The light infantryman has been receiving significant attention by many armed forces across the world.
In the United States there has been wide focus on increased weapon effectiveness and responsiveness, enhanced ground mobility of opponents, area denial tactics and high operational tempos have been demonstrated as typifying today’s battlefields. This has also been reflected by other countries, such as in the United Kingdom where Scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) continue to work various industry partners to develop the Army’s Future Soldier Vision (FSV), showcasing the personal equipment that soldiers could be using by the mid-2020s.
The combination of requirements has raised concerns about the ability of traditional light infantry to effectively execute missions for which they are designed and intended. To address this, a number of initiatives have been launched by various armies focused on enhancing the light infantry’s capabilities to effectively operate in today’s combat environment.
This is typified by a focus on the individual soldier, the small unit, referred to the fire team, squad or section. The areas covered in this compendium relate to lethality, survivability, mobility, and situational awareness.
Although these appear to be separate functions from a practical sense and increasingly on the battlefield aspects of each can have a major influence on performance or capabilities in the others. Often these concerns are also acknowledged by developers yet too often are somehow lost in the solution that is finally provided to the soldier.
The definition of what encompasses each of these four functions is shifting and expanding as well:
- Lethality for example, always high on the list of improvements has essentially focused on the individual service weapon carried by each infantryman. However, today the approach reflects not just the weapon but also the ammunition and sighting/aiming system. The objectives in next generation infantry service weapons are to have modularity, improved ammunition, greater accuracy, and be more discrete.
- Under mobility the issue is how to balance light infantry’s strategic mobility advantage while providing the essential tactical mobility needed to operate on today’s battlefields.
- In survivability the challenge is to enhancing it without burdening the soldier or compromising his ability to fight.
- Finally situational awareness seeks to expand the soldier’s knowledge of his surroundings.