Mechanized Infantry Platoon 2: Experimentation

Now that I’ve hit my monthly quota of Obvious Fishbreath Provocations, we can get back to our regularly scheduled theory posts.

I’ve talked about these before, and that was fun. Of course, that posited a CV9035 with eight man capacity. As you’ll recall, my original choice of IFV was for the Puma, with a capacity of six, and I’ve gone back and forth since. Besides, CV90s tend to get uparmored and loaded with stuff, with reduced capacities of seven or even six men. But let’s get back to the Puma. I’m still fond of it, and it’s still the best protected actual IFV in the world. It doesn’t really need to worry about RPGs of any type or DPICM-type bomblets. Yay. And it’s going to take the least amount of fussing to get the design pretty close to where I want it. At least, if I can get over the dismount capacity. So, what if we damned the cost (or accepted GAO’s estimates, which seem reasonable), and built our mechanized infantry platoon (‘Zug’ to you Germans out there) around the Puma?

We’re stuck with a six-man dismount capacity in the Puma. No changing it. We can get three eight-man squads with four Pumas. I think it might be easier to think of these as four smaller ‘squadlike units’ though, where each vehicle and its dismounts is considered a “squad.” At least for planning purposes. The infantry in the field can organize as they like. Thinking this way gives us a basis of issue of ‘per man’, ‘per vehicle’, and ‘per platoon’, which is awfully convenient. And it encourages improvisation. I’m beginning to think that on-paper squad organization doesn’t really matter too much, since there are so many good enough answers out there. And it is unlikely the platoon will be at full strength, anyway. So I’ll settle for a convenient planning conceit, and let the men in the field sort stuff out. They’ll certainly have enough firepower.

Further, there are many reasonable organizations for 24 men, and four vehicles is a nice cost/dismount balance. There are another twelve men who are vehicle crews, bringing our total platoon strength to 36 men. It is assumed by me that three of the four vehicle commanders are the platoon headquarters component1, though they can take which seats they like. I will also assume the fourth vehicle commander, plus the four gunners and the four dismount team leaders, are some flavor of NCO. The rest of the platoon can be whatever rank, but there’s our on-paper minimum NCO staffing level.

There’s a bunch of stuff that is issued on a per-man basis. Of biggest note to you, I’m sure, are: the helmet, the standard protective vest (which I’ll discuss elsewhere), and the carbine. Dismounts get a fixed-magnification optic.2, plus sling and NVG-compatible aiming laser3. Dismounts also get a night vision monocular4 and a radio (specifically the SRX 2200) to communicate amongst themselves if separated. The dismount element leader additionally gets a PRC-148 radio to communicate with other elements of the platoon, and a handheld GPS receiver (the PSN-13). Vehicle crews are issued an Aimpoint Comp M4 red dot and sling for their carbines. I won’t discuss ammo or numbers of grenades or number of rations here. There are lots. I chose a capacious IFV deliberately to let me haul things. How many? Shut uP. The P is for Plenty.

Before we get to vehicle-issued stuff for the men, let’s refresh our memory on the Puma. The Puma is armed with a 30 mm autocannon, a 5.56 mm machine gun, and a twin-tube launcher for the Spike LR. The Spike Launcher still hasn’t been seen on Pumas in the Bundeswehr, or at least, not in the pictures I’ve seen, but it is fitted to all of the various Lance turrets flavors that are out in the wild. So I’m stipulating it. The fittings are there. Additionally, the Bundeswehr Pumas have a 5.56 mm coax machine gun. Presumably this was to make weight for the A400m, and because of the stowed kills argument. Alternatively, I’ve heard space in the turret might be a problem. Anyway, I’d really like to see the stowed kills argument analysis, and if you could fit a 7.62 mm MG in the turret. I’m not convinced you couldn’t make one fit. To keep things simple, we will stipulate that the caliber of the coax match that of the dismount MG. So, for now, let’s assume it’s the 5.56 mm MG4, since that’s what’s in the design, and I’m trying not to go nuts with changes. COTS, remember? If the 7.62 mm coax is preferred after the above tests (and perhaps a blogpost of thought experimenting), give the dismounts the Negev NG7 accordingly. Of course, since the Puma does carry plenty of 30×173 mm rounds, we can use those against targets too tough for the 5.56. I think we’ll also see an increasing number of up-armored soft vehicles that would resist 7.62×51 mm just as well as the 5.56 stuff, so the difference may not be of concern in the future.

Anyway, each vehicle has an MG4 mounted in the turret as a coax weapon. Each vehicle has a second MG4 for the dismount team. Note that the dismount machine gunner also has a carbine available should he need it. This will help for building clearing. Again, each machine gun has a fixed power optic, a sling (with extra padding), and another of those night-vision-compatible laser sighting units. Note that the vehicle coax and the squad can share belts of ammo. And, only one kind of belted ammo has to be supplied to the platoon. We’re also keeping the number of belt-fed weapons down to keep the number of riflemen up in the platoon and “squad.” We still have machine guns in the vehicles. Plus, tests have shown that if a squad has multiple machine guns, it’s a lot harder to keep it in the fight as it takes casualties.

As noted above, the Puma carries a launcher for two of the excellent Spike-LR ATGMs. These are rather heavy. We’ll figure that each vehicle should carry at least two additional Spike-LRs, plus a tripod and command launch unit should the dismount team wish to use them, perhaps in an ambush. The weight of the Spike-LR and launcher is quite heavy, so we also figure that this is not going to be lugged around very much. Additional, somewhat lighter antitank capability, at ranges more in line with those of the rest of the dismount element’s weapons, is provided by a Panzerfaust 3 launcher, Dynarange sighting unit, and at least three Panzerfaust 3 rockets. Most of these should be the newer PzF3T rockets with tandem warheads, but the PzF3B demolition round is also very useful. In both cases, more rockets and missiles is better, but the above should provide a reasonable baseline. Additional disposable rockets like the M72A7 or the AT4 can be provided as needed. The Puma has plenty of storage space.

Each vehicle is also provided with a 40 mm underbarrel-type grenade launcher (e.g. the M320) and some grenades. I do love high explosives. Field reports seem to indicate that soldiers prefer having these with the little stock units attached, so their rifle isn’t super heavy most of the time. So let’s provide a stock unit with each grenade launcher. The option for independent use is there.

On to things issued at the platoon level. Distributed amongst the platoon is the following supplemental hardware: the PRC-150 manpack radio, two LGI F1 spigot commando mortars, and two 7.62 mm marksman rifles.5 The manpack radio provides a backup option for communication, useful if separated from the vehicles. The LGI F1s are easy for a single man to use, and give us some indirect fire options. Much cheaper and more convenient than that lame XM25. Plus, it actually works. Finally, the marksman rifles give us an option for a bit of precision at range. These items can be divvied up amongst the vehicles as desired.

So there we have it. I like this. I didn’t specify a table of equipment in my previous platoon post, so let’s compare with some real-world examples. I’m giving up two machine guns when compared to the standard US Army Mech platoon, and three 40mm grenade launchers. I have the three Panzerfaust 3s and two LGIs, which gives me some platoon level indirect fire and some very heavy HE projection. Coordination abilities should be similar. I also have the 7.62 mm rifles at the platoon level, which give some extra reach if desired. I’m taking a page or two out of a Russian Motorized Rifle Platoon book. The American squad has a Javelin, plus the Bradley has some TOW missiles. I’ve got a similar long range guided antitank punch in the Spike LR missiles. And I’m similarly high tech, with plenty of comms in the above table. One other thing I like is that the above TO&E is pretty adaptable to any other IFV I might choose to design around, including the Bradley, the CV90 (even the versions with fewer dismounts), or the ASCOD.

1.) I.e. Platoon Leader (a lieutenant), Platoon Sergeant, and Platoon Guide (another sergeant).
2.) E.g. an ACOG. I might go with a HAMR or SpecterOS though. Regardless, fixed 4x optic. I should write a blog post on this.
3.) E.g. PEQ-15, but I might find one I like more.
4.) E.g. PVS-14. I’ll probably go PVS-14 here.
5.) It occurs to me I haven’t picked a heavy rifle. It will be select fire (not that full auto with 7.62×51 mm rounds will be used much), and have some optic and a night vision laser. The optic might have more than 4x magnification. Basically something to fill a ‘modern Dragunov’ role.

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