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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fight Outnumbered and Win - The U.S. Army in Team Yankee’s Stripes

By Tom Burgess

The 1980’s were an amazing decade for the U.S. Army. Through these years the U.S. Army went through incredible changes in doctrine, organization, and equipment in order to better confront the Soviet hordes that were poised to surge across the Iron Curtain into Western Europe. The new Team Yankee intelligence briefing “Stripes,” tries to represent the U.S. Army right in the middle of this decade of massive modernization and expansion.

During the 80’s, “AirLand Battle” became the new operating concept for the U.S. Army. This concept would rely more on fast and mobile counterattacks rather than simple static positions. The mantra for this new U.S. Army operating concept was “Fight Outnumbered and Win.” To do this, the U.S. Army would require better equipment to out-tech the East Block opponents the U.S. Army Would face. Chief among these was the “Big Five;” the M1 Abrams tank, the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), the AH-64 Apache helicopter, the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, and the Patriot air defense missile system. These were not the only new pieces of kit the U.S. Army would field during this period. The ubiquitous jeep was replaced by the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), the shoulder fired anti-air missile replaced the older Redeye systems, and the Multiple Rocket Launcher Rocket System (MRLS) joined division and corps level artillery units.

There would also be significant changes to U.S .Army Organizations. Under the “Division-86” plan, tank battalions would go from three to four companies, but the tank platoons in those companies would go from five to four tanks. Division Cavalry would give up its tanks, and “light” infantry divisions would come into existence.

The novel “Team Yankee” and the “Stripes” intelligence briefing are set in 1985, right in the midst of this massive re-equipping and reforming of the U.S. Army. As such it allows U.S. Army in Team Yankee to field old style U.S. Army units or the new advanced Division-86 formations. So let’s work our way through “Stripes” and take a deeper historical look at its formations and units.



First among the “Big Five” was the M1 Abrams tank, an awesome fighting platform that still is in service today and will likely remain so for decades to come. By the middle of 1985 U.S. Army Forces Europe (USAREUR) had 1,700 M1 tanks fielded, but this was less than half the tanks in theater. The M60 remained the most numerous US tank in Europe until the end of 1985. “Stripes” appropriately allows players to field either the M1 or M60. In both cases they are fielded in the Division-86 four tank platoons. It’s also worth noting that the M-60 would stay in service in some regular U.S. Army divisions right through to the early 1990’s.



“Stripes” also allows for an upgrading of the M1 Abrams to the M1IP (Improved Performance” Abrams. In game terms this allows a small increase of front and side armor to the tank. The M1IP also came equipped with a bustle rack on the back of the turret. Many players will use the bustle rack as a means to differentiate between M1 and M1IP models. However, the addition of a bustle rack was a cheap and easy modification that was soon back-fitted to all base M1’s eventually. In “Team Yankee” a M1 model with a bustle rack really could represent either a M1 or M1IP as the player wishes.

Where's the M1A1? The M1A1's first rolled off the assembly line in August of 1985.  Some initial M1A1s went to Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels for field trials, but even those would have been too late to make the timeline in the Team Yankee novel.

Next in the “Big Five” was the M2 Bradley IFV which is controversially absent from “Stripes.” The M2 Bradley was indeed present in USAREUR by 1985, but it was far behind the M1 Abrams in its fielding. By 1985, there were 800 M2 Bradley IFVs in Europe and only 17% of the total planned had been fielded across the U.S. Army.  


In 1985 USAREUR, M113s outnumbered M2 Bradleys even more so than M1’s outnumbered M60’s. By September of 1985 the only division that had completely fielded M2 Bradley in Europe was the 3rd Infantry Division. The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment also had the M3 version of the Bradley and I assume the 2nd Armored Cavalry regiment as well, however it's not clear to me that these units had completed fielding by summer 1985. Nonetheless, the book "Team Yankee" has squadrons with M3 Bradleys involved in one mission at least. This makes their absence from "Stripes" disappointing, but in the end the M113s were by far what most infantry units were still fielded with in summer 1985.


The M113 Scout Section in “Stripes” depicted as a M113 paired with a M901 Improved TOW vehicle (ITV) is an accurate depiction the interim solution as battalion scouts and scout platoons in the division cavalry squadrons transitioned with the Divison-86 reorganization.  However, the MTOE called for the M113 to also have a Dragon Missile. Battlefront has chosen to leave the Dragon and the sections dismounts off as options for the scout section. The new scout platoon organization was supposed to have six M3 Cavalry Versions of the Bradley in three sections of two. But since the M3's were delayed in fielding, the platoons were organized into three sections, each with a M113 w/ Dragon paired with a M901 ITV.

The older tank and mech battalion scouts had 10 M113s in five sections, one HQ section and four line sections. The four line sections each had a M113 w/ Dragon and a M113 w/ TOW paired up.  For variation one might use M113 w/ TOWs in lieu of the M901 ITV but with the same stats. This might be especially appropriate when running older M60A3/M113 units representing formations that are not as far along with the Division-86 reorganizations, especially formations from regular Army units stationed back in the United States or U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard units.

My biggest problem with "Stripes" is not so much that the M2 (and M3) Bradleys are absent as much as that the scout sections of Armored Cavalry Regiment are depicted with the interim M113/Dragon and ITV organization. The 2nd ACR and 11th ACR, being earlier fielders of the M3 version of the Bradley, would have gone right to the new M2 Bradley based organization and would have not needed the interim M113/Dragon and M901 solution.


One of the things that pleasantly surprised me about “Stripes” was the inclusion of “Light Infantry Division” formations. The book depicts its “Huey Infantry Combat Team” as a formation modeled off the 82nd Airborne Division. Unfortunately there is no option to field a Light Rifle Company separate from the UH-1 Helicopters. This makes what is presented in the book look far more like the 101st Airmobile Division Rifle Company. It would have been much more useful to have Rifle Companies and UH-1 transports listed separately so that the bulk of companies from other light infantry divisions could be represented.   Except for the 101st Airmobile Division, the light infantry divisions only had enough helicopter transport Hueys to support one battalion at a time. That left eight other battalions in each division on foot.

It’s great that Battlefront decided to add the new plastic UH-1 Helicopter model to the Team Yankee range, but by the mid 80’s the UH-60 Blackhawk had been fielded across many regular U.S. Army divisions. The 101st Airmobile Division had UH-60 Blackhawks as early as 1979, but the National Guard and Army Reserve units would have UH-1s right up to the 90s. In game terms, the UH-1 and UH-60 would be nearly identical.  I don’t blame Battlefront for going plastic with the UH-1 and pulling it into “Stripes” with “Nam” just around the corner, but the UH-1 was becoming more of a second line helicopter by summer of 1985.


In the mid 80’s, each Light Infantry Division’s Cavalry Squadron had a single HMMWV Cavalry troop which is represented in “Stripes” with is proper 14 .50 Cal/MK19 Grenade Launcher HMMWVs and eight HMWWV-TOWs. The astute observer may note that the HMMWV Cavalry Troop in “Stripes” has a Troop HQ of two HMMWVs but instead of platoons below the HQ, the formation goes right down to sections. The actual organization for the Light Cavalry Troop had an HQ of two HMWWVs, two scout platoons of six .50 Cal/MK19 HMWWVs, and two platoons of four HMWWV-TOWs. What Battlefront has decided to do is represent the HMMWV Cavalry Troop as task organized out into sections that combined the HMMWV-TOWs with .50cal/MK19 HMMWVs. This was not an uncommon practice, but not universal.  I know of one unit that even stripped its scout platoon of weapons on its HMMWVs so they would focus more on reconnaissance and surveillance and less on fighting. 

If you choose to field a HMMWV Cavalry troop from “Stripes” be careful not to take all six HMMWV Scout Sections maxed out with tow HMMWV-TOWs, if you want to be “historically” accurate. The HMMWV Cavalry troop only had eight HMMWV-TOWs and maxing out all the sections would give you twelve. However, if you REALLY wanted to put in a full twelve HMMWV-TOWs in your troop, it would not be unheard of to have additional HMMWV-TOWs from one of the division’s Rifle Battalion’s anti-armor platoon augment the division’s HMMWV Cavalry Troop. Speaking of which, the Light Infantry Division’s Rifle Battalion’s anti-armor platoon is properly present in “Stripes” equipped with four HMMWV-TOWs as it should be.

Another interesting addition in “Stripes” is the 82nd Airborne Division’s M551 Sheridan tanks. These old warhorses were in the 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armor Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. This battalion kept the older pre Division-86 organization with five tanks in a tank platoon. The “Stripes” UH-I Huey Combat team has the option to take two of these M551 Sheridan platoons, however, here was only the one M551 Sheridan Tank Battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division to support the division’s nine Airborne Rifle Battalions. So basically one M551 Sheridan Platoon would be the most you might expect to see supporting a Rifle Battalion. There also is no M551 Sheridan Company formation in “Stripes,” This is proper because the 3rd Battalion, Armor Regiment never really operated as a single battalion or even much in full companies. The battalion was virtually always broken down and dispersed across the Division’s Rifle Battalions. 

Now we come to the support options in “Stripes” starting off with the Air Defense units. Battlefront has already been given much grief over inclusion of the M247 York AA Platoon. Yes this program was cancelled. But it was not canceled until August 1985 and there were at least 50 M247’s built by that time. Note that the M2 Bradley program also had a lot controversy and test issues behind it in the mid 80’s but it continued on. It’s not completely infeasible that likewise the M247 York program could have survived. There were “bugs” and other issues with the M247 York to be sure, but the fact that it had not yet fully lived up to performance expectations may not have been as much as a reason for its cancellation as much as the Army, amidst all its other expensive re-equipping programs, might simply needed to cut back somewhere.

The less contentious, M48 Chaparral SAM Platoon and the M163 VADS AA Platoon are present in “Stripes.” Interestingly, the M48 Chaparral SAM Platoons had already been pulled from Division AA Battalions up to Corps level AA units in anticipation of the fielding of the M247 York within the Division level AA Battalions.

Another “Stripes” Air Defense unit is the HMMWV SAM Platoon. These did exist and would normally be attached out as platoons in support of tank, mech, and light infantry battalions. Normally the platoon leader would stay with the battalion’s Tactical Operation Center (TOC), while the individual HMMWV Stinger teams would be split out across the battalion’s companies. Rather than depict these employed as platoons of two or four HMMWV Stinger Teams, it would have been better if a formation had the option to take just a single HMWWV Stinger team as a HQ addition, but in game terms I suppose that may cause additional issues.


Actual HMMWV w/ Stinger Team
The HMMWV Stinger Team model itself is a bit fanciful. What these teams actually had was an unarmored M988 HMMWV in the “pick-up truck” configuration. The HMWWVs had a simple fabricated rack in the back for the Stinger missile cases. To fire a missile, the two man team would need to get out of the HMWWV and pull a Stinger out of its case on the rack and then put it into action.  This would be better represented in the game by a HMMWV with the Stinger gunner standing next to the vehicle and firing the missile.

Moving into fire support options in “Stripes” we first come across the M109 Field Artillery Battery. This comes in three M109 or six M109 options. What’s missing at this time are the towed artillery units like the M101 105mm Howitzer and M198 155mm Howitzer which is what the Light Infantry Divisions, like the 82nd Airborne Division, would have had. The M270 Multiple Launcher Rocket System (MRLS) is also missing from “Stripes.” The MRLS had already been fielded with the 8th Infantry Division in USAEUR as early as late 1983. 

The M106 Heavy Mortar Platoon is another fire support option in “Stripes.” There is the maneuver battalion version, with three or six M106s.  The heavy mortar platoon often operated as two separate three-gun sections each with its own M577 Fire Direction Center (FDC) vehicle. The three M106 Cavalry Mortar platoon is also available as a separate option though it’s the same thing has the half Heavy Mortar Platoon. What’s missing is the dismounted and lighter mortars that would support the Light Infantry Division formations.

To support calls for fire, “Stripes” includes an option to field a M113 mounted Fires Support Team (FST). The M981 FISTV, was not fielded until 1987, but I have seen many US Team Yankee players already modeling this unit as a M981 with its mast mounted site.  What’s missing here is an option for the Light Division which would be a HMWWV Fire Support Team like the 2nd Marine Division HMWWV option later in the book.



Finally we come to Air Support. In “Stripes,” this comes in the form of the A-10 Warthog, of  which there were some 300 ready in Europe in 1985 and the AH-1 Cobra.  The AH-64 was just going into production and the first U.S. Army units would not get them until 1986. If NATO was able to gain air superiority, then later dual purpose aircraft like F-15s, F-16s, and even older F-4s might be employed for close air support.
Summary

In the end, a lot in “Stripes” does not quite line up well with much of what the U.S. Army actually looked in the summer of 1985. Personally, I don’t have a huge problem with that for many reasons. First of all, Team Yankee is alternate history to begin with. When I want to be 100% “historically accurate,” I am fully capable of coming up with statistics for equipment needed but not covered in “Stripes.” Whenever I want, I also can leave out from “Stripes” anything that’s not properly part of a “more historical” 1985 World War Three scenario. When it comes to points based pick-up games and tournament type play, “Stripes” gives a reasonable enough impression of the types of U.S. Army formations we’d need to have some fun, diverse, and challenging games.

I enjoyed reviewing “Stripes” and know I’ll enjoy playing formations and units from “Stripes.”  I really enjoyed doing the research for this article and learned so much. I’m really pumped about starting my own US Force for Team Yankee now that my Soviets are done.  I do plan to get a lot of enjoyment from “Stripes.”

But wait….what about the USMC’s 2nd Division formations included in “Stripes?” This review of the U.S. Army in “Stripes” has been way too long already. I’ll follow up on the USMC in “Stripes” in a following article.


Tom has been playing wargames since the late 70’s, and Flames of War since 2007. He maintains a gaming website www.battlevault.com for the BattleVault Gamers of Kentuckiana and posts and moderates WWPD as Iron-Tom.

16 comments:

Ian said...

I'd like to respond to your concerns about the depiction of the Armored Cavalry, if I may. I think the discrepancy between your vision and Battlefront's is that you're picturing the 2nd and 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, but Battlefront is depicting the 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment* as the Divisional Cavalry for 1st Armored Division. Based on what you said in the article, the odds are that 1-1 Cav would have been fielding the hybrid organization, and that's what you're seeing in Stripes.

You were also concerned that the organization for the 82nd Airborne is more akin to the 101st Airborne (Air Assault), and I agree. My theory as to why is based on something I read or heard a few months ago regarding Battlefront's plans for Team Yankee over the long term - that they'll have different eras, and that 1985 is the "mid" era. I presume that they're saving up cool stuff to go into the "late" era. For example, the Blackhawk, and for that they'll probably want to use the 101st as the featured unit. Perhaps they felt they needed an air mobile formation to match the Soviets and British, and they wanted a featured unit other than the mechanized divisions that were the norm in West Germany, AND they didn't want to double up on the 101st in both this era and the later one.

*I have a source that says 1-1 Cavalry was the cavalry unit assigned to 1st Armored Division in 1989; I'm guessing that was still the case in 1985, but can't be sure. In any event, it would still have been a cavalry squadron attached to the division rather than one of the independent cavalry regiments.

Ian said...

Oh, and also... thanks for doing an historically based article! :D

Paul Bellerive said...

@Ian I was in 1AD 77-79 and 89-91. 1-1CAV (Blackhawk) was then and still is today 1AD's Cavalry Squadron.

https://www.bliss.army.mil/2hbct1ar/1-1cav.html

Ian said...

Thank you, Paul. :)

Paul Bellerive said...

You're welcome.

Tom Burgess said...

Thanks for the feedback Ian. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

The Stripes book references "Armored Cavalry Regiment" under the Armored Cavalry Troop formation entry in the new book.

But even if the book did not explicitly state that, the problem with assuming they are referencing Armored Cavalry Troops from Divisional Cavalry Squadrons rather than from squadrons in Armored Cavalry Regiments is the presence of the tank platoons as a combat platoons in the formation. Divisional Cavalry lost their tanks when going from the H Series MTOE to the J Series MTOE. The interim M113/Dragon and M901 ITV scout platoon was part of the J Series MTOE. The troops from the Divisional Cavalry Squadron would not have organic tanks from the H series MTO still in the troops if they already had adopted the J-series interim scout platoon.

That all being said this was a very fluid period for change in the US Army and not all units transitioned at the same time and same rate. I know many National Guard Divisions kept the H Series Divisional Cavalry Squadron MTOE right up till the time they were issued M3 Bradleys in the early 1990s and never adopted the interim M113/Dragon and M901 ITV scout platoon. So that being said and that this is all pretty much being alternate history to begin with, there is a lot of room for legitimately fielding many options during this period.

Service Ration Distribution (Hobby) said...

Well painted and presented kit. It's interesting how people look at this period and imagine an actual winner to WWIII. Hope you have plenty of ash for the final game move.

Ian said...

You clearly have better references than I! :D

In my case, I think I would only be fielding the Scout Sections, and as divisional cavalry. My force from Stripes, if it ever gets going, will be a mix of 2-5 Cavalry and 3-32 Armor, with Scout Sections from 1-7 Cavalry. One of the roadblocks ahead of me is reference material, though. I haven't yet sorted out whether 2-5 Cav had M113s or Bradleys in 1985, nor whether 3-32 Armor had M60s or M1s. :D

Tom Burgess said...

Hey there Ian my First Team Brother!

I'm going to do a D Co/2-8 CAV based unit when I get around to my US Team Yankee force!

2-5 CAV would not have Bradleys in 1985. The 2nd Armored Division at Ft Hood was the only CONUS unit with them at that time as far as I've been able to find.

3-32 Armor would have the M1 (not M1IP). The 1st Cavalry Division was chosen as the test unit for the XM-1 in 1980. I'm pretty sure the 1st Cav had the M1 fully fielded by 1985. Fun fact, one of the four tanks from when I signed for my M1 Tank Platoon in 1990 had serial number XM003!

Ian said...

Aha! And thanks! I was guessing that was the appropriate equipment, but I hadn't been able to nail it down.

XM003, eh? Hm, does an Abrams have an odometer on it? And if so, was it ludicrously high for a tank? (And is ludicrously high for a tank much the same as "has low mileage" on your average used car?)

Tom Burgess said...

Yes it had/has a speedometer. I seem to remember it topping out at 60 mph. I never got anywhere close to that on any of the four tanks I was on.

Unknown said...

Charles said...

2-5 Cav was the first and test unit for the M1 (It was supposed to be 3-67Armor in 2AD) but the 3-32 Armor (Iron Dukes) was in Friedburg, FRG in 1985 equipped with M60A3(TTS) and using the H Series MTOE. By 1985 most Redeye/Stinger sections were consolidated in the Divisional ADA Bn.

Support that would be attached to a Tank Company would normally consist of a Redeye/Stinger team, a Scout section, and sometimes an artillery FO. 3AD even tried placing the FO in the Company XOs tank.

Ian said...

Ah, good to know about the speed, Tom - but it was an odometer I was wondering about. :)

Charles, have I got the wrong battalion for 32nd Armour? I believe 2-5 and 2-8 Cav were brigaded with 3-32 Armor in 1989 - was it not so four years earlier? The source I have for 1989 put the 32nd Armor's 1st and 3rd Battalions in 1st Cavalry Division and 2nd and 4th battalions in 3rd Armored Division.

Tom Burgess said...

Don't get too hung up about the movement of battalion in and out of the Division. These really are more of transfer of colours rather than physical a relocation of men and equipment.

In 1985 I think the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division looked like this:

2-5CAV (Armor) - In Sept 1986 this unit inactivated at Hood and the Colors went to 3rd Armored Division in German, reflagged later as 2-8CAV
1-7CAV (Armor) - in 1986 it was reflagged as 3-32 Armor in 16 October 1986 and then Division Cavalry Squadron was the reflagged as 1-7CAV
2-8CAV (Mech) - Reflagged as 2-5CAV in 1987

It's a bit confusing to dissect but I get this info from here:

http://www.first-team.us/tableaux/apndx_03/

When I reported for my 1st assignment to 1st BDE, 1st Cavalry in Jan 1990 we had:

2-5CAV (Mech) - still the same today
2-8CAV (Tank) - still the same today, and my battalion when I was a Lieutenant
3-32 AR (Tank) - reflagged as 1-12 CAV in Dec 1991 and is still the same today

Ian said...

Thanks yet again, Tom! Lots to think about in there, as the composition is quite different from what I thought!

Tom Burgess said...

No problem! At least I know why the serial numbers on the M1s in my tank platoon were so low. My unit 2-8CAV(Armor) use to be 2-5(Armor) which was the test unit for the M1.

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