The West German Armored Recon Battalion in 1989

Introduction

Information is a crucial factor in war. Especially in modern times with the upcoming of digital artillery computers, guided ordnance and widespread radio communication. Helicopters, trucks, APCs and IFVs increased mobility of virtually all unit types and made modern engagments highly dynamic and fast paced. More than ever, an information advantage helps hitting at the right place at the right time. Or avoid being hit. To gather information, every nation developed a unique way to obtain the needed information. The spearhead of West German reconnaissance is the “Panzeraufklärungsbataillon” (Armored Recon Battalion).

Being highly mobile and with heavy tank support, the battalion is capable of breaking through gaps or weak spots in enemy lines. After breakthrough, the elements can scout for, identify and destroy high value targets either themselves or by commanding artillery or air strikes on target. The Light Reconnaissance Company is perfect for operations in dense terrain like urban areas or forests. Thanks to the MILAN anti-tank guided-missile system, the light company can also deal with light armored opposition on its own. With the Fuchs and Luchs both being amphibious, even wide rivers or short distances of open water are not an obstacle uncrossable. In this case tho, the heavy Leopard tanks would have to stay behind until crossing is an option.

Structure of the West German Armored Recon Battalion ("Panzeraufklärungsbataillon") in Fistful of TOWs 3
Structure of the West German Armored Recon Battalion (“Panzeraufklärungsbataillon”) in Fistful of TOWs 3

Organization and Equipment of the West German Armored Recon Battalion

From 1980-1990, the West German Army was organized along the “Heeresstruktur 4” (Army Structure 4). For this time frame, the battalion structure was as follows:

  • The HQ company of the battalion consisted of 1x Leopard 1 and 2x Luchs plus staff and all the support like medical personell, supply, munitions and similar. The company also included a platoon of three “Bergepanzer 2” recovery tanks.
  • Second and third company were heavy companies consisting of two platoons Leopard 1 each. Also, in peace times each company had one platoon of Luchs integrated. In war these would have been attached directly to the brigades 1 and 2 to act as their brigade recon.
  • The fourth company was a mixed recon company comprised of one platoon Leopard 1 and one platoon Luchs. This company also had a Luchs brigade recon platoon integrated in peace times. In war, this platoon would have been attached to Brigade 3 and act as brigade recon.
  • Company five was a Light Recon Company. Three Fuchs APC platoons each with 1x MILAN ATGM system. Please see my notes on this further down in the “Structure in Fistful of TOWs 3” section.
  • Also part of the battalion was a radar platoon consisting of 9x Fuchs PARA with TPS 33a (until 1986) and later RASIT (from 1986). The RASIT is a French made ground surveillance radar mounted on a telescope pole. This way the Fuchs PARA could scan from a concealed position. If necessary, the RASIT could also be dismounted and used in a foot-mobile version.

Notes

Luchs: from 1985 on, a thermal vision device was added to the vehicle. Due to the increased weight, one Luchs sank during an exercise in Juli 1986. Luckily all crew survived. As a result, the Luchs was disallowed to execute amphibious operations. In war times tho, i think this would have been a risk taken by the crew to fullfill the mission.

Optional rules idea: players could agree to handle this in several ways: simply ignore the fact, disallow amphibious operation at all or maybe roll a dice for each turn being in water (rolling a 1 = stand destroyed).
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Battalion structure in Fistful of TOWs 3

For FFT3, the structure has been changed a bit to fit the game mechanics (see notes below). TOE for the Panzeraufklärungsbataillon (short “PzAufklBtl”) is as follows:

West German Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (“Panzeraufklärungsbataillon”)

  • Base
    • 1x Fuchs PARA (FO)
  • 2x Heavy Reconnaissance Companies
    • 2x Leopard 1
  • 1x Mixed Reconnaissance Company
    • 1x Leopard 1
    • 1x Luchs
  • 1x Light Reconnaissance Company
    • 4x Fuchs
    • 3x Infantry
    • 1x MILAN Team
  • 3x Brigade Recon Platoon (attached to the Brigades in combat)
    • 1x Luchs

Stand Inventory

  • 5x Leopard 1
  • 4x Luchs
  • 5x Fuchs (including 1x Fuchs PARA)
  • 3x Infantry
  • 1x MILAN Team

Notes

  • If you use the optional “Formation HQ” rule, you could use either Leopard 1 or Fuchs for the HQ stand.
  • In reality, the Light Reconnaissance Company was equipped with 3x MILAN systems (one in each platoon). I condensed these into one MILAN team plus one Fuchs for transport. An alternative would probably be to create a new “Infantry ATGM” unit type and go with either 1x or 3x of these plus 3x Fuchs. I’ll have a closer look at the options at some point and update the article.
  • The Fuchs PARA platoon has been put into “base” to fit the rules system and enable movement outside cohesion rules.

Fistful of TOWs 3 is a fast playing miniature rules system for company to brigade sized games and bigger. Provided army and equipment lists cover World War 1 (equipment only), World War 2, the Cold War era, Vietnam War, Arab-Israeli Wars and many more. You can learn more about the rules system in my in-depth rules review of Fistful of TOWs 3.

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