Flying infantry and analogies

1950's army sci fi. hat tip to TFB
This 1950's idea of flying infantry was obviously inefficient; bigger helicopters with a pilot and multiple passengers proved to be the way to go until they became gold-plated and unaffordable for most missions.

This was reminiscent about confusions regarding cavalry:
The self-evident replacement for the cavalry horse appeared to be the motorcycle. Fuel transportation and refuelling was much easier than providing fodder (few European cavalry horses were able to perform well on campaign AND live off the land). Maintenance and repairs required less time than horses as well and motorcycles rarely panic in face of gunfire. Back in the 19th century cavalry began to prefer combat on foot (previously only dragoons did so) and this meant that about a third of the cavalrymen were not fighting; they had to stay back with the horses or else the horses might run away or be captured. This need disappeared largely with motorcycles.

Motorcycles were obviously inefficient compared to motorcycles with sidecars, of course. A mere sidecar seemed to allow for the transportation of two or three cavalrymen (or Kradschützen) at little more cost. This was inaccurate, as you need a heavier and more expensive motorcycle for such a use.

Kradschützen column, (c) see enlarged image
Motorcycles with sidecars looked inefficient - especially in regard to convoy length - in comparison to cars. Some of those cars were evry expensive 4x4 cars, though.

Light trucks thus seemed to be more efficient for infantry transportation. Yes, they were used for this back in the First World War already, long before the first fully motorised formations appeared around 1930. There was no way how one could claim to be a cavalryman any more while riding on the back of a truck, though.

Trucks of two to three tons payload proved to be very efficient troops transports. Bigger trucks offered little more load floor and were thus cost-inefficient troop transports. They were also too large for a Gruppe/squad/section and too small for a nominal size Zug/platoon.
The French experimented with offroad-capable troops and kept calling them dragoons; light half track trucks without armour plating. Half tracks were an easy way out of the difficulties with 4x4 vehicles and the high speed steering challenges with fully tracked vehicles.

French motorised troops, likely of a partially motorised "cavalry" division, 1940
This approach was refined into bigger armoured half-tracks in Germany during the late 30's.

The eventual vehicle of choice for transportation of infantry in dangerous areas became fully tracked, 6x6 or 8x8 vehicles. Soft 4x4 trucks became the poor man's (or mobilization) choice of infantry transport vehicles.

HULC exoskeleton, few years ago
This sounds all like ancient history, as armoured personnel carriers appear so very self-evident today. But there's an analogy; our time's Sci fi isn't about individual soldiers riding on wheeled vehicles or flying with one-man-helicopters. Our Sci fi is the man with an exoskeleton. We'll see how this works out. Judging by history, walking vehicles may resemble rather war elephants than an individual man.



  1. One exoskeleton per man could be replaced by one motorized state of the art wheel barrow per group. Using wheelbarrows for military transport is an old Chinese trick. The motorized wheel barrow exists in different versions for construction sites, from single motorized wheel to halftrack.
    This is a good article on the ancient wheelbarrow topic and its effect on a transport network:


    1. Wheelbarrows are widely used in constructing and landscaping, but they miss the point: The idea of introducing mechanical legs in the military is all about negotiating those terrains which are unsuitable for wheels and tracks.