Things that won't come back ... because they already did (Part I)

Infantry guns

Infantry guns are not going to come back because shoulder-launched grenade weapons such as the M4 Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle and anti-tank guided missile launchers are used as direct fire infantry guns, and 120 mm mortars already began replacing infantry guns in the indirect fire role as early as in 1943 due to lower costs and greater effect.

The new M4 Carl Gustaf is  finally - after almost 70 years - not terribly heavy any more.
Transport gliders

first transport glider used in combat: DFS 230

Transport gliders won't come back ... because they already did in the form of self-steering cargo glide parachutes. There was even a hang glider-like transport glider prototype approx 15-20 years ago, but the collapsible wing principle of parafoils was even better.

example: JPAS
Tethered observation balloons

Tethered observation balloons allowed for visual detection of artillery batteries and other targets, and observation (thus also correction) of artillery fires. They were common during the First World War's trench fighting and already uncommon by the early Second World War. Artillery observation planes were expected to replace them during the Interwar Years, but they were largely a failure. Instead, STOL liaison aircraft such as Fi 156 and L-2 were occasionally used, if circumstances permitted their employment.

The huge advantage of tethered systems over free-flying aerial drones is that you don't need the hardly reliable radio link. The use of a tethered observation drone at 150 m while the platform vehicle is moving does almost immunise against counterfires. You would need a fibre optic guided artillery missile to hit the vehicle on the move.



  1. I think there is still gap for replacement of heavy infantry guns like 15cm sIG-33.

    1. I think ATGMs with FAE warheads like the one for the Kornet play a role similar to heavy infantry guns.

  2. In indirect fire - no. Its pinpoint indirect fires can be done by regular artillery nowadays because of better radio communications, better navigation and reduced shell dispersion. The mere (up to) six 15 cm sIG 33 per division weren't terribly important during WW2 already.

    15 cm sIG 33 was almost perfectly irrelevant for direct fires due to its weight. 120 mm HE and HESH exceed WW2 15 cm in direct fire by AFV.

  3. Love the old stuff like the AEG helicopter, shows once again that few approaches are truly new but that (technological) progress allows for new possibilities. I disagree somewhat about the American artillery aircraft as I have read too much articles and stats from the artillery journal. Before that I had greatly underestimated their use. Part of the virtous cycle for the Allied forces was the rapid anti-flak work by artillery to defend their eye in the sky from afar. October 1946 has some overview but I have to find again the % of fire missions.

    UAV in general and their integration in specific are of high interest.

    BTW you might want to check out their article on ground radar employment*.


    *Employment of Radar by XV Corps Artillery
    By Brigadier General Edward S. Off, USA

    August 1946 Field Artillery Journal

    1. Read again. I wrote about the L-2 and other small planes. The Inter War years' artillery planes were different in ambition and style. Planes like Hawker Hector or Henschel Hs 126 were unable to cope with the fighter threat. STOL aircraft and aircraft flying with benefit of air supremacy were working in niches.

    2. Well I was indeed thinking about the adopted but de-facto artillery planes L-2 and especially the L-4 'Cub' and not about the specific interwar ones. With air supremacy and well-organized counterflak* but long flying hours and little rotations operational losses (pilot errors, artillery shells) were two times bigger then combat ones.

      For me the big take-away a couple of years ago after reading that stuff was that various, often fairly cheap UAV could work well in conjunction with artillery power if smartly integrated.

      Not a novel insight by any means but which helped me to questions the lack of many smallish and cheap UAV for Italian forces while controversial heavily armed ones were bought at high prices. Different assets, of course, but one approach obviously suited much more to a conventional war.

      * According to one FAJ article one Cub brought more firepower with it then any other and just for counterflak it was protected by a 155mm howitzer battalion...


  4. The Carl Gustav seems to be indeed the modern Western infantry gun for direct fire. It's other role is of course anti-vehicle work although that depends of course on METT-T.

    I did recently think a bit more about infanty and their weapons and came to the conclusion that due to the variety of roles and tasks and good old METT-T flexibility is truly a must. Especially when it comes to AT weapons, HE projectors, MG, sniper rifles etc.

    A light/mountain infantry platoon in some Baltic swamp forest with thin trees in winter might profit a lot from leaving the MGs,GC and heavy bolt-action rifle in the Hägglunds and instead taking a good deal of Panzerfausts.

    In open mountain terrain optics in autumn (binos, scopes, etc) to observe, detect and geolocate targets become relatively more important as well as the long-range (sniper) rifles. And so on

    Money neither transport should be, within a sensible degree be a big problem.


    P.S: I'm curious when we will have the first guided (rocket-assisted?) Gustav round.

  5. To be honest the bit about infantry and it's METT-T specific equipment sounds a bit simplistic. Obviously the proper mental framework with enough decision latitude for officers and NCO and good, diverse and intensive training are necessary to make mostly good and smart decision for the specific circumstances.

    Training abroud, for example in said Baltic swamp forest in different season, scenarios and opponents thanks to rotations and NATO exercises should help to show that different tactics and TO&E are needed. Light mountain boots are great in the Dolomites in Summer and more so in the Appenines but for snowy mountains and swampy forest you need different footwear. A delaying action in defence might we fought with two MG per squad and two or more Panzerfaust grips plus plenty munition. A dismounted deepish recon mission in wet spring one the other hand could be better executed with rubber boots and just one Pzf, no MG, few grenades, a good deal of ammunition and maybe no bodyarmour.

    Key is to train in different places differently and come up with a couple of TO&E to have something written backed up by official excercises and (local) experience to better fight for when it comes to procurement. That would actually be the take-away.