Lessons from Stavka part 2: The Motor Rifle Formation

Lessons from Stavka part 2: The Motor Rifle Formation

Introduction

Welcome back, comrade-cadets. Today we will discuss the Motor Rifle Formation, the core of Soviet ground forces and how to build a formation centred around the humble Soviet conscript.

To read the first article in the series, click here.

Overview

This series of articles will explore the soviet ground forces in detail and instruct rookies and veterans alike on the principles of Soviet combat doctrine and list-building in Team Yankee, which will be applicable in V1 and the upcoming V2 of the game. In this article, we highlight the core units available to the Motor Rifle Divisions and discuss the pros and cons of the BTR and BMP series of vehicles, as well as the optimal support options available to them.

The Motor Rifle Division

The core of any Soviet army, the Motor Rifle Division is by any other nation’s standards an army in its own right. Representing the foundation of all Soviet ground forces, Motor Rifle troops work in conjunction with Tank troops to perform the following tasks:

  • Breakthrough of enemy defense
  • Destruction of enemy troops
  • Capture of key areas
  • Retain captured areas
  • Cross water obstacles

Highly autonomous and flexible, the Motor Rifle Division is equipped to perform under the most rigorous conditions and conduct offense and defense in any terrain, weather or time.

All Russian infantry is mechanised due to the sheer vastness of the territory of the Soviet Union; the Soviets succeeded in motorising it’s entire ground forces in the 1950s and appreciate the value of having rugged and reliable transports able to ford terrain across a variety of conditions.

Similarly, the common Soviet infantryman conscript is expected to be tough and well-trained in battle drills, which are endlessly executed until they become muscle memory to override the shock of combat. Armed with the ubiquitous AK74 and ample amounts of anti-tank RPGs, the Soviet preference of suppressive firepower is realised in a hail of lead and HEAT rounds.

The BTR Motor Rifle Formation

The BTR formation presents the option of flooding the board with screaming slavs. Mounted on the archaic but reliable BTR 60, this formation gives players the option to run large numbers of infantry for an affordable points cost with a deadly anti-tank punch to enemy IFVs and 2nd generation tanks.

Soviet rifle infantry

For brevity’s sake, the humble commie infantryman is covered in this section. Armed with the short ranged yet deadly AK74, Soviet riflemen excel in firefights due to their high rate of fire and good FP rating of 5+. Utilising the appropriate cover, as long as the infantrymen can get to within 8” of the enemy position and dig in, they will be able to winkle out any NATO infantry with enough luck and lead. Their RPG wielding brethren are no slouch in the firepower department, with a fairly good AT17 and FP4+ which keeps enemy vehicles honest. PKM squads wield torrents of dice to drive off enemy infantry assaults or decimate infantry in the open. Their strong rally stat of 3+ allows for reliable recovery from pinning and gives the Soviet commander a reliable brawling unit for assaults.

Unique to the BTR formation is the option to field the Spigot ATGM. For a measly 2 points per stand, you get a decent ROF3 AT19 toolbox which reliably shreds IFVs and lighter tanks. This anti-tank option allows players to form strong firebases to destroy enemy positions or deny areas to light vehicles.

The Gremlin SAM option also gives defensive players the option of area denial to aircraft, albeit with a measly profile. If taken, the Gremlin should be taken in multiples across the formation to create a comprehensive AA umbrella.

Infantry commanders can also opt for the option of fielding the AGS-17, an automatic grenade launcher with an astounding ROF 9, but a poor FP value of 6. Good for shredding infantry in the open but not much else.

BTR 60

Developed in the late 1950s, the BTR-60 was the first in a long line of 8 wheeled armoured personnel carriers. Practically handed out like candy in this formation, this very lightly armored APC possesses mediocre movement values but has a fairly potent sting in the form of its turret mounted 12.7mm machine gun, which is handy in defeating both light IFVs and dug-in infantry. Best used in support of your riflemen, the BTR-60 is truly intimidating in multiple squads of 10 or more.

Using the BTR  60 formation   

It is highly recommended to run at least 2 medium sized platoons. For between 10-16 points depending on the upgrades assigned to them, the BTR 60 platoons will both require a lot of firepower to put down and can assault isolated enemy positions with impunity. A third small platoon can act as a firebase with additional ATGM support or as a follow-up to occupy territory as needed.

Alternatively, another popular option is to run the BTR formation as a fire support base with 2-3 small platoons equipped with ATGMs, running between 19 – 28 points. This provides more than enough covering fire against anything but T1 MBTs.

Small platoons are easily overwhelmed by opposing forces and as such should not be relied upon to hold objectives or assault undamaged infantry throughout the course of the game.

Large platoons are considerably harder to wipe out, but the sheer size and area the platoon needs to occupy makes it very unwieldy compared to the medium infantry platoons.

 

The BMP Motor Rifle Formation

BMP Motor Rifle formations provide heavy anti-tank and high firepower to support your infantry pushes at the expense of cost, but the tradeoffs are typically worth it. An important caveat is that BMPs are also capable of keeping up with tank units, with comparable dash speeds, unlike the slower BTR units.

BMP1

The humble BMP1 turned many heads around when it was first revealed. The very first IFV of the Soviet union, this armored vehicle packs some nasty armament at the cost of ROF. Armed with Sagger ATGMs, it possesses mediocre anti-tank capabilities. The 73mm main gun packs a very good FP of 3+, which makes the BMP1 a fairly capable vehicle in taking out dug-in infantry, a role which many commanders relish in.

BMP2

Taking the lessons learnt from the Syrians during the Yom-Kippur war, the BMP2 is the 2nd iteration of the BMP family, and one of the most infamous vehicles in Red Thunder. It’s claim to fame is the Konkurs ATGM, boasting a ripe AT21 capable of taking out any armoured vehicle in service. Also armed with a 30mm autocannon which excels at killing other IFVs and helicopters, the BMP2 is a symbol of Russian might in large, large numbers.

Using the BMP formation

As with the BTR formation, it is highly recommended to run the BMP formation in 2-3 medium platoons, clocking in at 14 (BMP1) or 18(BMP2) points each. Unlike the BTR formations, there is little reason to run small platoons, as these are easily wiped out and will not contribute much to a battle. BMP firebases create a large zone of area denial and are adept at destroying enemy positions, but will fold in a stand-up fight due to their lack of armour and poor training.

Another oft-recommended option is to simply run 2 large BMP2 platoons clocking in at a whopping 42 points inclusive of the Battalion CO. Highly intimidating, the sheer presence of 25 BMP2s will induce panic among most NATO commanders. Again, the usual caveats apply for their inability to sustain a protracted engagement, so make the best of it to destroy enemy positions where possible.

 

Highlighted Support units

ATGMs (Organic)

Spandrels are a cheap and cheerful option for AT21 missile shots mounted on a BRDM chassis, and should always be taken for 2points.

Recce (Organic)

As outlined in the previous article, Soviets should always seek out weak spots in the enemy lines, and recon is important for this purpose. In most cases the 1 point BRDM platoon should suffice, but some players make a case for 4 BMP2s as a heavy recce platoon, especially in BTR formations.

Tank support (Organic)

Both BMP and BTR formations benefit from tank support, and the latest book, Oil War provides Brezhnev’s gift to the masses: The T-62m. A lightly armored tank, the T62m provides handy brutal firepower for a budget cost of 5 for 10 points. Suffice to say, it’s a welcome support option that will be explored further in the next article.

The T64, while a prime example of soviet might, is expensive and provides a marginal increase in firepower. It’s true value shines in assault where the BDD armour comes into play against most NATO troops.

The T72, while also possessing fairly good stats and BDD, is made obsolete by the T64 for a miniscule points increase.

Anti-air (Organic)

Soviet AA assets are famous for being indiscriminate with firepower, and both formations offer the same support choices of 1 SPAAG (Shilka) and 1 SAM (Gaskin/Gopher/Gecko). In any combined arms scenario it is optimal to have at least 2 SAM options, so either 2 full platoons of Gaskins or Gophers should provide enough AA coverage for your entire army. Shilkas also provide handy anti-infantry firepower, but the rest of the BTR/BMP formation already packs enough lead to bury any poor sod anyway.

Artillery

Although missing the iconic mortar platoons which are integral to Soviet motor rifle companies in real life, the carnation, hail and acacia still provide enough firepower to blow up dug in infantry and provide crucial smoke support for assaults. Both the carnation and Acacia cost the same points, with the carnation being organic to the formation and also packing a fearsome AT 21 cannon, while the Acacia boasts higher firepower at FP2+ and the seldom used Krasnopol Round. The Hail is a cheap salvo template, but presents unique challenges for assault because of the increased safety distance.

Aircraft

In the case of BTR formations, aviation support is crucial because of the formation’s inability to tackle heavy armor. A squadron of 6 Hinds or 6 Frogfoots will ensure no Abrams can threaten you without retribution.

BMP formations are in less dire need of heavy AT support, so do not require air support as badly, although no one ever says no to 4 hinds.

Combat in depth in Team Yankee

In Soviet combat doctrine, a battle in depth emphasizes concentrated strikes on weak points in enemy lines, with secondary forces exploiting gaps in the defense to attack support and command elements in the rear. This requires well-executed combined arms warfare and the concept of echelons on a tactical (read: battalion) level.

The first echelon, typically the assault group, forms the core force and should be the meat and potatoes of your list. First echelon troops perform the following tasks:

  • Breakthrough of enemy defences
  • Destruction of enemy troops
  • Capture of key areas

The second echelon serves to reinforce and exploit the gains of the first echelon, and its size varies depending on the mission profile. Second echelon troops perform the following tasks:

  • Exploitation of enemy weak points
  • Destruction of support units
  • Retention of key areas

Applying echelon principles in list building

In Team Yankee, a Soviet commander should consider to apply this theory where possible, splitting his forces up into waves across the front. First echelon troops advance on the objective and destroy enemy positions, and second echelon troops provide security while the first echelon troops capture the position. Once the position is captured or the first echelon is destroyed, the second echelon troops should follow up accordingly to either break through the lines and threaten key support units such as artillery and command units, or sit on the objective to repel possible counterattacks.  

ADDENDUM (Suggested by Nicholas Bohrhunter): In the context of a standard Motor Rifle formation, list builders should highly consider building around the full 3 platoons to form a list capable of fielding 2 blocks of infantry with a 3rd as the mobile reserve. Tank support is a must in order to provide mobile fire as part of either the first or second echelon and to take some of the heat off the infantry and their very fragile transports. 

First echelon infantry platoons will bear the brunt of the assault, and typically 2 medium platoons with tank, artillery and air support should be enough to overrun a standard NATO platoon, assuming all other factors are even. BTRs operate in close support of their infantry squads, siting their fire lanes on either flank of the advance, while BMPs can afford to sit further back and sling ATGM missiles into the line along the same principles. 

The second echelon aims to provide flank security while the first echelon is engaged, and does so by establishing a firebase suppressing other enemy units along the line of advance. Once the breach is established or the first echelon depleted, the second echelon should exploit the holes and act accordingly.

Below is a sample 100pt list utilising a BMP formation to give commanders some ideas on how to craft a list applying these principles. How would you create your forces along these lines of thought?

BMP Motor Rifle Formation

BMP2 CO

Medium BMP2 platoon

Medium BMP2 platoon

Medium BMP1 platoon

2 BRDM-2

4 T64

4 Gophers

3 Spandrels

3 Carnations + OP

Formation Support

4 Mi-24 Hinds 

4 Gophers 

3 spandrels 

Total: 100 points

No. of Platoons: 11

Thoughts for Team Yankee V2

As the reserves rule works drastically differently for Team Yankee V2 (40% of total points instead of half your platoons), the second echelon/ reserves would be comprised of the most mobile units, the T64s, BMP platoons and Hinds.

Closing

The next article will cover the vaunted Tank Divisions, the symbol of Soviet might for generations. Check back in a week to read up on the various tank options available to the soviets and how they work in cooperation with Infantry to achieve objectives.

If you are considering building a Soviet force, how about checking out the BTR and BMP boxes on the Blitz and Peaces online store?

 

About the Writer:

Eddie is an avid painter who also enjoys anime, studying military history and hopes that Girls Und Panzer will come true one day so that everyone can resolve their differences with tank Airsoft.

 

 

Resources:

The Soviet army: Operations and tactics FM 100-2-1 ,1984, Headquarters, department of the Army (USA)

The Russian way of war, 2016, Lester W. Grau & Charles K. Bartles, Foreign Military Studies Office

Tankograd: https://thesovietarmourblog.blogspot.com

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Comments

  • Chris Jackson - August 16, 2019

    BTR weapon is a 14.5mm Eaton, not 12.7.

    Also should have had a discussion on Combat Recon Patrol, forward security element, and Advance Guard Main Body. An understanding of these elements will go a long way towards list building and understanding tactics.

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