Patch formations increase the capability of Infantry
Recently Mike Sparks circulated an article called "Modern Warfare Is Testing An Old U.S. Weapon: The Infantryman".
The US has several types of infantry:- mechanized infantry, light infantry, airborne infantry, air assault infantry, rangers, marines and various types of special forces. Plenty of variety but in a system with little flexibility. If a soldier joins a mechanized battalion he is likely to spend his whole career as a mechanized soldier unless he transfers to another unit.
This is not the system in many other armies, including the British army, who are generally acknowledged as knowing a thing or two when it comes to producing competent infantry. Battalions are not just rotated through postings and locations but also roles. An Infantry Battalion is either Armoured Infantry, Mechanized Infantry, Air Assault Infantry or Light Role Infantry. It will spend two years in a role then retrain and re-equip for another role. This system was known under the rather odd name of "Arms Plot". Current plans of are for the Arms Plot system to be discontinued, the intention being that experience and variety are provided by individual postings between battalions which I suspect will not work as well.
For illustration of how rotation through roles worked let's look at the Devon and Dorset regiment. In the space of two and a bit years they have served as Warrior-mounted infantry in Germany and then in the same role in Warminster (UK). They were then posted to Hounslow and reconfigured as Light Role Infantry and served for public duties in London and Windsor. They served a six month stint in Co.Armagh, then were assigned to five weeks of jungle training in Belize. As this article is written they are in Belfast, mainly patrolling on foot or in armoured land rovers. Their next posting may see them mounted in Saxon APCs, or they might be found riding helicopters as the line infantry battalion of the 16th Air Assault brigade.
Such a system not only gives a unit a broader range of useful skills. It also makes a soldier's service more interesting.
Suppose we convert most of the US army's infantry battalions to a TOE we'll call the MR (Multi-role) or MuRo type. This uses the arrangement I suggest in the first part of my battalion article. To recap:-
Command section, three tactical squads and one weapons squad.
Weapon squad has GPMGs, Anti-tank/assault launchers and a 60mm platoon mortar. The Carl Gustav MAAW may also be used. The exact mix of weapons will depend on the perceived mission.
Command section, three combat platoons and a weapons platoon.
Weapons platoon has a Pioneer section, anti-armour section, sniper section, GPMG section and mortar section with two 60mm company mortars. Light vehicles may be present to move weapons, ammo and engineer's equipment. The anti-armour section may have a pair of 106mm RCLR armed M113s to carry their Javelin ATGWs.
HQ and Logistic company
Three Combat companies
Recce and Support company
The R&S company has a
Troops from MuRo Battalions are most likely to be used in field formations no larger than companies. For this reason there is a good case to be made for increasing the organic firepower of the companies as described here, and reducing the number of personnel in battalion-level weapons platoons.
If this is done the Muro Battalion would have only two Weapons Platoons at Battalion level. One would be a mortar platoon of eight 81mm weapons and the other a “Direct Fire” platoon. The Direct Fire platoon has sixteen gunners and eight assistants and is designed to increase the defensive capabilities of positional defences or base areas. To do this it is mechanized and has available six HMGS, six AGLs and four 106mm RCLRs.
The battalion may also have a dog section for various duties.
"You need some way of sorting out combatants from non-combatants. The days of uniformed and organized units are past - soldiers and civilians meld together. The days when battles are fought in empty cities are over. Local civilians have nowhere to go to and will stay in place. To find the combatants, Russians had to resort to searching the pockets of civilians and examining them. Soldiers would look for bruises on the shoulder from weapon recoil, for powder burns on forearms, or for a silver lining around cuffs (from mortar or artillery propellant bags). They also smelled clothing for gunpowder and gun oil and looked for traces of it under fingernails or on arms or legs. Trained sniffer dogs were used, but were not always effective.
Nevertheless, dogs probably are the best way to determine if a person has been using explosives or firing a weapon recently. "
This is a potent and versatile mix of weapon systems, and it will be noted that nearly all of the systems are manportable. With the exception of EFOGM (in its current configuration), nearly every other system mentioned could be dismounted and portaged along a jungle or mountain trial if necessary.
The battalion described has a few HMMWVs and trucks, and even half a dozen or so M113s but it probably doesn't have enough vehicles to move all of its personnel. Here we introduce the concept of "Patch forces".
Pretty obviously, if the above battalion was stationed near a battalion of helicopters it would only need a little training to convert into an Air-assault unit. No major reorganization of structure or armament would be needed. The only change is the addition of the helicopters and their flight and maintenance crews. We'll look at a similar idea on the ground.
One platoon from a Troop Transport Company, as described in FM 100-63 p3-38 can move three rifle companies of infantry (two squads per truck). Each platoon from the Weapons Transport company can move the weapons, crews and equipment of a heavy weapon company. This means a motor transport battalion can move/convert an entire brigade into motorized infantry.
The idea of a TAB (which I renamed CAB) is similar to that of a Motor transport battalion, but using M113s in place of trucks. Each platoon of M113 carriers can move a company of infantry or paratroopers.
Patch forces take this concept a step further. Not only does the Patch unit have enough APCs to mechanize a unit. it also has all the other equipment and vehicles needed to create a medium mechanized infantry unit:-
Since in some cases the vehicles are crewed by the "patched" unit the organic personnel requirements of the Patch unit are very modest- just a small contingent of admin', mechanics, technicians and armourers,.
Each tactical squad has a vehicle and nominates one of its number as a driver. The vehicle's gunner is from the weapons squad, so the squad has an eight man dismount section. Two more members of the weapons squad man the command section vehicle, which leaves a four or five man dismount weapon team that can deploy MGs, AT weapons or the mortar as required. In other types of patch unit the vehicle crews will be organic to the patch unit and bring to the formation a pool of expertise and experiance in using the systems.
There may be other forms of patch force, for example one with HMMWVs to create a light motorized unit if needed
All infantry orientated forces should reorganized into the MR TOE for increased capability and compatibility with Patch forces. The exception to this are Bradley companies.
Bradley Companies and Combined-Armour Battalions
Even with the change in TOE the changed seating of the M2A3 allows, the vehicles of a Bradley platoon only have 39 seats. That implies three 9 man squads, or three 8 man teams and a 3 man weapon team. Although this is better than the old Bradley structure, (two 9 man squads + command section dismounted) the vehicles have no capacity for an FO team, medic or other attached personnel. My feeling is that MuRo battalions should not be fitted in Bradleys, although I'd keep my options open by mothballing a Bradley patch unit.
I have a different proposal for Bradley infantry: - reorganize them into "Combined Armoured Battalions",
Ken Nelson writes:-
My Marine brother says that they use a XO as a 2nd in command vice the Army way of treating the XO as the admin guy. Something they got from the Royal Marines.
Interesting concept, that would give flexibility in sustaining operations:- CO, XO and OpsO.
Marine infantry battalions have scout sniper platoons. The members of those platoons are graduates of a marine corps sniper school.
Sniping is considered a secondary mission. The snipers are the battalion commanders organic recon. In fact the "Scout sniper platoon" is sometimes referred to as the STA (Surveillance and Target Acquisition) platoon. Part of sniper school is air, naval gunfire, arty, mortar FO tech and and learning different radios and observation techniques.
The STA (Scout sniper) platoon officer is an intel officer by MOS, not an infantryman and the platoon is controlled by the S-2 (intell) vice the S-3 (operations) and belongs to the Headquarters company.
PW: More "Sniping Scouts" than Scout-snipers. Is this platoon instead of or in addition to a motorized/mechanized scout platoon?
KN: You are right that the snipers are used more as sniper trained scouts. The sniper mission is rarely used. Their idea of sniper ops is different that the Army's.
Where we attach snipers to companies to support attacks, taking out crew served weapons, etc, they send them deeper to attack the Bn/Bde command structure and Arty/Antiair assets. They don't shoot machine gunners but use snipers for high payoff targets. The new designated marksman program will do what the army's snipers do.
Another thing that struck me was as we talked about taking out company command and control. I mentioned targeting radio operators, he talked about targeting radios. His point being that anyone can carry/talk into a radio but no one talks when the radio is busted with a 7.62 rd.
Another good point is they are trained where critical components of systems are to target. Don't shoot sights off an arty weapon when they can replace them in 1/2 hour, shoot the hydro oil cylinders so that the weapon is out of action for days, that type of thing.
As for motorized recon assets, they have a HUMVEE mounted heavy weapons platoon that could be used for route recon but is normally paired up with TOW HUMVEEs as a Combined AntiArmor Plt. and used as a blocking force.
PW: If I'm reading FMFM 1-3 correctly the Scout-sniper contingent is of squad strength. This manual includes sections on controling indirect fires and sketching. I think I'd like to keep the independent Motorized/mechanized scout platoon, but having what is actually a "Sniper-scout" unit as a recon asset would be a useful addition. A lot of battalion level reconnaissance is not about rushing around in vehicles but steathly crawling up to or even into an objective and making a detailed map. Battalion level Sniper-scouts could conduct the long range scouting and interdiction missions while to the company level snipers and squad marksmen could provide attack support.
In LIC and OOTW missions there may be a requirement for increased Reconnaissance/Surveillance assets down at Battalion level. Probably the MR-type Battalions should have both a "Mobile Scout" platoon mounted on LRVs and Light armour and a more infantry-orientated "Ground-Scout platoon". If many of these personnel are sniper trained, so much the better.