Army hardware you might have missed

... or not appreciated appropriately so far (mostly infantry stuff).

45° mounted iron sights with straight buttstock rifles

This is originally civilian tech, from a shooting competition league that requires to shoot with both iron sights and other sights. The shooting has to be quick, so it's advantageous to have both on the same gun. The German approach (G36 rifle) of having both sights above each other is a poor compromise. Rifles with straight buttstock can be used with approx. 45° offset iron sights for engagements at short range and this additionally allows for a reduced silhouette (which is normally quite a problem with straight buttstock rifles, as they necessitate sights high above the barrel). The reduction of silhouette stems from the bottom-mounted magazine that would be at 45° degrees, enabling a lower barrel position when the 45° off iron sights are in use.
quick external explainer article here

multi-spectral 'smoke'

Infrared sensors ("thermal" sensors, mid and far infrared spectrum) can see through ordinary smoke such as HC smoke. White phosphorous smoke is an unsatisfactory concealment as well. Multispectral smoke has been developed as remedy, it does obscure in the infrared spectrum, albeit the duration of this concealment is still somewhat short. IR SMK munitions are till relatively new (multispectral smoke came up for real in the late 90's  AFAIK) and were not really high priority in the last two decades when Western armies were more concerned about beating up or suppressing resistance by opposition that had close to zero thermal sensors. I have no knowledge about the inventories, but I strongly suspect that we have much too few IR SMK munitions in our depots.

Another possibility is to not expend smoke munitions, but to use reusable smoke generators. The M56 vehicle and M58 vehicle are claimed to be able to provide 90 min visual obscuration and 30 min thermal + millimetre wavelength obscuration. 

HC, WP or simple evaporated diesel fuel isn't good enough as obscurant on the battlefield any more. You need dedicated consumables that have fibres (often carbon fibres/graphite) and other stuff suspended in the air to block modern sensors.

video of a naval example:

infrared illumination

Another novelty are infrared illumination (IR ILLUM) munitions. Modern low light night sights use the near-infrared spectrum (not really thermal sights), but they are merely intensifying (by a factor of a couple ten thousand times). So they depend on having at least some light source (whereas the objects themselves are the radiation source with mid and far IR "thermal" sights). Early generation low level sights thus needed some infrared flashlight (often seen on 1960's tank photos, first tank-mounted application: 1, 2), as do present-time children night vision toys. The moon and stars usually provide enough light, but they don't through dense clouds or during new moon. That's when IR ILLUM can help out and give the low light sensors the needed light. IR ILLUM munitions work like normal ILLUM munitions, but are hardly visible to the naked eye. Finally, digital camera-like low light vision doesn't have the extreme intensification of the other dedicated low light technology, but digital cameras can see even colours at night if only there's enough light. "Enough" light may still be black to the naked eye, of course. Another advantage of digital cameras as low light sensors is that they are incredibly cheap by comparison. So IR ILLUM munitions and the old school illumination lights (which don't need to be mounted on your weapon or vehicle, they could also be thrown) could team up for an affordable night vision combo.

example https://dn-defence.com/rgw-90/rgw90-illum-2/?lang=en

intra-squad radios

Radios had trickled down to platoon level by the Second World War and squad level by the Vietnam War. Then there was no further progress made until the 1990's, when mobile phones became affordable consumer goods even though police did introduce radios for everyone in the 1980's at the latest. The first generation of intra-squad radios was still quite bulky, but currently available ones are really lightweight (about 300 grams + batteries) and battery demands seem manageable. The quite reliable and secure voice communication inside the infantry, engineer or scout squad is a huge boon for stealth, situational awareness, leadership and morale. Range issues persist inside settlements and wet woodland, of course. The power output and the atmospheric attenuation of the frequencies used makes it very hard to direction find and triangulate such radios from useful distances.

backpack ESM

That being said, backpack radio electronic support measures (radio direction finding, saving and transmitting of readings) are a thing and potentially of great utility. Radio direction finding and triangulation of hostile positions is of value if the hostile emitter doesn't move and can thus be hit with indirect fires, but even more useful is to slowly and steadily build up a situational picture by logging which emitter appears to get answers by which other emitter. This way you might find not only the locations, but you can identify hierarchies and identify company, battalion,, brigade command posts. Battalion and brigade command posts will usually have their emitter about a kilometre away from their actual command post, but the triangulation is a starting point for finding said CP with other means. Later on you can hit all those detected and identified emitters and CPs with a few minutes of artillery fires and the local opposing forces will be limited to individual actions against your following push on the ground.

example www.chemring.com/(...)

backpack ECM

Artillery shells were equipped with radio proximity fuses for the first time in WW2, to enable hits on aircraft with near misses. The same kind of shell could also be used for great fragmentation effect with airbursts a few metres above ground, and this was first done in late 1944 on a battlefield. This threat was countered by the 1960's or so with dedicated jammer vehicles, so few in quantity that they might only be used to protect high value locations such as at forced river crossings. The jammers were finally shrunk to backpack size in the 1990's, and had to be adapted to jam mobile phone connections in the occupation wars 2003ff (as many such mines were fused by mobile phone). Nowadays there are (heavy) ECM backpacks capable of broadband jamming, which includes the jamming of infantry and tank radio communication in less than one kilometre radius. The might -depending on frequency- also be suitable to jam battlefield ground surveillance radars and air/ground attack radars, but this would require adaptation for the corresponding radio bands.




expendable ECM

HEXJAM is a published expendable ECM jammer, suitable to disrupt ground forces tactical radio communication in less than a kilometre radius. The benefit of a stationary expendable jammer over the backpack solution is that you don't need to be concerned about its susceptibility to direction finding and triaggulation, and this is important exactly when such expendable jammers may be practical to employ; in rather static situations. You might have such a jammer emplaced at an ambush site, for example.



This is not much of an army technology, but the technology has advanced to a point where tiny decoys can repeat radio frequency signals and thus act as a kind of reactive jammer, creating a false return signal/echo and thus false target. Ground forces can employ much simpler means, such as simple fixed reflectors (90° angle reflector, Luneburg lens) instead. The mentioned repeater decoys may thus be a niche solution for combat aircraft with their specific needs, but who knows, maybe this DRFM tech becomes relevant to ground forces as well. Maybe they could double as expendable radio relays?

IR strobe/beacon

This is super-cheap tech, popularized by the Black Hawk Down movie and available for little money on mail order. Back in the old days ground troops placed flags on the ground to keep friendly aircraft from shooting at them and to give them an orientation where the enemy might be. Nowadays we can do this with IR strobe lights, albeit it's not quite for sure how useful this is when the opposing forces may have low light or thermal sensors as well.

tiny LED flashlights

This is first and foremost civilian technology. I keep seeing big flashlights, and I consider those to be nonsense. Very cheap very small very light LED flashlights provide more brightness than old big flashlights, so we should use the tiny ones. Additionally, everyone who mounts a light on a gun is doing it wrong.

importance of magnifying sights for target ID rather than aiming

Magnifying sights  have become very widespread in the past 25 years, nowadays a normal infantry rifleman can expect either a red dot sight or a magnifying sight on his rifle or carbine. Normal infantry can easily make do with 4x magnification. 1.5x magnification as used with some German early WW2 sniper rifles and in the famous Austrian AUG rifle allows for easy use with both eyes open, but this fallen somewhat out of fashion relative to red dot sights without magnification.

Magnifying scopes of 3x to 4x power have a benefit aside from more accurate shots well past 100 metres; they have proved to be even more importantly useful for positive identification of targets. You better don't shoot at everything that moves, for it could be friendlies that move in your field of view. So you often times have to identify what you see before you may shoot, and the magnification helps greatly with this. 

The old style was to let the squad leader control the squad's firepower, and the squad leader is supposed to have 15x binoculars for identification. The Americans apparently never fully bought into this disciplined way of shooting in infantry combat, and became particularly endeared with the distributed ID capability that the magnifying scopes offer. This is also a driver behind the use of magnifying scopes on machineguns, even though the machinegunner's firepower should really be directed by the squad leader if the squad is more than a mob.

stripper clips

Stripper clips are ancient stuff, don't really deserve to be called "technology". Still, they seem to be underappreciated as a means to cut down weight.


captive piston commando mortar

This is another ancient tech, which is in my opinion underappreciated. Commando mortars with less than a km effective range have been highly appreciated by several armies (especially the British Empire/Commonwealth and French armies) for their usefulness. Their usefulness with high explosive (fragmentation) mortar bombs is debatable and highly dependent on the user's skill at the very least, but their usefulness with (IR) ILLUM and (multispectral) SMK munitions should be undisputed. They reach much farther than even 40 mm MV rounds. 

The captive piston principle came up in the 1960's and keeps the propellant gasses inside the cartridge case. This eliminates muzzle flash, keeps the weapon quite clean, limits the maximum practical pressure (range), largely keeps the barrel from heating up and minimizes the noise of the (subsonic) shot. Pistols with captive piston munitions really just make a 'click' and repeating sound. 51 mm captive piston commando mortars are as silent as 52 dB at 100 m.

The French use the Belgian FLY-K / JetShot design that's been around for half a century by now. I don't see why anyone should use an ordinary commando mortar instead of a captive piston design. Sure, ordinary munitions are more easily sourced and cheaper, but I prefer the stealth advantage especially for the illumination work. By the way; commando mortars hardly ever use auxiliary charges, so the captive piston design's inability to make use of auxiliary charges is not a factor.

Noise and effect of conventional 51 mm mortar



ultralightweight ballistic helmet shell

Helmets are a pain in the ass neck. It should be a no-brainer to keep them lightweight, but weight savings keep getting misused for performance enhancements as with all infantry equipment. The infantryman is thus perpetually overburdened. There are some very lightweight, plentiful protective helmet shells available at much less weight than standard issue helmet shells, though. This should receive more attention.


decoupled suspension for tracked vehicles

The German Puma infantry fighting vehicle gets much attention for its unmanned turrets, gold-plating, high price and the long time it took to mature. An interesting feature hardly ever gets much attention: The running gear is de-coupled very much reducing vibrations inside and thus reducing the fatigue of its crew and passengers. There's only one other promising approach to have this as far as I know, and that's the (ancient tech) rubber band tracks. Combine both in a under-30 tons vehicle (approx. limit of rubber band track suitability) and you'd have a crew and (in APC or IFV) an infantry squad that's in much better shape when the shit hits the fan.


portable inertial navigation system

Satellite navigation (GPS, Galileo, Glonass) is great and accurate, and depends on geostationary orbit (35,786 km high!) satellites emitting ridiculously weak signals (GPS: 44.8 W with 12 dBi antenna gain). Drowning these signals with jammer emissions is easy for both Russian federation and PR China.

The go-to alternative for accurate navigation without SatNav is a inertial navigation system (INS). This was first used in aircraft in the 1960's and has been miniaturized and lightened tot he point that cheap smartphones have rudimentary INS abilities. Even the more accurate, more expensive accelerometer chips are quite cheap and we could simply give all radios an INS capability and SatNav capability. The INS would continue the navigation between SatNav reception updates or other (possibly manual) location updates.

The talk about military GPS receivers being jam-hardened and so on is physics bullshit in my opinion.

M885A1 EPR

This 5.56x45 mm cartridge was highly publicized and largely laid to rest the debate about whether 5.56 mm is a too weak calibre for dismounted use. Yes, there are still some efforts for an intermediate calibre, but this cartridge solved so many issues that the case for an intermediate cartridge was moved into a 'luxury problems' category.

The lead-free steel-tipped bullet is semi armour-piercing and its loading is so hot (high pressure) with such quick combustion (suitable for short barrels as in M4 carbine) that the performance (deadliness) issue of short barrel 5.56 mm weapons can be considered solved. The quicker combustion is also supposedly reducing muzzle flash (albeit flash hiders work wonders anyway).

The downsides are the the exposed steel tip scratches the weapon and magazines and the hot loading is wearing out guns quicker (and I suppose a few guns may generally be unsafe with this chamber pressure).

.338 Norma Magnum machineguns

The other intermediate calibre debate was less public; the search for a gun between 7.62x51 mm NATO and 12.7x99 mm NATO (.50 BMG). Everything that's armoured against anything is armoured against 7.62x51 mm NATO. The cartridge isn't terribly much respected regarding chewing through walls or sandbag cover, either. I myself was and are a proponent of such an intermediate calibre for vehicle-mounted machineguns (and sniper rifles). The reason is that the 12.7 mm cartridge is overkill for most purposes, the cartridges are terribly bulky and everything that's more hardened than against 7.62NATO is hardened against all but subcalibre 12.7 mm bullets.

It appears that the known sniper rifle calibre .338, more specifically the .338 Norma Magnum, had its breakthrough with an order for USSOCOM. There are two machineguns available for this calibre:



Sadly, it appears that the order was for dismounted use machineguns. That's horribly wrong in my opinion. It's just one more case of weight savings by technology being misused for performance gain rather than to finally lighten the infantryman's burden. The armed bureaucracies seem unable to appreciate the human component, agility, endurance.

Sound-based sensors

The acoustic sniper detection had a boom in the past two decades, the unattended ground sensors using microphones have been largely ignored (and maybe not much of a success), and the infrasound detection of helicopters (even without line of sight) is outright underappreciated.


I'm a proponent of a remotely controlled weapon (.338 machinegun) station on all battlefield ground motor vehicles except motorcycles and Medevac vehicles. Such a RCWS could be an ever-present defence against drones, but this requires sensors. Staring IR sensors plus microphones (doubling for mortar triangulation and sniper detection) could form this sensor package, and fire control would use an additional visual/IR sight with laser rangefinder/Ladar. Acoustic sensors seem underappreciated to me, and this in a very critical spot.

Tracers that don't burn

This https://ammoinc.com/product-category/product-family/streak-ammunition/ is a less intrusive alternative to tracers, and might be suitable for a universal day/night round. A weak glow is all that you need at night, and we don't need tracers in daylight. I doubt that the small cross section and high speed of a 5.56x45 bullet allow for the visual tracer effect in daylight with this technology.

Tracers used to be useful for small unit leaders to communicate where to shoot at, but this seems to be less of an reason with intrasquad radios and it wasn't a universal practice ever, anyway.

This was uncharacteristically hardware-centric, but in part it's a preparation for later posts.





  1. I watched a video on the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan and they were talking and giving hints about enemy positions to team member who didn't know what was going on. That seems a rather ineffective and slow way to communicate, because it takes a long time until everyone has a clue, during which the situation can have changed.
    Are tools with which a spotter can transmit what he has spotted with target information to team members?
    It would require to determine position and direction of a camera with distance calculation and transmitting it to other devices with similar implements.
    I mention this, because I think information processing is becoming increasingly important and might trump other hardware improvements.

    1. There are electronics tools to report locations of detected opposing forces, but those reports become outdated quickly and don't seem very helpful to me in a fluid situation.

      An Israeli company developed a different system that's rather meant to treat detections as instant targeting info for strikes by heavy weapons. This avoids the problem of obsolete sightings, but it looks more relevant to Gaza incursions than to NATO defence warfare to me.

  2. 45° mounted iron sights with straight buttstock rifles

    Are only an gimmick. The idea sounds nice, but in reality this does not work very well. Better and more modern optics make such gimmicks absolut unneccessary.

    1. A large and 3+ x magnifying optic leaves little room for decent short distance sights on the top. I understand some such magnifying optics have a large field of view and some even claim two eyes open operation, but many users still want something else at short distance.
      There's also the issue that you may want to use both a night vision sight and a non-night vision sight as you switch between dark and illuminated areas.

    2. You can use an modern thermal sight in bright daylight and even then it can be advantagous. Or you use an Eclan Spectre 1x/4x with which you can change the magnifying between 4x and 1x with one little move.

    3. Variable magnification scopes are expensive, their field of view is rather small and the eye to optic distance varies by about 2 cm, which means poor ergonomics in stressful situations. You basically have to adjust not only the sight lever, but also either your neck or the telescopic buttstock.

      Thermal sights are extremely expensive, somewhat fragile and suck batteries empty real quick.

      Both are thus rare even among infantry. They're extremely rare outside of infantry, special forces and scouts and generally outside of lavishly-funded armed forces because of these drawbacks.

  3. A simple foldable enlarger combined with a red dot sight - as it is now standard - is far superior to this rear sight solution. So far that any discussion about it is forbidden. The idea that you immediately have to work at close range from the greatest magnification and not have the time to change is simply nonsense and shows a lack of practical understanding and skill. These are some kind of shooting range and training games without any real practical use.

    And good optics are imperative, simply because they are superior. Saving money or complaining that the optics are too expensive is just as simply wrong. The staggered rear sight shown are also combined with expensive high-quality optics. Also with variable optics. This is just supposed to facilitate the quick shot at close range, and that is a skill that is practically irrelevant in truth. These are shooting range gimmicks that stem from sporty combat shooting (such as IPSC).

    For example, I use an Aimpoint with a foldable magnifier with three times magnification and also have an emergency rear sight (folded away, never used in practice). In no single situation where you had to switch from further away to close range, such an obliquely offset rear sight would have been advantageous.

    How did you get the information that you would then have to change your posture on the shaft is beyond my understanding. Such optics are parallax-free and when I fold the enlarger away, I don't have to change the position of my cheek on the shaft.

    1. OK, I looked it up and the Elcan 1x/4x apparently has identical eye relief, I found only one source claiming otherwise.

      You still appear to pretend that every soldier is an infantryman or scout in a lavishly funded army, though. Most soldiers have 99.9% different tasks than handling a rifle, and their rifle is accordingly cheap, simple and all-too often poorly maintained. It's actually quite generous to speak of two sights, as most in-service assault rifles in NATO have iron sights only.

      And last but not least you ignored the silhouette argument, although I understand this is very, very commonly ignored (else we wouldn't have so many straight buttstock assault rifles).