How to build an ORBAT

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How to build an ORBAT

Postby Questers » Wed Jun 12, 2019 5:06 pm

What you will need:
Some coins. The more the better. If you don't have coins, toothpicks, or even cigarettes, will work.
A pencil and paper if it helps you.
At least 100 IQ.

What is an ORBAT?

An ORBAT is an order of battle. It can be provided for individual battles or campaigns, but in general use we mean it to be the order of battle of a country's whole army. This is a list of military units which are part of the country's army. We provide it because it gives us an idea of the structure of an army. For example, compare these two sentences:

(a) The Army of the Republic is made up of 150,000 men.

(b) The Army of the Republic is made up of one corps of armoured and mechanised brigades, one division of rapid response airborne troops, and several garrison brigades.

The second sentence allows us an understanding of the Army's capability, rather than just its size. It allows us to place military units in geographical positions and for other players to understand the implications. We need orbats if we are going to have armies that interact with one another.

How is an ORBAT structured?

From the top down, not from the bottom up. A national orbat begins with the Army Headquarters. We are going to build an orbat together, and I am going to show you how to do it. We are going to build an orbat for the fictional state of the Kingdom of Arehome. The Kingdom's Royal Army is headquartered in its capital city of Praha, obviously.

  • Army Headquarters, Praha
But what comes below this?

Military units. There are three types of military units:
  • Combat arms: Infantry, armour, reconnaissance, and attack helicopters
  • Combat support (CS) arms: Combat engineers and artillery
  • Combat service support (CSS) arms: All rear service units.

These units fit into Corps, Divisions, Brigades, Regiments, Battalions, Companies, and Platoons. Many of these will be listened in our order of battle! But most people do not write their combat service support arms into their orders of battle, and simply assume they exist, because it is much easier.

For the time being we will evade the question of Corps. It is first important to establish which is the basic manoeuvre unit of your army. That means the highest level at which all the subunits of that unit fight and move together. For the sake of ease, we will make the answer for the Arehome Army to be the Division.

A Division comprises Brigades, which comprise Battalions, which comprise Companies, which comprise Platoons. A newcomer to orbatting might assume something like the following:

Newcomer: There are three battalions in a brigade, and three brigades in a division. There are a thousand men in a battalion, so there are three thousand men in a brigade, so there are nine thousand men in the division. So if I have three divisions, my army consists of 27,000 men.

This is very, very wrong. Underneath, we shall see why.

Rule 1: Start from the top.
Rule 2: Orbats don't divide into perfect fractions.

What is the slice?

Take a load of coins from your pocket or elsewhere, and put them on your table. If you live in a cashless society, or if you don't care for tactile learning, do this visually. Each coin will represent a military unit. Now, divide your coins into three groups.

The group on the left hand side are the combat arms. The infantry duders, the tanks, the attack helicopters. The group in the centre is the combat support arms, the engineers and the artillery. And the group in the right are the combat service support arms. Now, it might be tempting to stack all your coins into the left hand column and leave only a few in the other column, because soldiers are what armies are for. Except, that would be a mistake.

The centre and right hand columns should greatly outnumber the left hand columns. In a modern, large, conventional army, the actual number of riflemen and tank crews is very low. It's probably not more than one third of all manpower. This figure rises in converse relation to the army's responsibilities. If all your army has to do is sit in barracks and sometimes walk around the countryside, it can have many riflemen. But we don't want that, because Prekovy or Taihei Tengoku might invade us. So let's stick to one third.

You will find that your coins are evenly distributed, more or less. The bad news for you is that there is more division to do. What you have in front of you represents your military units, but it does not include the number of men that your army requires to just exist. That is to say, the people that run the army's administration, its recruitment, its dentists and nutritionists, its institutions, its physical infrastructure, its strategic command and intelligence services, etc. It might even include the idiots who design the terrible websites and online recruitment forms that don't work. So, take 20-30% of your coins out.

This is called the slice: the proportion of men in an army that are not fitting bayonets and charging machine gun posts. The slice is important.

Rule 3: At least 20% of your total army personnel will be uncounted for.
Rule 4: The bigger the slice, the better the army, assuming it has enough soldiers to fight.

Designing the Divisions

It's common for people to assume that they can simply say the "slice" (called 'tooth to tail' if you are lame) is x%, and leave it at that. But that's not how it works, because combat service support is embedded as low as the company level in some armies. Combat service support entails personnel from the communications, medical, intelligence, mechanical, administrative, ordnance, CBRN, military police, and K9 branches. An infantry battalion will have at least the first four, if not all of them.

Rule 5: You don't need to design your CSS units. We just assume that combat service support people exist.
Rule 6: Therefore, at least 50% of your total army personnel will be uncounted for.
Rule 7: We should account for combat support units, because engineers and artillery can be designed more easily.

Remember Rule 1? Always start from the top up.

By the way, every military needs a headquarters. You can opt to put it in or not. I'm going to.

  • 1st Infantry Division, Praha
    • Divisional HQ
But what comes below this? Remember, the next thing are brigades. Okay, let's put them in. If you give them names, it's more gestaltic.

  • 1st Infantry Division 'Glass Table', Praha
    • Divisional HQ
    • 1st Infantry Brigade 'Talisker'
    • 2nd Infantry Brigade 'Mexican Winter'
    • 5th Armoured Brigade 'Bangnet'
We need to fill them up with battalions. Start with the combat arms, then add the combat support arms. Here's some helpful rules:

Rule 8: The more subunits a headquarters has to deal with, the harder it is to effectively command that unit.
Rule 9: A unit can include subunits that are smaller than the level below it. A battalion order of battle can include companies too, for example.

  • 1st Infantry Division 'Glass Table', Praha
    • Divisional HQ
    • 1st Infantry Brigade 'Talisker'
      • Brigade HQ
      • 21st Mechanised Infantry Battalion
      • 22nd Mechanised Infantry Battalion
      • 25th Mechanised Infantry Battalion
      • 1st Reconnaissance Company
    • 2nd Infantry Brigade 'Mexican Winter'
      • Brigade HQ
      • 31st Mechanised Infantry Battalion
      • 32nd Mechanised Infantry Battalion
      • 35th Mechanised Infantry Battalion
      • 2nd Armoured Reconnaissance Company
    • 5th Armoured Brigade 'Bangnet'
      • Brigade HQ
      • 511th Armoured Battalion
      • 522nd Armoured Infantry Battalion
      • 533rd Armoured Infantry Battalion
      • 3rd Armoured Reconnaissance Company
Now let's add combat support.

  • 1st Infantry Division 'Glass Table', Praha
    • Divisional HQ
    • 1st Engineer Battalion
    • 2nd Armoured Engineer Battalion
    • 33rd Attack Helicopter Battalion
    • Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion 'Standing Order'
    • 1st Artillery Brigade 'Bandit'
      • Brigade HQ
      • 1st Howitzer Battalion
      • 2nd Howitzer Battalion
      • 3rd Howitzer Battalion
    • 1st Infantry Brigade 'Talisker'
      • Brigade HQ
      • 21st Mechanised Infantry Battalion
      • 22nd Mechanised Infantry Battalion
      • 25th Mechanised Infantry Battalion
      • 1st Reconnaissance Company
      • Brigade Artillery Company
      • Brigade Engineer Company
    • 2nd Infantry Brigade 'Mexican Winter'
      • Brigade HQ
      • 31st Mechanised Infantry Battalion
      • 32nd Mechanised Infantry Battalion
      • 35th Mechanised Infantry Battalion
      • 2nd Armoured Reconnaissance Company
      • Brigade Artillery Company
      • Brigade Engineer Company
    • 5th Armoured Brigade 'Bangnet'
      • Brigade HQ
      • 511th Armoured Battalion
      • 522nd Armoured Infantry Battalion
      • 533rd Armoured Infantry Battalion
      • 3rd Armoured Reconnaissance Company
      • Brigade Artillery Company
      • Brigade Engineer Company
[/list]

Note that we omitted all reference to any kind of combat service support. So, finally, consider that a Battalion is between 400 (small) to 900 men (big), a Brigade 3,000(small) to 5,000 (big), and a Division 12,500 (small) to 20,000 (big). And remember that your combat arms and combat support arms are around 50% of your total army manpower. Then you need to tally up all the existing units and think about how big that unit is approximately.

Rule 10: The total strength of your field units should be around 50-60% of your total army strength.

Calculating the total number of units

So here's the Arehome army.

  • Army Headquarters, Praha
    • Army Land Forces
      • 1st Infantry Division (around 20,000 men)
      • 2nd Infantry Division (around 20,000 men)
      • 3rd Infantry Division (around 20,000 men)
      • 5th Armoured Division (around 20,000 men)
    • Rapid Reaction Force
      • 21st Airborne Infantry Brigade (around 4,000 men)
      • 22nd Airborne Infantry Brigade (around 4,000 men)
    • Area Forces
      • 10th Garrison Brigade (around 4,000 men)
      • 11th Garrison Brigade (around 4,000 men)
      • Army Artillery Brigade (around 3,500 men)
      • Army Aviation Brigade (around 3,500 men)

Count em up. In total: (80+16+7) around 103,000 men. But remember - our field forces are only about 50-60% of our army. So for simplicity's sake, our total Army size is around 206,000 men. That extra 103,000 comes out as the combat service support units not attached to the divisions and brigades listed and the army's institutions and organisations. If you are very lean, you can push it to 70% (so it would be 103/70 * 100, 147,143 men in the army in total).

The next post will focus on how individual units are designed, ie why we choose to put particular units in particular places.
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