Cubans The Havana Surprise

Fidel Castro looking out the hatch of an SU-100

Cubans - The Havana Surprise

By Adam Brooker

Red Dawn was actually a surprise for me, I didn’t think they would do this book before they had fleshed out the other possible Nations in the Europe Team Yankee Theatre, eg. Sweden and Stridsvagn 103s, Denmark and Centurions, Belgium and BDX with milans, and had given the French tanks like the Leclerc. I was very surprised to see this come out before that was done… But I think it was a stroke of genius by BF, there are so many people that grew up watching Red Dawn the movie, and shouting ‘Wolverines!’ and ‘Avenge Me!’, and pre-orders for the Soviet VDV – BMD Air Assault Battalion Box are literally walking out the door! I do love those excellent new metal miniatures though….. (Please keep doing infantry in metal!)

Another surprise was the inclusion of the Cubans and the larger Transport helicopters, the Cubans mostly because it has been such a long time I watched the movie, that I forgot they were in it…. Yes I’m crap, I know… The Transport Helicopters because I just didn’t think they would, but I’m glad they did, I will need to buy a Hip Transport for my new VDV and a Sea Stallion for my West Germans. 

So who are the Cubans in Red Dawn? The Cubans in game represent the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces or FAR, and have had a history of sending forces and ‘advisors’ to help support the Communist cause around the world, as well as providing training in Cuba itself. 

[In Real Life] In 1975 Cuba sent troops and equipment to Angola to bolster the Communist MPLA rebelling against South African and Western forces in the Portuguese colony. This eventually led to Angola becoming independent and South West Africa also gaining independence and becoming Namibia. This gave the FAR valuable experience in both conventional warfare as well as the dirtier guerrilla fighting that these types of conflicts constantly generate. Angola is not the only international conflict that Cuba has gotten itself involved in, the Sand War in Algeria in 1963, helping Syria in Yom Kippur in 1973, the Republic of Congo from 1975 – 1991, and the Ogaden War in Ethiopia in 1977, and in Nicaragua. They often act as a proxy for the Soviet Union in many African and overseas conflicts and have gained much material support for doing so. 

Cuban advisors in Angola

Cuban 'Advisors' in Angola

[In Game] the Cubans are supporting the Soviet Invasion of the United States and they have sent their better-equipped 2nd and 3rd Armies with Soviet amphibious support into the southern states of America. The Cubans are lacking in the most AFVs and equipment but have well-trained and experienced infantry in their mechanised divisions when compared to other WARSAW allies. 

So you will see FAR forces with basic T-55s, T-62s at best, and SU-100s at worst in their armoured Forces, and the BMP-1 is their best IFV as well as wheeled BTR-60s. Their infantry compares well to the basic Soviet Motor Rifle Companies seen in the original Soviet book and are very comparable in cost. In Red Dawn, the VDV are your smaller elite forces, while the Cubans are your more numerous stock standard trained riflemen. 

The T-55 and T-62 battalions price very similarly, if not a bit cheaper than the Soviet ones, but as you will see it is a stock standard T-55 and T-62, not the slightly better T-55AM. But they will do the job of SPAMing and flanking, giving the enemy something to worry about while your VDV goes for the real objectives.

The Cuban tank Battalions have the same Formation design as other Soviet tank formations, with their own organic recon, AA and artillery, which adds to the overall staying power of the Force, meaning more has to be killed before there is a Formation Break. 

T-62 Batallon de Tanques

If you want to tank SPAM you can get the minimum 11 T-62s for 15pts, at almost a point a tank, or field a full black-box unit of 21 T-62s for 35 points (10 T-62s for 17 points). The prices start at 1.4 points per tank and increase to 1.7 points per tank, but in my view 7 or 8 is probably enough, before it gets too hard or crowded to use them effectively. The Cubans seem to do the basics well and cheaply, nothing fancy, and sometimes you don’t need all the extras, just a hull with an AT19, 2+ Brutal gun… The T-55 is even cheaper, at 13 points for 10, it lacks the extra AT and frontal armour of the T-62, but you may not need the extras over what the T-62 offers, as it still has a hull, and an AT19 2+ firepower gun….

Cuban T-62M

Cuban T-62

T-62 Compania de Tanques

T-55 Compania de Tanques

I did find it interesting they still use the SU-100 in the 1980s, and it would be fun to see on the battlefield, and they are at less than a point a vehicle and could be used to slow down some light NATO armour or threaten their artillery. But their light armour and unwieldy gun do make them hard to use on the move, maybe better as a delaying or ambush force?? Castro himself was sitting in one watching the US forces during the Bay of Pigs!

Fidel Castro in an SU-100 during the Bay of Pigs

Fidel Castro in a SU-100 during the Bay of Pigs

SU-100 Compania de Tanques

The BMP Formation is much the same as the standard Soviet one, except only has the BMP-1, so it only has the AT-3 Sagger (AT19) and not the better AT-5 Spandrel (AT21) of the BMP-2 or the AT-10 Stabber(AT21) of the BMP-3. Once again though they do the basics well and cheaply, with a full BMP-1 Company costing 19 points, but equipped just the same as the Soviet one. You can add some steel to it by adding some T-55s, T-62s or even some SU-100s, and a small unit of Spandrels for some extra AT missiles, Gimmie!

BMP-1 Batallon de Infanteria

For infantry models, they suggest you use the Iraqi Models in the Oil Wars range, but they also have some direct-order AGS-17 grenade launchers to add to your companies, and the ground-mounted AT-3 Sagger and SA-7 Grails in the BTR-60 Companies are available in the Iraqi Mech Company Weapons teams packs. 


For Anti-aircraft, as well as the basic missile-armed SAM units, like the SA-9 Gaskin, and SA-13 Gopher, and the gun-toting ZSU-23-4 Shilka, and ZSU-57-2, they also field the M53/59 Praga, that is normally seen in Czech WARSAW Pact forces, its and useful for either annoying helicopters or keeping infantry or light armour at bay.

M53/59 Praga Peleton Antiaereo

For artillery, you have either the integrated Carnations of the Formations, or more Carnations from support, as well as a unit of Hail or Acacia also from Support. But the great thing with the Cuban artillery is their superior skill of 4+, compared to the 5+ of Soviet artillery, pair this with the BMP-1 Observer and you have a very good chance of ranging in, which has often been an issue with the Soviets. So I would be spending points on at least 2 units of artillery.

2S3 Acacia Bateria de Artilleria

As far as aircraft you get the normal Soviet SU-25 Frogfoot, or SU-17 Fitter, using Soviet aviation. The Cubans fielded MIG-21s and MIG-23s in this period, neither of which was a dedicated ground attack variant, and would use their Hinds to provide ground support to their troops. They could fit bomb hard points on the fighters and use dumb bombs if needed, but nothing in the way of guided weapons. But the Frogfoot will give that high AT firepower and the ability to attack from any direction as long as you can suppress their anti-air, which your artillery should be able to help with.

One Cuban MIG-23 fighter pilot, an Angolan veteran, defected to the US in 1991, landed the jet at Key West, Florida, and then later flew back to Cuba in a Cessna to rescue his family, a brave man!

Cuban MiG-23 at Key West, Florida

Cuban MiG-23 at Key West, Florida

You can also get one unit of Hinds, with the option of the helicopter assault troops of the Compania de Aterrizaje de Asalto, or the Assault Landing Company. This small unit of up to 8 stands with let you possibly steal an objective, but it will be very risky…. They are the same cost as their Soviet counterparts but lack the AT-9 Spiral missiles, of the Soviet Hinds. So ONLY AT23….. They are a must-have for me in my Cuban force, you need all the high AT you can get.


Cuban Mi-24 Hind

For me, the Cubans in Red Dawn are a distinctive, cheap and cheerful force to back up your VDV troops. They will make a great hobby/modelling project and be something different, which for me is always an attraction. It has all the tools to be an effective force if played well.

Happy Gaming

~ Adam