Mechanized Infantry Systems
While we are dramatically expanding on the capabilities of the Light Infantry formation, there will always be a need for a unit with a greater degree of overall survivability. Today's force has a dramatic overemphasis on this need, but the need will always remain, albeit to a much more limited degree than is current practice. We also need to significantly improve the deployability of this type of unit as today's mechanized forces take far too long to deploy and require far too much support to be useable in those situations where it is truely needed.
Bradley Medium Tanks
I personally am a strong advocate of converting existing Bradley Fighting Vehicles (BFVs) into a form of medium tank. This is done by installing the ARES 75mm gun turret in the current Bradley while keeping the ability to fire missiles and rockets from side mounts. Additionally, this system should incorporate an RPG-resistant force field system as well as command detonated ERA.
Bradley Personnel Carrier
The Bradley Personnel Carrier is an existing Bradley with the turret removed and the upgraded armor of the Bradley Medium Tank. A cupola with a pair of heavy barreled 7.62mm machine guns with a boatload of ammunition should provide sufficient firepower without taking up too much room so the vehicle can carry a full squad of infantry. Each BPC also carries a modular 60mm mortar system that can be fired through a top hatch with a tube extension or can be used as a commando mortar outside of the vehicle.
Bradley Escort Vehicle
A Bradley Escort Vehicle uses the proposed armor upgrades for the Bradley but also replaces the current turret with the 40mm ADA turret used in the Armed Escort Vehicle. This vehicle includes an AESA radar system that can be used in a variety of ways but it could also be used as a targeting system for the ARES turrets in the medium tanks.
The Mechanized Infantry Battalion
The basic construct of this formation uses Ralph Zumbro's proposed
double platoons in the infantry companies. With this design, each platoon would
consist of five medium tanks and five personnel carriers. The company's support
platoon would consist of four escort vehicles and eight TSVs for supply
needs. Three infantry companies make up the proposed battalion. The
headquarters company would include eight 155mm AGMs and an additional four escort vehicles
and eight TSVs. This gives each mech battalion:
|30||Bradley Medium Tanks|
|30||Bradley Personnel Carriers|
|16||Bradley Escort Vehicles|
|8||155mm Assault Gun Mortars|
|32||Tracked Support Vehicles|
With this formation, there would be no separate armor formation in the division and there would be no Abrams tanks in the formation at all.
As with LI divisions, I advocate merging higher echelon ADA assets into the artillery sections in the divisional structure. To that end, I would put a single battery of 36 HUMRAAMs and two TSV-based MLRS batteries into an integrated missile battalion. I would then retain the current cannon section but downsize to four cannons per battery to allow for eight TSVs per battery (two per cannon) for ammunition resupply.
The only changes I would make to the current Cav section of the mech infantry is to convert all helicopters to the proposed RAH-60 version of the Blackhawk and to replace the Abrams tanks with BMTs and the current M3s with BEVs. Apaches, like the Abrams, will be going into supporting regiments.
Strategic mobility of this formation is similar to the current mechanized infantry formations in terms of total tonnage involved but the weight is spread out over a greater number of lighter systems. For example, the current mech infantry division includes 203 Abrams tanks while the proposed formation replaces these with 297 Bradley Medium Tanks. The Bradley Personnel Carriers also offer a reduction in weight over standard Bradleys. We also make gains by having the 100 helicopters self-deployable and by modest reductions in artillery quantity. Offseting these gains is the addition of 183 Bradley Escort Vehicles and 72 Assault Gun Mortars. The greatest gain comes from being able to deploy a good portion of this formation by air on a useable level.
The tactical mobility of this formation should be significantly enhanced on two levels. First is that the elimination of the Abrams drastically reduces the problems associated with its excessive weight and fuel consumption. The other major improvement is that the Bradley vehicles are nominally amphibious using built-in inflatable bladders. We're also replacing the wheeled transport systems with the TSVs so logistics should be able to support this formation much better than current methods.
The hallmark of a mechanized formation is that everybody is under armor in one form or another and that remains the case here. The primary gains are the addition of CDERA and force field systems to dramatically improve survivability in the combat vehicles. The other major gain is the use of the TSV which makes logistics systems much more survivable as well.
Firepower changes are difficult to measure as we're giving up the main gun of the Abrams and the chain gun of the BFV but we gain the ARES turret in the BMT and a bigger cannon in the BEV. We also gain greater mortar capabilities and attack aircraft capabilities. The greatest gain is in ADA and overall rocket and missile systems. We also have a much greater anti-personnel mix with this design.
Meeting the logistics of this formation should be somewhat easier than the current mech infantry formation. While we have significantly more combat vehicles, we don't have to deal with the Abrams so this alone will lighten the load considerably. We also have greater overall logistics capabilities by using the TSV as the support platform. We also gain by having nearly all combat vehicles based on the same platform - the Bradley.
Other Key Points
If all we take into consideration is overall tonnage, this formation is probably heavier than current units. The big gain in a strategic mobility sense is the elimination of the Abrams in favor of a system less than 50 tons. If a current Abrams is carried in a C-17, it is the entire load that can be carried for all practical purposes. By replacing the Abrams with the BMT, we will still want to limit the load to only one tank, but we still have another 20 to 30 tons of weight capacity available in the aircraft. In the case of the BPC, we can carry two and still have some capacity to spare. It still will not be practical to airlift an entire division but a brigade as well as some supporting units could move by air quite well. Our other big mobility gain is that the vast majority of the combat vehicles will have limited amphibious capability so we don't have to re-engineer the entire countryside every time this unit rolls out.
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