I got annoyed - again - by a clueless remark on
milporn toys infantry weapons.
The topic this time is thus the substitution relationship between line-of-sight and non-line-of-sight firepower, or more specifically the firepower of troops in contact (infantry or tanks, for example) and the firepower of troops either not on the ground or far away (indirect fire artillery, for example).
Example clueless question:
Couldn't we replace mortar fire with grenade launcher fire?
Most likely we would be very, very stupid if we did.
This answer is not self-evident for people who look at
milporn toys weapons themselves. After all, both weapons kill with exploding things spraying fragments, right?
Here's the somewhat abstract summary why this particular substitution would be idiotic unless the status quo ante was even more idiotic:
LOS troops* are usually the most vulnerable ones during a battle because they are most exposed to detection and identification; hostile ground forces can detect them not only through NLOS means (as aerial recce), but also through LOS means (such as simple eyes).
LOS troops are also relatively immobile; once in contact, they are at least somewhat fixed. It's a historical constant that troops committed to a fight are difficult to pull out of it; breaking contact is hard. Valuable, but hard.
LOS firepower is also typically short-ranged. Lines of sight are short, and LOS firepower is optimised accordingly. This means LOS firepower cannot shift its impact by a long distance in a short time. An artillery unit may shoot at two different targets with a spacing of 70 km within five minutes. LOS firepower would -depending on LOS troops type- be limited to about 1-8 km. NLOS firepower can thus participate in more fights per week and is thus quite efficient in its own way.
All this - and particularly the first point - lead to a preference for rather few LOS troops in contact. The areas of the battlefield which are exposed to LOS observation must not be crowded.
The British were probably the last Europeans to understand this; even as late as early 1918 they still had a 'forward strong, little depth' defence on the Western Front. They suffered accordingly, with the many infantrymen in the observable forward trenches getting hammered by artillery. Other armies had previously (at least partially) moved to a defence with a thinly manned continuous forward trench for pickets with most infantry beyond the LOS.
You better keep your exposed LOS troops rather few in number.
Well, how to gain an advantage if you don't strive to have the 'bigger battalions' up front all the time?
One answer is to add 'effects', not troops. And by 'effects' I mean first and foremost artillery firepower; NLOS firepower.
Whenever possible (especially within the constraints of unreliable radio comm) one should strive to substitute LOS firepower by adding NLOS firepower quality or quantity. Less firepower applied by LOS forces allows for less LOS forces exposed, for longer endurance (until ammunition runs low) or for lighter loads (for more agility and mobility).
To attempt to substitute a NLOS firepower asset which is acceptable at its job in favour of more LOS firepower gets this entirely backwards. It's an example of how hardware fandom (or a man with simple professional training without enough thinking) doesn't get the concept of some tool right.
There's a conceptual difference between LOS and NLOS firepower.
LOS replaced by NLOS = usually an improvement
NLOS replaced by LOS = usually nonsense
Try to get the idea and the concept of what, why, where and when of the
milporn toys weapons in question.
A layman can get this right just as
easily hardly as a professional soldier because a layman isn't burdened by indoctrination. It requires thought beyond the spec sheets, beyond the visual appearance, beyond the doctrinal teachings (which were all too often devised for the most stupid students).
Weapons of war are no fun toys or sports equipment. They serve a role in an intricate web of restraints, environment, capabilities, organisation and much else. Your odds of getting the "is it good idea or not" question about weapons right are almost exactly as poor as the flip of a coin if you don't even attempt to understand this background in detail.
This assertion of mine is spanning very much the entire world of military affairs. Think about the question whether the German submarine fleet of September 1939 was right, too weak or too strong for example. Form your opinion without trying to heed my advice and then compare with what I wrote on the topic five years ago.
*: I will call troops in line of sight (or "duel") fights "LOS troops". The others "NLOS troops". Also, "LOS firepower" and "NLOS firepower" respectively.
P.S.: I've been trying to get this point across for more than five years, and now it was about time to drop the subtlety. Subtlety doesn't work well here.