Small arms pt. 1

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Mainokset

Santa’s Defence Force

Intro

 

When I started working on this article I had the idea of writing more about the background of things around Lapland but Karlis Neretnieks beat me to it so I will not repeat what he already wrote. So to better understand the situation in High North I suggest you read this http://karlisn.blogspot.com/2018/10/nato-and-scandinavian-strategic.html?spref=tw.

 

As the title implies the focus will be regionally around arctic circle and above. I will take a look at the units and compositions of both Nordic armies and Russian army in the region, how the three Nordic countries are entwined with each other through different organizations and how they could improve their interoperability and prepare for the worst.

 

Santa and Ded Moroz are arming

 

Finland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, USA and UK are the key players in Lapland region. Nordic countries and Russia through their geographical location and USA&UK through the troops they have deployed or will deploy to Norway. USMC has currently about 300 soldiers on rotation in Norway which will be ramped up to 600 in upcoming years and UK will station 800 Royal Marines in Norway by end of 2019. USMC also has prepositioned stocks for entire Marine Brigade in Norway. Norway itself is planning to set up a new mechanised battalion in Finnmark region. Standing peacetime units as of 10/2018 are in the picture below. Only land and air units are accounted for.

 

Norway has improved combat capability of Brigade Nord substantially by introducing both new and upgraded CV9030 MKIVs into service and is in the process of receiving South Korean made K9 self propelled howitzers. The question about future of Norwegian heavy armor remains open because no decision about whether to scrap or upgrade current Leo 2A4s or buy entirely new tanks has not been made. 331. squadron together with 332. will relocate to Orland in the upcoming years leaving only a small QRF detachment in Evenes.

 

Sweden’s major units in north are I 19 which consists of two mechanised battalion, ranger battalion and a number of HV and other units. Close by is A9 which is the sole artillery unit in Swedish Army and it’s equipment consists of Archers. While capable system the two battalions operate only 24 howitzers in total. F 21 in Luleå holds two squadrons worth of Jas 39s.

 

Finnish units in arctic region include Jääkäriprikaati which also consists of ROVITPSTO ( Rovaniemen ilmatorjuntapatteristo, Rovaniemi anti-air battalion), Lapin Lennosto (Lapland Air Command) and Ivalo Borderjäger company. Jääkäriprikaati is training brigade whose peacetime strength consists of approx. 140 professional soldiers and 900 conscripts. The brigade also has a readiness unit (Fi. Valmiusyksikkö, more on the subject here https://corporalfrisk.com/tag/readiness-units/). As evident by the picture below the unit sports a wide assortment of capabilities: tanks, heavy artillery and anti-air missiles. Ivalo Borderjäger company trains recon and guerrilla troops to Border Guard wartime reserve.

 

On the Russian side we have three combat brigades, aviation base and AA brigade. Northern Fleet Joint Strategic Command was founded in 2014 and command the units that were parts of Western Military District until that. 80th MR brigade was only recently brought back into service and has been in built up phase for few years and not yet fully functional as a brigade though it might be able to field a high readiness battlegroup.

 

Nordic connections

Nordic countries are heavily involved in training with each other. Most of the cross border training has been between air forces of the three countries and Finnish and Swedish armies. Last year in Rovajärvi in Joint Fires Exercise all three were present, Norwegians with FIST teams and Swedes with Archers. We’re slowly seeing cooperation take deeper meaning and shaping up to actual interoperability between Nordic countries.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gCOsJhqPUU

 

Next step is logically to increase common training, deepen partnership and develop better understanding of the world around us and of each other. With this also comes problems from the political side of things. While we have excellent dialog with each other we’re all also depending on different organizations and things in our national defence. Norway being NATO member has benefit of article V while Finland and Sweden don’t. Developing better interoperability could at some point require common upper echelon under which all the units in Arctic region would operate. There were some common features in Finnish and Swedish operational planning during WW2 and Cold War but those never came to fruition. As shown in the Venn diagram below Finland, Sweden and Norway all stem from slightly different conditions.

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Common EU defence is not deep rooted right now and most likely will never be a thing with most of the EU members being part of NATO at the same time. Joint Expeditionary Force which is lead by UK is, as name implies, aimed towards expeditionary missions but can be used for national defence. Does JEF have some sort of independent HQ is unknown and also unlikely. Any JEF operation would very likely be UN or NATO operation acting under those conditions. While not entirely matter for the military alone, the political side of joint FISENO HQ could be a sore topic in some of the countries. For good or bad, Russian militarization of the North has also caused ripples in Nordic countries becoming more open to bigger military spending and perhaps much deeper cooperation.

 

My proposition is to set up a joint and cross border regional HQ that plans and executes all combat operations at Arctic circle and above. Looking at the options as to under what organization the HQ could fall under they look bleak. Finland, Sweden and Norway have no other common military background other than JEF which I’m slightly doubtful of. Therefore at the moment the best option would be to set up one on their own. A quasi Nordic NATO, you say? Well, it kind of is. It would be foolish not to seize any opportunity to deter Russian aggression. With this step we could create a venerable force in Arctic region that is much more than the sum of the three countries’ forces up there. If at some point Finland and Sweden join NATO it would fluidly become a NATO command.

 

Extra

Table of units, their approximate strenght and equipment

Unit Strength Equipment
Brigade Nord Full 100+ CV90s, ~40 Leo 2A4s, 18 M109s
USMC ~300
Jääkäriprikaati 900 conscripts + 140 career soldiers BVs, towed mortars, ZU-23-2s, Crotale, 155 K 83-97, Leo 2A4s
Ivalon RJK 100? Snowmobiles, ATVs
A9 2 BNs ~24 Archers
I 19 ~2200 2x Armoured BNs (CV9040s, Leos), Ranger BN
GSV 500? Snowmobiles, ATVs
80th 50-70% MLTBs, BVs, T-80s, 2S19s, BM-21s
200th Full MTLBs, BVs, T-80s, 2S19s, BM-21s
61th Full MTLBs, BVs, T-80s, 2S19s, BM-21s
F 21 2 Squadrons Jas 39
Lapin Lennosto 1 Squadron F/A-18 C/D
331. Squadron 1 Squadron F-16
6964th Aviation base ? SU-24

Winter war

This article will take a look at warfare during winter using the iron triangle.It will provide some insight for those unfamiliar with hurdles and possibilities that winter brings with it. Using firepower, protection and mobility as key elements we can determine, evaluate and rank how different weapons systems and TTP:s might work in arctic conditions. Iron triangle will be broken down into sub elements:

Firepower:

  • Visibility and ability to detect
  • Weapon system effectiveness in deep snow

Mobility:

  • Mobility in snow both on vehicle and on foot
  • Dynamic environment

Protection:

  • Protection from detection
  • Engineering and shelter from elements

Foggy

Foggy day in Russian Karelia

Firepower

To deliver effects upon enemy one has to know their location and identify them as hostiles. More often than not this can be trickier during winter than in good conditions. Fog and blizzards are common during winter and they reduce visibility not only in the visual wavelength but also in the infrared wavelength making thermal optics less effective. It doesn’t even have to be blizzard, winds combined with loose light snow can create the same effect.

Clouds are often at a low level during winter months and this can make using UAVs very demanding and in some cases impossible.

 

As you can see from the video the clouds in the background are cold and this means UAVs with normal cameras and IR cameras have to be below cloud level risking detection and observing smaller area than they would be from a higher level. UAVs using radars don’t have to worry about clouds as much but even their signals might be dampened by the clouds. Thick snow on branches of pines and spruces also make observation from above trickier and can be used to camouflage even large amounts of troops and equipment.

 

Light fragmentation weapons suffer greatly from deep snow and during WW2 Finns concluded that guns, howitzers and mortars smaller than 75mm were useless in snow deeper than 40-50cm. Heavier weapons also suffer from smaller effects in deep snow and airburst ammunition is the best way to go when shooting into area that has deep snow. Hand grenades, 40mm grenades and rifle grenades are also rendered almost useless. It takes 1-3 meters of snow to stop a bullet from small arms so this effect on firepower is negligible. Medium and large caliber weapons don’t suffer as much from cold conditions but depending on the temperature inside the vehicle the powder inside the cartridge burns slower resulting in slower muzzle velocity and less penetration. This may also lead to larger dispersion for indirect fire weapons. If the firing values are calculated using temperature that’s outside and the cartridge is put into the warm breech it’ll warm up and shoot further than intended if it stays there for some time.

 

Mobility

Ankle deep snow is enough to make walking much more cumbersome and knee/thigh deep will make walking extremely tedious. Even though skis and snowshoes exist to make getting around easier we can’t assault a target wearing skis or snowshoes in most cases. Advancing 200 meters by fire and maneuver in snow is extremely tiresome and assaults should be planned with approach routes in mind.

mäkeä ylös

 

Now do the same in combat gear

In peacetime exercises we often have perfectly plowed roads before the morning paper comes but in a frozen conflict someone has to get out there and make sure roads remain operable for wheeled vehicles too. Trucks hauling tonnes upon tonnes of supplies in containers might not have the best off road mobility or even shallow snow mobility. This also means vehicles moving at the front or securing flanks need to be able to traverse roads that possibly haven’t been plowed in weeks or several days. As you can see from the video it takes many hours and much resources to get one Boxer out of the bank. In a war that Boxer would probably have been left behind for others to take care of and its crew and infantry moved to some other vehicle to continue the mission.

 

 

Tracked vehicles are obviously best at operating in snowy conditions thanks to their low track pressure that sometimes even exceeds that of a soldier on foot. Deep snow also poses some risks to tracked vehicles such as rocks and tree stumps under the snow could throw off a track although they are minor risks. Even tracked vehicles can get caught if the snow layer is thick enough to carry the vehicle from its bottom leading to tracks losing traction.

 

For infantry and light tracked vehicles winter opens more avenues to move along during winter. Frozen bogs, rivers and lakes enable movement where it isn’t possible for most of the year although they should be used with caution. Also areas with soft soil such as sand dunes become more accessible to wheeled vehicles. Extremely cold winter with little snowfall enables tactical mobility on a unparalleled level. Frozen rivers also have a downside; wet gap crossing might not be possible and the ice might not be thick enough to carry heavy IFVs. Solution would be exploding the ice open but this will take time and most certainly would notify the enemy. Even after opening path in the ice it is unsure whether the gap can be crossed or not because of the floating ice cubes. Amphibious vehicles might be able to cross though.

 

Protection

In terms of protection and security winter is a double edged sword. On the other hand it provides enhanced protection from aerial observation by covering thermal radiation but also reveals troops by the marks they leave in snow. With proper TTP:s these revealing effects can be overcome and units hiding in snowy forest may live to fight another day. As stated earlier snow and fog are great at concealing troops provided they use proper gear and camouflage nets to do so. Any army or branch that plans on fighting in snow should start with the basics by having proper winter gear and right camouflage. Abrams’ with desert paint job aren’t fit for defending Baltics.

 

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Even good personal camouflage can be ruined by having wrong coloured backpack

 

Digging trenches and firing position during winter is excessively hard due to frozen ground and requires much more time and special equipment. There are explosive charges that shoots EFP down into the ground to make little hole which then can be filled with explosives to make a fighting position. Digging down with excavators takes a long time and this diminished ability to dig down should be taken into consideration when allocating excavator usage times to subordinate units. Also constructing minefields will take more time and to do it effectively would require a vehicle to do the mine pits. Winter makes camouflaging fighting positions easier because all it requires is shoveling some snow over the position.

 

In the end winter causes engineering to take much more time due to frozen ground and water and in some cases makes certain functions impossible. Building above ground with Hescos and sandbags becomes more desirable and faster compared to building below or at ground level but they are also easier to detect. Hescos are good option as long as there is dry sand or soil available to fill them with.

 

Not only soldiers need protection from elements but gear and supplies also. Medical supplies need to be kept warm and same applies to water. Winterized fuel and lubricants shouldn’t have any problem in cold weather. Batteries are depleted much faster in winter and vehicles need to be pre warmed before running or be kept running which produces heat signal and increases fuel use. Cold starting vehicles is very demanding for the engine and lowers their life expectancy but in most cases vehicles that are meant to be used in arctics are specced to cope with this. Norwegian XA-vehicles have to able to start on the first try after idling 24 hours in freezing temperatures. Soldiers need more calories and water during winter and if not addressed will lower their alertness and strength but puts more strain on logistics to deliver them much needed extra food and water. Under extreme temperatures some machines seize to function entirely and this applies mostly to electronics. Futuristic radios and tablets might become nothing more than dead weight if they don’t work in the arctics.

 

Personal experiences about fighting in (sub)arctic environment

 

Your subordinates will tire much faster and leaders need to stay on their toes not to succumb to the elements. It takes absolute self discipline when you’re tired and exhausted to the point that even eating is an ordeal. This is the point when training has to kick in. Sticking to the TTPs and taking time to eat before going to sleep or melting water from snow sometimes has to be ordered because not all will do it own their own. These measures also ensure they have needed bodily strength to carry on missions but also makes leaders job much easier. Stamina, fitness and appropriate amount of body fat (12-17% of body weight) enables you to focus on mission at hand rather than physical survival. Leaders need to get their hands dirty in physically demanding tasks to conserve subordinates strength and to show example but conserving their energy is more important.

 

Don’t be embarrassed to notify your superior that you might not make it to some deadline and learn from it. Winter is a demanding mistress. Failing will help you appreciate time management and also forces you become better at delegating tasks downward in the chain of command.

 

Just moving around demands much more thought than might look to untrained eye. One has to be vigilant about the type of snow being traversed and how those footprints will look like to the enemies direction. Deceiving tracks are much more effective and required to throw anyone tailing you off of your tracks. When talking at company level making tracks is wanted and loads of them. This will make it harder to determine amount of troops that have travelled there and confuses enemy about there where they’ve been heading. If some patch of road has been mined making it look recently travelled is excessively difficult and this undermines its effectiveness. Peer enemy will scout ahead with UAVs and take notes which roads are in use and which are not.

 

Mistakes I’ve made so others wouldn’t make the same mistakes:

  • Underestimate the time it takes to go from A to B
  • Approach a target with binoculars hanging from neck, snow will stick to the lenses and they’ll be of no use
  • Make sure that your subordinates can read the snow and travel along safe paths. Walking on snow that has running water underneath is a risk
  • Learn to read the snow yourself
  • If possible watch the weather forecast, going to sleep under a starry sky only to wake up to 20cm snowfall isn’t pleasant

 

Conclusion

 

Everything takes longer during winter: marching, setting up camp, foot patrols, making food, absolutely everything except dying of hypothermia. Operational tempo needs to match the conditions in the field to enable the troops sufficient resources to complete their mission. Especially recon troops need to be given enough time because their tasks can’t be accomplished properly under haste in demanding conditions. Use of supplies and spare parts will increase and running out of supplies is much more life threatening than during other seasons. In the end it’s important to make winter your friend and not the enemy, adapt and overcome.
tstpari

More reading

 

https://www.outsideonline.com/2267491/red-dawn-lapland