In my latest post, The First Blows, my fictional Canadians were rather successful against an advancing Russian Tank Battalion. Nary a Canadian suffered so much as a hang nail en route to a complete shellacking of the dimwit Russians.
"Where the Heck did all the Canadians come from?"
Some of my peers have made comments as to our capabilities, but as I told them, the intent was to show the ideal. A skillfully lead tank squadron combat team could in fact deal such a blow to an advancing force.
So, in the interest of fairness, I now turn my attention to A Squadron, which in my scenario was tasked to destroy an enemy battalion much further to the north along the E22.
Like B Squadron, A Squadron is a combat team. It has its Squadron HQ along with 4 troops of tanks and a platoon of infantry. The route it has to cover is a bit more open than that of its sister squadron, so the OC came up with a slightly different plan.
His plan was fairly straightforward. In the first part, or phase, he would gain contact with the enemy in the area of Rezekne near the junction of the E22 and the north/south running A 13.
A Squadron Area of Operations
He was counting on contact at night where his night sights would have an advantage over the advancing Russians. Once contact were made, he would conduct a delay, maintaining contact at maximum range until he had shaped the enemy into his killing zone.
A Squadron Commander's Overall Plan
Once they had the enemy into Battle Position 101 ("BP 101"), he would then engage them frontally with dug in infantry and a tank troop, fixing the enemy along the front. The enemy would then be drawn into conducting an attack, at which point the counter attack force of two tank troops would strike at the enemy's vulnerable flank.
The Simple Plan
On paper, the plan was simple enough and cunning enough to work. It relied on surprise and took advantage of knowledge of the Russian doctrine.
When first contact was made, the first blows were delivered by the tanks of 1 troop. At maximum range, they engaged the initial reconnaissance forces. The affair was one-sided and the Russians didn't have a chance. Unlike their brethren in B Squadron, A Squadron was intent on blinding the enemy's recce forces. This was part of the overall plan to give the Russians the illusion of success in the south. Unknown to the Canadians, that's just what the Russians surmised, and soon their primary route diverted from the North to the South. In the first echelon, nothing was noticed, but the real difference came in the second, follow-on echelon, where the Mobile Obstacle Detachment moved behind the battalion that was even now assuming the lead over the Division and Brigade reconnaissance elements. The division commander rightly assumed that the Canadians would fight for time in the north, and he wasn't going to risk his more lightly armoured forces against the tanks to his front.
After 1 troop fell back behind 3 troop, it wasn't long before the wrath of the Russians was felt. Unknown to A Squadron, a flight of UAVs was even now scanning the intended route of the tank battalion to its front. 1 Troop was spotted as they withdrew to the West, and soon a flurry of 152mm shells fell among the tanks. There was no significant damage to the tanks, but it did cause 3 troop to remain under cover.
The King of Battle firing on the Canadians
Soon their patience was rewarded with the sight of the advancing Combat Reconnaissance Patrol (CRP). At maximum range, the Leopards opened on the first two T 90s they spotted. The T 90s appeared to be hit, but one of them reversed quickly as the other started to burn as its interior ammunition caught fire. The crew was able to escape with minimal injuries, but the tank was hors de combat for now.
The Leopards popped their smoke grenades and fell back, and just in a nick of time. They were spotted just as they opened up and soon the 152mm shells were falling among their now-vacated position.
Further back, the OC decided that it was time to make a clean break. The terrain just didn't really allow for his forces to risk being shot up in the open. He wasn't quite sure how the Russians were able to bring down artillery so quickly on his positions, nor so accurately, but he did (rightly) assume that there were UAVs about. With no AD Radar assets in the BG, his forces were virtually blind when it came to enemy air assets. Thus far, his forces were fortunate in that Russian helicopter and fixed-wing assets were apparently busy elsewhere in the Baltics.
A quick issue of orders on the radio net later, his forces were set. 1 and 3 troop were set as the counter moves forces. 2 Troop and 4 platoon, H Company, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment were set at their positions in BP 101. They were well dug in and camouflaged and ready for the advancing Russians. They wouldn't have long to wait.
Just as their doctrine dictated, the CRP led the advance with the main body not far behind. It was back far enough to be out of harm's way, but close enough to be able to assist the CRP within minutes. Soon that CRP would need its help!
Unlike the previous engagements, the aim of the position was to engage the CRP in close in order to entice them to draw in a battalion attack. So, at about 2,000 yards, the first shots to land on the advancing tanks were by the Canadian Artillery some 20 km to the West. The rounds did very little damage to the tanks, but it did cause them to take pause. They dispersed and scanned the area to the front, where the route entered the woods, and they rightly determined that the position was held. Although they could see no individual positions, some wire and markings of the limits of an Anti Tank minefield were noted. This information was passed to the BG HQ and soon the orders were being generated for a battalion hasty attack.
The first step in the attack was the artillery. The Brigade Artillery Group supported by the Divisional Artillery Group quickly formulated a fire plan and soon let loose an intense barrage across the suspected enemy position. The initial barrage was more general in nature, as UAVs continued to scan and look for the positions. As well, further UAV missions went west in search of the Canadian Artillery.
Unknown and undetected by the Canadians, the Russians decided to conduct a frontal feignt in order to draw in the Canadian counter attack as they even now deployed their mobile obstacle detachment (MOD) to block the enemy attack into their flank. This involved a series of hastily laid mines across a frontage of some 2 km as anti tank formations set up to fire across the obstacles.
Russian Plan. As they attack into the Canadians (Red Arrow), the Canadian Counter Attack would strike from the north (Blue Arrow). They would hit the surprise obstacle (green rectangle) and right then, the Anti Tank forces would strike into their flanks.
The plan was simple but it adhered to the principles of simplicity and surprise. And it was easily understood by all.
At H Hour, the time of the attack, the Canadian position, still not quite properly discerned, was struck with an intense barrage of High Explosives and Smoke. The two assaulting companies struck out from their attack position and raced towards the Canadian obstacle belt. They were still not under effective fire as they began their breaching operation. Soon, however, Canadian fire reached out and started to inflict casualties, even as the Canadian artillery fell among the Russian sappers and engineering vehicles. There were some casualties, but the troops remained rather composed under this enemy fire, intense as it was.
Suddenly, from the north, a dull rumble added to the sounds of the battle. The ten tanks of the counter moves force were even now just starting to move into their firing positions off to the Russian Flank. It was going very well even though the casualties from the Russian artillery were starting to mount among the Canadian infantry.
Suddenly a bright flash caught the Squadron Commander by surprise. He looked to his left and saw a Leopard has just come to a screeching halt, smoke billowing from its near track. It was quite immobile and even now the crew was seen to be bailing out. Mines! Just then, another flash and another tank stopped dead in its tracks. They were still 500 metres from the firing position, and their presence was sorely needed to augment the fire into the kill zone! Where did the mines come from? Worse yet, he had no assets with which to breach the anti tank ditch that was even now being reported.
The squadron commander's heart sunk. He has run into the Russian MOD's hasty belt. He knew that it was only seconds before the enemy would....
It was right then that the anti tank missiles started to strike into his flank. "MISSILE, MISSILE, MISSILE!" was called out over the net. Two tanks were struck as the survivors began to launch smoke and seek cover. But it was all but over for the counterattack. 2 tanks were immobilized and 2 more were destroyed. The surviving six were able to escape the initial barrage but were even now straining to find the firing positions. It was too late. The enemy barrage had shifted and now fell among the fleeing Leopards. One more was immobilized and the Squadron Commander realized that his plan had failed. Smoke was called for and once his position was well-screened, his surviving tanks raced back to the battle position. He ordered the remainder of the squadron to make its way back after breaking contact. It was almost too late for the main force, but by skillful use of maintained track plans, the bulk of the main defending force made its way back. But the plan now was in ruins and it was up to the relatively unused 4 troop (the squadron reserve) to take over the battle.
A Squadron fell back in some disorder and much the wiser as it made its way to the Battle Group rally point at Jekabpils some 60 km distant.