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Jerry Pournelle

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

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This discussion began in mail, and has become both extensive and important enough to warrant its own page.

Most of the material on this page was posted in June, 2001

If you have comments that belong on this page please confine your mail to that one subject, and specify the subject in the header. It will make things a lot easier for me.






It began with this letter:

I was wondering if you have read about the OICW project. OICW stands for "Objective Individual Combat Weapon". It is intended to replace the M-16 as the standard Army issue weapon.

It is supposed to use 20mm air-burst grenades for attacking the enemy. Here is the idea: A laser range-finder will perfectly measure the distance to the enemy position, and then an extremely accurate time fuze will detonate the grenade right over the enemy's position. The magazine will hold six grenades (compare with a 30-round magazine for the M-16).

Because grenades are not recommended for self-defense at close ranges, the OICW *also* includes a 5.56mm rifle. (The 5.56mm round is overkill for close-in self-defense; use of a smaller round such as 5.7mm x 28 was considered, but they decided to use the standard ammo instead of trying to introduce another new round.)

Add everything up and you have a weapon that weighs 18 pounds! They plan to reduce weight to 14 pounds -- still even heavier than the M-1 Garand. (Proponents of the OICW say that if you put a grenade launcher and a thermal sight on an M-16, it will weigh 20 pounds, so the OICW is a weight reduction, not an increase. But I suspect that the vast majority of soldiers today carry rifles that weigh closer to 7 pounds than 20.)

The OICW will cost $15,000 or so each. I read an analysis in a gun magazine that estimated $20,000 for the parts, but with mass-production the costs should come down. On the other hand, one web page I read showed $10,000 as the planned cost, but given the thermal sight and other expensive goodies, I'll stick with $15,000.

Can a soldier make an effective attack with six or fewer rounds of 20mm air-burst grenades? Can 20mm grenades incapacitate an enemy -- especially if he is wearing light body armor? Can the armed forces really standardize on a weapon that is over twice as heavy as an M-16 and about 30 times more expensive? Will the soldiers be allowed enough training with the grenades, which will cost $25 to $30 each?

Prediction: the OICW will fall short of what it has promised to do, but it will not be possible to kill this program. A compromise of sorts will happen: instead of every soldier getting an OICW, only a few will get them, and the rest will still get an M-16 rifle or M-4 carbine.

atk.com OICW article OICW analysis H&;K article on OICW USA Today article

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est" steve@hastings.org http://www.blarg.net/~steveha

I haven't seen this. I'm fairly certain that most soldiers will not carry a 20 pound personal weapon. Plus ammunition. There were some problems with the BAR in WW II, even, and that wasn't this...

There soon followed a storm of material:

 From: Chris Morton cmorton@newsguy.com 

Subj: Small arms Follies

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

On the subject of dubious small arms purchases, if you think WE have problems, you should look at the Brits. The British army essentially has NO serviceable infantry rifles at this time, apart from the small quantities of M16 type weapons possessed by SAS and Pathfinders. EVERY single SA80 assault rifle in service has been condemned as unserviceable by the British Ministry of Defense (MoD). Current plans are to contract with the German arms manufacturer Heckler &; Koch (H&;K) to rebuild every one of these abortions at an estimated total cost of 80 MILLION Pounds. Rather than spend pages describing the SA80's every fault, suffice to say that squeezing the receiver too tightly during firing will cause the bolt to bind in the action, creating an immediate stoppage. General consensus is that it would be cheaper to entirely replace this junk with real firearms such as the M16A2 or H&;K G36. They'll probably rebuild the SA80s....

As far as questionable technology goes, the Germans inched up to the precipice a few years ago, then wisely backed away, rejecting the bizarre G11 rifle from H&;K. This prop from an "Aliens" movie fired caseless ammunition in which the bullet was glued to the powder charge, used a bolt which rotated like a Wankel rotary engine, and had seals like a car engine. It looked like the guts of a flush toilet contained in the shell of a large VHS camcorder. Between the insuperable reliability problems and the laughable 4.7mm "cartridge", the Germans gave it up as a bad job.

Sure, we have our share of pratfalls, but there are people out there doing even worse.

Chris Morton cmorton@newsguy.com Rocky River, Ohio

But see below on the SA80

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I'm quite excited about developments in my alma mater branch, Infantry, even if the current techno-bureacracy is completely mishandling them. I want to "run out and shout at people", as you used to say in A Step Farther Out.

The "Queen of Battle", which infantry never really was during my career, is about to resume her reign. The 7.62mm (and HE fragment) proof infantryman with CPU is coming real soon. He's partly here already. The so-called Light Infantryman is joining the category of hard targets on the battlefield. Scan the Army and Air Force inventories for all the weapons, submunitions, tactics and strategic assumptions that man block obsolesces.

The Power Point briefing said L-W is intended to treat the infantryman as a weapons system and enhance "survivability, lethality, and C4I". So far so good virtually. But then the Army's Force Mod consensus made all the wrong choices. They chose to optimize the C4I at the expense of Survivability and Lethality.

Developmental LW is already partly armored against 7.62mm, but he's only equipped with 5.56mm based on Euguene Stoner's 1950s designs. It's as if Lord Admiral Jackie Fisher launched the Dreadnaught armed with smooth bore muzzle loaders. Weight was too great, too. Eighty-six pounds is a no-go. Fifty pounds is the max. They just have to go back to the CAD program and eliminate the features designed to allow Clinton to control infantry combat from the Oval Office and instead emphasize Lethality and Survivability.

Congress rightly deferred LAND WARRIOR buys in its present form, even if for the wrong reasons. Their objection was the disconnect between battery durability and all of Land Warrior's digital electronics designed to network him to the Oval Office. My objection is the emphasis on all the electronics designed to bring back 5 echelons of virtual Command/Control choppers orbiting the battlefield, this time from 100km away. We had enough problems in 'Nam with Precede Me leadership principles without reintroducing them into our force by conscious design. Picture the results with Hillary's Command Picks trying it from laptops.

People who want to understand how a properly designed Land Warrior force operates need to buy "Starship Troopers" by Robert Heinlein.

My own view of Land Warrior is body kill zone armored against 7.62mm and otherwise armored against HE fragments and war gasses. He has two primary weapons . The first is a .50 caliber semiautomatic rifle with thermal TAADS firing caseless ammo in DU long rod penetrators and explosive bullets. With trained marksmen this will get at least 1000 meters pinpoint and 2,000 with squads and platoons firing on the "cone of fire principle". In the Korean War there was a sniper with a locally made rifle built up from a .50 caliber barrel. He got several hundred kills from 500-1,000 meters. Picture a platoon leader able to mass 36 of these guys.

So the Armored Light Infantryman's biggest remaining threat is the 14.7mm machinegun (and his opposite number). While that focuses on one fire team, the platoon leader will mass 2 1/12 other squads' same caliber aimed fires against that machinegun crew. It won't take more than 50-75 lessons to bring that experiment to an end.

The second weapon is a 4,000-6,000 meter infantry carried FOG-M that he hooks up to his HUD and CPU. This will go a long way to keeping attack helo chain gun fires off of him, as well as vehicle mounted 14.7s and 20-30 mm weapons. Just a small warhead, about 1.5 lbs of shaped charge.

Imagine a battalion of these guys turned loose in a Heavy Corps Rear Area via stealth gliders. They'll just gun down all the uniformed camp followers, destroy the C4I nodes with their FOG-Ms and torch the POL units and ammunition holding points.

I can hear the Red Legs now. "But the artillery, the artillery....!" Sorry guys. Your dumb shells were never much use against tanks, except to strip away their unprotected infantry. Tank companies typically ran 12-17 (I'm already talking past tense, I know) vehicles. Compare that to 150 such targets. You maximized A-P with scatterable submunitions. Fragments don't affect the armored infantryman. V-T electronic pre-detonators are already here. And what was that I heard about "shoot and scoot" because of counter-battery?

Densely massed submunitions against ALIs might work, at least until he opens a fiberglass umbrella designed to pre-detonate bomblets. His armor handles the fragments per normal.

Precision Guided Anti-Personnel Munitions. ALI doesn't present 5% of the signatures used to acquire and attack vehicles and aircraft. And you have to get this guy in the grass or behind trees and stonewalls. Talk to the engineers about this one. How do you plan to acquire this guy? Thermal? Works until ALI's own fire support scatters same calorie thermal heat sources all around him at a 50:1 ratio. Optical? Can you say camouflage and 'SMOKE'? Radar? Returned from what? This guy is 90% plastic, ceramics and flesh already. And how much does that unit cost for 5,000,000 copies?

And you have to HIT him. Close with a fragmentation explosion doesn't count anymore, unless you can generate HE fragments more penetrative than 7.62mm NATO ball. Laser guided? You can't afford a HELLFIRE level weapon for this many targets, so the missile and warhead is lots smaller. And he can break laser lock faster than anything yet.

It's the above emerging technologies that make Shinseki's 'Medium Brigades' useless except as police adjuncts to NGO's on Mary Poppins missions. The fallacious assumption is they will be superior to dismounted infantry in most environments. The M1 is still largely safe from ALI, if not particularly lethal.

But Shinseki's lightweight Armored Gun System and all IFV's are just dead meat to both the massed, aimed .50 caliber fires and the FOG-M's. "Third squad, FOG TARGET!" <image inside red square appears on 10 HUDS> "In volley, FIRE!".

Hey there, Aviator, whatcha gonna do? Hose'em down with chain guns? "PLATOON! FOG target..." At your $25 million price tag the biggest problem will be FOG-M fraticide from all the other platoons that couldn't resist taking a shot. You get the idea. And you got less armor than the tankers had, no reactive armor at all, and your shimmering whirly bird blades are easily picked out from ground clutter by a Pentium.....

So what if infantry FOG-M is only 30-35% first round kill probable? That's three top-down hits.

Yes, I know, SOCOM AC-130s. Did you read the papers recently about the THEL test at White Sands? Why do you think you're a harder target than a rocket?

Yours Truly,

Mark A. Gallmeier CPT (R), Queen of Battle

Dr. Pournelle:

Although the letter of 7/24 was indeed fascinating reading and this e-mail is *NOT* a criticism, I would like to make one small request: Would you be so kind as to mention in View and/or Mail that letters like 'Queen of Battles' would be very much more useful if the writer would define acronyms? There are some of us who just don't know whether FOG means Fine Old Gun, Fat Old Goat, or Foolish Obese Gnat.

I can usually, not always, pick out the meaning from context, but a defined acronym really helps.



For the military acronym impaired in your infantry thread:

C4I -- command, control, communications, computers and intelligence.

Thermal TAADS -- thermal target acquisition and detection system???

SOCOM AC-130 -- Special Operations Command AC-130, a C-130 Hercules transport turned into a flying gunship with night vision/computer aimed, side mounted, 105mm howitzer, 40mm Bofors gun and either a pair of 20mm or a single 25mm Gatling-type cannons.

THEL -- tactical high energy laser

MOUT -- military operations in urban terrain.

FOG-M -- fiber optic guided missile

SLAP -- saboted light armor piercing, a projectile made up of sub-caliber dart riding in a light shoe that falls off upon leaving the barrel.

HUD -- head up display. A see-through view screen normally found on fighters and helicopters, now mounted on soldier helmets, used to pass .

Trent Telenko



All are IIRC, since I don't have reference stuff on me right now. Caveat emptor. FOG-M Fiber Optic Guidance-Missile POL Petroleum Oil Lubricants IFV Infantry Fighting Vehicle SOCCOM Special Operations Command MOUT Military Operations in Urban Terrain C4I Command Control Communications Computers and Intelligence TOT Time On Target (Making all of the rounds fired hit at once.)

The manual on such things is FM-101-5-1, and it can be found somewhere on line in pdf format. Operational Terms and Graphics.

BTW, shaving 10 lbs off a .50 is a really impressive waste of time. They're heavy. I myself miss my old 25mm. _That_ reaches out and touches, with the thermal imager.





My favorite Army development story comes from the mid 80s when I was a defense contractor working for the Army Development and Employment Agency at Ft. Lewis Washington, in conjunction with the 9ID (Motorized). ADEA was supposed to invent lots of neato keeno faster, lighter, cheaper applications of commercial technology that the 9ID(MTZ) soldiers could employ in field tests.

One of the programs there was called Lighten the Load. The idea was to cut the weight of all the stuff that the grunts had to hump. After much churn the program birthed its first product: a strengthening program for soldiers.

jim dodd jimdodd@tcubed.net



Dr. Pournelle, Mark A. Gallmeier CPT (R), Queen of Battle, has it wrong, at least partially, I firmly believe. First, as an Infantryman, I reject any notion that we were "Queen" of anything (maybe in the Army...). Warfare is a game of King of the Mountain, and it fell upon the infantry to climb up and be king. One of the most famous war photos is exactly such: the Marines, and Navy Corpsman, planting the flag on Mount Suribachi. Queen of the hill? I think not. (This is not to be taken as a knock on women. It is NOT.) On to my point. Technology is being pushed, but cannot yet be relied upon. We have trouble with the main battle rifle, the M16A2, though not as much as during Vietnam, and most of the bumps have been smoothed over. Hell, we even had trouble with our radios at times, the PRC 77, a left-over from Vietnam, like the M16. Seems as though we didn't learn any lessons. (Much has changed since I left the service, but not enough, I gather.) High-Tech isn't the answer. China has it half right: with enough soldiers, supplied cheaply, any battle and war can be won. I'd amend it to be enough superbly trained soldiers. Then see what your half-trained cyborgs are reduced to. Technology is a boon only if it can provide confidence to the infantryman, and a flaky HUD isn't confidence-inspiring.

George Laiacona III <george@eisainc.com> ICQ 37042478/ 28885038 "Inconsistency is the key to flexibility." "If you cooperate, we'll reduce the charges from hit and run murder to littering." -Lord Barons

Jerry, Mark A. Gallmeier CPT (R), has some valid points regarding the "electronication" of the infantryman. However, he makes the same mistake that many make; old technology has limits. In particular I belive he has exceeded his 50lbs max with only two of his weapons. Barret makes a .50cal rifle, the bolt action version with 5 rounds is over 25 lbs, unless you want to have broken shoulders, it's got to weigh that much. Ever fired the ranging rifle on an old jeep mounted recoiless?

FOG-M, a weapon who's time has come. The 82nd is doing an extended evaluation of these right now. I used to be in TOW's and these will change the battlefield! But you can't change the laws of physics, unless you have created a new compsite motor matrix . Using the bare minimum to boost 6000 meters you have a weight class similar to the stinger, so before food,water, end electronic we are at about 58lbs. How about using these guys as targeteers, but this seems to be just another way to relive the Battle of Roarks Drift. " Load FOG-M, AIM,Front rank Fire!!,Load .50 cal SLAP AIM, second rank FIRE!!

"The only thing harder than getting a new idea into the military mind is to get an old one out."

B. H. Liddell Hart

JODY DORSETT farnham12@yahoo.com

Dr. Pournelle, I was intrigued by Mark Gallmeier's letter and his concept of the "Armored Light Infantryman". The problem I see with it is weight. We have a saying in the Army today - "100 lbs of light weight equipment still weighs 100 lbs". I just don't see how you can get all the equipment that he is talking about into a package that will weigh anything less than 100 lbs (and I think that I am being generous with that figure). I agree with the target weight that he gave of 50 lbs as the max you would want for an infantryman going into combat, but you have to understand that we are almost at that weight today with our present weapons load (and that is for a rifleman, not an automatic rifleman or grenadier). Our present body armor really only protects vital organs from 7.62MM and a slightly greater area against fragmentation. To make body armor that would allow an infantryman to brush aside HE frag munitions the way he describes would be heavy to the point where you would be almost immobile (not to mention his "umbella"). The weapons suite that he describes sounds good once again, but how much would it weigh? We in the infantry are already cringing at the thought of carrying something as heavy as the present OICW concept. The idea he is talking about sounds quite a bit heavier. To get an idea what a .50 CAL rifle weighs, go pick up a Barret .50 CAL sniper rifle. It's a great weapon for its intended purpose, but to give something like that to all the troops would not work. This also leaves the question of MOUT. The infantryman needs a weapon that can perform in close quarters as well as in the open. Such a huge weapon would not fulfill both rolls. As for the FOG-M concept, I am not sure what he means by this, but try carrying an AT-4 around (just 1) for a day. It's heavy, cumbersome, and awkward. You would not want to carry more than one into combat (unless in a static position). The last thing that Mr. Gallmeier's concept does not address is suppressive fires. None of his concept weapons appear to be able to put out a high volume of fire. While the best thing to do is always hit the enemy, every infantryman knows that, more often than not, you're going to have to suppress them somehow before you can get into a position to hit and kill them. An infantry platoon needs some form of high volume of fire weapon that can fulfill this purpose. The only way that I see such a concept working would be to go to a true "Starship Troopers" like infantryman with a powered exoskeleton that can support that kind of combat load and still allow the soldier to move. How far are we from having that kind of technology? I don't have the background or experience to answer that, but I do feel that that is the direction in which we eventually need to head. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who is familiar with this type of technology. Can it be done? Thank you for your time and for a great web page.

Matthew D. Kirchner CPT, IN matthewkirchner@hotmail.com


Dear Dr. Pournelle, Saw the letter from Cpt. Gallmeier and just had to respond.

Is all this wonder-gear as robust as the PRC-77 Field Radio? If it is not it is useless. As a former soldier I can assure you that if it is raining artillery I will be more concerned with saving myself and, if the wonder gear happens to get totalled when I dive for cover, well, better it than me. I was in commo and we joked about commo gear being "infantry proof." The PRC-77 and field phones being classic examples. Took lots of abuse without failing. Certainly there were (even in the mid-eighties) civilian radios that were easily adaptable to military freqs, much lighter weight, and much less expensive. Throw one of them into a deuce and a half and toss in a PRC-77 and see which one still works!

Another problem. This wonder-gear probably requires extensive training to use. Where do we get the soldiers who have the education and smarts to learn how to use it? The Army is already having trouble recruiting. Do we bring back the draft, but only take the well educated middle class men? Whose parents will probably all vote in the next election? The middle class, in my understanding, did not turn against the Vietnam war until their husbands,sons, and friends started getting sent over there. The middle class would certainly vote against any congressman who wanted to bring back the draft, and limit it to the men who were actually useful in the New Army. Or do we draft everybody and put the ones who don't have the education to work painting rocks?

Understand, I was a middle class boy who joined the Army, and it was one of the better decisions of my life. I feel that a few years in military service would have done many, if not all, of my friends a lot of good. There are too few middle class and rich people who are willing to serve these days. Don't know what to do about it, as I feel that the draft is immoral. I didn't register for the draft when I hit 18, but did join up.

The Army used to be an organization where people from all walks of life would be thrown together for a couple of years, much to the benefit of society, it was the ticket out of the ghetto and crushing rural poverty for many people that I knew. People I would not have met, much less associated with, otherwise. Many of them were excellent soldiers who could not enlist today due to the lack of a HS diploma. If the Army goes to all the aforementioned wonder gear, people will need an Associates Degree in IT just to fire their weapons.

Sorry to write so long, but had to get that off my chest.

Sincerely, Kit Case kitcase@starpower.net


Captain Gallmeier wrote:

"With trained marksmen this will get at least 1000 meters pinpoint and 2,000 with squads and platoons firing on the "cone of fire principle". <snip>

The first problem is getting those trained marksmen.The second is sustaining them over years of duty.

When I was shooting High Power Rifle competitively there were about 17,000 such shooters across all of the U.S., military and civilian. I don't expect the numbers have grown much 20 years later. The military is moving to area weapons because they either don't train or don't think they can train their troops to shoot the rifle effectively and efficiently.The Marines remain a service of riflemen, but they use a small caliber carbine in place of the battle rifle of yesterday.

All the services together remain crippled by too little training, the wrong equipment and no clear mission.

jim dodd jimdodd@tcubed.net

A lot of the money appropriated for training has been spent in unauthorized operations, including Haiti where we have managed to install a more ruthless dictator than the one we threw out. Surprise!

Re: advances infantry weapons and equipment. Strangely enough, I posted the following on a military discussion group not too long ago:

Land Warrior looks good on the Discovery Channel, but as a former grunt, I see little utility in giving all of its capabilities to every soldier.

Why have GPS below squad level? Even at it's most accurate, a non-differential GPS fix is good enough to locate an entire squad at maximum dispersal, for accountability and supporting arms purposes.

Why have a radio with every soldier? Even using IP communications protocols, it would create a confusing multiplicity of networks, not to mention exponentially expanding the number of detectable emitters. Actually, with an IP type communications protocol, it would give higher headquarters an opportunity for dial-up micromanagement access to every man on the battlefield. Forget that.

Why give every soldier a weapon based thermal imaging system? Outside of the system complications this entails, troops become too dependent on these systems and develop tunnel vision, to the detriment of their situational awareness. We found out about that with the widespread issue of night vision in the Eighties. The higher the proportion of troops equipped with night vision, the less the team depends on their other senses. While such systems are important, they reach a point of diminishing returns on a scale of issue above one unit per fire team. (Before anyone mentions tanks, I think that the tankers here would agree that their target acquisition and engagement problems are very different from that of the grunt.)

Why give each soldier a computer hooked up to all of the above systems? Do we want every private to be a calling for a battalion TOT, plus a flight of Snake and Nape, every time he hears rounds coming down range? If not, how are we going to fight with the complicated set of protocols necessary to avoid this? Protocols emplaced simply because we gave our guys too much of a good thing?

Better I think would be to give each squad a portable battle management system, appropriate for that tactical level, equipped with GPS and radio communications, plus a backup system that is not normally in use. Likewise, give each fireteam one (maybe two, if you can train troops not to become too dependent on them) lightweight, shareable thermal imaging system, plus one extra in the squad. Develop tactics that can make the best use of this equipment set, and thoroughly train the troops in them.

That way we won't overcomplicate the individual soldier's life with too many decisions and too much weight with what, at the individual level, are basically contingency systems for most tactical problems. At the same time, we are not denying the soldier's team the use of performance enhancing technologies that can be used frequently to good affect at the team level.

Tony Evans

My infantry experience is limited to gaming, but I must say that Tony Evans' approach made a lot of sense to me (have the exotic equipment, with spares, but at the squad level).

I've had pretty good success with Russian-style squads that have a 8 riflemen, a suppressive fire weapon and a sniper. The sniper is especially good for pinning an enemy squad. The 8-man rifle team can leapfrog or flank in groups of four, and still take caualties.

Splinter-resisting the whole squad seems like an awfully good idea. Lightweight Kevlar armor could still be vulnerable to sniper weapons, yet stop most submunition splinters and long-range bullets.

Adding 2 radios/CICs/GPSs and 2 night-vision sights to a squad makes a lot of sense. These can be lightweight and sturdy. Electronics is getting smaller all the time.

Fiber-optic-guided missiles should be glorious weapons, but they would be heavy, especially if they have a good guidance system back at the launcher. I think it makes more sense to mount them on HMMVs, but keep a couple of the vehicles close to each platoon.

Ray Van De Walker 

Games can suggest things, and have some chance at training people in the use of equipment.  I was marginally involved with the war games at Research Analysis Corporation in Virginia in the early 60's: I did some inputs on airpower effects. The RAC analysis led to the 11th Air Assault Division which evolved into the Air Cavalry concepts. There's a lot to be learned from games, but one has to be careful: board and computer games can't really simulate the friction of using real troops.

"In war everything is very simple, but the simplest things are very difficult," said Clausewitz, who went on to add that even the simplest operations generate what he called "incredible friction."  All correct, and unfortunately not easily input into games. Some of the actual operations games played out in Indio generate friction, and of course most of the players are already experienced troop commanders who know it's at least as hard to get a company of soldiers to arrive at Point B at the same time as it is to get one's family packed and actually in the car and on the road for the summer vacation....

So what is Infantry for, anyway?


Dupuy noticed something in his analyses back in the 70s and 80s--historically, the amount of proving ground firepower on the battlefield was much too high to be consistent with the reported casualty rates. Apparently, the bottleneck has almost always been target spotting. Now, if you examine ground combat operations during the 20th century, you discover that the primary function of infantry was always target acquisition--particularly in close terrain--and only secondarily target engagement. To do this well, the infantryman had to have: 1. good tactical mobility and unimpaired vision, 2. reliable communications to supporting weapons and echelons, and 3. direct access to high-firepower weapons to keep the heads of the opposing infantry down while friendly infantry moved around doing their jobs. 4. (secondary requirement) some sort of decent protection.

Requirement 1 implied a weight limit of about 50 pounds. That tended to conflict with requirements 2-4.

I think the infantry still has the same functions today. Requirement 1 has not gone away--somebody still needs to move up and look inside. Requirement 2 is getting easier and easier to meet, and I think it increases, rather than decreases the effectiveness of a force to have reliable communications. Requirement 3 implies some sort of man-portable high-firepower weapon with lightweight ammo at the individual, fireteam, or section level. Historically, one per fireteam was optimal. Requirement 4 is a good idea if it doesn't get in the way of the real work.

The proposal on the table appears to move in the wrong direction.

-- Harry Erwin, Ph.D. One-time chief engineer for a corps-level air and ground operations command and control system...

From: Stephen M. St. Onge saintonge@hotmail.com

Subject: Infantry thoughts

Dear Jerry:

Very interesting letters. Some comments:

1) What's 'c4i'? C3I I've heard of (communications, command, control, intelligence) but what's the fourth c? And what's "thermal TAADS," "SOCOM AC-130s," "THEL ," and "MOUT"?

2) I agree with everyone about the folly of micro-managing infantry from the rear. The problem here seems to be an officer selection process that rewards the REMF yes-men. Till we get rid of that, we're fighting with self-inflicted wounds.

3) "With trained marksmen" Back in Gustavus Adolphus's day (and have you read 1632 yet? If not, you're missing a treat), the trained marksmen used the same techniques on the range and in hunting as they did in war. But for the vast majority of infantry, that has never been true. For instance, before W.W.I the British experimented with mediocre shots firing quickly at dummies, versus really good marksmen doing the same. The mediocre troops got more hits per minute. The good shots wasted too much time on that last measure of precision.

Similarly, back in the sixties, Jeff Cooper ran a "Mexican Defense" match where one had to engage six targets in a specified time with a pistol. He once saw an excellent marksman get two x-rings, and time expired on the other four targets. What we need to do is follow up Jeff Cooper's work with combat firearms competition to learn how and what to train for in war. Yes, it's certainly hard to build realism into them, including friction, but it CAN be done if the people running them work at it. Cooper did it for pistol courses, and is working on rifles now.

4) In defense of the artillery vs. tanks, field guns killed a good many tanks in WWII, sometimes with indirect fire. If you have observers calling in corrections, you can do a lot. With modern terminally guided shells, a few commandos with lasers can bring shells down on turrets. 'Should we buy A? B?' 'By all means, buy both.' I expect tanks will survive too.

5) Laiacona is right about training, economy and numbers, Gallmeier about technology. The trick is finding the right tradeoff between them.

6) One of the reasons weapons are so heavy is we insist on making them that way. .50 cal too heavy? Well, with a muzzle brake and a hydro-spring buttstock, both available in the 1970s, and skeletonizing, which is turn of the century stuff, I'd bet you could shave 5-10 lbs. off it. Still, we do need to resist the tendency to turn the grunt into Alice's White Knight.

7) Tony Evans is probably right about using things in the fireteams and squads, and not with each soldier (at least till we finally have powered armor).

8) Harry Erwin's letter is interesting. On firepower and casualties -- just as rifled artillery outran its fuses from about 1850 till 1917, so infantry weapon lethality has always outrun its sighting capability. Jac Weller tested smoothbore muskets and found they grouped into less than 4 ft at 100 meters, which translates to near 100% hits against 18th century infantry formations. But the muskets had no sights, and the stock shapes led the troops to fire high.

Then there's the fact that under stress, people tend to look AT the source of the threat, while marksmanship requires you to focus on the front sight. What the infantry need is some sort of optical sight that lets them look at the target, but indicates where the bullet will strike. There is a major problem here: THESE THINGS WILL LOOK AWFUL. I emphasize that because the M-14 was adopted because it looked like a rifle 'should', and abandoned because it was utterly unsuited for the job it was issued for, individual automatic fire at close range. That shouldn't have been a surprise, since it was designed to emphasize long range sniping capabilities. Meanwhile, the Japs designed a 30 caliber rifle that fired full auto under full control, without any tendency to rise -- but it wasn't suitable for sniping, and it looked funny.

If we could just force the brass to let the troops test them, then decide what to buy ...

Still, target acquisition is a big problem. A study done around 1950 said that at >300 meters, the average soldier had almost no chance of spotting an enemy infantryman. Even at 100 meters it wasn't guaranteed. That was the rationale for the 5.56mm cartridge -- who cares if you can't hit a target at ranges you can't see it anyway?

I think the solution to Erwin's requirements of "1. good tactical mobility and unimpaired vision, 2. reliable communications to supporting weapons and echelons, and 3. direct access to high-firepower weapons to keep the heads of the opposing infantry down while friendly infantry moved around doing their jobs. 4. (secondary requirement) some sort of decent protection," is:

a) Write up some fitness report that say "This officer is utterly incompetent and should not be in charge of anything more important than sorting underwear," names left blank. Create a team to design ALL the things an infantryman will carry. Show them the reports, and say "When you bring it in, we will weigh it. If it is fifty lbs or under, we will proceed with the tests. If it is 50 lbs., 1 oz. , we will throw it away and enter the above fitness report into the files of every officer on the project. Now, get cracking."

b) Emphasize the fire team, squad, and platoon level, with appropriate mixes of gear at each. Evans is right that there is "too much of a good thing" possible.

c) Test the hell out of this stuff, under field conditions.

Amazing how fast we're approaching STARSHIP TROOPERS as a reality, no?

Best, St. Onge

G'Day Jerry

I have been an Infantryman since 1977 (full and part time) and have read with interest the Infantry debate. Here in Australia we have had similar discussions for as long as I can remember. I am reminded of two quotes that express both sides I think. The argument for one side is by Petronius Arbiter and the other by Nicolo Machiaveli

We trained hard...…. but every time we began to form teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet new situations by reorganizing, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization." -- Petronius Arbiter ~ 60 AD

On Change “There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new ones. The hesitation of the latter arises in part from the fear of their adversaries, who have the laws on their side, and in part from the general skepticism of mankind which does not really believe in an innovation until experience proves it’s value. So it happens that whenever his enemies have occasion to attack the innovator they can do so with the passion of partisans while the others defend him sluggishly, so that the innovator and party are alike vulnerable.” Nicolo Machiaveli "The Prince", 1513

Also re "the American Dream"

An intersting piece. As I sit here using my copy of the email program (American) on my copy of the op sys (American), reading about American problems on the internet (American), watching my kids chew chewing gum (American trait) watching sitcoms (American) laughing at the jokes (American) etc etc

I think we all around the world have similar laments and would like the rest of the world to buy Australian made :-)

I collect scifi paperbacks and i am looking forward to Mamelukes


G'day yourself...

As the other writer stated, the plan in the Army for the OICW is currently to issue them one to a fireteam, with M-4 carbines for the rest. Land Warrior continues, with a vast amount of weight to remove, and a need for more duration from the electronics if they're to be kept. Since they are the point of that exercise... We still haven't had a successful test of the digitalization program, but enough plans have been made, enough money and reputation sunk into it, enough face invested that regardless of the result it will go through. If, as the theory goes, its a good thing to digitalize the armor, it must therefore be a good thing to digitalize the troops. Ironically, the digitalization tests are all taking place with heavy or light forces, and for similar reasons, we're going medium for the concept.

The Medium BDE will have 3 bn's of wheeled light armor carrying troops. There will be a bn of recon types. The plan is for the recon to find the enemy, and the superior mobility of the wheels to allow the force to stay out of the enemy's way, while the global trend towards fewer troops will prevent the enemy from building continuous lines that would force an attempt to break the enemy head on. We shall cast a merciful shadow over the chance the enemy will seize something vital, like a city, and require us to go in after it, since the only plan for that is technology that does not yet exist, or perhaps allies willing to provide the body bag filling.

In practice, the competition to determine which exisitng wheeled vehicles will be the basis for the medium forces turned out to be a fiasco. It seems that the existing wheels all fail to meet the standards set, so now the standards are being relaxed to allow a winner. Moreover, conventional wisdom that tracks take far more maintinance and money to keep operational is being called into question by the competition, since it appears the wheeled vehicles get more cantankerous when you keep piling stuff on them, adding complexity and weight.

The USAF is of mixed feelings about the medium units. On the one hand, if it turns out that we really need firepower, like we have today, the only recourse will be to use USAF resources to provide it. Nothing else will be available when it is needed. But, it turns out the USAF can't provide the quantity of transport aviation the medium division will require to arrive in the time frame scheduled, and indeed, the brigade will require about twice the time officially stated due to physical limitations like refueling the planes, etc.

The rank and file of the professionals in the Army, that is, the long service NCO's who care about the big picture and the Field Grade or lower officers, believe the best plan is to put the light forces on wheels, making them and the current test units the medium force, but retaining our existing heavy force. At least, those in the heavy community do so.

The arguement against that is interesting. It is maintained that the conventional view ignores changing realities. We won't need to conduct heavy conventional warfare anymore, so maintaining that capability spends money for no end. Nobody with enough combat power to require that kind of response is still an enemy, or retains the ability to threaten vital US interests. For the kind of operation other than war we shall face in the future, heavy forces are too expensive, to intimidating and simply wrong. Light forces are not mobile enough, lack needed firepower and intimidation, and are simply in need of aid. Medium forces will possess the best possible combination of cost-effectivness, firepower, utility and lack the disadvantage of scaring the locals so they fear and hate the US forces. In the event we use them for real battles, they can use agility, superior situational awareness and precision weapons to decapitate the enemy force.

I find these arguements lacking. I note that it takes a spurious logic to call much of the high profile peace-enforcement missions we do vital US interests. Thus, I don't think we can safely say that we can ignore those potential foes who possess real combat power. Moreover, not all palace coups are as poorly conducted as the last attempt to get commies back in power in Russia. It takes time to change capabilities, but intentions can change rapidly. I can think of several situations that our present force structure can handle better than the future medium army, and I don't think we can do such a great job now of those threats.

In all honesty, one of my nightmares, collapse of Mexico, could be handled by a medium army better than what we have now. Better than even the compromise heavy-medium combination. I still think the best plan for the Republic is that compromise force, pending somebody actually showing this stuff works as the PR claims. I'm an odd duck: I view my responsibility towards the nation seriously enough to worry about protecting its interests. I don't want to gamble with it.

Remember, not only is there a great dichotomy between the capabilities of heavy, light and medium forces, but also between warfighting and operations other than war. Medium forces trained for OOTW will face massive challenges in warfighting, just as I face challenges learning how to perform peace enforcement.

I still think somebody needs to do some serious research on the 1919 US expedition to Siberia, and the lessons learned there. We are violating too many of them.


Noting a prior comment, in which it was said:

>High-Tech isn't the answer. China has it half right: with enough soldiers, supplied cheaply, any battle and war can be won.  I'd amend it to be enough superbly trained soldiers. Then see what your half-trained cyborgs are reduced to.

The first thing that comes to mind are the campaigns of Alexander vs the Persians. Here you had tremendous odds and overwhelming numbers of forces vs superior technology in the form of actual armaments, tactics, and plain old espirit d'corp. (never mind damn good luck!) How much this would apply to the chinese example is hard to say, but such parallels are worth considering. The old maxim "those who cannot remeber the past ...." certainly comes to mind.

it's a day....


Dr Pournelle, Another one for your Infantry Report Page. There have been some comments about superior training being more important than advances in technology. This reminds me of the argument that the brass used to buy the Krag Rifle (not sure if I spelled that right) for the Infantry just prior to the Spanish American War. They argued that a weapon with a higher rate of fire would cause the troops to neglect aimed fire and waste ammunition. A weapon with a slower rate of fire would cause them to take their time and aim more carefully. As a result, US troops were badly outgunned by the Spanish Mausers of the enemy. Lucky for us that the enemy was undersupplied and outnumbered The lesson to be taken from this is that both advances in technology and intensive, realistic training are essential. We must ensure that we are in the forefront of weapons development. At the same time, we must ensure that we develop proper doctrine for the employment of new weapons systems so that they fit the mission of the Infantry - "Close with and destroy the enemy through fire, maneuver and shock effect". The two do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Matthew D. Kirchner

Points made in Strategy of Technology although we were concentrating mostly on air power in that book. But the principles remain the same.  Technology without doctrines and training doesn't win.

Dr. Pournelle, A relative directed me to this site. I though you might find it interesting, in light of the recent discussion of infantry. http://www.grunts.net/index.html

 George Laiacona III <george@eisainc.com> ICQ 37042478/ 28885038 " ... " -Nyarlathotep "Bbl bbl bbl bbl .... <drool> " -Unsuspecting spelunker right after discovering Nyarlathotep in his underworldly extradimensional lair.



I generally agree with Dr. Irwin's definition of the infantry mission, as it relates to historical developments in the 20th Century. How could I not, having been taught by people who should know that you never send a man where you can send a bullet? Or that the radio is the most effective weapon at a squad leader's disposal?

But 21st Century warfare will be about cities. The same could be said about the 20th Century. However, for the first time in a long time, it will be about cities where we can't indiscriminately stomp all over everything and everybody in the name of efficiency or force protection. The future will probably look more like Panama City or Mogadishu than Grozny or Kosovo.(Unless, of course, you believe that the latter pair are good examples of how America should conduct itself on the international stage.)

In this environment, infantry will become more effective in relation to other arms. They have high performance but relatively descriminate small arms and crew served weapons. They will have unprecedented access to supporting arms, but will probably make less use of them, because their effects are absolutely indiscriminate in nature.

Cities are - for both physical and psychological reasons - terrifyingly complex tactical spaces. They will not need weapons of necessarily higher firepower, but weapons of the highest possible *controllable* effectiveness. They will need ammunition systems (the bullets themselves, how they are packaged, how they are delivered) that don't imobilize operations with a logistics anchor. They will need communication systems that work, even when the communicator is surrounded by mountains of metal and concrete. They will need support systems that allow them to get to the top of a building, fight isolated twenty stories above ground, and actually win such battles.

Optimization of the soldier's load is an old issue. It will be even more important in the future, as we come to grips with multiple, non-convergeable enabling technologies. We will have to pick and choose carefully.

Tony Evans

Dear Jerry,

 Daniel Boldger's _Death Ground_ (just got it from Amazon.com) is pretty good on recent infantry operations and has good analysis on what infantry can and should be. The US Marine MEU concept is a pretty good one for embassy rescue and similar operations. The Army's Light Infantry should probably embrace this approach with a Brigade sized air assault or parachute unit build around light infantry battalion and Blackhawk helicopter company reinforced by scout, gunship and heavy lift helo platoons plus a Tank platoon (preferably M-8 Bufords) and enough M113's or armored cars to carry one of the companies. Tom Clancy's _Marine_ has more details on the MEU concept which does not prevent the US Marines from operating as division and corps sized units as in Desert Storm. The Marines used to deploy larger units built around Regiments ( brigade sized unit plus composite air group, etc ) but this became too expensive and maybe too much combat power (is such a thing possible?) but in Desert Storm 2 such units were deployed in the Persian Gulf by combining MEU sized units.

The US Army 'MEU' could be more easily air deployed in the same manner that US Marines are sea deployed, but I fear that this will continue us on the road to empire instead of only being used to rescue embassy staff, etc! Also why is it, that as soon we finally develop and prove in combat the finest armored force ever to be deployed that the Light Infantry cannot rest content until they have destroyed it? I suppose the Light Infantry will not be content until armor is returned to M-4 Sherman tanks and half-tracks.

Love your day-notes/columns, read them daily/weekly/monthly, Thank you very much! (Hope to start on your fiction soon.) Paul Evans, only an armchair general


It has been fascinating to follow the discussion on Light Infantry and Land Warrior on your Chaos Manor Infantry Report page. Prior to May of this year my connection to the military has been limited to reading popular press, news, and of course Military Science Fiction. Since May I have been working as the contractor's Sr. Test Engineer on the Army Land Warrior program. Based on my admittedly short-term personal knowledge here is a quick, and biased, view of the LW 0.6 system, that just PROVED itself in the Army Advanced Warfighting Experiment (AWE).

Here is the URL for the official AWE website. <http://www.tradoc.army.mil/pao/AWE/AWEIndex.html>

Yes I know these reports tend to paint all the systems in the best light possible, but please check out the sections on Land Warrior.

This LW is not the Raytheon system! That system, although shown on a GI Joe action figure, was totally unacceptable and is no longer under consideration.

A new team of contractors was formed to produce, as far as possible, a Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) Land Warrior. This team was composed of small high tech non-traditional-government contractors and they were given a very specific mission to design, build, test, deliver and train a platoon with a COTS 60% functionality Land Warrior system. Program success was measured by how well our platoon performed in the AWE. In fact when I was hired it was with the understanding that this 0.6 LW need not be usable after AWE. It was not expected to be true fieldable system. This was an experiment to find out what COTS could do and then decide what else would be required, before anyone would consider sending soldiers into combat wearing a Personal Area Network (PAN).

The contracts for this program were officially signed in February and March of this year 2000. First units were delivered to the Army for training early June. We continued to improve the system as the platoon trained all summer. Then at the AWE (September 8 through 20th.) our platoon, with NO CONTRACTOR support, proved more successful than we expected.

Please read the reports on the above AWE URL for details on how well they performed. The highly trained OPposition FORce (OPFOR) was taken by surprise by the effectiveness of our LW-Platoon lead by a 2nd Lt. who was newly assigned, just before this summer's training,

This platoon was quickly assembled from other elements of the 82nd Airborne, they had not been a cohesive unit before our training started. Specifically the army did not recruit techno literate soldiers for this platoon. One of the things we were being judged on was the ability to train normal soldiers to use this high-tech gear.

At AWE our LW platoon had superb situational awareness, they were natural pathfinders for the majority of the troops who were not LW equipped. . Just like Heinlien describe in "Starship Troopers" they had digital terrain maps that were overlaid with their own and the team teammates positions, provided from their individual military GPS receivers automatically communicating over the wireless LAN. The LW did not have and did not need a compass. Each LW soldier's personal icon was in the shape of an arrowhead, with the point oriented in the direction the soldier's body was pointing. Soldiers had the ability to digitally mark enemy positions and pass these positions to the team and up the chain of command. He knew where he was, where his team mates were, and where the enemy was.

Operations orders were passed down from the tactical Internet through the RTO to the platoon leadership. The Lt. and his sergeants made plans, again on digital map overlays, and sent them to all the platoon members over the wireless LAN. Each platoon member had a radio (high frequency very low power line of sight voice over IP) that allowed configuring, via pull-down menu options, who in the platoon would receive radio traffic. Usually the squad only communicated with them selves, or just their team, but could quickly reach any platoon member in range. The planning overlays and radios allowed them to know what their leaders wanted them to do, minute by minute, if necessary.

Each rifle team member had a very small Daylight Vision Site (DVS) on his weapon. Some also had either the existing medium weight or the brand new Light Weight Thermal sites. Digital sight images and cross-hair adjustment reticles were presented to the soldier in his Helmet Mounted Display (HMD). A LW can and did make kills at 300 yards while only exposing his hands and weapon. This new style of indirect weapon firing will make the soldier much more survivable since they do not need to expose their heads for normal cheek to jowl firing.

Clearing buildings and reaching objectives in the military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) exercises went much smoother than expected, but the army referees were not fully cognizant of the capabilities of the LW. In one case our LW soldiers were in direct team-to-team radio communications coordinating who proceeded when and where. The referees were just about to call a safety halt since, to them, it did not look like one LW fire team knew the other team was about to enter their field of fire. Next time the referees will need to be on the platoon net as well.

The weight of this new system (batteries for nearly 24 hours of full operation included), when combined by a new lighter weight helmet, new lighter weight more flexible interceptor body armor, new modular load bearing system and Light Weight Thermal Weapon site, was within 2 pounds of a currently equipped line soldier. Everyone realizes that today's soldier is expected to carry too high a load into combat so this is not good enough! We do have program requirements to continue to reduce the weight and manprint. But that is just what COTS technology has been doing for the whole computer field.

The next contract will be for a few hundred fully fieldable robust reliable Land Warriors; that must pass DOD tests and be accepted for real combat. The Army and the contractor consortium know this doable if the specifications are kept reasonable and do not require the contractors to build out of unubtanium.

Today we are truly seeing the communications layer of the Mobile Infantry suite become real.

Land Warrior will give the American soldier significant overmatch against any opponent in the world, from set piece heavy maneuver battles to "Peace Keeping" missions.

Chuck Cady Land Warrior Test Engineer Home Email: CECady3@aol.com

I make no doubt this will start a new round in the debates and I look forward to that. Mr. Cady sends this attachment as well:

Good Web Sites for the new version 0.6 land Warrior Not the failed Raytheon system. 








Dead Reckoning Module part of Land Warrior http://www.pointresearch.com/accelera.htm 

land Warrior batteries http://www.engineeringtalk.com/news/saf/saf108.html  Note these disposable batteries were a failure at AWE. In fact some of them caught fire one burned up a soldiers pack, luckily the soldier was not wearing it at the time. The disposables were taken from the soldiers and they completed the AWE mission on rechargeable Batteries.

Here is a GAO description of the failure of the previous Raytheon system : http://www.gao.gov/openrecs99/abstracts/ns96190.htm 



 Click to go to What Is This Place? page September, 2002: Renewal of discussion.

I don't know how old the articles you have on "Queen of War" are, so I may be replying to a long dead topic. I have to voice my concern though.

First off, The man who spoke about China having the right idea:

China has the wrong Idea, they've had the wrong Idea for a long time. I'm only fifteen years old, and I know about the battle for Chosin. After the engagement, I think about six Chinese DIVISIONS were completely destroyed, with about another five with terrible losses. All of this done by ONE MARINE Division, surrounded, using the problematic M1 Carbine (Which was prone to jamming or misfiring in cold weather, mind you). At some points the Marines were reduced to throwing Rocks. They also carried out a manuever called "Final Protective Fire". That alone killed tons of Chinese, and sometimes had some American Fratricide, but the Chinese paid for every inch they gained, even though they ended up losing.


Computers on the battlefield, at least for the time being is a bad idea. They are, for one, too cumbersome (Eg. Land Warrior), and require to much power. The last thing you need is Delta Force or Navy SEALS fifty miles behind enemy territory trying to carry out some high-stakes, classified mission, and get cut to ribbons because thier batteries run out...

The Weapons that have been developed by companies such as HK, and Colt as a compromise are flops. The G11? The gun shoots a cartridge as wide as a BB or Pellet. No matter how fast it goes, like we learned with the M16, it's going to take more than one shot to knock them down, and in some times you don't have the time or ammo to plug everyone five to ten times.

The G36 has the right idea, use a proven (though not the most capable) cartridge in a streamlined package, with a integrated scope. Allows the basic rifleman, if using the rifle correctly, to become a marksman or even expert with his weapon. The lightweight contruction, and pure ergonomics give it a rather nice appeal to it as well.

I wonder what ever happened to the 7.62mm Cartridge as a mainstay. It would be much simpler if you could make a GPMG, much like the M249 SAW, which would have the ability to use magazines from rifles of the same caliber. You can't do that now because the GPMG and the M16 don't fire the same cartridge. That would be cheaper, and more useful. The 7.62mm Cartridge is also very hard to stop, even by today's standards. The only thing that will stop it is a SPECTRASHEILD (R) Plate, which weighs a good 5-7 pounds, on top of a ballistic vest. The entire thing would be around 20 Pounds.


Gallmeier has it wrong as well. Twenty Millimeter fragmentation from an OICW grenade would be more than enough to be effective in combat. The goal is to wound someone, not kill them. Why? If you take Enemy #1's legs off, Enemy #2 and in most cases, an Enemy #3 will come to his aid, and try to drag him off to thier Aid Station, if such a thing exists (Obviously Somolia would not have such a facility), regardless, his freinds would carry them off. THEN you do the same to them, aiming for shots that will take the out of the battle, but keep thier little hearts-a-thumping. I'm not saying it's not wise to kill them, it is, but it would be adventageous to incapacitate all the men you can with the least trouble.

They had no problem hosing them down with Machine guns and chainguns at hamburger hill. It was a mess, but look who was fighting...

And I WOULD LIKE TO SEE YOU FIRE A .50 Caliber Rifle! Unless you alter the cartridge, or have really good recoil mitigation, it's going to beat the hell out of you. Ammunition will be heavy as a damned mule, and It will be HEAVY overall, because the gun will have to be pretty big. I think your nuts. .50 Caliber? I wouldn't want to hump that on a ten mile march.

Stealth Gliders? Are you sure you're in the right universe, pal?

1.5 Pound Shaped Charge Warhead being Small? C4, Comp B, etc, etc are all high yeild explosives. If you were even close, Which the engagements of tomorrow will be, we're not fighting in open desert with ten miles of nothing in any direction. Close Combat, Close Contact. 1.5 Pounds of HE would be suicide.

*Ahem*, Fragmentation more penetrative than 7.62 NATO Ball? You're refering to the fact they'd have nifty Ballistic Vests. Here are the areas, VITAL Areas, that are still vunerable:

Face! Neck! Brachial Artery Femoral Artery Groin Legs Knees Etc. Etc.

Wounding either of those Arteries can bleed you out real quick-like, about two minutes...

My Final point:

High Tech Weapons are dreamy at best. Scientists and military men alike want to slap gizmos and gadgets onto guns, forgetting that the gun will be thrown, tossed, dropped, sometimes hit with gunfire, be dropped in mud, have to operate in adverse conditions: wet, dry, hot, cold, and everything inbetween. LCD screens can fog up, break, run out of batteries. Batteries run out! When it comes down to close combat, which is the combat of tomorrow, it doesn't matter how many microchips your sighting system has, how how far off you can shoot targets with precision...

What matters is that your gun is light, accurate at close and intermediate ranges, easy to weild and maneuver at close ranges (Which points more towards "Bullpup" Style Weapons, which are Ambedextrious, EG F2000) and are SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE. Why do you think half the world uses old AK-47's and AK-47 Knock-offs? They are HORRIBLY reliable! They can be counted on in any situation. You can throw them in dirt and mud, they will fire whether it be hot, cold, or wet. High Tech Weapons can't, or would fail or break...

I am fortunate enough to have taken apart the M14, and Simonov SKS-45 Carbine. Two reliable weapons, though they are aging, they break down into seven and five parts, respectively for the average feild stripping. High tech guns would break down into nine or higher. It would be a shame to have your gun jam in the middle of a firefight (EG M-16) and have to take a complicated gun with multiple peices apart, and clean them.

Final Word: Simple = Better. High-Tech = Fiction, and CRAP on the battlefield.


If you are in fact only 15 years old, you are a living refutation to the charge that no one gets a decent education or learns to write in the United States. I'll reserve comments for later.

Incidentally, the topic was called "Queen of Battles" which is the title the infantry used to give to themselves. Heavy infantry has been a fairly decisive arm in many periods of history, and you could say that the rediscovery of disciplined infantry was the real end to the domination of heavy cavalry and the feudal era.

On Infantry and the Queen of Battles. This from a career serving officer:

Hello. A few thoughts inspired by our youngster. I'm reminded of an old sergeant of mine who was hysterical when we realized that he had been in the Army longer than I had been alive, and I was in charge. Now I'm the grizzled old geezer. Then again, I know exactly when I got old... Just a few comments and expansions on things.

China knows full well that their forces can't take on the US in a fight. They also know they are at least decades away from that capability even under the most optimistic point of view. Not being stupid, they've been leaders in the asymmetrical combat movement, which is based around non-traditional methods of opposing the US. They've made some very insightful decisions about how to fight the US, along with some interesting observations about what the US accomplished. The Chinese view is that for the past 50 years the US has managed to get everyone to fight towards our strengths, and they are full of admiration for this feat. Now the Chinese desire to emulate it, which means we need to do it again. Puts the high tech revolution into a different context. What comes of it remains to be seen.

Computers on the battlefield is a more complex subject than you'd first think. Batteries are heavy. Nobody is thrilled about troops carrying them around, least of all the troops. But computers will mainly appear in headquarters units. For instance, when I was battalion staff, we did things on paper and acetate. Indeed, when you started to work on a plan it was called dreaming on acetate. Now, computers are appearing at that level. laptops make the creation of orders much easier since much of that is manipulation of text. It doesn't work as well when you consider using them for graphics for a number of reasons, not least the need to reproduce the product for distribution. The big risk is the fact that some commanders and staffs will begin to go for more ambitious solutions to the mission because the computers will make things go faster, or much worse, time and effort will be put into prettification rather than product.

Certainly the digitilization should produce good things. When I tackled those problems, one big one was staff sections at different levels of command with different views of what was actually happening. If the data can be accessed at each level, and each level can look at the data the others have in real time, they should be able to operate much closer to the same sheet of music than before. Of course anything can be screwed up, but I well recall a period when I worked for a higher level unit that will remain nameless that had some key leadership failures in my specialty. I typically threw out the products they gave me and started over from the raw data. They knew they were in over their heads and occasionally I was able to help. If we had been digitilized, it would have been much easier for them to work with me.

I remember a force on force with another US unit at Hood. During the fight, our TOC was set up on the edge of the military reservation. We literally had our backs to the wall. As the other unit conducted the attack, I watched out the tent flaps and saw a platoon of tanks working along the flank. So I grabbed my marker and placed it on the situation map. Real time intel. If I could have presented that digitally to higher with the same speed I might have been able to do something about it other than hope our side took them out before they reached me.

Weapons are another complex matter. When you shoot, you need to consider the target. If you are shooting a hard target, like an APC, you consider penetration and after-armor effects. When you shoot at a soft target, like a person, you still have to worry about bone or flesh. If you hit the bone, what matters is the energy in the round. If you hit flesh, what matters is momentum transfer. This is why the old Army .45 had knock-down, while it typically takes a few of the more energetic 9mm to put someone down with authority. Now, if your target is wearing a ballistic vest, the 9mm is a better choice. So to use a real world example, the 5.56mm NATO round from an M-16 will in fact put somebody down reasonably well. But the 5.56mm AP round occasionally issued won't. It wastes too much energy punching through and not enough affects a soft target. Small rounds, BTW, are a good thing because they allow you to carry more kills per mass than larger, provided you don't get too small. Lots of people don't understand the physics of the matter. I've seen learned studies by professional scientists that have wonderful theories as to how this stuff works, that fails to explain empirical data from ammunition types other than plain vanilla. I think what I've presented here answers those questions, though I'm open to exceptions.

BTW, I predate the SAW, but the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon can accept the same magazines as the M-16 if the belts aren't handy.

The theory behind the smaller grenades is that improvements in explosives can make up for the loss in the round's payload, while giving grenade launchers to everyone means that compromises had to be made because you won't be able to trade out with fresh people when you get tired. Now the theory that everyone will get the advanced weapons is in doubt. I personally would prefer that only some people got the grenade launchers and keep the larger rounds for the burst effect. Combined Arms is nice... This is also behind my sorrow that the SAW has replaced so many of the GPMG's of my era. Now I'm not that fond of the 60, but there are good weapons of that type, and having the range advantage was a good thing.

.50 rifles aren't unusual nowadays. Lots of sniper units use them for anti-materiel rifles, for sniping at things like generators. Larger are on the market as well. Heck, I've seen a pistol firing the same round as a Ma Deuce...

Stealth gliders are reasonable from a tech point of view, even if I don't think I would spend the money on them or be in them. I have seen sillier ideas tried though.

Remember, simple and reliable are not the same thing. They are related, but Kalishnikovs made by the wrong people are horribly dangerous to the user and break very quickly.

Just wanted to provide more ammo for the discussion.

I don't have the actual issue on hand, but there was an interesting article on this subject, as I recall it discussed the Mobile part of Heinlein's 'Mobile Infantry'. It even mentioned "Starship Troopers", it was pretty much a blurb but it caught my eye, maybe it qualifies for addition to the discussion?

Science News June 30, 2001 (Vol 159, No. 26 pp401-416) It's on pages 407-408, titled "Dances with Robots"...

heck, here it is on the web, I am such an idiot!


just re-read the article, the nice thing about the internet vs paper media is you can see some feedback, the letters at the end are somewhat interesting too....

hope this is some use to you.

Love your website.


Which is a pretty good summary of where things are on exoskeletal  armor.


June, 2003

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I just finished reading the Infantry page. It is interesting especially as I spent 10 years as an infantry sergeant. I am also, like one other contributor, a war gamer and game designer and have looked at many of the things discussed from both viewpoints.

One thing that was not really mentioned on the page but has come up in your writings is having equipment that is in the troops hands long enough to be thoroughly familiar to them. When things happen and you are making it up as you go along (because the only part of the op order that makes sense is the commander's intent), you fall back on training.

You go back to the immediate action drills, individual tasks and battle drills that have been so often trained that they are second nature. This requires endless hours of boring, repetitious training that will wear out equipment. If the brass is afraid that the troops will bend the stuff during a field problem, its useless.

As an example; When I was in, they had recently come out with a new anti-tank weapon, the AT4. Every report on it (including those from people who wouldn't make any money off of it) said it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. We got a familiarization class on it and got to see one fired. Only one person in our company got to fire one (they were too expensive) and we only got one trainer per platoon which we could not take to the field (it might get broke and have to be paid for by the platoon leader). When we went to NTC (National Training Center, Ft. Irwin CA) we did twice a s much damage with the old Dragons as with the new AT4. Dragon training happened all the time. Dragon rounds were expensive too but we could qualify with a MILES (Multiple Independent Lasar Engagement System) simulator, and my entire squad was qualified on Dragon instead of the normal one man per squad.

If it isn't trained to the level of automatic habit, it is probably going to fail in combat. It may fail anyway but with enough training, there is a chance it will work. Enough training will even go some way to overcome equipment limitations as with the m-16 in Viet Nam; but no matter how good the equipment is, when all the rounds appear to be incoming, the soldiers will forget how to operate it and fall back on habit and training.

Peter Hoage

Possony, Kane, and I made that point in The Strategy of Technology, but that was long ago and it is often forgotten. "Secret Weapons" seldom have much real effect on wars, because the troops won't be able to used them effectively after they are deployed, and the other troops won't be able to exploit their advantages.

Following sent by Ed Hume:

INFANTRY: One Observer Calls All

From http://www.strategypage.com/fyeo/

July 4, 2003: The U.S. Marine Corps is taking the lead in creating a new kind of forward observer. In the past, there were different forward observers for artillery, mortars, air strikes and naval gunfire. But communications equipment is now capable of easily (relatively) communicating with all those weapons systems, and binoculars equipped with GPS and laser rangefinders (and linked to the radio), make it easier to get accurate targeting data to the supporting weapons. The army has been agitating with the air force to allow army troops to be trained to call in air strikes, but the air force is reluctant to let go of this job. The Marines have no such problem, being part of the Navy and having their own Marine combat pilots flying jets as well.

 The Air Force must be made to give up the close support mission. They don't want it, it's a career killer in USAF for those who go that way, and yet in some ways it's the most important job there is once air supremacy is established.


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

As a Brit, I feel compelled to reply to Chris Morton's ill-informed rant on the subject of the SA80.....

Basically, he's talking total BS. I'm a user of the L85, have been since about 1992, and don't recognise any of the faults as described. "Squeeze the receiver too tightly"? That could apply to all weapons (just apply those hydraulic rams to your M16, and tah-dah.....).

Yes, there were issues with the SA80 A1 reliability in desert conditions, but it still outperformed the M16 on trials in both the 1980s, and 2002. The SA80 A2 version (as fixed by H&K) is truly exceptional - the example being that one battalion involved in the fight for Basra claimed not to have had any stoppages in action, during the whole of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. A recent group of Royal Marines fired some 45,000 rounds through SA80 A2 in temperate conditions in Scotland, not one stoppage.

I suggest that he try the following site, which is somewhat better informed than he obviously is: http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/SA80.htm

 Note that the criticisms applied to SA80 A1 applied to early parts of the production run, and were fixed / retrofitted by the early 1990s.

And he might want to read the following article, by an SA80 user from Afghanistan: http://www.navynews.co.uk/articles/2002/0211/1002111301.asp


Well, I have no experience with these weapons. I was supposed to carry the M1 Carbine, but I can't say I was fond of it. I thought the M1 Garand more than acceptable as an infantry battle rifle, despite its drawbacks, but that's an entirely different story and involves what troops are trained to do.