Erasmus : Infantry is required to seize and hold ground. Infantry is capable of seizing and holding specific terrain and infrastructure that other forces or units cannot. For example, specially trained infantry groups may be required to seize a village controlled by insurgents, and to hold it to protect the community from insurgent coercion, and thereby to implement a range of activities and initiative to generate community cooperation and collaboration.
In many circumstances a persistent physical presence by an adequate quantity of appropriately trained and equipped infantry soldiers will be essential to protect the non-combatant community and to encourage the collaboration.
The presence of the soldiers also denies the enemy the ability to operate within a physical region and to influence the activities of peoples in that region. Unless your government can enforce its peace, then you are a servant of the man with a gun at your door at midnight.
Column of German Soldiers
Kinkajou : Infantry also capable of extensive security operations more police like in combat like.
Erasmus : True!
Typical infantry security operations include enforcing curfews, diffusing and controlling crowds, propaganda, protection, gathering intelligence, and to combat undercover enemy operatives through activities that defend protect and secure.
Proximity to the community allows infantry to glean information such as the identities of influential community members, information about infrastructure issues, and identification of potential opportunities for actions by enemy forces, and transmitting messages.
Only a dismounted infantryman can detain another by force, against his will. While any soldier can capture another, it does require a special level of skill to deliberately close with an adversary and take them as a prisoner from within a defended or secured location.
Special skills include ability to cope with weather and terrain, abilities in hand-to-hand combat, marksmanship, small group cohesion and cooperation, endurance, physical and mental power and toughness, courage, and the ability to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining in the field.
Infantry can serve as a pool of appropriately trained men before during and after major crises including natural disasters. They can secure and they evacuation of foreign nationals. They can undertake some tasks normally undertaken by police for example such as right control.
The key observation is that infantry is capable of fulfilling many functions with specific training. Infantry training is versatile because infantry has a multiplicity of primary roles in the modern world, which can be distinct from capabilities used in combat.
Resting Australian Battlefield Engineers
Typical roles of situational diversity necessity for multi-skilling of infantry cover basic configurations of the usage such as in: mechanised infantry, motorised infantry, light infantry, Special Forces, armed policed forces, emergency relief personnel.
Kinkajou : Let’s get into the traditional definition of mechanisation: which cover infantry deployed as mechanised infantry, motorised infantry, light infantry, Special Forces.
Using mechanised infantry mounted within armoured fighting vehicles in combination with tanks has number of unique advantages. These include greater tactical mobility, firepower, better protection and endurance in high fire situations.
This combination enables penetration of combat troops to less easily accessible situations. Infantry can make up for much of the vulnerabilities of heavy armour. It is the infantryman’s antitank weapon which historically has proved the most dangerous to armoured vehicle such as tanks. Tanks can hurt tanks. But it is often the infantryman who hurts the tank.
Motorised infantry is a term used to describe infantry mounted in less heavily armoured but still highly mobile vehicles. This gives the on-board infantry levels of mobility and protection less than that of mechanised infantry but superior to those of normal light infantry.
Both mechanised and motorised infantry suffer from a limitation of the situations in which infantry can be deployed. Today even tanks can be susceptible to shaped charge weapons such as RPGs. So APCs would definitely be susceptible to these. APCs even carry susceptibility to heavy calibre machine gun type weapons such as the 50 calibre machine gun.
Combat Support Vehicle
So to minimise infantry losses to heavy weapons fire, the troops need to be deployed in situations where the vehicle carrying them is protected from heavier enemy fire or shaped charges such as from RPGs. (An RPG is also known as a rocket propelled grenade). Aluminium was used as an APC armouring material, but was found to be insufficiently resistant to many types of anti-armour weapons including 50 calibre machine guns.
Erasmus : Light infantry generally possesses greater relative strategic mobility than either mechanised or motorised infantry. Light infantry can be deployed much more easily. Light infantry can conduct vertical manoeuvre’s either climbing into trees or digging into the ground.
Light infantry can cross difficult terrain such as Muddy or swampy ground, traverse heavy forest or traverse rocky landscapes or mountainous terrain unsuitable for vehicles.
They can also take advantage of protective terrain covers better than vehicles due to the size and flexibility of the human body. However, once separated from its means of mobility, light infantry is relatively vulnerable, less mobile, and lacking in firepower. Light infantry definitely requires heavy weapons support from other Army units to maximise its capabilities.
Tank Recovery from Battle Damage
Special Forces are the most versatile of the infantry forces. However their extreme selection and training requirements, often coupled with higher levels of language competence where infiltration is a selection criterion, restrict the number of available men.
These units lack enablers to function for extended periods above subunit levels. Generally they function as small units in specific defined circumstances rather than dominating significant regions.
They possess some of the key characteristics of motorised and light infantry, but there is a focus on the ability to function covertly clandestinely and unconventionally. Training emphasises their deployment and usage with high precision, independence, innovation, independence and discretion.
Infantry and Civilians
Kinkajou : so tell me something about the roles of armour in mechanised warfare.
The role of armour is to locate, identify and destroy or capture the enemy, by day or night, in combination with other arms, using fire and manoeuvre. Types of armoured vehicles include tanks, armoured personnel carriers, cavalry units, and specialised vehicles.
In World War II much use was made of light Autocannons, anti-aircraft, and self-propelled guns.
Tanks possess the greatest firepower of any manoeuvre element in the Army and are also the best protected land platform used by the Army. They provide capacity to combined heavy weapons different combinations, (a HE or high explosive, Heat + High Energy Anti-Tank rounds as well as armour piercing KE=Kinetic energy Rounds.)
They also have some limitations and types of terrain in which they can operate. For example Israeli defence forces during the Sinai campaign 1967, undertook substantial preparations to allow their armoured forces to penetrate across the difficult terrain of the Sinai. Tanks, like mechanised infantry, come with a significant logistic and strategic movement cost.
British Tank Rounds
Tank units generally operate as a combined arm with armoured cavalry units. Cavalry is capable of operating over greater distance and high-speed than tanks often facing numerically superior foes. Combat tasks for Cavalry generally include reconnaissance and rapid deployment operations in offensive or defensive capacities, or security actions. To achieve this role generally armour is sacrificed for speed, so cavalry is often unable to accept decisive engagement and still perform its mission.
Capabilities of tank units:
- armoured reconnaissance and surveillance capability
- Providing infantry with improved levels of mobility and armoured protection, and increased firepower.
- Providing greater flexibility and a greater range of possible infantry/armour combinations in combined arms teams
- simplifying task-based force combinations for operations
German Panzer 4
Kinkajou : what about the Historical perspective on the use of mechanised warfare in the 20th century?
Erasmus : The first time infantry were used in mechanised vehicles was the deployment of a number of two-man infantry squads carried by Mark five tanks of the battle of Amiens is 1918. Many breakthroughs occurred in enemy defences throughout the First World War on the Western front.
The advancing infantry however, quickly became exhausted and artillery, supplies and fresh troops could not be brought forward of the battlefields quickly enough to maintain the pressure from the retreating enemy before they regrouped.
The earliest vehicles were unable to cross battlefield terrain marked by craters, barbed wire, and muddy terrain. Tracked and all-wheel drive vehicles were developed as a solution to this ability to transverse these types of terrain. As a Second World War progressed, many of the combatants’ armies integrated tanks, assault guns and mechanised infantry.
In addition to other supporting units including artillery and engineers in combined arms units. These units were able to deal with and solve a number of more complex battlefield issues more quickly enabling the pressure on enemy forces to be maintained better and longer.
While the German Army had introduced mechanised infantry into their Panzer divisions later renamed Panzer grenadier units, much of the Second World War were still based on infantry being moved by truck. Troops behind the front would often be moved by more walking, much as they had done for the last 2000 years.
Vehicles were reserved for tactical frontline operations were mobility was essential including redeployment of troops. At the beginning of World War II the Panzer Grenadier division’s combined six battalions of truck mounted infantry, a Battalion of tanks with the usual complement of artillery, reconnaissance units, combat engineers, anti-tank and anti-aircraft artillery et cetera.
Some heavy weapons we used in the self-propelled version rather than as fully armoured tanks. Halftracks may have been used in available.
German Self Propelled KVG
Erasmus : Today this situation had shipped away from large-scale confrontational battles. There is much more emphasis on devolved complex involving insurrection and guerrilla activities. Modern armour has needed to follow the trend to extract its maximal usefulness in these types of combat situations. Some APCs and IFVs have been developed for use by aircraft deployment.
Weight reduction has been critical. However, the burgeoning weapons systems such as RPGs capable of penetrating tank armour as led to a reconfiguration of many deployed forces. Infantry are often deployed in support of more heavily armed vehicles. Current military understanding accepts that single weapons systems are less effective than fully combined arms units, hence the progression to integration of infantry and armoured
Mechanised Infantry Today
Kinkajou : probably the most obvious perspective I’m seeing is that much of what the infantryman does today and how they do it, has not changed much at all over millennia. Compared to Roman times, infantrymen still wear helmets. Infantryman still may wear ballistic vests and armour in many roles. Infantrymen still carry a weapon, nowadays a rifle rather than the sword or dagger, or bow and arrow.
What has not changed is that the infantryman still carries himself and his equipment as personal survival gear into and out of combat. The engine that drives movement and activity is the same as it was 2000 years ago. Namely, the muscle power of the infantryman.
Erasmus : You would think in this age of technology we can do something to amplify the carrying capacity, the strength, the speed and the endurance of the average soldier. It is muscle power that provides all these things.
In the building industry, we use battery operated tools substantially to assist in construction. A small drill operates at 600 Watts in general, which is proximally six times the power rating of the average human being. (i.e. 100w).
A drilled used intensively all day doesn’t get tired or suffer injury. It can accomplish more work, faster, and with more endurance than a person attempting the same task manually. Machinery amplifies human effort. It is time technology made an impact on the role of the soldier, especially the infantryman, in the battlefield.
Aussie Light Horse Infantry / Cavalry
Kinkajou : The Americans have been experimenting with mechanised infantry unit support frames with power, a motor and mechanisation support devices.
Erasmus : I think that we can see some of the problems in the limits of our technology. Humanity is not really good yet with miniaturised technology. We can build shock absorbers, braking systems, steering systems and engines to fuel vehicles of 700-2500 kg easily, (let’s call these cars).
But technology that gives good answers at these stress and weight ranges is probably not the most efficient method of solving these same issues in systems maxing out at 250kg. (I suppose in all fairness the bulk of our experience has been with cars and other vehicles at higher weights. Our experience, R&D and investment with mobility is more with big machines like cars than with small ones.).
A car is a superb piece of machinery but all these mobility systems result in them weighing in at about 1 to 1.5 tons. Even a motorbike would often weigh in between 100 to 300 kg.
Human Mech Infantry Tank Russian
Kinkajou : I think there are a lot of reasons why may be very difficult to develop and introduce Battlemech or Stomper technology. Generally leaps of technology development occur, not in peacetime, but in the arena of war. Necessity is the mother of invention. If the prize is victory, there is substantial incentive to develop and introduce new types of forces.
Experience shows how these forces can be used to maximise their impact on the battlefield. Then, innovation constantly follows the path of stepwise escalation as successive problems are addressed and solutions are implemented, one by one.
Also, peacetime is not a great time to build and introduce a new weapons system. Time gives the enemy time to learn, to adapt, to innovate and to assemble a range of especially competent people and to perhaps even raise the ante of the idea to the next level.
The best implementation of a new system is to introduce it into combat overwhelmingly and at an advanced stage, giving the enemy little time to develop the technology themselves or little time to develop neutralising weapons systems.
Mech Infantry In Action
The Battle of the Atlantic started with the U-Boat supreme, but Allied developments in radar, sonar, convoy tactics and in understanding enemy communications broke the power of the U-Boat packs. But, this solution was reached in desperation, only after many many ships and their cargoes had been lost.
Kinkajou : So what do you think about the Stompers as weapons systems?
Erasmus : The problems as I see them relate to issues such as:
- Generation of power in battlefield situations necessitating fuel and very small but highly powerful engines. A Battlemech suit would require electricity to operate, but this is not easy to generate in very small engines.
- Dealing with dirt in equipment in battlefield situations. (Battlefields area very dirty and hostile environment. Machinery that works well in a laboratory, if contaminated with sand in critical components can begin to wear and cease to work.
Robust, simple, able to tolerate poor maintenance and dirty situations are key criteria for a Stomper weapons system. Dirt is critical as the joint in a mobile Stomper (Mech) needs to keep functioning no matter how contaminated or damaged it may become. Sand or mud in a joint tends to freeze it.
- Developing an appreciation of the tactics required to maximise the value of these units. The example of the Second World War shows what happens when one country, namely Germany appreciated the value of combined arms and the use of tank forces. Knowing how to use a weapons system to its maximal advantage is as important as the weapons system itself.
In the India –Pakistani conflict after WW2, there was still doubt in the minds of the Pakistanis as how to best field their armour: tank only or tank infantry combined arms groups. Even after all the experience in the use of armour and tanks in WW2, commanders still weren’t sure how to utilise their forces.
- Technological maintenance in the field. (Simple machines can be maintained, but complex ones need to go back to the shop for maintenance. Interchangeable parts and a simple design would be critical. The mark of true high technology is elegant simplicity in function , but capable of achieving surprisingly “High Goals”
WW1 infantryman's kit
A rifle is the classical simple machine used on the battlefield. Every soldier knows how to clean, strip, and service their rifle.
Technicians will generally not be available on the battlefield to perform major repairs or maintenance on Stompers. This must all be done by the soldier himself and so must be simplified as much as possible).Soldiers are taught to strip and maintain rifles in their sleep, but it becomes harder to teach simple soldiers how to maintain a complex weapon such as a BattleMech suit (Stomper).
Aussie Infantry Kit Vietnam
Kinkajou : I think the Stompers require a lot of development before technology and simplicity deliver a weapons system that can achieve the goals we have set. Movement sensors and amplifier feedback is the key to control. Once the design is right, mass production would inevitably reduce the cost per system. However, the operation of these weapons systems could well fall to specialist infantry, much the same as “special Forces” infantry, with complex selections criteria reducing the pool of potential applicants.
Not all men are created equal and some men I have found over the years are not very bright. There may be few men able to cope with the speed and agility delivered and the technical competence demanded by the Stomper weapons system.
Dr Xxxxx : It is easy to pick the humans who won’t be suitable. A simple memory test will work quite well. Make a list of phone numbers. Dictate them. You are allowed to repeat them, so long as the listener (testee) has not written anything down.
The person writes the number down as soon as they have heard it, (a repeat allowed: this is a memory test not a test of how badly the testing person speaks). If they get numbers wrong, the person has a poor working memory. They cannot learn easily. They cannot be taught complex tasks. They make “concrete” decisions. The testing process takes minutes and can be given to hundreds at the one time. Simples!
I think however, that the range of human intelligence under “normal” circumstances is a lot less than many people realise. It’s just when your brain is cooked that it doesn’t work real well. Damage is a one way trip, but avoidable.
Erasmus : Back to the Mechanised infantryman.
I reckon that this technology may well shape conflicts of the future.
- The ability to deploy off heights to ground level quickly, (jump down),
- the ability to deploy up to heights (jump up),
- the ability to move equipment and supplies ( up to say 180kg vs. 30 kg only before),
- the ability to deploy heavier weapons systems: missiles, radar, antitank rifles, mortars,
- speed of deployment and movement
- the ability to carry heavier armour to bullet proof troopers while maintaining their mobility
Replacing tiring muscle with tireless engines. WW2 saw the end of the cavalry. Future conflicts may see the birth of new more powerful augmented infantry units. It may well be that different sorts of Stomper suits would be developed for different functions, amplifying the work of the individual in many situations.
Even if you are running a warehouse, having a machine to help the human do the lifting could guarantee larger weights and larger forces could be dealt with.
Kinkajou : I think in this situation we call them forklifts.
Erasmus : Who is to say that one day it may be a man in a stomper suit who digs the trenches, carries the barbed wire, the water and the food supplies, then runs to carry a message where directed. While we have many specialised machines to perform these functions, the Stomper represents that a general solution may be more broadly relevant especially in a battle environment.
I remember running up a hill with a rifle and combat equipment. You get tired at 100 metres and your speed drops off. Imagine if your unit barely tires as the machine supplies most of the effort, so you can run at the enemy positions at double or triple normal speed, carrying a much bigger gun than you thought would ever have been possible before.
Winning in a conflict is about being able to be the first on the scene with the greatest number and the greatest force. Stompers could well get you there. Future Armor
Kinkajou : sighs: It seems that the only things that humans do well is chase things with dollar signs attached to them. If there isn’t a dollar no further than a few steps away, we just don’t do it. I understand that commercial usage demands a return, but the human race seems to have taken a very short sighted path to the future, never thinking about what could or should be, but only worrying about what ‘s the easiest thing to do , to make the next dollar.
Very few companies ever innovate. Witness the mobile phone fiasco. The offerings in the mobile phone market, from all the big established companies, were pretty well standard.
Then the iPhone arrived. These same companies now became threatened with extinction unless they upped their game and innovated. Even then, they proceeded to innovate on a path that someone else had already set the sign posts (notably the iPhone).
They proceeded to develop more of the same, maybe a bit better, but let’s not dare to do anything different. Let’s just see if we can do what the opposition does.
Kinkajou : give us a war and give us an enemy committed to using technology in new ways to win, and you will find this technology literally bursting onto the scene.
Erasmus : These capabilities will all shape and redefine the infantryman of the future and their role in future conflicts. It will be interesting to see where this technology takes us, but there is a lot of design work and knowledge that needs to be gained to develop micro systems to support the implementation of this technology. Future Tank Crawler
Kinkajou : What do you think Goo?
Goo : The stomper seems to represent a general solution to the problem of amplifying a soldier’s muscle power. Replacing tired old muscle with tireless engines is the goal. However, controlling, operating and maintaining these units could be quite a challenge especially where speed and performance are the design goals. To control, you need to be able to sense and then to respond to a command.
Much of the basic decision making and sensing could devolve to the infantryman Stomper themselves, however machine must sense and effort before it can be amplified. This raises the technological requirements in design. Maybe the first step on the path is in the development of better prosthetic limbs for people, not in the military. Future Tanks Other
I think the other issue that bears thinking about, is that whatever solution you develop, need to work well with a few bullet holes in it.
Still the concept of amplifying a soldier's abilities generally rather than in specific aspects could well be a winner.
Kinkajou : Probably what we want is to build are Terminators based on the human shape. That would be the solution, human not required.
Terminator Mech Infantry
Erasmus : a disturbing thought.