Affordable dismounted combat equipment enhancement


This blog post will lay out how the cost drivers of infantry equipment can be reduced to such a degree that poorly-funded armies and reservist infantry, support field troops & air force security personnel of well-funded armed forces can be equipped properly for a dismounted fight.

Cost drivers

The #1 cost driver of infantry is the personnel itself, through direct costs, overhead costs and opportunity costs. This cannot be helped much, but you may delete excess personnel from the table of organisation and 'outsource' wartime tasks into reserves. A reservist costs but a tiny fraction of an active duty soldier in personnel expenses.

The historical cost drivers included the firearm (about 45% of a worker's monthly salary for a rifle in 1930's Germany) and clothes (especially the boots), but these aren't really the cost issues nowadays. A good firearm (quality assault rifles can cost about 1,100 € per copy in bulk purchase) and good, functional clothes (hundreds of Euros per soldier) may cost less than 2,000 € per infantryman, an average month's income of an employee in Germany. So the ratio between clothes + gun to monthly average income remained about the same, but these items are merely the basics nowadays.

Estimates about the price of equipment for a U.S. Army infantryman today are well above 15,000 €. 

This infographic is about 15 years old, see also video at 27:51 here.

A proper frag protection helmet and frag protection vest should each cost much less than 500 € combined in army-level bulk purchases. Higher level protection costs more, but is very uncommon in poor army infantry, reserve infantry and among non-combat troops in general (and thus outside the scope of this text).

I don't have detailed data, but by my estimate the new big cost drivers are in no particular order

(a) night vision

(b) radio

(c) firearm sights

Sights can add a lot depending on how ambitious you are, a normal intra-squad radio adds hundreds to thousands of Euros and night vision can cost thousands of €.

Affordable equipment needs to last and have a long shelf life as well. This is necessary because reserves might take items from storage after decades of no use (just with regular counting for inventory bookkeeping). Air force security personnel are wannabe infantrymen and treat their equipment about as harshly as infantry does. Army field support units focus on their main tasks and are at risk to neglect basic infantry-ish soldiering skills and attention to equipment.

So we need long-lasting, long shelf life* affordable equipment for dismounted combat on a modern battlefield.** The price should be divided by the years this equipment lasts, with a bit of discounting of distant future years, as the equipment would stagnate in quality (save for software updates), while competing equipment improves.*** This means a shorter-lasting yet cheaper equipment can be the equivalent to a more expensive equipment in terms of utility for money AND average relative performance.

(A) night vision

The cheapest night vision for short duration is illumination by pyrotechnics, but those burn typically for 30...120 seconds and are thus not a satisfactory solution. Night vision devices have provided superior answers since the 1940's and became standard during the 1990's in decent-funded armies. The cheapest night vision devices are digital cameras, not very much unlike smartphone cameras in nature. They don't come close to the more old fashioned image intensifier tubes in their ability to multiply light, though. Digital cameras would need extra light sources in overcast or new moon nights. Still, the technology CAN be extremely cheap (by comparison to other night vision), and shelf life well in excess of 10 years seems very feasible.

My proposal is a combination of digital night vision goggles, cheap IR aiming lasers, fluorescent bullet bases (tracer-like effect), COTS**** batteries and IR Illumination drones. (Only squad and platoon leaders would get some (cheap) thermal sight.)

Helmet-mounted digital night vision binoculars should be available to a bulk buyer at about 100 € per copy. It should be mentioned that digital night vision is consuming much more electrical power than analogue tech, so the supply and recharging of batteries is quite a burden by comparison.

The cheap IR lasers are visible only with night vision devices. You could have a simple laser trigger on a fore grip with both battery and laser installed in that very same fore grip. Such cheap IR lasers would be very effective aiming aids with helmet-mounted night vision devices at the relevant combat distances for the intended users. Price about 30 €

Fluorescent bullet bases should be more than bright enough with digital night vision goggles. The commercially available fluorescent tracer bullets are indeed too bright; the tracer effect should only be visible to night vision tech from behind. They would allow troops to see what others are shooting at, not just what others are aiming at (which can be shown with the aiming lasers). Every bit less confusion and cluelessness is welcome in nighttime firefight stress. (Cartridges are munitions, not weapons or personal equipment. I won't add the price of this.)

COTS batteries; AA AAA or CR2032 batteries won't become obsolescent anytime soon, and the ability to switch off the lights of red dot sights means that no tritium-illuminated sight is giving you away to night vision users at night. The price of such commercial batteries is negligible.

IR Illum drones; I wrote about IR Illum pyrotechnics weeks ago, and I also mentioned the duration  issue. It's likely MUCH smarter to have an artificial 'moon' (silent, unpredictably-manoeuvering drone at 100+ m altitude below cloud cover with a wide angle LED IR light) with 10...30 minutes on-station time. Someone 2+ km away would have to launch one such drone every 10...30 minutes, recharge the recovered ones and adapt the autopilot programming to changing needs. This should be less effort and cheaper after a night or two than using IR Illum a lot.

The soldiers could additionally deploy their own thrown LED beacons (set to flashing or illumination); a COTS battery coupled with a LED light and almost nothing else (example here). Their costs would be tiny (less than 5 € per copy including the battery) in a huge bulk purchase. Such LED beacons can also be used for communication, such as marking mine-free lanes, communicating to air power, marking cleared rooms and so on.

(B) radio

Intra-squad radios are a great tool, but they can also be quite costly. You can gold-plate them A LOT, up to complete inertial navigation system with occasional GPS/Galileo use, alerting for incoming indirect fires or aerial threats, NBC alert, voice-to-text and text-to-voice for minimizing data transmission needs, encryption/decryption. Alternatively, you could go for really cheap stuff that works under favourable conditions out to 400 m and costs 30 € per pair in toy stores. 

I suppose it's possible to find a middle ground; a bulk order for 100,000 pieces without (AA) batteries should be doable at prices that even the worst-funded NATO armies can afford. 128 bit encryption/decryption seems doable at that price. I say € 10 M including development effort; 100 € per copy for the launch customer for 100k items bulk purchase. This is still multiple times the price of Linux-capable maker computer boards with CPU, graphics and stuff. A self-made software-defined radio with encryption/decryption capability ends up at less than 50 € material cost in retail prices, by the way!

You can't have such prices if you don't encourage non-arms industries offers in your tender, of course. Harris, Thales and the likes would never offer such a price. Their rifleman radios cost thousands of Euros per copy.

(C) firearm sights

I've been arguing in favour of rather short infantry combat distances (at the very most 400 m dismounted vs. dismounted for assault rifles, but only up to 200 m is really relevant) for a while because you did something wrong if you can be seen from more than 100 m distance and you shouldn't give your position away with needless shooting before you were detected. Leave all the 300+ m targets to snipers, AFVs, indirect fires or collect intelligence by observing them rather than forcing them to become more stealthy! Shorter combat ranges also allow for more lightweight weapons, munitions and sights.

The natural conclusion for affordable sights is thus a red dot sight with an integral on/off switch and CR2032 battery power (COTS). Sights for longer ranges aren't needed. The price per red dot sight could be as low as € 50. Quality sights cost a lot more, but this is about making it affordable for troops who would usually not have quality sights anyway. Red dot sights (and their batteries) could be trusted down to -20° C. This would usually suffice, and a very simple (100 m fixed range) folding 'iron' sight could be installed as backup. Even a cheap red dot sight is a huge improvement over iron sights in the stress of battle (not so much on a firing range).

Maybe I'm delusional here, but I estimate the normally just assault rifle + clothes + helmet equipped support soldier of some Eastern European NATO army or Western European army reserves could be turned into a much more effective and thus much more confident (and this is the real value here!) night combat-capable rifleman at the staggering price tag of  about 300 € plus 300 € per infantry squad and platoon (COTS thermal imagers for small unit leaders to enhance detection) and another 20,000 € at unit or battalion level (for the illumination drones set). (This leaves frag protection vests out as they are already widespread in use.)

Let's assume a hypothetical support battalion of  300 personnel with 10 platoons and 30 squads. This sums up to about 122,000 € modernization cost for the whole formation. The illumination drone team of two might need a cheap 4x2 vehicle, let's assume 15,000 € for that as well. The expense per head stands at about 450 €. This is affordable. It would shock our procurement agencies with its lack of mil spec robustness, but the alternative is to have no night vision other than an NCO's flare gun and flashlights, usually only iron sights only, and no intra-squad radios at all.

This applies just as much to infantry of poor non-NATO countries and of course also to stored sets for reservists and 'rear' area troops in well-funded armed services.

Now keep in mind this was the petty look at hardware that falls well short of most mil spec requirements in order to afford to have certain kinds of hardware in certain units at all. The REAL challenge is on the people side: Leadership would need to work the people side to make such things possible, to prevent the contracts from ballooning the costs, to cut out the grift. And then whoever controls the budgeting (legislators often don't look at such small tickets in detail) has to provide the funds not just once, but also in time for replacement orders.

In the end, solving problems in armed bureaucracies is about leadership doing the right thing. Enough people at the low levels of the hierarchy have good ideas, but lack the power to realise them.


 *: This is not the same. "shelf life" is very much  about how long included batteries or electronics last, both can and do degrade even without use. "Long-lasting" also includes robustness in harsh use.

**: This excludes the stupid small wars.

***: I ignore the public debt interest rate as factor here to simplify.

****: Commercial off-the shelf. Stuff that you can buy as a civilian private person or ordinary company. MOTS/military off-the shelf is military stuff that you can buy from suppliers' existing product ranges, without changes to meet your requirements.



  1. Speaking of the cost of individual military equipment:
    What are your thoughts on the Swiss practice of giving away the armys guns to soldiers after they completed their service for only a fraction of the cost?

    The official reasoning is, that after years of use the guns are so worn out, that they no longer perform up to the armys accuracy standards.


    Is this a good idea from a military standpoint or just a waste of taxpayer money?

    1. I very much doubt that rifles get worn out that quickly. Most soldiers shoot only a few hundred shots per year, such rifles are fine for thousands.

      I can tell you that I disliked the utterly unnecessary destruction of G3 rifles in Germany, many of them still in factory packaging.

    2. So this practice is kept only for tradition and political reasons, with no military benefit?

    3. Ask the Swiss. I don't even understand why they started the practice and don't know when they began with it. Rifles have become a rather smallish factor for national defence by 1916.
      We could have replaced rifles with pistols with buttstocks then and WW2 would have looked very similar.

    4. That depends imo on the kind of conflict. In insurgency, civil war, mass organised crime etc the small arms has a complete different importance, also in controlling the population after an military victory, in controlling people and territory etc

      You think imo to conventional and to much about peer warfare.

  2. I think, that first one have to answer the question, if high costs for infantry equipment are a problem at all? In comparison to other weapon systems, for example war-ships, infantry is still quite cheap in their equipment costs. For the price of the new fregattes of the bundeswehr for example all german infantry could be equipped state of the art and still you would have much moeny left for other projects. Instead of around 6 Billion Euros (and i am convinced the complete costs will be much higher in the end) for 4 ships you could use this 6 Billion Euros for equipping your infantry and the reserves. Lets assume you invest 20.000 Euro per Infantryman, which would be extremly high (perhaps the highest cost per man worldwide) this would mean you can equip 300.000 infantrymen state of the art with the finest equipment available. The complete bundeswehr does not have so many soldiers today, reserves included.

    So i think it is more a question of the schwerpunkt, and to spare money in the infantry is a wrong way, there are several other much more efficient areas in which you could easily spare much more money.

    1. I think Sven would argue here, that the rediculous spending on the German Navy would be much better used elswhere anyways or simply better not spend at all ;)

      And yes I think your are right here. In a sensible defense like Sven is constantly explaining in this blog this money would in general be much better spent on an actual deterrence like that actually capable quick reaction heavy brigade(s)1 as a more sensible use of our money.

    2. Pay attention to the part "much more confident". The entire text was NOT about the German infantry. It was about improving poorer countries' infnatry and improving non-combat forces in general. To improve the morale of non-combat troops in the theatre of war is of great ustility. The combat troops cannot continue to fight after their support troops panicked and ran.

      About the navy; I'd be fine with seeing it disbanded entirely, but the Luftwaffe should take the naval strike role seriously.

    3. To improve the morale of the said troops - an intangible - through material and equipment is imo not the most cost efficient way. You can improve the moral also in many other ways and then you have the same effect on the fighting power with even less money spend on equipment.

      As you have written above you could also disband assault rifles at all, it would not matter much, despite factors like weapon pull and weapon push. For the combat infantry of poorer countries it would be better imo to improve them through complete different doctrine, different structure and different fighting style.

      The main cost factor today in the overall costs is the body armour, especially the sk4 vests, helmets etc. Disband all body armour, and even poor countries could equip their infantry in all other areas state of the art. Poorer countries should abdandon their MBT, their air-force or many other parts of their armies, and could then also invest the sparings into the newest infantry equipment and leave the body armour away would still spare money overall.

    4. NIJ level 4 / SK4 body armour is cheap compared to the electronics. Look at the news, the price of obsolescent radios. New mil spec radios are nightmarishly expensive as well. Mil spec night vision is extremely expensive - especially the sensor fusion, thermal vision or four ocular things.

    5. VPAM9 is today for every soldier so you must regard the costs for it as every one have such protection or no one, a mixture makes no sense here. Every plate costs around 500 Euro and you need at least two such plates plus an carrier system, which will come overall around 1500 Euro.

      But not every infantry needs sensor fusion/thermal sights and especially not every soldier nees new mil spec radio. If you use onl one such radio per x soldiers (for example two per squad) and do not use the newest sensor fusion/thermal sights at all, the costs are much smaller. I should mention that i am very critical of all this IdZ programms and infantry that works in a network and all this infantry soldier of the future bullshit (and i am infantry). This of cause costs tremendous amounts of money but it does not deliver enough advantages for that and is even harmful for the kampfkraft in many circumstances.

      Also the costs for cheaper thermal sights go down and down and the question here is what is sufficient. The cinese army actually equipps its infantry with 2000 Euro per soldier and they are as capable as we are. If you fight in a different way, mainly in daytime (which has become advantagous in many situations) and use not all electronics which are possible but only what is needed realy, the electronics are not the main post.

      From the whole Idz Package for example only the thermal sights make sense in my opinion. The rest is only superfluous.

    6. I'm not talking about stupid occupation wars here. For all I'm concerned the West can fail immediately and embarrassingly in every single stupid small war our politicians try to play in.

      Bulletproofing of infantry is far from commonsense or orthodoxy when it comes to conventional warfare. Conventional warfare outside of cities is much more about blast and fragmentation effects than about bullets that portable armour would stop. And bulletproofing of dismounts always offers very limited coverage anyway. It's very likely simply not worth the weight in conventional warfare.

      It doesn't matter when you intend to fight. The opposing forces make their choices as well. Poor country infantrymen and rich country support troops will have terrible morale at night if they cannot see out to 100 m at least.


    7. Support troops most often use vehicles and this vehicles can have thermal sensors and weapons. What support troops without vehices fight as infantry? This is an extrem seldom scenario and even then they do not need high end thermal vision, and standard night vision gear is relativly cheap.

      For the "poor countries" infantry i mentioned that this poor countries armies to often have combat aircraft, main battle tanks and other such systems which does not bring anything for them, but costs and this costs they could easily invest in state of the art infantry equipment which with an kind of jagdkampf doctrine would serve their security better than the few expensive and most times despite this obsolete combat aircraft.

      Take for example in the EU bulgaria and rumania. Both have air forces of questionable worth. Take the money for this air forces and the mbt of both countries and all infantry of this two countries could be equipped state of the art.

      But for support troops i do not see the need for thermal vision for dismounted support troops as they extremly seldom act dismounted only. This nightfighting problem could be much better and much more cost efficient solved in arming the vehicles of the support troops which is imo necessary in every case because of small ucavs etc.

      And i agree with you that the body armour / sk4 hype is an failure and wrong developement. Nothing has hindered me more in combat than the VPAM9 vest and helmet and i cursed them every time my complete unit was not able to move and to fight because of exhaustion.

    8. I'm sorry, but you seem to be unaware of all the needs for support units to pull their own 360° 24/7 security on a battlefield and also a fair distance behind it. Most of their vehicles are soft vehicles, fighting with the machineguns mounted on those for more than a few seconds would be suicidal, and the vehicles would be hidden in bivouac, with negligible field of fire. Such vehicles don't have serious sensors for battle, either.

      What matters is that such support units don't run away at hints of threat, and this requires a certain ability to pull their own security and to defeat (or scare away) combat troops stragglers and scout forces (as well as for point security forces: defeat of unit-sized paratroops threats).

      I didn't propose thermal vision for support units per se; I proposed cheap digital night vision with persistent weak remote illumination and a few (1 per platoon) handheld thermal monoculars.

      I've argued against balanced miniature armed forces for years, but it's a fact that NATO armed forces will waste funds on prestige platforms and other things. I'm pointing out that much could be achieved in the non-sexy areas if the bureaucracy manages its expectations and allows shades of grey between high end equipment and de facto 1980's equipment levels.

    9. As not all vehicles are soft vehicles or must be soft vehicles we are talking at least about some vehicles with the possibility to mount much heavier firepower than machine guns. And even on soft vehicles you can easily install remote weapon stations with superior sensors and superior weapons in comparison to what scout/raiding elements could bring to the fight. Also not every vehicle need such an weaponery, only some.

      Lets assume an elite scout/raiding unit hits an support unit with the described infantry equippment and the result is an infantry fight at night - this would inevitable lead to the result that the scout/raiders would win. Because despite the same equipment on both sides they would be highly superior in moral, in tactics, in training etc so equipping support troops as infantry is not as useful as equipping them against (!) infantry. Its a little bit like scissor rock and paper. Rock against rock is not the way to win here.

      It is therefore completly insufficient to equip support troops the way you described it here, until this support troops are also trainend as infantry and as they have the strategic culture, the social culture and an own understanding to be infantry first and support troops only in an secondary role. This model is for example the main doctrine of the USMC (every Marine a rifleman). But this does not only need an different equipment. It does also need an different culture and an different doctrine, because otherwise the support troops would still loose, run away to early or are still terrified by attack.

      To the opposite: give the support troops some RWS with machine cannons (30mm, even 35mm is thinkable here) and superior sensors and they would be able to give them selve 360/24/27 security much more easily.

      Take for example the attack in mali on an german recce unit. It was not an lack of infantry equipment that made this attack possible. It was an lack of true kinetic stopping power which could have been delivered by an machine cannon.

      For your 1980s equipment level statement i want to mention as my last point, that actually the bundeswehr now orders radio with an 1980 standard from thales. And funnily the price will be higher than for much newer equippment.

      As long as such insane bullshit happens i think an intelligent solution will not be possible in this area.

      Despite everything i wrote here i am fully with you to enable support troops to act as infantry as i highly regard the USMC doctrine which is very similiar. But this is as i said not so much about equipment, it is also about culture, doctrine and self-understanding.

      Night Vision gear and better radios will not enable support troops to withstand elite enemy infantry. I have tested exactly this personally in many exercises and i can tell you from my personal experience that better infantry equipment for the support troops is insufficient. We have beaten them despite this suprisingly easily.

    10. Now compare the costs of your opinion regarding well-armed protected vehicles for non-combat troops (such as the Romanian army's) with the costs of my proposal.
      Apples and oranges

      You're assuming some things about the threats that are not self-evident at all. Combat or scout troops in unit or small unit strength don't immediately know what they're facing when they encounter support troops who fight back. They might very well turn around and seek a path of less resistance.

      Now regarding the concept of infantry training for everyone; I've written about this before and the Marines follow the concept at least in their talk.
      Infantry-trained support troops would still require at least the described level of night vision ability for security and self-defence at night.

    11. Simpler and sufficient night vision gear is not that expensive but you have stated that earlier too. It would not be any problem even for poor countries to equip support troops with such night vision gear.

      To give support troops the will and the skills to fight back is a different thing. Of cause i would turn in a different direction as you have written if i would hit serious opposition, and this even if i could identify the enemy as only support troops - but that is most times not the case practically. This troops does not only need the equipment, as mentioned by me the would also need the morale, the skills and the determination - and all this is still lacking even if they will have night vision gear.

      For the question which concept would be cheaper we would have to calculate the full costs. I am not so sure that a solution with weapons on vehicles will be automatically more expensive, moreover as you will need such weapons anyway. 500 remote controlled weapon stations costs around 40 to 50 million euro. Of cause this is much more than giving the support troops for 500 vehicles night vision gear, radios and better infantry weapons. But it would deliver also much more. The firepower would equal an tremendously greater amount of dismounted support troops. So comparing the firepower of such weapon stations with dismounted support troops with infantry weapons is apple and oranges, as you have written. But instead of investing 40 Million euros in infantry equippment it would serve the support troops better to invest it in vehicle firepower. Lets assume you need 2000 Euro per dismounted support troop, you could of cause euqip as many as 20.000 man. This sounds tremendously good and many, but: They would not act all in the same area. If you have one such weapon station per 4 vehicles you would have protection for 2000 vehicles. Securing them with dismounts only you would have only 10 men per vehicle.

      10 dismounted support troops with infantry weapons are far inferior to an light machine cannone, grenade launcher etc, especially in an anti-infantry role.

      So for sure you are right and it is apple and oranges, but the oranges are better.

    12. 500 RCWS cost A LOT more than 50M €.
      35M $ for 67 RCWS.

      A single bulletproofed 4x4 without RCWS costs more than my proposal for a whole battalion-sized force.

      You're still thinking too much of situations like AFG occupation. Troops of all kinds would need to hide 80+% of the time to avoid sudden death by artillery, and they would do so in closed terrain with fields of view shorter than 50 m. Vehicle-mounted weapons are not a sufficient armament for security and aren't even a substitute to dismounted strength. Mounted weapons on the move, dismounted weapons for bivouac security (and clearing buildings for use).

    13. The price of an rcws depends on the type of this device, it could be much cheaper. Also support troops will inevitable have vehicles anyway, so the costs for the vehicles cannot count here. And i am not talking about expeditionary warfare but peer warfare.

      I wonder realy: in what scenario are support troops 80% of their time in terrain with only 50 m field of view under attack of an raiding / elite infantry / special forces unit and can withstand such an attack because they have simple night vision gear, radio and firearm sights? As i have written i have tested this in reality in several exercises for myself and in no way such troops could withstand an attack from high end infantry.

      What support troops should this be? What kind of support are we talking here? Support troops have vehicles, and cannot move with this vehicles through such terrain 80% of the time. They would not move at all and therefore could not deliver the necessary support. Also they would not be mobile enough and mobility is their only protection.

      If they are in close terrain with only 50 m field of view, uavs or the scout troop or my infantry unit would order fire support against them the moment they would start the fight. You have written yourself that they would not survive artillery. Exactly that would happen in your scenario: my infantry unit hits support troops which fight back because of their infantry weapons. I order artillery. The end of the support troops.

      Instead of this the support troops must be always on the move and they need weapons which can defeat small enemy detachments as fast as possible, can supress them at the spot and enable the support troops to flee. Vehicle Weapons.

    14. Long story short; I suppose you don't understand what I think of when I say 'pull 360° 24/7 security'. For bivouacs, that's having pickets with good (100+ m mostly) fields of view around a bivouac that provides concealment.

      Someone else should have told you that you have tested nothing. The military exercise areas in Germany are utterly unrealistic nonsense. I can spot them on satellite photos because they are so much unlike all other terrains.
      Support troops need to hide almost all the time (and this requires closed terrain) because they would be obliterated by artillery if they didn't. The TB had no arty, all AFG experiences (beyond some psychological things) are B.S..
      They still need to be able to deal with stragglers up to platoon strength, for those will be a very common thing in mobile warfare.

      And again, support troops' security pickets opening fire on line of sight contacts does not allow the reds to understand what they are facing, or call fires on suitable targets.

      Support troops cannot be always on the move. It's too exhausting, it takes too much fuel, in relevant areas there's simply not enough opportunities to move much and moving vehicles can be seen by radar planes from 300+ km unless there's jamming from within a couple km of their position.

      A few vehicles need to move much, and those are mostly the powerful electromagnetic emitters. Jammers, relais, radars. And even those would need to move&radiate, use cover, move&radiate, use cover, rinse repeat.

    15. To clearify my position here: i am not against night vision for dismounted support troops, to the opposite, i am only convinced that you overestimate what night vision, radio and weapon sights could deliver in the question of fighting power. The named systems would not give dismounted support troops enough fighting power against any serious thread.

      Now of cause i have to say that you have explicitly written here about stragglers etc, and for that this would of cause be sufficient. So if it is only your target to fight such weak opponents of cause this is much more cost-efficient. But it would fail against more serious opponents and especially for 360/24/7 an RCWS is much more better than dismounted troops. You can change the soldiers who use it, so always fresh troops man this weapon system and wiht overlapping areas you can much better (qualitiy of the firepower) garanty 360 degree protection. Dismounted troops cannot be compared to that.

      Moreover the same rcws can be used as close air defence (there are systems right here and now available which over exact this) especially agaianst small ucavs, and you can use them also if you are attacked on the move.

      You make this all to narrow imo - regarding only the hiding and bivouc time, but the same weapons can also be used when moving. And as support troops have to support the combat elemenst they cannot stay so long completly hidden as you suggest here, their fight would not be so stationary, but i guess this picture of yours is because of your fixation on defence.

      As a last point i can share your critics off german exercises. But this does not change the fact, that support troops lacks the skills and the tactical expertise, so giving them night vision and better optics would not be sufficient. You would also have to train them in infantry combat, as i have written. The equipment without all the other necessary factors does not improve the fighting power sufficient if you regard anything more than a few stragglers.

    16. Oh, I'm a fan of RCWS, particularly in .338 and with the bells and whistles to counter drones. But such RCWS would cost a million per copy under the current procurement paradigm, we would need to get that down to five figures with mass production in the five figure range.

      Still, RCWS are apples to oranges; they are answers to completely different issues IMO.

      BTW, 80% of the time hiding stationary means almost 5 hours per day movement. That's worth 250...400 km movement. That would be hyper-mobile, but they would still hide 80% of the time.

    17. I can agree with you as i understand your point now better. Despite this 5 hours moving are in a real war never 250 to 400 km movement. Military formations are much slower than 50 km/h (and that would be the smallest number you mentioned). Support troops moving 50 km/h would be indeed hyper-mobile. In real war even combat troops are never that fast. As you have to cover more kilometers per day, you have to move therefore more hours per day (not all in one movement of cause) and because of that i doubt the 80% hiding time. Troops hiding 80% of the time would be not mobile enough for the combat troops. But the idea to hide most time and then moving as fast as thinkable is intriguing. Combat with 50 km/h upwards is extremly difficult and extremly difficult to conter.

      I agree that RCWS are apples to oranges and will not further speak about that point, but i am convinced that the support troops will need RCWS anyway and in every case. Also it i did not mean RCWS instead of such infantry equipment, both together are the solution here as the costs for the infantry equipment would realy small.

      I want to add one additional thought: equipping infantry this way is imo even more useful for expeditionary warfare / neocolonial adventures abroads in the third world than in peer warfare. So your concept would work in an enviroment like afghanistan even better than in your russia in the baltics scenario. From my practical experience for example with mongolian troops in afghanistan i can agree with you, that this is exactly what such troops need - for expeditionary warfare in assymetric wars and coin.

      Therefore this idea is for sure valid and precious. As the modern war is not peer warfare against russia, but it will be perhaps an armed uprising in europe / deutschland, civil war, mass terrorism and insurgency in the bundesrepublik etc, to which the bundeswehr is ill fitted. Equipping support troops in the way you described it would be extremly good in such a modern war to create the necessary mass / quantitiy and for the exact reasons you mentiond: meeting engagment and ambushes with smaller and weaker enemy elements.

      Therefore your approach would fit both peer warfare and assymetric warfare in third world countries and a modern war in our own country.

    18. 40 km/h was a convoy march speed of the 1950's. The Americans used 80 km/h convoys in Iraq. It's largely about the road quality (and fear of RPGs, which are near-useless against fast vehicles).

      Why your switch from support to combat troops' speed? The context was % of day the support troops are in hiding.

      I've seen 'civil unrest' scenarios discussed in military literature of the Cold War period, and they are still just as nonsensical (and some of the historical ones were despicable 'violence against lefties' fantasies).
      Anybody with fantasies about being able to kill fellow citizens without repercussions shall watch zombie TV shows for entertainment, but that kind of shit has no place in policy.

      The Bundeswehr and other nation state armed forces of Europe have no role that includes suppressing the own population.

    19. Although you can drive 80 km/h convoy in assymetric warfare / guerilla warfare you cannot drive with such speed over longer distances in peer warfare. The convoys you mention were against an extremly inferior enemy and even the "conventional" part of this war was assymetric to the extreme. For short periods of time you could of cause drive faster in specific circumstances, but not for hours and therefore the distances of 250 km upwards per day are not realistic. And even in the extrem assymetric irak scenario never in the conventional part such high distances were covered, neither by combat troops or by support troops.

      About civil unrest / guerilla warfare and mass terrorism: this will be the case not against the "own" population, but against enemy organisations which can wage such an modern war withhin the society. So it is not about fighting against fellow citizens but fighting against foreign (!) terrorists or homegrown terrorists which cannot be handled by the police forces. Lets for example assume that an rightwing extremist terror group would spread mass terrorism above what the raf did, this could easily overwhelm the police forces and the bundeswehr would then have to act in the interior. And exacly for such scenarios such cheap and efficient infantry equipment for support troops would be highly advantagous.

      Overall i am still convinced that this kind of equipment you mentioned is even more useful in assymetric / guerilla warfare than in peer warfare, despite it would also be advantagous there too, i can agree with you here completly.

    20. 250+ km/day is not realistic?
      I could write more about what administrative march capability should be expected and achieved, but remember this was originally about whether support troops would be hiding 80+% of the time. Yes, they should because they could because they would not move all that much and moving would in most cases disrupt their primary task anyway.

      There's more police personnel than military personnel in Germany. They can handle petty errorists. Fantasies of large uprisings, large scale fights with errorists at home and the like are reflecting at their authors in very ominous ways.
      Article 87(a), period.

    21. By the way:

      87a III,IV

      (3)...In addition, the armed forces can be entrusted with the protection of civilian objects in the event of defense and in the event of tension, also to support police measures; the armed forces cooperate with the responsible authorities.

      (4) In order to avert an impending danger to the existence or the free democratic basic order of the Federation or a Land, the Federal Government may, if the requirements of Article 91 (2) are met and the police forces and the Federal Border Guard are insufficient, armed forces to support the police and of the Federal Border Police in the protection of civil objects and in the fight against organized and militarily armed insurgents.

      And 250 km in 5 hours are not realistic in real warfare. Forget about manvouvers from the cold war era moreover as you have for yourself said how unrealistic german manvouvers are and that you can even spot them from satellite images. But lets stay with the 80% time hiding. I am not disputing that this would happen in many cases, thats an misunderstanding. The true original question was, what kind of weapons are the best to defend such support troops, regardless if they are hiding or if they are moving. You can use RCWS in both cases and in both cases they would be superior to the named simple night vision, basic infantry gear. You cannot realy use the sad infantry gear if you are moving and come under attack. And even in dense terrain with sights of only 50 m an RCWS is better for the defence than an dismounted support soldier with an assault rifle and night vision (as night vision is also in the RCWS). Also they could defend the support troops against small ucav etc, they are simply superior.

      And now within the topic of your post the question remains which is the more cost efficient solution. Of cause you can buy much more infantry equipment for the same amount of money, but the combat worth is not the same so one have to answer the question, if rcws which offer much more in the area of force protection against many threads and in many different scenarios are here not more cost efficient regarding their fighting power. Of cause for the same money you would have fewer systems, but as they offer more per system, overall it is not proven to me that the infantry equipment solution would be more cost efficient in any case.

      First: the support troops will have vehicles anyway, so the costs for the vehicle are not the point here. Second: there are quite cheap RCWS for under 100.000 euro per unit. You can buy a lot of them for the amount of money to equip all support troops like infantry. Third: if you equip them like infantry you must also train them in basic infantry tactics etc, which also have to be regarded in the costs.

      Overall i am still convinced that cheaper rcws would be more cost efficient for support troops, wether they are hiding or not, it would not make a difference. And the topic was affordable combat equipment enhancement.

      For poor countries infantry, levies etc i am fully with you as i have mentioned that what you have written was exaclty what i have seen for myself with our mongolian and afghan allies in real combat. For sure this is the much needed solution for poor countries infantry and our poorer allies, i am only disputing this for the question of the support troops.

    22. 1) Show me those cheap RCWS. Expensive arms deals may be tainted by corruption, but factor five would be extraordinary even for Saudis.
      2) You keep thinking like a very small unit leader or grunt.
      Example: France fell in 1940 because the Meuse crossings (especially at Sedan) allowed the encirclement of the bulk of Allied land forces. The Meuse crossing succeeded in considerable part because the French artillery panicked over rumours of German tanks attacking. It wasn't the physical ability or their combat performance against tanks that mattered. What mattered was that they panicked instead of thinking of their 75 mm and 105 mm guns as tank slayers (none of those tanks were shell-proof). It was about morale, not about their peacetime combat performance against tanks (they were reservists mostly). They should have had a mindset that they were a match for those tanks, and something would have needed to convey that message.

      Maybe this helps you to understand my point about bolstering morale and why I pushed it into the foreground in the blog text.

      3) RCWS without vehicle hardening is pointless for ground combat, and very few support troops have protected vehicles anyway.

      4) Most infantry training is extremely cheap. Live fire arty training and tank manoeuvre training are ultra-expensive.

      5) 250+ km/day wartime manoeuvre by formation is unheard of in military history, but 250 km driving in a day for a unit happens. Rule of thumb is 2 km driving for 1 km formation advance.
      Keep in mind the 250 km per day figure was taken from Middeldorff, a WW2 OKH lessons learned staff officer who knew what could be expected with 40's/50's tech.
      I see no reason to expect that administrative movement without river crossings would fail to achieve 250 km/day. It's possible with one driver without drugs, and we've seen two drivers per vehicle being used to boost mobility during early WW2 already.
      Fore more, see
      page 3-8

      6) I wrote I can spot training grounds by their unrealistic layout. The army hardly does any real road march training any more. It's mostly simulations now. The last really big exercise with really big road marches was in the late 80's afaik.

    23. A famous mass-produced RCWS with a mere machinegun:
      More than 300k $ per CROWS, and this before a decade of inflation since.

      Judging by industrial robot prices and thermal camera prices we should be able to get five-digit RCWS. It's not going to happen with the current arms industry and procurement bureaucrats.


    24. 2) I do not understand your argumentation here, as i have explicitly written about morale as a deciding factor too. Also i wonder about the example because the french support troops here would not have been able to defend themselves dismounted with infantry weapons, but as you have written yourself with their artillery weapons. So what worth (despite moral and psychological reasons) would have been an dismounted support troop with infantry weapons in this scenario? To have infantry weapons for morale reasons would not negate an panzerschock and the support troops would panick and flee in this scenario regardless if they have infantry weapons or not.

      3) I agree, but as RCWS are more expensive and you would have only some (few) you could easily mount them on protected vehicles and most support troops had at least some protected vehicles or even many of them. Even if we are not talking about artillery here which is in most cases completly heavily armoured most support troops have more or less armoured vehicles today.

      4) I can fully agree with that and training support troops in infantry skills is always clever as the infantry would bleed out very fast and needs replacements.

      5) 250 km per day and 250 km in 5 hours are different things and originally i wrote here about 250 km in 5 hours. 50 km/h road march does not seem much but in a real conventional war this is very risky, too risky in my opinion. Todays troops are slower. There is also the factor that the leadership and the todays to big staffs slow down all troops and also the support troops. It would be of cause desirable that all troops will become much more faster than todays usual speeds.

      Last but not least my thanks your your link.

  3. Would it be possible that some of the low budget improvements are carried out by the troops themselves in case of being deployed to combat?
    And if so, what behaviour could be observed in current deployments?
    I think due to bureaucratic inertia a lot of people will be send while missing out on cost effective recent improvements.

    1. The use of civilian outdoor clothing and even civilian mobile phones is and has been common in NATO armed forces since the 1990's at the latest.
      Military equipment has fallen behind civilian equipment during the 1980's in many areas. Rebel forces all over the world are even more extreme in this regard.

      Smartphones could be used for direct communication rather than through cell towers, but the security issue is a nightmare.

  4. One point about camo: the more colours, the more elaborate the camo pattern, the more expensive the camo uniform. Simpler camo uniforms could also spare money which could then be invested into other systems.

    1. That's not how printing works. There's a minor price step even between unicolour and patterned.

      There's additional treatment to reduce visibility to night vision, which certainly comes at some price. There was even talk (in IdZ program, for example) to integrate biological-chemical barrier functions into normal clothes (jackets, trousers) with a carbon layer and such.

      So far the ordinary uniform clothes are still very cheap by comparison (see the other recent blog post). The most expensive clothes are AFAIK the merino wool underwear items and certain burn prevention clothes.

    2. Small cattle also make crap and a lot of small cattle make corresponding large piles. A set of trousers, field shirt and simple parka in flecktarn costs at least 100 euros (with IR), that makes 200,000 sets a sum of 20,000,000 euros. The same in plain colors costs half and you save 10,000,000 euros. That alone would already pay for your equipment for the support troops.

      And this is an simplified example as an complete set of clothing does not consist only of this 3 items.

    3. Have a look at the very first link in the blog text, please. I suppose you#re thinking of retail prices.

    4. In the link a price of 102 dollars is mentioned. For 1 field hemd, 1 trouser, 1 t-shirt, 1 belt, 1 cap and 1 drawers. Which is quite near what i have mentioned. Also this us uniform is not realy good quality and i had higher quality in my sense here. And still the same:

      The named articles of the us uniform would be available from the shell in unicolor for fewer money. And because of the numbers you can still spare money here.

  5. In Chechenia, especially in the battle around and in Grozny the russian support troops had the same infantry equipment like the infantry. And because they were support troops they had more ammo and more rocket launchers than the infantry which was lacking in ammunition and sometimes even not had enough weapons. The TOE was not reached, the infantry had not full set of equipment but support troops had because they kept the equipment which they should bring to the infantry for themselve.

    Despite this the support troops were often heavily beaten by relative small chechen troops. Despite the good infantry weapons and more ammunition than the infantry "at the front". And the chechens often attacked support troops because against them victory was easy.

    The offical leasons learned of the russian forces was, that the support troops lacked the skills for infantry combat, even basic skills. So it was not about equipment as also another user has written here the skills are equally important.

    If you give support troops infantry equipment this does not make the support troops better if attacked by an determined enemy.

    That is not meant as argument against your argumentation, and i fully agree that the support troops need night vision and basic infantry equipment for fighting dismounted. It was exact what happend in chechenia. So it is not argument against your dismounted fighting concept, only an add on. To make this work they also need skills in infantry fighting as the other user has written here. But i cannot understand why he than says vehicle guns better. In chechenia the vehicles and their guns did not work. Dismounted infantry worked.

    So support troops have to be kind of infantry and need good basic skills in infantry combat. Which needs time but does not cost much, as the support troops are there anyway and could be trained from regular infantry for free. It only needs some additional time.

    Because of chechenia expeerience i could not agree more with you of the importance of support troops fighting dismounted with infantry weapons. But they also need infantry skills additionally.

    1. There's an easy organisational fix for this. Let everyone in the deployable army (=field corps) start out as reservist/militia infantryman.


  6. 'Also the costs for cheaper thermal sights go down and down and the question here is what is sufficient. The cinese army actually equipps its infantry with 2000 Euro per soldier and they are as capable as we are.'

    There is no doubt a trend there, like with digital nightvision. I have no clue about the steepness of the cost curves. So I'm more in camp of yes, get those basics but try to get at least two of the good stuff into a 'squad' and be open for more.

    One the interesting aspect I noted about the recent Russian invasion is that somebody pointed out that for many years there was a strong drive to fund Ukrainian soldiers and units with night capability. Thermals have also been popping up more and more in the Near East. Interestingly widely available and cheap battery packs make it easier to sustain them.

    Hate to offer too litte critique but this article was very timely.