Ultralightweight infantry - a theoretical experiment

Longtime readers of this blog may remember that I argue in favour of agile infantry that break contact 2-4 minutes after being detected in order to avoid getting caught by aimed indirect fires (mortar, howitzers). (There's a link to related previous articles at the bottom.)

The background to this is that 60-95% of military personnel killed in 'high end' ("peer") warfare between well-equipped ground forces gets killed by indirect fires (artillery and mortars). Air attack, small arms, mines, AFV fires, hand grenades, anti-tank munitions and other causes of death are usually killing much less than artillery and mortars. This is very different in the quasi wars of occupation since 2002 where the opposing forces had few mortars and almost no artillery capabilities. Combat troops suffer a bit more from direct fire weapons than do non-combat troops, but indirect fires are their #1 killer in such wars as well.

Artillery even messes up main battle tanks if they get caught in the fires, so to up-armour infantry is simply no sufficient approach for their survivability against indirect fires. Some fragmentation-proofing can help a lot, but rather against weak and few fragments.

The way to survive artillery and mortar fires is to no be where they unfold their effect. Some opposing forces cannot call for such fires, some call fruitlessly, some get fire support after 10...15 minutes and the best armies can at least at times process a call for support so quickly that effects sometimes take place 2...4 minutes after the call for fires began.

Infantry should move in small groups to exploit what cover and concealment micro-terrain offers, they should stay in contact through (intra-squad) radios, and the teams should know about and support each other. Any one group of hostile infantry should be caught in a crossfire, and new teams should appear to continue the firefight while the previously engaged ones break contact and relocate to avoid getting shelled. (Another method to avoid getting shelled is to 'hug' the opposing force, getting so close that they could be caught by their own supporting fires. This is a troublesome approach because it's more difficult to break contact up close, the own teams risk entering a crossfire themselves and the hostile forces could relocate themselves in time to avoid their own support fires.)

So in the end my view of infantry in firefights outside of urban areas is that they need to break contact (if need be deploy smoke) and move a lot, often, rapidly and even while crouched.
This cannot be done with infantry that's fighting against the force of gravity of 30-40 kg of equipment per man. Their understandable tendency would be to seek cover in a firefight, deliver suppressive fires and wait for support fires to win the fight - as often done in Afghanistan.

this photo is famous for good reasons
So I decided to look if my idea of agile infantry is feasible at all with modern technology and a reasonable set of expectations regarding stealth, firepower and endurance. I ventured to see if a basic fighting load could be realised at a mass that allowed for the necessary battlefield performance with somewhat above average physically fit men. I created three profiles (rifleman/grenadier, fire team leader, light machinegunner), of which the light machinegunner kept being the most-laden one throughout the progress of the excel file. This mirrored other non-theoretical loadout lists of about the infantry's burdens (examples 1, 2).

This is the rifleman loadout:

As you can see, it ended up at 22.3 kg with a reasonable potential for further improvement to 21.6 kg (edit: figures are slightly changed due to tinkering with the list). I suppose there would be changes if one army really troops-tested such a loadout. The justified changes might add 2...3 kg. A well-respected rule of thumb is that the marching load should not exceed 30% of body weight, so 25.5 kg for a man of 85 kg.

My basic war weather fighting load list almost arrived at the maximum acceptable marching load despite ultralight ambitions and sacrifices, but a fighting load should be considerably less than the maximum acceptable marching load! Moreover, the additional mission-specific (or colder weather) equipment (demolition equipment, anti-MBT firepower, Minimore, assault ghillie etc.) would easily add another 4...8 kg.

My conclusion is thus that even the merely theoretical test of my thesis debunked the notion of agile infantry, at least the form of agile infantry that I was thinking about. Infantry won't and can't run often and quickly with an individual 21.6...33.3 kg burden.

© Commonwealth of Australia,
Department of Defence,
photo: CAPT Brendan Gilbert
There's one saving grace; the use of a non-powered load-bearing exoskeleton (example) from shoe sole to load-bearing belt could effectively reduce the burden at the hip by up to 80%, which is about 8 kg of about 10 kg (including munitions and water). This would reduce the effective burden (basic warm weather fighting load) to 13.8...17.5 kg for some activities (NOT climbing hills or stairs, or accelerating/slowing down in a run**).

- - - - -

There's a new challenge if and once one accepts an (unpowered) exoskeleton; where's the golden mean? What's the optimum basic load considering that an extension of the exoskeleton to the shoulders would take off burden from the shoulders as well? What about powered exoskeletons (once they are silent enough)? Will adding plate armour everywhere on the body become sensible again?

I don't consider infantry to be a decisive fighting force; it's more of a presence and cautioning force and the eyes (and ears) on the ground than a primary or secondary killing force. This would be different if I considered urban warfare as nearly as important as is still fashionable, but a look at Eastern Europe shows that there's no megacity and the only relevant million-plus city is Warsaw. So we don't need to pay terribly much attention to urban warfare for deterrence purposes or for any not utterly unlikely defence scenarios. Maybe the Poles should, but not the Germans, French, British, Italians or Spanish. We can indeed focus on agricultural areas, villages, wet areas and woodland.

My relatively low prioritization of infantry lethality and high prioritization of its survivability and persistence leads to the conclusion that the optimum for a basic fighting load is very close to the list and an unpowered exoskeleton from sole to hip.



P.S.: It should be illegal to advertise products as "lightweight" or "ultralight" without actually mentioning the weight (NOT the mere area weight of the fabric used) accurately!

*: I'm aware that the rifle will probably not be good for more than 60 shots before the lightweight barrel with its small thermal capacity becomes hotter than it should in a normal firefight, but 60 shots in 2-4 minutes should be plenty since the rifleman should primarily add aimed single shots to the fire team effort, thus also the scope.
**: In fact, the added weight of the exoskeleton would require even more effort for the addition of  potential energy (climbing) and overcoming inertia (acceleration/deceleration), as the exoskeleton merely helps with resisting gravity.

edit: I don't find the link to edit the table any more, but I'd like to add the correction that the boots are a total of about 100 g heavier. The weight given was based on the smallest size (325 g per boot in smallest size, hence "GTX 325")


  1. I am a newbie to military tactics,
    but shouldn't infantry ride in vehicles to combat instead of marching? If not, why not to use light electric motorcicles? They are silent, low maintenance and not very expensive if purchased in big numbers.
    That way we can have high mobility and greater load capacity
    Sorry if I have said something idiotic


    1. This is about a basic fighting loads. Infantrymen should be able to enter a 1st floor balcony without a ladder or run up four floors on the stairs, for example. They should be able to run 300 m through the woods, shoot and hit at 200 m, run 300 m, shoot and hit at 200 m.

      Current fighting loads exceed 30 kg and that means they fail at the first word, "run", already.

  2. JM beat me to it with the bicycle idea, but I was just going to suggest off road bicycles. I hadn't thought of electrics - an intriguing idea!

  3. PS: I had no idea electric off road bikes even existed.


  4. Infantry is vulnerable to fires. There is no antidote to this. Anyone fighting Russia is going to suffer a lot of casualties to their artillery. If a nation cant accept that, i.e Operation Unthinkable, negotiate a ceasefire and give them what they want.

    I cant see any revolution that has fundamentally changed the role of infantry in large scale operations. I do however notice there are far fewer tanks/apcs etc floating around now on all sides than during the cold war. If the war is going to be fought, there is going to be a higher proportion of infantry involved than would have if the balloon had gone up in 1985. So forget steel not blood.

    Armoured spearheads. Fronts held by infantry. People say there wont be front lines, thats too simple, this is new war. I say, what exactly has changed? If they dont want to hold a front, we advance.

    No front lines because artillery can deny terrain, ISR is too effective now. If I can see you I can kill you.

    Can the artillery be taken out by counter battery fire? Can it be isolated from supply? Can it be stripped from attacking forces? Can it be interdicted in the enemies depth? Can it be reached during a successful counter attack?

    Global strike hitting targets at infinite depth. All armoured formations removed from the battlespace by precision fires. Supply reaching the front lines restricted. Air forces destroyed or not deployed to the FEBA. Possible.

    Russia has a political coup and tries its hand. Europe continuing to project weakness. USA in massive financial distress with the escalating possibility of civil war. China positioning itself for the short run up to the number 1 slot. The middle east increasingly chaotic, with the players just looking for a weakness to attack and commit genocide on each other. Next 5 years? Maybe?

    Fight tonight. Fight after a haymaker of a sucker punch. What are we deploying? Not enough armoured units to decentralise for defence and still be effective.

    Im waffling. My point, either we see an armoured Napoleonic style set battle and both sides agree to crown the victor, or we race to spread newly formed infantry units in a similar manner to the 'race to the sea' in WW1.

    It feels a bit similar to how I imagine it felt in 1913, asking similar questions. Nobody had a clue how the conduct of the next war would play out. Nobody knew the correct army to field. All sides got it wrong, though all of the technologies and some of the lessons were there for people to assess.

    Keep infantry formations as generalists. Learn the lessons, stop the comical overloading. But likewise dont strip them back so far that they cant engage in a firefight if all of the heavy stuff on both sides has been destroyed or denied.

  5. IMHO, "ultralight", dispersed, foot-mobile infantry has limited value. Even lightly loaded infantry is still limited to foot-march speeds. Might be useful in some terrain, but if the enemy has any vehicles at all, they will be easily bypassed, flanked, or surrounded, and defeated in detail.

    Better to consider adding inexpensive vehicular mobility across the board. Perhaps just "go Technical" and buy lightly modified, mid-sized trucks (e.g. Hilux, Tacoma, Ford Ranger) direct from the manufacturer, in bulk. They're cheap enough to be abandoned, if needed. They're cheaper, in fact, than many munitions (e.g. Javelin) and sensors.

    A single, mid-sized truck can transport a full squad, in emergencies. Bugging out at 40mph will get the infantry away from an impending strike a lot faster than huffing it.

    Trucks can serve as primary logistics and heavy weapons carriers.

    1. I did a plausibility check on my idea.

      Now it's time for you to plausibility check yours.

    2. I don't have to. I just looked to the ongoing conflicts around the world and see truck-mounted infantry everywhere. Some are armored (VBL, Foxhound, HMMWV, MRAP, M-ATV). Many aren't (Toyota War).

      Vehicles enable greater dismounted speed because they carry the unit's sustainment load. They also can carry heavier weapons, allowing the unit to punch above it's weight.

      Obviously light armor is preferred. But that quickly increases weight and cost. However, in a "peer war", it may be mandatory.

    3. I also see a lot of taxis here, but they don't fight the Russian Army either. To regularly break contact in a soft vehicle is nonsense. Soft vehicles can be used, but they would need to be hidden or driven to safety - and could not be kept close to the infantry squad.

      And this blog blog post was explicitly NOT about marching, but fightign loads.

    4. When the enemy has vehicles, breaking contact at foot speeds is also nonsense.

      What you need in this case is a large volley of anti-vehicle munitions (and/or indirect fire) to bloody the enemy's nose, force them to deploy infantry, or call for fires to clear your position. When they pause to do that, you get in your vehicles and drive away.

      Ultralight, foot mobile infantry would use up its basic load of ammo (especially AT munitions) in short order this way, and would need resupply. Once it's out of those munitions, there's little for an aggressive enemy to fear in a direct fire engagement. They can just drive right into the ultralight unit's position without too much concern.

      Yes, soft vehicles would have to be hidden. Light armor could be used more aggressively, but is still vulnerable to fires.

      But infantry could carry multiple volley's worth of AT munitions in vehicles. This significantly extends the amount of time the unit remains dangerous.

      And if this infantry is supposed to be dispersed and frequently move on its own, where are their march loads kept? They need to be nearby if the unit is going to be in the field for more than a day. Do they abandon them at the first sign of trouble?

    5. You're thinking at the small unit level only. Warfare is bigger than that. I saw you reading and writing about land warfare for 15 years or so. You should really know better.

      A platoon could be deployed as a picket in a village or patch of woodland, with associated motor vehicles (with supplies, backpacks) and some other platoon 2-10 km away.

      Supply of food, munitions and even water could be done by bringing the stuff on demand or schedule rather than keeping the small unit's vehicles close to itself while it is in firefights.

      Furthermroe, the opposing forces lack perfect information. They would have good reasons to fear fires around every corner, and would hardly ever be fully confident and lucky in their exploitation of whatever opportunities actually exist.

    6. Well.. I admit I'm inferring a lot from the limited CONOPS described in the original post. I do applaud the desire to reduce fighting loads. It is a significant problem, regardless of whether infantry operates in close cooperation with vehicles or not.

      You say infantry needs to break contact 2-4 minutes after being detected, and vehicles could be kept 2-10km away.

      There are a couple problems with this.

      1. Infantry may not realize they are detected until the arty starts raining down. Once it starts, they're stuck. If they had vehicles, they might be able to reach the vehicles (or the vehicles move up to retrieve the infantry), and speed away while the enemy adjusts fire, but the window is tiny.

      Obviously if they initiate contact first, they can assume that's the start of the 2-4 minute window.
      But to get outside the beaten zone of an artillery strike on foot, especially under direct fire, will be difficult. They'll have to essentially fire one volley, immediately bug out and hope they don't get pinned down by direct fire.

      2. Vehicles 2-10km away are too far to be much use in breaking contact given only a 2-4 minute window.

      OTOH, vehicles 20-50m away are far more likely to be useful, especially if drivers (and perhaps gunners) are in the vehicles with engines on.

      Infantry can spend a bit more time firing off volleys of AT weapons, and a bit less time running for their lives if they only have to go a few tens of meters to get to a vehicle.

      Obviously this all changes if the terrain limits vehicular mobility.

    7. "But to get outside the beaten zone of an artillery strike on foot, especially under direct fire, will be difficult. They'll have to essentially fire one volley, immediately bug out and hope they don't get pinned down by direct fire."

      Infantry also have to worry about being monitored while they bug out (say by UAV), and have fire adjusted on them. If they get caught hoofing it out in the open, they're toast.

      Again, it's a lot harder to adjust fire on moving vehicles.

    8. 1. Surprised forces will have extreme losses regardless of equipment and doctrine. Soft vehicles don't help at all when caught in surprise arty fires. To take cover is a much better approach then.
      2. Motor vehicles in 2-10 km distance can be useful at times. Most times the infantry has to use brain and legs instead, hence it needs to have a light fighting load.

      Mortars are not capable of beating large-enough areas to catch evading UL infantry.
      MRL have too much dispersion to engage UL infantry in contact.
      SPGs would need to beat a zone like 2 sq km, which takes hundreds of shells, so dozens of SPGs would need to unite in one fire mission to catch 1...3 fire teams. That's not what they can afford to do as SOP.

      Again, you didn't do the OR.

      The idea of regularly having vehicles 20-50 m away from an infantry fireteam, with driver left behind and engines probably running is way below of what I accept as worthy of discussion. It's also off-topic.

  6. How do you plausibility check an idea like this? I don't know about you, but my neighbours here in Orkney would probably get annoyed if fast reacting Russian SP tube artillery and MRLs started dropping thermobarics and cluster munitions around them. I also wouldn't fancy my chances of running 300 metres with a rifle and ammunition here, even if fit because it would have to be straight up or down the road. Around me I have swamps, peat bogs, lochans (ponds), lochs, and loads of barbed wire due to livestock farming. There are a few rather steep hills too - or at least they feel pretty steep on the rare occasions I attempt them. In all seriousness, the point about the viability of traditional infantry in a modern conflict appears valid to me outside of some very specific terrain types. Giving relatively cheap infantry some cheap transport to decamp in also appears a very sensible idea.

    1. A plausibility check requires to think it through, use a scenario or two. Look for vulnerabilities, do some OR calculations.

      There is a potential use for things like motorcycles and small 4x4, but that's rather about scouts/LRRP than infantry.

  7. Very interesting, but seeing how much you value stealth for infantry, why no supressor on the rifle?

    1. I liked the idea of using suppressors in the infantry for a long time, but it's really a niche solution for indoors and sewer system firefights as well as snipers.

      A suppressor adds about 500 grams far forward (imbalances the gun, adds centimetres to the length, worse handling), does reduce the noise but little in direction of the shot and doesn't hide the muzzle flash better than the best flash hiders do. The gains outdoors are unsatisfactory except for snipers.

      Suppressors wouldn't be appropriate for a light machinegun anyway. That suppressor would overheat and become visible with the naked eye in nighttime quickly.

      You cannot add or remove a suppressor all the time because it changes the zero of the gun (and you would need to carry the additional weight of a flash hider).

    2. By the way: supressors add precision which is widley unknown and they make it more difficult for the enemy to spot your position. Moreover the supressor takes some of the heat, so the weapon as a whole does not overheat as much as without a supressor, which would be interesting especially for your UL AR-15 Rifles.

    3. I knew that, supposedly suppressors calm the disturbance behind the bullet somewhat and thus reduce dispersion. That's relevant for snipers only, and the rifle I chose is sub-MOA in the civilian version, so there's absolutely no reason to be concerned about dispersion.
      The suppressor does take some of the heat that would have left the rifle anyway. That doesn't help with overheating - quite the opposite.

      Look up flash hider comparisons. The one I selected has negligible muzzle flash.

    4. Why would a supressor make a rifle more accurate? From what I have read on ballistics shorter and stiffer barrels tend to be more accurate because there is less whip. Adding weight right at the end should increase the whip, no?

    5. There's more mass that needs to be excited first, so no.
      It's widely known that a good suppressor actually helps with dispersion of single shots.


  8. After reading your response to my suggestion about motorbikes is clear that they are clearly more suitable for scouts rather than fighting, but if we use only one electric motorcicle by squad with a small trailer to carry heavy weapons like AT, grenades, etc.? Or maybe simply common squad equipment.

    You wouldn't need a dedicated driver like with a 4x4 and would be stealth enough to be very close to fighting.

    What do you think about it?


    1. I see three ways how to do it
      1) Friendly mechanised forces nearby
      2) Cache established by dropping items from a truck, then hiding them
      3) Scheduled and on-demand deliveries to a drop-off point (could be anything from cargo UAV to truck)

      A motorcycle with cargo (at that point one might ask why not a man-towed trailer with 250 W engine) is still not going to be lifted across fences, into upper building levels or cross ditches. It has partially inferior mobility compared to infantry and would restrict it.

      Hence hardly anyone uses man-towed trailers or cargo bicycles in the infantry today.

  9. Last Dingo: First, let me thank you very much for your work on this list, for the links to the equipment and your thoughts so far. I wrote about this topic several times so my positions should be known but for this list i want to repeat them:

    In my opinion some of the heavier items in this list are definitly not necessary as part of the basic load. I will not further write about toothbrushes, should everyone have two of them, they weigh nothing and are therefore irrelevant. My thoughts about such not using such things were therefore more about doctrine and especially attitude.

    Instead i want to write only about items of your list and about items which weigh a significant amount of gramms:

    1 The helmet. I would not use one and would instead invest the weight in more camo-stuff. The helmet spares 850 gramms here.

    2 Water: 1800 gramms for a basic combat load are to much in central / eastern europe were nearly everythere open water and other sources for drinking liquids are available.

    3 The Pot and the esbit - only 106 and 14 gramms but complete unnecessary. Instead a fire making device (firesteel) is much more better and more versatile. Burning material is everythere available in central and eastern europe, a hobo-oven is improvised within seconds at the spot and even without such a device a fire can be startet nearly everythere. I would give a group a larger pot for the group together, but a pot for every soldier is a waste of gramms and place.

    4 The NBC mask is imo not sufficient for modern nbc-weapons. Such equipment should not be part of the basic load and because the protection is insufficient it can be spared - further 500 gramms

    5 Why a lighter if you have night-vision ? Spares 53,5 gramms

    6 The entrenching tool: as written only every second soldier should have one if at all. Spares 704 gramms.

    7 Polymer-mun spares 720 gramms here

    If you add all of this, the overalweight is down from 22 305 gramms to only 17 557 gramms. Ad some camo stuff and a supressor and you have around 18 kg which is imo the right weight and ul-infantry with 18 kg is imo extremly mobile in every terrain even over longer periods of time with sufficient training.

    So much my thoughts about the list.

    1. Doing away with the helmet does NOT save 850 grams (and it hurts morale once there are the first casualties from some odd fragments to the skull).
      I looked into this. To replace the helmet with a head mount and a boonie hat saves but about 600 grams.
      The actual mid cut helmet actually weighs less than 850 grams according to the producer, but they don't tell the mid cut size L weight. So the savings are likely only 500-550 grams. That's not worth the loss of protection for a most vital and most exposed body part.

      Firesteel is heavier than a mini lighter. To burn something wet that's difficult to ignite with a lighter would mean too much smoke anyway.

      Esbit is debatable, I would leave that up to the user. I would use it.

      Pots are necessary. Everyone gets his portion when the hot food supply arrives. That's how it works, and it's valuable for morale. It would also be a waste of time to cook serially in the small unit instead of in parallel (=alternative to getting supplied hot chow).
      To share pots is nonsense IMO. If anything, that pot is too fancy and small - a regular aluminium pot is bigger (about 1 L) and weighs but 40 grams more.

      NBC masks are relevant for much more than just BC agents. They also matter against WP. Many important chemical agents lose a lot of their lethality (=higher dosage required for effects) when they're not being breathed in. Russian interior ministry has even used somewhat lethal chemical agents in law enforcement actions.
      To have 100% exposed troops means to dare the enemy to use chemical agents - thus the minimal BC protection equipment.

      Night vision doesn't exactly help reading maps, looking into dark corners of a building or help repair stuff in the darkness. A flashlight is necessary.

      I already mentioned that the entrenching tool is cross-loaded. A rifleman gets to carry some of the cross-loaded stuff, one shouldn't ignore that.

      Polymer cartridges are so far not accepted for general service, and one has to give the hardware experts at least a little bit respect. No 5.56 polymer ammo has yet proved itself in military use. That's why I consider it a savings potential only.

      "add some camo stuff"
      Again, this was a BASIC fighting load. Whatever camo stuff you would add would not work in both urban and swamp terrain, so it should not be part of the BASIC fighting load.

    2. I have thought about esbit / cooking stuff: an idea of me: i dislike esbit because as an fuel for heat it is highly inefficient and much worser than any other kind of fuel. My thought now is to use pure 100% alcohol instead and an UL alcohol hobo-oven for that. Moreover the alcohol would be usable for several other things too, instead of that esbit is only good for burning. With alcohol you can disinfect wounds, you can mix it with water and make so water drinkable (in this way the rangers and also jäger units used it in the 18 century) and it also adds to the nutrition and in heavy combat it helps against stress and makes aiming easier (therefore it is for example forbitten in shooting contests als illegal doping) etc etc

      >>>> Whatever camo stuff you would add would not >>>>work in both urban and swamp terrain, so it >>>should not be part of the BASIC fighting load.

      Cannot agree with that, especially as additional reversable ul camo nets/hoods etc weigh near to nothing and work in a very wide range of areas. Moreover in urban terrain visual spectrum camo is not so important. Also at least an improvised camo against thermal imaging must be part of an basic load imo (thermal poncho which doubles also as weather protection)

      >>>>Again, this was a BASIC fighting load.

      What i miss in your list is some kind of weather protection and the possibility to overnight or to adapt to suddenly colder/weater weather conditions. The clothing of yours is insufficient for that. Of cause you wrote about basic load but imo this must be part of an basic load and is much more important than esbit / pot and so on. The battle against the enviroment is tremendous important and every basic load should take this into regard.

      The simplest solution would be an poncho-system which also doubles as some kind of camo against thermal imagers, as an tarp, as an hammock (not only for overnight but also for carrying wounded comrades etc)

      The main three priorities in the basic load before all other stuff should be: 1 protection against the enviroment/weather (which can change very fast even in one day!), therefore such changes should be compensated by the basic load ! 2 camo and 3 firepower.

      As a last point about your disregard of flock. Many flock together produce a big amount of dung. Let it be 500 gramms spared for the helmet: this is not much but all this little dung add to each other. It means for example 500 gramms of additional camo (which is better than an helmet), or 500 gramms more ammunition (which i always would prefere) or even two more grenades etc

      Therefore i would regard helmets not as part of the basic load but additional load.

  10. Not sure how mechanised infantry would carry an IFV over a fence or lift it up onto the top floor of a building (they could cut a hole in a fence for either though, or perhaps find a gate if not in a hurry). Whatever, you travel in or on, you need to get out of it or off it sooner or later. I am still not sure what large numbers of ultra light equipped foot infantry are actually intended to accomplish particularly as the forces they are most likely to encounter in Europe will be armoured or mechanised. You can't really get around AT weapons being big and heavy if they are going to be effective. They also don't all hit, or kill when they do, so you need plenty of them. Organic 60mm mortars were recently (predictably) found to be highly effective by the British Army in Afghanistan. Those and their ammunition aren't exactly light either. Then you have comms, counter ID ECM, breaching charges, ladders. Pretty soon you are looking at an ATF and trailer to carry these things. It's pretty inescapable.

    1. For starters, UL infantry would have basic fighting load that enables it to additionally carry heavy AT hardware such as ERYX when it needs to.

    2. Chris:

      >>I am still not sure what large numbers of ultra >>>light equipped foot infantry are actually >>>>intended to accomplish particularly as the >>>forces they are most likely to encounter in >>>Europe will be armoured or mechanised.

      Armoured/mechanised troops need an enourmous amount of supplies and therefore a supply chain and many many troops to make this supply chain work. And this troops, the enemy troops "behind" the amoured/mechanised forces would be the main target of such infantry which would fight not in an conventional way but like guerillas. Moreover such infantry could counter enemy troops which act as guerilas (jagdkommando) and can counter enemy special forces/airborne troops.

      Moreover they can protect the own supply chain and therefore they relieve the own armoured/mechanised troops from that so this troops are free to manouver and must not defend the large back areas. The supply troops can also transport along the supplies this ul infantry very easily.

      Moreover there are many areas in central/eastern europe in which armoured enemy troops would have tremendous problems against ul infantry because of the terrain. If they ignore the ul infantry in that terrain this would endanger their flanks and back rooms. If they fight against the ul infantry in this terrain, it would bind large amounts of armoured/mechanised troops and would delay them signifcantly. And there are other possibilities too, to much to list them all here.

    3. Moreover, UL infantry is simply infantry with 10-20 kg less of equipment.
      You need infantry for a gazillion of reasons.

      Its staying power with little supply is indeed one advantage, and its ability to navigate & control the swamps and woodland of the region is indeed another reason.

      Our Western high budget style land forces are akin to the 5-15% fully motorized division troops Germany had in 1939-1944, without the benefit of the 85-95% of front line-forming infantry divisions. Such a fully mechanised force with few brigades operating in a large area is fine for a glorious few days or weeks, but unable to "hold" terrain or keep an eye on much terrain. Such forces aren't even able to cordon off encircled forces properly or to handle large quantities of POWs.
      You need much more infantry (and arty, tanks - essentially more army, less navy and offensive air force components of questionable efficiency).

    4. Chris:

      >>>Organic 60mm mortars were recently >>>(predictably) found to be highly effective >>>by the British Army in Afghanistan. Those >>>and their ammunition aren't exactly light either.

      There are 60mm commando-mortars which weigh only around 4,5 kg and with new targeting systems like GRAM they are suprisingly precise with a reach up to 2000 m. The can even be carried complete loaded because they are fired in an other way as normal mortars. The weight of the ammunition could be distributed amongst the soldiers with every soldier carrying one such mun and the mortar squad carrying more instead of other equipment.

      >>>You can't really get around AT weapons >>>being big and heavy if they are going to be >>>effective. They also don't all hit, or kill >>>>when they do, so you need plenty of them.

      One example to illustrate the idea: Today an bundeswehr infantry group of 8 man has for example 1 PzF-3-IT with an weight of about 16 kg and a reach of 600 m. If you spare around 10 to 15 kg per soldier combat load and replace the PzF with the Spike SR which weighs 9,8 kg you could easily equip the 8 man group with 10 spike sr instead of 1 PzF. Of cause this would be nonsense but it should only illustrate the idea/concept. Especially because you need plenty of such weapons and they are heavy, exactly because of this everything else must become as light as possible.

      And because nearly every military wordlwide disregard the potential of infantry weapons and especially the western tm armies, there is much potential here to achieve advantages beyond the mutual cancellation of weapon systems and to save tremendous weight which overall would also be an logistical advantage.

      For example rifles are technologically possible now with liquid propellants and a division between propellant (which is grouted into a fire chamber) and the "bullets" (flechettes). this would lead to "rifles" with 100 shot magazines, and a firepower which would make any kind of body armour senseless up to 1000 m or more.

      Everythere in the infantry weapons are such things achievable. For example much lighter thermal sights, ul aiming systems (like tracking point but lighter), a data link between weapon and thermal/multipurpose googles and therefore the possibility to fire weapons indirect around corners or to scout with the weapon and all of this stuff could become much much lighter at the spot. And the costs would be only as high as one or two fregattes.

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  12. We seem to have two problems here; some people cannot focus on what "fighting load" means while others don't pay attention to the word "basic". It's quite frustrating, really.

  13. Last Dingo: One additonial idea about your pot/eating of warm meals/rations: You can simply replace the pod with an freezer bag which weighs only 5 gramms and can hold temperatures up to 115 Degree Celsius (theoretically). Every kind of warm food can be eaten simple out of this freezer bag. I remember also than i was in the armed forces we used such freezer bags to spare us the cleaning of our military dinnerware and moreover the taste was better because in the dinnerware it always had a bad taste.

    I think if one would invest more time and if one is creative to replace items with others you could spare more and more weight with the time.

    PS: actually i m working on a similar list with the target to bring the weight down to 15 kg. But its extremly difficult and will need time. But as the freezer bag solution shows, everything can be perhaps replaced by lighter and lighter solutions.

    1. I suppose it comes down to what we consider as fighting load, right? For example, should utensils be part of a fighting load or marching load? I would argue that one does not fight with cutlery, therefore, all mess kit and accoutrements should be eliminated from the fighting load.

      Several Soldier Fuel bars as well as Ensure or some other nutritionally complete meal replacement could provide all the calories needed until the infantry is rotated back to rear areas where they would get real food or reheat some rations. Coffee or some other kind of drink mix would be there for morale reasons until such time relief is possible.

      In the defense, mess kits should therefore be stashed in supply caches or kept at platoon level, preferably with motorisation. MREs and other NATO standard rations often push 1-2 kilograms and require another 200-500 grams of weight in accessories like condiments, mess kits and cutlery. Assuming your idea that troops should be resupplied every 2-3 days and ideally rotated out every 2-3 days (infantrymen cannot withstand more than 2-3 days in the field without relief, anyway) then another 1-3 kilograms could be shaved away in lieu of meal replacements.

      You could also halve the weight of hearing protection with the 3M Peltor ear plugs as opposed to earmuffs and attain similar or better noise attenuation: https://www.amazon.com/3M-TEP-100-Tactical-Digital-Earplug/dp/B00PABOJ0Q?tag=noblerate-20 .

      There are even lighter systems that are entirely passive but that lack amplification of ambient low-level noise: https://media.digikey.com/pdf/Data%20Sheets/Icon.pdf/EP4_Series.pdf . So you could easily go down to around 25-250 grams for hearing protection and there would be less weight around the helmet.

      Also I note that there is around 5kg devoted to a notional 2.5kg rocket launcher x 2 with HEDP which you use as a replacement for inaccurate rifle grenades with low effective range. But at the same time you note that in the future, infantry should not even be engaging out to 400m ranges due to the risk of being discovered and wiped out by fire support. Rocket based AT also militates against stealth due to backblast.

      Would this not point back to support of a "Super-super Energa" rifle grenade without the parasitic weight of a launching tube and PLOS electronics? I suppose if you wanted to gold plate the solution one could similarly put PLOS electronics into a rifle grenade and give it a rocket booster. With the potential for over-caliber munitions inherent to a rifle grenade's exposed warhead one might even attain charge diameters of more than 50mm. Perhaps 75mm as the Energa was or even larger.

      If we take the weight of the Super ENERGA at 765 grams and dumbly increase it to 1kg to take into account a larger rocket booster and electronics one could carry 5 of these Super-Super Energas for the weight of 2 of the evolved IAI Picket. Soldiers might not appreciate the shoulder bruising recoil but there are also solutions for that, too:
      http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2017/12/11/hungarian-amp-69-grenade-launcher-ak/. Ideally such an AT weapon, being used in ambush and in last ditch defense, should only need 2 units. So 2-3 kilograms could be taken off there too.

      So I think that if one were to change the CONOPS of such light infantry slightly - engaging from ambush only within 100m, displacing nearly all anti-vehicle capability up to platoon or even company level one could attain savings of another 2-3 kilograms. Hugging the enemy in this way also makes fire support less effective, even against PGMs. Whilst a 300m optimisation might lead to greater casualties.

      In urban or woodland settings where the need for firepower is greatest, lines of sight also happen to be the shortest, therefore eliminating the need for the infantryman to concentrate beyond a depth of 300m. Telescopic sights might be able to be discarded in lieu of simple reflex optics at 200 grams or less. Targets further out should be left to the loitering munitions, mortars and other artillery to preserve stealth.

    2. Rifle grenades need to be long for decent HEAT, for short grenades (shorter than 7:1 length to diameter) need to be spin-stabilised (spin is detrimental to HEAT penetration).
      You also need some pouch or protection for that rifle grenade, while my notional 2.5 kg munition has a tube for that.
      Moreover, rifle grenades create issues with rifles, especially with lightweight rifles.

      I suppose one needs 400 m firepower against BMP targets because they could too easily dismount their troops real close (and thus safely) if you had only 100 m firepower against them. There are also too many scenarios in which BMPs could secure 300+ m fields of fire against movement if one couldn't touch them from 200-400 m distance.

      A 400 m HEDP munition could deal with a sufficiently shielded machinegun position that pins a fire team down from a window - a rifle grenade is useful to about 100 m only.

      I gave the rifleman a magnifying optic because of target ID qualities and because the machinegunner would be for burst fires, the team leader for leading and communication. This leaves the rifleman type with the aimed single shots task.

    3. I will admit, the big problem with rifle grenades is how hard they are on rifles. Ultralight rifles like yours might not last very long against that kind of jarring, especially with pencil weight barrels.

      Regarding the short L:D ratio of the AT rifle grenade, the Super Energa itself is only 425mm long and 75mm wide at its widest point, which yields an L:D of 5.66. It seems to have flown straight enough for widespread adoption, in any case.

      Drag stabilisation with a standoff probe or nose fuse is also quite possible even in the absence of the Magnus effect from spin stabilisation
      https://www.apogeerockets.com/education/downloads/Newsletter325.pdf . This is how a simple straight finned tail of the Super Energa was able to fly true even without a long L:D. Rocket assistance also helps partially counteract lateral drift, although at 765 grams, the Energa is plenty heavy enough to not drift dramatically even were the tail assembly absent.

      I suppose it would have to come down to a PLOS rocket or other recoilless projector if one wishes to engage beyond 300 meters. If, as you say, mechanised forces were to engage such an ultralight infantry force and if their infantry screen were to approach in front of supporting light armour.

      So the question becomes: would such infantry call in fire support in the face of a mechanised push? Or try to fight it alone, outgunned and outnumbered? (Attackers will almost inevitably try to field more forces locally). Pre-registered fires and loitering munitions would hopefully attrit enough enemy vehicles and force infantry to seek cover.

      I think UL infantry like this would be fools to try to hold open fields, hills and deserts in such a way. They would be inevitably bypassed, outflanked and surrounded and then destroyed in detail. UL infantry would thus be deployed in woods and jungles and in built up areas to shorten lines of sight and restrict the freedom of movement a motorised force possesses. And if a commander deploys such UL infantry in open country despite these known deficiencies? I would argue that it would be less of a soldier load problem than it is a command problem, in that case.

      In built up areas and dense forest or jungle it would be rare indeed to have lines of sight extending much beyond 40 meters, let alone 400. But as you say, the accuracy and range of such a munition could prove invaluable against a pinning machine gun. I guess the issue is whether such infantry should be deployed in areas with sight lines longer than 400 meters in the first place.

      Given these factors, I think that scope exists for soldiers to carry only 1 of such a PLOS HEDP munition and thereby save 2.5kg. The loss of stealth once fired, the need for rapid displacement within 2-4 minutes to avoid enemy fire support, and limited window of utility before enemy vehicles lay down suppressive fire militates against the carriage of more than 1.

    4. The old Super ENERGA was meant for AT work at very short ranges, just as other HEAT rifle grenades. They can hit a tank (that's after all a large target) at about 100 m, but the angular dispersion is not acceptable for anything longer ranged and you cannot rely on a FS rifle grenade to enter a normal-sized building window at 100 m either.

      There's infantry-friendly terraina dn tank-friendly terrain. NE Polandand the Baltics have lots of infantry-friendly terrain which provides concealment for observing the tank-friendly terrains in between. There's a huge role for infantry in such a terrain. It's going to make the difference between mechanised forces blindly stumbling into ambushes and competently outmanoeuvring hostile mechanised forces.

      Regarding the 2 instead of 1 PLOAS munition; keep in mind I didn't even write whether the fireteam should consist of 2 riflemen, 1 leader and 1 machinegunner or 1 rifleman, 1 leader and 1 machinegunner. A single PLOS munition for a fireteam is an absolute minimum for anti-BMP defence, but no dubstitute for the widespread 40 mm UBGLs in any way and you got to pacify the 40 mm-loving faction.

      I suppose the TO&E should call for the former, and on the battlefield it would de facto be the latter because much of the personnel would not be available for many reasons (KIA, MIA, POW, sick, AWOL, deserted, straggler, psychological dud in combat, detached to plug a gap elsewhere, messenger service).

  14. And here my 15 kg list. Why 15 kg? Because imo the overall load should not exceed 25 kg even with heavy support and infantry at weapons. If one assume a Spike SR as the AT round with around 10 kg and the fringe beeing 25 kg, this leads to 15 k Basic Load. Moreover the lighter, the better. So i tried to include as much functions as possible with as few weight as possible.


    1 BE-X Softshell Jacket in Pencott Greenzone 280
    1 BE-X Softshell Trouser without Knee Pads in Pencott Greenzone 300
    1 BE-X Reflective (Thermal) Poncho in Pencott Greenzone (doubles as NBC Protection, Hammock, Wounded Comrades Evacuation, Thermal Camo, Tarp, Overnight/Cold/Rainy Weatherprotection etc) 450
    1 Pair Gtx Stiefel – Inov-8 Roclite 286 600
    1 Pair UL Handgloves 130
    1 Pair Silk Socks 40
    1 Quechua Underpant 50

    Ear Protection, Communication and Sensor

    1 Thermal Sight inkl. Batteries for the Rifle 440
    1 Night Vision Googles for the Head (also Eye Protection
    and also usable at day) 480
    1 Radio with Cable/Headset/Ear Plug instead of Peltor (Dual Use as Ear Protection) 400
    Batteries for the Radio 185
    1 Pair Ear Plugs 4

    Weapon and Consumbables

    1 Textron Carbine 6,5mm with Polymerammunition 3900
    5 Magazine 600
    150 Rounds 1080
    5 Extra Batteries 100
    1000 ml Energy-Drink (Coffeine/Pseudo-Ephedrine) in Drinking Bags (like Freezer Bags) 1010
    4 Riflehandgrenades 2000
    1 Smoke Grenade 380

    Load Carrying

    1 Battle Belt, Suspender, Pouches 1200
    1 Carry-System at the Head for the Night Vision Googles 350

    Other Items

    1 Relags First Aid Kit 98
    1 Waterproof Paper (38 cm x 42 cm) and 1 Pencil-Stub 6
    1 Glow Stick 20
    2 Freezer Bags 10
    1 Plastic-Spoon 5
    1 Compass 25
    Paracord 200
    1 Wire Saw 18
    1 UL-Knife 15
    1 Sawyer Water Bladder 38
    1 UL NBC Maske / Hood 500
    1 Map 40
    1 Space Blanket 60
    waterproof Matches 12

    Weight Overall 14976

    So i included Compass, NBC Mask, a Multi-Purpose Poncho, even a spoon and so on and the weight is under 15 kg.

  15. You may wonder but i agree with you in your view about the systems. But: you had not understand my concept here. The riflehandgrenades would not be for anti-tank, not at all. They would be for smoke and for anti personal only. Because of that i have given also only such a light weight for them. A real AT riflegrenade is heavier.

    And i regard as you the spike sr as an at round which main target would light armoured vehicles, and especially IFV (as the BMP). The question then is only: should an Anti BMP abbility be part of the basic load ?! I doubt heavily that your 400 m only HEDP muniton is sufficient here against the newest versions of the BMP and not to speak about a Kurganets or other such new vehicles with much better armour. The range and the firepower are not sufficient. 400 m range is not far enough to attack an IFV with machine guns, you should attack out of reach of that machine guns. Moreover the enemy infantry would go out of the vehicle in about 600 m and then the BMP would follow his infantry supporting them with the machine cannon, the 100mm cannon and especially the machine guns which could supress your position. You need therefore much more range (which the spike sr offers) and more firepower against the better armour of the newer versions. The spike sr offers both.

    True Anti-MBT Firepower could and should no be part of an Infantry Group and even not of an infantry company. But it should be concentrated in dedicated AT Companies as part of the bataillon.

    As i regard the 400 m HEDP munition as not sufficent and would not use the rifle grenades against bmp (with seldom exceptions in special circumstances) my BASIC Load is that of an rifleman! with the target to fight enemy infantry with his rifle and with the rifle grenades.

    Therefore i logically invested for example 2000 extra gramms into the rifle (3900 gramms in comparison to your only 1900 gramm rifle) which would give you an much more durable, stable, heat resistant rifle with much more powerful cartridges and the possibility to fire for longer periods of time (if necessary or in other kinds of firefights as your one and only peer war infantry combat against bmps).

    And the "bmps" are then the target of the spike sr and other such weapons.

    About your cross-loaded items: i would not use them at all at the infantry group level as part of an basic load. Therefore no one would carry them and the would of cause therefore not be available.

    As a main example i would not give anyone in the group an entrenching tool and spare the weight of this. Of cause then no one would carry it and it would not be available. Because it is in most cases not necessary.

    This is the case with many items todays infantry is senseless carrying around: the are not necessary in 90% of the cases and could be improvised or replaced with some creativity in the other 10%.

    >>> So in the end, I simply have higher expectations for >>>>a true basic fighting load.

    My expectations are high too. I want a load that is 7 kg lighter than yours but with a rifle which weighs 2 kg more than yours and more firepower against enemy infantry. Therefore i sacrificed you highly doubtful 400 m HEDP ammunition and other stuff which is not necessary in most cases. And invested everything in the core task: to be first a rifleman. Fighting bmp is then the task of the additional at weapons and fighting mbt is not an task at all.

    1. Infantry has poor morale and is fragile against tanks if it cannot defend itself. That has to be tolerated regarding MBTs, but not regarding all the lightly armoured vehicles they are facing. 50 mm HEDP with proper fusing is good enough to penetrate the normal BMPs and BTRs that are actually in service en masse. It would fail against the military trade show prototypes that are overladen with applique armour and ERA, but that's of no concern.

      My 'ambition' was a basic fighting load, but also some endurance, integration into practical life (hot food deliveries) and some preparations just in case the infantryman becomes a straggler who needs to carefully rejoin friendly forces.

      I also consider the infantry's firepower to not be 80% in the machinegun as in WW2; it should be 80% in the radio.
      The small arms are primarily to keep the enemy at a distance (as opposed to the stupid "close with and destroy" mantra) or to fight indoors because any non-dismounted forces can only destroy, not clear, buildings.
      I think the 400 m 50 mm HEDP munition is central to the ability to keep the enemy at a distance. Without it just about any cover works for him at 150 m distance and BMPs can dismount assault infantry at 150 m safely.

      Now maybe different munitions should be carried in urban settings and inside woods and the PLOS 'bazooka' is not a true basic piece of equipment (it's but a munition anyway, and would be treated as such). I just don't care all that much about urban settings, regardless of fashion. There's but one million people city in all of the relevant parts of Eastern Europe and I would not want it to be assaulted.

    2. I actually think that the Textron CTSAS is the wrong way to go. As the program progresses it is increasingly obvious that the US Army is looking to push its muzzle energy up and up. At the moment it is basically 6.5x55mm in power coming out of a 7kg machine gun, with ambitions to push peak chamber pressure and muzzle energy even higher. I think in the end that weight savings, if any, will be marginal. In fact the ammunition might be even heavier than brass cased, steel linked 5.56mm in the end.

      I think that if one really wants to push armour penetration, flat trajectories and short times of flight to the ultimate then full bore projectiles are dead. Armour protection is too evolved, and the demands for "point target" ranges exceeding 800m are more so demands for a weapon geared towards an Afghanistan style war against irregulars fielding PKMs and Dragunovs than a purported peer conflict where artillery dominates even harder in the lethality department. If Artillery produced 90% of casualties in the past, the next conflict might well have artillery producing 95 or even 99%.

      I think if armour or barrier penetration is a problem - and we are talking troops in urban warfare with double-stacked Level 3A plates here - then explosives and not a new cartridge is a solution. If a DMR is desired to engage point targets wearing heavy armour out to more than 600 meters, a flechette rifle like the Steyr ACR or AAI ACR would deliver the needed barrier/armour penetration and range desired without the heavy weight. APFSDS rifles with flechettes possessing a L:D ratio of more than 20, with 2 grams of projectile weight and a fully debugged ammunition production line would have a lighter basic weapon and ammunition and superior armour penetration capability. The ACR flechette rifle programs failed because the ammunition quality control was poor. A fully debugged ammunition production line is needed, but until such time that NATO forces decide that full-bore ammunition is dead I would not expect movement in this space.

      Modern ceramic armour works by deforming the bullet tip and spreading out the deformation energy into ceramic cracking, with backing layers absorbing the rest of the impact energy. Extremely long penetrators like flechettes would have enough residual length to fully bypass ceramic armour, while conventional full-bore projectiles would never be able to fly straight if they were so long - barrel twist rates would not be short enough.

      In urban warfare, weapons like the GM-94, the DSTO Metal Storm 3 shot GL, rifle grenades and thermobaric rocket launchers would play a far greater role than a new heavy rifle or LMG. Such weapons would also have a secondary role in mouse-holing and busting of strongpoints, while the CTSAS would play only a marginal role.

    3. LastDingo:

      >>>My 'ambition' was a basic fighting load, >>>but also some endurance, integration into >>>practical life (hot food deliveries) and >>>some preparations just in case the >>>infantryman becomes a straggler who needs >>>to carefully rejoin friendly forces.

      And i agree with this and included everything for it and even some items more (Poncho). Hot Foods one can eat out of a Freezer Bag with a Plastic Spoon (together 10 gramms), i also included your compass and so on. I think we are not different in our view but i am convinced that the items you choose for the named purposes are still to heavy and you invest not enought weight into the weapons. For example in my list the weapons are heavier (500 gramm riflehandgrenades in comparison to your much lighter handgrenades or a 3900 gramms rifle instead of your 1900 gramm rifle).

      The right question of yours remain how to defeat light to medium armour and how to keep the enemy at distance. And at this point the 400 m are imo not sufficient. It is of no advantage to increase the range from 150 to 400 m with your munition because 400 m is still to near.

      To keep the enemy (BMP) at distance one needs more space. Especially one needs to stay out of the machine guns of an "BMP" which can easily reach out 400 m and even more. Therefore in my concept the task of keeping the "BMP" away is for the additonal supporting weapons, especially for weapons like the spike sr with high reach and sufficient power for even uparmoured "BMPs".

      This spares the 5 kg for your ammunition and this offers much more firepower against soft targets with riflehandgrenades which are especially usefull in the terrain in which infantry fights (woods, urban etc with short sighting ranges).

      You have 5 kg munition and the around 400 gramms smoke grenade. I one assumes a around 400 gramms rifle grenade (like the acutal ones which are used by the french army), one could take per soldier not fewer than at least 13 rifle grenades instead. Some of them could also be smoke.

      Instead of 2 shots with the launcher and 1 smoke (hand thrown) grenade you would have 13 shots - 10 more ! That is the main point here and is necessary for the endurance which i also regard as a main priority like you.

      The same with the rifle: a only 1900 gramms ul rifle is not durable enough do deliver the necessary endurance (and i m not talking about mg like fire here, far beyond that). You need some endurance and duriability in the rifle, and therefore more weight. This leads to more weight and therefore you must spare this weight in other equipment.

      Instead of an flimsy rifle which can shoot only around 60 rounds and 2 additional 50mm rockets, i as a soldier would always choose a rifle which can fire hundreds of shots and 13 riflehandgrenades, because this would give me much more firepower.

  16. MonMalthias:

    I agree completly that flechettes and blast/area weapons are the future and i even had written here in this blog about future "rifles" with liquid propellants, a division between propellant and "bullet" with a fire-chamber design and flechettes as ammunition for this weapon.

    But: this will need time and is not available at the spot. The 6,5mm CTA which is available now offers more power than an 7,62mm NATO and weighs 35 % less. The trajectory is must flatter. And it beats even sk4, not to speak about the sk3a you mentioned.

    Moreover such troops with double stacked plates are heavily overburdend and not so stealthy in comoparison. And the plates are not everythere at the body so one can easily shoot the soldier in a place in which no plates protect him. For this one need a rifle with high precision on larger distances and a according shooting training. For this reason imo light machine guns are not the future but more precise rifles and a concept in which one kills the enemy with rapid highly precise fire in ambush scenarios.

    >>>In urban warfare, weapons like the GM-94, the DSTO >>>Metal Storm 3 shot GL, rifle grenades and >>>thermobaric rocket launchers would play a far >>>greater role than a new heavy rifle or LMG.

    I agree with that, but to fire rifle grenades (which are highly superior especially in this scenario you need a more stable, more durable rifle. This is also advantagous in many other situations and as i regard UL Infantry fighting in an Guerilla-Style this makes even more sense because such UL Infantry units would be (often) without contact and supply for some time and would also fight "behind" the lines of the advancing enemy etc

    An robust durable rifle and rifle grenades as the basic load and more and light rocket launchers as additional weapons against the "bmp" are therefore here imo the solution.