This is one of the older articles on the Scrapboard, but still attracts a lot of interest. When I first wrote this piece I saw the Escort and Patrol units as a company within a conventional Mechanised infantry battalion. I now see that it would be more useful if such forces were raised from MP and CSS units. I also begin to wonder if there might be a place for a brigade or regiment sized force to act as an Army or Corps level Resource unit.
Horses for Courses- Escort and Patrol Companies.
Military formations are usually designed so that they can fight large-scale battles. In the past forty years such missions have in fact been fairly rare. A unit may find itself more likely to be tasked with missions such as disaster relief, humanitarian aid, counter insurgency and peacekeeping. An important element of all military missions, however, is to maintain lines of communication and supply. This is achieved by various means, including escorting convoys and patrolling the region's transport network. The mission of road security differs from field operations in several ways Because of the importance and special demands of this role it is proposed that consideration be given to the formation of Escort and Patrol Companies. When this idea first occurred to me I felt that an E & P company or demi-company should be a component of any mechanised infantry battalion that is intended to operate overseas. I now think that such companies should also be an organic component of Combat Service Sustainment (CSS) logistical formations. The vehicle and armament requirements of such a force may be different to those of a field combat companies.
Any armoured vehicles used as escorts should have sufficient cruising speed that their presence does not slow down the convoy they are protecting and make it more vulnerable.
The likelihood of being ambushed is much greater, and attacks may come from several directions at once, and from close range. Since the routes a convoy can take are more limited, the likelyhood of mine attack is also higher.
A formation may not be able to call upon artillery or air support so must have an adequate level of organic firepower.
Types of vehicles needed by an Escort and Patrol Company. The main types needed will be:-
A direct fire vehicle, such as a medium armoured car or light tank. This is the "traditional armoured car", but since the term is now used for a more diverse range of vehicles maybe the term "Wheeled Gun System" is more useful.
An Infantry carrier.
A close range indirect fire system such as a self propelled mortar, ideally capable of direct fire too.
An air defence vehicle that can also serve as a ground combat system.
While Band-tracked combat vehicles offer the most suitable propulsion system for a battalion in general, I have some doubts as to whether they will have sufficient speed for the needs of the Escort and Patrol Company. Therefore fair consideration should be given to whether the Escort and Patrol units should be wheel-mounted. Many of the features that make wheeled AFVs less desirable as combat vehicles, such as greater size and height, are not such drawbacks in mainly road bound operations. For example, the greater height of a wheeled vehicle may provide the crew with a higher vantage-point and better protection against mine detonations. I'll stress here that I am in no way proposing that the whole infantry battalion should be wheel mounted, or am I suggesting that a wheeled AFV has adequate cross country performance to be an effective general purpose combat vehicle. My comments about the suitability of wheeled vehicles only apply to the specialised application of road based operations. Hopefully, the use of a specialised Escort and Patrol formation will free more light tracked vehicles for field manoeuvre units. The speed of the wheeled formation may make them an effective mobile reserve and fast-response unit in certain situations. It is also worth remembering that Tracked vehicles of any kind are perceived as "tanks". In situations other than outright war the deployment of tracked vehicles in urban areas may be counter productive from a political and propaganda perspective.
There are several options as to what vehicles to equip the Escort and Patrol companies with. The most obvious is to utilise Wheeled Armoured Fighting Vehicles (W-AFV). One of the earliest uses of Armoured cars was by Samson's RNAS units in Dunkirk in World War One. German cavalry tried to counter the new threat by digging ditches across the roads, and ditches are still suggested as a counter to wheeled armoured vehicles. Many roads have drainage ditches by their sides. The RNAS' remedy to this problem is often overlooked these days -a unit would carry 12ft ramps to bridge gaps. While it is not practical to use such a system while under fire, a unit that can retreat or is not in immediate contact could use such ramps to move off the road and circle behind an ambush. When not in use the ramps would act as additional flank armour.
For carrying infantry most wheeled armoured vehicles are not very desirable. Most, such as the LAV III have too low a level of armament and defensive systems. A vehicle that may be suitable is the BTR 90, which is probably the product of lessons learnt in Afghanistan. Rhodesian and South African designers have also gained considerable experience in the fields of anti-ambush and mine countermeasures, so it's highly probable that suitable vehicles will be of South African origin, or at least built with southern African experience. Ideally a wheeled APC/IFV would share as many parts as possible with the battalion's tracked APCs. Some wheeled vehicles may be too tall to fit in C-130s, so provision must be made for weapon mounts and turrets to be retractable or detachable. I have in the past considered the idea of mounting troops on modified HMMWVs. By decreasing the size of the dismounted element in each vehicle to half a squad a greater weight of armour and armament could be carried but it is likely that the HMMWV is adequate as a basis for a combat vehicle.
A far better option is already available in the shape of the Turkish Otokar Cobra light armoured cars.
Useful features include sloped side armour, anti-tank mine resistance and good egress. Such a vehicle can mount a formidable armament of machine guns, grenade launchers, light cannon and other systems. The E&P Cobras would be still capable of being transported in a C-130 and it should also be possible to heli-lift such vehicles too, so the E&P company can double as an Air-Motorised force. Variants of the Cobra already mount air defence systems and a 81mm gun-mortar carrier should be feasible.
Third option is to use trucks mounting an armoured version of Palletised Loading System (PLS) boxes -alternately know as Infantry Carrying Containers (ICC). This idea is only practical if the cabin of the truck is also armoured and the chassis mine protected. The Rhodesians and South Africans had considerable experience converting standard commercial trucks into mine protected vehicles.
Future Military trucks must be designed along the lines of the Biesbok (above), the load carrier version of the famous Casspir vehicle.
The ICCs can be transported separately to their trucks, making them a more convenient airload. ICCs can also be heli-lifted or trucked to a location to form the basis of static defensive positions. A truck carrying an ICC can also be disguised as an undefended vehicle.
Modern versions of the Vietnam-era Guntrucks would also prove to be very effective escort vehicles.
The role of the HMMWV as a convoy escort needs consideration. The HMMWV is the preferred target of the ambusher. Larger vehicles such as trucks and Guntrucks offer better protection against both mines and RPGs, can carry a greater weight of armour and carry more eyes and guns to spot and suppress a threat. The M1117 ASV is undoubtebly a better choice as an escort vehicle, and the creation of an APC version along similar lines to the 7½ ton Humber "Pig" may be prudent.
If HMMWVs are used on roads it should be in the company of larger better armed vehicles. As things stand at the moment, we are just offering our foes easy kills. A full-size truck can carry a useful weight of sandbags, armour and armament. The truck bed and cabin are some distance off the ground, giving some protection from mines. This is not the case with an unarmoured HMMWV. It can only carry a relatively modest weight before the suspension becomes overtaxed. Naively the HMMWV was only designed to withstand anti-personnel mines. It's underside lacks the blast deflection features that were developed for light vehicles in Rhodesia and South Africa in the 1970s, or that are incorporated into vehicles such as the RG-31 and RG-32. Conversion of an unarmoured HMMWV into a protected vehicle must consider features such as the suspension and mine protection.
For the Direct fire system there are many suitable vehicles already in service with many armies, some mounting main guns of up to 105mm calibre. The ASV-90 described would be a good choice. It is possible that a vehicle sharing parts with the Cobra could be created. Weight could be reduced by using a unmanned turret with an automatic loader, and it may be more practical to support the turret's weight on an internal pedestal rather than the vehicle roof. A modernized re-creation of the Wehrmacht Puma, maybe mounting a 40mm Bofors cannon and Javelin ATGWs might also be useful.
A useful feature for the operations of the Escort and Patrol companies is the provision in some vehicles of a rear driving position or dual steering, allowing the vehicle to move with equal faculty in either direction. The rear driver could also be utilised to operate sensor systems or an independent weapons mount, such as the machine gun pods used on the Marder IFV.
Dual steering was a standard feature on German wartime armoured cars. Both the front and rear of the vehicles were well sloped and had equal levels of armour protection. For the turreted versions the "front" of the vehicle was whichever end pointed in the direction that you wanted to go. I've seen photos of armoured cars travelling together, some making the entire journey "backward"
Also useful would be a Quadristeer system or the ability to slew on the spot like a tracked vehicle or the Supacat ATVs. The French AMX-10 RC Armoured car has this latter ability which also offers it the potential to protect its wheels with armoured skirts.
Another interesting feature of all German armoured cars was that they could easily be configured to use railway tracks.
Armament considerations. Because an Escort and Patrol force may be ambushed and attacked from several directions, it is important that vehicles should be well equipped with firing ports and multiple weapon mounts for all round suppressive fire. Firing ports and laterally orientated anti-personnel dischargers will probably be fitted to most vehicles. Infantry carriers are likely to have side mounted MMGs/GPMGs, and possibly rear firing 5.56mm LMGs too. The main armament of IFVs will probably be a turret with a 30mm cannon and machinegun and possibly pylons for ATGW and FFAR. The long minimum range of ATGWs may mean that these are often replaced with Missile Launcher Rockets or additional FFARs. An alternative to this configuration is a turret mounting cannon, machine guns and a 60mm or 81mm gun-mortar. This increases the indirect fire potential of units not accompanied by Turreted mortar vehicles. The armament of the infantry carrying vehicles will be supplemented by that of the other vehicles.
The Wheeled Gun System is likely to mount a large calibre main gun. Such a weapon should obviously have "fire on the move" capability. The 76mm L23 used by the Scorpion tank and Saladin maybe suitable, or a low recoil 90mm. Armoured cars mounting 105mm weapons are already in service with some nations. The suggested 76/90mm, Israeli 60mm HVMS or South African 76mm GT4 is another possible armament option.
Likely armament for the E&P company's mortar vehicles are 81mm or 120mm gun-mortars. It's possible that the 81mm weapon would be automatic. Both canister and HEAT rounds are available for gun-mortars. Such an "Turreted Mortar" Vehicle can provide a unit with both direct and indirect fire support and may be an alternative to the armoured car if fitted with sufficient defensive systems. ICC-PLS have sufficient capacity to mount multiple mortar batteries.
The air defence vehicle will probably be equipped with a mix of SAMs and heavy machine guns or automatic cannon. The latter gives the vehicle a capability as a surface combat system as well, and a suitable level of protection should be fitted. In certain theatres the SAMs may be replaced by FFAR pods. Short ranged MBRL systems such as Hydra FFARs will probably prove highly effective in an anti-ambush role. Canister or Beehive rounds should also be provided for all ordinance of sufficient calibre.
Another weapon system suitable to convoy defence is the Recoilless Rifle. For the larger vehicles and the ICC-PLS it may be possible to swing the weapon into a position where it can be lowered down into the vehicle for reloading.
Possible configuration of a Cobra based E&P company. Several platoons of infantry, each mounted on six Cobra personnel carriers well armed with machine guns, grenade launchers and light cannon. One support platoon containing:-
Wheeled Gun Systems armed with a 90mm gun and machine guns, possibly 7.62mm mini-guns.
Cobra vehicles mounting 81mm mortar turrets.
Cobra vehicles mounting turrets with pylons for Stinger or FFAR pods. Also armed with .50 Gatlin HMG or 25mm Cannon.
A Cobra based E & P company would be well suited to fill the role of "Frog company" in Guard battalions during rearguard actions. Vehicles such as the Cobra can be helicopter lifted, allowing the company to conduct various Air-Motorised operations.
Weii Wang: One of more intersting things I noticed as I was reading Col. David H. Hackworth's "About Face" was that about 1/3 of every battalion, brigade, or division seemed to be tied up with the task of defending their own base-camp during the Vietnam War. On page 556 (Touchstone, Simon & Schuster version) it mentions that it took the 1st Air Cav one whole brigade just to secure their division home in An Khe. What a waste of combat power. While I was reading your article about Escort & Patrol Companies, it occurred to me that these E & P units could be used for base security when they aren't out protecting convoys. Kind of like the Home Defence battalions of the UK, except that these would be equipped to travel with their parent unit to wherever they're deployed around the world. That way more line units can be sent out to fight the enemy. I've been checking out your website almost daily for about a year now. Great stuff. Keep up the good work! Good advice about the boonie hat, too. I bought one for a vacation trip to Malaysia and it sure came in handy.
Ralph Zumbro: I'm gonna probably be repeating this well into the next incarnation. ARMED TRANSPORT HAS GOT TO BE TAKEN DOWN TO THE VEHICLE CREW LEVEL! What this boils down to is that using a five tonner as a basic unit, part of the load capacity of 10 tons (road) and 5 tons (offroad) has to be devoted to self protection and commo. They used to make mini-mores that would mount on hard spots like bumpers. Next you need crew kevlar and armored doors. The .50 ring should have a ASP 30mm with a 5.56 coax. There should be a radio mounted permanently on the vehicle and mine plates should be under the driver/VC compartment. The Vehicle Commander mans the .50/30mm ring. Next, you add 4 PERMAMENTLY ASSIGNED cargo handler/maintainence techs to the vehicle. You now have a heavily armed fire team that can handle cargo. Remember that the HEMMT has a built in cargo arm. Add an armed, cohesive crew, and we have something that can be used as the foundation of a heavy transport company...Might need to let a Major command it, as they will be going in the far places.
Nick Minecci: I was a 46q for my 11 years in, that is a journalist. I served most of my time in the XVIII Airborne Corps, and did about a dozen NTC/JRTC rotations, with light and heavy forces, as well as with MSBs and FSBs. In the 1st ID in Germany I was the beat reporter for the DISCOM, and spent almost all my time with the MSB units. Yes, I was PAO, but I was a field PAO, not a desk one -- I hope you all know the difference. One thing that struck me was the shock that units showed when I arrived in my Humvee and we had radios. That is a sad state that these units that convoy (the LOG units) don't ALL have a radio. That is not a money issue, that is a failure to see the small things issue. Anpther problem is the fact that many of these vehicles are riding just two people. When they get ambushed, there is no time to react. Add to that the fact the shotgun in the humvee or truck usually has their weapon in a position so that it takes a valuable two to three seconds to even get it ready for action.
LTC Larry Altersitz: ".......there is a need for a less logistics intensive force. If we converted M1s in groups/regiments/brigades to diesel, we reduce a major problem. We go with tracked support vehicles pulling tracked trailers. We use Navy LCACs and smaller ACVs to get trailer of supplies forward, away from the MSR, and return with the empties. We also need to do a map recon and plan to cross water barriers. This is where M113s are invaluable. The thought process for tracked supply vehicles/trailers should be "Quo Vadis, Bde CO?" and they should be amphibious like M113s. Are there simple ways to make vehicles less aquatically challenged in the future?
We need to have a dedicated corps level MP battalion unit to patrol, direct traffic and protect the MSR by using armed UAVs to ride herd on potential strays and be pro-active to activity that might be enemy forces of any type. Where the MSR turns, there's a traffic control point. Several platoons of infantry in Blackhawks with Cobras on "strip alert" can provide more muscle if needed.
CS/CSS units need to be better able to:
A. READ MAPS & USE GPS.
B. Protect themselves with weapons like mini-claymores on vehicles.
C. Reaction drills on breaking ambushes.
D. A 911 GPS radio system that is button activated by any one of several people in the vehicle to send a signal over several channels to the MP monitoring station. This tells the MPs to get a UAV there pronto; while the radio is on, it picks up the sounds in the area to give people an idea if it's time to send the airmobile "Cavalry" to the rescue.
Keep explaining this is a war zone and that "Defecation Occurs" as we staff wienies like to put it. Try to get people to understand that accidents will happen, also, and keep a little perspective on things. Too often, people don't see the forest for the trees."