<XMP><BODY></xmp>Future Infantry

Added 29-8-14

Future Infantry

Modern “Future Soldier” projects like to show an infantryman sporting a large number of electronic devices. One is inclined to wonder just how much of this additional weight and complication will be really useful to the individual Soldier?

An individual rifleman’s role may be defined as “search and security”, which requires his hands on his weapon and eyes on the immediate environment. He should not be concerned with piloting RPV drones or operating other complicated systems. His priorities are armament, protection and detection.

I see two possible trends in the form of the future infantry platoon.

The first is the evolution of a “Battle Management Section” in the platoon. It can be argued that the kernel of such a thing already exists with the platoon commander, FIST team and assistants. The Battle Management section would control the platoon’s drones and receive information from any other organic data sources such as ground sensors or gun and helmet cameras. It also would receive and process information from other units and higher formations. Using this information it would control the deployment of other teams in the platoon and direct fire support from other units.

The second trend will be for the infantry within the platoon to become less heterogeneous. For much of human history infantry have existed as several sub-types that worked together, for example as spearmen and archers or pike and shot. Assault elements such as the riflemen will be most likely to be engaged in close-range combat so will need a high level of protection and weapon systems that retain their mobility. The battle management section will have specialised communication and control equipment to carry and will probably opt for a lower level of personal body armour. Likewise the fire support teams of the platoon will have to carry large quantities of ammunition and other equipment related to their role and may adopt the same solution of a reduced level of personal armour.

For purposes of illustration, I will attempt a quick thumbnail sketch of some of the troop types that may make up a future infantry platoon.

Assault Teams. Assault troops will be armed with weapons such as rifles, grenade launchers and SAWs. Some of these weapons may be fitted with gunshields. LAW or RPG type systems can provide heavier organic firepower for the Assault team when needed. The Assault teams are the most heavily armoured elements of platoons. Hard body armour and helmets are worn. These helmets may be fitted with a snow-plough like bevor to protect the lower face and throat. Additional protection includes flash-hoods, gloves and goggles. Body armour and knee-pads are covered by a camouflage smock and over-trousers and these may be treated to be fire or even CBW resistant. The Assault Soldier has a lot to carry already so will only carry what he needs for his mission. Food and sleeping gear will be carried by other platoon elements.

It is quite possible that some form of Heads-Up Display (HUD) system may be used by the Assault trooper but information overload must be avoided. A good system might just superimpose visible cursors indicating known and possible friendly and enemy units and the direction of objectives and Points Of Interest (POIs). Much of this information would be transmitted to the Soldier by the Battle Management Section. Possibly a weapon-mounted muzzle position system can be used to generate a reticule indicating what his weapon is currently pointed at. Other than these cursors his display will be clean and uncluttered other than a display of the compass bearing he is looking toward and possibly his GPS location.

For certain missions the Assault Soldier may need additional information such as building floor plans or local area maps. While this could be displayed as a pop-up window on the HUD or on a wrist-mounted screen I would prefer a Head Mounted Display (HMD) of the type where the screen is mounted level with the cheekbone. The wearer can view information on his “cheek screen” by looking down but can instantly resume his view of the surrounding world by looking up. Light from the screen shining onto the face of the wearer may be a problem in revealing the wearer’s position but the solution to this may be something as simple as a face veil or flash-hood.

Night vision systems will have obvious applications for the Assault Soldier and the best solution for this application seems to be a head-mounted rather than weapon-mounted system. Weapons can be aimed by IR laser or the HUD generated reticule described above. Currently the lenses used for such systems are mounted on the front of the helmet. Possibly in future systems they may be cameras built into the sides of the helmet. To minimise helmet weight and user fatigue components such as the power supply will be carried on the body. Depending on the capabilities of the visual processing system to generate the Soldier’s augmented reality cameras mounted on the shoulders may also be used. Helmet mounted cameras may also be used to provide information to the Battle management section, other units or other members of the same team. To avoid confusion these images will be displayed by the HMD cheek screen rather than the HUD. A zoom mode on such cameras, fed to the HMD, might be used instead of traditional binoculars. A weapon-mounted camera, feeding to the cheek screen can be used to fire or observe around cover. Possibly this could be easily detached from the weapon to provide more discrete or prolonged observation. A simple system for selecting the various view modes of the cheek screen and HUD needs to be created. Voice recognition technology seems a poor choice for the chaos of close combat, especially if speaking will give the Soldier’s position away. A touchpad on the forearm and/or rocker switches on the side of the cheek screen are possible. Ideally the Soldier should be able to keep both hands on his weapon while operating these systems. Controls like a video game controller mounted on the weapon fore-end combined with an on-screen menu might work but I am open to other suggestions.

Hearing protection will protect the Soldier from sharp sounds such as explosions and gunshots while still allowing normal hearing. External microphones will contribute to “Bat-vision”, a passive sonar system that can locate certain sound sources and display their estimated location on the HUD as visual cursors.

With a reduced level of armour the Assault trooper becomes a scout or skirmisher. This level of equipment will also be used for patrolling when there is judged to be a lower likelihood of combat. It is possible that some platoons will field a mix of scout and assault teams. Platoon snipers will probably resemble scouts with the obvious exception being their armament.

Fire Support Teams will include GPMG crews, platoon mortar crews, sniper teams and the crews of the longer ranged anti-tank/ assault missile systems. Personal body armour will be of a lower level to facilitate the carrying of heavier weapons and ammunition loads. Night vision gear will be mainly weapon-mounted or longer-range handheld or tripod-mounted systems such as ranging/ observation periscopes. Feed from these systems will be networked to the Battle Management section and other platoon elements. A couple of head-mounted systems may be utilized by the team-members tasked with local security. Traditionally Fire Support teams have protected themselves by distance, camouflage and digging in. Time and terrain constraints may prevent this during modern mobile operations. If we consider the Fire Support teams to be the equivalent of the olden archers and slingers we have a hint of a possible solution: the pavise. Israeli infantry have been observed using free-standing shields during urban operations. Rectangular ballistic shields are used by many police departments. Placed on their sides and angled such shields can provide protection to a prone weapon team. Three dimensional camouflage such as netting and parasols will make the exact location of the position harder to determine so the pavis serves as a blind as well as shield. Blast suppressors for machine guns will provide additional hindrance to enemies trying to locate the firing position.(Note extended flash suppressor attachments on the weapons of the Iraelis shown below) Tripod-mounted weapons can also be fitted with angled gunshields of the form already used on vehicle-mounted weapons. Such protection will be supplemented by any additional protection the location offers.

Where ever possible systems such as handcarts will be used to move the Fire Support team’s equipment. The Viet Cong demonstrated that even very narrow jungles paths could be negotiated with a bicycle loaded with a heavy load and pushed by a porter walking beside. Such a conveyance lies flat and can be easily concealed when necessary. If wheeled transport cannot be used carrying systems such as the Korean A-frame (“Chige” or “jiggy”) should be utilized.

The Battle Management section will probably be similar to the Fire Support Teams but their load will be communication, control and data collection systems rather than ammunition and crew-served weapons. Conventional video displays may give the section’s position away, especially at night. Augmented reality, cheek screens, VR goggles and binocular-like viewers may be used instead. Battlefields are no place to wave your arms about and draw attention. The VR gestures used in movies like “Minority Report” will not be practical. Neither will touchscreens nor mice. Not everyone can use a QWERTY keyboard effectively in the dark! An on-screen menu acted upon by a trackball and buttons will meet most needs. Thumbstick and trigger controls resembling those used on video games are also suited to night-time operation. Numeric data can be input by a Cykey-type chording keypad. Entering numerical data by this system is easily learnt and entering more complex input such as alphanumerics can be learnt in about 20 minutes.

Some Infantry platoons will be mechanised so the final type of infantry platoon members we will consider are vehicle crewmen. Having the vehicle’s armour to protect them body armour will be a low priority for some vehicle crewmen. Less encumbrance will allow them to exit the vehicle more rapidly in the event of an emergency. The vehicle crewman’s primary protective clothing will be flameproof garments similar to those used by Formula One drivers. A Flame-resistant camouflaged smock and trousers will be worn over these to protect from soiling and for movement outside the vehicle. The crewman’s helmet will be designed to integrate with the vehicle’s systems and may include a HUD. The potential exists that vehicle crewmen might one-day use “virtual transparent armour” systems. Feed from vehicle sensors creates the illusion that the visored crewman is looking through the vehicle armour. Vehicle commanders have to operate heads-up so may wear hard “half-armour” to protect their exposed areas. Since the commander is less mobile this may offer a higher level of protection and coverage than that worn by the Assault teams so will also enclose his arms. Half-armour will also be used by vehicle crews who operate exposed weapons.

By the Author of the Scrapboard :

Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence

Available in Handy A5 and US Trade Formats.

Crash Combat Second Edition with additional content.
Epub edition Second Edition with additional content.

Crash Combat Third Edition
Epub edition Third Edition.
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