Restarting FTR

Here’s the good news (well, for me anyway) – FTR is coming back. I like writing. And there are still interesting stories left to tell, articles to write and such. But most importantly, I am working on an interesting private project of mine, one that you will hopefully be able to see next month and it will fit in nicely.

Here’s the bad news – FTR will not be a World of Tanks blog, but as a nearly purely historical blog. The reasons are obvious – I am still the Armored Warfare content manager. Not that I am in any way happy how Rita is running things (by the way, I am not in any way connected to her blog, so there is no need to send me “tell her to *insert your feedback*” e-mails), but… it is what it is.

So why transform it to a historical blog? Well, that’s because:

- I still get several thousands visitors a day despite not working on FTR for months anymore
- I realized I don’t really have to limit myself. Yuri Pasholok’s recent post inspired me to write a bit more

So… I hope you’ll enjoy it :)

“I’ll be back, comrades!”

Special thanks to Carramba66 for giving me that particular book

Here’s a text I wrote for Rita some time ago. She didn’t publish it but it would be a shame to go to waste :)

One of the most interesting topics I’ve ran into lately is the one of the daring escapes from former communist countries. I wrote about those involving armored vehicles extensively on FTR and on AW portal both, but there are some pretty extraordinary stories that don’t involve tanks out there as well. This is definitely one of them.

Friedemann Späth, born in 1940s, was one of the many interesting (if not widely known) people involved in their own way in the Cold War. His character could be best described as grey – on one hand he was extremely brave, stylizing himself as a dashing rogue. On the other hand he was careless, boastful and some of his feats were borderline suicidal. Nevertheless, his courage landed him several times on the pages of West Germany’s most popular magazine, the Spiegel.

His involvement in the Cold War did not however start exactly well. By 1968, Späth was working as a railway inspector, but his real passion was flying. He was a good pilot, but he was also extremely careless and known to break rules. This unfortunately led to an accident in 1968, in which a 12 year old girl died when Späth crash-landed his Piper Cherokee. He was arrested by police for his negligence and sentenced to 18 months in prison. Bitter and frustrated, he chose to “solve” his issues by emigrating – to East Germany!

After he did his time, he actually stole a plane and managed to cross the border and land near Magdeburg. He planned to live a normal life in the East-German “worker paradise”, maybe even returning to his profession as a railway man. Instead, he was immediately arrested by the East-German police for illegally crossing the border and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison. This left him disillusioned but – what was more important – very, very angry. When he left the prison and was being deported, he uttered the sentence that later made him famous: “Ich komme wieder, Genossen!” (“I’ll be back, comrades!”)

Piper PA-18:

When he returned back to West Germany, he decided to wage his private war on the East Germans, damaging them as much as possible and making them look like fools by flying over East Germany, transporting those who wanted to emigrate and by photographing restricted objects such as military bases.

It took a while for him to get his hands on an airplane again but he finally managed to purchase a worn-out Piper PA-18 monoplane and made his first flight in the September of 1977, taking photos of Potsdam and then returning back. From 1977 to 1981, he made around 30 flights (most very likely over East Germany), first alone and then with a partner, an entrepreneur by the name of Geri Michael Schmidt. But his most interesting feats took only place later on.

Piper versus Hind

In the July of 1982, he used the Piper for the first time to transport runaways – not from East Germany, but from Czechoslovakia. It was a major success and he made several such flights in the following month, attracting the attention of annoyed East German and Czechoslovakian “protectors of socialism”, the military. What was worse, he also managed to photograph a number of military objects during his trips and publish them. Most of the times he got pretty lucky too, usually avoiding detection by flying his small plane on treetop level, but on the 21st of May 1983 his luck almost ran out.

In the early morning hours, he took off from an airfield near Fulda and headed again to East Germany to pick up an emigrant who was fed up with East Germany and wanted to go west. He crossed the East German border near Nordholm and everything went well, but when he arrived at Possneck, the meadow selected as the meeting spot turned out to be full of branches and impossible to land on. With no other choice, Späth was forced to turn back.

Ten minutes of flight time from the border, his luck ran out. A massive Mi-24 Hind combat helicopter in camo painting appeared in front of him, easily catching up with the light airplane. It was armed to the teeth with rockets and a front-mounted cannon and it bore red star markings. Not the East Germans then but the Soviets and Späth knew they didn’t screw around.

Mi-24 Hind:

At first, the helicopter flew in next to the Piper and the Russian pilot in the cabin signaled for Späth to follow him. Pretending not to have noticed him, Späth held his course. When the Soviet pilot saw that, he flew in closer to the small plane and the turbulences from the helicopter rotor rocked its light frame, making the plane almost uncontrollable. Still he held the course towards West Germany.

True to his cold-blooded reputation, Späth held the control stick with his knees, took a camera and photographed the surprised Soviet pilot next to him. At the same, a second helicopter appeared to the other side of the plane.

The guns started to turn towards his plane. Convinced that this is how he would die, at that moment Späth decided to go out with style. He was a big fan of the WW1 fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen (known as the Red Baron) and his next decision was certainly worth any fighter pilot of the Great War. Instead of just landing and giving up, he decided to ram one of the helicopters and take it down with him!

Späth drove the plane throttle to the maximum and pulled up above the helicopters. Then he turned the plane against one of them and started rapidly descending. The shocked Soviet pilot recognized the intent and started pulling away. Späth missed him and managed to level the plane straight above the ground. With the engine RPM steadily in the red zone, Späth aimed once again for the border and resumed his run at nearly zero altitude, zigzagging between trees and houses.

Behind him, both Soviet pilots quickly recovered from the shock and started pursuing him, firing from the cannons, one of them even firing a rocket!

He almost didn’t make it – what saved him in the end was a line of high voltage power lines. He flew under them, which was something the helicopters didn’t dare to do and the few precious seconds in the end allowed him to finally reach the border. When saw the helicopters retreating east over the borderline, he knew he was finally safe.

Späth landed again in Fulda like nothing happened, until he saw people running towards his rolling plane. He didn’t know why and only found out after he got out of the cabin. The entire plane – especially the right wing – was riddled with bullets and it was a miracle the pilot was not killed by one.

The Aftermath

The chase of one light plane and two combat helicopters didn’t escape the notice of the local military command, especially after a diplomatic note about the incident arrived from East Germany. An investigation was started and the damaged Piper was locked away in a hangar. Späth himself was grounded but the incident made it to German news. When interviewed by journalists, he claimed that he’d never stop; he would just organize the flights better. Luckily, the Iron Curtain lifted several years later.

Friedemann Späth was nicknamed “The Wild Friedemann” by the German press. It is not known how many people he transported west on board of his plane, but he certainly made his mark.

He lives in Germany to this day.

Plot element: Breacher suits

Hello everyone,

the definition of a Plot device is “anything that moves the plot forward”. In this case, “plot element” might be a better expression, it’s something I gave a lot of thought to. As you know, I am the author of the recent Armored Warfare campaign storyline. Obviously, other people were involved in the process as well – what happened was that I wrote the story text (fun fact: all three texts were written overnight due to killer deadlines), then two of my American colleagues did proofread it and then it was given to the Obsidian story superviser (not sure she’d be happy if I uttered her name openly, so let’s leave it at that).

But that’s just an explanation. As I said, I wouldn’t talk about Armored Warfare here. Instead, let’s have a look at a generic piece of storytelling.

One of the earlier drafts involves a character escaping from a besieged facility using a device called Breacher suit. There is no such thing in real life of course (yet), but it might very well be. You see, Breacher suit is a power armor. Obviously not the type in Fallout (actually, I didn’t even think of Fallout when I was writing about that), it’s something else entirely.

Power armor in movies is usually extremely mobile, super-protective (invariably with plate armor), can be operated for long periods of time and effectively turns soldiers into superhumans. That’s unrealistic bullshit of course – there is no power source or technology that would make such a thing possible. What is even worse – such suits would be really, really heavy. Think about it – you have a bipedal power suit that roughly copies the human anatomy and weighs at least 300kg (but probably more). This weight is then transferred to its legs, the soles of which that are – let’s say – 50 percent larger (when it comes to surface) have to bear 3 times the weight of an average human. This alone brings surface pressure and mobility issues. There are other problems with it which I don’t want to get into too much.

So, how would a realistic 2030 power armored suit look?

For starters, take an exoskeleton and add the best armor it could wear. Not some plating of course – but something like this:

Yup, that’s the MW Juggeraut suit alright. Just think away the stuff like grenades hanging outside, the gas bottles (what the hell are those for, it’s not like you can make such a suit pressurized anyway) and such.

Basically, an evolution of the extra armor with powered exoskeleton for arms and legs. Me and a few friends ran some calculations and it’s actually possible – the suit would weigh roughly 300 kilograms to make it extremely resistant to small arms fire. There are two problems with this:

- the operating time would be very short. Even with “sci-fi” batteries, I’m thinking 1-2 hours
- the problem with ground pressure
- the suit would be really slow, walking pace at maximum

These three disadvantages are… actually perfect. Ideal for this plot device. You see, the problem with powered armor from story POV is that it’s so cool it might make armored vehicles obsolete. What we have here is a suit that’s too slow to be used outside, resistant only to small arms fire (I’ll get to grenades and RPG’s later) so anything larger than a 7.62mm would destroy it. And most importantly, it’s extremely expensive (such a thing wouldn’t come cheap even at best of times).

Why is it expensive in 2030? Obviously the technology for such suits would be (if they use technology such as electroactive polymers for muscle fibres – thanks, Daigensui), but they would also be:

- used for very specific environments (I’ll get to that later)
- high-maintenance (even if you get one, you’ll spend fortune on running it because the electroactive polymers have to be replaced quite often)

Both of these conditions would make it attractive for a very narrow range of customers and limited production items are always extremely expensive. This is something a military would probably develop for taxpayer’s money.

Anyway, I mentioned specific environment.

Think about it. Too slow, high maintenance, limited operational time, resistant to small arms, poor ground pressure. Yup. These are siege weapons, the only environment they would be really useful for would be assaults on buildings and enclosed areas (that can support their weight) – bunkers and such. In close quarters (with proper armament), they would be absolutely murderous.

Á propos. Armament.

Close quarters, short range… I am thinking a rapid-fire (remember, powered arms and 300kg of weight) shotgun. But that’s not all. Such a suit would be really vulnerable to RPG’s and grenades. That’s why it would have to have two pieces of future tech – specifically two mini-APS on each shoulder, each on rotating extendable mount, angle of fire cca 270 degrees (not to fire into the head of the soldier), capable of reaching even behind the suit (so noone can hide behind it). Is that realistic? Yeah… there are such systems small enough even now. Not man-portable, but still. For extra rule of cool, the suits could carry (exoskeleton) a massive ballistic shield.

Anyway, what do you think? Realistic narrow profile power armor – yay or nay?

Of Bookwriting

Right, so – in my last post, I mentioned writing a book. Well, the bad news is that it’s currently only in Czech – I don’t really feel all that confident about writing in English, would need a lot of proofreading, but if there’s ever a demand, who knows?

I was actually thinking about starting from scratch in English. How hard can it be to hire a native speaker for proofreading, right? Last night I returned from Amsterdam, spent several hours on the airport thinking about it, wrote some notes on what I’d change. I am actually really bad this way – I do this a lot in computer games too, especially RPGs. I start something, get around to one third of the game – and then stop and start over again because I want to do every detail right in case something really hard comes later on.

Anyway, I am digressing again.

Writing a book (in your language) isn’t hard. Hell, it’s easy as long as you have something you like to write about and I enjoy writing about tanks and writing stories. This book (well, the drafted part I have now) has actually both. And pictures, never published previously, I am actually really proud of that. I’ve been on a writing break for a long time, with Armored Warfare consuming pretty much ALL my time, but I’d love to finish the draft until summer.

One thing I decided on however is that it’s going to be a paper book. Sorry, kindlers. I like paper. Publishing the book (in reasonable numbers) isn’t actually that expensive unless you want some fancy stuff (glossy hard covers and all that). So yeah, there’s that.

Should be fun :)

Thursday Musings

Yes indeed. It’s been a year since For the Record closed its gates and I started to work as a content manager on Armored Warfare. More than a year actually. I had this really long post drafted for a month about how things changed and WoT changed and I changed and how Rita’s doing on her blog. I kept opening it day after day, adding, editing stuff, wondering what to say. Today, I just deleted it all.

Because nothing changed. WoT’s the same old game I left a year ago plus new sounds, physics and the Czechoslovak tank branch I helped implement (Yeah I know, I talked enough about those for a lifetime, damn that was fun!). Rita’s doing an okay job blogging considering she doesn’t speak Russian, but she has help for that, which was one of the main reasons I prolonged my contract with AW for another year. Was considering returning to FTR and doing something else for living but hell, some aspects of my job are a lot of fun.

Obviously, I can’t and won’t talk about Armored Warfare here. That’s the deal with Edrard and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. I think everyone can see the state of things for themselves.


There were some recent changes in my life that allow me to spend more time with other things thank just work, so I’m gonna start writing again for Rita maybe (historical pieces, probably about Czechoslovak and Soviet vehicles and other stuff that interests me and yes, before you ask, there’s nothing preventing me running a blog or writing about things not related to my job) or – if she refuses – I’ll start publishing stuff here.

I’ll probably finish writing my book as well, that’s my personal goal for this year.

So that’s it. See you on the battlef… uck this, see you when I see you.


Almost a Year…

So, it’s been almost a year since I stopped writing For the Record. Some things have changed – some, not at all. But before we get into that – let me ask you first:

Do you feel satisfied with how Rita took over? And if not – would you like FTR to return?

9.13, Czechoslovak Tanks and so on…

Hello everyone,

so, the day is finally here, right? The 9.13 Czechoslovak tanks are on the test server and I would really like to thank the few brave Wargaming developers who pushed this idea to their superiors. Especially one guy who doesn’t want to be named and his pony lover friend from balance department, both of who are seriously the coolest game devs. It was seriously cool to meet you guys in person (too bad I was so tired from the trip, I was babbling god knows what at that point). It’s not an understatement that without them, the branch would not exist – and this is how it should be, you know – the developers listening to and working with the community. Now, I am not saying that the community should be listened to in everything (that would end in a disaster) but when it comes to such things as introducing new vehicles?

Why not. In fact, it’s no secret that Wargaming is working on the Swedish branch with two community members, Renhaxue and sp15. Unfortunately, unlike me, they are limited in what they can divulge due to actual contracts (whereas me, Daigensui and Soukoudragon who helped with the Japanese branch were… let’s say less formal). But I think it’s going to end well.

Of course, Yuri Pasholok, Dmitry Shein and their colleagues from historical department did a lot of work too and it was really nice to meet them as well in Prague, I really liked the book Yuri wrote and gave me about the T-60 light tank (I wish this stuff was available in English). And finally, special thanks go to Pyotr Bityukov and of course Sergey Burkatovsky, who was involved in these decisions on the highest level.

With that being said, how well did the branch go?

Pretty well actually. Of course, nothing is perfect and multiple things didn’t the way I imagined they would, such as:

- the national sign with the blue triangle upwards: completely historical but not the variant I’d have picked
- camouflage: German camo? Really? Someone was lazy as fuck. I even made a post about possible camouflages.
- Kolohousenka has no wheels!
- LT vz.38 top gun has wrong mantlet, but… well, it’s a stretch anyway
- T-24 turrets (*sigh*)
- apparently the Konštrukta T-34/100 has busted armor (the armor model of the mantle for stock turret should be there for top turret and vice versa)
- the T 50 is really a stretch, some things are wrong (like the false side armor IS-3 style, where historically ammunition was supposed to be stowed above the tracks)

But what the hell. Tested the line, really liked it, good job :)

So, what now… now I work for (Armored Warfare) so my focus lies elsewhere. I still follow WoT of course but mostly for job reasons. I am really curious as to what will happen with it in 2016. I think all the players and tank lovers will find 2016 very interesting due to the improvements the respective devs are making to AW and WoT both.

So yea. Should be fun :)

Posted in Q&A