The Battle Of 73 Easting

The Battle Of 73 Easting

The Battle Of 73 Easting
With Carsten MacLean

With the arrival of Oil War, Team Yankee’s Cold War Gone Hot expands to include conflict in the Middle East, featuring Israel, Iran, Syria, and Iraq. In this what-if scenario, Iraq is supported by NATO and Iran by the Warsaw Pact, giving both red and blue force players access to interesting new units, structures, and support. I, for one, am looking forward to testing out the T-72M supported by IPM1 Abrams.

While Oil War is based on a fictional conflict with historically sound alliances, it also offers players the opportunity to play out a host of other scenarios, including the Iran-Iraq War, Israeli border conflicts, and the one I’m most excited for, the First Gulf War. To that end, this article will detail a brief history of the Battle of 73 Easting [Eastings are north-south coordinates lines used as navigation and reference points] , one of the most remarkable clashes between Iraqi and American forces during the conflict. At the end, I will provide suggestions on how to design your own forces to re-create this battle on your tabletop.

The Battle of 73 Easting is a textbook example of cavalry forces screening the advance of a main body. In this case, the cavalry in question was the US 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (2nd ACR), which was acting as reconnaissance and advance guard for a large American and British contingent that was tasked to advance through Iraqi territory, destroying all enemy they encountered.

On the night of 25 February 1991, elements of 2nd ACR made contact with a large and well supported dug-in Iraqi position in vicinity of the 70 Easting. They quickly pushed through these defences, achieving great successes due in large part to the technological superiority of their previously untested platforms. The weaponry, fire control systems, and in particular thermal optics and global positioning systems on the M1A1 Abrams and M3 Bradley were key contributors to the American success, as was the thick, advanced Chobham armour on the Abrams. By coordinating the fire of supporting artillery and what attack aviation was available (both Cobras and Apaches were in support, though much was grounded due to sandstorms), the Americans were able to suppress and neutralize the aging T-72s, T-62s, T-55s, and BMP-1s of the Iraqi Republican Guard.

The Battle Of 73 Easting

These initial successes led to the decision in the afternoon of 26 February to exploit and push to the 73 Easting, rather than the 70 Easting, as had been originally intended by American commanders. During this advance, four cavalry Troops (each roughly the size of a Team Yankee company) attacked two Iraqi Brigades. In a decision that would prove costly, Iraqi forces had oriented all their defences towards the main road running through the area, believing the surrounding desert to be unnavigable and that American forces would be forced to follow the road. Unfortunately for the defending Iraqis, the advanced American vehicle-based GPS had allowed them to attack from the Iraqi flank, rendering the extensive preparations by the defending forces largely wasted.

The Battle Of 73 Easting

Around 1600 that day, elements from 2nd ACR encountered the Iraqi main defensive area, and came under fire from AFVs and dismounted infantry. American vehicles engaged the position and suppressed it, while Bradleys dismounted infantry to clear the area. Following the capture of a large number of Iraqi soldiers, American junior officers observed the Iraqi counter-moves position in vicinity of the 73 Easting. Deciding to capitalize on their success, American forces quickly launched an attack on that position, engaging and destroying approximately 18 T-72s.

The battle raged through the night, with Americans relying heavily on indirect fire, air support, and their modern thermal capabilities to first win ground, then hold it against multiple Iraqi counterattacks. Around 0200 on 27 February, American forces conducted a forward passage of lines and relieved 2nd ACR from direct combat. Coalition forces continued advancing, fighting through the 74 Easting and engaging in the Battle of Norfolk later that day. Upon consolidation, it was determined the Battle of 73 Easting had yielded over 160 Iraqi tanks destroyed, along with over 180 tracked AFVs. 800-1000 Iraqis were killed, and over 1300 were captured. American losses included 6 dead, 19 wounded, and 1 destroyed Bradley (though several more American AFVs were lost to friendly fire).

The Battle Of 73 Easting

The Battle Of 73 Easting

If you’re interested in replaying the Battle of 73 Easting yourself, I suggest starting with forces such as those listed below, though as always, be creative! Feel free to include British forces with your Americans, to find out what would have happened had the British 1st Armoured Division been assigned to move up and support the cavalry. Or, try siting your Iraqis in dedicated defensive positions, to see what would have happened if the Americans had moved up the road as intended.

Each Armored Cavalry Troop was composed of 12-13 M3 Bradleys and nine M1A1 Abrams. While we can’t simulate this exact structure in Team Yankee, the below force should give you a good stand-in:

Armored Cavalry Troop Force, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (132 points)

M113 Mech Combat Team
M113 Mech Combat Team HQ (1 M16 team, 1 M113)
M113 Mech Platoon (3 M249 SAW/M72 LAW teams, 3 M47 teams, 3 M113)
M113 Mech Platoon (3 M249 SAW/M72 LAW teams, 3 M47 teams, 3 M113)

Armored Cavalry Troop
Armored Cavalry Troop HQ (1 M113 Scout)
IPM1 Abrams Tank Platoon (3 IPM1 Abrams)
IPM1 Abrams Tank Platoon (3 IPM1 Abrams)
IPM1 Abrams Tank Platoon (3 IPM1 Abrams)
M113 Scout Section (1 M113 Scout, 1 M901 ITV)
M113 Scout Section (1 M113 Scout, 1 M901 ITV)
M106 Cavalry Mortar Platoon (3 M106)
M109 Field Artillery Battery (6 M109)
AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter Platoon (2 AH-1 Cobra)

Support
M113 FIST (1 M113 FIST)
A-10 Warthog Fighter Flight (2 A-10 Warthog)

Meanwhile, the Iraqis were primarily equipped with export-model T-72s, T-55s, and BMP-1s. Oil War allows the player to create a large and diverse force that does an excellent job representing the 9th Armored Brigade:

Iraqi Tank Force, 9th Armored Brigade, 12th Armored Division (132 points)

T-72M Tank Battalion
T-72M Tank Battalion HQ (1 T-72M)
T-72M Tank Company (9 T-72M)
T-72M Tank Company (9 T-72M)
T-72M Tank Company (9 T-72M)
BMP-1 Mech Company (7 AK-47 teams, 6 RPG-7 teams, 2 PKM teams, 9 BMP-1)
ZSU-23-4 Shilka AA Company (4 ZSU-23-4 Shilka)

T-55 Tank Battalion
T-55 Tank Battalion HQ (1 T-55)
T-55 Tank Company (9 T-55)
T-55 Tank Company (9 T-55)
BMP-1 Mech Company (7 AK-47 teams, 6 RPG-7 teams, 2 PKM teams, 9 BMP-1)

I hope this inspires you to try out different combinations and scenarios based on the forces from Oil War, and I look forward to hearing how the battle plays out on your tabletop!
~Carsten


Last Updated On Thursday, May 23, 2019 by Luke at Battlefront