Manpower isn't Everything

Every few years, there is an outcry in various circles over the declining strength of combat infantry in Western armies, and this is generally used to attack the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle (MICV) concept.

This ignores the historical trend of “Bayonet strength” declining over the years as humans are replaced whenever possible with firepower.

Infantrymen in Rifle Squads in US Army Infantry Battalions

Year

1861-1865

1917

1944

1962

1986

2002

Type

Leg
(8 Co)

Leg
(4 Co.)

Halftrack
(3 Co.)

M113
(ROAD)
(3 Co.)

Bradley
(J Series)
(4 Co.)

Bradley
(3 Co.)

Infantrymen

800

896

324

243

216

243

There are two statistical aberrations in the above table; the 1917 and 2002 Battalion TOEs, where the amount of infantrymen went up, instead of down. They are explained below.

Contrary to popular belief; the Bradley has not led to a reduction in infantry squad sizes. What has resulted from the reduction in vehicle capacity from eleven men (M113) to six (early Bradleys) or seven (later models of Bradleys) is the splitting up of rifle squads between vehicles.

Generally, armies all over the world have accepted the following drawbacks of the MICV concept:

However, the effects of the Mechanized Infantry Fighting Vehicle on the unit's fighting capabilities are enormous, not the least starting with the capability of engaging and destroying light armored vehicles such as BMPs, BTRs, BRDMs, reliably, and having a chance on older model tanks (T-55s), without having to use the unit's precious man-portable anti-tank missiles.

While it is theoretically possible to engage and destroy light armored vehicles with a pintle mounted AAMG in a APC, penetration is not reliable and effective engagement range is quite short.





(From Daniel Goldberg:)

An important argument that should be made there (and I could try making it), is the tooth to tail ratio growing, and how that affects number. A modern regiment would probably have an equivilent number of soldiers as a WW2 regiment (or not), but far less of it would see combat. Or the argument could be made that for every tank regiment, there is a bunch of tank mechanist platoons(here they're even given names IIRC), medical units, ammunition managers, what not.

This I feel is a far better argument than counting Infantry men in squads. Why? Because that argument ignores the change in doctrine. Riflemen in the Civil war were not individual soldiers, they worked as a block and if we had a magic wand to create a single large soldier with enough arms to hold the guns of an entire squad in a stable fashion, we'd do it and get the same affect. Today, riflemen are required to move in an independent fashion.

The closest comparison here that could work might be comparing the sharp shooter units in the ACW to the sniper squads in modern infantry companies, but even here, doctrine means the argument is baseless.

These arguments all work for land warfare. A more interesting one is in the navy. Navies in pre...WW1(I'll be wrong here) were self contained vessels, food, oil, everything was onboard. A modern navy has a bloody hospital ship, not to mention the glorified oil bunkers in a carrier and dedicated refueling ships as a testement to the changing needs of manpower.

What my gist is that your argument there is correct, it's just not the right one.