It is open to debate as to just how useful the "Pure" Infantry Division of non-mechanized Infantry and Artillery will be for future military operations. The future of Divisions as field formations has also been questioned. There can, however, be little arguement that smaller units of Light Infantry will continue to form an important component of future military operations. Many of the ideas described below are also applicable to smaller Light Infantry formations or mixed forces of Armour and Light and Mechanized Infantry.
A useful future role for the Light Infantry may be to provide the manpower for the General Support Battalions of the proposed EDSG. Addition of a CAB and/or a Medium Cavalry Squadron would increase its combat capabilities when necessary as described below.
Strategically Mobile Light Infantry Divisions.
The following suggestions do not apply to the 10th LID. which I believe should be reactivated as a True Mountain Division.
Light Infantry Divisions (LID) are mainly structured for low intensity conflicts and missions such as jungle operations or MOUT. The military is used for everything from major combat operations (Major Theatre Warfare or MTW) to Humanitarian Aid (HA) and Disaster relief with operations such as Counter-terrorism, Counter-insurgency, Peacekeeping and Non-Combatant Evacuation falling somewhere between these two extremes. The infantryman usually bears the brunt of such duties.
One of the characteristics of a LID is that it needs less airlift resources to transport it into a theatre of operations. This means that it is often one of the first Divisions to be deployed into a trouble spot and as a consequence may find itself opposed by heavy forces. There is little point in sending in a division that is "too light to fight".
What improvements can be made to a Strategically Mobile Light Infantry Division (SM-LID) to make it more effective?
The SM-LID may also have an attached TAB "ferry battalion" as needed.
- Improve tactical mobility by equipping Rifle companies with bicycles. Weapons companies and supply should be motorised with vehicles like the BSMV-T, Supacat, ATVs and motorcycle combos. The small size of these vehicles allows large numbers to be moved by air-transport. Armament should included plenty of systems like TOW, Javelin, 106mm RRs and Sniper teams.
Standing SOP will be for infantry to make use of any available transport when in theatre. Familiarity with truck driving and hot-wiring will be useful.
ATVs that were used to carry the rifle battalion's heavy weapons could be "pooled" once the battalions have assumed a defensive position. These are then used to move supplies and reinforcements.
- Give the SM-LID a battalion or more of mechanised "Counter Offensive" troops equipped with M8s and up-armed and armoured M113 IFVs. This unit may also be supported assault gun mortars. This capability could be expanded into giving the formation a Medium Cavalry Squadron along the lines of Vietnam Era Cav" Squadron (Battalion). The Air-Cav troop would have AH-1 Cobras, UH-60 Blackhawks and AH-6 Little birds or AH-6s and ACH-47s.
As well as being a reconnaissance force the CAV unit is an additional mobile reserve and aggressive patrolling formation.
An M113 can be air-transported in a similar space to a HMMWV so there is no real reason to deploy HMMWVs when far more capable M113s could be used instead. If a lighter scout vehicle than the M113 is desired use something like the ADI Flyer.
See here for information on a modern Medium Cavalry force.
- Engineer, Aviation and Artillery units would be as for the current LID.
- The Medium Cavalry Squadron contains a significant Infanty/Scout element but the provision of bicycles, motorcycles and light vehicles offers the commander the option of having at least one Infantry Battalion as a mobile unit. This could also be used for patrolling and reconnaissance but is also a useful mobile reserve. To reflect this this unit may have a higher allocation of support weapons and special equipment.
How would such a formation work?
Suppose an SM-LID has been deployed in a capital city in response to the forces of a military coup threatening it.
Many of the LI battalions would deploy in a perimeter around the city and fortify to form a defensive ring of mortars, anti-tank systems and machine guns.
In the centre of this ring is the Counter-Offensive task force of M8s and M113 mounted infantry. They can quickly respond to any weakening in the defensive line with both manpower and 105mm firepower. They can also establish a second line of defence behind a breakthrough.
LI Battalions resting from the lines can also be rapidly re-deployed using commandeered vehicles, the pooled ATVs or even just by their bicycles.
An M113-TAB "ferry force" might be attached to the Division too and offers the potential to move a whole LI brigade.
Outside the defensive ring roam the CAV troops, gathering intelligence and taking the fight to the enemy.
Just because a Division is "Light" doesn't mean every element in it has to be. Having some "Weight" in the right place prevents the Division being "too light to fight" and having to take a purely defensive role.
I wonder how many air-lifts such a form of division would need?
The twelve man, three fire team squad suggested on Slade's Light Infantry page is worth consideration. Since most of the LID squads don't need to fit in APCs the extra firepower and backs to carry gear will be useful. (The M113 can actually carry 9 men in addition to its crew, and a couple more could sit on the floor or ride on the roof if the vehicle is mainly being used for a ferry role). A four man team also sounds about the right number of men to fit on the back of an ATV like the Supacat, so three vehicles can move a squad. A similar idea using a eleven man squad is suggested in this article.
A twelve man dismount unit also sounds about the right size for the infantry component of the CAV platoons, although these will probably be divided between more than one M113. The Team-based platoons I propose hre may be a better option for these unit.
Given the Street and Jungle fighting role of the Light Infantry it would not hurt if each platoon had a few shotguns as a standard item. These would also be handy in defending trenches.