A praise for the disrespected "battle taxi"

Helmets were introduced in the First Word War and did cut the count of killed in action troops by about a half (rule of thumb) by protecting the skull against most fragments (mostly of high explosive grenades).
Fragmentation protection vests (colloquially 'flak vests') were introduced for real in the Korean War and had a similar effect on top of the helmets' effect, by protecting the torso against most fragments.
The armoured personnel carrier (APC) was invented in the First World War and introduced for real for the Second World War. It was also said to have reduced the killed in action count by about half. The APC protected against stronger fragments (still not all fragments, though) and also against most (not all) bullets. Even the notoriously poorly-armoured M3 Half-track was a huge improvement over any unprotected vehicle.

APCs had thus a spectacular effect; it was much easier and much quicker to approach hostile infantry positions in an APC and the losses were smaller than without APCs.
The open-topped APC designs were followed by closed APC designs since the 1950's.

The force developers and doctrine developers were dissatisfied with a mere APC, though. APCs had already been armed with support firepower during the Second World War, or used for specialised purposes such as forward observer, scout, engineer teams, longer range radio vehicle, illumination vehicle or anti-tank gun carrier. The result was inevitably a loss of life-saving and combat-accelerating protected transport capacity for infantrymen.
There were calls to move from transporting infantry to drop-off locations towards fighting while mounted, and a modification of the APC concept into the IFV (infantry fighting vehicle) concept was favoured. The concept for mounted infantrymen using their own weapons while riding an IFV did not stand the test of time, tough. Nowadays IFVs have similar movement and sensors as main battle tanks, albeit using autocannons and anti-tank guided missiles rather than one powerful large calibre single shot gun.

The costs have risen badly, and IFVs are so expensive that we cannot afford enough of them to transport enough of our infantry in IFVs. A move towards wheeled APCs as cheaper means of transportation wasn't spared from the general urge to demand gold-plating and autocannons, as visible with the American (Swiss Piranha IV design) "Stryker" vehicles, which got first very expensive and nowadays receive autocannon turrets at costs that exceed the costs of an APC.
APCs have certain advantages and disadvantages compared to IFVs:
(+) lower costs
(+) higher seat capacity (often about 10 seats in APCs, about 7 in IFVs)
(+) usually lower weight, thus a tendency towards lower ground pressure
(+) usually a lot smaller (especially lower)
(-) lesser sensors
(-) less firepower
(-) gunner doesn't get directed by a commander

The protection of IFV and (H)APC can be about equal for the hull, this depends on requirements.

The title promised a praise, but so far there's just a historical and status quo summary.
Here's the praise; an APC (a.k.a. "battle taxi") is much more versatile and survivable than an IFV.

Few would agree outright. Isn't an IFV more versatile because it has more firepower? Isn't an IFV more survivable because it can destroy threats and usually has better protection?

The tracked armoured personnel carrier has superior versatility compared to an IFV
This gets obvious once one looks away from spec sheets and line drawings, moving attention towards how AFVs are used in battle.
An APC has superior cargo and passenger capacity, and this is of great utility.
  • It can move infantry into the fight.
  • It can extract infantry from a fight.
  • It can extract prisoners of war from a battlefield.
  • It can extract civilians from a battlefield.
  • It can supply troops in contact with the enemy with (hot) food.
  • It can supply them with beverages.
  • It can supply them with munitions.
  • It can supply them with batteries (and fuel).
  • It can supply them with tools.
  • It can supply them with cold weather and night equipment.
  • It can transport equipment on its roof.

The importance of being able to rather safely transport stuff and people though the last couple kilometres to a company in contact is easily underestimated. An IFV has transportation capacity as well, but much less so - and it would inevitably have a crew of at least two during supply runs because the autocannon turret is too enticing, while an APC could very well ditch the gunner and make a risky supply run with a crew of only one (or even unmanned).

Moreover, IFVs have only about 2/3 the transport capacity of APCs and are more likely to get fixed rather than foldable seating, which means even more volume is lost for transportation. A fine APC design would have foldable seats for benches and a floor that's suitable for pushing or pulling pallets.
Puma IFV

APCs and IFVs can be organised in different ways. They may be part of a specific section of infantrymen (section leader then being IFV commander, usually dismounting with the other dismounts) or it can be a support assets (one APC or IFV could move different sections in battle). The latter is particularly unpopular because it's less suitable for the quick assault doctrines that originally spawned the 'infantrymen shoot from inside their armoured vehicle' approach. You can also be quick while riding a battalion-level APC, but it's not so natural.
  • Most missions from the list above are much more natural to non-organic* APCs than organic APC and IFVs.
  • There are huge advantages to be had in separating infantry sections from their vehicle, though.
  • The section leader does not need to occupy his mind with the vehicle while dismounted.
  • The vehicle can be hiding many kilometres away, while an organic IFV would be kept close to the infantry fight.
  • Less training requirements for the dismounts.
A disadvantage is that the small (APC) crew of two would have to do all routine maintenance on their own, but that's not so terrible with bandtracks and they may often visit a maintenance point in the 'rear'.

The tracked armoured personnel carrier has superior survivability compared to an IFV

An IFV could fight against main battle tanks with its guided missiles (and its autocannon), but doing so needlessly exposes it to MBTs. You can kill the MBT with a man-portable missile fired by dismounted infantrymen (or dedicated tank hunter troops).

An IFV is a fire support machine. It needs to expose itself in line of sight with enemies to give said fire support. An APC may be misused as a fire support machine (the American FM 7-7 actually mentions this as doctrinal), but it can also be limited to 95% transportation and 5% assault transportation roles.

An IFV carries great secondary explosive hazards internally (autocannon munition, anti-tank guided missiles) or else it doesn't have much staying power regarding its firepower.

The APC would have better odds of survival even with lesser protection than an IFV simply because it's going to be exposed to less risks. This is especially egregious as IFVs usually fall well short of having the protection level of main battle tanks. A MBT+APC combo would use the better-protected MBTs for fire support that a MBT+IFV combo would largely give with its IFVs.

I consider IFVs to be an ill-advised and overrated concept. The IFV's fans ignore that the IFV concept keeps not delivering on its promises.
The extremely high costs of today's IFVs (due to the electronics of the turret that are equals to MBT electronics) leads to poor infantry strength and in case of long-ongoing wars it leads to most infantrymen lacking protected mobility because peacetime spending was wasted on gold-plated IFVs.
The "battle taxi" concept is underrated because people don't quite understand the importance of transportation on the battlefield. They pay too much attention to the shooting part.

*: Not belonging to the same unit.


Transitory technology


There's past military technology, presently-used military technology and the 'we know this will become available sometime' military technology.

The presently-used tech is a mix of months to up to 80 years old technology. It's very much possible that people will mistake the newest of this technology for the technology of the future.

The armed MALE (medium altitude long endurance) drones (such as Bayraktar TB-2) seemed to be such a future tech for a few months until Russian air defences got their act together. Now it's the loitering munitions (both the mil-spec ones and the so-called "FPC" commercial quadcopters with a RPG-7 warhead) that impress very much.

I've argued for years that there will be future drone warfare with small and autonomous drones. These remotely-piloted drones with their jammable video datalink, jammable command radio datalink and due to bandwidth severely restricted density of operation* are but a transitory technology.

They are vulnerable to countermeasures that won't work on autonomous drones:

  • high powered microwave weapons (these would easily be saturated by a large swarm)
  • radio jamming of command uplink
  • radio jamming of video downlink 
  • dedicated battlefield (V)ShoRAD vehicles** (these would easily be saturated by a large swarm)

There were such transitory technologies before.

  • Tanks up to the late 30's (and some well into WW2) were merely bulletproof, not shellproof. Every single field gun of 1918 was able to penetrate every single German tank of 1941 on its thickest armour plating if given a state-of-the-art anti-tank shell such as Pzgr 39.
  • Half-tracks, which had their time in the 1930's and 1940's.
  • Airships
  • firearm innovations between Napoleonic muskets and "smokeless" powder spitzer bullet repeating magazine rifles
  • shrapnel shot (which lost out to proper HE with point detonating fuses)
  • heavy anti-air guns (replaced by missiles)
  • "torpedoes" in form of explosives mounted on a pole in front of a steamboat
  • Flying boats (though there are a few remnants)
  • rocket propulsion for manned aircraft
  • recoilless guns (mostly replaced by missiles)
  • "Monitor"-style coastal defence (and land attack) ships

To mistake transitory technologies for the next big thing is an important example for drawing the wrong conclusions from a recent war.



*: You cannot have a swarm of 1000 FPVs if they all need radio bandwidth for a 640x480@25 fps video stream. 

**: (Very) Short Range Air Defence



The American Way of (Land) War


Take it with a grain of salt, but here's my view on the American Way of (land) War. It's based on indications collected over about 25 years of paying close attention to international military affairs:


The U.S.Army has a personnel system that's still showing its roots in "latecomer to World War has to quickly build an army". The training of officers is not only relatively brief (extremely green 2nd Lt compared to a German 2nd Lt), but everyone gets moved around from job to job so often and in an uncoordinated fashion. A battalion may conduct individual, small unit, unit and formation tactics training in sequence, but by the time they're mid-way in formation training they'd have many of those men who participated in the small units training already replaced.

The result is that from 2nd Lieutenant up to Lieutenant Colonel hardly anyone is trusted to be very competent or even competent in a well-rounded way. 

U.S.Army doctrine was thus built with mistrust in the one-the-spot decisionmaking of officers. Preferably everything has to be planned in advance or be cast into SOPs (standing operating procedures, British would call it 'drills' at the lower levels). But they don't trust their officers' quality much, so there's an extreme task division. Every staff officer other than commanding officer and chief of staff is responsible for a small window of tasks only. Now almost everyone is focused on a myopic view of the land war, but of course you can't be done with your job after an hour of work per day, so they work a lot more, plan a lot more in their highly task-divided way. The extreme task division also leads to extreme demands for communication between the officers, and of course there have to be comprehensive briefings (there are 'powerpoint ranger' non-officers who are specialised in overloading powerpoint slides with graphics).

Everything is thus a big deal that needs thorough planning by a huge staff. Almost nothing seems as if it could be decided by a commanding officer and one or two officers who ride in his car on the spot, within a few minutes.

It's fine to be able to plan things in detail in advance, to rehearse, to have SOPs for common scenarios. Every good army had those, there are opportunities to make good of those. There are problems if you become extremely in favour of planning, though:

"No plan of operations reaches with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main force." Moltke the Elder, 1880
A second problem is that planning much in decisions where quick decisionmaking on the spot is possible is simply too slow.

A third problem is that focusing doctrine (thus training) on planning and extreme task division leads to unpreparedness for the necessary on-the-spot decisions in actual warfare.

A fourth problem is that Americans are gifted communicators; in part due to their huge numbers they can convince others that something is the way it ought to be done or even the normal way. They can do so even with ludicrous nonsense, such as their insane and wholly debt-financed overspending on the military.

The American Way of (land) War is not super-competent; it's an adaptation (coping method) to the by design modest competence of their troops.

This crap creeps through NATO into allied armies, in part by officer exchanges, officer training by the U.S.Army, NATO standardisations (such as tactical forms; there's a detailed NATO standard form for who gets to blow up a bridge on whose demand, for example), "interoperability". Allied armies are being led by senior officers who are naturally inclined to have a whole court of bootlickers a.k.a. a large staff and over time these foreign senior officer corps trend towards emulating the American approach. I suspect this effect was the worst on the British, Canadians (due to no language barrier) and the small & poor armies in NATO (due to more direct training and admiration), though I have but anecdotal evidence for this.

A land war can be fought the American way. That's slow and requires overwhelming resources superiority, involves much firepower (especially air support). It gets the job done against a conventional opposing force if there's enough time and enough resources. Just about every approach to land warfare other than African 19th century witchdoctors handing out bulletproofing drinks would succeed against a conventional opposing force with enough time and resources on hand.

An American army sergeant, captain, colonel, general may very well with great experience tell about how much time, effort, personnel, planning, synchronization and training a certain action requires. He/she/it may very well be right - within the context of that one armed service (and possibly their marines, too). The only ones who have a comprehensive understanding are scholars who looked at how such an action was done in the past by different armies, and how it would be done by different armies today. So take my opinion with a grain of salt, but you should also take the 100% self-confident proclamations of army insiders (including retired ones) with a grain of salt, for their horizon is usually very close. And better don't fall for appeal to authority routines; military history shows that terribly many generals are highly self-confident and strong on opinion, but also incompetent.

Land war can be fought and won they American way, but it's not the best way unless a nation has the exact same set of limitations, and you're going to argue as a member of a minority if you bring this up in the anglophone internet.




P.S.: It's about the same on U.S. Navy ships save for personnel rotation being organised along their months-long tours overseas.



ChatGPT, please give me a summary of the tactic "Elastic Defense" in land warfare.


The tactic known as "Elastic Defense" in land warfare is a strategy employed by a defending force to resist an enemy's advance while minimizing losses and preserving their own fighting capabilities. It focuses on flexibility, adaptability, and the exploitation of terrain and defensive positions.

The Elastic Defense tactic involves allowing the enemy to penetrate the defensive line to a certain extent, intentionally creating gaps or weak points. The defending force aims to absorb the enemy's momentum and momentum and slow down their advance by conducting delaying actions, engaging in defensive battles, and launching counterattacks at opportune moments.

The primary objective of the Elastic Defense is to wear down the attacking force, disrupt their cohesion, and stretch their supply lines and communication networks. By employing a combination of defensive maneuvers, ambushes, and counterattacks, the defending force aims to inflict casualties and attrition on the enemy while avoiding a direct, decisive engagement that could potentially result in heavy losses.

Key elements of the Elastic Defense include:

  1. Flexibility: The defending force must be capable of adapting its defensive positions and maneuvers to exploit the enemy's weaknesses and vulnerabilities effectively. This may involve tactical withdrawals, repositioning, and adjusting defensive lines based on the evolving situation.

  2. Defense in Depth: The defending force establishes multiple layers of defensive positions, utilizing natural and man-made obstacles, such as trenches, fortified positions, and minefields. This multi-layered approach aims to slow down and disorient the enemy while maximizing the defensive force's ability to launch counterattacks.

  3. Mobile Reserves: The defending force maintains reserves that can be swiftly deployed to critical sectors under attack or to exploit opportunities that arise during the battle. These reserves provide the necessary mobility and firepower to launch counterattacks and disrupt the enemy's plans.

  4. Reconnaissance and Intelligence: The defending force relies on accurate and timely information about the enemy's movements, intentions, and weaknesses. Effective reconnaissance and intelligence gathering enable the defending force to identify vulnerable points in the enemy's advance and concentrate their defensive efforts accordingly.

  5. Psychological Warfare: The Elastic Defense may also employ psychological tactics to demoralize and confuse the attacking force. This could include spreading misinformation, launching limited-scope attacks, or utilizing deception techniques to create a sense of uncertainty and doubt among the enemy ranks.

Overall, the Elastic Defense tactic seeks to gradually exhaust the attacking force, disrupt their plans, and create conditions that favor the defending force. By exploiting their defensive advantages and using the enemy's own momentum against them, the defending force aims to ultimately repel or defeat the attacking force with minimal losses.

This was the written answer of ChatGPT to my title question. It's actually a bit more eloquent than the ordinary field manual chapter on the matter. The only clear mistake is once writing "strategy" instead of "tactic". The thing about intentional gaps or weak points is unknown to me. Part of the answer appears to be identical to what could be written about "delaying action". ChatGPT did not understand (or mention) that elastic defence seeks to reduce friendly casualties by exposing few troops in forward (and thus easily identified) positions to observation while keeping most combat troops behind the forward line of own troops /vorderer Rand der Verteidigung.

It appears the robot overlord army will be able to write its own doctrine based on existing published doctrines.