Battlefield visual ranges


These phot0s of a recent Pakistani Army firepower display (Azm-e-Nau-3 "exercise") reminded me once again of an anecdote from the late Cold War.

Officers and experts from NATO countries were discussing anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), their merits and their optimum range. The Milan system had a range of 2 km while a couple other systems had ranges of about 4 km.
Finally an Israeli guest gave a comment. He reminded everyone that they would be happy if they had more than a single kilometre visual range on a battlefield because dust, smoke from fires and smoke from WP shells would be omnipresent.

I think this anecdote deserves to be remembered in all present and future discussions about expensive weapons and munitions.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: F. Uhle-Wettler published his book "Gefechtsfeld Mitteleuropa" at about the same time and stirred up the Bundeswehr with his diagnosis that our army was way too mechanised for a Central European battlefield. The many settlements and forests required much more infantry than was available.
(Ironically, my copy of that book was once part of the German II. Corps' staff library.)


  1. Thermal sights anyone?

  2. That's no cure-all either.

  3. Of course it's not, but it helps alot. And the point about range...well if you can hit a target at 4km but your weapon system does not allow you to take the shot, it kinda sucks. Of course it has merits and MILAN was not the only ATGM in the German weaponry, but still they had TOW and HOT and didn't get rid of them. The Fallschirm anti-tank companies are a good example, equipped with TOW, whereas the infantry companies had MILAN to make use on shorter range.

    As to the mech comment, did he consider the whole Army including Territorialheer? For it was the latter task to defend in local settings, and for that they were quite a large and mainly light infantry force. But you know that Sven. ;-)

  4. I think he dismissed the idea that a mobilisation would succeed in the case of a surprise attack.

    Even the standing army could have been surprised at weekends, unlike the NVA that had unbelievable readiness standards.