Sunday, June 29, 2014

What does one do with a few spare howitzers?

Some time ago, I bought a pack of M109 self-propelled 155mm howitzers. The basic, non-upgraded sort, as that's what the Danes used. After making up a battery (I can't see my Danes ever needing more than that), I'm left with another battery's worth. Seems a shame to let them go unused. After a bit of research, the only countries in Northern Europe still using basic M109's in 1981 were Denmark, Britain, and Belgium. I have no use for a Belgian battery in the foreseeable future, however....

Here's an early 80's Belgian M109:
And here's my battery:
The Belgians used British-made Sultans as battery command vehicles:
And a pair of Spartans would've served each M109 battery as Forward Artillery Observer (FAO) vehicles:
I quite like the yellow vehicle numbers on the sides of the Spartans, so I've "extrapolated" the idea to the other vehicles too. I think in future, all Belgian tracked vehicles that I do will have yellow numbers. 

Ammunition supply vehicles would likely have been Unimog 1300L's:
as I can find no evidence that Belgium ever acquired any M548's. However, since I have no real use for this battery at the moment and because I go through quite a lot of Unimogs (Danes, West Germans, etc used them too), I'll not commit scarce resources (six Unimogs) to these Belgians until I find a need for them. Whenever that happens, then I'll make up the ammunition supply stands. 

Ok, more from me over the long Fourth of July holiday weekend!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Wait! Where's the artillery!?!

Recently, while looking over my East Germans and planning what items I still need to buy and paint for them, I was stunned by a realization. I have absolutely NO East German artillery whatsoever!! Neither towed nor self-propelled!! How could this have happened!?! So, as a stop-gap until I can make a full order of artillery, I added a bag of D-30 122mm towed howitzers to an order I was sending to Picoarmor that day. 

Here's one of the three stands of two guns each (one section) that I made up for a battery. This is them superglued to the stand and primed:
They're very nice little sculpts, with three crewmen each. Here's the real thing for comparison:

And here's the whole battery: 

I've paired this battery with some URAL-375D prime movers. I'll still need to make up an FAO (Forward Artillery Observer) stand with a 1V18 vehicle:
Basically just a BTR-60PB with the gun barrel filed off of the turret. 
That'll be the next project. 

Whew, I feel better now. My poor East Germans were naked!! More in the next installment!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

LANDJUT campaign background: Jan-Mar 1981

In this blog entry, I'll begin to weave a bit of historically plausible "could have happened, but didn't" into actual historical facts. 

In January 1981, this was the NATO v WarPac map of Europe (Spain didn't join NATO until 1982). As the year began, the situation seemed to be getting ever worse, from the Soviet viewpoint. The unrest in Poland, with the Solidarity movement as its focal point, was growing stronger by the day. The staunchly anti-Communist American President-elect Ronald Reagan was set to take office on January 20th. The situation in Afghanistan was slowly deteriorating and pulling in ever larger numbers of Soviet troops. Something had to be done!

The military exercise that had been held in late May and early June of 1980, called "Spring 80", had been the largest the Warsaw Pact had ever held, until the Fall, when it was repeated on a yet larger scale, "Soyuz 80". Intended to intimidate the Polish government and people, they appeared to have had little or no effect. So, the Soviets scheduled a second and even larger exercise, "Soyuz 81", for the 17th-22nd of March, to be taken part in by all WarPac countries, save Romania, which had refused to actively participate in the Warsaw Pact since 1968 as a protest at the invasion of Czechoslovakia. 

As January arrived, it was not lost on Soviet planners that some of NATO's key members were at less than the pinnacle of military readiness. The United States was in the midst of a handover of power to the incoming new President. The old national security staff would be leaving and the new staff would need time before they were comfortable and efficient with their tasks. The West Germans had just begun a major restructuring of their army, some units having already received new equipment and training while other units still retained the old organization. The French continued to refuse to participate in NATO, being a member in name only, as they had been since 1966. The Greek military, after withdrawing from NATO in 1974, during the crisis in Cyprus, had returned to full cooperation only a few months previously. Very soon, the US forces in West Germany would begin to swell in preparation for the year's NATO military exercise, REFORGER 81 in September. If the Soviet Union was to upend the balance of power in Europe and, in the process, come to grips with their own growing problems, the time would never be better. 

The upcoming Soyuz 81 exercise was only some two months away. The Soviets had already given notice of them to NATO headquarters in Belgium, as was customary, to forestall any misinterpretation of the necessary buildup and movement of troops and matériel. It would be the perfect cover. It need only be extended for an extra eight days. 

In the most secure recesses of the Kremlin, a plan began to take shape. Would it be possible to put all things into motion in so little time? Directives were urgently sent to all KGB and GRU operatives in the United States; recruit a very particular sort of asset. 

By the beginning of March, Reagan had taken office and the American hostages in Iran had been freed. The Soviet plan was almost ready. Everything would have to be timed precisely. There would be no margin of error. The Romanian leader, Nicolae Ceaușescu was summoned to Moscow and told bluntly that in what was to come, he could be an ally or an enemy. There would be no middle ground. Ceaușescu blanched at the implication and chose to be an ally. He immediately rushed back to Bucharest to reintegrate his military into the WarPac command structure. Similarly, Cvijetin Mijatović of Yugoslavia was told that while his participation was not expected, transiting Yugoslav territory or airspace might be necessary and his quiet acceptance was required. Like Ceaușescu, Mijatović chose survival. 

Plans began to fall into place....

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Marcin, are you listening?

Marcin!! Oh, Marcin!! 

Marcin, who is the moving force behind Oddzial Osmy, if not the outright owner, has in the past exhibited a willingness to listen to his customers via the Yahoo 1/600 group as well as on

So, just in case Marcin should grace my humble blog with his presence (and as an amusement for myself), here are twenty-one items I wish O8 would add to their 3mm product line. So, without further ado, in no particular order: 

1) An M548:
This US-made tracked cargo vehicle was (and indeed still is) used by numerous countries, not the least of which were the US, UK, West Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Turkey, and South Vietnam. You really can't make a correctly equipped self-propelled artillery battery for these countries without M548's. 

2) A staff/liaison/command vehicle for West Germany; either a Munga:
Or an Iltis:
Or I'd even take a Type 181:
O8 makes similar vehicles for the US, Soviets, and British, so why no German vehicle?

3) An US M60A1 with the Xenon searchlight:
O8 makes the M60A3, so why no A1?

4) A Dutch DAF 328 truck:
No way to have a correctly equipped Dutch force with it. 

5) An M113 C&R 25:
O8 makes the M113 C&R 50:
But not the more widely used 25.

6) A Dutch YPR-765 PRAT, the antitank version:

7) A Soviet S-60 57mm towed antiaircraft gun, very widely used by all WarPac armies as well as the North Vietnamese, among others:

8) A Czech-made Tatra 8x8 heavy truck, used by the Czechs and East Germans:
9) An M113-mounted Green Archer battlefield surveillance radar:
Used by a number of different NATO armies. 

10) O8 makes a couple of different Soviet medium range battlefield missiles, but no US/NATO ones. Maybe a Lance:
Or a Pershing I:

11) A medium range Soviet SAM missile, such as an SA-4 Ganef:
Or preferably an SA-6 Gainful:

12) And if the WarPac gets a heavier SAM launcher, NATO should have one too. An I-Hawk missile, either tracked:
 Or towed:
Used by pretty much all of NATO.

13)  LARS I multiple rocket launcher: 
O8 makes the LARS II, which began to enter service in the mid 70's, but by the early 80's the upgrade wasn't yet complete and both systems were being used simultaneously:

14) M75 armored personnel carrier:
An American-made APC that was used in large numbers by the Belgians, who didn't begin using M113's until 1982-83. 

15) AMX-VCI armored personnel carrier:
A French-made vehicle that was also heavily used by the Belgians until 1982-83. 

16) Fiat G-91R Gina ground attack aircraft:
Used by several NATO countries and not finally retired until about 1982.

17) A US M1 155mm towed howitzer:
Used by pretty much every NATO country as well as South Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, etc. 

18) An M108 self-propelled 105mm howitzer:
Again, heavily used by the Belgians, as well as by the US in Vietnam. 

19) A Soviet AT-T prime mover:
Or at least the smaller AT-L: 
Both used by all WarPac armies.

20) A West German Roland self-propelled SAM:
An 80's Bundeswehr "must".

21) And finally, an Alouette II helicopter:
The main light observation helicopter used by Belgium.

So that's my list. Needless to say, it's all geared toward my chosen timeframe, 1981 NATO v. WarPac. It's not a scientifically generated list and maybe it represents no one's interest but my own. But after all, it's MY blog! What's on your list?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Geckos and other wildlife

No, not that gecko!
This Gecko!!

I bought a few SA-8 Gecko ("Osa" to the Soviets) SAM vehicles. Each East German division had an attached battery (4 vehicles) of either these or SA-6 Gainful:

Here's the first stand of two that I'll make:
Normally I texture, paint, and flock ten bases at a time so I'm ready to base anything I paint, but I'm out! So, I'll have to make up some more before I can finish off this battery. I'll need to do a command stand for this too. 

The Gecko was unique in that it was the first (entering service in 1971) mobile SAM that had the launcher and all necessary guidance, tracking, and targeting radars in one self-contained vehicle, which is known as a TELAR (Transporter Erector Launcher and Radar).

The other "wildlife" in the title is another Frog-7 battery that I've finished, this time in traveling mode:
And there's another command stand that I need to make! Let's get busy!  More next time.