Threat Tuesday / #Wargame Wednesday / #RPG Thursday (a few days early) – Underground Missile Base to Weaponeer and Perfect Villains Lair

This week Iran unveiled on YouTube their ‘underground barrage missile base:”

As if one video isn’t enough inspiration here is a second (minus the vertical missiles). Obviously filmed pre-COVID. I really like the ones wearing sunglasses deep inside a tunnel!

One missile wonk on Twitter even made a helpful graphic:

For Threat Tuesday this is an interesting way way to deploy missiles. The US certainly learned the danger of storing a liquid-fuel missile in an underground silo forty years ago when a Titan-II ICBM blew up in Arkansas.

For Wargame Wednesday (a day early) this is an interesting target to weaponeer. In the wargame Persian Incursion from Clash of Arms/Admiralty Trilogy Group players can use the rules from Harpoon 4.X to strike underground bunkers. These look much deeper and more difficult. Shades of Star Wars here – deliver that torpedo into the shaft!

For you roleplaying game players looking for RPG Thursday (2 days early) this looks to be a perfect villain’s lair for use in your James Bond 007 Roleplaying Game (Victory Games, 1982) or any modern espionage RPG setting.


Feature image courtesy popularmechanics.com

Threat Tuesday – Projecting a future US Navy for #wargames

BATTLE FORCE 2045. It sounds like a new science-fiction wargame but it’s actually the name of the the latest future force plan for the US Navy. Secretary of Defense Esper unveiled the plan in early October.

Esper’s Battle Force 2045, which he rolled out during an online event today at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, lays out plans for achieving a fleet of 500 manned and unmanned ships by 2045, and a fleet of 355 traditional battle force ships by 2035 – all in a resource-constrained budget environment.

Throughout the rest of October the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) ran a series of articles assembled under the Fleet Force Structure Series. This series of nine article looked at the future force structure in depth.

In particular, I call your attention to “A Decisive Flotilla: Assessing the Hudson Fleet Design” by Robert C. Rubel which in turn links to the Hudson Institute analysis “American Sea Power at a Crossroads: A Plan to Restore the US Navy’s Maritime Advantage.” This analysis includes several nice tables for a future order of battle that can form the basis of wargame studies.

It would be interesting to see Harpoon V (Admiralty Trilogy Group) data annexes or counters in South China Sea (Compass Games, 2017) for Battle Force 2045.


Feature image courtesy moto1.com

#Wargame #ThreatTuesday – The Russian Way of War (Foreign Military Studies Office, 2016)

One of the oldest challenges to wargame designers is understanding the threat. Many times the challenge comes from security classification – “If I tell you I have to kill you.” Finding a good, comprehensive study in the unclassified world is all to rare. All of which makes Dr. Lester Grau and Charles Bartles’ The Russian Way of War: Force Structure, Tactics, and Modernization of the Russian Ground Forces a very valuable publication.

As Grau and Bartles tell us in the Introduction:

Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, activity in eastern Ukraine, saber rattling regarding the Baltics, deployment to Syria, and more assertive behavior along its border have piqued interest in the Russian Armed Forces. This increased interest has caused much speculation about their structure, capabilities, and future development. Interestingly, this speculation has created many different, and often contradictory, narratives about these issues. At any given time, assessments of the Russian Armed Forces vary between the idea of an incompetent and corrupt conscript army manning decrepit Soviet equipment and relying solely on brute force, to the idea of an elite military filled with Special Operations Forces (SOF) who were the “polite people” or “little green army men” seen on the streets in Crimea. This book will attempt to split the difference between these radically different ideas by shedding some light on what exactly the Russian Ground Forces consist of, how they are structured, how they fight, and how they are modernizing.

As an added bonus for wargame graphic designers, check out the last part of the book on Russian Military Symbology. What better way to make your Russian forces, uh, Russian?


Feature image courtesy Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

#Wargame #ThreatTuesday – “You fight like a North Korean!” North Korean Tactics, US Army ATP 7-100.2, July 2020 Edition

There are very few modern wargames that cover modern tactical combat on the Korean Peninsula. If there were, then players would need to study North Korean Tactics – July 2020 or ATP 7-100.2. As the preface tells us:

Army Training Publication (ATP) 7-100.2 describes North Korean tactics for use in Army training, professional education, and leader development. This document is part of the ATP 7-100 series that addresses a nation-state’s military doctrine with a focus on army ground forces and tactical operations in offense, defense, and related mission sets. Other foundational topics include task organization, capabilities, and limitations related to military mission and support functions. ATP 7-100.2 serves as a foundation for understanding how North Korean ground forces think and act in tactical operations. This publication presents multiple examples of functional tactics in dynamic operational environment conditions. The tactics in this ATP are descriptive, and provide an orientation to tactics gathered from North Korean doctrine, translated literature, and observations from recent historical events.

The principal audience for ATP 7-100.2 is all members of the profession of arms. Commanders and staffs of Army headquarters serving as joint task force or multinational headquarters should also refer to applicable joint or multinational doctrine concerning the range of military operations and joint or multinational forces. Trainers and educators throughout the Army will also use this publication.

What’s in this manual. Much more than you expect!

ATP 7-100.2 addresses the tactics, organization, and activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ground forces. Part one of this document focuses on the strategic and operational levels, and includes North Korea’s military structure, organizational philosophy, and an introduction to functional tactics. Part two focuses on the tactical level, and describes Korean People’s Army Ground Forces (KPAGF) offensive and defensive tactics in detail. Several appendixes provide additional information on specific military functions and their use in tactical actions.

There is alot to unpack here. Even if you are not playing a modern Korean War game there is still much that can be learned from studying this potential adversary.


Feature image “North Korean military conducts a ‘strike drill’ for multiple launchers and tactical guided weapon into the East Sea during a military drill in North Korea.” (Reuters/KCNA pic).

#Wargame #ThreatTuesday – 2020 Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China via @DeptofDefense

The US Department of Defense (DoD) released the 2020 version of their annual report to Congress on the military and security developments for China. If you are a wargame designer and want to cover the modern Chinese military then this publication should be one of the first sources you start with. As the DoD press release states:

This year’s report highlights the links between China’s national strategy and developments within China’s armed forces.

Under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the strategy calls for “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” by 2049, including the transformation of the People’s Liberation Army into a “world-class” military.

The report comes at a time when the world is witnessing the aggressive assertion of that strategy in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, where China continues to undermine the international rules-based order to advance their own interests. 

This report accounts for the PRC’s national strategy and the drivers of China’s security behavior and military strategy, covers key developments in China’s military modernization and reform, and provides new insights into China’s strategic ambitions in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

The report also discusses China’s views of strategic competition, the broader purposes of its Military-Civil Fusion Development Strategy, and its ambitions for the PLA as a political entity of the party.

Although there are some order-of-battle type numbers in here, this is not really suitable for development of tactical scenarios. That said, if you are looking to frame an operational or strategic-level game then it is very likely you will find something of value within these pages.


Feature image “Chinese Cops Trained in Posture by Pins and Crosses” courtesy chinauncensored.tv

#ThreatTuesday – #Boardgame or simulation? Pandemic (@Asmodee_USA) & #coronavirus

The first case of the Wuhan Coronavirus reached the US today. Looks like a good time to break out a bit dated, yet stalwart cooperative boardgame design, Pandemic (Asmodee, 2004+).

I assure you I’m not trying to make light of the crisis. It’s just that Pandemic is a good game that creates an atmosphere of crisis. To win, smart planning and partnerships/teamwork is needed. Better to learn those lessons on a gameboard where nobody dies than to stumble about helplessly.

#ThreatTuesday – New Chinese Type 55 DDG(?) thru the #wargame lens of South China Sea (@compassgamesllc, 2017)

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned Nanchang, the first Type 055 destroyer in their fleet on 12 January 2019. This ship appears in the wargame South China Sea: Modern Naval Combat in the South Pacific (Compass Games, 2017). For this installment of Threat Tuesday I’m going to look at the ship and compare the in-game version to what is seen in public.

IMG_0477Although the Chinese seem to be calling Nanchang a ‘destroyer,’ it almost anywhere else it would be a cruiser. Here is a datasheet on the ship that accompanied the commissioning ceremony:

IMG_0473In South China Sea, designer John Gorkowski identifies this class of ships as ‘CG TYPE 55.’ Here is the counter for the ship in the game:

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CG TYPE 55 in South China Sea (Compass Games, 2018)

The Quick Reference Card in South China Sea tells us how to decode the counter. It is also useful as we can compare the CG TYPE 55 to the US Navy ‘CG TICONDEROGA.’ Fair warning here – I did not assist in the development of South China Sea so I actually do not have any ‘official’ insight into how the various factors were decided upon. What follows is my interpretation of the factors in South China Sea and how they relate to the announced capabilities of the Type 055 destroyer.

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Decoding Surface ships and Submarines (SCS Quick Reference Guide)

Let’s first start by looking across the bottom of the CG TYPE 55 counter. The first factor is Gun – rated a 2. The Type 055 has a single 130mm gun forward. The Ticonderoga has 2x Mk45 5″/45 caliber lightweight guns. Although the guns are somewhat similar there are no half-factors in SCS so 2 seems fair.

U (Underwater)2: Very similar to the US TICO-class, the Type 055 is credited with a bow-mounted High/Medium-frequency sonar and a towed Variable Depth Sonar (VDS) as well as two helicopters. While Ticonderoga’s have torpedo tubes, the Type 055 carries the ‘CJ-5″ ASW rocket/missile. The U rating of 2 seems fair.

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YJ missiles on parade

A/S (Anti-Surface)4 Range 6. The Type 055 is credited with carrying the YJ-18 anti-ship missile. According to US government sources, the YJ-18 has a range of 290nm, or 6.4 hexes in South China Sea. Although the missile is subsonic, the warhead of between 140-300kg mass is delivered by a supersonic sprint vehicle. A lethality rating of 4 seems fair although I worry that it may be underrated as compared to the Harpoon (4 Range 5) used by the US Navy. Recommendation: CHANGE the A/S rating to 5 Range 6 (Optional).

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Courtesy ausairpower.net

A/G (Anti-Ground)4 Range 10. The Type 055 is supposed to carry the CJ-10 cruise missile. Most sources give this missile a range of 1,500+ kilometers (809nm). In South China Sea-terms this would be a range of 17.7 hexes – well in excess of the 10 shown on the ship counter. The US Navy TLAM missile flies between 700-900nm – 15.5 to 20 hexes in SCS – but is only credited with a range of 12 (~2/3rds of max range?). Using that very rough rule, the CJ-10 could be range 12. As for lethality; the CJ-10 appears comparable to the Tomahawk so a lethality rating of 4 again appears reasonable. Recommendation: CHANGE ‘CG Type 55’ A/G rating to 4 Range 12.

Let us now turn to the combat factors on the upper right, Missile Defense and Torpedo. In South China Sea the CG TYPE 55 is given a Torpedo rating of 2. Yet, on the factsheet, no torpedo tubes appear. An oversight in the datasheet? Look for other sources….

The CG TYPE 55 is rated a 9 for Missile Defense. This is in part because of the 4-panel S-Band AESA multifunction radar with X-Band rotating AESA radars supporting the HHQ-9 anti-air missile. Note the color of the Missile Defense rating – black. In South China Sea, ships with a Missile Defense rating in RED, like US Navy Aegis-equipped ships, are capable of Area Missile Defense:

5.81 Units with MD scores printed in red have Area Missile Defense (AMD). AMD functions like MD (missile defense) but can also protect other friendly units while also threatening enemy air units in the same and adjacent hexes. Air units in air to air combat are the one exception; they are not protected by an AMD score.

5.82 Therefore, with the exception of air units in air to air combat, a targeted friendly unit can always cite the red AMD score of a friendly AMD-capable unit that is in the same or an adjacent hex and engaged in the current engagement. Any number of units can call on the same AMD any number of times.

In the DIA publication China Military Power: Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win, 2019, they make this assessment:

These newer ships use modern combat management systems and air surveillance sensors, such as the Sea Eagle and Dragon Eye phased-array radars. These new units allow the PLAN surface force to operate outside shore-based air defense systems because one or two ships are equipped to provide air defense for the entire task group. (p. 70)

This makes a good case that the MD rating of the CG TYPE 55 should be a red AMD factor. As far as the lethality number? A factor of 9 seems a good place to start. Recommendation: CHANGE the MD factor to RED.

The numbers to the upper left of the counter are Move and Stealth. The Move factor is in line with what is expected of ships like this so we will leave that be. In South China Sea, Stealth is used to evade contact. When a unit enters the Illumination Range of a unit (5 hexes for a surface naval unit) the unit must stop and make an evasion roll (2d6 + Stealth). If the roll is greater than 11 the unit has evaded detection and can continue movement. In the case of the CG TYPE 55 a Stealth rating of 3 is very good, even better than the Stealth rating of 2 for US Arleigh Burke-class DDGs. Indeed, the much smaller Freedom-class has a Stealth factor of 3. Looking at the pictures of the Nanchang, there is some radar shaping but there are also some good radar-bouncing areas. To my (untrained) eye it looks more like an Arleigh Burke. Recommendation: CHANGE the Stealth rating of the CG TYPE 55 to 2

There is one last ‘factor’ I want point out; the number of Steps for the CG TYPE 55. See those three boxes between the Move/Stealth and Missile Defense/Torpedo?  The CG TYPE 55 is a three Step unit, more so than the CG TICONDEROGA with two-Steps. A multi-step unit is flipped on the first hit and destroyed when the number of hits equals the number of Steps. At full load a Ticonderoga weighs in at 9,600 tons, a bit smaller than the 13,000 full load tons of the Type 055 destroyer. Is that extra 30% worth an entire extra Step? Another consideration is the state of damage control training in the PLAN. When I see a Step in SCS I don’t just see how many ‘hit points’ the ship has but also how well the crew is trained to save the ship. The US Navy is amongst the best in the world and, to be frank, there are questions as to the real technical competence of the average PLAN sailor. My gut tells me that giving the CG TYPE 55 three Steps is too generous. Recommendation: CHANGE the number of Steps on the CG TYPE 55 to 2.

I want to be very clear that in making this ‘reassessment’ of the CG TYPE 55 in South China Sea I am categorically NOT saying the original version is flawed. Mr. Gorkowski, in taking on a modern subject like South China Sea, is at the mercy of publicly available information. Even in the few short years since South China Sea was first published, the information available has changed significantly. You can play a scenario with the out-of-the-box CG TYPE 55 or, if you want, look at my attempt to update. Whatever way you chose to play just make sure you are having fun while you do it!

#ThreatTuesday – #Wargame update needed in South China Sea: Modern Naval Conflict in the South Pacific (@compassgamesllc, 2017)

The Chinese militarization of the South China Sea was certainly a lively topic for milbloggers and the OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) community online in 2018. One item that caught my attention because it feeds into modern wargame scenarios was the deployment of the YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) to several of locations in the South China Sea. As first reported in May 2018:

China has installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three outposts in the South China Sea according to several media outlets (the first one being U.S. news network CNBC), citing U.S. intelligence sources.

According to the reports, the land-based anti-ship cruise missile is the YJ-12B with a range of 295 nautical miles (545 Km). The HQ-9B is a surface-to-air missile that can engage aircraft out to a distance of 160 nautical miles (300 Km). Note that these range figures may be over estimated (more details below). The missiles are on Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands. The missiles were moved to the outposts within the past 30 days. China has also deployed jamming equipment to the islands. (navyrecognition.com)

The same site added a link to this handy tweet, complete with a map of coverage (the YJ-12 is in RED):

Updating South China Sea from Compass Games is the first game that comes to mind. I think the YJ-12 already appears in the game but is very limited in where it deploys. Adding a few more; well, that would be a real THREAT.

Post-Thoughts

Take a look at the Admiralty Trilogy Games and their product on China’s Maritime Forces. At the rate the Chinese seem to be building ships I don’t know it its the most updated product available but it is available…as a pdf download for $50!

Feature image courtesy navyrecognition.com.

#ThreatTuesday – The 80’s Are Calling and They Want Their Super Etendards Back!

pic194368_md
Courtesy BGG.com

I have written elsewhere that I am a child of the Cold War and had my wargame coming-of-age in the 1980’s. One of the games I got during that time was Harpoon II. H2 is a miniatures game of modern tactical naval combat. The game system would eventually inform an author by the name of Tom Clancy who famously used the game to play out a key battle of his book Red Storm Rising. That game series is explained in Dance of the Vampires available at Wargame Vault. But Red Storm Rising was still five years away. I was interested in Harpoon because of another war, one that had just happened – The Falklands War.

 

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Courtesy dailymail.co.uk

One of the most dramatic events of that war was the attack on HMS Sheffield on May 4, 1982. Using an Exocet anti-ship missile launched from a Super Étendard fighter, the Argentinians sank the Type 42 destroyer. Many times I replayed this scenario as well as the larger naval confrontation. To this day the Falklands War remains my favorite modern naval battles scenario generator.

 

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Courtesy BGG.com

So it was with much interest that I read Argentina intends to buy six Super Étendard fighters. Sorta proves that everything that is old is new again. It also makes we want to bring out Harpoon 4 and see how the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Daring-class destroyer would fare against this new-old threat.

03D_TYPE 45 TAB UP
Courtesy dailymail.co.uk

 

 

#ThreatTuesday – War in the South China Sea?

Amongst the many issues facing the new US administration is the contentious issue of the South China Sea. Not only is this battle being fought on the high seas, but also on the gaming table.

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Courtesy BGG

John Gorkowski previously designed Breaking the Chains: War in the South China Sea. BTC is a very near-future, operational-level simulation of conflict in the South China Sea. In late 2016, John announced:

One of the War Colleges asked me for a streamlined version of the game for classroom use. They may or may not actually use it, but I plan to make such a “lite” version and share it with the community. ConSimWorld Forum, Aug 26, 2016

The work-in-progress is called South China Sea (SCS). John explained the changes between BtC and SCS:

The South China Sea (SCS) system is BtC pruned for play-ability. How did we do that? We took the scale down from 70 nautical miles per hex to 45. We standardized unit sizes at two-steps each with exceptions for aircraft carriers and certain large cruisers. That meant going with land battalions rather than regiments. And, we created a rule that allows naval units to move more than one hex in a single “go”, but included a mechanism, based on stealth, that enables the other side to “check” that move to create a more variable and volatile environment.

This last adjustment is most important and was most difficult. Because modern anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) have such long reach, 290 nmi in some cases, you can’t just let phasing ships “jump” more than one hex at a time without giving the non-phasing player a chance to react. Otherwise, the phasing player could move through his enemy’s field of fire, or beaten zone if you prefer, without drawing fire. So the new “intervention” mechanism allows the non-phasing player to “react” by stopping a multi-hex move by the phasing player, but not with certainty. So stealthy ships can dart two or three hexes at a time while larger less stealthy ships will not progress that far before the enemy can react.

What did not change? The core strike mechanism that applies across all forms of combat and the air naval movement/combat sequence all remain the same. ConSimWorld Forum, Nov 9, 2016

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Sample South China Sea Playtest Counters (courtesy ConSimWorld)

I have been participating in the playtest of SCS. My early verdict is I like the revised combat system, but question the political system. In an email exchange, John shared the following comment:

I know what you mean about political turns….The good news is that in several scenarios players can chose to just skip POL [Political] turns and go right to the action.  Email from John Gorkowski, Jan 14, 2017

John is caught between two customers here – the immediate paying customer (important for income NOW) and the future gaming consumer (potential future income). I think SCS will be a useful addition to the library of modern naval combat. I sincerely hope SCS makes it to the public so we too can explore potential South China Sea conflicts.