Saturday, 31 October 2015

New Byzantium - the Cold War army

This is Part 5 of what has turned out to be a bit of a magnum opus (part 4 is over here)

When the idea of a Cold War Byzantine army occurred to me to fight Iain's Imagi-nation Poles, I thought it would be simply a case of choosing some kit and inventing a TO&E structure. It turned out I "needed" to think about the military strategy that the force was designed for, to get the "what" that the overall army structure of a Medieval system might make some sense in, and then to think about orginins - the post WW2 & early Cold War equipment that would still be in the army, just so the choices of the structures & equipment of the period we plan to fight (late 70's/80's) had a history and made a kind of sense in a context.

And then that bad man Don M and I started to explore all sorts of fascinating byways Byzantium could have evolved into, setting of even more ideas.

Anyway, enough of that, its all there in parts 1 through 4, and now on with the toys the army has in the 70's/80's (I'll ignore anything not really visible in 1/300 scale).. If you haven't tead them, the next section sums it up.

A Brief Summary of the last 4 posts' discussion on equipment

WW2 and Immediate Post War gear still in service

Post 2 covers this in detail. In short, German, Commonwealth & Soviet equipment was left when those forces pulled out (reluctantly, in the Soviet case) and it was all used, so the army of the 40's and early 50's was a polyglot collection of kit. Over the 50's they started to consolidate into a few types that (i) looked like they would stay useful longest, (ii) more could be bought cheaply and/or (iii) spares were readily available. As more modern equipment came in over the decades much was retired but the "best of" was passed from the elite and armoured brigades to the 1st line Infantry and then to the 2nd line reservist units.  T-34/85 tanks, SU-100 Tank Destroyers, M3 Halftracks, Daimler Dingios and Katyushkas, plus a variety of guns and reliable Soviet trucks still survive into the late 70's/early 80's force.

New Byzantium - first line Thematic motorised infantry battalion in the 1950's/60's - Jeeps with recoilless rifles as AT. Towed Mortars & AA. This is still the structure of 2nd line (reservist) Thematic units. TO&E follows Fistful of TOWS structure

In the 1950's and into the 60's, as with Yugoslavia & Finland, it was felt most expedient to buy Soviet equipment (Hungary was an example that was somewhat mind-focussing) - so over the 1950's various upgrades were made, but most re-armament was around continuing to rationalise equipment. The army folowed other border neutrals and gradually standardised around Soviet equipment, with a few useful old stagers like the M-3, Dingo & 25 pounder remaining..

Into the 1960's

Come the Cold war Hotting up, came a need to upgrade to equipment that wasn't really just WW2 vintage plus. New MBTs (T-55s) and other equipment was procured, an eye out at all times for good kit at a good price. Soviet supply was releced to an extent by other Warsaww Pact countries and neutrals. Towards the end of the 60's (after France left NATO) the Panhard AML-60 and 90 came in as new "heavy" armoured cars, replacing a variety of WW2 vintage armoured cars that had increasingly been kept running by duct tape and fervent prayer. .

The 70's

The 1973 October War had a big impact on military thinking, the Top Brass came to 3 main conclusions, in that an army with:
  • Better tanks in good defensive positions could KO a lot of enemy armour - fast
  • Missiles! Both AT and AA missiles brought the Arabs back into the war after they had lost their armour and any air superiority.  
  • You can stop a lot of nasty things with a big artillery barrage 
  • Conversely, enemy artillery barrages are nasty unless your troops are protected from them.
This drove 4 conclusions in the Future Army Review, and led to:

- an upgrade of the T-55 fleet as well as the serach for a new MBT
- a crash programme to equip AT elements with ATGW, and extend them to other parts of the force, ditto introduction of SAMs
- Increase in artillery elements (mainly mortars) at Brigade level as well as expansion of the rtilleery arm
- The need for an IFV for the mechanised infantry

The whole point of all this - the army of the late 1970's and 80's Cold Wars


Belisarius Man Battle Tank

The emergence of the T-72 in WARPAC nations' armies in the early 80's really rattled the Top Brass, as it was clear nothing they owned was going to stop this tank, upgrading the T-55 fleet further was pointless as they had reached Peak Gun with their French 105mm upgrade, and to an extent getting T-72's was pointless as it was going to be an older version of what they would probably face.  Interestingly, "neutral" (aka non NATO) France had developed an AMX-30 upgrade, the AMX-32, and was desperate for a first export customer at the same time Byzantum was desperate for a T-72 killer. The AMX 32 would eventually come with a 120mm gun that would actually stop a T-72 (soon, soon, said the French soothingly) and so, with a few mods and an agreement to allow a lot of local production, a modified AMX 32 was bought, with the French 105mm gun initially and promises of an upgunning (soon, soon). In Byzantine service this was called the Belisarius and started equipping the Armoured brigades in the early 80's. The last T-34's were withdrawn from the 1st line Thematic forces as freed up ex Armoured Division T-55's filled those slots. (Backstory - I bought a bunch of Heroics & Ros AMX-32s many years ago, so they were a shoo in for the MBT :-)   Much to my surprise, they are still on the H&R price list )

T-105 and T- 55 (Mod)

As noted, the T-55's were continually upgraded, those in the Tagmata are being upgraded to 105mm guns. As the Belisarius enters service T-55sare being moved to the Thematic 1st Line units, retiring  the last T-34s.into the reserve cadres

 T-105 tank battalion in Fistful of TOWS format , 3 companies of tanks and Cursores have Dingo w/ATGW. Camo is adapted from a 70's Czech pattern


T-34s are now mainly kept in the 2nd Line Reservist forces, having had various upgrades over the years. There is continual discussion about upgunning, but these machines are very old and refurbishment cost is not that different to replacing them with refurbished T-55s so that is the preferred approach, T-34 hulls are increasingly used to mount other weapons or as spares repositories. 

Tank Destroyers


Still soldiering on as the Tank Destroyer in all Infantry brigades, over many refurbishments, including upgrades to 105mm L7 guns. As the ATGW vehicles and T-55s arrive in the 1st line units, the SU-100s are starting to be retired to the 2nd Line.

Missile using Tank Destroyers

Throughout the 70's/80's there was a crash programme of attaching ATGMs to existing APC and Scout vehicles. 

Armoured Cars

AML 90 & 60

AML-90 is used in the armoured companies of the Light Battalions, and the Recce companies of all mechanised infantry. AML 60 Mortar used in the light infantry


Used in most Recce units, now increasingly being re-equipped with ATGW missiles. The WW2 era Dingo has been a workhorse for 40 years, as it is highly flexible and easy to run, and the State Arsenal has developed the capability to manufacture the car and it has had many upgrades over the year. It is often marked as "due to be phased out" but it has turned out to be a useful carrier for smaller AT and AA  missiles, as well as continuing to be a useful "armoured jeep" in the Light brigades and for all sorts of other purposes.

 VBL eat your heart out.....

Mowag Piranha 90

There is a need for a better armoured "heavy" armoured car than teh AML, and Experiments have also been made with mounting AML 90mm turrets on the Piranhas (see below), and these are progressing step is to see if they can take a low velocity 105mm gun!

AFVs/APCs/Troop Transports


It's a reflection of the era that the BMP-1, despite huge shortcomings, was the best IFV of its era. But it had huge shortcomings.Byzantium obtained some, but like Yugoslavia and Austria decide to develop their own.


The workhorse of the Tagmata for some years but now being shifted down 1st Line infantry units, also being equipped with AA or AT missiles as infantry AT APCs. Some are converted to carry mortars in the mechanised infantry units, replacing the BTR 152 mortar carriers. 

 Tagmatic Mechanised  Battalion, 3 companies in OT-64s and Dingo ATGW, Psiloi have a Dingo platoon as well as Jeep platoons. Artillery AA and Mortars are self propelled 

FUG  PZH 944

Main transport APC of the Light Infantry (apart from Jeeps) since the 70's, also increasingly being equipped with AA or AT missiles. Experience in the 70's showed that the trucks and jeeps used till then could compromise light infantry survival.  The OT-64 was felt to be too hard to transport by air and too cumbersome for the light infantry in difficult terrain and the FUG's were the smallest amphibious vehicles that could carry a full infantry squad available

Mowag Piranha

By the mid 80's it was becoming clear that the infantry needed a better armoured ride than the OT-64s and FUGs, and the Swiss Mowag Piranha family fitted the bill, as the 4x4, 6x6 and 8x8 versions could replace different vehicles.

BTR-152 APC & M-3 Halftracks

M-3s and BTR are still used for non front line tasks but are being pjhased out of 1st line units as OT-64s and FuGs are moved down the Line.

Jeeps & similar

Appears all over the army, but is the main vehicle of the Militia & Recce (Psiloi) units. Many of these are armed with HMGs and AT devices, where recoilless rifles are starting to be replaced by ATGWs.

Thematic 1st Line forces, 3 Companies of infantry in BTR-152s, ATGW in Jeeps, Psiloi company on LHS in Jeeps with HMG and ATGW, BTR 152 mortars and AA on RHS. OT-64s are in the process of replacing BTR 152s

Air Assets

The discussion with Don in the Comments below, and with Iain last night got me to thinking about Air assets. In Fistful of TOWS its unlikely we'll see much more than helos and the odd ground attack, so here are New Byzantium's.


- The WSK/Mi-2 is the main light helicopter, and is increasingly over the period is being armed with ATGW.
- The Mi-8 is the medium transport workhorse of air forces across the world, and so it is with New Byzantium.

- The Soviets won't sell Mi-24s, and the US won't give sell Cobras, never mind Apaches but Byzantium wants a tankhunting helicopter to replace older strike jets (and it's an excuse to have less tannks) and are watching the development of the South African Rooivalk with interest....


- L-39 Albatros - Like many smaller nations, new Byzantum used the same plane for advanced training and ground attack work, and also like many countries, they kickstarted a jet aerospace industry by licence manufacture of the Czech aircraft.


  1. I was going to comment earlier but the post went missing, now that I see the photos it's understandable...) Your forces look the part! Question (at the risk of opening a new can
    of worms lol) does New Byzantium have a navy? You need a map of your country, showing
    cities, rivers, coast line, and resources etc. (knowing you this is probably already in the works)

    p.s. I'm asking because of my weakness for gunboats...).

  2. I didn't realise I'd published, so took it down for the photos.

    I guess they would at the very least have a coastal Navy, so gunboats are on (and missile armed fast patrol boats). There is the thorny issue of co-owning the Dardanelles and Bosphorus with Turkey. My Naval gaming is all Pre-Dreadnought though :)

    I thought they were more likely to invest in an Air Force with anti-ship capability than a blue water Navy though. I want some Soviet bombers with those retro Sci Fi glass noses :). Any thoughts there Don?

    A map is "difficult" as it forces me to be specific about territory owned, so I vaguely say that European Turkey and some of the terrain of the defeated Balkan states like Bulgaria was handed over. Fwiw I am thinking about Cold War Turkey as an opponent...

    BTW thanks for all the comments, I think our discussions have added huge backstory and detail to the project!

  3. I was going for a coast guard riverine type force here, given the scale I game in and collect it's about as blue water as I get! My only other naval gaming involves starships....)

    I'm sure the Chinese will sell you any of their older Russian clones but as for the BEAR it is like our
    B52, a super power is rather greedy with it's intercontinental strike capability......)

    In my mind I always thought that the former Yugoslavia did not exist in your time line and that was where New Byzantium was located. Now all you need do is change place names...)

    I've enjoyed myself here so the comments were quite a pleasure for me!

  4. Re "where is it" - I remember looking at the end of the 1st Balkan War and wondered what would happen if much of ex Turkish Thrace (the light green lands here and a bit of south Bulgaria, maybe up to the were handed over to form Byzantia (as a Mandated state after WW1 to ensure Britain/France get some control of the Dardanelles/ Bosphorus). No doubt the map was redrawn a bit after WW2, but Yugoslavia wasn't as big as Cold War maps show it :)

    Was thinking more of a Beagle (the "Russian Canberra" ) than a Bear for early Naval operations, or maybe a Yak 28 (you can get 1/300 models of it...), though I guess by the 80's they will be replaced. For Fistful ot TOWS the most we're likely to need on table are helos though, and maybe a ground attack aircraft or two.

    There are rivers, but as far as I can see they are not that big, maybe Byzantium extends as far as lake Ohrid (ie encompasses all Macedonia). There are all sorts of small bays & coves along the Med & Black Sea coastline for small boats and dirty deeds though, that's probably more likely to be where lots of gunboat action is.

    1. Macedonia and Turkish Thrace and a slice here and there from the neighborhood wood
      work land wise. Was thinking they picked up some Italian coastal craft as war reparations
      and these served well into the 60s and possibly 70s. These could be phased out and replaced with Swedish (or other) made craft in the 80s.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. That's a good plan - the Italian MTB's are very good and those bigger Torpedo boats (Spica, Ariete class - some Spica were sold to Sweden) are very pretty and quite tough. Yugoslavia used a lot of WW1/between the wars Italian ships. I wonder if a few German E/S boats may have been procured, also maybe a few of those Russan Tupolev G5 gunboats.

  5. Looking forward to the big dust-up Alan!

    AMX-32's vs Vickers MK.3 and Dingo/atgm (which one though?) vs Ferret/Swingfire will be a blast.

  6. Looking forward Iain - after Don's comments here & chatting to you last night I've defined the air assets as well