Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

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.

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 for the BattleVault Gamers of Kentuckiana and posts and moderates WWPD as Iron-Tom.

Popular Posts In the last 30 Days

Copyright 2009-2012 WWPD LLC. Graphics and webdesign by Arran Slee-Smith. Original Template Designed by Magpress.