When we first started working on the original Fate Of A Nation booklet I spent a lot of time reading about Israeli actions in the Golan Heights during the 1967 and 1973 wars. Before then I knew very little about the Syrian side of these wars and I found it particularly eye opening. When we published the hardback version of Fate Of A Nation we needed a Syrian Army painted for all of the photos – I of course jumped at the opportunity because the fixed deadline meant I would get a lot of models painted in a relatively short period of time (I love a hard deadline when it comes to hobby projects).
The release of Oil War has meant that this project gets a second life for a relatively small amount of extra painting. Now I am sure you are thinking “Syrians in Oil War? I thought it was just Israelis, Iranians, and Iraqis?” Well that was the plan originally, however when Wayne was working on the book, he found that the Syrian forces in the mid-80s were sufficiently similar to the Iraqi forces that with a few rules you could fit the Syrian forces too, giving the Israelis a traditional foe to go head to head with.
Reviewing what models I already had finished I don’t have enough for a whole army (yet) but by expanding what I have already and adding in some new units I’ve come up with a fun list.
I started out with a T-62 Battalion with a total of 11 tanks. To give it some extra sticking power I added a Mech Company mounted in BMP 1s along with an attached SA-7 AA missile team. The AT-3 Saggers on the APCs significantly add to my Formations firepower. To round out the Formation I added a pair of ZSU-23-4 AA tanks. With this Formation coming in at a total of 24 points I then turned to…
A T-55 Battalion. This Formation has a total of 16 tanks (3 platoons of 5 and an HQ tank). Like the T-62 Battalion I added platoon of infantry in BMP 1 APCs and a pair of older ZSU-57-2 AA tanks. This Formation comes in at 23 points and if I had more painting time, I would be tempted to duplicate it and add the same again to my army.
Rounding out the Force is a Scout Platoon of 4 BRDM-2s – this is primarily (okay, solely) because I want a unit to help me Spearhead across the table. Next up is a platoon of SA-8 Geckos. These are some of the coolest (or perhaps oddest) models we have ever made and I have been looking for an opportunity add these to an army but never found the right option. This seemed like a good chance! Completing the army is 8 Gazelle HOT helicopters – I chose these for a few reasons, one, HOT missiles are the business when it comes to cracking open enemy tanks thanks to their AT 23 missiles, secondly, I already have some Hinds in progress for my Czechs and wanted to build and paint something different, and thirdly, Syrian Gazelle helicopters proved to be a thorn in the side of the Israeli forces in ’82, making them flavourful choice.
Now as it stands my army comes in 80 points (you can see why I mentioned the idea of duplicating the T-55 Battalion to bring me up to 100 points) but I think this is a nice starting point to aim for. Right now, I have just under half of the army painted (32/73 teams) by taking my existing troops from Fate Of A Nation and rather than creating a project that is bigger than Ben-Hur I think keeping it sensible and aiming for a finished 80 points is better than a “never completed” 100 points!
With the release of Oil War we at Battlefront are taking a trip back to the desert. In this book we seek to examine the first days of a major conflict between the two superpowers of the Cold War era spreading out to encompass Western Asia. As part of this enlarging of the conflict as we have envisioned it, we examine four armies, Israel, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The book sets down some organisational structures and basic philosophies of use that each of these armies employed based on their long or on-going experiences of fighting in this inhospitable environment. They determine everything from what equipment and tactics they use, to how they paint their military equipment. Twentieth century warfare is dominated by ranged combat, as such, the problem has three prongs. Spotting a target, identifying the target, and ensuring the target is within range of the weapon system/s at your disposal. The battlefield of the 1980s is an interesting cross-section of emerging technologies that seek to make the three tasks above more simple, and older ideas and technologies that are more tried and tested.
Items like Thermal Imagers and Laser Rangefinders do indeed make the problems of spotting, identifying, and ranging potentially more simple, however at the time these pieces of technology were bulky, expensive, and difficult to maintain.
So while parts of an army might have access to some or all, the vast majority of troops still only have the Mk.1 eyeball, and this is where camouflage comes in. So what is the basic purpose of camouflage? Some of you already know, but some will not. The answer is that camouflage, especially with regards to large pieces of equipment (for instance a Main Battle Tank), is used to fool the human brain into thinking that the object being viewed is not there, something else or at a different distance than it is. Some environments make this task more simple as the terrain comprises of a large number of obstacles that can be used to obscure the target in part, or in total. These types of terrain features are not nearly as prevalent in a desert. The terrain in desert environments is often marked by flat open areas providing little in the way of natural cover and concealment. Therefore the paint job on your Tank is fairly unlikely to fool anyone into thinking that it is a small hill or clump of trees as it might in Europe.
The only way that this is going to work in an arid desert environment is to bury the item in the sand, while this is a workable option for static defences it is not an ideal situation if mobile warfare is the name of the game. The armies examined in Oil War approach the problem from two directions. Israel and Iran choose to paint their ground based military equipment in a drab light green grey colour. The reason is that these armies are expecting to fight in varied terrain, from the desolate Negev desert to the more temperate Golan Heights and Southern Lebanon in the case of the IDF. Therefore they have decided to go with a neutral colour that will not stick out in either type of environment when clean, and with local dust will do a good job of blending in, thus rendering the vehicle more difficult to detect.
This approach does a good job of concealing, therefore making the task of locating the target more of a challenge, however it does not address the problems of target identification and ranging to the same degree.
Iraq and Syria approach the issue by employing camouflage patterns. These are more terrain specific and more time consuming to apply, but do break up the shape of the piece of equipment more effectively, therefore making accurate target identification and ranging more difficult, at the expense of being able to be used in multiple environments without being changed.
Other armies briefly mentioned in the book generally approach the problem in much the same way.
So for instance, the US forces for the most part were deploying for Exercise BRIGHTSTAR in Egypt, therefore would for the most part be using the Grey Desert version of MERDC, which consists of a sand coloured base, overpainted with field drab, earth yellow and black.
Whereas the Soviet forces are depicted as using their ubiquitous drab green. However, this does not Have to be the case. Team Yankee takes place in an alternate reality, so you could paint your Soviet models in the green and beige camouflage pattern used by them during their military involvement in Afghanistan during the 1980s, equally US forces could be using the all over light sand colour as seen during the 1991 Gulf War, as could your Iraqi forces.
If you do choose to paint your forces in camouflage, it is a good idea to see if an existing template exists. If so, use that if historical accuracy is your jam.
This also generally means that the hard work of figuring out colour placement and shape, in order to best break up the shape of the piece of equipment, has already been done.
However, in the case of camouflage schemes that have been applied without a template (for instance Iraq or Syria), a good way to approach the situation, is to either find historical photographs to help give you a general look and feel, applying basic camouflage principles (for instance ensuring that no surface is entirely one colour) or a combination of both. In this way you will be able to ensure a more lifelike appearance to your miniatures.