British Army: 2300AD
- A British Light role Infantry Platoon on the eve of the Kafer War -
Much has been written on the evolving nature of war and the role of technology within it. However the ultimate task of the infantry in conducting war has changed little, the infanteer still has to close with and destroy the enemy. Close combat relies on the basic skills of the infanteer and his ability to carry the required weapons, ammunition and equipment into battle. Whilst the articulation of the 2300AD battlefield has devolved down to the fireteam or even pairs level, the infanteer still needs an organisation to co-ordinate his actions and resupply him, in the British Army this is the platoon.
Thanks to Peter Grining, Bryn Monnery and David Gillon.
It was my first meeting with the platoon, and it was a strange moment for both myself and them. I was fresh from Sandhurst and pale from a month long passage from Earth, and they'd just returned from a weeks field training exercise. Their previous platoon commander had been posted out some weeks before and the Platoon Sergeant had been running the show in the absence of an officer.
The first problem was the accents. They found my rural North Albion burr amusing and I found their County Durham almost incomprehensible. Luckily Serjeant Robinson was a Yorkshireman and I could understand him a little better. Unfortunately Sjt Robinson had met a few Wellonese in his time and was convinced I should know most of them. He took my ignorance to be a bad omen.
That said they immediately impressed me. Muddied, still camouflaged, clad in stinking combats but with their rifle-green berets at a rakish angle they exuded self-confidence. They chattered and laughed as they stripped and cleaned their weapons, not giving a damn who their new PC was or what he wanted. They just wanted to get downtown as soon as possible, get drunk and try their luck with the local women. Wellington famously thought them the 'scum of the earth', I couldn't have disagreed more.
Extract from 'Two Platoon' by Sidney Alexander, Ares Military Press, 2309
Two Platoon, A Company, 1st (1/68th Durham Light Infantry) Battalion, The Light Infantry is an almost typical British light role infantry platoon. Assigned to the 1st Light Brigade stationed in New Africa on the colony world of Beta Canum Venaticorum - IV it was one of the units destined to be in the front-line of resistance to the Kafer Invasion of Human Space.
1st Light Brigade is an independent infantry-heavy brigade group. It operates in the light role, is airborne qualified and can be delivered by air, sea or any land method but it lacks any integral armoured fighting vehicles. It is tasked for colonial garrison and intervention duties and is commonly deployed in the British colonies of the French Arm. It normally has three battalions from the Light Division of Infantry, however one of these battalions is on a Force Exchange with a unit from the Wellon Army. Currently, late 2300, the brigade has the 1st and 4th Battalions, Light Infantry and the 2nd Battalion, Lion of the Cape Regiment under operational command in addition to artillery, engineers and other support arms.
The 1st Battalion Light Infantry are one of the battalions that carry on the traditions of the famous Durham Light Infantry. They have a proud history stretching back over 600 years, three world wars and numerous minor conflicts. 1 LI is comprised of soldiers recruited from County Durham in the north-east of England including the towns of Darlington, Bishop Auckland, Washington, Sunderland and Durham itself. This area has always been a heartland of recruitment for the British Army and 1 LI is a strongly manned unit.
A Company is a rifle company and is composed of a Company HQ together with three rifle platoons; One Platoon, Two Platoon and Three Platoon. On operations and exercise these basic manoeuvre elements are reinforced with support elements from the battalion Support Company such as combat walkers, Mortar Fire Controllers, Direct Fire and Anti-Tank teams, snipers, pioneers and others. Brigade elements such as Royal Artillery forward observers, Royal Engineers may also be assigned to the company. This 'golf bag' system allows a flexible, tailored company capable of taking on most tasks.
The fireteam commanders ran in to the O Gp position just below the hill crest. Once they were all there I showed them the village on the video feed from the drone, pointing out key features and boundaries. All the time my Boss was on the net pushing me to get a move on.
'Right guys this is a fastball. We go in as dispersed bricks, charlie up-axis and delta down. 3 Section takes the main street with HQ. 1 Section parallel us to the right and 2 Section to the left. Locals are supposed to be friendly but look out for enemy stay behind parties and guerrillas. Marksy I want you scanning and jamming on the usual remote control frequencies.' The guys were nodding, eager to move.
'No questions? Lets go.'
Extract from 'Two Platoon' by Sidney Alexander, Ares Military Press, 2309
Two Platoon (2 Pl) is made up of a Platoon HQ and 3 Rifle Sections. It is commanded by 2nd Lieutenant Sid Alexander a newly commissioned officer and recent arrival to the battalion. He is supported by an experienced Platoon Serjeant, Sjt John Robinson (the Light Infantry spell Serjeant with a 'j'). In total the platoon has, at full strength, 29 trained infantry personnel.
The Platoon HQ is responsible for the tactical and administrative functioning of the platoon. It is normally divided into two elements, the Command Group and the Admin Group. The Command Group is composed of the Platoon Commander (PC) and his signaller who is an electronic and information warfare specialist. The Admin Group is led by the Platoon Sergeant and includes the two platoon weapon operators. These last two can be armed with a range of weapons including direct fire and missile systems but normally carry standard platoon weapons..
2 Pl however organises things slightly differently. Joining 2Lt Alexander is L/Cpl Middleton, who is assigned as a platoon weapon operator and is also trained as a junior Mortar Fire Controller. This gives the PC an extra range of tactical options and easy access to the indirect fire support. Middleton also functions as Alexander's close protection and carries an L144 LSW. The signaller, Pte Marks, works with the Admin Group. In part because she is carrying a heavy load which restricts her mobility, and in reality practice has shown that the signaller doesn't really need to be close to the PC with modern signals equipment.
Sjt Robinson, Pte Marks and Pte Adamson comprise the Admin Group, which in 2 Pl is responsible for co-ordinating the rear of the platoon and dealing with admin, ammo resupply and casualty evacuation. Although any nearby troops not otherwise engaged can be called in to help in these tasks. In addition to Middleton's L144, Adamson carries a L95 whilst Alexander, Robinson and Marks each carry a L142A2.
The British rifle section shares a relatively common organisation whether in the armoured, light, GD or any other role. The section is usually commanded by a full Corporal, although sometimes a Lance Corporal can do the job. He has a Lance Corporal or senior Private as his second in command, or 2i/c.
The rifle section is composed of eight men divided into two fireteams or 'bricks', known for historical reasons as Charlie and Delta. Whilst it is usual for the two fireteams to work together it is quite common for them to be split up and used independently or each other, either on their own or attached to another element. Indeed for some operations the fireteams are further divided into pairs. This use of section, fireteam and pairs as building blocks gives the structure immense flexibility.
The sections, whilst concentrating on their infantry tasks have a high level of training. Each section has a qualified Sharpshooter, combat medical technician, and communications specialist in addition to heavy weapons and tactics trained personnel. All personnel in the battalion are parachute trained and capable of making static line drops as well as rotary wing insertions.
Also in Light Role battalions it is common practise for each Fireteam to have its own secondary specialisation in either Anti-Tank, Anti-Aircraft, Reconnaissance or Assault Pioneer tasks. In 1 LI, there are three anti-tank tasked fireteams and one each of anti-air, recce and pioneers in each platoon. They are trained by the appropriate battalion units and equipment is held at company or battalion level. Whilst not matching the expertise of the dedicated battalion units this system allows every platoon and company to maintain a certain capability without recourse to battalion assets which may prove useful when not on the main effort.
Charlie FT is also commanded by the Section Commander, who is usually a 'Brecon qualified' Corporal. There are a further three soldiers in the fireteam, all of whom are Privates. The fireteam is equipped with a L142 Enfield Gauss Rifle, a L144 Gauss LSW, a Vickers Light Plasma Weapon and a Vickers-Rockwell L95 Machine Gun.
Charlie is subdivided into two pairs. The Commander and Scout operate as a pair and are equipped with L142 and L144. The Rear Gunner and Plasma Gunner, equipped with LPW and L95, provide fire support and are known as the 'Vickers Team'.
Similarly Delta FT is commanded by the Section 2nd in Command who is usually a Lance Corporal. There are a further three soldiers in the fireteam, all of whom are Privates. The fireteam is equipped with two L142 Enfield Gauss Rifles, a Vickers Light Plasma Weapon and a Vickers-Rockwell L95 Machine Gun.
Charlie is subdivided into two pairs. The Commander and Sharpshooter operate as a pair and are equipped with the L142s. The Rear Gunner and Plasma Gunners operate in the same way as that in Charlie and are also known as a 'Vickers Team'. In 1 LI it is normal for the section medic to be in Delta Fireteam.
2 Platoon's 1 Section is commanded by Corporal Matthews, an experienced Corporal with ten years service in the ranks. A former recce platoon soldier, his Charlie Fireteam - callsign Alpha Two One Charlie (A21C) - has the platoon's reconnaissance secondary tasking. A21D under L/Cpl Young, a newly promoted 2 i/c, has an anti-tank tasking.
2 Sect is under the command of Lance Corporal Lacelles, a competent long service soldier with a chequered disciplinary record which has delayed his promotion. A22C has the pioneer tasking whilst L/Cpl Youen, another old stager, commands A22D which double hats as another anti-tank callsign.
3 Sect has just been taken over by Corporal Bradford, an ambitious NCO newly returned from his course at Brecon. L/Cpl Boyes, a 'flyer' marked out for rapid promotion, is his 2 i/c. A23C has anti-aircraft and A23D anti-tank secondary taskings.
In the cooling New African twilight we waited on the HLS round the back of the barracks for the air force to appear with their knackered old Whirlwinds. We all sprawled on the ground, some snoring peacefully others blathering on. A Coy was tasked as OPFOR for an exercise by Jameson's Scouts, the New African medium recce outfit. We were in anti-armour mode as a result, all six chalks heavily laden with spare Green Hunter tubes and firing posts.
We were expected to be out for a week and our Bergens were packed to breaking with food, water and spare ammo. Thankfully our LZ was only three kays from our objective and a detachment from D Coy had eyes on both so we weren't likely to be bounced on arrival. We heard the clatter of the Whirlwinds and the company began to stir, groaning like old women as they kneeled up and the weight began to bite. Young Pte Marks was dwarfed by her load but would rather die than moan like most of the guys.
Extract from 'Two Platoon' by Sidney Alexander, Ares Military Press, 2309
2 Pl is equipped with the standard array of weapons and equipment used by the British Army. The platoon's normal complement of personal weapons include 9 x L142A2 Enfields, 3 x L142A3 accurised Enfields, 4 x L144 Enfield LSW, 6 x LPW and 7 x L95 VR5 machine guns. All soldiers are provided with the issue knife/bayonet, although these can only be fitted to the L142s they also function as combat knives. It should be noted that no members of the platoon are regularly issued with sidearms.
In addition to these personal weapons the platoon can also be equipped with other weapon systems. It is SOP for the platoon to deploy with a minimum of 6 Green Hunter AVMs, these can be launched without a firing post at greatly reduced ranges but provide light integral anti-armour protection. Depending on the threat faced by the unit the number of Green Hunters can be increased to a maximum of 29, one per person. Any number of obsolete LAW rockets may also be carried. Other routinely carried pieces of equipment include 14 Lochaber directional anti-personnel mines and three Advanced Lightweight Powered Tripods for the L95s.
As part of the 'golf bag' system further weapons are held at Company and Battalion level that can be issued to the platoon depending on tasking. At company level the following assets are held for the platoon: three Green Hunter M/RSU firing posts, a further four ALPTs, seven L95 sustained fire kits, a Darter SAM firing post and a pair of silenced FM P300S for use of the recce team during covert recces. Demolitions charges and extra sniper rifles are held at battalion level. This system allows the platoon to reconfigure to play particular roles in company and battalion operations.
In addition to personal and platoon weapons the troops must also carry their scales of ammunition. These include three hand grenades; either L88 HE, L90 WP or L77 Smoke grenades. Nine rifle grenades of various marks are carried by all soldiers to help replenish the grenadiers. Riflemen and LSW gunners carry six, 60 round 4.5mm magazines and one 150 round 7.5mm cassette for the L95. The LPW gunner carries 35 8.9MW plasma cells in 5 round boxes in addition to 2 30 round 7.5mm magazines for the L95. Lastly the L95 gunners carry 3 150 7.5mm cassettes and 2 30 round 7.5mm magazines for their own weapons. This is the first line scale of ammunition, it is often exceeded in combat, especially when extra scales of ammunition for supporting units must be carried. This includes more 7.5mm ammo, Green Hunter tubes, mortar rounds, heavy plasma cells and the like.
For protection the infantryman is equipped with Combat System 82 in DPM camouflage, a light, non-rigid combat suit which gives basic protection. The torso is protected by Combat Body Armour, an inertial armoured vest, which covers from the neck to the groin. For extra protection armoured plates can be inserted into the CBA increasing the protection given to the upper torso. On top of the CBA is the Assault Vest, containing ammunition and equipment which can also reduce the penetration of the enemy hit. The protection is topped off with the L90 Helmet, which offers less protection than some headgear in service with France and America but is smaller and less cumbersome.
The most important equipment carried by the soldier is the Tactical Integrated Solider System or TISS. The TISS is the soldier's integral communications and combat electronics and ties in components in the weapon, helmet and those carried on the body. The computer, navigation and communications components are usually carried in the soldier's Assault Vest whilst the helmet carries optics systems and EW antenna. With the L90A1 Helmet issued to the infantry the helmet optics are displayed through the TISS.
The soldier wears a lightweight headset combining headphone, microphone and a small monocular HUD covering the soldier's 'off' eye. Input from the weapon's sights are usually accessed direct through bringing the rifle site up to the right eye although it can be routed to the HUD via datalinks worked into the weapon sling. Lastly data input is through a remote touch-pad strapped to the weapon, the touch-pad on the side of the headphones, the most efficient its through the combined data-pad/display screen carried in a side pocket in the assault vest. All soldiers carry two Swordman batteries, enough for 72 hours of TISS operation.
These elements of the TISS give the British soldier a range of capabilities. It enables him to communicate securely with his colleagues with the company and call in emergency rescue through the integral 'SARBE'. It gives him access to low light vision (through the monocle), thermal vision (from helmet optics) as well his weapon sensors enabling him to operate effectively in any light state and shoot with increased accuracy. The navigation systems give the soldier a basic moving map display with both inertial and SATNAV modes through the HUD, as well as more accurate mapping through the data-pad/display. It includes basic ESM modes giving warning of laser and millimetre wave radar illumination, in addition it has IFF shoot/no-shoot functions displaying in the HUD. One of the most important function allows a soldier to designate a target for his section mates, this greatly increases the speed at which an enemy can be identified and eases fire control for the commanders.
Finally the soldier must carry equipment to allow him to survive in the field for extended periods, this includes rations, water, entrenching equipment, extra clothing, sleeping equipment. Modern textiles technology has decreased the weight of clothing and sleeping bags but little can be done about the weight of food and water. Even at the dawn of the 24th Century the soldier must be capable of manpacking back-breaking loads into battle.
1 LI, like other Light Role battalions, has a degree of flexibility around its vehicle fleet. Whilst it concentrates on it foot-borne role it also has enough vehicles to turn in into a light mechanised battalion should this be required. The battalion has a mixture of new Hover Rover 500s and the older HR 350s. 2 Pl has eight HR 350s assigned to it, enough for one per fireteam and two for Pl HQ. The HR350s have mountings for the platoon weapons and usually four, including the Platoon Commander's, are mounted with L95s with sustained fire kits, three with Green Hunter M/RSU firing posts whilst the Platoon Sergeant's remains in a clean configuration. These elements of the weapons systems are usually issued by the Company when the vehicles are drawn from the MT Pool.
'Move.' On the Lance Corporal's call Private Down scooted backwards on the slick grass. He then lurched up, moving fast, first left then right before straitening up and slowing to a walk. He moved with the rifle in his shoulder scanning to his front with his naked eyes, then with the sight on the rifle. As he did L/Cpl Boyes also broke cover moving to cover the sharpshooter's right flank.
They were both filthy from the approach up the stream, faces heavy with cam and with sopping vegetation hanging from helmets and loops on their assault vests. They were breathing hard from the rapid move and getting up and down every few metres.
Down snapped onto the pop-up target almost before it moved, two 4.5mm flechettes were in it before it got into the firing position. The sharpshooter was down in cover almost as fast, rolling into a small depression. Boyes snap fired a rifle grenade from the kneeling position which detonated just beyond the target. He didn't have a good shot on the target and went to ground behind cover.
bobbed up and put another flechette right between the targets eyes,
a hard kill.
From my position in the control bunker I had to admit Boyes and Down were a slick pairing on this low level skills range. However I got the impression that for Down it was little more than a game, a showcase for his marksmanship. If we ever did this for real I certainly hoped he'd use a few more grenades.
Extract from 'Two Platoon' by Sidney Alexander, Ares Military Press, 2309
Whilst the organisation of troops and the amount of equipment they carry has changed relatively little over the centuries their training certainly has. Thanks to improvements in levels of education in society in general and to increasingly sophisticated military training techniques, especially in the use of simulators, modern infantry have levels of training and flexibility previously the preserve of special forces.
Basic training for the infantry alone lasts for 9 months, and is followed for a further 6 months of continuation training with a battalion as a supernumerary. At the end of this training the infantry soldier is capable of operating all standard platoon weapons and equipment and display a high standard of fieldcraft and knowledge of basic tactics. They should also be knowledgeable of basic techniques used by elements of the Battalion's Support Company. If assigned to a Light Role battalion the soldier will also have passed the physically demanding All Arms Parachute Course, the dreaded 'P Company' and have undertaken basic jump training.
The British Army's basic training is notable for the way it trains soldiers in the basics first before introducing advanced technology and techniques. Marksmanship training starts on conventional rifles equipped with iron sights which must be mastered before moving on to gyro-stabilised gauss rifles with advanced sites and TISS interfaces. Similarly navigation is taught with map and compass as well as SATNAV and moving maps. This means that British training is longer and more expensive than that of many other nations but troops are less reliant on technological solutions alone.
After finishing Phase 2, most training is undertaken by the battalion, company or platoon and is done in-house. However the army has a vast array of other training courses and soldiers are sent away on these to acquire skills than cannot be taught within the battalion environment.
Primary Unit Training
Primary unit training is training directed towards maintaining the battalion's primary capabilities. In this case the ability to utilise infantry in a range of operational environments and in a whole range of levels of intensity - from unrestricted warfare to consensual peacekeeping.
For the Rifle Companies this concentrates on maintaining the infantry skills of its soldiers. This usually revolves around a training program including basic and advanced weapons training, Field Training Exercises, simulator and dry training and the maintenance of physical fitness. Weapons training includes simple range training to maintain and improve basic standards of weapons handling. It also includes advanced live firing tactical training which is undertaken in tactical conditions with an array of support and is designed to be as realistic as possible.
Field Training Exercises are the bread and butter of the army and involve the troops deploying into the field for long periods of time. Thanks to software built into the TISS system and blank rounds this training is relatively realistic and aids the development of fieldcraft and tactics. Despite modern simulators there is no effective substitute for training infantry in their core role than real time in the field.
Training continues when back in barracks thanks to the availability of a wide range of simulators in addition to more traditional lectures and dry training. Fitness training is old fashioned, involving runs, assault courses and forced marches. This has been proved time and again as the best way of maintaining the fitness required of the infantry soldier.
In general planning and conduct of training is devolved to the company and platoon level. Sections are trained primarily by their platoon and section commanders. The British still concentrate very much on small unit tactics, and training in this way builds up cohesion in the sections. The cohesion, morale and teamwork of sections and fireteams is the most important factor in the infantry battle.
1 LI has concentrated on a range of operations in its time in New Africa. From rapid airmobile operations, through highly mobile light ACV manoeuvres on the Grasslands, to jungle operations in the rain forests.
Secondary Unit Training
Secondary training is defined as training designed to bolster retention, teamwork and increase the depth of skills within a battalion. As such it includes sport, adventurous training as well as 'cadre' training.
The British Army has always taken sport seriously and competitions in a variety of sports are run at all levels from platoon through to division. As such the afternoon of one day most weeks is devoted to sports. 1 LI is very much a football playing battalion and has been the brigade's champion team for as long as anyone can remember. Boxing is also popular in the battalion but virtually all major sports have practitioners in the unit.
The army's commitment to adventurous training has grown from its love of sport. Junior officers and NCOs are encouraged to organised expeditions to undertake strenuous activities in interesting places. Typical of these are climbing, skiing or sailing expeditions although a whole range of activities are available. Some astute organisers have been able to undertake skydiving, surfing or diving expeditions. The army sees this as building morale, teamwork and increasing the retention of its soldiers.
Lastly the battalion conducts twice yearly 'cadre' training. This is designed to increase the individual skills of the battalion and rehearse the fireteams in the secondary taskings. Cadres are run by the Support and HQ Companies and include medical, communication, leadership and weapons training. In particular the Anti-Tank, Anti-Aircraft, Assault Pioneer Platoons and the Patrols Company run training for the fireteams. The section's medical, comms and sharpshooter specialists also receive appropriate additional training. One feature of cadre training is the opportunity to cross-train.
Effective command ability and tactical awareness are one of the key elements in the efficiency of the small infantry unit. Infantry units conduct low level training within the battalion, leaders at all levels are constantly assessed in the field whilst dry training and map exercises are run on a frequent basis.
Each battalion runs an annual Potential NCO Cadre for promising private soldiers. This is run on the lines of a Brecon course (see below) and involves a great deal of physical effort and is mostly assessed on the candidates ability in the field. Successful completion of this course and other more minor, technical courses will result in the candidate being put forward for promotion to Lance Corporals. Similarly Brigade runs build-up training for those Lance Corporals due to go to Brecon.
The centre of excellence for the British infantry tactics and leadership is at the School of Infantry at Brecon in Wales. This well resourced institution is responsible for all training in leadership, tactics, weapons handling and employment up to and including the Battle Group level. In particular it runs courses for potential Corporals, potential Sergeants and newly commissioned infantry officers. Brecon is a hard course both physically and mentally, and the instructors are drawn from the best soldiers in the British Army. Brecon is akin to the US Ranger School in its intensity and no infantry soldier reaches the ranks of Corporal without passing through its doors.
'… as far as infantry fighting is concerned, I am more than ever convinced that the standard infantry action consists of a body of attackers seeking hand-to-hand combat. Bear in mind that all advances in armament over the centuries have only aimed at one thing: to fire from as far away as possible to avoid this hand-to-hand combat which men fear. The job of the infantry is to break through the enemy lines; to do that they must get in amongst these lines. In an attack, no matter how powerful the artillery and the heavy weapons, there comes the moment when the infantryman gets close to the enemy lines, all support ceases, and he must mount the charge that is his last argument, his sole raison d'être. Such is the infantryman's war… (and) the sole object of his training should be to prepare them for what one might call 'the battle of the last hundred metres'.
Commandant Delort, CO 2/8 Régiment de Tirailleurs Morocaines, Italy 1944. Quoted in British Army pamphlet PAM 13 'The Light Role Infantry Battlegroup' 2287
The British Army has always been very wary about adopting formal doctrine, seeing it as restrictive and have an negative effect on individual initiative. British Army infantry doctrine is seen, and taught, as a guide rather than 'gospel' to be followed at all times.
In the attack the platoon will generally work as a platoon and usually it will work within the framework of a company operation. The sections within the platoon must be in a position to offer mutual support and will usually be within 600 metres of each other. Fireteams will usually work within 300 metres of each other and individual spacing should not be less that 10-20metres.
Sections will not usually be allowed to commit themselves to an attack without mutual support from another manoeuvre element. Even in 2300AD the old adage about a 3:1 advantage in combat power at the point of attack is a good rule of thumb. This means that against an enemy of equivalent sophistication and equipment a section should attack no more than an enemy binom or pair of soldiers. It may successfully attack an enemy fireteam but it would expect to take casualties that could render it combat ineffective at least in the short term. Against a less well equipped enemy such as guerrillas or militia attacks may be made against greater numbers but care should be taken not to become complacent.
A typical platoon attack would be directed at an enemy formation of around section/squad strength. It would be typical for one section with the possible addition of other elements such as a detachment from the Direct Fire or Combat Walker Platoons to be provide direct fire support onto the objective, whist the Platoon Commander and MFC co-ordinate indirect fire support from mortars or artillery. One section will then conduct and approach and assault against the enemy, this will have to physically clear the position and will result in close combat. Lastly the third section will be in reserve to exploit any gap in enemy defences or help stop counter-attacks.
The assaulting section would make best use of the ground, deception, fire support, aggression and fire and manoeuvre to get onto the objective. Frontal attacks across open ground are a sure way to lose a section and are almost never practised. As a result assaults can be relatively slow and painstaking, although once through the crust of an enemy better progress can be made. However the British believe that foot mobile infantry moving through difficult terrain can advance at remarkable rates and unhinge defences designed to stop hover-mobile armoured formations. This has been tested repeatedly on exercise and is supported by German experience in the Ardennes and several Manchurian operations in the Central Asian War. British light role battalions on exercise have repeatedly been able to move over 40km a day in such terrain in semi-tactical formations.
British doctrine is very firm on the use of maximum indirect fire-support to support the light role attack. This usually includes battalion 120mm mortars and 165mm fire from the brigade's close support regiment but can also be from supporting assets including close air support, heavy and rocket artillery. Artillery fires will be co-ordinated to strike both the enemy forward positions, in-depth positions as well as isolating the immediate battle area. If resources exist enemy command positions and indirect fire resources will be struck simultaneously. As the assaulting element closes on the enemy positions fires are switched and direct fire intensified. This allows the assault to get as close as possible before having to directly engage the hopefully disorganised enemy.
The light role infantry platoon will generally operate in a positional defensive role, forming blocking positions onto which an enemy can be fixed whilst more mobile elements and artillery strike against him. They will generally be placed on key ground or covering obstacles or choke points. Once more the sections will operate as a platoon and the platoon will usually operate in a company group environment at the very least. Isolated fireteams, sections and platoons on the defensive are easily isolated and overwhelmed piecemeal.
The platoon will normally be dug in, a job in which its often aided by battalion pioneer assets or RE diggers. However the platoon will often be left with a combination of entrenching tools, digging charges and ground dumped defensive stores. Digging in remains a tedious, tiring, back breaking job and can take up to three days to complete an individual two man battle trench with the overhead cover vital against modern rifle grenades and smart mortar rounds. However sometimes the platoon will not dig in and fight from a series of temporary battle positions and shell scrapes, but this is usually done only if time for proper fortification is lacking.
The platoons battle trenches will be laid out to provide mutual support and all round defence, usually on a reverse slope. Typically the depth of such positions is some 600 metres, but this can be closer depending on the ground. The platoon will generally have its full scale of weapons including Green Hunter firing posts and SF kits for L95s. In a company position the individual platoons will also cover each other and company group weapons sited to cover each platoon. Supplies and ammunition will be brought forward to cut down the amount of movement on the position.
Patrolling will be conducted from these defensive positions and standing patrols/OPs pushed forward to tie in with battalion and brigade reconnaissance assets. Local counter-attack plans will be practised so a well rehearsed reaction to enemy forces taking part of the position can be put into effect on minimal notice. Similarly passage of lines by screen forces coming back or counter-attacking forces coming forward will be practised. Artillery support onto the positions will be plotted, including FPF - final protective fire - directly on the positions should they be run. Lastly routes for tactical retreats, withdrawals and relief in place will be prepared.
Defensive operations are not well liked due to the vulnerability of fixed positions to enemy artillery and direct fire from heavily armoured AFVs. However the defence of key points or fortified patrol harbours still has to be practised and might be called on to be implemented in war.
Patrolling is seen as the raison d'être of the light role battalions. Patrols are put out to gather information on the enemy, ground and other conditions or to harass and dominate an enemy. Patrolling has come to mean predominantly recce patrols and the provision of OPs and the acquisition of targets for indirect fire and air strikes. Ambushes and raids are kinds of patrols but have their own specific techniques.
The British Army has many patrol specialists; special forces, brigade recce and battalion patrols companies. However the standard rifle platoons must also be able to carry out these duties. Usually a rifle platoon patrol will be composed of a single four man fireteam, these are trained to conduct 'stand off' recces and observation posts. Only the recce tasked fireteam is trained to conduct covert close recces, getting very close to an enemy position, sometimes inside it.
Patrols are conducted either from a defensive position, patrol harbour or after drop off from a vehicle. The patrol will then conduct an infiltration to the target area, using maximum fieldcraft to avoid enemy surveillance, patrols and sensors. Should the infiltration be a lengthy one the patrol may go into a hard harbour to rest and eat, although no hot food will be consumed. Once near the objective the patrol will split, the Vickers Team covering the other pair who will go forward to conduct the recce or site the OP. Once the mission is completed the patrol will then exfiltrate, ideally using a different route from the one it came in on.
Should the recce team be discovered it will have to extract from the area, covertly if possible or using fire and manoeuvre or indirect fire for cover. It is vital for a reserve patrol from the platoon to be on standby to go to the aid of the recce patrol in the event something goes wrong.
Ambushes are surprise attacks conducted from a position of concealment. They can be launched against enemy vehicles or personnel. They are only launched after reconnaissance has identified likely enemy positions, potential ambush sites and patterns of enemy activity. A poorly prepared ambush is likely to be a fiasco. Ambushes can be launched by units of any size from fireteam to battalion. It can be a devastating tactic if conducted and executed properly.
The initial stages of the ambush are similar to a recce patrol with the ambushing unit infiltrating into the ambush area. As these can involve large numbers of troops it is vital for a high standard of field craft to be observed. Once in the general area a LUP is identified and occupied and a recce party sent forward to mark the ambush site. The main body is then brought forward to occupy the ambush site. If a long duration ambush has been planned a system of rotation must be implemented. Once the ambush is finished, either sprung or not, the team must exfiltrate from the area along well recce'd routes. If the ambush has been sprung this must be a rapid movement as the enemy may recover and follow up. In this case pre-planned indirect fire will help cover the withdrawal.
Anti vehicle ambushes are perhaps the easiest to plan and the most difficult to carry out. Planning is eased by the use of well defined routes and roads by enemy vehicles. However an enemy response might be quick in developing, well armed and mobile. Anti-vehicle ambushes are usually 'stand off' attacks utilising a mixture of Fokker and Lochaber mines near the vehicle route in addition to Green Hunter and L95s to pick off surviving vehicles and personnel. This sort of ambush requires most of the platoon to be involved. A close combat ambush can also use mines and Green Hunters but will also use small arms to eliminate survivors. This can be conducted at a section level but is considered more risky.
Anti personnel ambushes are harder to plan and are usually conducted at identified choke points such as patrol routes. These can include mines and ALPT mounted L95s but more often use small arms to rapidly eliminate the enemy. Depending on the size of the enemy it can involve a single fireteam or the whole platoon. These are often used to destroy enemy recce patrols.
The snap ambush is not a formal ambush, rather a patrol technique used by a patrol of any size to make sure it is not being followed. However is uses many of the basic skills of the ambush.
Raids, like ambushes, should only be conducted after thorough reconnaissance and also make use of patrolling techniques on the way to the objective. The aim of the raid is to rapidly overwhelm the enemy using surprise, speed and aggression and then withdraw quickly. Raids are ideally conducted in platoon-company strength and are aimed at enemy outposts, command or missile sites and supply depots. They are a preferred tactic of the light role battalions.
Light role battalions can conduct mobile operations with its vehicle fleets. In these whole platoons usually operate together with sections mounted in two vehicles and operating as a pair. Spacing of the sections are usually doubled to 1.2km. The platoons would normally assault dismounted with a vehicle mounted section giving support. Such a role is really suitable only for light strike, screening or low intensity operations. As any encounter with a hover-mobile formation would be quickly costly.
In addition to operating from light ACVs the troops can also be deployed by medium ACVs to an operational area and then operate on foot. The key point to this sort of operation is that deployment times are actually very good when compared to air movement. As the vehicles are under the battalion's control they are always available and can be rapidly loaded and tasked. Indeed if a rapid tasking is received within New Africa it is often easier to dispatch forces by land and then marry up with airmobility assets later on.
Airmobile operations are frequently practised by light role infantry. Tilt-rotors can move large numbers of troops rapidly within their operational radius. This can be a great aid to both tactical mobility and surprise. In low intensity warfare and intervention operations airmobility allows more effective use of available troops. However in higher intensity operations tilt-rotors can be very vulnerable to enemy anti-aircraft fire and movement over the FEBA must be intimately supported by artillery, air strike and ground forces to avoid casualties. Consequently in high intensity warfare most airmobile operations are of limited offensive objectives and more useful in shifting anti-tank reserves to deal with enemy incursions.
The downside to airmobile operations revolves around control and protection of air assets. Tilt-rotors are expensive and valuable assets that are much in demand and are not always available to move specific units. As a result troop lift can often be delayed or cancelled completely. Only the French have experimented with integral tilt-rotor assets at the battalion level with their I/Régiment Étranger d'Aero-Infanterie, creating an powerful offensive force which also has a low teeth/tail ratio. This is an experiment which the British have declined to follow maintaining their dedicated air assault forces in a more typical brigade format.
The very value of tilt-rotors also means they must be protected. Consideration must be given to the creation of air movement corridors into the battle area and to the protection of landing zones and forward bases. This inevitably decreases the combat power available for operations.
On such operations the platoon is split down into 'Chalks' or 'Sticks' which are sized in relation to the carrying capacity of the aircraft and the load carried by the troops. Where possible Chalks try and maintain the integrity of existing sub-units but this is sometimes not always possible and soldiers may find themselves with different sections or platoons during the lift. Landing Zones are usually removed from objectives and soldiers will tab to these on landing and begin operations. Most operations are of a conventional nature, the concept of deep rear area air assault is exceedingly vulnerable to counter-attack by hover-mobile armoured forces. In New Africa 1 LI often works with airlift assets of the New Africa Defence Force.
1 LI is also parachute qualified although most people believe the paradrop is an obsolete technique even in the colonies. It forms a minor part of 1 LI's training regime, with most sub-units managing a company level drop once a year.
Urban operations are a major task for light role units, once more operations will be conducted at the company level. However platoons will take on a somewhat different organisation when fighting in urban areas. LPW gunners will be taken from the sections and grouped as a fourth section to provide close fire support under the direction of the platoon sergeant. Using thermal sights and the high penetration levels of plasma weapons, the LPW gunners can pick off individuals sheltering under cover the walls of the buildings. The use of plasma weapons in clearing buildings must be strictly controlled to avoid fratricide.
The now six men sections reorganise themselves, each with a Tac Team 1 - with Charlie FT's L95 and L144 man, Tac Team 2 - Delta's 2 i/c and L95 and Command Team with the section commander and sharpshooter. These two man teams are ideal for urban combat and Tac Teams will be directed in the clearing of successive rooms and corridors by the Command Team. The platoon will be equipped with L85 breaching charges, extra L88 grenades, collapsible ladders, spray paints and other urban warfare specific kit.
Urban warfare is high dangerous and a demanding form of warfare. It requires command and control and drills of the highest order from the troops. Yet casualties will always be high as shown by the Manchurian rearguard operations in Almaty during the Central Asian War. However urban operations training is always popular with the troops.
Given the shear numbers of hover AFVs available to almost any state and even mercenary units the light role battalion must be capable of providing an anti-armour capability. In its normal configuration the battalion has 24 Green Hunter M/RSU firing posts concentrated in its Anti-Tank Platoon. These are normally carried on Hover Rover 500s and provide a mobile anti-armour capability. However should this not be deemed enough the rifle platoons can be issued their 3 M/RSUs. This gives a surge capability of an addition 27 firing posts for a formidable total of 51.
If in an anti-tank configuration the rifle platoon will operate in sections, with one fireteam (usually delta) with the M/RSU. The other fireteam will provide protection for the M/RSU with its small arms and shoulder fired Green Hunters. If integrated into a properly planned Killing Area with indirect fire support a company group can give a bloody nose to any hasty, under planned attack.
Operations other than War
Light role battalions are also ideal for low intensity operations such as peacekeeping or peace enforcement. These place a high reliance on well trained, well motivated and versatile junior commanders. These operations often have sub-units scattered across a large geographical area and usually a platoon will be the smallest group given an independent role. This allows one section to be in reserve, one on patrol and one providing force protection. They also rely on the soldiers to be able to interact with the local community, law enforcement and military who might not always prove friendly.
The British Army adopts a 'firm but fair' approach which usually proves successful. Although attacks sometimes still occur to 'test' the peacekeeping unit, and in Flanders and CAR the British have gained a reputation for enthusiastic retaliation. Patrolling is a key element in these operations and sophisticated techniques have been developed to maximise the efficiency of these patrols.
As well as strictly military operations infantry can be called upon to aid civil authorities, government departments or the police. These can range from disaster relief to bolstering Police against rioters, but can include just about anything. Versatile, well trained, fit and disciplined, these qualities make soldiers useful in a lot of roles. However the occasions in which they may be deployed are limited and must be cleared at very high levels. Soldiers will remain under civilian or police control throughout such duties.
The relationship with my section commanders was the one I wanted to cement. A good platoon sergeant would back me to the hilt and I reckoned John Robinson was one of those. The section commanders on the other hand ran their own little empires and I'd have to win them to my side. They were my route to the Toms, if they thought I could 'hack it' all would be well.
Extract from 'Two Platoon' by Sidney Alexander, Ares Military Press, 2309
Lieutenant Sidney Alexander
Sid Alexander is 2 Platoon's commander. He is a native of the North Albion Plain in Wellon, although his father was an officer in the British Light Infantry and he always wanted to follow in his footsteps. He attended university in New Scotland where he also served as a volunteer soldier with the 4th Royal New Glasgow Highlanders. After graduating he was accepted into the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on Earth and proved an excellent officer cadet thanks largely to his prior experience and also did well at Brecon. He has been commissioned into the 1st Light Infantry and assigned to command 2 Pl. Dark and of medium height Alexander is physically robust, intelligent and personable. Given time and tuition he should make an excellent platoon commander.
John Robinson is 2 Platoon's serjeant and its second in command. He was born in Doncaster in South Yorkshire and joined the Army AJLS scheme as a 16 year old boy soldier. Originally assigned to 3 LI he has transferred to 1 LI in the last year. An anti-aircraft and armoured vehicle gunnery specialist he is nevertheless also an adept light role soldier. He is a dedicated, disciplined soldier easily capable of commanding a platoon himself, but is also respected for his ability to work hard and play hard. A ladies man he has two children from a previous marriage on Earth and a new-born son by his New African wife.
Kev Matthews is a an experienced soldier, marked out for promotion to Sergeant in the next few years. A Sunderland lad born and bred he joined the army in his mid-20's after becoming bored of his factory job. He has served continuously in 1 LI, spending time in both A Company and D (Patrols) Company. He is a recce specialist but also has experience as a medic and with the Direct Fire platoon. Mature, rarely flustered and with a dry sense of humour, Matthews is respected well liked within the platoon
A native of rural Weardale, John Pearson is 1 Sect's combat medical technician and LPW gunner. A former TED entrant Pearson has made a career of soldiering and has specialised as a medic, attending training with the RAMC on Earth. He intends to eventually transfer to the RAP and after leaving the service work as a Paramedic. He double hats as the LPW gunner and is an effective, if unspectacular, infantry soldier. He works well within the section although sometimes clashes with authority due to his relaxed view over deference to the chain of command.
Corporal Rob Lacelles
Rob Lascelles is the section commander for 2 Sect even though he is only a Lance Corporal. From Darlington he is another of the platoon's AJLS men, he has been in the army for 14 years and is still only 30. Originally serving in 2 LI he was transferred to 1 LI after numerous altercations with authority and a failed attempt at SAS Selection. He has calmed down a great deal in recent years and has leadership skills have grown dramatically. A brigade boxing champion, trained pioneer and anti-tank specialist, he is a tough and knowledgeable soldier. He is respected by his subordinates but kept on a short chain by his superiors.
A quiet spoken woman from Durham, Julie Fitzpatrick is one of only two women in the platoon. A tall, athletic woman who initially joined the TA's 11 LI whilst studying Sports Science and later transferred across to the regular army. She successfully completed training and P Company but even so initially struggled to gain acceptance in the platoon. However by dint of perseverance and refusing to be taken out of the rifle section has finally been accepted as 'one of the boys'. She is a competent soldier and excellent missile gunner but sometimes struggles for endurance during to injuries picked up through her career.
Lenny Bradford is the youngest section commander in the platoon. Raised in Consett and an AJLS soldier he has just been promoted corporal at the very young age of 22. Bradford is a competent infantry soldier and adequate anti-tank missile man but lacks the depth of skills of some of his contemporaries. In particular he struggles with his fireteam's anti-aircraft specialisation. He is aware of his weakness and overcompensates, driving his section hard and looking to impress.
Jon Down comes from a sink estate in the Gateshead section of the Tyne Metroplex. He is on the last year of his TED entry and must make a decision on whether to continue in the Army or not. He has proved a willing, if sometimes over exuberant soldier with a talent for marksmanship. He is still a young, slightly immature man who has yet to settle down and is often in trouble for his off-duty nights out.
The small village was already burning from the artillery bombardment, but most of the buildings were still intact. Our approach up the stream was covered by fire from combat walkers and a detachment of the DF Platoon. We slipped, slithered and cursed our way up the waist deep stream, fearing that at any minute the Crapauds would hit us with airburst grenades or rockets. We were far too closely bunched, but we needed to get into position as quickly as possible. Kev Matthews led the way and the LPW group was close behind Middy and I.
We got to the start line safely, and I went forward with Matthews to snatch an look at the ground. The village was wreathed in smoke and the fires were restricting the depth of our thermal sights. The main road was covered in the bodies of a Crapaud column caught in the open by the bombardment. Bursts from the supporting fire ripped through the bodies every few seconds. I looked away from the macabre sight back to the large building that was our first objective.
"Home wall. Ground floor." I repeated
to Kev, then I ducked down and moved away. Kev waved up his first
tac team and gave me the thumbs up.
Kafer rifle fire came the other way. We were well and truly in the war now...
Extract from 'Two Platoon' by Sidney Alexander, Ares Military Press, 2309
Copyright 2009, D Hebditch