By James E. Meldrum

BattlePlan #9

One new feature that is beginning to show up in recent NATO-Soviet wargames is the U.S. Army’s new Air Land Battle doctrine. Omega Games’ new AirLand Battle is perhaps the first such game to examine how the new U.S. Army doctrine works. This change in tactics helps to produce a game which plays differently than most other contemporary wargames that still simulate the U.S. Army’s "active defense" doctrine of the 1970s (which emphasized that U.S. and NATO forces should meet advancing Soviet forces, force them to deploy, and then retreat after the Soviet forces are weakened). When Soviet forces were sufficiently weakened, massive counterattacks would be launched that would result in the destruction of the invading forces. AirLand Battle simulates tactics (by the same name) that would utilize airborne units together with deep strike air and artillery strikes that would enable NATO forces to defend forward areas without retreating and, at the same time, prevent Soviet second echelon forces from entering the battle.

The most commonly encountered Soviet forces in AirLand Battle are Soviet Armies (actually corps sized formations) composed of tank and mechanized rifle units. Resisting these formations is a U.S. corps composed of armored and mechanized infantry together with its supporting formations. Granted, this is the kind of situation that is most likely to occur in a future conflict, but there are other kinds of units that are not included in the game that would also be used as part of the AirLand Battle plan as well.

The objective of this variant is to experiment with different U.S. Army formations and examine how they would fit into the AirLand Battle concept. Obviously, there are other units that could be used besides the usual armored and mechanized divisions; these units include the new light infantry divisions, airmobile divisions like the 101st Air Assault Division, and a tri-cap division.

All of these units are extra and must be made by the players. Each of the units in the variant U.S. divisions presented in this article uses the same strengths and factors as the regular units given on the Unit Status Charts. These units are either substituted into the regular scenarios or are used as reinforcements in some of the regular scenarios in place of the armored and mechanized divisions that would normally be used. Unless otherwise mentioned, all game rules and scenario special rules are in effect.

The first variant to be used is Infantry Division "X". This division is intended to represent one of the new light infantry divisions. It consists of two (2) light infantry brigades, one (1) mechanized infantry brigade, an attack helicopter unit (as found in an armoured division), and a "DivArty" and "DivHq" unit. All artillery is considered to be towed.

Another division that could participate in an AirLand Battle like that simulated in the game is an airmobile division that will be called Airmobile Division "Y". This division is intended to represent the U.S. Army’s 101st Air Assault Division and consists of: three (3) light infantry brigades, one (1) cavalry unit, and one (1) attack helicopter unit (like that found in armored division), and one (1) each of transport helicopter, "DivArty" and "DivHq" units. Players should attach up to three transport helicopter units to this formation. All artillery is considered to be towed.

The last kind of division to be introduced is the "tri-cap" division, to be known as Tri-Cap Division "T". The tri-cap division is included in this variant as an experiment. Historically, the tri-cap concept was abandoned by the U.S. Army in the mid 1970s. The U.S. Army believed that such a unit was too specialized since it could only be used in counterattacks, could not hold ground, and was too prone to attrition. Including this unit as a variant unit gives players a chance to see how a tri-cap division would fare in battle, and a chance to see if the U.S. Army made a wise decision.

Historically, a tri-cap division was supposed to consist of one (1) of the following units: light infantry brigade, armored brigade, attack helicopter brigade (like that used as a corps unit), MLRS unit, "DivArty", "DivHq", and two (2) transport helicopter units. All artillery except the MLRS is towed.

When using the tri-cap division in any scenario, the U.S player must bring the units of this division onto the map in a certain order. First, the attack helicopter and transport helicopter units carrying the infantry brigade and "DivHq" units must enter the map from a designated map edge. Then,, 2 turns later, all remaining units must enter play from the same map edge that the initial units entered from. As an example, if the first group of tri-cap units entered on turn 1, the second group of units would enter on turn 3.

The variant U.S. units in this article are intended to be either substituted into, or added to the scenarios in AirLand Battle. Perhaps the most obvious scenario that these units could be used in is the introductory scenario, where one of these units may be used in place of U.S. Division "A".

In the main effort scenario the U.S. player has the option of substituting one unit of his choice for either division "A" or "M". As a further option, both divisions "A" and "M" could be replaced with two variant units of the U.S. player’s choice. One such possibel scenario could have divisions "A" and "M" replaced by the airmobile and tri-cap divisions to examine how U.S. airborne forces might be able to do against an advancing Soviet Army. This situation could also be played in the secondary and/or supporting effort scenarios.

Another possibility for the main effort scenarios is to use one of the U.S. units presented in this article as a reinforcement arriving on any turn starting with game turn 7. When playing this particular variant, the Soviet force oriented victory conditions should be reduced by one to keep game balance.

For the secondary and supporting effort scenarios, try substituting any one division given is this article for either division "A" or "M", as in the main effort scenario. Another possibility is to substitute variant units foe either one of the U.S. divisions arriving as reinforcements. If this is done, reduce the force oriented victory conditions for the Soviets in order to maintain game balance.

When playing the counterattack scenario, the U.S. player may either substitute units for divisions "A", "M", or "R". Another possibility is to substitute one variant division for Division "P" arriving as a reinforcement. The U.S. player also has the option of adding one variant division per day on days 3-7. The U.S. player decides which units will enter play on which days. When this is done, all Soviet force oriented victory conditions are reduced to maintain play balance. The counterattack scenario provides an excellent experimental vehicle with which to determine how a tri-cap division might perform its intended mission.