Friday, February 16, 2007

Miniature Painting Videos

Here are some useful videos on painting miniatures:

Miniature and Military Model Painting Techniques Guide

Basic Model Painting Guide For Wargames

Miniature Model Basing Techniques

Here are some other videos by this guy.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

1/300 Sci-Fi Stuff: JR Miniatures

One of the great things about getting FFT3 out is that I'll finally get the chance to do a full blown set of Sci-Fi rules based on FFT. FFT:2030 will cover near future combat; Railgun: 2130 will cover far future combat. In anticipation for this, I've started looking around for sci-fi miniatures. I'll post the results here.

First up is JR Miniatures. They make a large range of miniature wargames terrain for modern, historical and sci-fi. Here are some examples of their 1/300 sci-fi terrain:

The Battletech figure is about 2-3 times the height of a 1/285 MBT model.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Red Rick's 1/300 Site

This is a nice 1/300 scale site with lots of miniature photos. Many are unpainted, so you can get a good idea of how various manufacturers stack up. The opening page also has a stirring rendition of the Soviet Union national anthem.

I particularly like the comparison photos. Here's an example of the French VAB APC made by Scotia, CNC and GHQ:

Hat Tip: Microarmor Mayhem

Micro Armor Mayhem

Another nice wargaming webite. Lots of photos of well-painted 1/285 and 1/300 scale modern miniatures. An example:

I also like his manufacturer's reviews. Here's an excerpt:

Scotia Micro Models

What they make: Virtually everything. They have, far and away, the most comprehensive range of modern micro armor of anyone out there.

Scale: 1/300

Quality: Mixed. Some pieces, such as their UK Saxons, are very good. Other, such as some of their French engineering vehicles, are a bit rough. Additionally, Scotia models seem to run small. Scotia models have also been manufactured by SimTac in Connecticut and possibly by New England Hobby Supply. It does not appear that any new models have been added in the last two years, although they are still in production and their customer service is excellent. They also sell a good line of neutral equipment, such as generic towed 120mm mortars and 20mm Oerlikon AA guns.

Pricing: Typically about 60 cents a model, with large ones a bit more. Shipping from Scotland is surprisingly reasonable.

Favorite Models: Various UK Saxons, French Trucks

Least Favorite Models: Their M113s are kind of dreadful.

"Kind of dreadful"...I love it. Hat tip to Bob Mackenzie.

6mm Wargaming Site

6mm Wargaming is devoted to, well, 6mm wargaming. It's a very attractive site and covers most perios. Of particular interest to me are the nice photos of various 1/300 scale modern miniatures, with useful comments from the author:

"Scotia T64 BV. A good model from Scotia which shows the reactive armour very well. Unfortunately the casting around the road wheels is a bit rough."

FFT3 Update

Paul and I are working hard to get FFT3 out this year. Unofficially, we're shooting for sometime in the 3rd quarter, but delays inevitably seem to push deadlines back. These rules will be extensively revised and will incorporate many new changes. Here are some of the major ones:

1. A new artillery system. This system is faster than the current system and yields far more reasonable results. Artillery can now harrass and interdict enemy units, for instance. There's even a FUBAR chart that can create "unanticipated consequences".

2. A revised infantry combat system. Infantry stands now have different anti-infantry ratings depending on their weaponry. We'll provide the formulas so players can easily rate infantry units that do not appear in the data lists. In addition, infantry stands have two anti-infantry ratings -- one for close combat, one for ranged fire. In general, close combat is far more deadly than previously, which speeds the game up (particularly in infantry heavy games).

3. Movement allowances have been tweaked and raised a bit. On average, most vehicles will move 2 inches faster. This makes slower tanks much more useful.

4. Revised armor and weapons penetration scales. This requires that we re-rate every vehicle. With 500+ vehicles, this is taking some time. However, the new scale will allow us to model the differences between lighter armored vehicles with more fidelity than the current system. In addition, we can accomodate more advanced armor without forcing players to deal with absurdly high numbers.

5. Since FFT2 came out, we've learned far more about the armor composition of modern tanks and how projectiles and missiles penetrate the armor. This data was just coming out when FFT2 was released and we made a decision not to wait on it. Paul, who is an engineer by training, has devoted an incredible amount of time and energy to this topic. So there will be a lot of changes in how modern tanks compare to one another.

6. Vehicles will have discrete flank armor values, rather than generic values.

7. There will be at least one and possibly two new troop quality classes. We haven't settled everything completely, but here are the provisional levels: green, untrained, trained, average, good, veteran, elite. Category 1 Soviets, for instance, would be Trained (maybe Average). 1980s US and West Germans would be Good. Most third world armies would be Green. The new system will allow us to better model the differences between armies.

8. The game now explicitely covers armored warfare from 1910-2020 and will contain the complete rules for this period. Engineering, amphibious assaults and paradrops, for instance. The data will focus on the post-WWII period, but we will include representative data and army lists for WWII and WWI. An unofficial goal will be to include more vehicles and unit lists than appear in many dedicated WWII sets. WWII data will be released in a single, inexpensive data annex later on. FFT3 will not pursue the "Games Workshop" model and require players to buy numerous expensive add-ons to play typical battles.

There are many minor modifications and enhancements, but these are the major ones. And in case anyone is concerned, I want to assure y'all that FFT3 is still FFT. We have not changed the vehicle combat system. Indeed, most mechanics work exactly like they do in FFT2 (failed quality checks eliminate the stand, etc.). So rest assured that if you like FFT2, you will like FFT3.

Israeli ABM Hits Target in Second Test

The Israeli Arrow anti-ballistic missile (ABM) successfully destroyed a target Sunday. The target was configured to resemble the Iranian Shihab-3 intermediate range missile. This has gotta make the lunatic mullahs of Iran nervous...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Soviet Tanks...

Here's a reply I made to a question about Soviet tanks:

I've just been painting some more T72's and started wondering about auto-loading tank guns; the Russians seem very keen on them but no-one else seems to have picked up on the idea. Is there something fundamentally wrong with the way they work? I've heard T72 crew were liable to nasty accidents using this system - trapped fingers or worse? Just out of interest can anyone shed any more light on the subject or suggest a site I could visit to find out more? Cheers.

The autoloaders on Soviet tanks were necessary to reduce the crew size to 3 and keep the turret as small as possible. Soviet tank design is an intriguing example of what happens when non-military considerations drive a military design.

The Soviet Union had a "command economy", which means that a tiny oligarchy controlled all economic output. They simply did this by fiat -- "make 1,000 toasters" and the orders were hopefully carried out. They didn't have a functioning monetary system in the sense that Westerners understand the term. Soviet money was merely a form of voucher issued to the workers by the government. The small scale "real" market transactions were carried out with
real money -- US dollars.

So there was no Soviet military "budget" pe se. The Soviet oligarchs simply decided what was needed and ordered it built. The problem, of course, is that military spending is an economic "hole". Production output spent building a tank is sunk into that tank and cannot be recovered, leveraged or used to make more output. As part of his effort to keep Soviet military production from destroying the civilian economy, Khruschev ordered that Soviet tanks be limited to a certain mass. A tank's cost tends to correlate to its mass, so this was a crude but effective way of imposing a "price cap" on Soviet tanks in an economy that had no mechanisms for price caps.

Soviet designers, then, were faced with a rigid limit on the size of their tanks that had nothing to do with military effectiveness. To produce the most effective tanks within that limit, they focused on making the tanks and particularly the turret as small as possible, thereby maximizing armor protection. A tank's mass tended to increase with its volume, so this was a sensible solution. It also allowed them to maximize armor protection (a smaller frontal area meant more armor thickness for the same weight).

The two ways they did this were to limit the size of Soviet tankers (5'6") and replace the 4th crewman with a much more compact autoloader. The Soviet designers were doubtlessly aware of the problems and limitations of autoloaders, but because it was the best solution available, they went with it.

The result were tanks that were very inexpensive compared to Western MBTs, yet had superior capabilities,
on paper. For instance, the T-72 mounted a 125mm gun when Western MBTs mounted a 105mm gun. Unfortunately, the hysterical cries from Western defense analysts (and contractors) drowned out the facts that most of these superior capabilities were illusory.

For instance, the Western 105mm was at least as good as and probably better than the Soviet 125mm gun. And far more accurate at long range, due to superior Western fire control systems. And the cheap barrel meant that Soviets tanks would wear their barrels out after 100 rounds (vs. thousands of rounds on the Western guns). Since autoloaders were mechanical, many folks naturally assumed that they were faster than human loaders -- but they weren't. Due to small size and by skimping on flank protection and areas unlikely to be hit, Soviet tanks had impressive armor protection in the front. No one noticed that the lousy ammo and fuel storage meant that Soviet tanks were likely to brew up spectaculary when hit. And so on.

The net result is that Soviet tanks were utterly outclassed by Western tanks in the real fights. Of course, the Soviet tanks were crewed by some of the worst soldiers in history, Arabs. And they were "monkey models" -- stripped of some of their fancier gear. But it is telling I think to note that when the Israelis finally built their own tank, they produced a tank that was squarely in the Western design model.
They apparently were not so impressed with Soviet tank design philosophy.

And in the 25 years since the Merkava, no Western nation has built a Soviet style tank. Only the French have deployed an autoloader on their MBTs, and the LeClerc seems much like its Soviet tank cousins - impressive on paper, far less so in actual use.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

FFT: 2030

As many know, I am an enthusiastic sci-fi wargamer as well as a modern wargamer. One of the things that excites me about A Fistful of TOWs 3 is that its revised armor and penetration scales accomodate everything from World War I to the far future. And as my Railgun:2100 rules showed, the FFT system is flexible enough to model science fiction as well as modern and historical wars. Railgun, by the way, will also get a facelift and be built off the FFT3 engine.

Anyhow, my first project after FFT3 will be FFT:2030, my take on warfare in the middle of the 21st century. The battlefield will be substantially different than it was in 2004 (or 1944), and the game will reflect that. For anyone who's curious, here is a somewhat rambling commentary that I posted on the FFT email list:

1. The sequence of play will be changed -- "I move while you shoot", then vice versa. It's a little more complex than that, but that's the gist of it. This will reflect the ubiquity of advanved stabilization in 2030. More primitive vehicles will be marked with a "No Fire" marker if they
move too far. To keep the game moving, the nonmoving player can fire before the enemy moves or after the enemy moves at no to hit modifier. If the nonmoving player fires during enemy movement, there's a -1 to hit. Interestingly, this results in a much cleaner sequence of play and relieves some of the intricacy in the current system. It might be interesting to play with two "low tech" armies and see if it plays better than FFT3.

2. Modern (in 2030) armies will mostly be able to ignore spotting due to the plethora of sensors. Low tech armies of course will have to obey spotting rules. Non-line-of-sight (NLOS) weapons will be common on this battlefield, but their effectiveness will be constrained by battlefield point defense systems.

3. Modern AFVs will have active point defense systems (5mm miniguns with autonomous fire control, ala the US Navy's Phalanx system), all datalinked. The current intent is to assume that most vehicles have PD and have special rules for unusually good (or bad) PD system. This will likely be a "to hit" modifier (+1 to hit vehicles with poor PD, -1 to hit vehicles with excellent PD). No separate PD roll is contemplated. There will be dedicated point defense vehicles at battalion level that use lasers instead of guns. These can engage enemy artillery barrages and will provide formidable tactical air defense capabilities. They are also very valuable targets.

4. Land based hovercraft will be just starting to replace light AFVs (I know Bob Mackenzie hates this, but the available sci-fi hovercraft models are just too cool to ignore).

5. Infantry will become a little more survivable (I assume that expensive and hi-tech body armor will stay slightly ahead of small arms). This will be reflected by a slight reduction in anti-infantry vehicle ratings (with attendant bonuses to kill unarmored infantry). The fantastic armor protection levels of tanks at that time (the latest Abrams version, the M1A5, would have an FFT2 armor rating of 30) will result in infantry portable AT weapons becoming shorter ranged (proportionately more weight will be spent on the warhead than with current ATGMs). The infantry combat system of FFT3 will be used, so infantry will be the best killer of infantry. I may have some rules for experimental infantry systems like fully powered armor, jump jets, etc.

6. In modern armies, helicopters will be largely replaced by Tiltrotor craft. They look cool, but basically work the same. Gunships will be extremely vulnerable to modern weapons -- even more than they are today. They will still be effective against low tech forces. And they can quickly get to the fight. Advanced avionics will be result in somewhat higher movement rates. In general, I think that airpower will become less important on the battlefield simply because anti-aircraft weapons will improve faster than countermeasures will. But because airpower can get there quickly, there will always be a role for them.

7. Tanks will be able to fire non-line of sight rounds, at a penalty in accuracy (they become easier to shoot down the longer they travel). Unless my science boys tell me otherwise, I am assuming that NLOS rounds will be HEAT rounds and not kinetic energy rounds. Advanced armor will be universal, so there will be no special armors or separate KE and HEAT ratings. Appropriate modifiers will exist for obsolete armors from the late 20th century.

8. Engagement ranges will increase, though not as much as some theorists believe. The M1A5's 140mm gun has an effective range of 4km for direct fire. This drives a change in the ground scale to 1" = 250m). NLOS maximum range will be 10km for most vehicle mounted systems. One result of commonplace point defense systems will be that even missile shots will be less effective as range increases (longer time for the PD network to get a firing solution on it).

9. Tactical speeds will only be a little higher than the fastest tanks today -- there's a limit to human ability to be banged around inside a vehicle.

10. The first fully capable robot tanks will be coming online in 2030. They will be relatively scarce, but will have special rules. By contrast, modern engineering units will be lavishly equipped with robotic equipment and will be more capable than their 2005 equivalents.

11. No special artillery phase will be in the game. By 2030, communications systems will be able to provide near instantaneous fire support. So artillery fires like any other weapon. There will be 2 types of artillery strikes -- the normal unguided barrage (much like today) and the guided AT round (a much smarter version of today's Copperhead). Dedicated PD vehicles can try to shoot down artillery barrages.

12. Some army organizations will reflect advanced C3I capabilities. For instance, battalions will average 5 companies, plus supporting elements. Companies will usually consist of 5 platoons. The Pentomic Division will return!

13. I am toying with a special "strategic" turn at the start of a game. Basically, each side would get to fire missiles at each other's stands before the game starts. The to hit chance is lower than on the battlefield, but you can degrade the enemy forces before the game (at the expense of some capability on the battlefield). You can also fire at enemy reinforcements during the game in the same way. Of course, primitive armies would not have this capability.

14. The armor and penetration systems will be directly compatible with FFT3. Ranges and movement ratings will need to be adjusted of course.

15. I'm *thinking* about Ogres. Er, sorry, that is a trademark of Steve Jackson Games. I meant Continental Siege Units... If they appear, they will of course be highly optional.

16. Most FFT3 systems will remain basically the same, though some adjustments will occur to reflect the new sequence of play.

17. There will be relatively fewer special purpose vehicles, as the ubiquity of sensors will make it much easier to identify and attack them. I assume that the improved ability to pick off commanders will be offset by an improved ability for replacements to take command (better and more secure communications, battlefield networks).

18. I am still cogitating on what kinds of vehicles should appear on the FFT:2030 battlefield, but here's what I have so far.

-Most of the weapons systems below will be available in "Expensive", "Average" and "Cheap" variants. Average models will be the most common choice of industrialized nations. Expensive models will have better sensors, better point defense, better mobility and better all around protection. Cheap models are for the export market -- they will usually have the same types of main weapons as the Average and Expensive models; but they will have less capable sensors, inferior point defense systems, and will especially scrimp on flank armor protection.

-MBT: A heavily armed, heavily armored and mobile tank. Comparable to today's M1A2 Abrams.

-HIFV: An infantry fighting vehicle built on an MBT chassis and having MBT levels of protection. The ultimate in infantry protection, but extremely costly. Usually limited to the mechanized infantry units in armoredbattalions.

-IFV: A heavily armed, but lightly armored infantry carrier. Common in armies that can't afford the HIFV.

-APC: The popular "battlefield taxi" of the last 80 years. By 2030, these will almost universally be wheeled vehicles. Popular in lower tech armies and light forces.

-HAPC: A hovercraft capable of carrying infantry. Relatively popular as its high speed give s infantry even more mobility than armor. It's light armor makes it highly vulnerable though.

-Hovertruck: A cargo carrying hovercraft used to transport infantry. Very lightly armored and unarmed.

-Tank Destroyer/Assault Gun: Light vehicles (usually wheeled) carrying MBT guns and very little armored protection. Some mount heavy AT missiles.

-Obsolete tanks, APCs, IFVs, etc., from the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

FFT:2030 will not have "generic" vehicles. Each nation will get its own vehicles.

Despite all this technological crunchiness, the rules should be at least as simple as FFT2 or 3. This is due to the fact that I try to design systems that *assume* the existence of common technology and situations. Special rules are for uncommon systems and situations. Thus (for instance) the base to hit number will assume the target is modern tank with typical PD capabilities. Tanks without such systems or with cut rate systems will be easier to hit. There is therefore no separate PD engagement system to slow the game down.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Chinese Military Websites

New Chinese AT Systems

From The Strategy Page:

December 25, 2004: One of China’s primary military weaknesses is a lack of modern ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles) because of the obsolescence of their current light anti-tank weapons. Over the last decade or so, China has been aggressively attempting to modernize its armed forces to become a regional superpower. Much of this money goes towards obtaining new combat aircraft, air defense equipment, and armored vehicles. As a result, China’s air force and armored corps have improved significantly, due to the increased attention they have received. Like in many countries, small arms and infantry weapons are way down the list.

However, China has long been completely self-sufficient in infantry weapons and continues to develop more high-tech equipment. China has thus attempted to solve their problem with a lack of anti-tank missiles in an interesting way: they’ve developed two new anti-tank systems without using missiles.

The first two of these systems is basically a cheaply-made domestically-produced LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon). For years, the primary light anti-armor weapon for the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Ground Forces was the Type 69, which was a Chinese copy of the Soviet RPG-7 rocket propelled grenade launcher. The Type 69 fired the standard 85mm rocket with an armor piercing capability of about 300mm. During its heyday, this weapon was actually very good, being extremely cheap, reliable, and powerful enough to pierce most light armored vehicles at the time. The millions of RPG-7s scattered around the globe attest to its usefulness. However, the first-generation RPGs are now obsolete without more powerful warheads and, when up against a well armed and armored forces, only good for attacking vehicles with little to no armor protection. The Type 69 is still in widespread service, as each Chinese infantry squad has two RPG operators each with three rockets, giving small units a substantial amount of anti-armor power.

The Type 69 is gradually being replaced by the PF89 80mm Light Anti-Tank Weapon. The Chinese claim that it is comparable to the American AT-4. The weapon weighs about 6-7 pounds as opposed to the Type 69’s 12 pounds and penetrates about 400mm of armor, 100mm more than the Type 69. Like the AT4, the PF89 is a self-contained anti armor weapon, with a disposable launcher. The PF89 is probably not as high-quality as the similar AT4, but it’s a big improvement over the obsolete RPG. [In FFT2 terms, this system would be 8h-1-2]

Of course, a man-portable light anti-tank weapon doesn’t solve the problem of not being able to take out main battle tanks. Instead of developing anti-tank missiles from scratch or buying them in bulk from Russia, the Chinese have developed an anti-tank rocket, the PF98, to deal with heavy armor on the battlefield. Gradually replacing the older Type 65 and 78 recoilless rifles, the 120mm PF98 is intended to be a cross between an anti-tank missile and an individual anti-tank rocket. Like an individual weapon, the PF98 is lightweight, man-portable, and self-contained and consists of a reusable launcher tube, aiming sight, and a tripod for stabilization. For ammunition, the weapon fires two types of projectiles: a tandem HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) round and a High Explosive Multipurpose round. The HEAT round penetrates explosive reactive armor and has penetration capability of 800mm. The High Explosive Multipurpose rounds consist of high explosives and 120 steel ball bearing for use against hostile infantry.

The biggest advantage of this system is the weight. The entire system weighs about 20 pounds, and can be quickly transported from one place to another in a hurry. This is extremely light when compared to a Western anti-tank system like the US Javelin missile, which has a carry weight of almost 50 pounds (49.06). With these two system, China now has little need to produce or import large quantities of ATGMs. The PF-89 provides the infantry with enough firepower to deal with light armored vehicles and the PF98 is capable of killing most heavily-protected tanks. Also, both systems are simple and inexpensive to produce in large number, essential to a country that already has a stretched defense budget.

Additional information on the PF98 is here. I am skeptical of the listed penetration of 800mm, which seems rather high for a 120mm warhead. Therefore, I suggest the following FFT2 ratings: 14h-1-6 (note that it is a gun [recoilless rifle actually], not a missile).

PF98 Photos">

Baddest Tank In the World (2005)

From The Strategy Page:

December 29, 2004: Who has the most effective tank in the world continues. The most likely candidates are western tank designs (the M1 Abrams, the Challenger, the LeClerc, and the Leopard 2), which are much better on a tank-for-tank basis than Russian designs like the T-64 and its descendants (the T-72, T-80 and T-90).

Which of these four Western tanks is the best? Websites like or recognition guides from Jane’s can give basic specifications. Added to combat records, one can see that the French LeClerc drops back on one major issue: It has an autoloader – which is much slower and maintenance-intensive than a 19-year-old private.

That leaves the Big Three of Western tanks. The Challenger is slow, but heavily armored. It also has a gun with a longer range (in Desert Storm, a Challenger killed an Iraqi tank five kilometers away) than either the M1A2 or the Leopard 2. That said, it is much slower than the other two (56 kilometers an hour vs. 72 for the Leopard 2 and 67.6 for the Abrams), and it is arguably at its best on defense.

The Leopard 2 and Abrams are very similar tanks. The major difference is in the type of engine used. The Leopard 2 uses a diesel engine, while the Abrams used a gas turbine. Each engine has its advantages and disadvantages. The Leopard 2’s diesel is more efficient, giving the German tank more range (550 kilometers to 426 kilometers for the Abrams). That said, the gas turbine on the Abrams is quieter, meaning that opponents without infrared systems will have a harder time detecting the Abrams at night, which can mean their only warning an Abrams is around could be when the Abrams sends a 120mm candygram their way – most of the time, the result will be a direct hit.

There are smaller differences. The Leopard 2 has two 7.62mm machine guns – one anti-aircraft gun, the other a coaxial machine gun. The Abrams has three: One 12.7mm machine gun for anti-aircraft work (also very useful against infantry and unarmored vehicles), a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun, and a second machine gun mounted near the loader’s hatch. The Abrams has an edge here, since the loader can cover a sector in addition to the coaxial machine gun and the commander’s machine gun. This means it is that much harder for infantry to sneak up on the Abrams than it would be to sneak up on a Leopard.

The matter of auxiliary power is another thing not always mentioned in the specs. The Leopard 2 has none. The Abrams features an auxiliary power unit, which allows it to shut off the turbine in some instances, allowing it to conserve fuel. In situations where the Abrams is on defense, this is a huge advantage – not only because the Abrams saves fuel, but because infrared sensors have a harder time picking it up. Again, the first indication the Abrams is there will be when it fires – and well-trained Abrams crews are very accurate. If you see an Abrams firing at you, it is probably the last thing you will see.

Finally, there is another item that doesn’t show up in the specs: Internal arrangement. The Leopard stores some of its main gun ammunition in the crew compartment, and uses steel as its liner. While the steel can keep something out, it also creates nasty spall fragments when a sabot or HESH (high-explosive squash head) round strikes the tank. The Abrams keeps its main gun ammo in a separate compartment and has a spall liner while using aluminum, reducing casualties when an Abrams is hit. This is important – an uninjured crew can fight back even if the tank is damaged. This was proven In Desert Storm, when an Abrams stuck in the mud continued fighting despite taking three hits from the main guns of Iraqi T-72 tanks – and promptly dispatched the offending T-72s. The tank defied American efforts to destroy it in place, and after being recovered had the turret replaced and was back with its unit in 24 hours. The damaged turret was sent back to the United States for analysis.

In short, the Abrams still takes the title overall, despite arguable deficiencies in range (which careful logistics planning can overcome), as its combat record proves. The Leopard 2 is a close second, and the Challenger 2 isn’t far behind the Leopard. – Harold C. Hutchison (

I think I agree with Harold, but I'd hasten to add that there is very little material diference (in FFT terms anyone) between these tanks. It will all boil down to troop quality, in my opinion.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Mechanized Vikings!

A very nice site covering the modern Swedish Army. Lots of pictures and equipment data.

The Centurion (aka Strv 105)

The Leopard-2S (aka Strv 122)

The S-Tank

How to Defeat the OPFOR

This article, written by an OPFOR commander, has some very good lessons for FFT players.

Defense Update

Defense update is an online defense industry publication that has lots of useful background information for modern wargamers. Here are some nice shots of the Merkava IV:

Monday, December 13, 2004

Sino-Russian Alliance?

The Chinese are conducting joint military maneuvers for the first time:
China and Russia will hold their first joint military exercise next year, the Chinese government said Monday, as President Hu Jintao called for an expansion of the rapidly growing alliance between the former Cold War rivals.

The announcement came during a visit to Beijing by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who was expected to discuss expanding the Kremlin's multibillion-dollar annual arms sales to China.

The exercises are to take place on Chinese territory, the official China News Service said. But that report and other government statements didn't say when they would take place or what forces would be involved. "We want ... to promote the development of the two countries' strategic collaborative relationship in order to safeguard and promote regional and world peace," CNS quoted Hu as telling Ivanov.

Beijing and Moscow have built up military and political ties since the Soviet collapse in 1991, driven in part by joint desire to counterbalance U.S. global dominance. They are partners of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, formed to combat what they consider the common threat of Islamic extremism and separatism. The other members are the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The announcement of military exercises comes two months after Beijing and Moscow settled the last of their decades-old border disputes that led to violent clashes in the 1960s and '70s.

The agreement was signed during an October trip to Beijing by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said relations had reached "unparalleled heights." That visit also produced a pact to jointly develop Russian energy resources - an urgent issue for Beijing, which is trying to avert fuel shortages in its booming economy.

The frontier where at one point 700,000 Soviet troops faced 1 million Chinese soldiers is now a bustling cross-border market.

China has become the Russian arms industry's No. 1 customer, and is expected to buy $2 billion in weapons this year.

Russia is a key supplier for the Chinese military's effort to modernize its arsenal and back up frequent threats to invade Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its territory.

The United States and the European Union have banned weapons sales to China since its bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. But Moscow has supplied Beijing with high-performance Su-27 fighters and other top-of-the-line arms.

Ivanov also met with Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan and Guo Boxiong, deputy chairman of the Communist Party commission that runs China's military, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Hu is chairman of the commission. Hu is to visit Moscow in May during festivities commemorating the end of World War II.
While I'm not particularly worried about a Sino-Russian alliance, it does offer rich inspiration for FFT scenarios.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

GHQ/C-in-C Comparison Site

Tom Stockton has a site that has photos of most GHQ and C-in-C 1/285 scale models. This should be a very valuable resource, since there's about a 40% price difference between the models. In my experience, some C-in-C models compare very well with the GHQ counterparts. Others are clearly inferior. His main page is here.

For instance, a GHQ M1A1

Vs a C-in-C M1A1

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Little Lead Heroes

Andy Cowell also has a wargaming blog, Little Lead Heroes. Check it out!

Major General Tremordan Reddering's Colonial Wargames Site

This is simply the best miniature wargaming site I've ever seen. A tour de force that should inspire us lesser mortals...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Andy Cowell's Site

Andy Cowell has a site with some very nice photos of painted 15mm modern infantry. (Larger versions of this photo is on his website -- take a look at them.)

Here's a very nice example of US infantry by Irregular. Nice paint job.

15mm Modern Miniature Manufacturers

Quick Reaction Force has the most extensive line of modern miniatures. I use a lot of their figures in my games.

Old Glory makes an increasingly diverse line of 15mm modern minis.

Quality Casting is another manufacturer with a pretty extensive line of 15mm figures. I have a lot of their stuff and it's pretty good.

Peter Pig makes a large line of Postcolonial African and Vietnam 15mm miniatures.

C.B. Stevens has a nice website with lots of photos of 15mm modern African figures. Some examples:

US Defenses Against RPGs

Airbags?? Here's an article on US defenses against Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs).

Rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) have long been the typical weapons of choice when someone wants to attack trucks and armored vehicles in Iraq. RPGs are cheap, simple to operate, and if used properly can inflict significant damage on Stryker and Bradley armored vehicles. Unarmed and armored Hummers are especially vulnerable, since the various armor kits for the Hummer are designed to protect occupants from small arms and machine gun fire, not anti-tank grenades.

One quick fix to protect the Hummer is a unique airbag system developed by a small California company that deploys a "curtain" down outside the side of the vehicle being attacked. Four bags are needed to protect all quadrants and are held in place with simple Velcro straps. A small radar detects the incoming RPG or RPGs and inflates the airbag with a carbon dioxide gas cartridge. The RPG is literally "caught" by the airbag like a pillow and slowed enough so the nose-mounted fuse doesn't detonate the warhead. Instead, the RPG ends up collapsing upon itself, shredding the secondary self-destruct fuse and looking like a stomped-on beer can. Currently, the airbag and cartridge have to be replaced after one use, but the designers are working on a reusable airbag that can simply be rolled up and put back into place.

Cost for the system is expected to run between $5,000 to $7,000 dollars and weighs around 50 pounds. The Army is in the process of awarding a contract with the goal of getting systems to Iraq within 6 months, at a initial product rate of 25 systems per month. Other systems are being refined for use on canvass-topped vehicles and the Stryker. The system has the potential to replace both the current Stryker "RPG" fence standoff metal framework as well as reactive armor systems and has the twin advantages of being lighter and less expensive than reactive armor. It's also safer around infantry than reactive armor. Multiple tests of the airbag system have been run using RPGs, with one test managing slow down an RPG enough to stop it relatively intact – forcing a stop to the tests until range safety could come out and blow it up in place.

Over the longer term, the Army is looking towards electronically "charged" armor protection. The protection scheme would be composed of an outside armored plate, a spaced gap, and an inner charged plate. Shaped charges are essentially hot streams of metal traveling at (very) rapid speed to penetrate armor. A shaped charge from an RPG or other antitank weapon would detonate, penetrate the outer armor plate, and the hot metal stream would make contact with the charged inner plate, forming an electrical circuit that ends up splattering the metal across the inner plate rather than breaking through into the hull of the vehicle.

Charged armor is a better solution than reactive armor, as it is both lighter than reactive and also non-threatening to nearby infantry. At least two manufacturers have successfully demonstrated charged armor solutions, one retrofitting a Bradley AFV with a large capacitor to charge the inner hull plate. One manufacturer has demonstrated that the Bradley charged armor can take multiple RPG hits onto the same section of the hull without penetration and was willing to show a short demonstration film to those of the proper security clearance. In theory, charged armor should work equally well against weapons with larger shaped charge warheads, but the manufacturer would not comment on any tests done in that area. Ideally, charged armor would be an integrated solution as a part of a hybrid-electric vehicle. Power would be available from the vehicle to charge the armor for protection and installing the equipment would not require an expensive rebuild from the ground up. – Doug Mohney

Marine Motorcycles

From The Strategy Page:

The U.S. Marine Corps is buying 522 diesel powered motorcycles for battlefield use. These are the first diesel powered motorcycles to enter military service. Diesel power means better reliability, and much greater fuel efficiency; up to 175 kilometers per gallon of fuel. This is about twice the range of a conventional motorcycle engine. The cost of the diesel powered bike is about 25 percent higher, but the greater reliability, and range, is worth it for a troops operating in the combat zone. The marine bike is based on the Kawasaki KLR650 trail bike, and weighs about 350 pounds, has a six gallon fuel tank (good for about a thousand kilometers) and 28 horsepower. The marines will use the bike mainly for scouting.

Body Armor Piercing Bullets

The Strategy Page has this article about Russian attempts to develop bullets capable of piercing body armor (like our troops wear in Iraq):

[B]ody armor on the battlefield...may soon be challenged by a new breed of armor-piercing bullets. Over the last few year Russia...has developed and marketed several different types of armor-piercing rifle rounds that are specifically designed to penetrate high-quality body armor. The secret of the new ammunition’s penetration power is...the material that is used to produce the bullet’s core. The ammunition developers have been using a number of different materials, including steel, tungsten, and even uranium alloys. ... A good example ...includes the 7N10 Armor-Piercing Round, in 5.45x39, which is capable of penetrating a steel slab 16mm thick from 100 meters. The 5.45mm is the round used in the AK-74, the standard infantry weapon in Russia [which include the ubquitous AK-47].

Another round known as the 7N13, chambered for 7.62x54R, is especially effective when fired from the Dragunov SVD sniper rifle. Armor penetration is the same as the 7N10 at 100 meters. Originally these bullets were designed to be used against both armored infantry and light armored vehicles, and test firings have proven that many of these rounds are quite effective at piercing the armor on BTRs and BMPs (which are about 5 and 10mm thick). However, the results against Western-style armored vehicles are not known since Western vehicles have not been used as test subjects, nor have they been encountered in combat. One thing is certain, though, any hostile force with access to this ammunition would make life extremely difficult for troops wearing even high-quality body armor like the Interceptor. Most small arms still in production by the Russian Federation have some sort of armor-piercing ammunition made for them. The Russians have hinted that they might try to issue the new ammunition to regular soldiers and not just special forces.

In the US and Western Europe, similar developments are underway since developed militaries are finally beginning to realize that their military forces’ (especially infantry) may have a high chance of encountering hostile forces equipped with body armor. One of the best innovations in small arms, as far as armor-piercing ammunition is concerned, is the Heckler & Koch MP7 rifle. ... In addition to its compact size and light weight, the weapon is unique is that it is specifically designed to penetrate body armor. H & K specifically designed the specialty ammunition to penetrate Russian body armor, since this has become the NATO standard target when developing armor penetrating ammunition. ...

[But] Russia currently markets a wide range of body armor, called the KIRASA series, whose protection levels vary from very low to very high. The lowest form of KIRASA armor incorporates Level I protection, which guards against pistol ammunition from .22LR to .38 caliber. The highest form of KIRASA body armor, and the one that NATO should be most worried about, is the KIRASA-D Model I. This KIRASA-D is a ballistic vest intended for ground troops that incorporates ceramic plates on the torso section that raise its protection level to Level IV (the same as the US military’s Interceptor). The problem with this is Russia has a history of selling weapons to whomever can pay for them and the potential for these vests to fall into the hands of potential enemies is no small matter. Unless NATO develops ammunition to penetrate Level IV vests in the future, it may have a serious problem on its hands in a potential conflict. The AK-74 is widely distributed is the Former Soviet Union and is used by a number of insurgent groups, especially the ones in Chechnya (who constitute one of the most well-equipped insurgent groups in the world) and US troops is very likely to encounter it in the hands of enemy troops in a future conflict. The MP7 has less of a chance of being encountered by US troops, but the possibility that it could fall into hostile hands, like the MP5, is very real.

I believe that this is the reason the US is developing a .280 caliber round.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

More On Armed Robots...

Here is another article on the armed robots that the US Army is fielding:
The Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System, or SWORDS, will be joining Stryker Brigade Soldiers in Iraq when it finishes final testing...

“We’re hoping to have them there by early 2005,” Tordillos said. “The Soldiers I’ve talked to want them yesterday.”

The system consists of a weapons platform mounted on a Talon robot [which] began helping with military operations in Bosnia in 2000, deployed to Afghanistan in early 2002 and has been in Iraq since the war started, assisting with improvised explosive device detection and removal. Talon robots have been used in about 20,000 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan...

Different weapons can be interchanged on the system – the M16, the 240, 249 or 50-caliber machine guns, or the M202 –A1 with a 6mm rocket launcher. Soldiers operate the SWORDS by remote control, from up to 1,000 meters away. In testing, it’s hit bulls eyes from as far as 2,000 meters away, Tordillos said. The only margin of error has been in sighting, he added.

“It can engage while on the move, but it’s not as accurate,” Tordillos said.


There are four SWORDS in existence; 18 have been requested for service in Iraq, Tordillos said. So far, each system has cost about $230,000 to produce, said Bob Quinn, lead integrator for the project. When they go into production, Quinn estimates the cost per unit will drop to the range of $150,000 to $180,000.

Talon Armed Robot Posted by Hello

Friday, December 03, 2004

Paper Buildings

Not my cup of java, but Fiddler's Green has some downloadable building templates that you can print out and assemble. They're reasonably priced (about $2 US or so), if you can handle paper buildings (I can't). The Z scale model is about right for microscale.

By the way, here's some advice from Luke Ueda-Sarson from the 6mm Miniature Yahoo Group:

The reason they 'look like paper' is not because they are paper, but because of the lack of relief detail.

Overhanging eaves are necessary to look like a building, yet many don't have them.

Having separate window sills, easy to cut out as just a sliver from a single sheet of card, can make all the difference by introducing some low relief. Thin wire for down pipes for guttering takes almost no effort, and can transform a building.

A judicious wash of very diluted brown or grey paint over the surface of the paper soo it looks slightly weatherw orn will vastly aid appearence.

But the most frequently seen problem is people failing to colour the edges of cut sheets, so corners and roof edges look horribly bright. Take a felt pen to the damn things so the edges don't stand out! It's bad enough with railway modeller's buildings in 1/76 scale - in 1/300 it looks plain awful.
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GHQ's Merkava IV

GHQ has the new Israeli Merkava IV main battle tank. Posted by Hello

GHQ's Achzarit IFV

GHQ now has the Israeli heavy IFV, the Achzarit. Posted by Hello

Merkava on Sale

GHQ 1/285 Merkava is on sale for $6.50 per pack. Posted by Hello

Sheridan on Sale

GHQ 1/285 M551 Sheridan is on sale for $6.50 per pack. Posted by Hello


From Wired -- here come the battledroids:

Hunting for guerillas, handling roadside bombs, crawling across the caves and crumbling towns of Afghanistan and Iraq -- all of that was just a start. Now, the Army is prepping its squad of robotic vehicles for a new set of assignments. And this time, they'll be carrying guns.

As early as March or April, 18 units of the Talon -- a model armed with automatic weapons -- are scheduled to report for duty in Iraq. Around the same time, the first prototypes of a new, unmanned ambulance should be ready for the Army to start testing. In a warren of hangar-sized hotel ballrooms in Orlando, military engineers this week showed off their next generation of robots, as they got the machines ready for the war zone.

"Putting something like this into the field, we're about to start something that's never been done before," said Staff Sgt. Santiago Tordillos, waving to the black, 2-foot-six-inch robot rolling around the carpeted floor on twin treads, an M249 machine gun cradled in its mechanical grip.

For years, the Pentagon and defense contractors have been toying with the idea of sending armed, unmanned ground vehicles, or UGVs, into battle. Actually putting together the robots was a remarkably straightforward job, said Tordillos, who works in the Army's Armaments Engineering and Technology Center.

Ordinarily, the Talon bomb-disposal UGV comes equipped with a mechanical arm, to pick up and inspect suspicious objects. More than a hundred of the robots are being used in Iraq and Afghanistan, with an equal amount on order from the UGV's maker, Waltham, Massachusetts-based firm Foster-Miller.

For this new, lethal Talon model, Foster-Miller swapped the metal limb for a remote-controlled, camera-equipped, shock-resistant tripod, which the Marines use to fire their guns from hundreds of feet away. The only difference: The Marines' version relies on cables to connect weapons and controllers, while the Talon gets its orders to fire from radio signals instead.

"We were ready to send it a month ago," Tordillos said. Navigating the Pentagon bureaucracy and putting together the proper training manuals are what's keeping the Talon stateside, for now.

Back in December 2003, the Army's 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division tested an armed Talon in Kuwait. Now, the brigade wants 18 of the UGVs to watch the backs of its Stryker armored vehicles.

Four cameras and a pair of night-vision binoculars allow the robot to operate at all times of the day. It has a range of about a half-mile in urban areas, more in the open desert. And with the ability to carry four 66-mm rockets or six 40-mm grenades, as well as an M240 or M249 machine gun, the robots can take on additional duties fast, said director John Pike.

"It's a premonition of things to come," Pike said. "It makes sense. These things have no family to write home to. They're fearless. You can put them places you'd have a hard time putting a soldier in."

It's the same goal Army-funded researchers are keeping in mind as they develop an unmanned ambulance. The Robotic Extraction Vehicle, or REV, is a 10-foot-long, 3,500-pound robot that can tuck a pair of stretchers -- and life-support systems -- beneath its armored skin. The idea is for battlefield medics to stabilize injured soldiers, and then send them back to a field hospital in the REV. But the REV also carries an electrically powered, 600-pound, six-wheeled robot with a mechanical arm that can drag a wounded fighter to safety if there isn't a flesh-and-blood soldier around.

Ordinarily, it takes two to four men to get the wounded out of harm's way. Patrick Rowe, with Applied Perception of Pittsburgh, said he hopes the REV will cut that number, maybe by half. The firm is scheduled to show off prototypes of the robots to the Army's Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center in March.

But this early version will be limited, Howe said. Ideally, the REV would drive around on its own, with no help from human operators. In practice, the robot would either be driven by a person with a joystick, or it would get around by itself by sticking to carefully preplanned routes. As the limited performances in the Pentagon's robot off-road rally in March showed, unmanned drivers are still pretty lousy at handling open, unknown terrain.

That's one of the reasons why iRobot's new UGV will still have a steering wheel inside, so it can be driven by a human, too. The company -- best known for its Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner and the PackBot UGVs that the Army has been using to clear bombs and explore suspected terrorist hideouts in the Middle East -- is now working with agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere to build a cargo-hauling robot.

The M-Gator is a six-wheeled, diesel mini-Jeep that soldiers use to schlep about 1,400 pounds of gear. IRobot wants to have a robotic version ready by next year, so it can show it off to the Army and try to get funding for a full line of the vehicles, which would work as mechanical pack mules. The company hopes to be in production by 2006.

By then, the armed Talon will have been in operation for about a year, if all goes according to plan. And for those of you who might be worried about the robot getting loose with a "runaway gun," Tordillos orders you to relax.

"The thing is not shooting on its own. You've got to have these," he said, waving a set of small, silvery keys, which fit into a lock on the Talon's briefcase-sized controller. A single switch causes the robot to reboot and return to safe mode.'s Pike isn't worried about the Talon going haywire. He's concerned about what the armed UGV represents for the future.

"This opens up great vistas, some quite pleasant, others quite nightmarish. On the one hand, this could make our flesh-and-blood soldiers so hard to get to that traditional war -- a match of relatively evenly matched peers -- could become a thing of the past," he said. "But this might also rob us of our humanity. We could be the ones that wind up looking like Terminators, in the world's eyes."

New US Point Defense System

From Wired :

The Army's Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, is one of several Defense Department groups looking for a way to give those troops in Hummers another layer of defense. TARDEC's solution: blast the RPG in midair, before it gets a chance to hit.

In another few years, Hummers' roofs could be covered with a dozen tubes, each filled with a foot-long mini-rocket called the FCLAS -- short for Full Spectrum Active Protection Close-In Shield. Every FCLAS would have a pair of radio-frequency sensors inside. One in the nose would detect incoming RPGs and fire off a counterstrike. A second sensor, in the rocket's side, would go off when the RPG comes within range. The FCLAS would then detonate, letting loose a hail of explosive fragments, destroying the grenade in the process. The whole attack and response would take no more than a few seconds.

Why There Are More Afghan than Iraqi Sergeants

From The Strategy Page, an analysis of why the US has been more effective rebuilding the Afghan army...

The Afghans have some of the same problems as the Iraqis, namely tribalism and a weak sense of nationalism. ... But European colonizers proved in the 19th century that, with good training and good NCOs and officers, you can produce combat units from tribal warriors that can match Western ones in effectiveness. The key problem is getting effective NCOs.

Professional NCOs have been the secret to success in Western armies. However, the NCOs must be slowly developed, by selecting recruits who have leadership and management skills, and training them, on the job, over several years. It takes 3-5 years to get a suitable recruit to the point where he can handle the job of the lowest level sergeant (in charge of a squad of 10-12 troops.) Another 3-5 years gets you an NCO that can handle a platoon (which is usually led by a lieutenant, who depends on the platoon sergeant a lot.) Another five years gets you a company 1st sergeant. This NCO assists the officer commanding the company, and supervises the other twenty or so NCOs in the company.

Of course, Western nations have, in major wars, had to develop NCOs a lot more quickly.


In Afghanistan, you had a lot of men who have been fighting for over two decades. Lots of good NCO material. But the concept of the Western NCO (a professional supervisor who is respected and well paid) is largely unknown in Afghanistan. The old Afghan army was based largely on the Soviet model, which treated most NCOs as “senior privates” and left most of the supervisory duties to officers. Most of the Afghan men with combat experience, however, were not in the army, but in tribal war parties (usually squad or platoon size). Here, many of them they gained good NCO type experience at the squad and platoon sergeant level. These men have been found and given some training for squad and platoon sergeant positions. Those that are at the platoon sergeant level, and are also literate, are being used as 1st sergeants (who have to handle some paperwork).

Another advantage the Afghans have over the Iraqis is a warrior mentality. It’s easier to make the Afghans understand that for an army to work, troops must learn how to use their weapons (and take good care of them), and stand and fight. While Iraq has produced some good soldiers, most Iraqis want nothing to do with fighting. However, with good training and NCOs, just about anyone can be turned into an effective soldier. Unfortunately for Iraq, most of the good NCOs and officers were Sunni Arabs. These men are vulnerable to Saddam’s enforcers, who are still around and either killing Sunni veterans who join the new army, or threatening those considering it. Thus the Iraqis have a hard time getting experienced Sunni Arabs to serve as NCOs. So in Iraq, NCOs must be developed the hard way, by taking men with potential and having them learn on the job.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


A Mark V Ogre from the Pan Pacific Alliance, a huge resource for Ogre/GEV players. As the members of the FFT email list know, I am a big fan of Steve Jackson's Ogre/GEV. I even posted a set of rules to play Ogre/GEV with FFT2. Posted by Hello

Dien Bien Phu

This site has a lot of useful information for wargaming the French Indochina War.

This is one of the photos of a stunning 1/300 city at Bob MacKenzie's website. Amazing.Posted by Hello

Bob MacKenzie's Site

Bob's site has tons of useful stuff for WWII and modern microscale wargamers. I especially like the comparisons of different miniature lines. And check out this stunning city scape! I'd hate to fight in it, though...

Assault on Hammutal Scenario

This is an Arab-Israeli Wars scenario (Yom-Kippur War). Here's a scenario for the battle of the Chinese Farm.

Jake Collins' Orders of Battle

Jake has a nice site with a lot of OB information for FFT and Modern Spearhead. The MSH lists should be very easy to convert to FFT.

Old Trousers FFT2 House Rules

John Kelly has written a set of house rules for FFT2. His site also has equipment lists for the Arab-Israeli Wars.

India Wargamers FFT Scenario

Here's a pretty nifty account of an FFT scenario set in Kosovo by the India Wargamers.

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