Infantry: March 15, 2002

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The deadliest form of warfare for infantry is fighting in built up areas. Think cities and towns, although a large industrial plant, a compact village or a shopping mall would also qualify. There are plenty of places for the enemy to hide and everything is up close and deadly. Out in the open, you have time and space that gives you time to think and react with more care and preparation. Not so in built up areas. Everything happens fast and in your face. The smallest mistake can quickly kill you. During the last decade of the Cold War, it was noticed that much of the potential battlefield in Central Europe was built up areas, and that a lot of fighting was likely to take place there. So for the past two decades, a lot of work has gone into making urban warfare easier for our troops.

Out of all this has come several areas that need attention. First is communications, especially for the individual troops. Experiments were made with off the shelf radios that allowed all members of a squad to talk to each other and their squad leader. This improved matters enormously. Next came reconnaissance, which was addressed with the development of remote control ground and air vehicles. The former look like miniature tanks, or very rugged (and odd looking) wheeled toys. In the air, there have been some really small remote controlled aircraft, which carry cameras. Perhaps equally useful is plugging the troops on the ground into the video feed from the larger recon aircraft, or even satellites. That's another discovery made over the last decade; information on what's happening at the front often doesn't get to the guys who are doing the fighting. Sure, the recon aircraft and satellites can see all sorts of stuff, but it often goes back to the CIA or the Pentagon and never makes it to the battle zone in time to do any good. So no everyone is now preaching "real time reconnaissance for the troops." Tests of the concept have proven highly successful, so there's hope that in a real city fight, the combat troops will get the battlefield information first. 

And then there's the matter of access. When the anti-tank rocket launcher (bazooka) was introduced during World War II, the troops quickly adapted it for street fighting. Not just for shooting at tanks, but for blasting enemy infantry out of buildings. Combat engineers, and all the explosives they had, found themselves very popular. The engineers could use the explosives to create new entrances into buildings, or brings structures down. Over the decades it was realized that the infantry needed a special bazooka for fighting people in buildings (rather than armored vehicles), and training with explosives so they could quickly create additional entrances into buildings. 

Finally, there is the benefits of having some friends among the locals. This bestows many advantages. It gives you someone to warn the civilians to get out of the way in their own language. A local guide may be able to negotiate with the locals for more cooperation, to the detriment of the enemy. This can lead to more information on where the enemy troops are, how their defenses are set up and, perhaps, and inside track on getting the enemy troops to surrender. 


 


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