World War 3: Warsaw Pact is the latest offering from Battlefront miniature's Cold war era miniatures game, bringing the armies of the historical counterpart to NATO to the tabletop.
The Warsaw Pact, officially the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, was formed in the aftermath of the formation of NATO in 1955. Dominated by the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact was a formidable military power to be utilised in the ideological battles of the cold war. At it's height, the combined forces of the Soviet Bloc nations hung the spectre of open war over the world.
Featuring the East German (DDR) Volksarmee, Polish and Czech forces in the 1980s (and hypothetically 90s) timeline, players can access a smorgasboard of not just 3, but 4 new additions to Soviet and warsaw pact forces with the introduction of new plastic kits like the T-72B Main battle Tank and Su17/22 'Fitter' strike aircraft.
Overview of the warsaw pact articles
This series of articles by Blitzminis covers not only the new units appearing in the various warsaw pact forces, but also battle reports using the new book, as well as hobby articles on how to paint up the new plastic kits when they release!
The T-72B Main Battle Tank
The flagship tank of the USSR and the Soviet Bloc, the T-72 was planned as a 'workhorse' main battle tank to replace the ageing T-55 tank fleets in the Warsaw Pact. Adopted into service in 1973 into the Soviet union, the T-72 was a mobilization model of the more advanced, but also costly and finicky T-64 MBT. Cost-wise, the T-72 represented a comfortable middle point of performance and efficiency over the T-64 while carrying the same features that made it the breakthrough tank of its era, specifically it's mobility, low profile and auto loading armament while also having the unique advantage of sharing parts with the T-55 for ease of maintainence.
Just edging out the T-62 in terms of production, the T-72 became the 2nd most produced modern tank in history, with a confirmed production number of 25000+++ models built across the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact nations, becoming the symbol of Soviet military might for generations since.
While rugged and easily utilised even by poorly-trained crews, the T-72 also suffered from the lineage of Soviet tank design, which dictated that crew ergonomics were secondary to the hardware. Similarly, cost concerns also meant that the T-72 was not equipped with cutting edge fire control systems or adequate night vision apart from the ubiquitious infra-red lamps. Likewise, the armor of the initial model was at the time of it's inception, resistant to 105mm HEAT rounds, but quickly became obsolete with the introduction of the TOW and MILAN ATGM (Anti Tank Guided Missile) systems which were able to penetrate the armor of every soviet tank of that era.
While the prior 2 issues with the tank could not be easily solved, at least the armor could be improved in later models, culminating in the T-72B, the most heavily armored tank of the line. First introduced in 1984 to the Soviet army, the Tank was initally spotted without the ERA armor additions, earning it the nickname of 'Super Dolly Parton' due to the bulging turret cheek armor plates, which were a potent cocktail of composite armor designed to defeat ATGMs, the main threat to tank operations.
ERA (Explosive reactive Armor) was initally a development derived from the findings of the Soviet military in exploring a system capable of countering chemical warhead rounds (HEAT) since the 1950s. Similarly, a remote sensing system to counter HEAT warheads was Initially patented in 1970 in Germany. The ERA concept was finalized and brought to life as the 'BLAZER' system for the Israeli M48A3, drastically improving it's dated protection against handheld weapons. Taking a lead from this, the Soviet army introduced it's own ERA in 1985 in the form of 'KONTAKT-1', which operated along the same lines. Installing the ERA on the T-72BA, which covered the tank in 227 blocks of armor along the turret, upper glacis and sides gave the tank a maximum protection of roughly 700-900mm RHA, enough to defeat current generation ATGMs, but only resistant to the TOW 2 warhead, which was introduced in 1983.
It is important to note that these developments were confined to the Soviet union, which was notorious for restricting it's own allies to access to more advanced technologies out of paranoia over issues of loyalty (a common issue with communist regimes). Before the eventual collapse of the Soviet union, a 'monkey model' export version of the T-72B was proposed as an upgrade to the export model T-72M used by it's Warsaw Pact allies.
This model, the T-72S 'Shilden', was projected to have less ERA coverage with only 155 ERA blocks spread out over the tank as a cost-cutting measure. Projected to be introduced into the now defunct East German army by 1995 (According to the final 1989 meeting of the Military scientific and technical council (MWTR) in Warsaw), this model is speculated to be the basis for post-soviet upgrades to the Polish and Czech armed forces, both of which still maintain old T-72Ms with ERA protection in their modern arsenal.
Potential historical use in the Warsaw Pact
In the world of Team Yankee, the T-72B is available to Warsaw Pact forces as part of a hypothetical rushed upgrade in the event of open war. As the timeline is somwhat nebulous in terms of the exact era (between 1985-1995), it would be a reasonable, if somewhat unfeasible, expectation that Soviet logisticians would be able to jury rig up ERA blocks to a sizable number of T-72Ms in time for the war. If anything, these would likely be 2nd echelon forces to exploit breakthroughs in their fronts. Likewise, the technology would have been made available through the aforementioned MWTR council channels, which were the primary source of military technological distribution throughout the Warsaw Pact nations as early as 1988 (1982 was the historical year where T-55 tanks were to be upgraded to T-55AM2s as per MWTR advice).
In-game, the T-72B is a potent upgrade to the existing T-72M, boating an incredible front armor rating of 18, enough to shrug off 105mm cannon rounds and smaller ATGMs like the Dragon and Spigot systems. While still somewhat vulnerable to MILANs and TOWs (and especially TOW2s), the T-72B represents a massive step up in terms of survivability for Warsaw pact players, who previously only had the very mediocre armor of the T-72M to work with.
The T-72B retains the same mobility and range as the T-72M, but also receives a small, but significant upgrade to the main gun, which is now on par with soviet T-72 tanks. The At-8 missile upgrade is a potent range extender, which turns the T-72B into a well-armored mobile sniper with the potential to also snatch attack helicopters with lucky shots at long range.
Most importantly, ERA provides excellent, if conditional protection against handheld anti tank weapons at close range, giving it an armor rating of 16 vs attacks from the side. This can be negated by weapons with the Tandem HEAT trait, so beware if you are facing Russian infantry equipped with RPG-7vrs!
the T72B costs nearly twice as much as the T-72m in terms of points costs for a tank company across the 3 warsaw pact armies, and as such is not intended to be a tank that can be spammed en-masse (although bull-headed players will certainly enjoy trying). Even with armor 18, it is still very vulnerable to getting taken out by heavier guns and as such should be employed judiciously to bully NATO infantry or take advantage of it's heavier armor to sit in cover and trade shots with other heavy tanks while it's lighter brethren move to flank enemy positions.
East Germany (NVA) T-72B
The East German T-72B (pictured above) takes full advantage of the superior discipline of NVA forces. With decent remount and excellent morale, the T-72B acts as a breakthrough tank which can be either a frontline tank or a long range sniper in support of T-55 or T-72m forces.
The Polish T-72B enjoys significantly higher courage and counterattack values at a premium, which turns the T-72B into the best assault tank available to the Warsaw Pact. Make full use of ERA protection to dive into enemy infantry and force them to break off. Remember to bring along infantry support to secure your flanks!
The Czech T-72B is abit of a mixed bag, as it shares the dismal remount, counterattack and courage values typical to czech forces, which gives the tank company a significant discount in points, making it the only T-72B that can be spammed without any hard feelings. It is advisable to take the tank in large companies of at least 5-8 tanks to prevent your troops from running away in the middle of battle, supported by a battalion commander to keep them in the fight with re-rolls to morale and remounts. Although mighty, this tank does not play to Czech strengths, which are the cheaper T-72Ms.
The russian T-72B straight up replaces the vastly inferior T-72A and T-64 in russian forces for a comparatively small price bump, making this the new mainline battle tank for Russian players. Best played in 3-tank companies, the T-72B will maintain a steady advance in support of either more advanced tanks like the T-80 or assist BMP battalions to assault enemy positions. Interestingly, the Russian T-72B has the option of equipping the AT-11 Sniper ATGM, which frees up the T-80 from the mobile sniper role. Canny players may find use in these as very heavily armored anti tank snipers that opponents cannot ignore.
We hope you enjoyed this article, do look forwards to our next article as we discuss the SU17 Fitter, the new unit available to Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces in a week!
Editor's note: The warsaw pact expansion for WW3: Team yankee was originally planned for September 2021. Due to the worldwide pandemic situation, the release was pushed back to April 2022. Blitzminis has had the book in our hands since last year and there were many things we wanted to explore but the timing of current events is a sobering reminder that tabletop wargames should, and indeed must, remain a fantasy for players to enjoy.
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.