extends along the spine of the aircraft from the tailfin of the MiG-27 (and some marks of MiG-23, but not the ML).

I’ve spent the last ten years trying to find another Takara MiG-27 for my Soviets, though without any luck.  There is no other model of the MiG-23 or MiG-27 available in 1/100th. 🙁

Above: The Cessna 185A was used by the SAAF as an unarmed air observation post and liaison aircraft during the Border War.  They were eventually supplemented and largely replaced in the front line by the Aermacchi AM-3 Bosbok, which was an Italian-built and upgraded Cessna 185, having a much more powerful engine (and longer nose) and the capability to attach guns, bombs and rocket-pods for counter-insurgency work and target-marking.

At Cassinga a single Cessna 185A was used as a Forward Air Controller to coordinate and de-conflict the various air missions over the battlefield before being eventually driven off by anti-aircraft fire from the Cuban relief column.

However, there is no model of the Cessna 185A available in 1/100th.  I was going to do a ‘fudge’ and instead use a Cessna O-1 Bird Dog (which looks vaguely similar, though has a rounded tail-fin), but then I noticed that Shapeways produce a 3D-printed Cessna 175… The Cessna 175 is essentially the same aircraft, though has a tricycle undercarriage arrangement, whereas the Cessna 185 has a ‘tail-dragger’ configuration which is better for rough-field operations.  I thought that conversion would be an easy process, so ordered the Shapeways Cessna 175…

Above:  This is how the model looks when it arrives from Shapeways.  It’s a single-piece 3D-printed model and very nicely produced.  I need to turn it from a tricycle-undercarriage configuration into a tail-dragger:

Above:  The first job is to cut some bits of brass wire to make the landing-gear struts and steal some spare wheels from another kit:

Above:  Then bend the ends of the wire at a 45-degree angle and superglue on the wheels:

Above:  Snip off the existing undercarriage, sand smooth and then drill holes for the new undercarriage just forward of the wing-strut roots. Also drill a hole under the tail for the tail-wheel:

Above:  Cut the brass wire struts to length and superglue ’em in the ‘oles. Also add a small piece of bent brass wire to form the tail-wheel strut:

Above:  Job jobbed! 🙂

Above:  Another view of the finished and painted Cessna.  I’m very pleased with it and to be honest, it’ll also pass muster as a Bosbok (below).

Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Cold War, Cold War - Angolan Border War, Painted Units | 2 Comments

NATO Helicopters of the 1980s

Lynx AH Mk 1

Everyone who wargames with model helicopters knows that the bloody things are too fragile to play wargames with, so I do wonder why I persist with collecting the bloody things… However, they do look damn good on the table, so I thought I’d better photograph them before they inevitably fall to bits!

So here are some helicopters from the NATO half of my 1980s Cold War collection, together with some of the historical and organisational guff:

British Army Air Corps

Two Lynx AH Mk 1 and a Gazelle AH Mk 1

Above: Kicking off with our own Army Air Corps (AAC), here’s an anti-tank helicopter (‘HELARM’) flight, consisting of two TOW-armed Lynx AH Mk 1 and a Gazelle AH Mk 1 light observation helicopter.  The ratio was also often reversed, with two Gazelles being teamed with one Scout or Lynx.  Note that in the British Army, the abbreviation ‘AH’ means ‘Army Helicopter’ and not ‘Attack Helicopter’.

The order of battle for the Army Air Corps of the 1980s is a confusing and constantly-moving document, but here’s a brief outline (bear in mind that squadrons often rotated through Northern Ireland and some had long detours to the Falkland Islands):

1 Regt AAC (1 Armoured Division) – 651 & 661 Sqns (plus 652 Sqn from 2 Regt 1983)

2 Regt AAC (2 Armoured Division) – 652 & 662 Sqns (2 Regt was disbanded in 1983 along with 2 Armoured Division and its squadrons split between 1 Regt & 3 Regt)

3 Regt AAC (3 Armoured Division) – 653 & 663 Sqns (plus 662 Sqn from 2 Regt 1983)

4 Regt AAC (4 Armoured Division) – 654 & 664 Sqns (664 Sqn transferred to 1 (Br) Corps HQ in 1983.  4 Regt was then reinforced by 659 & 669 Sqns from 9 Regt)

7 Regt AAC (UK) – 656 Sqn (assigned to 1 Brigade – UK Mobile Force), 658 Sqn (assigned to 5 Airborne Brigade), 666 (V) Sqns (assigned to UK Home Defence) & 2 Flt (assigned to ACE Mobile Force (Land) – Gazelle)

9 Regt AAC (UK) – 659 & 669 Sqns (9 Regt disbanded 1983 with Sqns transferred to 4 Regt.  9 Regt then reformed in 1989 to support 24 Airmobile Brigade with the newly-raised 672 Sqn and 3 Flt from Northern Ireland)

Northern Ireland Regt AAC (became 5 Regt in 1990) – 655 & 656 Sqns (655 Sqn to accompany 2 Infantry Division to reinforce BAOR from 1983), plus 1 Flt (Beaver AOP) and 3 Flt (Gazelle).

Independent AAC Units:
657 Sqn (assigned to 5 Field Force (which became 19 Infantry Brigade in 1983) as reinforcement to BAOR)
660 Sqn (Hong Kong & Brunei Garrison – Scout)
664 Sqn (transferred from 4 Regt to HQ 1 (Br) Corps in 1983 to support the Corps Covering Force – Gazelle)
670 & 671 Sqns (Training)
667 Sqn (reformed in 1989 from the Development & Training (D&T) Sqn)
7 Flt (Berlin Garrison – Gazelle)
8 Flt (Special Forces – Scout then Agusta A109 from 1982 (thanks Argentina!))
12 Flt (HQ BAOR – Gazelle)
16 Flt (Cyprus Garrison – Gazelle)
25 Flt (Belize Garrison – Gazelle)
29 (BATUS) Flt (Canada – Gazelle)
UNFICYP Flt (UN Mission Cyprus – Gazelle)

Anti-Tank Squadrons (numbered 651 to 659) were usually organised with 12x Lynx or Scout and 4x Gazelle, though some squadrons seem to have varied the numbers and ratios at various times.

Recce Squadrons (numbered 660 to 669, omitting 667 & 668) mostly had 12x Gazelle, though some squadrons occasionally added 4x Lynx.  However, there were some oddities: 660 Sqn in Hong Kong had 12x Scout and 666 (V) Sqn in the UK also had 12x Scout.

Lynx AH Mk 1

Above: A close-up of one of the Lynx.  The Lynx AH Mk 1 began replacing the  Scout AH Mk 1 in the anti-tank role from 1978, with most machines being delivered by 1983.  Lynx was officially fitted with 8x TOW missiles, though slow delivery meant that they weren’t actually fitted with TOW until around 1982!  651, 652 and 666 (V) Squadrons held on to their Scouts until the 1990s.  It was apparently a very quick and easy job to fit or remove the missiles and convert the Scout and/or Lynx from the Anti-Tank role to the Light Battlefield Helicopter (LBH) role (i.e. tactical transport) and vice versa.

Upgraded Lynx AH Mk 7 models were delivered from 1988.  These had a reinforced airframe, thermal imaging as standard, improved tail-rotor, improved avionics and enhanced defensive aids, though looked essentially the same as the Mk 1.  The missiles were also upgraded at around this time to Improved TOW (ITOW).  Many existing Lynx AH Mk 1s also received thermal imaging and ITOW at this time.  A third Army version, the Lynx AH Mk 9 (recognisable by its wheeled undercarriage) was just coming into service at the end of the 1980s to fill the LBH role with 672 Sqn in the newly-reformed 9 Regt AAC, supporting 24 Airmobile Brigade (armed with nothing heavier than a door gun).

The Lynx models here are 1/100th scale plastic kits by Team Yankee, while the Gazelle is a 1970s-vintage kit by Heller. The Lynx is a very nicely-detailed and robust kit, though like all Team Yankee helicopters, the windows are opaque and need to be painted in. Most people seem to use shades of sky-blue for this, but I prefer to use black, graduating up through gun metal to bright silver, topped off with a gloss varnish. As usual for Team Yankee models, the decals are terrible.

Gazelle AH Mk 1

Above: A close up of the Gazelle AH Mk 1.  The Gazelle was adopted by the AAC in 1974, replacing the Sioux AH Mk 1.  The Sioux had been completely retired from service by the 1980s.  As mentioned above, Gazelles were the mainstay of the AAC’s Reconnaissance Squadrons and Independent Flights throughout the 1980s, as well as providing an integral reconnaissance capability to Anti-Tank Squadrons, as well as performing liaison duties and functioning as artillery FOOs and Forward Air Controllers.  The Gazelle was also used by all three services for helicopter pilot training.

Despite a number of trials and despite other nations such as France arming their Gazelles, British Gazelles remained officially unarmed, though during the Falklands War, some were fitted as gunships with GPMGs and even 68mm SNEB rocket pods.  Some British Army Gazelles were eventually upgraded during the 1980s with thermal imaging sights, which greatly aided their recce role, though I don’t know how common this modification was.

This is a pretty good kit by Heller’s standards, though is quite fragile.  Team Yankee have since brought out a Gazelle in their Cold War French range (with options for HOT missiles or 20mm cannon), which looks to be far more robust for wargaming purposes.  The Heller kit only comes with French decals, so I’ve painted on the British Army markings.

Scout AH Mk 1

Above:  I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want and that’s a Westland Scout AH Mk 1 in 1/100th scale!  I live in eternal hope that Team Yankee or someone else might eventually produce one.  Pleeeeeease?!  🙁

As mentioned above, the Scout was primarily used in the anti-tank role, armed with four SS-11 missiles.  The SS-11 rig was apparently very easy to fit or remove and the Scout could therefore be rapidly changed from Anti-Tank to the LBH role and in the Falklands they were rapidly flipped back and forth between SS-11, troop transport and casevac missions.  651 and 652 Sqns kept their Scouts throughout the 1980s and as mentioned above the Scout was also used by 660 and 666 (V) Reconnaissance Squadrons, as well as by the independent 8 Flight AAC, which provided helicopter support to the SAS (8 Flt’s Scouts were replaced in 1982 by two captured Argentine Agusta 109s and two more purchased Agusta 109s).  The venerable Scout was finally retired in the mid-1990s when 666(V) Sqn was disbanded.

The RAF provided heavier battlefield helicopter support in the form of Wessex, Puma and Chinook helicopters and the Royal Navy would also provide Wessex and Sea King ‘Jungly’ troop transports for expeditionary operations.  There was also 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron, Royal Marines (mostly crewed by Royal Navy pilots), which had 12x Gazelle and 6x Scout (Lynx AH Mk 1 replacing Scout after the Falklands War of 1982).  I do actually have an RAF Westland Wessex HC Mk 2 tactical transport helicopter, which is a repainted Italeri die-cast model (it was originally an RAF Royal Flight machine in bright red livery).  However, the very fragile plastic undercarriage is catastrophically broken and needs extensive repair, 🙁

Canadian Forces

CH-136 Kiowa

Above: The CH-136 Kiowa was a Canadian licence-built version of the Bell 206 (known in US military service as the OH-58A Kiowa) and was used by the Canadian Forces from 1971 onward.  These were primarily used as unarmed scout and liaison helicopters, though some were fitted during the 1980s with 7.62mm Miniguns, giving them a limited attack or anti-helicopter capability.

The only permanently-assigned Canadian helicopter squadron in Europe was 444 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, which was assigned to 1 Air Division at CFB Lahr in West Germany and was tasked with supporting 4 Canadian Mechanised Brigade Group.  444 Sqn had 6x CH-136 Kiowa for reconnaissance & liaison and 6x CH-135 Twin Huey (Bell 212 or UH-1N Iroquois) for tactical transport.  Canada had no attack helicopter capability and would therefore have to rely on higher-level helicopter support from NATO allies such as the USA or West Germany.

408 Sqn helicopters over Rockies. CH-136 Kiowa and CH-135 Twin Huey.

In Canada itself, all helicopters were assigned to 10 Tactical Air Group.  Three squadrons were organised identically to 444 Sqn with a mix of CH-135 and CH-136 and were similarly tasked with supporting ground formations: 408 Sqn was assigned to 1 Canadian Brigade Group, 430 Sqn was assigned to 5 Groupe-Brigade du Canada and 427 Sqn was assigned to the Special Service Force.  400, 401, 411 & 438 Sqns were made up of Reservists and only had 6x Kiowas apiece.  403 Sqn was the primary helicopter training squadron and had 6x CH-135, 6x CH-136 and 6x CH-118 Iroquois (Bell 205 or UH-1H Iroquois).  Lastly, 447 and 450 Sqns were transport squadrons with 4x CH-147 Chinook apiece, though 450 Sqn also had 6x CH-135 Twin Huey.

Bell 206 variants were widely exported and were also built under licence in Italy as the Agusta-Bell 206.  They were used by several NATO nations and many other countries, so it’s a shame that there is basically only one rather poor model available in anything near 1/100th scale; namely the ‘Pocket Pak’ OH-58A Kiowa kit by Entex.  In fact it’s a bit on the small side, being more like 1/110th scale, but looks the part.  I’ve upgraded it with a spare Minigun taken from the Team Yankee M113 APC pack.

The Entex kit’s cockpit canopy is moulded in a horrible bright green clear plastic that just looks awful, so I painted over it in the same manner as the opaque canopies.  The side-door windows and the windows in the underside of the nose are opaque in any case, so need to be painted in.

West German Heeresflieger

West German MBB-105P PAH-1s Support Danish Recce


Above: A pair of West German Army MBB-105P PAH-1 anti-tank helicopters support a Danish reconnaissance unit against a Warsaw Pact advance through Schleswig.  The Danes had extremely limited helicopter support during the 1980s; only a single squadron of unarmed OH-6 Cayuse light observation helicopters (currently awaiting painting!), so would rely upon German and other NATO helicopters to provide helicopter anti-tank capability.

West German MBB-105P PAH-1

Above: The MBB-105 was by far the most common helicopter in West German service during the 1980s, having started replacing the venerable Alouette II during the 1970s.  There were two main versions used by the Bundeswehr; the unarmed MBB-105CB VBH (VBH meaning Verbindungshubschrauber or ‘Liaison Helicopter’) and the HOT ATGM-armed MBB-105P PAH-1 (PAH meaning Panzerabwehrhubschrauber or ‘Anti-Tank Helicopter’).

The PAH-1 variant, armed with 6x HOT missiles, was actually only meant to be an interim version until a ‘proper’ attack helicopter could be produced.  While the basic MBB-105 was an excellent light battlefield helicopter, the PAH-1 lacked defensive aids and thermal sights for night-fighting.  However, the European Tiger attack helicopter didn’t appear until the late 1990s, so the PAH-1 soldiered on well into the 21st Century.  It was however, upgraded during the 1980s to PAH-1A1 standard with the adoption of HOT 2 missiles.

The models here are very nice, robust plastic models by Team Yankee. However, like all Team Yankee helicopter kits, the windows are opaque and need to be painted.  Like all West German vehicles and helicopters, the MBB-105s were initially painted in a plain, standard NATO ‘Yellow Olive’ scheme, with yellow bands around the tail-boom, large German crosses and ‘HEER’ in large, white letters on the side.  However, they switched during the 1980s to this camouflage scheme consisting of black and quite a bright shade of green, with far less visible markings.  However, some items such as the HOT missile sighting-unit above the cockpit and the HOT tubes remained painted in yellow-olive.  The decals are as supplied by Team Yankee and are bloody awful; I basically had to glue them on using varnish!

If you want to do the VBH version, leave off the missile tubes (obviously) and the missile-sight box and then blank off the hole where the missile sight should go with filler or plasticard.  However, the Germans weren’t as keen as the British and Americans on unarmed scouts, so the VBH machines were mainly just used for liaison purposes and therefore fall largely outside the scope of a wargame.  However, I do have one here somewhere, being a re-painted die-cast Italian Police MBB-105 by Italeri.  Another die-cast MBB-105 was converted into a PAH-1.

West German UH-1D

Each of the three West German Army Corps had an Army Aviation Command (Heeresfliegerkommando), consisting of three Regiments.  One regiment in the command had 56x MBB-105P PAH-1 anti-tank helicopters (during the early 1980s some units still had Alouette II, equipped with SS-11 missiles), a second regiment had 48x UH-1D utility helicopters and the third had 32x CH-53G heavy transport helicopters.  Each of these regiments also had 5x Liaison Helicopters (either MBB-105CB VBH or Alouette II VBH) and there were another 15x VBH in each Aviation Command HQ squadron.

Each Division and Corps HQ also had a liaison squadron equipped with 10x MBB-105CB VBH or Alouette II VBH.  These HQ liaison squadrons were the last gasp of the Alouette II in front-line German service, with some surviving into the 1990s.

The majority of German Territorial Commands did not have helicopters permanently assigned.  However, the Schleswig-Holstein Territorial Command was the exception, as it was a very different organisation containing regular units and operating independently of the rest of the Bundeswehr north of the Elbe, under command of the Danish-led LANDJUT Command.  It therefore had a single mixed Aviation Regiment with 21x PAH-1, 24x UH-1D and 15x VBH.

This model above is a Revell 1/100th UH-1H model, which is visually identical to the UH-1D (the differences were internal, namely a different engine).

I was going to waffle on about the Americans and Belgians, but this post is long enough, so I’ll leave that for next time!  Here’s a taster…


Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Cold War, Cold War - NATO Armies, Painted Units | 7 Comments

American War of Independence Action

As previously mentioned, in 2005 we suddenly decided to do ‘something in 28mm’.  By fate, a couple of random packs of Foundry AWI figures fell into my possession and my mate Eclaireur released his excellent British Grenadier! rules for the period.  To cap it all, the Perry Brothers chose this moment to release the first few packs of their superb AWI range, so that was settled…

Six months later in January 2006 we decided to stick everything we’d painted on to table for a random club-night game at WASP in Pembroke Dock.  I’d forgotten about this game until I found the photos today.  The scenario was unhistorical, but was loosely based on Cornwallis’ flank attack at the Battle of the Brandywine, which we later played as a proper historical scenario.

Above: The British Army advances onto the field.  It must perform a river-crossing under artillery fire, before deploying to assault the main Rebel position.  The British generals are by Foundry, with staff officers by Perry.

Above: A battalion of the Hessian Grenadier Brigade approaches the ford.  Perry Miniatures from my collection.

Above: The British 1st Grenadier Battalion (Foundry) and the 17th Light Dragoons (Perry) have crossed the river and deploy into line.  The Grenadiers open their files in order to reduce the effects of enemy fire.  All from my collection.

Above: Hessian Jaegers run forward in skirmish order to oppose the Rebel skirmishers.  Perry Miniatures from my collection.

Above: The Hessian Jaegers and Rebel Militia start to take long-range pot-shots at each other across the fence-line.

Above: On the far flank, the British Guards Brigade and the 23rd Foot (Royal Welch Fusiliers), resplendent in their Prince of Wales’ Feathers, engage the Rebel skirmish-line.  The British are from my collection and the Rebels are from Jase’s – all Perry Miniatures.

Above: The Rebel army waits to receive the hated oppressor.  The infantry at this end of the line are by Perry, while the general, the Militia skirmishers and the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons are by Foundry.  All from my collection.

Above: A pair of Rebel regiments wait in reserve.  These are Foundry figures and I seem to remember that these were among the first I painted.

Above: The main Rebel line.  In the foreground the German Continental Regiment (Perry) guards the flank of an artillery battery (Foundry, as is the general) and beyond them another brigade of Continentals (Foundry, from Jase’s collection) supports a thick line of skirmishers (Perry, also Jase’s).

Above: The right flank of the main Rebel line.  Two regiments of Continentals (Perry) flank a battery of artillery (Foundry).  In the distance a British brigade has pushed back the Rebel skirmishers and has crossed the fence to close with the Rebel line.

Above: Another view of Jase’s troops on the Rebel left (mostly Foundry).

Above: As British artillery deploys in support and a huge column of British infantry follows up, the Hessian Grenadiers cross the river and deploy into line.  All from my collection – the Hessians are Perry Miniatures and the rest are Foundry.  The Hessian general is a SYW Prussian figure by Front Rank.

Above: As the Hessians complete their deployment into line, the British 1st Light Battalion (Foundry), with a company of the green-coated Queen’s Rangers in support (Perry), moves forward in open order.

Above: On the British right flank, the Guards get stuck into the Rebels!

Above: Sadly the last picture.  As the British line infantry starts to form a second line at the ford, the Elite Corps storms the fence-line.  The Hessian Jaegers have charged the Rebel Militia skirmishers, while in the foreground the 17th Light Dragoons move forward to charge the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons.  The British Grenadiers and Light Infantry meanwhile, have closed ranks before initiating their own charge, in concert with a battalion of Hessians on their right.


Most of the terrain was scratch-built by the supremely talented Martin Small.

Posted in 28mm Figures, American War of Independence, British Grenadier! Rules (AWI), Eighteenth Century, Games | Leave a comment

Some Angola Air Support


In November I’ll be doing my first show demo-game for many years at Warfare 2019 in Reading.  My original plan was to do a large ‘Cold War Hot’ game based on the book ‘First Clash’ by Kenneth Macksey (the Canadian 4th Mechanised Brigade defending against overwhelming numbers of Soviets), but I left it too late to apply for the show, so was restricted to a relatively small table.  So what to do…?

As it happens, I’ve had a semi-written small(ish) scenario kicking around on my hard-drive for 15 years or so based on the controversial Cassinga Raid by South African paratroops into Angola in 1978.  I already have most of the models required (either already built and painted or waiting to be), though what I need most is 1/100th Puma helicopters (I need 4-6 of them for the game and only had one), so I’ve spent the last few months scouring the internet for old Heller or Roskopf Puma kits.  By the power of eBay have thus far built my stock up to three Pumas.  Though with time getting short, I might have to opt for the final resort – the resin/metal Puma model by QRF.

So please let me know if you have any unwanted Heller or Roskopf 1/100th Pumas sitting around in your collection!  It’s a seller’s market…

Anyway, I recently painted the Pumas and a Transall transport aircraft for the game and it was a lovely day, so I took them outside to photograph them.  I also decided to photograph some of my pre-existing aircraft for the Angolan Border War, as they were all in the same box:

SAAF C-160Z Transall

Above: The C-160 Transall is a 1960s-vintage Franco-German tactical transport aircraft that is presently being replaced by A-400M Atlas and C-130J Hercules in those nations’ air forces.  It was also used by the Turkish and South African Air Forces.  The SAAF’s No. 28 Sqn operated both C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall and used both types to deliver the paratroops to Cassinga.  Two C-160s remained airborne during the battle, carrying a reinforced reserve para company, which would be dropped to reinforce the main force, as required.  In the event they weren’t used, but remain an option for the scenario.  This model will also serve as a bit of eye-candy on the table and should (hopefully) make it immediately apparent that we’re playing an airborne scenario.

This is a bloody awful 1/100th kit by Revell (would the inclusion of locating lugs have been so bad, Mr Revell??!!!).  The supplied decals are German and French, so I’ve used the SAAF roundels from the Tamiya Buccaneer model.  Thankfully SAAF markings were usually very sparse during the Angola War.

Luftwaffe C-160 Transall at RAF Brawdy 1979

As it happens, the C-160 was the very first aircraft that a young JF set foot on board – at the RAF Brawdy air show in 1979.  The Luftwaffe had a permanent presence at RAF Brawdy in Pembrokeshire, supporting the panzer training unit at Castlemartin Range (they didn’t have anywhere in West Germany where they could fire the full range of tank ammunition) and C-160s were almost always present on the ground at Brawdy or flying overhead.  They always put on a superb display, demonstrating their very impressive STOL capability – landing on a sixpence, coming to a stop almost immediately and taking off again, seemingly vertically.  They’d also always have one open for the vistitors to walk through and for the young JF to sit in the cocpkit and make aeroplane noises…

Some things never change…

SAAF SA-330 Pumas

Above: The SAAF’s French-built SA-330 Puma helicopters were ubiquitous throughout the Border War as their standard workhouse tactical transport helicopter.  At Cassinga a total of thirteen Pumas and six Super Frelons were used for the operation, with twelve of the Pumas actually going in to extract the paras (doing so while under fire from Cuban T-34 tanks).  Although now retired from SAAF service, a few ex-SAAF Pumas are still flying with the RAF, who bought them to keep the RAF’s Puma force up to strength following the heavy demands of Iraq and Afghanistan on the RAF’s Puma fleet.

These models are ok-ish models of 1970s vintage by Heller (Roskopf apparently used a re-tooled version of the same kit).  My main criticism is that the rotors and particularly the rotor-head are bloody awful.  The kit only came with French markings, so again I’ve stolen some Tamiya Buccaneer roundels.

They’re flying over some SADF Ratel and Buffel APCs by QRF, plus an Ystervark AA vehicle that was converted by my good mate Martin Small from a Peter Pig Bulldog APC (he also designed the Buffel APC model for QRF).

SAAF Buccaneer S Mk 50

Above: The Buccaneer S Mk 50 was the export version of the superlative British low-level naval strike-fighter.  The SAAF was the Buccaneer’s only non-British user and only operated a single squadron of them, namely No. 24 Sqn.  The original 16 aircraft were steadily whittled down by accidents and maintenance problems caused by anti-Apartheid sanctions, so only six or so operated over Angola.  Five saw action at Cassinga; both in the initial pre-operation bombing and in close air support missions (mainly using rockets) during the battle itself and especially in response to the Cuban armoured counter-attack.

The Buccaneers were eventually withdrawn from operations over Angola to be re-roled as nuclear strike bombers, carrying South Africa’s highly-secret and home-grown nuclear weapons.

This is an excellent 1/100th kit by Tamiya.  The kit does include decals for the early SAAF maritime strike role, though over Angola they converted to the drab scheme shown here, almost devoid of markings (wreckage of downed aircraft showing clear national markings were highly prized as propaganda pieces).

SAAF Mirage F1CZ

Above: The Mirage F1 was the mainstay of the SAAF’s fast-jet force during the late 1970s and 1980s.  The SAAF used two versions – the F1CZ air defence fighter (of which there were 16) and the F1AZ ground-attack variant (32 aicraft).  These weren’t used at Cassinga (the delta-winged Mirage IIICZ was, however), though saw extensive action throughout the 1980s.

There is no commercially-available model of the Mirage F1 in 1/100th scale, so Martin scratch-built this model using the fuselage of a Tamiya Mirage III as the basis, with wings and tailplane added from plasticard.  I decided to add markings to this one (again from a Tamiya Buccaneer), as while many were unmarked, there is the odd photo of marked F1s operating in the theatre.

SAAF Impala Mk II (MB-326K)

Above: The Impala Mk II (also known as the MB-326K) was a single-seat light ground-attack version of the twin-seat Impala Mk I trainer, which was itself a licence-built version of the Italian Aermacchi MB-326M.  The SAAF operated 73 Impala Mk II, as well as 125 Impala Mk I and 62 Italian-built MB-326M.  These little aircraft were excellent counter-insurgency machines supporting operations against SWAPO-PLAN guerrillas, though also repeatedly proved themselves to be capable against even Angolan and Cuban regulars supported by extensive Soviet-supplied AAA and SAMs.  Their relatively low speed and extreme low-level capability also made them deadly against Angolan and Cuban helicopters.  However, the increasing capability of Soviet-supplied fighter and SAM defences meant that the Impalas had to be withdrawn from the campaign in 1987.

There is no model of the Impala Mk II, Impala Mk I or MB-326 available in 1/100th scale, so this is actually an Italeri 1/100th die-cast model of the very similar Aermacchi MB-339, which is an advanced version of the same airframe.  The nose of the MB-339 is considerably pointier than the rounded nose of the MB-326/Impala, so Martin remodelled the nose.  I then painted out the rear half of the canopy to make it look more like a single-seat Impala Mk II.  For the purists, the MB-339 has twin ventral fins underneath the tail, which aren’t a feature of the MB-326, but as it’s a die-cast model they’re impossible to cut off!

I’ve got another one of these models in reserve that I’ll eventually paint up as an Argentine MB-326 for the Falklands War.


Above: One of the more interesting developments during the Angolan Border War and a sign of Things to Come in modern warfare, was the development and employment of unmanned surveillance drones, in particular the Seeker UAV (and a precursor design known as the Gharr), which were developed with covert, sanctions-busting Israeli support.

These were unarmed, but were able to provide live TV pictures and allied to South Africa’s truly astonishing long-range artillery systems, these UAVs proved to be worth their weight in gold and made a lot of other countries (particularly the USA) sit up and take notice of the capabilities of UAV technology on the battlefield (bear in mind that at this time the British Army’s UAV was armed with ‘wet’ camera film that would have to be recovered and developed).  Their small size, low radar cross-section and low infra-red signature also made them extremely difficult to shoot down and on the Lomba River in 1987 the Angolans fired literally dozens of SA-7, SA-8, Sa-9, SA-14 and SA-16 missiles, as well as thousands of rounds of 14.5mm and 23mm AAA at one without effect.

This model was completely scratch-built by Martin.


Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Cold War, Cold War - Angolan Border War, Painted Units | 4 Comments

“Beware of the Leopard!” (Part 2) – West German Panzers of the 1980s

West German Leopard 1A1A2s

One of the perennial problems with historical wargaming, particularly when researching a particular army for a specific battle or timeframe, is finding out exactly who was using what and when.  In the Industrial Age, it becomes much more than just a matter of troop-types and uniforms, as we now have thousands of bits of technology, from infantry weapons to artillery, vehicles, tanks and aircraft to worry about, not to mention all the various sub-types, upgrades, introduction dates and retirement dates for all the different bits and pieces.

All of this can be quite overwhelming for a newcomer to a period and it can be quite frustrating when you’re excited to start a period, but don’t know which models to buy.  It gets even more frustrating when you buy models, only to find that you’ve got the wrong ones for your chosen unit, period or theatre of war…

However, some of us are afflicted with OCD when it comes to such things and we like putting together lists… Max Wünderlich in particular has devoted an enormous amount of time and research in determining exactly which units in the West German Bundeswehr were using which type of tank and when during the Cold War and has produced this wunderbar table, showing exactly which West German units were using which type of tank.  The full table, showing German tank equipment going back to 1964 can be found on the Battlefront: WW2 Orders of Battle page here.  It deserves a wider audience, so here’s the condensed 1980s section:


Cross-reference the units on the left, with the year at the top.  M48s are in red, cast-turret Leopard 1s (1A1, 1A2 & 1A5) are in yellow, welded-turret Leopard 1s (1A3 & 1A4) are in orange, Leopard 2s are in green and those units saddled with the Kanonenjagdpanzer are in blue.

Panzer Types of the 1980s

Kampfpanzer M48A2C

The last of these venerable tanks were still hanging on into the early 1980s; mainly in Heimatchütz (Home Guard) Brigades, where they had replaced the Kanonenjagdpanzer in Brigade Jagdpanzer Companies and Battalion Jagdpanzer Platoons, before being upgraded in turn to Kampfpanzer M48A2GA2 standard.

A few M48A2C were also converted into Pionierpanzer M48s with the addition of a dozer-blade, as an interim engineering vehicle while the Bundeswehr awaited deliveries of Pionierpanzer Leopard.  In this configuration the 90mm main gun was often (though not always) removed.

This is a Skytrex M48 Patton, modelled by Martin Small and painted by me.

Kampfpanzer M48A2GA2

The venerable M48A2C was showing its age by the late 1970s and was wholly outclassed by modern Soviet tanks such as the T-64 and T-72.  Although the M48A2C had largely been replaced in German service by Leopard 1 variants (and Leopard 2 was in the pipeline), there was still a need for armoured tank-destroyers in the Heimatchütz  Brigades, as most of their elderly Kanonenjagdpanzer had been converted to Raketenjagdpanzer Jaguar and to mortar OP vehicles.  M48s would fit the bill for that task, though even in that role, they would need upgrading.

Most remaining West German M48s therefore went through an upgrade programme from 1978 to 1980, with the new version being designated as the Kampfpanzer M48A2GA2.  In this version, the 90mm gun was replaced by the British L7 105mm gun, the fire control system was improved, passive night vision equipment was installed and the commander’s cupola (which on the old M48 was like an additional turret) was replaced by a low-profile version, mounting a 7.62mm MG in place of the Browning .50-Cal.  This new version was very similar to the M48A5 used by a lot of NATO allies.

The model here is a Skytrex M48 Patton, extensively converted by Martin Small and painted by me.

Kampfpanzer Leopard 1

Leopard 1A0

No 1960s-vintage baseline-model Leopard 1 (sometimes known as the Leopard 1A0 to distinguish it from later upgraded models) were still serving with the Bundeswehr by 1980.

Kampfpanzer Leopard 1A1

Leopard 1A1A2

The first upgraded Leopard 1 models began appearing during the late 1960s and were designated as Leopard 1A1.  This upgraded model included improved gun-stabilisation and fire-control, a thermal sleeve for the gun-barrel and the iconic ‘saw-tooth’ Leopard side-skirts.  However, as can be seen on Max’s chart above, this model was very rare in the early 1980s, being quickly replaced by upgraded models.

Leopard 1A1A1 – The Leopard 1A1 still suffered from painfully-thin armour, so an upgrade programme was instigated in the early 1970s, adding rubber-composite appliqué armour to the turret sides and a new spaced armour mantlet, bringing the armour protection up to the same standard as the Leopard 1A2, 1A3 and 1A4.  This was by far the most common Leopard variant in service with the Bundeswehr during the 1980s.

Leopard 1A1A2 – This further modification of the 1A1A1 model during the 1980s added PZB200 image-intensifiers, which were being cascaded down from Leopard 2s, which were themselves being upgraded.

Leopard 1A1A3 – These were Leopard 1A1A1s which had been upgraded with digital radios.

Leopard 1A1A4 – These were Leopard 1A1A1s which had been upgraded with both the PZB200 image-intensifier of the 1A1A2 and the digital radios of the 1A1A3.

Note that a lot of the Leopard 1A1A1s listed on the chart above, particularly in the second half of the decade, were probably 1A1A3 or 1A1A4.

The model above is a plastic Leopard 1A1A2 by Team Yankee, assembled and painted by me.  For reasons known only to the lads at Team Yankee, they picked the Leopard 1A3/1A4 as their ‘standard’ German Leopard 1 model, even though the Leopard 1A1A1/1A1A2 was far more common.  Thankfully, the parts included in the Team Yankee Leopard 1 box allow you to build a perfect Leopard 1A1A1 or 1A1A2 from the parts supplied for the Dutch Leopard 1-V.  Use the searchlight box for the 1A1A1 or the caged image-intensifier for the 1A1A2.  Additionally, QRF produce a metal Leopard that is perfect for the basic Leopard 1A1 without the additional armour (or for the later 1A2).

Kampfpanzer Leopard 1A2

Leopard 1A2

Although it looked identical to the Leopard 1A1, the Leopard 1A2 addressed the issue of armour-protection by having thicker turret armour included in the design.  It did not therefore require the additional armour package used on the 1A1A1 and subsequent upgraded 1A1 models.  All other features were exactly the same as the 1A1.  The Leopard 1A2s were therefore the only ‘smooth’ cast-turreted Leopard 1s in service from 1981 onward, once all the 1A1s had been up-armoured.

The Leopard 1A2 variants were fairly rare in German service, being mainly grouped within the 18th Panzer Brigade (6th Panzergrenadier Division) in Schleswig-Holstein (part of the Danish-led ‘LANDJUT’ Command).

Leopard 1A2A1 – As with the 1A1A2, this model was upgraded with hand-me-down PZB200 image-intensifiers from Leopard 2s.

Leopard 1A2A2 – As with the 1A1A3, this model was upgraded with digital radios.

Leopard 1A2A3 – As with the 1A1A4, this model had both the PZB200 image-intensifier and digital radios.

As mentioned above, QRF produce a Leopard 1A1/1A2 model.

Kampfpanzer Leopard 1A3

Leopard 1A2 (left) and Leopard 1A3 (right)

The Leopard 1A3 model first appeared in 1973 and introduced a completely new, ‘square’ welded turret which had the same level of armour protection as the 1A1A1 or 1A2, but with considerably more interior space and overall better protection for the crew.  This model’s capabilities were essentially the same as the 1A1 and 1A2, with the addition of an improved commander’s independent sight.

The Leopard 1A3 was fairly rare in West German service, being grouped along with all the 1A4 models in the 10th Panzer Division.

Leopard 1A3A1 – As with the 1A1A2 and 1A2A1, this model was upgraded with hand-me-down PZB200 image-intensifiers from Leopard 2s.

Leopard 1A3A2 – As with the 1A1A3 and 1A2A2, this model was upgraded with digital radios.

Leopard 1A3A3 – As with the 1A1A4 and 1A2A3, this model had both the PZB200 image-intensifier and digital radios.

Although I haven’t built any German Leopard 1A3s yet, Team Yankee and QRF both produce models of the Leopard 1A3.  PSC do a Leopard ‘1A3/1A4’, but the large periscopic commander’s sight pegs it more as a 1A4.

Kampfpanzer Leopard 1A4

Leopard 1A4

The Leopard 1A4 first appeared in 1974 and was a further improvement of the Leopard 1A3, sharing its distinctive ‘square’ welded turret.  The fire-control system of the 1A4 was now governed by an advanced (for the 1970s!) electronic computer and the commander now had a passive night-vision independent sight (the large ‘periscope’ of which being the main recognition feature of the 1A4).

There were no sub-variants of the Leopard 1A4.

As mentioned above, PSC produce a model Leopard ‘1A3/1A4’, but the large periscopic commander’s sight pegs it as a 1A4.

Kampfpanzer Leopard 1A5

With the slow production of Leopard 2 variants during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Bundeswehr had an urgent need to upgrade their existing stock of Leopard 1s; particularly the large numbers of elderly 1A1 variants still in service.  This major upgrade included a new advanced fire-control system developed from that of the Leopard 2, incorporating thermal sights, a laser-rangefinder and the capability to fire APFSDS ammunition.  Internally the ammunition storage was all moved into the turret-rear and the gun mantlet was adapted to allow a possible future upgrade to a 120mm gun (though this later option was never adopted).

The first Leopard 1A5 rolled out in 1987 and eight brigades had converted by the end of the 1980s.  The Leopard 1A5 was widely exported from the 1990s and eventually became virtually  the ‘standard’ Leopard 1.

The above model was converted by me from the Team Yankee Leopard 1-V model simply by adding a box in front of the commander’s hatch to represent the thermal sight and by cutting off the ‘knobs’ for the coincidence-rangefinder lenses.

Kampfpanzer Leopard 2

The first Leopard 2 tanks were delivered to 9th Panzer Brigade (3rd Panzer Division) in late 1979 and represented a quantum-leap in capability when compared to the Leopard 1 or M48.  The new tank had a 120mm gun, a gun-stabiliser fitted as standard, an advanced ballistic computer, a laser-rangefinder, considerably better armour protection than the Leopard 1 and yet had mobility equal to that of the sprightly Leopard 1, despite the 50% increase in weight over the Leopard 1.

The first batch of Leopard 2 (later referred to as the Leopard 2A0 to distinguish it from the 2A1 and later models) were meant to be fitted with thermal sights, though many were in fact fitted with inferior PZB200 image-intensifiers.

Leopard 2A1 – These models, delivered from 1982 to 1983, had thermal commanders’ and gunners’ sights fitted as standard, as well as improved ammunition stowage and other minor changes.

Leopard 2A2 – These were the original 2A0 models upgraded from 1984 to 1987 to 2A1 standard and also incorporating other minor upgrades.  The removed PZB200 image-intensifiers were cascaded down to the Leopard 1 fleet.

Leopard 2A3 – These were delivered from 1984 to 1985 and incorporated digital radios and other minor changes.

Leopard 2A4 – This was the most significant upgraded model of Leopard 2 to appear during the 1980s and became the most widespread version.  The 2A4 included a new digital fire-control computer, a further increase in armour protection and an advanced fire-suppression system.

The model above is a plastic kit by Team Yankee, assembled and painted by me.  QRF also produce a 1980s-vintage Leopard 2 in metal.  There are no noticeable visual differences between the five early versions listed above, so the same models can be used for all variants.

Kanonenjagdpanzer 4-5

OK, it’s not a tank, but it is listed on Max’s chart above and was replaced by M48 and Leopard 1 tanks in the same units, so is worth mentioning here.  The Kanonenjagdpanzer 4-5 was a self-propelled 90mm anti-tank gun employed in the Jagdpanzer Companies of Heimatchütz Brigades and the Jagdpanzer Platoons of Heimatchütz Battalions.

In most cases these were replaced during the early 1980s by M48 or Leopard 1 tanks, but they remained in use with the 23rd Mountain Brigade until the 1990s.  Most redundant Jagdpanzer hulls were converted into Jaguar ATGM vehicles, but some were converted to become OP vehicles for the 120mm mortar companies in Panzergrenadier Battalions (see below).

The model above is a metal model by QRF.  The OP vehicle below is an ancient and long out-of-production plastic model by Roskopf with the gun removed and blanked off and a periscopic sight added.

Posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Cold War, Cold War - NATO Armies, Painted Units | Leave a comment