Bloodied Baltics {Ch.1}

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For the past several months – myself and Millett have been arguing if Wargame: Red Dragon could serve as a viable platform to simulate a massive engagement, by conducting the Brigade-level movements via discussion and debate, and fighting smaller company and Battalion actions within the game itself. The result (after heavy drinking and many hangovers to match) was that we agreed to attempt an AAR of its own kind. We both created our own military doctrines, and committed to trying to flesh out a full campaign in the full pursuit of this idea.

Each week, myself and Millett will privately write up orders for our side, and reveal them, resolving their overall effects via debate, or taking smaller Battalion-level engagements to the battlefield to be reported here. These will be featured after the disposition of forces each week, to keep players updated of the progress of forces.

The scenario itself is as follows, the Kingdom of Arcadia, a deeply multi-ethnic nation is fragmenting and bursting at the seams with sectarian violence, and an economy racked by debt as the internal strife drives away competition. Their Western neighbor, Hvalltar, is a small, Norther European nation that has a prosperous economy after massive natural gas findings within their sovereign Baltic waters. This is coupled with a strong social policy, as well as being courted for the North Sea Security Charter (NSSC), a multi-national defence cooperative that involves both North American and Western European nations.

Arcadia, seeking to capitalize on these natural gas findings, plans to move to seize many of the internal parts of Hvalltar, as the natural gas refineries, as well as pipelines and natural gas reserves are located in areas with high refugee populations with Arcadian-borne ethnicity. By seizing these key locations, with a minimal amount of damage done to the Hvalltar Petroleum Refinement Corporation (HPRC), they hope to hold their gains until a settlement can be reached in the League of Nations, and leverage political support from the nations that rely on Hvalltar’s natural gas to be allowed to keep it.

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Fig. 1.0 HPRC Eastern Overland Pipeline Complex (EOPC). In Blue, the Initial Injection Stations from the South Baltic Natural Gas Fields, in yellow the individual refineries, with the Siedlc natural gas reserve featured center of frame, bottom.

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Fig. 1.1 Disposition of Forces, Royal Army of Hvalltar and Arcadian Army on June 29th, 2017

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Fig. 1.2 7-day Forecast for 2. Bde’s Area of Operations (AO)

Commonwealth of Hvalltar

  1. War Aims
    1.  The Royal Army of Hvalltar will seek to defend the strategic pipelines running through the country’s Eastern province of Lajka.
  2. Justification for War
    1. None – the provocations and posturing of Arcadians have drawn conflict into Hvalltar’s borders, despite consistently accepting their refugees.
  3. Strategic Method
    1. Delaying actions by all conventional forces.
    2. Deep-strike and reconnaissance missions to be conducted by Special Operations Forces and the Royal Hvalltar Air Force attempting to disrupt and deny the enemy a secure rear area.
    3. Localized counter-attacks focusing on protecting the civilian populace and local infrastructure when possible; scorched Earth when not to discourage occupying forces.
    4. Foreign Secretary will attempt to expedite the treaty ratification of the NSSC to receive the assistance of major Western European superpowers.
  4. Brief Description of Forces
    1. Overview: The Royal Army of Hvalltar is well equipped and prepared. The 1987 white paper outlined defence needs, namely protecting regional security as intelligence services predicted the slow degradation of neighboring allies due to internal racial and ethnic conflict. Mechanized forces, comprising of BMP-2 and BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles still provide most of the infantry’s firepower, supported by late-model T-72 tanks with local and foreign upgrade systems. Advanced reconnaissance and imaging systems have also bolstered the ISTAR capabilities of the Hvalltar land element. This, combined with increased funding to the Air Force and their recent procurement of F/A-18 fighter aircraft means that the AirLand Battle concept outlined as a necessity in the 1987 White Paper have adequately prepared the Army and Air Force for battle.
    2. Formations:
      1. 1 Brigade Small.png1. Brigade (“King’s”) is an overstrength mechanized battlegroup comprising of three battalions of mechanized infantry in BMP-2s and BMP-1s, with a supporting squadron of reconnaissance vehicles and T-72s from the King’s Own Hussars. It is the premier mechanized brigade in the Army, and recently saw service during the Sudan Crisis of 2010, where it fought a conventional engagement against near-peer forces, giving it a deep corps of experienced officers and NCOs. Its current assignment is the defence of the counties around Suwalki.
      2. 2 Brigade Small.png2. Brigade is a regular-strength mechanized battlegroup consisting of 3 battalions of mechanized infantry all in BMP-2s. While it lacks the organic armour assets offered in some other brigades, it has equal amounts of mortars, howitzers, and MLRS systems, with an additional battalion of tank destroyers attached to remedy this. It currently sits at full strength defending the county of Grodno.
      3. 3 Brigade Small.png3. Brigade is the same in composition and structure as 2. Brigade, however it was on deployment from 2007-10 as part of the workup and enabling force for OP CHEETAH PROTECT, the screening and peacekeeping action in Sudan. This means that while not the most experienced formation, it does have veteran soldiers within its ranks. In addition to this, it has 2 attached squadrons of armour from the King’s Own Hussars, the veteran armoured regiment within the Army. It is currently postured to defend the massive refinery complex at Bialystok.
      4. 4 Brigade Small.png4. Brigade is the only fully armoured brigade within the Army. It is centered around three battalions of modernized T-72s, with a supporting reconnaissance squadron and supporting battalion of mechanized infantry from the Royal Grenadier Regiment. They are the second most experienced brigade, also taking part in OP CHEETAH FURY, the offensive action in Sudan, acting as the spearhead for 1. Brigade as well as supporting NSSC assets. It is assigned on the Southern flank, acting as a protecting force for the Brest refinery.
      5. 5 Brigade Small.png5. Brigade is the only reserve brigade within the Army, comprising of forces from all across the country. It has 6 battalions of infantry, a mixture of light and mechanized infantry, with many of the NCOs and officers being prior service, meaning that while its forces are older, they do have a depth of experience. 5. Brigade lacks the organic howitzer elements, but makes up for this with additional mortar batteries within each battalion. Assigned to the capital region, they are placed in the operational reserve, with the goal of reinforcing either 1. or 2. Brigades.
  5. Opening moves at operational level
    1. 1. Brigade will conduct a fighting withdrawal to the South-West, using the marshy and adverse terrain between Elk and Olsztyn to delay the Northern Grouping of Arcadian forces. 2. Brigade will conduct a delaying action with 3. Brigade, aimed at causing as much attrition to enemy armor and force enabling assets as possible, with the specific intent to defend the strategic refineries at Bialystok, laying minefields and creating a defense in depth, using E and F Squadrons from the King’s Own Hussars as the tactical reserve. 4. Brigade will wait to be relieved by elements from 5. Brigade, and will then counter-attack, aiming to throw off enemy attacks to the East of the Bialystok refineries, and destroy the enemy axis of movement on that path of advance.

Kingdom of Arcadia

War aims
War aims are primarily to secure the economically valubale oil refineries at Elblag, Lomza, Bialystok, Siedlce, and Brest. Importance is given to preserving their integrity. Though vulnerable, the capital of Lodz will not be considered an objective, as it is likely to incite foreign nation to intervene. Destruction of enemy forces in the field is a secondary objective.
Justification for war
A sizeable population of Arcadian refugees exist in the border regions, giving justification for us to seize Brest and Elblag. The seizure of Bialystok must be justified on purely military grounds, as it is the enemy’s center of gravity.
Strategic method
Forces will attempt to encircle and destroy the enemy’s main forces near the border region. They will likely attempt to entrench within Bialystok, in order to prevent us from attacking into the refinery itself. If this is the case, focus must be given to the other refiniers, as they will likely be under-defended. If necessary, a feint towards the capitol of Lodz may be attempted to force the enemy to engage in open battle.
Brief description of forces
Forces consist of 9 “Standard” pattern Brigades, consisting of a strong mix of mechanized infantry and armor. Unfortunately, modernization efforts were not completed in time, leading to a disparate mix of equipment patterns. 3 “Guard” pattern Brigades, consisting of motorized infantry, act as a reserve.
Opening moves at an operational level
The forces of Army Group “Belligerence” will engage the enemy’s northern brigades in an attempt to pin them. Brigade 57 will move towards Elblag, and 318 and 24 will attempt to flank the enemy border forces. 19 will attempt to encircle the border forces from the south. Brigades 4 and 87, supported by 34, will attempt to exploit any developments in this sector, with an emphasis on Bialystok if possible.
Overview
The “Standard” pattern Brigades have excellent equipement in limited numbers, and large quantities of acceptable equipment. Unfortunately, doctrine has only recently shifted from a defensive to offensive nature, meaning that Officers will lack in experience for the task at hand. While numbers are on our side, positioning will be crucial, and this will be a hard war.

Withdraw from Grodno

2. Bde is caught withdrawing to the South to link up with 3. Bde by elements of the 19th Arcadian Brigade.

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Fig. 2.0 Situation as of 0915h local.

W: Originally my plan was simple, screen the 19th Arcadian Brigade using 3 Companies of mechanized infantry from 1st Battalion of the Lower Korsgaard Grenadier Regiment (1LKGR). In the Warehouses, commit anti-tank missile teams to enfilade any approaches on the Knud Industrial Complex. Once the screen was active, recce assets from D Squadron, Loyal Regiment of Lancers (LRL) would push towards the town of Hjorth, finding the best route from which to perform the Battlegroup II(+)-level withdrawal across the river, primarily using the B and C bridges. With no tanks – my only ally would be speed and the superior air power provided by F/A-18s and MiG-29s.

M: The goal in this situation was to catch the enemy out in the open. His primary defense would be ATGMs, which would require dense urban terrain and woods to survive. My hope was to get heliborne infantry into the areas around Kresten, then reinforce them with armor to slaughter the enemy in the open ground. My initial assumption was that the shortest route, C, would be the only route my opponent would take, and a strong armored force could punch across B without encountering a rear-guard.

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Fig. 2.1 Opening maneuvers by the 19th Arcadian Brigade. 0920h local.

M: My assumption was incorrect. Faced with having to coordinate multiple axes of advance, including a heliborne operation, I was unable to withdraw the armored thrust before taking casualties. Infantry losses, while tragic, were not as dire as the loss of a few of the most modern MBTs the Brigade was blessed with, and their loss would be keenly felt in the future. With a bloodied nose, my forces were forced to rely on the C bridge to reach the killing grounds.

W: Here the Spike AT teams really shone – enfilade fire from the warehouse, as well as Konkurs fire from some of the Lancer’s advance guard managed to hit the aforementioned MBTs. he over-committed in my opinion, and that allowed me to bag at least 2 platoons of APCs with accompanying infantry being caught in mortar fire during their retreat, and the Spikes claiming roughly a platoon strength element of modern MBTs. Losses were minimal, however I expected a second attack from the same locale, as he kept tanks massed near the A bridgehead, so I left all 3 companies in the defensive awaiting further action.

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Fig. 2.2 The air combat over the Grodno region was fierce for the duration of the engagement.

W: The battle in the skies was a clear win for the Royal Hvalltar Air Force (RHAF) in my opinion. The F/A-18s suffered minimal losses, with 1 MiG-29 being shot down by AAA, and the loss of 2 Saab 35 Draakens as well to AAA meant that the RHAF dominated the skies. Enemy losses were pegged at approximately 8-10 fighters or fighter-bombers lost, with 2 probables. This is likely due to the extreme engagement range of our new 4th Generation jet fighters, upgraded to a modern standard making them mid-to-late generation aircraft. This, combined with good AWACS and C2 meant that our forces received minimal engagement by the enemy’s close air support or strike aircraft.

M: Air-Ground Cooperation was poor, and it showed. Local TacAir had a dearth of Air-to-Air fighters, which meant the greater number of enemy aircraft were able to successfully interdict a large amount of our strikes. Strikes mostly focused around dropping napalm on urban areas as a panacea for poor infantry-armor cooperation; a planned napalm strike to block access to the bridges was not successful. Rotor wing aircraft were, on the other hand, extremely successful, managing to target and destroy the enemy command centre.

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Fig. 2.3 Arcadian MBTs North-West of Kresten. 1030h local.

M: This is where the advantage of having excellent tanks came into play. Facing BMPs without ATGMs, they were able to secure the open ground and pummel enemy infantry and light armor. Several concerted thrusts were able to be cut down. Unfortunately, the failure to completely secure the nearby urban areas, combined with failures in reccee and AAA, meant the tanks were vulnerable to enemy ATGMs and air strikes. Further, the failure to bring in major howitzers meant that counterbattery fires couldn’t be adequately performed. Though successful, this could have been performed better, and a combination of factors forced the tanks to withdraw from the best positions.

W: Poor tactical awareness on my part led to the slow withdrawal of A, B, and C companies from the Industrial Complex. Enemy MBTs were able to rush ahead and cut off any likely easy ingress points by my forces. The end result was that enemy tanks just North-West of Kresten caught 2 platoons of BMP-borne infantry dismounting in the industrial area in Friis’ southern township, and destroyed them save for a few under strength sections limping into Friis as the screening force. Seeing this, I began to shift dozens of armoured vehicles, as well as the entirety of B and C companies across the river. B company’s lead 2 platoons already had been mangled pretty badly so there wasn’t much left to move. A remained, because I was still convinced that an attack against the Industrial complex was imminent. Mortars, both medium and heavy were relocated, and the fields between Friis and Kresten were filled by a troop of recce BMPs from D Squadron.

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Fig. 2.4 Hvalltar BMP-2s of No.3 Pl, A Coy, 1LKGR withdraw along the North-South MSR past the town of Mads.

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Fig. 2.5 Hvalltar mortars from 1LKGR’s weapons company perform fire missions against Arcadian armored units concealed in treelines. 1100h local.

M: A scene of aforementioned failures to perform counterbattery and have proper armor-infantry cooperation. At least 2 platoons of infantry died in vain trying to clear the urban areas, as well as several napalm bombers. Enemy mortars and ATGMs were heavily felt, meaning what armored fire support was present was suppressed. Though a few enemy squads were destroyed, the area remained under enemy control, and ATGMs launched from the town remained a concern.

W: D Sqn recce elements managed to detect enemy infantry platoons, likely the airmobile assets that had been digging in within the confines of Kresten, moving towards South Friis. With supporting fires from tanks they attempted to make an understrength company crossing through the open area between the town’s leading Southern edge (top, centre frame) and the woods 200m more South. The result was successful mortar strikes coupled with GPMG and rifle fires destroying both platoons entirely at the loss of 2 sections of infantrymen due to tank fires from the woods pictured here under artillery fire. These tanks would continue to harass me, however the mortar fires that I was able to bring to bear proved to be the greatest asset I had as it consistently denied Arcadian attempts to enter Friis proper throughout the day.

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Fig. 2.6 Arcadian napalm strikes on South and Eastern Friis. 1126h local.

M: This napalm drop went fairly well, however, poor cooperation meant we were unable to capitalize on it. Though enemy forces were routed, our own infantry were too weak and demoralized to push on and secure the objective. A lack of proper reserves, and the keenly felt effects of having the Brigade stretched over the entire battlefield and unable to concentrate, where what led to failure here.

W: Napalm strikes were frustrating, as my Grenadiers were holding well, but the incendiary bombs made constant withdrawals an hourly occurrence. I continued to shuffle forces over, emplacing Spike teams in the sparse bit of concealment located at the town’s Western approach, with the intent to attempt to deny any enemy armor from flanking to the North and cutting off the 2 platoons of Grenadiers now present in the defensive positions to the South. Artillery fires were constant, and vain enemy counterbattery attempts included a napalm strike on the 42 Field Battery, picture centre frame, top under napalm strike. The RHAF doled out heavy losses on enemy fighter-bombers, and for the most part ensured that these napalm strikes were minimal.

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Fig. 2.7 Arcadian guns make their presence felt on vehicles from D Sqn. 1139h local.

W: A failed attempt to move a troop of reconnaissance vehicles to recce the approaches to Hjorth revealed that Arcadian MBTs had effectively shut down the MSR leading there due to the long range of new MBTs. The change in tactics meant that I was force to shift further reconnaissance elements more North, making a cloverleaf to come back in, heading South to ensure they remained outside of the Arcadian armor. The unfortunate circumstance was this ate up time. By this point however, the 1LKGR Bgp was 90% moved into the Friis area.

M: 120mm handiwork at its finest. Assuming both can fire upon the other, the faster aiming and velocity of a tank cannon beats out ATGMs the majority of the time. The remnants of the Leopard 2 Platoons were able to exact a high price upon poorly positioned BMP recce vehicles.

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Fig. 2.8 A Pl of BMPs from A Coy are savaged by older Arcadian MBTs. 1155h local.

W: An attempt to thunder-run a Pl of BMPs from A Coy towards Hjorth results in their destruction by a platoon of early-model Arcadian MBTs, resulting in the deaths of all crew and dismounts. These tanks are driven back by combined mortar and ATGM fires from 42 Fd Bty as well as D Squadron.

M: Though Officer training has been poorly treated by the changes in doctrine and political purges, gunnery training amongst tankers has remained strong. Well sited Leopard 2s were able to smash advances in the open, but were later forced back by artillery and supporting assets.

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Fig. 2.9 Effective fires by B Coy’s Spike Section stall the enemy severance of the Hjorth-Friis highway. 1211h local.

W: The Spike teams arriving in Friis begin to really earn their salary. At the company-level there is an attached Spike section with 2 launchers, and they have really shown how sharp their teeth are, as they kill 3 out of 4 in the enemy’s forward MBT platoon, that had previously been harassing A Coy’s thunder run. Caught on the retreat, and bracketed by mortar fires, the Spikes make quick work of the older tanks, as their aged RHA are really no match for the Spike’s tandem-charge HEAT warhead.

M: Though the failures to conduct counter-battery fires and destroy enemy ATGM positions had only resulted in our tanks being suppressed up until now, a poorly timed withdrawl under fire by the MBTs led to 3 of their number being destroyed in the open. The crew of the platoon’s last remaining tank would later win an Arcadian Eagle with Crossed Sabres for their courage under ATGM and mortar fire, fighting alone to block the enemy MLR.

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Fig. 2.10 42 Fd Bty begins to smoke a position (to become known as Nasren’s Wood)  between Friis and Hjorth, preparing it for an oncoming infantry assault. 1222h local.

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Fig. 2.7 C Coy’s remaining elements, slightly understrength rally just South-West of the E bridge for a push on “Nasren’s Wood”, as 42 Fd Bty prepares the area for assault with smoke and HE fires. 1225h local.

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Fig. 2.11 C Coy advances into Nasren’s wood and clears it of enemy armour. 1233h local.

M: Again, poor conduct at the command level undercut the success and sacrifice of the combat troops. In the rush to secure the open ground, the mechanized infantry battalions were left behind in the order of march, meaning that the woods to the north of the enemy’s route of advance were held only by older model tanks, bereft of infantry support. When enemy troops, highly motivated and armed with shoulder-fired AT weapons attacked their positions, the results were predictably dire.

W: This push was probably the best infantry action I had throughout the engagement. Spike teams in Friis denied the enemy committing a reserve once the area was clearly being prepared for an assault. As always, Hvalltar Grenadiers demonstrated that they are the best infantry on the battlefield, as they closed with and destroyed 3 older MBTs under the cover of smoke. C Coy advanced and dismounted in the screen, and used their APILAS man-portable AT weapons to successfully clear out the Nasren’s Wood, securing the Westernmost approach on the Hjorth-Friis MSR.

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Fig. 2.12 LCpl Erik Toldën was awarded the Valor Cross for his actions at Nasren’s Wood. When engaged by enemy coaxial machinegun fire, he repeatedly exposed himself as the anti-tank grenadier, utilizing his APILAS to destroy 2 enemy MBTs, clearing the way for a successful push by C Coy, 1LKGR. 1235h local.

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Fig. 2.13 Arcadian helicopters capitalize on low AAA presence to slip behind the frontline.  1247h local.

M: Here TacAir earned the highest distinction. Acting independent of air cover and cut off from command, the tank-hunting helicopters flew unescorted around the enemy’s flanks, targeting command and logistics in order to draw attention from the hard-pressed centre. Though many of their number were lost to enemy aircraft, they would be successful in their goal, eventually stumbling upon and destroying the enemy TOC.

W: Unfortunately, attached AAA assets were slow to be brought up. With so much focus on the raging combined arms ground combat, as well as the heavy focus on indirect fires, I lacked the AAA on the Western flank, resulting in enemy helicopters successfully slipping by, despite the best efforts of the RHAF to down rotor-wing assets.

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Fig. 2.14 Arcadian MBTs again feel the pain of Spike missiles as they fail at severeing the Hjorth-Friis MSR.  1334h local.

W: Caught off guard whilst managing C Coy’s assault on Nasren’s Wood, a Pl of modern Arcadian MBTs surge forward, with an attempt at concealing them being provided by the strangely quiet Arcadian mortars, which scattered smoke rounds among the urban sprawl of Friis. However, near constant shifting of the Spike teams meant that they were able to use the tank’s IR signature to engage at maximum distance, to good effect, with 3 of the MBTs being destroyed before they withdrew under harassing mortar and ATGM fires provided by the now severely depleted D Squadron recce BMPs.

M: It is foolish to underestimate one’s enemy in the midst of victory, and Arcadian men paid the price for their Officers’ hubris. Seeing a vulnerable platoon of enemy armor in the open, the remaining Leopard 2 platoon dashed into the open to engage the enemy. Enemy ATGMs in the urban areas, which earlier infantry assaults had failed to clear, opened up from hard cover. Though modern MBTs are fast, they are not faster than missiles, and their fates were sealed.

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Fig. 2.15 Aftermath of the final Arcadian push on South Friis. Despite taking the ground, they suffered heavy AFV and infantry losses from GPMG, APILAS, and indirect fires.  1422h local.

M: Frantic shouting across the radio from higher spurned the Mechanized Battalion into action. Equipped with CV-90 IFVs, and covered by the remaining tanks’ guns, the assault should have been a textbook MOUT action. However, the enemy had been within the urban area for several hours, and had been given time to prepare several ambush positions. Though eventually Arcadian rifles and grenades pried them from their holes, it was a costly affair. Worse still, the tragic pattern of having insufficient forces to exploit the local success continued, and enemy forces remained in the urban area for the duration of the battle.

W: By this point, the battle seemed to be centering around the fields between Kresten and Nasren’s wood, meaning that the surprise mechanized infantry assault into South Friis came as a great shock to the C2 elements of 1LKGR. With not much ammunition left, the Spike teams in concert with infantrymen armed with their remaining APILAS inflicted heavy losses, and performed a withdrawal more North, finally relenting and surrendering the destroyed Southern edges of the town, losing roughly 8-10 men, meaning all 3 remaining sections of No. 6 Pl, B Coy were understrength.

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Fig. 2.16 The few elements that limped into Hjorth constituted not enough forces to successfully drive for the linkup operations with 3 Bde, resulting in 1LKGR being withdrawn to entrench upon Friis.  1445h local.

M: In the end, this was our battle to lose, and that almost transpired. Our forces were on the whole more mobile, more numerous, and more suited to holding the large stretches of open ground. However, repeated dismal failures of command and cooperation threw these resources, the pride of Arcadian arms, away with little effect. Better cooperation amongst disparate arms, especially armor, infantry, and artillery, must be instilled if we are to defeat our foe when faced with more equal terms. We will also have to labour under the presumption that our enemy owns the skies, due to their superiority in quality and quantity of fighters. Though this battle is in some sense a victory – the destruction of the enemy TOC resulted in a breakdown of their forces before more than a handful had escaped the field – it is at best a meagre one. Those who fought upon these plains have no delusion; this will be a hard war, and we shall have to fight far better for it not to be seeped in Arcadian blood.

W: Overall – the objectives I set out to achieve were not met. 1LKGR Bgp did not make it in any sort of force to Hjorth, despite inflicting heavy losses on the 19th Arcadian Brigade. A Company was nearly destroyed in its entirety, and both B and C Coy suffered nearly %40 losses. The anti-tank elements, while extremely effective at keeping Arcadian armor at bay, was by no means a sufficient substitute or replacement for proper tanks. D Squadron fought well, and at many points their reconnaissance assisted greatly in the overall countering of enemy movements as well as providing forward observation for mortar fires. But, in the early phases of the battle, their struggle to identify the enemy’s shift in forces from the Industrial Complexes in the East to the urban areas of the West resulted in 2 Bde’s leading Bgp failing to meet their objectives. The assessment for the RHAF is gleaming, as their conduct contributed to the supreme tactical success, as the attrition of enemy fixed-wing assets can attest. In conclusion, we can take away a few lessons, first that Hvalltar infantry is unmatched in the field. This being said, failures to procure enough tanks to equip each Bgp with the required 1 Squadron of MBTs each was felt. Morale is high, as the losses inflicted on the enemy, but command holds no illusions about a glorious counterattack – this will be a war of pure attrition and grit, with only the nation willing to sacrifice more men and steel to emerge the victor.

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