20 May 2024

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)s in the "Totally Unofficial" Battlegroup Cold War Rules

 Currently I'm writing the army list for the US 9th Infantry Division (Motorised) the High Technology Test Bed force for the US Army in the 1980s.  They either had, or kind of pretended to have, a lot of very cool bits of kit for the day and worked up these disparate bits and bobs into a well functioning motorised brigade which performed well in various exercises and tests.

As I've been reading about this division, I came across a few references to their use of UAVs - specifically one called "Mercury Green".  It appears this UAV was used to provide long-range surveillance, route reconnaissance and more - even some limited EW tasks.  Information from the UAV could be down-linked, processed and digitally reported to appropriate users in real time.  All the elements could be carried on HMMWVs.

Previously I had not considered UAVs to be part of a tactical battle as represented in Battlegroup.  My information on at least what I could see as the more prevalent UAVs of the day such as the Canadair CL-289, showed they had more of an operational role - flying pre-programmed routes, recording data onto something like video tape and then delivering the whole package back to base once it had completed the whole mission.  The tape was then analysed and the intelligence would be used primarily for planning purposes - rather than real time intel that could be used to direct artillery for instance.

Mercury Green appears to be well ahead of those other systems - but so far I've failed to find anything else about it.  I think therefore, it may have been a code name for the Lockheed MGM-105 Aquila, seen here. 

This UAV fits into the timeframe, and was part of a target acquisition, designation and aerial reconnaissance platform which was what I imagine was a low-light TV camera and a laser designator - specifically to lase targets for Copperhead rounds.

Interestingly, after the success of Israeli UAVs over the Beqaa Valley in 1982 the US Army pushed for Aquila Lite, where all the UAV assets could be fitted to HMMWVs, unlike this standard Aquila being launched from a 5-ton truck:

The other option of course is that Mercury Green was a cover name for the IAI Scout or the AAI RQ-2 Pioneer, seen here on the back of a 5-ton truck:

That's all academic in a way - as now, after ignoring them, if I wanted to properly represent this cutting edge motorised division, I needed some rules for them.  So here's what I've come up with so far - it's a little like the EW rules in that you'd get a bunch of options but you have to choose 1 to be used once per game.


UAVs are Restricted and Unique.  Taking a UAV allows a player to employ it once per game.  When employed the player must roll a D6.  On a roll of 3+ they can then select one of the following UAV options to take: 

  • When your opponent has rolled for reinforcements, you may choose the enemy units to be placed on the edge of the table
  • Just before the first turn of the game, once both sides have  deployed you may change the aiming point of one of your Timed Barrages.
  • For one turn the UAV acts as a Forward Observation and Lasing Team and may direct one Copperhead PGM round.
  • Add +2 to your own side's counter-battery fire

So that's my current thinking.  I'd be very interested in any additions or subtractions you make from these rule ideas and any feedback such as what you'd think this would be worth points wise.

Please note that I'm only really considering this for the 9th ID (Motorised) at the moment, so it's not like this will significantly shake up the game.

Thanks as always


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