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Thread: Bunker and tank busters at section/squad and platoon level

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    Council Member Kiwigrunt's Avatar
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    Default Bunker and tank busters at section/squad and platoon level

    In the ‘New rules of war’ thread there are some interesting posts regarding effect vs efficiency, also with regards to economics.

    In the ‘UK in Afghanistan’ tread baboon6 and davidbfpo linked this video, where a UK section fires a Javelin at a suspected enemy position thought to hold a single shooter. Note in this video also that the section has two DMs with sniper rifles with one carrying a Javelin and the other has a Minimi (with but stock extended) strapped to his pack as a sidearm. Also it did not look like the GPMG gunner had a number 2, unless it was the DM with the MINIMI. But I digress.

    It must be the Dutch and the builder in me that screams ‘waste’ when I see that. From both an economical perspective (which rightly does not concern the trigger pullers who will use what is at their disposal, including CAS), but also from a carried weight perspective. No doubt weapons like Javelin and Spike are unsurpassed against MBTs in a ‘conventional’, like against like war, and also where their extreme range is required. However, in A-stan against AKs, and up to around a range of 500 m, how sensible is this trend towards using what used to be battalion/company level support weapons, at section level? (Will Javelin be the next IW?) Is the range advantage the big issue here and if so, is Javelin indeed often used at section level in excess of 500/600 m?

    A historical example that would support the use of the longer-range weapons is Goose Green where B-coy 2-Para was pinned down for several hours in open ground and it required anti-tank platoon’s Milan to get them unstuck. But this was at battalion level.

    There are many different unguided weapons available and they are improving in quality and effect, from the lighter M72 up to the heavier Metador and Bunkerfaust. Even the 1948 designed Charlie Guts-ache is still in the running. Australia is purchasing new ones.
    Canada also still uses the Carl Gustav. Is there any feedback of its use in A-stan?

    It seems that UK and US units at the sharp end of the stick are leaning increasingly towards the use of Javelin, almost exclusively at times. Again, is this mainly because of range advantage or is there more to it? Is there still good reason (other than from an accountants perspective) for retaining the heavier Bunkerfaust/SMAW type weapons or is the super expensive and heavy Javelin/Spike at section level the way of the future?
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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Well, first you look at the per-unit price of a Javelin shot.

    The you look at a realistic storage life (not the shelf life that can be extended by an inspection) or if you dare to complicate the calculation even more: The life expectation as a 1st rate AT munition (about 15 years usually).

    Then you look at the time that has already gone past and depreciate accordingly. That can take about 5-10 years off that Javelin, about half of the price.


    Yet this calculation was only relevant if you expect to need the munition in another conflict or to replace it with a new round.

    The cost of the round is zero if you won't do either. This is one of the great lessons of economic science; it helps us to be rational about this instead of trusting our guts (if we are informed).
    The key here is that the money was already spent - sunk costs. Sunk costs must never be considered in a decision - they's past, sun, irrelevant.

    Only opportunity costs (we would have needed that round in a later conflict) or replacement costs would be relevant.

    Finally a last, unrealistic and thus irrelevant complication: The opportunity cost could also be positive if you would have sold that round. That does never seem to happen and is thus irrelevant.

    In short: The Javelin shot was most likely dirt cheap.

    ----

    Now about force planning. That is a different game, it's about the decision to buy munitions. Nobody buys Javelins to bust bunkers (I hope - the Russians offered thermobaric Krizanthemas, though). These munitions are usually bought for other purposes and their use against low value targets is usually just an improvisation.
    The typical dedicated anti-bunker munition is an unguided 300-600m Panzerfaust or Bazooka.

    ----

    Personally I wonder why people keep carrying such heavy munitions in AFG. Even a M136 is quite heavy. The Javelin firing post has a great thermal sight (if you have the batteries to run it) and may be justified as a platoon thermal sensor - but the missiles are odd.

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    I think this is one of those questions that has considerations rather than a clear answer. However, I think those considerations will usually lead one to leave the Javelin back at the patrol base.

    The last time that a unit I was in carried Javelins was 2003. After that, we simply never saw any reasonable use for them. They are heavy, bulky, and pack more punch than is necessary. We did carry AT-4's, on every deployment, but not on every mission. Those are relatively heavy and bulky, but not nearly to the degree of a Javelin (and there is no $500K CLU to carry along before and after firing).

    My thought has always been that if you cannot rely on indirect fire from your M203's, then you probably need to rethink your task organization or execution. (Obviously, AT-4's and M203's don't have nearly the range of a Javelin, but if the threat is that far away then how dire is the situation?)

    Now, if you are conducting a mounted patrol and weight is not an issue, and you have sufficient room to bring Javelins/CLUs, then why not? Other than that situation, the negatives seem to outweigh the positives.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    However, in A-stan against AKs, and up to around a range of 500 m, how sensible is this trend towards using what used to be battalion/company level support weapons, at section level? (Will Javelin be the next IW?) Is the range advantage the big issue here and if so, is Javelin indeed often used at section level in excess of 500/600 m?
    In Afghanstan at least, we might see a future curtailing of employment of Javelin and similar PGMs in the wake of the Marjah 27 civilian death incident. Being able to employ a precision weapon to engage a single or even multiple-shooter threat, located inside of a structure, is likely to get a lot more difficult.

    I'm already concvinced that the 60 Minutes spot on the SF Team resulted in a shift in at least one application of force policy, and that only took about two weeks to come to fruition.

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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    There is certainly a need to project HE at the squad/platoon lvl, but are expensive precision AT weapons the best way to do it? See my previous posts on precision mortar rounds and LOS HE weapons at the squad/platoon lvl.
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    Council Member Kiwigrunt's Avatar
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    I just had some further thoughts on this.

    Let's say that up to about 20 years ago, infantry anti tank weapons existed in two categories, once the likes of the 106 kickless cannon were replaced with ATGMs. There were the light and medium unguided weapons like M72 and Carl Gustav at section up to company level [1] and there were the heavy guided weapons like Milan and TOW above company level[2]. Since then, the lighter weapons keep getting bigger and heavier (and slightly smarter with improved optics) as we demand an ever increasing bang (for an ever increasing buck). At the same time technology allows the heavier weapons to become increasingly light and compact (relatively speaking).

    Are we reaching a point where the top end medium weapons of category 1 are being pushed into redundancy by category 2, leaving only the lighter weapons like M72 up to AT4 and its variants with a right to exist? I should think that the cut-off point there would be around the 6 to 8 kg mark.

    And to what extent is it mainly the beancounters that throw lifelines to the heavier weapons of category 1 (read also Fuchs’ input).

    My personal thoughts are that there is definitely still a place for the light to medium ‘dumb’ weapons like Metador, Carl Gustav and Panzerfaust at around the 8 to 14 kg mark, even disregarding economics. But, to mirror Fuchs and Schedlap, their use in a relatively low intensity conflict like A-stan would, for weight reasons, still need to be carefully considered. Here something like the 40 mm MV revolver might be a more sensible option. Question is, would that be carried instead of something current or in addition to….my guess is in addition to. I’m sure that soldier with the sniper rifle and the Minimi could carry a bit more…..or perhaps the GPMG gunner? Now I’m just being facetious.
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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Possible answer

    IIRC the use of Javelin in Afghanistan was prompted by their advancing redundancy and so firing them off came along as a brilliant idea.

    I was puzzled at the UK patrol's weapon mix and why carry Javelin out of the nearby patrol base anyway. The patrol appeared to only go 600-800m from the patrol base; surely Javelin could have been left there?
    davidbfpo

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    Javelin is heavy, bulky, takes longer to employ (versus an AT-4). One of the recurring themes in A'Stan is the issue of how much weight Soldiers carry and how mobile they are.

    The elation that a PFC felt in OIF I upon destroying a T-72 with a Javelin was not along the lines "woo hoo - I just made a big bang." Rather it was "thank you, God, I no longer need to carry that awkward sonovabitch."

    What is the added capability that you get from a Javelin that you cannot get from a few extra rounds of 40mm HE or an AT-4 (other than added range and a bit more precision)?

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    My broad conclusions are as follows, - and not necessarily more useful or insightful that anyone else's:

    a.) The lowest level at which ATGMs cane be usefully controlled is Platoon. That is they must be employed within the framework of platoon tactics, and not below.

    b.) The ability to deliver a point target attack to beyond 1,000m is almost certainly useful - especially against enemy ATGM and HMG posts/positions/fortified buildings etc etc.

    c.) Javelin is a high cost weapon for this type of capability. There are cheaper ways to do the same thing.

    e.) Why use ATGM against enemy snipers - when you have snipers in the platoon?
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    Default How about heavy rifles?

    Linking into what has been said above I'm interested in the role an AMW (Anti-Material Wpn) could have at the squad lvl. A .50cal/ 14.5mm rifle, in the role of an AMW, could fill some of the capability gap in the sect/squad/pl for negligible loss of mobility.

    It's not an ATGM in it's ability to defeat armour, but the wpns can deliver accurate fire with a high degree of penetration against field fortified posns (say, a crew-served wpn in a bunker) or against a lightly armoured veh.

    If the Jav/ ATGM is over-kill for the need to achieve destruction of an eny at a range outside the 40mm can provide for, would an AMW be of benefit either at the sect or pl level?
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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris jM View Post
    .
    It's not an ATGM in it's ability to defeat armour, but the wpns can deliver accurate fire with a high degree of penetration against field fortified posns (say, a crew-served wpn in a bunker) or against a lightly armoured veh.
    Yes, Long range rifles may prove effective, but it's the degree of penetration and blast that are the issues. In my neighbourhood you will probably have to perforated 0.5-1m of rocks and packed earth to kill the bunker, and this is certainly an issue for some of the fortified buildings.

    The issue for me, is to be able to hit the bunker from where I can get a shot, so maybe 8-1,800m , and not have to shuffle up to 1-200m to hit it with LASM, or AT-4.
    Last edited by William F. Owen; 02-28-2010 at 09:15 AM.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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    Council Member Kiwigrunt's Avatar
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    As we know, the Barrett and other 12.7 mm rifles have seen some use in the sandbox but probably not so much at section or even platoon level. Although I believe the German army issue it at section level but only to be pulled out of the vehicle when needed. I doubt that a foot patrol would lug it around on the off-chance that the may need it.

    I’d agree with Wilf that the range is impressive but the effect against bunkers probably relatively minimal. Against light vehicles, sure. But even an AP 8.6 mm may be good enough in comparison, with a much lighter rifle. And I think that for something like a 12.7 to be effective against an enemy in a bunker, even if the bullet penetrates the bunker, you would still need to know exactly where the shooter is hiding behind that wall to hit him.

    At the extreme end you could look at the NTW 20, but even these 20 mm grenades are probably a bit light against bunkers and the rifle is a near 30 kg beast. Again, not something for your average foot patrol…..or is it? It’s still lighter than two Javelins. Maybe as an over watch support weapon at platoon level or higher.

    I think that these weapons are more suitable for surgical use against dedicated predetermined targets as opposed to knocking out bunkers that a section or platoon may stumble across during a gunfight.
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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    A small arms bunker should be knocked out with a man-portable weapon (~89mm LRAC F-1 a.k.a. LRAC 89 a.k.a. STRIM, for example). There's no need for more punch or range.

    A sniper position is very unlikely to be revealed at distances greater than the range of the aforementioned weapons.

    A heavy weapons position should be taken out with a guided 120mm mortar round. It may be too strong, so in that case either call guided artillery or simply blind the position with mortar smoke.

    There's no "infantry gun" capability greater than a relatively lightweight man-portable, shoulder-fired weapon necessary.


    example LRAC F.1 (similar to B-300):
    Used by the French for decades, reputed to be accurate
    calibre 88.9 mm
    length 600 mm
    flight 1.55 s to 400 m
    weight per shot 3.2 - 3.8 kg
    weight of weapon 5.5 kg
    munitions available: Smoke, Illum, HEAT, AP/AV (shaped charge + fragments)

    See:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LRAC_F1
    That's a tolerable weight class even for patrols in my opinion.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-28-2010 at 12:03 PM. Reason: Add link

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    A small arms bunker should be knocked out with a man-portable weapon (~89mm LRAC F-1 a.k.a. LRAC 89 a.k.a. STRIM, for example). There's no need for more punch or range.
    Only 400m? Really? I'd pretty much want to zap any bunker laying down 7.62mm beaten-zone out to 15-1,800m.
    I know 14.5 and 12.7mm do not produce good beaten zones, but they can easily cause casualties well beyond 1,000m.
    Plus, do not forget the ZU-23mm Duce on the back of 4x4, at maybe 1,500m. Yes GPMG will tell him to poke off, but ATGM will cancel him forever.
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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Areas with fields of fire like 1,800m are no infantry terrain.

    Call an AFV to do an AFV's job.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Areas with fields of fire like 1,800m are no infantry terrain.

    Call an AFV to do an AFV's job.
    You might want to look at the Southern Lebanon, Cyprus, parts of Turkey, the Atlas Mountains, etc etc. If you have weapons which can fire 1,800m, so will the enemy.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Who cares?

    A threat at 1,800 m could - if spotted and identified at that distance - be dealt with with non-organic fire support. Pillboxes have the habit of not running away in time.

    A platoon that's being spotted at 1,800 m against a competent and well-equipped opponent is a) incompetent and b) likely dead anyway.
    Infantry should be able to conceal its movement up to a couple hundred meters distance. Maybe it cannot - then the terrain is so poor for them that they should better call AFV and/or support fires.


    My point is that infantry should use appropriate terrain and it should not give away its location unless necessary. A 1,000 m HE shot gives away its location.

    Some problems need to be dealt with with decisions at Bn or Bde level; AFV and/or indirect fires need to be allocated if the terrain offers 1,500 m field of view.
    There's no point in equipping the infantry platoon for a job that others can do much better.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    A threat at 1,800 m could - if spotted and identified at that distance - be dealt with with non-organic fire support. Pillboxes have the habit of not running away in time.
    Hang on. You're assuming combat occurs in an iterative form and works in a casual and predictable way. We know it does not. Look at the battle of Goose Green. You might not spot them until they engage.

    Sure bunkers are fixed, but if my lead section is pinned and taking casualties, I can get a Jav or Spike round into it, long before I can call for, and adjust fire - which I might not get.

    If I do have MBTs in support I can back-load the ATGM. If I do not, I detail a fire team to man and support it.

    I just ask the question, is a platoon able to move and sustain guided weapons better or worse off, given the reasonable or possible contexts and conditions?
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    There are those one-pound smoke hand grenades.
    You should use them to survive a surprise encounter (if the enemy is really that incompetent that you can escape at all).

    Smoke, disperse, run for cover, call in fires.

    No mater what kind of ammunition and weaponry you give to the platoon - it will always be at a terrible disadvantage against an enemy platoon that thought it was a good idea to open fire - and did so with surprise effect.


    Those Goose Green guys did not survive by using Milan missiles before taking cover.
    They would have benefited a lot by a few good bazookas, though.

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    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    What can deliver a bigger yet portable bang than a 40 mm at the squad or platoon level?

    1) Rifle grenades come in different shapes and sizes, but I doubt that a 5,56 round can propel a medium warhead (1-2 kg) or even a heavy (3-4 kg) to medium distances (300-400 m). Perhaps still a interesting way to deliver grenades like SIMON or a heavy bunker-busting grenade over a short distance.

    BTW, the 7,62 should be better suited for such tasks, even better should do the 8,6 Lapua Magnum and best the 12,7. However it might be asked much to develop a specific rifle grenade for the "sniper grenadier".

    2) A light shoulder-fired weapon. A modern LRAC sounds interesting, what about a Panzerfaust III with a reusable tube and a broad spectrum of warheads? The Carl Gustav has been made lighter, but the package is a bit too heavy for a squad.

    Firn

    P.S: Kiwigrund, I found this bit about the use of the Carl Gustav in Afghanistan. As Schmedlap posted, it depends if the operation is mounted or not.

    With respect to anti-armour weapons, B Coy maintained a three-layer approach (light, medium, and heavy). Short range continued to be dominated by the M72 disposable rocket. Readily available in the LAV III carriers or patrol packs, the M72 was perfect for neutralizing most armour threats in theatre. As each section carried two, the M72 could also be employed against bunkers or enemy soldiers in the open. If a heavier threat materialized, the 84 mm Carl Gustav rocket was the main system for medium engagements (regularly carried in the Pl HQ LAV III). Firing both standard and rocket assisted munitions, the Carl Gustav was more than capable destroying all known armour threats that existed in Afghanistan.
    Last edited by Firn; 02-28-2010 at 06:43 PM.

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