<XMP><BODY></xmp> Squads, Platoons and Battalions

Added 18-11-02
Updated 11-11-05

Squads, Platoons and Battalions

This is one of my older articles. For more recent ideas on infantry battalions please see this page.

The Scrapboard pages started out with my jotting down some ideas on weapons. Coming up with improved weapons systems isn’t actually that useful unless you view the CONTEXT that the system will be used in. Context covers several fields, one of them being unit organization. Hence, quite a few pages on the Scrapboard now deal with unit structures or TOEs (Tables of Organization and Equipment). This page covers some of my thoughts on squad to battalion level formations.

Most of the following is not particularly revolutionary. In fact a lot of it is “tried, tested and proven”; although not necessarily in the American forces. My intention here is to produce balanced, versatile formations with useful levels of both direct and indirect organic firepower.

Firstly, a word on terminology. To my mind, no-one has yet come up with a workable term for the soldier who mans a squad’s anti-tank launcher. Current US term is the mouthful of “anti-armour specialist”. Abbreviated, this is AA Specialist, which is confusing since AA is more widely used to mean “Anti-Aircraft”. Also, it neglects the fact that such weapons are also used for demolition and anti-personnel tasks.

The mindset of many people is limited by the label that you use.

Carlton Meyer has suggested the term “rocker ”, but this is not a particularly clear word to yell across a battlefield. Also, many common “anti-tank” systems such as the Carl Gustav are recoilless guns. The RPG-7 is in fact a hybrid: a rocket that is launched by a recoilless charge, but commonly called a “grenade”. Calling this soldier a “grenadier ” is equally confusing and inaccurate for many systems.

My vote goes to calling this soldier the “bazooka joe”. The public have been using the term “bazooka” generically for decades, and I ’ve no problem paying homage to the original. It certainly makes more sense than calling an LMG an “ automatic rifle”.

“Bazooka! ” is a nice clear term that will carry well and not be confused with any other term.


I will begin with a discussion of infantry battalions, since these are the basic building block of any ground force. Infantry should be capable of fighting on foot in any type of terrain, so the basic structure should be designed to produce a force that has maneouvre elements that can operate in the absence of any motor transport. This may be necessary if operating in jungle or other difficult terrain. Many of the suggested systems are therefore man-portable.

That infantry can fight on foot does not mean that they should not use any transport that may be available or expedient. The vehicles may be organic, attached or “acquired”, and the means of transport may be by ground, air or water.

Mounting a force on motorbikes and sidecars or jeeps greatly increases its mobility. The PRC provides minibuses to move its infantry by.

If use of powered vehicles is not possible, a unit may still be able to use handcarts, bicycles or pack animals.

Where the use of vehicles is practical they should be used, with priority being given to the reconnaissance, heavy weapons and supply elements of the force.

Transport allows a unit to carry more ammo and supplies, have greater mobility and carry heavier weapons. Conversely, in the absence of transport a commander must accept that his unit can carry less

This same basic infantry force that will be described can be attached to a helicopter battalion to produce an air-mobile force. Providing HMMWVs and/or trucks produces a motorized force. Giving the unit APCs/ IFVs or attaching a Carrier Attachment Brigade (CAB) creates a mechanized force.

The concept of creating units that can “patch” an infantry force to turn it into a heli-mobile or mechanized force is explained in greater detail on this page.

Below I suggest two possible TOEs for a MuRo (Multi-Role) Infantry Battalion. One is a fairly conventional “3+1” model, while the second is based around a Six-Element Platoon Structure.

The “ 3+1” infantry battalion

I call the following structure the 3+1 MuRo (Multi-role TOE) Battalion since it is designed on the “3+1 ” model.

Three tactical squads and a command section make up a combat platoon.
Three combat platoons and a weapons platoon make a combat company
Three combat companies, a HQ company and a heavy company make a battalion.

New/ major weapon systems
Tactical Squad:
Bazooka joe, 7.62mm machine gun.

Command section of combat platoon:
FO team, MG team and commando mortar team.

Weapons platoon, combat company:

Sniper section of four two-man teams.

Assault pioneer/combat engineer squad.

GPMG squad.

Company mortar section. Two or three 60mm M224s. 81mm M252 may be carried instead, particularly in a section with vehicles.

Anti-armour section. Armed with Javelin ATGWs. In a section with vehicles a pair of 106mm RCLR will be carried as well.

HQ & Logistic and Recon and Support Companies, MuRo Infantry Battalion.
Combat systems include:

SAM platoon. Armed with Stinger MANPADS. If this platoon has vehicles these may also be armed with anti-aircraft cannon or HMGs. If the unit has organic vehicles this platoon may have systems such as Avenger, Linebacker and Blazer. If equipped with Starstreak this becomes an A4 (Anti-Armour/Anti-Aircraft) platoon,

A good argument can be made that the air defence element of a infantry battalion should be attached rather than organic and only deployed if there is a likely threat from enemy air elements. However, systems such as MANPADS may be issued down to combat platoon level and it is likely that at least a few members of each platoon will have been trained to use these systems.

Anti-tank Guided Weapons Platoon. Armed with long range systems such as TOW or Ground Hellfire. At least one section will be a mobile section with vehicles, ideally EFOGM. “Anti-Ground Target Missile” (AGTM) is an alternate designation that reflects the versatility of the weapon systems.

A good case can be made for placing long-range AGTM systems in their own companies and battalions rather than having them as part of the infantry battalion. This will be more likely if long-range man-portable systems are used more at company level.

Reconnaissance Platoon. This may be light-order infantry, with or without light vehicles or a mechanized platoon of Tankitas, in the same way that a UK Armoured Infantry battalion has a platoon of eight Scimitars or Sabre .

Mechanized Recon platoons are not restricted to Mechanized Infantry battalions.

It is possible that some battalions will have a “mobile-scout ” platoon with vehicles and a “ground-scout ” platoon that is used for surveillance missions, OPs and more stealthy recon missions. This latter platoon would include a squad of sniper-scouts (four pairs).

Mortar Platoon(s). Like a British infantry battalion, this is equipped with at least eight 81mm M252s. It is possible that 81mm mortar may be replaced at battalion level by long-range versions of 60mm mortars. Some or all of these systems may be replaced by 120mm M120s, particularly in a unit that has vehicles. In a mechanized battalion with organic vehicles 120mm weapons are likely to be in the majority, and many or all of these systems may be Assault Gun-Mortars.

Some infantry battalions may have towed 120mm gun-mortars for additional-direct fire support.

Machine Gun Platoon, Not found in all infantry-orientated battalions. Equipped with .50 HMG, Mk-19s and OCSW. This may take the form of the proposed direct-fire platoons.

Formations and Equipment in More Detail

The Tactical Squad

This is the formation more commonly known as a rifle squad. I'm using an alternate term in the hope this will create less “rifle-centric” thinking., since the main weapons of a squad are its machineguns and launchers .

A tactical squad has nine men: a squad leader and two four-man fire teams, each with two riflemen, a SAW and a M203. One rifleman in the first fire team is the bazooka joe/anti-armour specialist and one rifleman in the second team is a designated marksman with a H-Bar M16 variant.

In fact I see two basic forms of tactical squad, the “light-order” squad and the “ general-order”. Both types carry rifles and grenade launchers, and if necessary are armed with disposable anti-tank weapons, bunker defeat munitions or shotguns.

The light-order squad is mainly armed with rifles and shotguns. There may not be a bazooka joe or he may be serving as a rifleman or M203 grenadier. The squad may still have disposable anti-tank weapons. The light-order squad may be all “rifle/shotgun” or have just one or two M249s or machine rifles. Light-order armament is used when a squad must travel light, must move fast or has a lot of other equipment. Examples would be a scout platoon, tactical squad of a MOUT unit or a long-range patrol.

The general squad has at least two SAWs and probably some disposable anti-tank weapons. The general squad will include a bazooka joe and a possibly 7.62mm machine gunner. The 7.62mm weapon will either be a bipod mounted GPMG or a dedicated 7.62mm LMG. The 7.62mm weapon will replace the SAW in one fire team. Some squads may have a pair of 7.62mm MGs.

A heavy-order squad organisation is also possible. The first fire team has an M203, two SAWs and a bazooka joe. The second fire team has two M203s, a SAW and a H-Bar. If not operating as an anti-armour specialist the bazooka joe carries a M203. Each pair of soldiers therefore has a SAW or H-Bar and an M203 or anti-tank weapon.

Bazooka Joe

Having a dedicated gunner with an anti-tank/ assault launcher allows immediate reaction to encounters, even if the enemy has no armour. Many foes in the past have demonstrated that the RPG can be a devastating addition to a squad’s firepower in an infantry firefight, and it is a lesson that we’d be wise to learn from.

The SMAW is a possible armament for the bazooka joe, but preferable would be would be a muzzle-loading weapon similar to the RPG-7 or Panzerfaust 3, which he can quickly load himself.

Depending on situation, the bazooka joe will carry a range of different ammunition types, as has been suggested for the RPG-2000. In a MOUT mission he will carry dual-purpose anti-armor/ breaching rounds. For infantry battles a HE-Frag warhead with the same M734 multi-option fuse used on mortar rounds, allowing impact, delay or proximity fusing. An APERS round could be developed for jungle warfare.

When tank threat is high a weapon such as the MBT-LAW would be used.

The bazooka joe is responsible for carrying the command launch unit for the Javelin or Spike missiles carried by the squad. He may instead carry a weapon such as the RLGL when this will prove more useful than larger calibre anti-armour weapons.

Command Section, Combat Platoon

The command section includes a FO/FAC or JUS, medic and a seven-man weapons squad.

The JUS or JUS team are preferably organic to the platoon and are trained to direct artillery and mortar fires and strikes from both fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

The weapons squad either form two three-man weapons teams or three two-man weapons teams. Weapons teams can be armed as either machine gun teams with GPMGs and tripods or anti-armour teams with Javelin. The weapons squad also has a 60mm platoon mortar (Not to be confused with the M224) so one team can be configured as a light mortar team. Many armies have used mortars at platoon -level since the First World War. The US rifle platoon certainly needs more indirect-fire capability.

Alternative: In a mechanized infantry formation vehicle armament can provide much of the anti-tank and direct fire needs of the platoon. In such a formation the command section has only one weapons team. Their transport carries a machine gun, mortar and anti-tank weapons, and when dismounted the team carry the system most suited for the mission.

The above also suggests that at least one vehicle in a platoon should mount a 60mm or 81mm gun-mortar to provide some indirect capability. The commando mortar can be fired from the roof of a vehicle by using a top hatch.

For a unit in MOUT the squad machine guns may be grouped with the command section’s weapon teams to provide a base of fire that allows the tactical squads to move more quickly over obstacles.

Commando Mortars

Commando mortars are short-barrelled platoon or squad-level weapons weighing between 10-17lbs. 60mm weapons can use the same ammo as M224 company mortars.

Maximum range of these weapons is approximately 700-1100m, making them an idea compliment to 7.62mm machine guns. Platoon mortars can be used to drop bombs on enemies pinned down by MG fire. Mortar fire can also be used to drive enemies from cover to create targeting opportunities for machine gunners. Minimum range can be as little as 50 metres and commando mortars can be fired from a prone position, allowing the firer to directly observe the target.

An alternate weapon would be the High Angle Grenade Launcher that I have proposed.

Weapons Platoon, Combat Company

The basic weapons platoon has an anti-armour section with Javelin Missiles, a company mortar section with two or three 60mm M224 mortars, GPMG squad, an assault pioneer/ engineer section and a sniper section. Alternately the assault pioneer squads might be formed into a platoon as part of the support company at battalion level.

This unit has handcarts/ bicycle trailers to help them move their weapons and ammo. In certain situations the anti-armour section may replace some or all of the Javelins with support launchers such as the M3 Carl Gustav or M67 90mm RCLR

A handful of vehicles added to the weapons platoon significantly increases the company’s capabilities.

The mortar section can carry more ammo and even use 81mm M252 weapons instead of 60mm. A mortar section will probably have a pair of HMMWVS. In a battalion with organic or attached APCs the mortar section may have M113s.

An anti-armour section with vehicles can carry more Javelins and also carry a pair of 106mm recoilless rifles. This gives the company an organic long-range direct fire capability against bunkers, buildings and machine gun nests. Using the APERS (flechette) round the 106mm is also effective against infantry. These vehicles might also carry thermobaric or flame-capsule weapons similar to the Russian RPO or such rounds developed for the 106mm.

The anti-armour section’s weapons can be used mounted or dismounted. Since firing from the vehicle will expose it to enemy fire the preferred vehicles for this section are modified M113s with increased frontal armour. The anti-armour section is likely to have a pair of M113s and a HMMWV ammo carrier.

The addition of a few vehicles to the weapons platoon increases its capabilities so much that even in companies that are mainly foot-mobile it is likely that the weapons platoon will have a motorized mortar and pioneer sections and a mechanized anti-armour section.

Anti-Armour Team Carrier

The anti-armour team carrier is a M113 with increased frontal armour and internal racks to carry Javelin, RCLR rounds and other munitions. A shield is incorporated into the 106mm mounting for the protection of the crew.

Such an arrangement would probably have limited traverse, rather like the German armoured cars and half-tracks that mounted 75mm close-support guns and anti-tank guns. Like these systems, this is not a practical drawback for a weapons system that operates in close co-ordination with infantry it supports.

An idea of what such a vehicle may look like can be gained from this M113 based Austrailian RCLR portee:

M113 Recoiless Rifle Carrier

Note the one man turret, allowing the machine gun(s) to be used while the RCLR is being fired.

Canadian 106mm M113s

A vehicle -mounted engineer squad/pioneer section might also have 106mm RCLRs for demolition fires.

Such vehicles would mainly be found in MuRo Battalions that have been patched to serve as mechanized units, or in dedicated medium mechanized infantry

“3+1” MuRo Battalion.

A “standard” infantry battalion is made up of three combat companies, a HQ and Logistics company and a Recon and Support company. The HQ & Log company includes signals, medical section, quartermaster platoon, motor transport platoon, mess platoon etc.

R & S Company includes:

The MuRo TOE proposed above is somewhat traditional. Below is an alternate TOE that uses the idea of smaller squads. Less emphasis is placed on battalion-level weapons, better reflecting how infantry are likely to be used. This formation is described in greater detail on this page .

Tactical Squad

The tactical squad has six men. The first and second pairs both have the same organization with each pair composed of a light machine-gunner and a grenadier. One pair is lead by the squad leader, the second by the assistant squad leader.

The grenadier has a rifle fitted with a M203-type grenade launcher. M203s can fire illumination rounds and less-lethal ammo and their capabilities compliment those offered by the squad’s rifle-grenades. In certain situations the M203 may be replaced by a shotgun.

The light machine-gunner (for convenience simply termed “a gunner” hereafter) is armed with either a LSW/ Heavy-Barrel assault rifle, SAW or Ultimax 100 LMG. If a GPMG is issued to a squad one of the gunners will man this weapon in place of the LMG/ H-Bar.

The third pair has an anti-armour specialist (“bazooka joe”) and a rifleman/ assistant. The assistant serves as an ammo bearer for the main weapon, provides local defence and carries the anti-armour specialist’s rifle when he is operating the main weapon. Depending on situation the anti-armour specialist can choose from a selection of weapons to meet the perceived tactical requirements. MBT-LAW will be carried if facing enemy armour while a MBIL, M-25 or MGL would be used when infantry, MG nests and light vehicles are the most likely target. In other situations, a RPG-type close-support weapon might be used. If the squad is issued a Spike ATGW the Anti-armour specialist would carry and operate the CLU.

Rifle-grenades and M72-type LAWs or Armbrust can be carried by all personnel.

Combat Platoon

A combat platoon has a HQ Team, four tactical squads, and a fire support team.

The HQ team includes the platoon commander, RTO, medic, platoon sniper with 338 rifle and JUS/ observer

There are four tactical squads. One tactical squad in the platoon may be allocated a GPMG in place of one of its LMGs. This will probably be a lightweight weapon such as the LWMG

In the case of a serious armour threat one tactical squad of each platoon will be issued with one Spike-LR CLU (4,000m INDIRECT capability) and 4 missiles per platoon (2). The training requirement to operate Spike is set at 6 men per platoon, so about 15%. This saves a lot of training costs and training time.

The fire support team is commanded by the platoon sgt and has one 7.62mm GPMG/LWMG and one 60mm platoon mortar. This team may operate as a single unit or the different weapon crews allocated to tactical squads or positions as the platoon commander sees fit.

Infantry Company

The infantry company has four combat platoons and a company support platoon. Infantry companies can be patched to customize their capabilities to suit the intended mission.

Infantry Company Support Platoon

The company support platoon can act as a floating reserve and has the flexibility to produce task-organised groups on an “as needed” basis.

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 above 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 or a mix of 81mm and 120mm weapons. Long-range 60mm mortars may be used instead of 81mm, and 98mm weapons may be used in place of either 81mm or 120mm. The other weapons platoon is 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 .50 HMGS, six AGLs and four 106mm RCLRs.

In addition to the two weapons platoons the battalion would also have one or two scout platoons as described above. A section to maintain and administer the issue of and training with Spike LR-ATGW systems would also be found at this level.

This formation would be designed to be patched but it also may be prudent to ensure that the battalion has enough organic M113s to move at least one of its companies. These could also be used for familiarization and training purposes.

So far this article has mainly considered infantry and mechanized infantry formations.

One thing that has been known for a long time is that infantry and tank crews are more effective as a combined arms force if the individuals of the unit are used to fighting together. Some of the most effective US mechanized formations are the armoured cavalry and the Fort Irwin OPFOR, who have infantry and tanks organic to the same unit. In British parlance both “wear the same cap-badge”. For certain units the above battalion structure would be modified in the following ways:

Airborne Mechanized Battalion

Providing paratroopers with air-dropable fighting vehicles such as M113s allows them to drop into an area that is not heavily defended and approach an objective on the ground without being restricted to marching pace and man-portable systems. The airborne mechanized battalion has two or three M113 mounted rifle companies. Support platoons may use lighter platforms and the battalion may also have a company of air-dropable 105mm armed M8 tanks.

Airmobile Mechanized Battalion

This resembles the airborne mechanized battalion but has the M8s replaced by Tankitas, which can be heli-lifted by CH-47s. Some rifle companies and support platoons will use M113s (CH-47 transportable), others may be HMMWV mounted since these can be moved by UH-60. Vehicles similar to the Wiesel AFVs or millenibren may also be used.

Infantry -based airborne or air-assault infantry could be converted to air-mechanized units by patch formations

Heavy Maneuver or Combined-Armour Battalion

This is composed of an engineer mobility company and two companies of mechanized infantry and tanks. This unit is described in more detail here

Cavalry Battalion (Squadron)

The basic organisation of a cavalry squadron will be a surveillance company, air troop and several ground troops. The surveillance company includes SIGINT and ground surveillance radar assets.

Cavalry ground troops already use mixed companies (troops) of tank and CFV platoons with support. There is a case for increasing the numbers of dismount personnel in the scout platoons. This structure is more suited to the independent mobile operations that the cavalry perform. Heavy cavalry squadrons would use Abrams and M3 Bradleys in their ground troops, but the army should also have several medium cavalry squadrons equipped with M8s and M113s to make them C-130 transportable.

The medium cavalry squadron also has an air troop of AH-6s and CH-47. CH-47s can heli-lift M113s. The air troop of a heavy cavalry squadron is likely to contain more scout and utility helicopter types. The UAVs of a squadron will either be held by the air troop or surveillance troop.

The medium cavalry battalion is described in more detail here

Heavy Armour Support Battalion

This is a tank-heavy formation intended for attachment to an infantry-dominant force without organic tanks. It could also be attached to an armoured force as a reserve.

This battalion has three 17-20 tank MBT companies, giving 53-62 tanks in total. It also has a company of M2/3 or M113s that act as a recon and screening force.

Multi-role Infantry Battalions and Patch Forces

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