As countless doctrines already tell us the mission of infantry is to close with the enemy and destroy them with fire and manoeuvre. Mortars are the heaviest weapons that infantry have organically at their disposal and whether it’s 81 or 120mm depends on which army we are talking about. More often than not 120mm mortars are still infantry weapons. These are often company and battalion level assets. They are often available to support infantry platoon but even in a 3-3-3 battalion with one battalion level mortar unit there are 9 platoons and one firing unit meaning scarcity is a commodity and an infantry platoon has to provide its own firesupport. Some armies have 60mm mortar at platoon level but they’re more of a heavy UBGL than mortar unit blasting the bad guy and his neighbours into smithereens.
Defining armament of infantry platoon includes assault rifles, machines guns of different sorts, anti-tank rockets, claymores, hand grenades and in some cases ATGMs, underbarrel grenade launchers heavy .50cal machine guns and grenade machine guns. The number of different infantry sections and platoons and armament is endless so I will not dwell into any particular organization or army but instead focus on trends and things that I find important.
First of all is effective range combined with weight of fire. In this category heavy machine guns and GMGs take the top spot but at the expense of heavy weights. They can be manhandled across small distances but not kilometers on end. The weapons themselves and associated equipment can weigh between 50-100kg, count in ammo and we easily break the 100kg mark. If available to the unit ATVs, snowmobiles and sledges provide big boost to their mobility. Regarding GMGs I have mixed feelings about them, while they provide superb fragmentation effect at long range and even some armor penetration capabilities they require open areas and longer engagements ranges to put them to effective use. When talking about conventional war situation and against mechanized high technology enemy manning an GMG at the edge of a forest is the last place I’d want to be in. Compared to GMGs heavy machine guns have the advantage of not having explosive effects. What this means in forested areas is that when firing with .50 cal you can expect to hit your targets whereas grenades will explode upon hitting trees and branches.
With suitable mounts .50cal can be used against aerial targets and this is common practise in FDF where NSV is dubbed as “anti-air machinegun 96”. In theory GMG with airburst ammunition could be used against aerial targets but this is more of theory than common practise. Someone at some point might do so but is it any effective or easy, only time will tell.
Next is mobility and portability. If these weren’t factors we might as well all be slugging around PKMs and NLAWs. Regarding small arms I think these factors are a drop in the sea and so I will look at things that go bang instead of whiiu like anti-tank rockets and hand grenades. Most of the time they’re more or less big and bulky, a pain to carry, get in your way, snag branches but also one of the most defining factors in how the infantry platoon engages its enemies. Smaller weapons allow more shots or reloads but they can’t engage MBTs whereas bigger weapons like NLAW and Javelin can but with the downside of having fever shots. As with 95% of all topics discussed about small arms logistics is the defining factor as to what is good and what is not. What good is system X if we can bring only one with us and we expect to face several Y:s.
In close combat hand grenade is the unsung hero. Extremely versatile and effective it should receive more recognition and attention than it does now. Thank Nammo for giving us large variety of different hand grenades. Most hand grenades are the size of a fist and weigh about 250-300 grams or the same as one full magazine. Grenade pouches often hold only one hand grenade and even then there might be a smoke grenade. In survival and hoarding “one is none and two is one” so more is better. I would favour smaller hand grenades that could be carried in bulk. As is sung in British Grenadiers march “Our leaders march with fusees, and we with hand grenades”. First of all not every grenade hits its mark and with more hand grenades they can even be used to suppress an enemy at very close ranges, for the record my personal best in hand grenade throwing is 54m. In urban terrain grenades will be expended like candy on a Christmas eve. Going into room should always be grenade first and only then, infantry. I can only imagine the horrific sight of seeing small green/grey ball hurling through the air towards you with mere seconds to spare.
Will continue this topic later on with explosives like claymores and such.