I’ve commented here that the M1 Abrams should really get a hard-kill active protection system (APS) fitted. And I’ve held that view for years. I have said this to Fishbreath many times. And each time, I’ve pointed to a certain, existing hard-kill APS as my unit of choice. Israel’s Trophy.
Of course, I’m just an armchair strategist. But I’m not the only one saying this. For many years, the US Army had responded to questions on the APS front that they were working on their own American-made design with a number of manufacturers. And that it was going to be better. Faster. Safer for nearer infantry. Etc. Etc. Made here. Well, millions of dollars in research budget and tons of tests later, no dice. Nothing is ready. Nothing has been mounted on an actual tank for any kind of serious testing.
Kornet missiles and RPG-29s aren’t going to wait in mid flight and have a couple shots of Stoli while you figure this stuff out. And Big Army has finally come around to the fact that maybe the perfect is the enemy of the good enough, and maybe, just maybe, they should hurry up and get something fielded. Maybe from some staunch ally of ours whose tanks are regularly shot at by Russian ATGMs?
Trophy isn’t a perfect system. But it’s available. Today. Right now. And it’s been proven in combat. It has shot down actual missiles. It works. It’s in production. It’s even reasonably priced.
For the low price of just $350,000, let’s see what we get:
And another view:
It’s not a perfect mounting. Those sponsons stick out quite a bit. On the plus side, they might be removable for transport, which would be good. And this is way cheaper than tearing apart the turret and mounting them inside. Unfortunately, I don’t know how much they weigh. Oh well. I really don’t care too much about the weight. Clearly it’s vitally important that the Abrams eats more hamburgers and takes the heavyweight title away from the Challenger 2 TES(H). Turret drive and suspension upgrades are probably long overdue anyway.
Well, the votes are in, and voters prefer the contract on Propus. The techs mothball the mechs, and we’re off.
Changing Contract Details?
For some reason, the contract details changed between the first post and this one. Not sure what’s up there, but the upshot is that all the contracts are now worth slightly less. (It may have had to do with some of my experimentation.) It’s still a pretty good deal, though; 12 million in advance money is plenty.
I’m sure it’s a pain to coordinate parts delivery while traveling, but our brave administrators somehow manage.
The parts bill is pretty wild. We now have spare arms and legs for all our mechs, as well as spare leg, arm, hand, and foot actuators. Since we’re fairly energy-heavy, we have ten spare medium lasers, two spare PPCs, and three spare large lasers. The parts stock includes more than 100 tons of armor, 15 heat sinks, and in general, at least one spare for nearly every part in use by the company. Notable absences: heads and center torsos (if we need those, we have bigger trouble) and engines. We have one spare gyroscope for medium mechs and one spare gyroscope for heavies, but none for light mechs or assaults.
Why mention the last one? Because…
The Federated Commonwealth has the best toys, and since we’re working for them, that means we have the best toys. Available in the FedCom mercenary market is an Awesome AWS-8Q, a superb example of the assault mech class and a brand-new cornerstone for our heavy lance.
Captain “Drake” Halit (3, 1 mech)
Lieutenant “Rook” Ishikawa (3)
Lieutenant “Linebuster” Atkinson (3)
Private Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
Private “Ker-Ker” Ec (1)
It is now September 26, 3050.
Congratulations to Sgt. Jose Milspec Ortega, who received a promotion to Sergeant, owing to his new role as lance commander. (See below for more.)
We have 3.574 million C-bills in the bank right now. Our current operating costs are 141,810 C-bills per month. After shares and monthly expenses, we make 4.255 million C-bills per month. Our expected balance at the end of this contract, prior to travel back home, is 24.850 million C-bills.
The Opinionated Bastards now possess, for the first time, a full company of mechs, as well as a large stock of supplies and spare parts. I expect we’ll be fine for the duration of this present contract. We can re-evaluate supplies when it’s over.
Because we now have a full twelve mechs, I went ahead and rearranged the company. I tried to stick with something in the spirit of Hasek10’s organization, aiming to make lances as close to the weight category limits as possible.
We start off with the Heavy Lance, at 270 tons. Drake moves up to the Awesome. His legendary skill at gunnery should make him a fearsome combatant. Rook steps up into Captain Halit’s old mech, the Flashman; Double Dog gets the Thunderbolt. Rounding out the Heavy Lance is Woad, back in the trusty Trebuchet TBT-5N. His primary role will be to act as a screen and bodyguard for the Awesome.
Next up is the Medium Lance, something of a misnomer now. Linebuster Atkinson and Ker-Ker Ec, along with the two Lancelots, take up the first two slots. Clanner Ed Yuksel and his fancy Locust IIC, and Tedros Jamil and his custom Vulcan fill out the lance. The Lancelots are the primary firepower here, both in terms of weight of weapon and of pilot skill.
Lastly, the Light Lance, even more of a misnomer. Newly-minted Sergeant Milspec Ortega leads the lance from the Phoenix Hawk, joined by Private Ngo in the Crab, Severe Payne in the Locust, and lastly, Euchre Kojic in the LRM-equipped TBT-5S.
The only mechwarrior without a mech to drive is Private Frajtov, who was evicted from the TBT-5S in favor of Euchre.
Updated contract details
We’ve just started the contract; it lasts until February 25, 3051. At present, the Medium Lance is deployed on Scout duty to fill the terms of the contract. The other two lances are awaiting your direction.
The TO&E is open for comment; if you think things ought to be rearranged, say so.
On that note, should we rename the lances First, Second, and Third or something? Heavy, Medium, and Light are only going to get more misleading.
Should we deploy more lances? A different lance? Lances on other duty assignments?
In the longer term, what should we aim to do? Should we look to expand our mercenary command first, adding a second company of mechs? Should we save for a DropShip of our own?
The following mechwarriors remain to be claimed. To claim a mechwarrior, give me a callsign for one of them. I’ll refer to them by their callsign in most places, and bold it so it’s easier to find them.
For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
If you’ll recall from our earlier discussion of Bradley variants, there were a couple of versions that had short-range air defense (SHORAD) capability. One carried eight of the excellent ADATS missiles in a purpose-designed turret with a mechanically-scanned radar and some new optics for sighting the missiles. When ADATS wasn’t procured, an alternative version was chosen. This one simply replaced the normal box launcher for a pair of TOW missiles on the regular Bradley with a box launcher for four Stinger missiles. This version was called the M6 Bradley Linebacker, but the lack of aerial threat led the US Army to return these to the standard Bradley configuration with TOW missiles.
Of course, recent events in the Donbass have reminded everyone that yes, there is a conventional threat out there, and it might have some aircraft or UAVs that need shooting down. And so a new Bradley Linebacker configuration has been proposed by the cool people at BAE. Behold!
Let’s review the changes. Or the changes beyond the regular M2A4 set. The gun has been switched out from the 25x137mm M242 Bushmaster cannon to the 30x113mm M230LF cannon. This provides an airburst fuse option. There are plenty of airburst-capable 30mm rounds, but none in the 25mm caliber. At least not for autocannons.
The quadpack Stinger launcher has returned. Other options available include a twin AGM-114 Hellfire launcher or a twin AIM-9X launcher. And yes, the AGM-114 can be used in an antiair role; it’s simply a matter of pointing the laser or radar guidance at the airborne target. The twin AGM-114 launcher can be seen at the right of the second photo.
We can also see that this vehicle now has its own radar. These are the four round drums on the corners of the turret. This new Bradley will be able to acquire aerial targets on its own. The radars are configured to handle both search and fire control duties. In addition, the new Linebacker 2 can be connected into an air defense network for target cueing.
Finally, we can see a really tall new array of stuff mounted on top of the turret. This is the British Anti UAV Defense System (AUDS). It combines an additional radar optimized for detecting very small targets, an electro-optical system for observation and identification of said targets, and a directional RF jammer for downing UAVs. Additionally, the 30mm airburst rounds should also be very effective against drones.
All in all, it’s a worthy heir to the Linebacker name, and it should be a very effective SHORAD vehicle.
Hasek10 presented a proposed reorganization, but discussion is still ongoing. Continue the discussion, and we’ll finalize our organization before the next deployment.
A strong consensus emerged on taking the money, packing up, and heading out, so that’s what we’ll do.
Packing Up, Heading Out
The Opinionated Bastards remain on-world for the ceremony around the pirates’ surrender, mechs serving as the honor guard. The tech teams mothball our mechs, the administrators accept the final payment and pay out shares, and before we know it, we’re packed into a creaky old Buccaneer-class DropShip, headed for the jump point and, eventually, Piedmont.
On the way back, we make a very interesting pickup. An man odd in speech and dress, Ed Yuksel approaches Captain Halit at the Telos IV jump point and says his only desire is to die honorably in battle. He shows us a mech, an unusual-looking Locust painted with a red wolf’s head. Despite Halit’s attempts to weasel more information out of him, he says nothing else of consequence.
Eventually, Halit welcomes him aboard as a private and promises him combat aplenty.
House Rules (Early Clans)
That’s right, our first Clanner. There are several special rules around him (and other Clanners with which we may associate until, say, 3055).
First, his mech is packed with Clan tech, which we can neither obtain nor readily repair. I’ll figure out how to represent that mechanically when the time comes. He can’t be reassigned, and if he’s injured, nobody else is allowed to pilot his mech.
Second, he’s here early, before the Clans did much in the way of associating with the Inner Sphere at large. He must therefore be disgraced in some way, cast out by his people. Yuksel’s main goal (as mentioned) is to redeem himself with a fighting death on the battlefield. Whenever he’s deployed, he’ll fight just shy of suicidal.
Finally, since he has no connections to anyone, we won’t be required to pay out the cost of his mech on his death. If his mech is destroyed but he survives, he’ll expect another one. If we refuse, he’ll demand payment and hit the road.
We return to Piedmont in late June, and unpack the mechs for some training in between contracts. On July 1st, the following offers come in. (Note: I’m still tweaking the game settings to find contract generation options which are neither insultingly bad, like last time, or unbelievably generous, like this time.)
We have six contracts available, all of which have at least something to recommend them.
The Free Worlds League offers a five-month objective raid, fighting well-equipped FedCom regulars on Laiaka, eight jumps away. Notably, we negotiate for liaison command rights; any allied mechs will be under our direct control. Battle loss compensation is included at 40% of lost equipment value. 20% salvage rights. The estimated profit before shares is 24.8 million C-bills, including an advance of 12 million C-bills.
The Draconis Combine offers a six-month planetary assault, fighting elite but poorly-equipped troops of the Free Rasalhague Republic on Thun, nine jumps away. 50% salvage rights. Battle loss compensation is 10%, and the estimated profit before shares is 27 million C-bills, including an advance of 13 million C-bills.
The Federated Commonwealth offers a five-month objective raid, fighting poorly-equipped Capellan regulars on Propus, 11 jumps away. 30% salvage rights. 10% battle loss compensation; profit of 27.2 million C-bills along with a 14 million C-bill advance.
The Federated Commonwealth also offers a second objective raid, fighting Free Worlds League regulars with average equipment on New Hope, nine jumps out. 20% salvage rights. No battle loss compensation, profit of 25.4 million C-bills, with a 12-million C-bill advance.
The Free Rasalhague Republic wants to hire us for six months of guerilla warfare against poorly-equipped FedCom regulars on Surcin, nine jumps away. We receive no support payments whatsoever, neither for operating costs nor for battle loss compensation. 70% salvage rights. Pay is poorer than the others, too, at 23.8 million C-bills and 12.2 million C-bills in advance money.
Finally, the Draconis Combine has offered us a four-month pirate hunting contract on Kilmarnock, nine jumps away, based on our previous successes against pirates. They’re known to be decent mech pilots, but have typically poor equipment. No battle loss compensation, and very poor pay relative to the other contracts on offer, but also low risk and fewer limitations on parts and supply. 30% salvage rights. Estimated total profit of 9.6 million C-bills, and a 7.3 million C-bill advance payment. (All the other contracts have anywhere from worse to much-worse parts access. It’ll start to get less important as our administrators improve, but we aren’t quite there yet.)
As ever, I’m partial to low risk, but we’ll see how the voting turns out.
I’m going to leave this in every post, because it saves me having to dig through old ones to find the up-to-date version.
Captain “Drake” Halit (3, 1 mech)
Lieutenant “Rook” Ishikawa (3)
Lieutenant “Linebuster” Atkinson (3)
Private Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
Private “Ker-Ker” Ec (1)
It is now July 1, 3050.
We have 3.343 million C-bills in the bank right now. Our current operating costs are 135,810 C-bills per month.
The Opinionated Bastards are back to eleven mechs. We have supplies which enable us to embark on a mission with below-average parts availability, but I’d probably still want to bulk up the stocks a bit if we do.
There are several mechs for sale on the unit market at present, but they’re all on the black market, which has a one in six chance of turning out to be a scam. There’s a Thunderbolt, a Commando, a Centurion, and a Shadow Hawk; I’ll post variants and prices if there’s interest in purchasing a new unit.
Should we take a contract, or wait for something better? We have room in the budget to chill for a few months.
Should we buy a mech, or wait?
The following mechwarriors remain to be claimed. To claim a mechwarrior, give me a callsign for one of them. I’ll refer to them by their callsign in most places, and bold it so it’s easier to find them.
For the record, the following mechwarriors are claimed.
History is a great thing to learn from. And one of the details that we can look to history for lessons on is the basis of issue: how many of what things a given unit should have. This is often hard to work out without any kind of experience, so let’s look to some troops with experience. The following is based off of notes from Marines in Iraq circa 2003 or so and the related Marine Gunner’s Conference, so some of the equipment may be a little out of date. I’ve noted alternatives where applicable. These marines saw combat and used their equipment heavily. The overall base unit here is a rifle company (182 men), so the numbers for items will be referenced on that basis.
PVS-14 (Night Vision Monocular): These should be issued one per man (182). Monoculars are liked because they allow one eye to remain open for peripheral vision or shooting if another optic is mounted on the weapon. PVS-14s are Gen 3 light amplification devices and are still pretty good. There are alternatives that integrate thermal at present. One other thing noted in the report: helmet mounts are required. The strap mounts aren’t very good, and don’t work well with helmets.
3X Magnifier: None of these were listed on the table, and our veterans differed a little. The 3X magnifier is a useful observational tool, especially in the desert. The panel recommended at least enough magnifiers for stationary gunners and forward observers (40), if not enough to also equip the fire team leaders (67). A handheld magnifier is useful for observing without necessarily orienting one’s weapon toward the target. Note that there are also 6X magnifiers available at present.
PEQ-2 (IR Laser sight): The PEQ-2 is a laser sight to aid in aiming with night vision devices. The findings were that every weapon that could mount a PEQ-2 (i.e. basically everything that wasn’t a pistol) needed a PEQ-2, which works out to 176 units. The PEQ-2 is heavy and bulky. It is outmoded, if not obsolete. Much better choices exist today, including the DBAL, ATPIAL, and the MAWL. The MAWL is best of breed as I write this.
VLI (Visible Light, i.e. flashlight): The standard flashlight, capable of being used in the hand or being mounted on a weapon. The findings were that every rifle needed a light, especially for urban operations. This works out to 134 lights. Additionally, the marines agreed that the VLI itself was too big, too heavy, and needed too many batteries. They requested a smaller, lighter flashlight. The Surefire M600 Scout Light comes to mind as an excellent long gun weaponlight choice today.
If you’re curious about IR illumination for use with night vision devices, there are variants of the M600 (and other flashlights) that can output infrared in addition to white light. Also, many laser sighting units come with a built-in IR illuminator.
PVS-17B (Night Vision Weaponsight): The PVS-17B is a dedicated night vision weaponsight, complete with reticle and 2.5X magnification. This was found to work well on support weapons, including the M-249, AT4, and SMAW. This works out to 39 PVS-17Bs. It was not favored on rifles, because a PVS-14 could be mounted in front of the RCO, giving similar capability for less weight and hassle. The PVS-17B is pretty heavy and bulky. These days, the PVS-22 is often preferred. The PVS-22 is designed to give night vision capability to an existing optical sight rather than replace it like the PVS-17B. However, given that the PVS-17B is also a 3rd Generation light amplification unit, it’s not outmoded.
PAS-13 (Thermal Weapons Sight): The PAS-13 is a thermal imaging weapon sight. The original model was quite heavy and bulky. It was favored by the committee only for machine guns (M-249 and M-240 gunners), which works out to 33 units. The committee did suggest that machine gunners carry both PAS-13 and PVS-17B sights. Since Operation Iraqi Freedom, newer versions of the PAS-13 that are significantly lighter and less bulky have come out. The PAS-13G is even reasonably sized to mount on a rifle.
RCO (ACOG): The Marines RCO of choice is the ACOG. They favor the TA31F, which has the red chevron reticle with fiber optic and tritium illumination and fixed 4X magnification. Marines love ACOGs, and the Gunner’s Committee was no exception. The magnification is very useful for target acquisition, identification, and discrimination. They sought one per rifle, or 134 ACOGs for the company.
IR Beacons: This is a little blinking IR light used for identification. While none were on the allocation table at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, they are very useful for helping identify friendly units and avoid blue-on-blue incidents. The committee figured every fire team and every platoon sergeant should have an IR beacon, which comes to 5 per platoon, or 25 per company.
Laser Boresight System: Not a combat weapon, this is used for boresighting. Duh. It is also useful for boresighting the aforementioned night sights and rocket-type weapons like the SMAW or AT4. Every squad needs to be able to boresight its stuff. They figured 20 boresighters per company would work well.
PEQ-4: This is a powerful IR laser pointer. For pointing while using night sights. It’s powerful and can be distinguished from the PEQ-2 lasers. PEQ-2s aren’t really able to be seen well by vehicles or aircraft if they’re not right on top of the user. The committee recommended 10 per company for platoon leaders, company leaders, and machine gun leaders. The aforementioned laser sights that have replaced the PEQ-2 are also a lot more powerful, and have obviated the need for these.
M-24 Mini Binoculars: Not night vision equipment. These have 7x magnification. Despite having ACOGs on their weapons, squad and team leaders found binoculars to be very flexible and useful. The committee recommended 27 per company.
The committee also realized that the above recommendations are not without their own issues. These devices add quite a bit of weight to the Marine’s rifle. These devices have their own switchology that requires training, require batteries (other than the RCO–ACOGs don’t need batteries), and add maintenance requirements.
Like many armchair strategists, I like thinking about questions of organization. And this includes examining some unconventional ideas from history. Today, we have a really neat one: The Armored Squad. For reasons that will become clear shortly, I have also dubbed it the “Super Squad” in conversations with Fishbreath.
This squad idea comes out of World War 2, and the question of tank-infantry cooperation. Tanks and infantry are better together, which leads to questions of how this should be organized in order to promote unit cohesion. Some American units organized into Armored squads, where an M4 Sherman tank was paired with an infantry squad in an M3 half track. This gave a tank, with all the armored firepower that entailed, plus ten dismounted infantry who had their own transport to keep up with the tank. On paper the Sherman had a crew of 5, and the M3 half track had a crew of two: one driver and one machine gunner, so this is a total of 17 men.
This wasn’t an ad-hoc formation; particular tanks and particular squads were paired together for training and were kept together. They ate together. They fought together. In the Hurtgen Forest, the tankers took turns in the foxholes with the infantry, and the dismounted infantry got turns in the vehicles to warm up. Training together meant that infantry and tanks were much more intimately familiar with their respective counterparts’ limitations.
Moving up the organization table, we have five armored squads per platoon, and three such platoons per company. There were three of these tank-infantry companies per “Combat Command”, which is another organizational curiosity of the US Army in the Second World War. In brief a Combat Command was basically a brigade sized unit comprised of companies and platoons. There was no battalion-level organizational structure, and this was thought to increase flexibility. So, in the combat commands in question, there would be three tank-infantry companies plus a host of supporting units.
The advantages are the obvious increase in firepower over a regular mechanized squad, and it provides a tank with much more effective close-in protection than it would have otherwise. The disadvantages are on the logistics side. There’s a much larger fuel burden, plus there are two dissimilar vehicles that need maintenance, which increases the burden for maintenance personnel. Where a normal tank or mechanized infantry company would only have one sort of vehicle to maintain, with one set of spare parts to stock, the tank-infantry company has two.
In combat, the armored squad and associated units built from it were very effective. The 5th Armored Division was organized along this model, and it suffered notably fewer casualties than either 6th or 7th Armored Divisions (which were more conventionally organized), all of which were deployed to the European Theater of Operations at about the same time. 6th Armored went in on July 27th, 5th Armored went in on August 2nd, and 7th Armored went in on August 14th. Each division was deployed for the duration. 6th Armored took 5,194 casualties and lost 196 tanks, 5th Armored took 3,043 casualties and lost 116 tanks, and 7th Armored took 4,781 casualties and lost 360 tanks. Combat situations are, of course, not identical, so we should be careful not to read too much into these numbers. But it might suggest some tactical improvements by putting tanks and infantry together for the duration.
We can also see a very similar organization almost 60 years later. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, aggressive divisions driving on and into Baghdad often organized their forces to combine a pair of Abrams tanks with a pair of Bradleys. The force could fit down most streets with the Abramses in the vanguard. The Bradleys and the dismounts provided effective cover for closer threats, or for higher threats the Abramses couldn’t tackle. The Abrams tanks could also use their guns and fronts to breach buildings, which would then be cleared by the dismounts. Plus, putting the Abrams tanks forward meant that they drew the ambushes, and they were much harder to kill with RPG-7s than Bradleys.
In 1944 and again in 2003, the concept has been proven in combat in a variety of environments. To be sure, there is an increased logistics, maintenance, and training burden. But we made it work in 1944 with a conscript army. So we can make it work now with a professional army from a training standpoint. And if the US Army’s long drives with Abrams tanks have taught us anything, it’s that the correct answer to logistics is more trucks. The TO&E should reflect how we fight. And we should train like we fight.
I really like this organizational setup. I’d probably go with three tank-infantry teams per platoon, and three tank-infantry platoons per company. I’m usually a triangular organization kind of guy.
The month of April turns out to be an exciting one for the Opinionated Bastards. Read on below the fold.
Last Month’s Action Items
Hasek10 took the lead this time, so I went with his plans. The light lance remains on training duty. We’ll discuss procurement at the end of the month.
The Action of April 19, 3050
On April 14, the unit intelligence officer receives word of a pirate concentration near a grassland town some distance from our base of operations. Happily, the light lance is training locally rather than on an exercise elsewhere, so they join in the deployment.
We’ll probably need them, too. This is some battle. A full six lances of mixed enemy mechs and vehicles are facing our ten mechs (Private ‘Severe’ Pain’s Locust is currently in refit, adding some armor and two more medium lasers). Happily, when they catch wind of our approach, they flee. We’ll have to chase down and destroy half their force before we can declare victory.
Captain Halit has four levels in the Tactics skill, which means we get to reroll battlefield conditions up to four times. The end result is this: muddy grassland with a town in the center, in moderate rain, on a moonlit night.
Because this is a chase battle, units deploy in order of speed, fastest units in early rounds and slower units later on. Attached to our lance is a Lyran Phoenix Hawk. Since the contract stipulated House command rights, the Lyran pilot is not under our direct command.
The Lyran mech deploys, along with the rest of the enemy light mechs. In total, they have four Wasps, a Spider, and a Stinger.
The mud is proving tricky.
Our two fastest mechs take the field: our Phoenix Hawk (piloted by Jose Ortega) and our Vulcan (piloted by Tedros Jamil). They both fire on a Stinger stuck in the mud a few hexes to the north, but do limited damage.
The remainder of our ‘light’ lance arrives on the field. Our two Trebuchets come first; Private Frajtov is driving the short-range TBT-5S, while Woad has the LRM-equipped TBT-5N. Damayanti Ngo rounds out the deployment, piloting our Crab.
The pirates deploy a number of Vedette medium tanks in a flanking position. Fortunately, the weather will make it very hard for them to hit our mechs at any distance, and Vedettes are slow at the best of times. They may have trouble moving at all.
The light lance concentrates its firepower on a stuck Wasp, the Stinger having escaped the sucking mud and jumped further away. (Ortega pursues him in the Phoenix Hawk, but can’t line up a good shot.) They do a good job, hitting the Wasp for more than 20 damage. Its pilot fails to keep his balance under the barrage, and the Wasp tips over into the mud.
Our heavy lance hits the field. Expert gunners with long-range weapons should begin to tell here. Three of them (Captain Halit’s Flashman, Double Dog‘s Rifleman, and Linebuster‘s Lancelot) deploy with the light lance, while two of them (Lieutenant Ishikawa’s Thunderbolt and Private Ec’s Lancelot) deploy further east, behind the enemy vehicle line.
The pirates deploy their lone heavy mech, an Orion, just to the southwest of our forces. Double Dog turns to face it, ready to engage.
In the Phoenix Hawk, Ortega has run up too much heat from weapons fire and jump jet use, and forgoes firing this turn. The western heavies engage the Wasp, and the eastern heavies focus on the enemy vehicles, including two PPC-equipped Manticore heavy tanks. The mediums (and the Rifleman) divide their fire between the Orion and the vehicle line.
Captain Halit proves his worth on his first turn in battle. Lighting up the stuck Wasp with his large lasers, he draws first blood, neatly coring the enemy mech.
The eastern heavies badly damage the pair of Manticores, knocking out the nearer tank’s engine and scything into the more distant tank’s armor.
The Orion, unfortunately, aims true and hits Woad‘s rear center torso with an AC/10. The Trebuchet’s engine and gyro both take hits, and Woad is unable to keep the mech’s legs beneath him. The Trebuchet bogs down in the mud, and rattling around the cockpit like a pinball does Woad no good, either. He’s alive and conscious, but it seems unlikely he’ll be able to get unstuck and stand back up, especially with an ailing gyro.
Let’s talk about a particularly devilish foe: the SRM carrier. A simple tracked vehicle with an enormous box of SRM launchers on the back, the SRM carrier has one of the most devastating alpha strikes in the BattleTech universe. It mounts ten SRM-6 launchers, each of which fires six missiles, each of which does two damage. That’s a potential total of 120 damage; for comparison, the Flashman, the most heavily armored mech in our hangar, has 216 points of armor altogether. It’s altogether possible for a lucky SRM carrier to blow up a mech in a single turn.
Why do I bring this up? Well, our piratical friends have laid their hands on five of them, all of which are part of the rearguard with which we’re currently engaged. We’ll come back to the SRM carriers.
This rearguard, by my count, contains enough enemy force to fulfill our mission requirements, so rather than pursue the enemy across the map (and allow the rearguard to fire on us from behind), I decide to focus on beating down the enemy here. That means nobody moves very much, although the medium mechs move closer to the vehicle line to the east of our main body to secure better shots.
Woad is still prone and unable to stand up. His mech takes some light fire from the Orion, but weathers it without further drama. Double Dog, running hot, takes an ineffectual medium laser shot at the Orion, but successfully kicks an SRM carrier, stripping its armor. The Lyran Phoenix Hawk, standing next to him, finishes the job with a kick of its own.
Linebuster destroys a second SRM carrier with well-aimed laser fire from his Lancelot, while Lieutenant Ishikawa and Private Ec in the Thunderbolt and other Lancelot make short work of a Manticore heavy tank and the lone LRM carrier.
Then the SRM carriers shoot back.
Three shoot at Captain Halit’s Flashman, but he’s moving, and the range, darkness, and rain conspire to protect him. He takes a pounding, but his armor holds.
Two shoot at Private Ec’s Lancelot. She’s not moving, and she’s much closer. Missile after missile slams into her mech’s armor. Holes begin to open up, and the explosions move inward to the mech’s frame. The dust settles. In all, 61 missiles hit Private Ec’s mech, destroying weapons and heat sinks, and damaging leg actuators. Several missiles hit the cockpit. The armor holds, but the shock knocks Ec out cold. Her mech collapses into the mud.
SRM carriers remaining: 3.
Well, we should probably do something about those. Captain Halit and Private Frajtov will continue shooting at the Orion, in the hopes of bringing it down. Frajtov places his mech directly in the Orion’s path.
Everyone else is going to set up to shoot at an SRM carrier.
Linebuster hits one, knocking out its engine but leaving it alive. Lieutenant Ishikawa destroys one outright. The others survive unmolested.
Surprisingly, it’s Private Frajtov who takes home the trophy for largest mech destroyed to date. A simple medium laser shot at point blank range penetrates the Orion’s armor and lights off its AC/10 ammunition. Fire blossoms within the pirate mech, then bursts forth in a tremendous fireball which leaves very little of the Orion left.
Then the SRM carriers shoot back.
Private Ec’s mech takes the brunt of the barrage. Happily—she was basically doomed anyway. In the end, there isn’t much left of her mech besides a frame and, surprisingly, a cockpit. (It survived with one internal structure point remaining; happily, she did not die in her first battle.)
Double Dog takes fire from the final SRM carrier, and it’s a doozy. It gets into his Rifleman’s internal structure, knocking out several weapons and damaging a leg actuator. He can’t keep his mech upright, and it topples, getting stuck in the mud.
That’s bad. Hitting an immobilized target is easier, and Lieutenant Dare’s mech is still in relatively good shape. It would be a shame to lose it.
SRM carriers remaining: 2.
The mud-soaked battlefield as it stands now.
We’re winning, per the objective; we only have to destroy half of the enemy’s starting force before it escapes, and we’re currently up to 45%. Mopping up here in the south should suffice to win.
As far as positioning goes, it’s pretty static. Now that the Orion is dead, Captain Halit can turn around to help with the vehicles. He hits a Manticore and kills it. Linebuster destroys another SRM carrier.
Unfortunately, Private Ortega, the only pilot with a clear shot at the last SRM carrier, misses altogether. Hopefully that won’t come back to haunt us next round.
One SRM carrier shoots at the Lyran Phoenix Hawk; the other shoots at the Rifleman. The Rifleman survives, somehow, amidst a bevy of internal structure damage. It’s alive, but I don’t know how much longer it can take this kind of beating.
SRM carriers remaining: 1.
Captain Halit accounts for the final SRM carrier with a hail of laser fire. Just before it goes up in a towering explosion, it gets off a shot at the Rifleman.
The Rifleman eats it. Its engine is destroyed, its head is destroyed, and its AC/5 ammo explodes just to really clarify that yes, it’s gone. Happily, the autoeject system works, flinging Double Dog free of the flaming wreckage just before the ammo goes off. He’s badly wounded and unconscious, but he’s alive.
To add indignity to our vaguely Pyrrhic victory, Woad finally gets himself unstuck from the mud, but doesn’t risk standing with his damaged gyro. Wouldn’t want to set ourselves up for yet more repairs.
SRM carriers remaining: 0. Thank God.
With the SRM carriers dead, there isn’t much else left in the south; a few damaged Vedettes, mostly. They go down much more easily, and don’t obliterate our mechs in the space of seconds.
Private Frajtov walks his Trebuchet past the still-burning Rifleman, pops out, and brings Double Dog up to the cockpit. At least he isn’t in the rain anymore. Private Ec, still unconscious in the cockpit of her very dead Lancelot, remains there for now.
An ad-hoc lance comprising Captain Halit, Lieutenant Ishikawa, Linebuster, and Private Ngo heads north to chase the pirates, now in full retreat, off of the map.
Further in that direction, the Lyran Phoenix Hawk beats up on an immobilized transport hovercraft.
At least someone’s having a good day.
Eventually, the pirates make it to the north end of the map, and I call it a day.
Man, it would have been nice to have some battle loss compensation in this contract.
There are some bright spots. Miraculously, Private Ec’s Lancelot is not a total write-off; it has enough internal structure left to rebuild. We are, therefore, only down one mech.
It’s going to take a lot of work, though.
Four of our ten pilots are wounded, including Double Dog and Woad. Only Double Dog‘s wounds are serious enough to impact his piloting skills, but he should be fine in a few weeks.
The Wasp Captain Halit nailed is a total loss, so I took as salvage an SRM carrier and a Manticore heavy tank. We’ll strip the weapons and armor and sell the chassis.
In doing so, we make nearly 800,000 C-bills, and add a spare PPC, some armor, a medium laser or two, and a ton of SRM-6 launchers (even after selling half of them).
The husk of Double Dog‘s Rifleman yields an arm and a leg, along with a few actuators and a heat sink or two.
The salvage we took comes to 35% against our total allowed of 30%. We’ll have to pay the employer back for the overage if we don’t get our salvage percentage down below the 30% mark; the payment required at present is about 185,000 C-bills.
Captain Halit (3, 1 mech)
Lieutenant Ishikawa (3)
Lieutenant ‘Linebuster’ Atkinson (3)
Private Frajtov (1, 1 mech)
Private Ec (1)
Repairs and Refits
The Rifleman is good for an arm and a leg, which simplifies getting the second Lancelot back in action.
Unfortunately, we need some expensive parts. The damaged Lancelot’s gyroscope is a total loss, and a new one sets us back 900,000 C-bills. Other parts come to about 200,000, eating into last month’s payout a bit.
By the end of the month, we’ve rebuilt the mech, which has earned the name Frankenstein from its tech teams.
It is now May 1, 3050. I decided against advancing the game further because…
After taking such heavy losses in equipment, morale among the pirates here on Gacrux has collapsed, and they’ve made overtures to the planetary authorities about surrendering. At the same time, the local government has located the pirates’ main base of operations and passed that information on to us. See the action items for more.
All pilots except for Double Dog are in good health. Lieutenant Dare’s concussion symptoms are lingering. The doctors estimate he’ll be back to 100% in a week’s time.
Captain Halit’s Negotiation has improved, which increases our company’s reputation.
We kick off May with 2.881 million C-bills in the bank, and two payments of 884,800 C-bills remaining in this contract. That leaves us with an expected balance of 4.6 million C-bills after this contract, and about 2.9 million C-bills after transit back home.
Per Hasek10’s directions, I’ve obtained spare ammunition and armor suitable for a deployment of moderate length and intensity, and laid in stocks of common weapons and equipment.
As far as this contract goes, we have two options. We can attack the pirate base, or accept the pirates’ surrender and head home. In both cases, we’ll be paid the remaining balance of the contract. In the former case, we have a chance at more salvage, although there are no heavy mechs among the enemy’s known forces. In the latter case, we don’t risk losing any further mechs in a costly battle, but we’ll have to pay 185,000 C-bills to the employer to cover our over-salvaging.
As far as the company goes, should we reorganize? We may be able to find more favorable engagements (read: MekHQ generates less difficult missions) if we go to a more traditional lance structure, heavy units supported by lighter units. On the other hand, that places a greater emphasis on pilot skill; we do have some skilled pilots, but they’re distributed mainly in the heavy mechs right now. If you think the answer is ‘yes’, you should describe a structure you think would be an improvement.
Mechwarriors are going fast, but there are some remaining. Give me a callsign and the pilot is yours; I’ll follow them more closely in subsequent updates, refer to them by their callsign in most cases, and bold their name so you can track them more readily.
Lt. SG Ishikawa
For the record, the following mechwarriors have been claimed by members at the Bay12 Games forum.
For USPSA, I love Open because I think it’s cool. If I’m gonna shoot a racegun, I want the fastest, blastiest racegun. I don’t want a bunch of rules about what I can’t do. Plus, electro-optical sights are cool, and loud compensators are also cool.
In 3-Gun, Open Shotguns are even better. Not only do they get cool red dot sights and cool compensators to spit fire, but they have a whole bunch of nonstandard magazine designs open to them. One such idea is the X-Rail, which is a cluster of four magazine extensions in a rotary unit, kind of like a giant revolver. Each holds six shells, so you get 24 out on the front. It’s super heavy, but you won’t have to reload as much. Empty gun starts still suck.
On the one hand, the X-Rail lets you use highly reliable, proven shotguns, like Benelli M2s. On the other hand, that’s a lot of weight on the end, and I’m not a big fan of super heavy weapons. Especially when the weight is out on the end of the gun. So that’s out. Pretty arbitrarily, but I don’t care. This is my list.
I want a shotgun that feeds from detachable box magazines. Shotgun shells make these difficult to make, and for some stupid reason, no company in America makes any sort of base gun that we can work with. Which leaves us the choice of Russian Saiga 12s, Russian Vepr 12s, Turkish MKA-1919s, or Turkish XTR-12s.
And no, those aren’t staying stock. Once again, I’m going to order a tricked out one, mostly because I don’t have the expertise to do that myself. Plus, some of the things commonly done to a race shotgun aren’t things I can do myself.
The other complication is the bans on imports of Russian weapons, which could distort prices when I finally go to purchase. That said, there are a lot of imported guns. And, unlike my pump gun, this was never going to get done on the cheap. This shouldn’t disqualify the Russian-made guns out of the gate, especially because I can still get base models for a reasonable price on Gunbroker.
Right out of the gate, we can eliminate the Saiga 12s, because the Veprs do everything the Saigas do, except way better. The Vepr comes in a not-stupid configuration out of the box. The Vepr doesn’t need tuning to actually work out of the box. The Vepr has a much more consistent build quality.
We can also eliminate the XTR-12 pretty quick. At the time of writing (October 2017) there are issues with getting large-capacity magazines to work reliably. And that’s the whole freaking point of open shotguns. There’s also very poor aftermarket support for these.
Two down. Now, the MKA-1919 actually comes in a couple different versions. One is from Tooth and Nail, and comes heavily tricked out. The other is from Firebird precision, and they remake most of the components right here in America. So, better tolerances, and hopefully better reliability. However, they don’t offer a compensator option. The T&N MKA 1919 build is available with a mid-barrel compensator. So, at this point I’m inclined to only look at the T&N one, given the better configuration options.
Vepr-12s from Dissident Arms also come with nice big compensator options. They use compensators at the end of the barrel rather than midbarrel ones. On the one hand, the Vepr-12 will have some increased costs from requiring a charging handle conversion (i.e putting a charging handle on the left side of the receiver).1 On the other hand, the Vepr-12 is probably the most reliable. It’s certainly the most reliable out of the box. In fact, it’s one of the few detachable box fed magazine shotguns to function reasonably out of the box. Points in its favor.
The other item in the room is ‘classic Russian Ergonomics’. Which we can improve somewhat. We can get a safety that’s workable with the shooting hand thumb or trigger finger without removing our shooting hand from its place. As mentioned before, we can put the charging handle on the correct side of the gun with a simple modification. We can also get a modification to be able to drop the magazines with our trigger finger. On the other hand, the MKA 1919 has AR-style controls. Well, other than the charging handle placement. It is at least on the proper side out of the box.
Now, to my way of thinking, that’s about a wash. Competitively equipped models are about the same price. However, the Vepr-12 has one other edge over the MKA 1919: I live near, and have squadded with, a member of the Dissident Arms shooting team, and he’s pretty active on youtube as well. So there’s a nearby Vepr-12 expert that I know.
And there you have it. My pick is the Vepr-12, tricked out into awesomeness by Dissident Arms.
Someone2 might chime in that the normal charging handle on the right side. This is true and completely irrelevant. Open guns are made to fit you not the other way around. Also, if you want competition guns on the cheap, you’ve got the wrong division. ↩
Last time, we looked at the result of the German combat testing of the StG-44, and how they thought it compared to the MG-42. Their conclusions were that the StG-44 was very good, but could not completely replace the MG-42.
I’ve chosen to look at the relevant tables for 1944 because at that point (or at least when the tables were written) the situation wasn’t so desperate as to put economy uber alles. Lots of the ’45 tables do just that. Also, keep in mind this is what the planners envisioned, which wasn’t necessarily what was fielded in great numbers.
The difference we’re interested in happens in the infantry platoons. The previous table had squads of nine men: one leader and eight soldiers. It also had one MG-42, and there was a designated gunner and assistant gunner. The gunner and assistant gunner both also carried P-38 pistols for personal defense. The squad leader had an MP-40, and the other six men had Kar 98ks. Moving up the table, each platoon had three squads. It also had a command element consisting of a platoon leader, two message bearers, and a litter bearer.
For the standard rifle squad, total ammunition allotment (i.e ready and reserve rounds) was as follows:
9mm Parabellum Rounds
8mm Mauser rounds
Of course, the assistant gunner’s ammunition was in 50 round belts, often carried in drums, and a good portion of his allotment might be distributed to the rest of the squad or left on any vehicle the platoon might have. The gunner was the one who got to carry the MG-42, of course.
The table of ammunition allotments for the new squad was quite a bit simpler:
9mm Parabellum Rounds
8mm Mauser rounds
8mm Kurz rounds
(I’ve left the titles as-is from the previous table for comparison’s sake, but they don’t quite fit when everyone has an StG-44.)
Readers who are interested in the soldier’s load will note that this is a savings of about 13 lbs over the previous one in terms of total load carried for the entire squad.
The new assault platoon had two such all-StG-44 squads. The third squad contained all of the long range support weapons, including two MG-42s and three rifle grenadiers. This support squad consisted of eight men altogether, including the squad leader. Snipers were concentrated in the company headquarters squad.
This new organization was pretty easy to command, a bonus for the Wehrmacht Heer as its supply of well-trained veteran squad leaders dwindled.
A few more things stand out to me, looking back seventy-odd years later. First is that we could replicate this platoon pretty readily with three IFVs that each have a six mount capacity, if we used the IFVs themselves as a “support squad”. While this would be a small, easily commanded platoon, it does tie the IFVs closely to their dismounts, and perhaps that is not desirable.
I would be remiss if I didn’t comment briefly on what the 1944 tables said about the Panzergrenadiers. Panzergrenadier platoons consisted of three identically-equipped squads. Each squad was made up of ten men, including vehicle driver and assistant/gunner. No StG-44s were assigned at this time. Instead, the eight dismounts had two MG-42s, with a third MG-42 remaining in the halftrack.
The Opinionated Bastards sign on the dotted line, and will be employed by the Federated Commonwealth hunting pirates until July 7, 3050 (or earlier, if we’re very successful). Read on below the fold for more.
To save on transit costs, I had the techs mothball the light lance. With only five mechs in mech bays, we fit into a smaller combat dropship; the mechs in mothballs go in a small cargo dropship. Mothballing takes two days, but a tech can unmothball a mech in a single working day, so we should be deployed as soon as we hit the ground on Gacrux.
Along the way, our human resources division makes a few paid recruitment rolls, spending 100,000 C-bills per week to load up on mech techs and administrators in the other categories. The Opinionated Bastards now have a fully-stocked tech division, as well as administrators and doctors fit for a unit of our size. In all, the Opinionated Bastards total 121 personnel, including the 72 local astechs and 12 local medics supporting our tech teams and medical staff.
Rick Papatamelis is one of our new administrators. Hi, Rick!
(Note that since this is my first campaign following the Campaign Operations payment and maintenance rules, I’m using Campaign Operations rules for administration and tech support too; I had to triple the administrator allowance to get a reasonable starting position.)
Finally, I ordered some parts for delivery at Gacrux: ammunition, armor, and heat sinks, all of which are consumables after a fashion. (Heat sinks don’t get used up, of course, but they’re the most common part in our force and therefore the most likely to take critical hits.) I also bought some hand and foot actuators before I realized that’s probably a good thing to vote on, so check the action items for more.
The seven-jump path from Piedmont to Gacrux. The top of the map, in blue, is the Clan invasion. Terra is the white dot just below Yorii.
Gacrux, our destination, is a fascinating place. We arrive on March 7, 3050. I deploy the heavy lance to seek out action right away to fulfill the terms of the contract, and set about unpacking the light lance. The latter, hosting all of our rookies, goes on training duty, in the hopes of bringing some of them up to a slightly higher standard of performance.
Nothing much goes on in March. The pirates won’t come out to play, which is quite a shame.
We do pick up a local; an astech by the name of Kian-zhi Ewerlof signs on permanently. He’ll apprentice under one of our proper techs for a while, and perhaps someday he’ll grow into a proper tech himself.
It is now April 7, 3050.
As mentioned above, we’re fully manned as far as administrators, techs, and support personnel go. Since we have administrators with an HR specialty, we can make paid recruitment rolls to find candidates for specific positions at a cost of 100,000 C-bills per weekly recruitment cycle.
The heavy lance is searching out the enemy. The light lance (such as it is) is training. Enemy morale is now Low. If it reaches Rout, we win, and we can collect the remaining payment and hit the road.
The Locust LCT-1M is refitting to a variant which mounts three medium lasers, a solid punch for such a lightweight mech.
After transit to Gacrux and the first month’s payout, we have 2.378 million C-bills. Our net income before share payment is 1.106 million C-bills. After shares, the company nets 884,800 C-bills per month. The May, June, and July payouts remain, for a total of 2.654 million C-bills remaining to be paid. At the end of the contract, discounting salvage sales and battle damage repairs, we should have 5.032 million C-bills. Transit back to Piedmont should cost about 1.7 million C-bills. We should therefore have about 3.332 million C-bills after all is said and done for this contract.
Armor, ammo, heat sinks, and cheapo actuators make up the majority of our supplies right now. (Note that LRM ammo and SRM ammo are interchangeable. 240 shots of LRM 5 ammo is 720 missiles, or 60 shots of LRM 20 ammo.)
First up, deployment. Should the light lance remain in training, or deploy? Units actively seeking out combat have a much higher chance of finding it. On the other hand, Hasek10 is correct in saying that the game will generate roughly even forces. (Not quite BV-equivalence, but approximately weight-equivalent for sure.) That could make for a tough fight, given the light lance’s actual weight and inexperience in piloting.
Next, ongoing procurement. I want to have about four million C-bills in hand before we leave; that leaves room for transit back, transit to the next world, and some downtime if we roll a bunch of undesirable contracts. Should we save the money, or secure sufficient spares and ammunition for a long, independent operation? In either case, I’ll get spares for commonly-used weapons and so on. If we’re planning on taking a long, independent contract, I’ll also likely want to get more actuators and some spare arms and legs. The latter would set us up for a longer contract out of contact with friendlies. The former might yield a treasury which can absorb the price of a light or medium mech.
Mechwarriors are still available to claim; all you need to do is say so and give me a callsign. I’ll try to follow claimed mechwarriors more closely in future updates. Available mechwarriors: