Infantry: The British (Very) Heavy Infantry

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January 4, 2010: British infantry squads in Afghanistan have learned to adjust their armament to the mission. For example, when the troops will not be travelling long distances, over rough terrain, but expect to encounter armed resistance, they will carry more firepower. Thus an eight man squad will go out with two men armed with L85 5.56mm assault rifles (one equipped with a 40mm grenade launcher), two with 5.56mm LSW automatic rifles (an L85 with a longer and heavier barrel), two with 5.56mm FN Minimi machine-guns and two with FN-MAG 7.62mm machine-guns. The latter are particularly useful if the squad is fired on by an enemy several hundred meters away. These "heavy" squads are also about to receive the 7.62mm L129A1 semi-automatic sharpshooter rifles, and one of those will often be carried along as well. Most squads already have one man armed with the existing FN-FAL 7.62mm sharpshooter rifle. Thus the heavy squad would go out with only one standard L85 assault rifle, and that one carrying a 40mm grenade launcher attachment under the barrel.

Under normal conditions, the squad is to be armed with four L85s, two LSWs and two FN Minimis. One L85 has the 40mm grenade launcher and, especially in Afghanistan (where longer shots are more common), one L85 is often replaced with a 7.62mm sharpshooter rifle. In some cases, one or both of the LSWs are replaced by a 7.62mm or .338 sniper rifle.

This informal upgrading of squad firepower is nothing new, and was quite common during World War II, where even captured enemy weapons (particularly automatics) were carried instead of the standard infantry rifle.

 


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