Air Campaign: First Battlescene Sketches

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Last month on this blog we announced our newest series, Air Campaign, which we will launch next year. We are delighted to see that so many people are excited about it, and so we wanted to keep you all updated on the development and launch of the series so far.

Today, we are going to share with you the three battle scene sketches for the first book in the series, ACM 1: The Battle of Britain 1940, fresh from the pad of Osprey artist extraordinaire Graham Turner. These are uncorrected first drafts and some aspects will be tweaked for the final plates, but we thought you’d still like to see them at their rawest.

Attacking the ‘Chain Home’ Radar Sites

First, we have the Bf 109E-4/B ‘Jabo’ dive-bombing attack against the Swingate ‘Chain Home’ early-warning radar site near Dover on 12 August 1940 at 0900hrs. Using a 45-degree dive delivery angle, eight 250kg high-explosive bombs were dropped, destroying several huts inside the compound and slightly damaging the masts supporting the transmission aerials.

None of the attackers were engaged by RAF interceptors or hit by AA fire and returned to Calais-Marck to be rearmed and refuelled for their midday mission, a strike against Manston airfield. After several hours ‘off-line’, repairs were completed to ‘Chain Home’ and radar plotting resumed in the early afternoon.

Battle of Biggin Hill

The devastating Dornier Do 17Z air raid on RAF Biggin Hill on 31 August 1940 will be the subject of this plate. This raid was the fourth in a series of six over a three-day period from 30 August to 1 September, the result of which was that RAF Biggin Hill was devastated and virtually destroyed. However, through the tireless and exhausting efforts of numerous individuals it was restored to operation, although initially at a significantly reduced capability.

Meeting the ‘Big Wing’

This plate will depict the moment that the main German force attacking London on 15 September met the Duxford ‘Big Wing’.  15 September is forever enshrined as ‘Battle of Britain Day’ because the outcome of the day’s air battle caused Hitler’s planned invasion of Britain to be indefinitely postponed.

When the Do 17Zs and He 111Hs arrived over the target area, they found most of the dockyards obscured by thick, towering clouds and – almost simultaneously – were attacked head-on by the ‘Duxford Wing’, consisting of two Spitfire and three Hurricane squadrons. The result was the sudden loss of 11 of their 100 bombers and the shocking realisation that RAF Fighter Command was far from being the ‘spent force’ that Luftwaffe Intelligence had reassuredly reported. The Hurricanes in this plate are led by Squadron Leader Douglas Bader.

 

I hope that you enjoyed these sketches. Keep your eyes on the blog for more updates on this exciting new series! If you missed the previous posts on Air Campaign click the links below: 

Air Campaign Announcement

Big Reveal: Air Campaign

Escape From Colditz Returns

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Oflag IV-C, the prisoner-of-war camp at Colditz Castle designed to house Allied prisoners who had previously made escape attempts from other camps, was made famous by the BBC television series Colditz in 1972–74. It would be a board game, however, that would truly immortalise the Colditz story in the minds of generations. Today, we are proud to release our new edition of that game – Escape From Colditz.

Designed by Major Pat Reid, one of only a handful of men to escape from Colditz, and Brian Degas, screenwriter of Colditz, Escape From Colditz captures the drama, tension, and excitement of the attempts to break out from the inescapable fortress.

Featuring stunning new artwork by Peter Dennis, an oversized board, 56 wooden playing pieces, 100 fully illustrated cards, a 32-page history book, and unique replicas of artefacts from the prison, we hope that this new edition will both inspire a new generation and allow long-time fans to revisit a board game classic.


Escape From Colditz is a game for two to six players, with one controlling the German guards, attempting to maintain order within the prison, and the others playing Allied escape officers, seeking to get their men beyond the walls and to freedom. As the prisoners-of-war sneak through the prison, gathering rope and wire-cutters, forging keys, digging tunnels, and preparing for their escape attempts, the guards must remain wary, patrolling the castle, sending troublemakers to the cells, and reacting swiftly when a breakout is attempted.

This new edition of Escape From Colditz includes two sets of rules – the classic set, from the game’s original release, and an updated set, developed in collaboration with Brian Degas. These changes clarify and streamline certain elements in light of more than 40 years of intensive play and better reflect the designers’ original intent. To find out more about these changes, we’ve put together a video laying all of these out.

 


Osprey Games is proud to release its new edition of this legendary board game. Click here to order your copy today!

Modern Snipers: Techniques and Technology

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Rounding off his series on snipers, Leigh Neville, author of Modern Snipers, looks at how sniping techniques and technology have changed over the years.

Although the core attributes of the sniper remain unchanged since the Second World War- physical and mental endurance along with exacting patience paired with some outstanding marksmanship and fieldcraft- the tools and techniques of the sniper have seen a revolution. This revolution is largely a direct result of the war on terror that has waged in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and elsewhere since 2001. Indeed the sniper has found himself to be in greater demand today than at any time since the 1940s.

This operational tempo for both conventional and special operations snipers has seen many technological innovations developed to assist them in both their target interdiction and reconnaissance/surveillance roles. The wars themselves have also beckoned in a number of innovations in sniping techniques and tactics, some of which we can mention in the briefest terms. Firstly however, let’s look at the kit, beginning with the sniper rifle itself…

The Gewehr 41

The sniper rifle has changed markedly since the Second World War. It has, like most infantry small arms, become lighter, more accurate and more durable. Semi-automatic sniper rifles have entered widespread use overcoming the reliability problems of the early German G41, G43 and Soviet SVT-40. In fact, today’s sniper is probably just as likely to be using a semi-auto as a traditional bolt-action. As we’ve discussed in earlier blog posts in this series, the semi-auto offers a number of advantages for the modern sniper, particularly in urban environments. 

The calibre of the issue sniper rifle has also increased with many units adopting .300 Winchester Magnum or increasingly the .338 Lapua Magnum as their standard sniping calibre. The larger calibres of course offer greater lethality but, equally importantly, greater range and velocity. In the early 2000s, snipers in Afghanistan found that they were engaging targets that were at the extreme edge of the envelope for their 7.62x51mm sniper rifles. Many armies began replacing or supplementing these with .300, .338 or .50 sniping platforms.  

The rifles themselves have now been made lighter with the use of polymers and skeletonised stocks. They are also now typically fitted with sound suppressors, infra-red lasers and integral bipods, all of which make the rifle more accurate and the sniper harder to locate, particularly at night or form a camouflaged hide. Many rifles even feature swing-out thermal imaging attachments that work with the rifle’s scope to display the thermal profile of a target in any light conditions. 

A U.S. Marine receives instruction on the SVD, which features a skeletonized thumbhole stock.

The humble telescopic scope itself has also advanced tremendously. Today’s sniper optics bear little resemblance to their Second World War predecessors. Scopes now feature bullet drop compensators that make allowances for the drop of the bullet at various ranges, the Horus reticle allows much faster shot corrections, and many optics now feature co-located mini red dot sights to allow the sniper to use his rifle at close quarters should he be forced to clear a building or is suddenly ambushed. The scopes are also typically armoured in construction to defeat the effects of blast or blow.

Developments in ammunition design have seen new bullet types emerge that are so-called barrier blind meaning they can defeat intervening objects in the path of the sniper’s round and continue on to strike the target. Other rounds like the Raufoss Mk211 have been designed to penetrate light armoured vehicles using a tungsten penetrator before an explosive incendiary detonates inside. Not surprisingly these are devastating on human targets. Other specialist rounds like solid copper alloy bullets have even been developed to defeat even reinforced glass with minimal deflection.    

The other great technological revolution has been in the field of ballistic computer programmes and apps. Many of these were initially Blackberry based but are now available for the ubiquitous iPhone and iPad. The best of these will calculate a firing solution taking into account spin drift, wind (snipers routinely carry the likes of the Kestrel wind meter to measure the effects of wind at his final firing point), barometric pressure and temperature, and even Coriolis drift- the gravitational effect of the rotation of the Earth on the sniper’s bullet.

Although widely employed, snipers are careful to know the limitations of such devices. Former Sniper Master for the Australian Army, Company Sergeant Major Nathan Vinson, confirmed this to the author; “This only calculates factors from the shooter’s end, not at the target end. It increases your chances of getting a first round hit but doesn’t guarantee it.” Even with the latest ballistic app, the sniper still needs to be able to read crosswinds that will affect the path of his round and factor in the movement of the target itself.  

A Dutch ISAF sniper team with VECTOR IV Leica/Vectronix laser rangefinder binoculars.

Judging the range to the target however has become as simple as pressing a button. Today’s laser range finders have in-built GPS receivers so the exact range to the target, and the GPS grid of that target, can be recorded. Increasingly this data can be uploaded into Blue Force Tracker and similar battlespace management systems to show the location of enemy units, allowing a commander to have the very latest picture of enemy dispositions. It can also be uploaded through Rover terminals used by forward observers and air controllers to guide in indirect fire missions or air strikes.

Many of the techniques and tactics used by today’s snipers cannot be discussed for operational security reasons but several areas of innovation can be touched upon. Huge leaps have been made in high altitude and high angle shooting for instance, with specialist courses teaching the impact of altitude and pressure on ballistics and the use of the angle cosine indicator that helps correct for the increased bullet drop. More than a decade of combat in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan has taught the sniping community the importance of training for operating at altitude.  

Snipers are also now as highly skilled in reconnaissance techniques as they are in marksmanship- many snipers argue that their primary role is now to serve as the eyes and ears of the battlespace commander. They are trained in the use of all manner of digital cameras and active and passive surveillance technologies along with burst transmission satellite radios, allowing them to upload imagery and situation reports covertly from their hide site. The sniper can provide detail that no drone can.

We’ve touched upon aerial interdiction in an earlier blog but it is worth mentioning as a technique that really saw its evolution during the war on terror. Snipers were increasingly used to disable insurgent or terrorist vehicles with precision fire, offering a chance of capture and effectively negating the collateral damage that may be caused should a Hellfire missile or bomb be deployed against the target. Snipers have also been used to interdict terrorist suicide bombers in explosive laden cars or trucks known as VBIEDs (Vehicle Borne IED). Coalition special operations snipers are even today eliminating Islamic State suicide VBIEDs with precision fire in Iraq and Syria.

Honolulu Police Department Specialized Services Division Counter-Sniper Team conducting aerial platform training.

What does the future hold in terms of sniping technologies? The rifles themselves will continue to become lighter and more compact. They will also be increasingly modular allowing a sniper a choice of calibres and barrel lengths dependent upon the tactical requirement. Many believe we will also see an increased use of so-called smart or guided rounds.

These may take the form of semi-intelligent projectiles that are either guided through a scope, much in the manner of an ATGM, or that lock-on to a target and react to target movement. Along with a number of classified efforts, the commercial TrackingPoint system shows promise. TrackingPoint will calculate the optimal firing solution and will only fire when those conditions offering a high probability of a hit are met.

Other developments will be in the field of camouflage. Although the legendary Ghillie suit is still widely used, today’s versions typically mask the sniper’s infra-red signature, and in some cases reduces his thermal signature making him much harder to detect should the enemy be using night vision technology. Currently being trialled is the next generation of that system-active camouflage that mimics its surroundings in Chameleon like fashion. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon finally meets reality!

For more reading on the role of snipers in modern warfare pick up a copy of Leigh Neville’s Modern Snipers, now available on our online store.

 

BEHIND THE OLYMPIC CURTAIN

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I wrote this essay after the Olympic opening ceremonies in Rio, struck by the way the Olympic experience repeats itself. Sadly, that insight might better have been sold as prediction, rather than analysis, as it proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy in which no one was interested, since they had been seduced and distracted by the games…..
The Olympic Games in Rio are underway, and like a battleship’s slowly turning cannon, the media’s focus has finally been shifted away from crime, or pollution, or shoddy construction, or corruption, or even an unexpected change of elected government, and over to the competitions themselves (and the attendant questions of which athletes and federations are ‘clean’ of performance enhancing products). With swimming one of the early foci of attention, the federation quietly reinstated a twice-banned Russian swimmer, apparently deciding that if the water in the pool did not bubble or steam when she entered the water she must indeed be drug-free.
This is the eleventh Olympics at which I have worked, eight in the summer and three in the winter. The first was in my then-hometown of Montreal in 1976, and it set the pattern for virtually every games that has followed. The month’s run-up to the games produces stories about ineptitude and delays in preparation, about potential accommodation and transport disasters, and in some cases about the government corruption, mis-apprehension of funds, or political unsuitability for staging the world’s biggest sporting event. Then the games begin, and the curtain draws shut around the wonderful wizard of Olympic Oz.
Montreal was a veritable showcase of disaster, putting huge financial burdens on both the city and the province of Quebec which took decades to crawl out from under. The stadium remained unfinished because of design flaws and a constant stream of strikes by workers who wound up almost-finishing things with months of golden overtime. French Canadians were furious when it was learned the royal yacht Britannia deposited its royal wastes untreated into the St Lawrence River; a boat was dispatched each day to collect and deposit them instead into the Montreal sewer system, whence they were returned to the river, untreated, because the money for sewage treatment had been spent instead on a magnificent fountain outside the Olympic stadium.
After the financial disaster of Montreal, no one wanted the Games. Moscow already had 1980/ the IOC traditionally admiring authoritarian governments who could allocate resources without voiced complaints. I was at the Olympic Congress at Baden-Baden in 1981 when Los Angeles were ‘awarded’ the 1984 games, with no other bidders. Peter Uberroth’s committee, citing the potential huge losses, cut deals to get services donated, drew on huge numbers of unpaid volunteers, and sought sponsorship for the games. After it was over, far from the expected financial disaster, the Los Angeles Organising committee announced a series of steadily increasing profits, and bonuses for its bosses. The race, as they say, was on.
The IOC moved swiftly to appropriate sponsorship for itself rather than leave it to the organising committees. Tied to the potential bonanza of advertising revenue from American television, the IOC created a profit centre which benefited from both a worldwide audience and an assembly of competitors who did not require payment. The Olympics became a brand cities fought to stage on the IOC`s behalf, with the committee`s VIP treatment extracted from those cities. It was a  largesse which only occasionally was revealed to the public when the bribery became too obvious.
Rio de Janeiro is in many ways a poster child for the Olympics. The government was overturned shortly before the games, the kind of timing that is commonplace in Brazil, where bad news is usually run through Parliament just before Carnival begins and thus is ignored for the next weeks and forgotten before the hangover has worn off. The weeks before the games found a steady stream of disaster stories: unfinished or shoddy buildings, including the athletes’ village, the collapsed cycle path, the polluted water, the mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus, capybaras roaming the new Olympic golf course, described as `giant rodents`, which is technically true but conjured up visions of huge plague-carrying rats, rather than cuddly pig-sized hamsters.
Then came the opening ceremony: a Tonga disguised as a WWF wrestler entered the arena coated in olive oil and everyone forgot their problems. It was Vendredi Gras, and it reminded me that London 2012 was not that much different. Who in Britain tracked the property deals that saw virtually all spectators at the Olympic Park routed through a shopping mall. Who has followed the awarding of the Olympic stadium to West Ham? Who remembers the promises to Britain’s youth as luxury flats go up where once sporting arenas stood in East London? In London’s opening ceremony James Bond, The Queen, Mr Bean, and (blessedly) Ray Davies were presented to the world as the happy face of Britain. The £12 billion that came from nowhere in a country whose budget cannot be stretched to pay doctors or nurses is now forgotten. Curiously, the cost in Brazil has been estimated at $12 billion, in a city whose separation between the rich, who live vertically in gated high rises, and the poor, who live horizontally in favellas, seems like a model for a London of the future.
Yet listening to the speeches, watching the happy athletes of the world, seeing Kip Keino honoured for working with children in Kenya, seemed to make it all worthwhile, even to the most cynical of us. When IOC president Thomas Bach said we were all equal in “Òlympism”‘ I almost believed him enough to have my taxi driver try the lane reserved for IOC VIP vehicles next time we got caught in a traffic jam. Then experience, the little Toto of the mind, pulled back the curtain to reveal Frank Morgan pulling levers and playing Wizard of Oz. For the people of Brazil, the one-off Carnival has brought Oz to Rio. The circuses eclipse the bread for the next two weeks. Then, like London, the memories will be happy ones and the questions that linger will remain largely unasked, much less answered. Like Dorothy, Brazil will wake up, thinking `there`s no place like home`.