2009/03/16

Combined arms theory application in infantry combat

.
Combined Arms warfare is a tricky subject - it's not just about "you need all the tools because you can get it".
The military is also not simply like an orchestra that sounds best when complete.
The different arms have different strengths and weakness, but that's still not the essence of combined arms in my opinion.

The essence is the creation of a dilemma; no matter what the enemy does, we can keep up the pressure and keep him in a disadvantageous situation.
A failure to do so offers him a gap which can be exploited ruthlessly, as is usually done with tactical or technical innovations - till the gap is being closed.
The introduction of the first tanks in the First World War was such an event - weapons capable to penetrate thin armor plating were too scarce. This was exploited with the moving and bulletproof cover of tanks.

The strengths and weaknesses aspect is also important, but in my opinion much less interesting and challenging.


Back to the dilemma topic:

Imagine a fight infantry vs. infantry on an open field with some cover like walls and depressions.

The firepower of all kinds of infantry weapons is quite unbearable and forces both to exploit cover.

Slow or stationary and very small, difficult to spot targets get shot by a rifleman with a magnifying scope. He's in the dilemma whether to expose himself or to accept the loss of the beneficiary effects of his firepower (by staying behind cover).

Moving targets who dash from one cover to another are at most risk from a machine gun (bursts of fire).

Targets behind walls are hit quite easily by weapons that can penetrate (most) walls - sniper rifles, medium machine guns, 40mm grenade weapons, anti-tank weapons. These targets realize their vulnerability and attempt to run to a better cover - exposing themselves to the machine guns (a dilemma).

The only enemies that we cannot hit easily are those in depressions. 40mm grenade weapons are difficult to aim at such cover and hand grenades have a very short range.

The plug for the gap?

A concept to complete the infantry's arsenal in order to close this gap was the OICW, also known as XM29. It was a 20mm grenade weapon with electronic time fuze for a 20mm frag shell.
The U.S.Army spend the development funds and hyped the gun (it also had a 5.56mm carbine and a thermal sight integrated) up for several years.
Finally, it seemed as if the 20mm shell was considered inadequate, not "lethal" enough. They moved to a 25mm weapon without integral carbine, the XM25.
Years passed and there's still no such weapon in service (neither is the OCSW, a similar 25mm longer-range support weapon).

The lethality requirement was actually quite pointless in my opinion. Killing seems to be superior to wounding in military efficiency analysis, but a weapon isn't being used in isolation from other weapons. Even an infantry squad can employ combined arms effects by using several different weapons.
Insufficient lethality is actually quite irrelevant if the threat is sufficient to drive the enemy from his cover, thus exposing himself to other weapons/munitions.

Meanwhile, the South Koreans seem to have perfected their XM29 equivalent XK11, a simpler weapon (bolt action instead of automatic for the 20mm gun and apparently no thermal sight). Its introduction into the South Korean army was announced last year.



Sven Ortmann
.

P.S.: The importance of grenade weapons even at the infantry squad level is one of the reasons why I'm interested in the idea of a light flexible body armor instead of a partial hard body armor.

Furthermore, this text is just a snapshot - maneuver plays a major role down to platoon-level combat, its omission was a matter of focus on another point.

1 comment:

  1. K11 has the thermal sight as you can see in the video.

    it has everything that XM29 has got except semi-automatic 20mm HE module.

    ReplyDelete

Use a nickname and stick to it! I may block anonymous comments. Offensive comments may also be blocked, in part due to the duties of a blogger in Germany.