Aerial Infantry: An Introduction
Fast Forward to the late 21st Century. He who dominates the skies dominates the battlefield. Erasmus and Kinkajou’s vision of combat in the future involves a new “unit” in the field of combat. This unit is the aerial infantryman.
Erasmus :Aerial Infantry is about mobility. An infantryman can only move so fast and carry so much food, water and munitions. An air infantryman can move much faster and carry much more equipment. The concept is about situational dominance through mobility. Mobility to move quickly and to move equipment quickly.
For example, an air infantry “section” carrying 10 tankbuster weapons, can deliver those weapons to over a hundred km of front line troops. To cover the same area to the same depth, probably over a hundred weapons would need to be directly deployed, amidst troops on the ground. As combat progresses and equipment is lost, mobility is even more critical, to distribute scarce resources to where they are needed.
Commander Rommel in the Second World War, routinely achieved situational dominance against superior foes, using mobility.
Kinkajou : How do you see the new weapons system being used?
- A cluster of tankbuster weapons could be moved and deployed over 100km in an hour to give situational dominance in an engagement. They could then be moved within an hour to a new battlefield.
- Infantrymen could be pinned down by rocket or machine gun fire, till reinforcements could be moved in.
- Line of sight precision mini aerial artillery could challenge the very concept of long range artillery.
- High altitude floating balloon rockets could be sown like mines into the path of oncoming aircraft. : “Aerial Mines”
- Small air to air missiles could be deployed in numbers and moved in anticipation of an enemy’s flight path.
Tactics and Strategy in warfare
would need to change to adapt to new techniques of warfare.
Kinkajou : Describes what an air Infantryman would look like, Old Man.
- The soldier would be seated in an ultralight style of vehicle, the seat would need to be a sitting position not lying prone to adapt to the human form.
- Suggested weight 100kg for the airframe based on say a bicycle type model.
- The vehicle has a number of miniaturised systems: covering computer control systems typical of aerial vehicles, as well as targeting systems, surveillance, communication, and Power Generation from Micro Solar Power films doubling as Lift Membranes. Catalytic Hydrogen Fuel Cells could extend refuelling times and operational ranges.
Guerrilla warfare units now have eyes in the sky and long range weapons capability. You could just mount some RPGs on an ultralight. One man in an aircraft could probably deliver a dozen shots from heavy weapons into a confrontation situation on the battlefield from the relative safety of an aerial platform. A simple weapon such as an RPG or rockets could deliver heavy ordnance to critical situations. Heavy weapons such as artillery, mortars and vehicles could be interdicted.
Helicopter mobility and large aircraft operations in terms of troop movements, logistics support and fire missions could be severely constrained if flight corridors are not secured from aerial infantry units. Big expensive machines are too expensive to risk losing. The big units like aircraft and choppers also move too fast to give "time over target", limiting theri effectveness.
Aeria lInfantry Flier
An ultralight air infantry platform should weigh much less than a car. Surely it could be delivered to the battlefield for a comparable cost to a car. The average groundpounder soldier in the western world costs about $1 million per 20 soldiers in wages and on costs. The average high performance fighter aircraft would cost say $50 million. If an air platform could be produced for the same price as a car (say $50K for a fancy model), about 1000 air infantry weapons platforms could be produced for the cost of a single fighter aircraft.
Erasmus :In considering the deployment of the new weapons system: the air infantryman, the face of modern warfare would change.
Kinkajou : The history of civilisation is littered with the effects of military innovations changing the course of history as nations rise and fall.
Kinkajou : The Roman Empire dominated Europe and the Mediterranean. Its primary weapon was the armoured infantryman, though cavalry and artillery and projectiles such as arrows were used.
The strength of the Roman infantryman lay in many fields. For example,
- in training,
- use of tactics such as formations of soldiers,
- organisation of logistics issues, and
- advances in armour construction ,
All reduced to the level of supporting the lowest common denominator: the infantryman. GoToAerialInfantryTop
Kinkajou : The advent of” nomadic horse archers” changed the balance of power as various Germanic tribes and then the Mongols overran large swathes of Europe and Asia. Infantrymen could not decide the field of combat. They were to slow and immobile. An armoured man on a horse was not mobile enough and too easy / stable a target for much more mobile light cavalryman.
If the light cavalry adopted mobile tactics , they could not be pinned down in an engagement. They could outclass the heavily armoured mounted knights. Their mobility enabled them to engage in guerrilla type warfare and allowed them to choose the site and nature of the engagements they fought. They were able to choose warfare in situations which played to their advantages. The result: Light cavalry and horse archers won battles and heavy cavalry and mounted armoured knights lost battles.
Erasmus :The strength of walled towns failed as projectile weapons such as artillery were developed. Building fortifications such as castles became an obsolete tactic of warfare. Walls could be destroyed by artillery. Castles disappeared as their walls fell. Fortifications such as the French Maginot Line in World War 2 fell as they were outflanked by a more mobile enemy. Shaped charges punctured the concrete armour of the fortifications, which then fell to the enemy. France fell due to its reliance on the Maginot Line for defence.
Much as in the Great Wall of China, these fortifications soaked up so much time, money and military energy that alternate tactics and strategy were never able to be considered or implemented. They had become “committed” to their walls.
Erasmus :The current state of play of modern warfare favours the group with the technological edge. Quality of weapons systems is much more important than numbers of troops. Witness the destruction in Iraq 1 and Iraq 2 as the American technological edge gained air superiority, destroyed Command and Control Systems, destroyed troop and civilian logistic support facilities:: food, water, power, isolated troop pockets and destroyed their ability to move and to deploy, then delivered overwhelming force to those instances where a cohesive strategic plan indicated that battlefield dominance was essential.
Heavy weapons have become more important than the trooper with his rifle.
Yet, in invasion and conquest scenarios, the guerrilla with his gun and explosives triumphs over the technological incumbent. It is the ability to choose the time and place and circumstances (method) of battle that is paramount to allowing victory. An occupying power can’t defend everything. If you go back to the nomadic light cavalry scenario, the ability to direct when and where and how a conflict event will occur is still the paramount deciding factor in the battlefield.
Kinkajou : Historically, situational mobility and power have always gained dominance. In the middle ages, heavy cavalry dominated on the battlefield. An armoured knight on an armoured horse was an almost irresistible force in the field of combat.
But changing rules of combat and changing technology demand different tactics for success. There is no one answer for victory. A fact too many rulers have failed to learn over time. Know your enemy. Know his strengths and weaknesses. Know your battlefield .These concepts have been important since the time of Sun Tzu.
Zip to Tech in 21st Century Warfare.
Erasmus and Kinkajou’s vision of combat in the future involves a new “unit” in the field of combat. This unit is the aerial infantryman.
Erasmus describes what an air Infantryman would look like:
Erasmus :The soldier would be seated in an ultralight style of vehicle:
- Suggested weight 100kg for the airframe based on say a bicycle type model.
- The vehicle has a number of miniaturised systems:
- Communications such as radio or infrared encrypted internet protocol line of sight:
weighing in at about 2kg with small battery
- Multiple possible weapons combinations and munitions: say 100kg allowed :: much beyond the carrying capacity of a single man
- Propulsion system: jet engine based but small: NO you don’t need a jet engine the size of a car to lift the equivalent of 300-400kg in weight: Perhaps the system can be miniaturised down to say 60 kg ( for the propulsion system itself),
- Imaging systems : such as thermal scanning and computer systems: 5 kg
- Food , fuel, 50 kg
- Parachute: 23 kg
- Extra load lift capacity of say 90kg
- Total 300-400kg, plus extra lift capacity GoToAerialInfantryTop
Kinkajou : The biggest problem with designing a new weapons system is specifications creep.
Erasmus :I agree. I’ll tell you about specifications creep in a large fish tank I had an engineer design for me. The specifications arrived. Every glass panel had a steel grid facing made of 10mm steel. The largest clear glass space was smaller than that of the average backyard fish tank. It was obvious that the engineer idiot who drew up the specifications had never seen a big fish tank in a restaurant holding fresh fish for the diners.
Other practical considerations also grated. While the theory of having a steel grid supporting the glass of the tank sounds great, these sorts of panels need to be constructed. They will probably be put together by a welder not made by a pour into an engineered template at a foundry. Glass is a very rigid structure. An imperfection of even ½ a mm across the face of the steel would result in there being no support for the glass panels. Welding to such tight standards to create as perfectly flat steel support surface grid is probably impossible in a low cost domestic environment
. Cockpit Specifications Creep
Not a new type of military unit at all.
In the long run the people who use the system and are forced to deal with its advantages and deficits will redesign the system. There will be adaptation of the vehicle to a number of different mission parameters. Not the design of a one “super-size me” weapons platform to suit all warfare environments.
Design is a give and take process. A series of compromises that attune a concept to its environment or purpose. It would be amazing to get it right the first time.
The tactics required to maximise the effectiveness of the new unit also need to be developed. Again it would be amazing to get it right the first time, the new weapons system is deployed. There are always going to be situations where a new system is more useful and a situation where it is less useful.
Erasmus :Look at the car industry. Cars are pretty much the same the world around. The most basic observation is that they are over-engineered for the environments in which they work. They are too big, too heavy, too fast and too bulky. In many city areas, few people travel on average much above 50kph, (35mph). Why use a vehicle capable of travelling 140 kph to do this task. This type of speed is illegal on most roads in the western World.
The average person going to work probably does not need a vehicle weighing in at 1000-2000kg to facilitate the transport of one person and a carry bag of possessions to work.
The average person in a city going to work only need to transport about 100 kg; themselves and their personal belongings.
The current ludicrous situation of personal transportation over engineering will probably only cease when the price of fuel goes up by a factor of about ten. Then the average vehicle would need to be about ten times lighter and ten times more fuel efficient to be a practicable alternative for personal transportation.
The fuel companies and the motor vehicle industry have a lot to answer for. A Four wheeled bicycle with a small motor would serve transportation requirements for most people just as well as a small vehicle, would be largely as safe as a small motor vehicle at lower speeds and would be quite adequate to meet transportation needs for most people in a city area who simply require to go to work and home again. GoToAerialInfantryTop
Kinkajou : We Digress.
Compare the strengths of the 2 warfare units:
Modern Soldier/ Infantryman vs. Air Infantryman
Erasmus : The Modern soldier
- weighs around 70-80 kg,
- Can carry about 30kg in equipment weapons and supplies.
- His power rating: ability to do physical work is about 100 watts give or take, equivalent to an old style incandescent light bulb.
- He can move at about 5-10 km per hour on mild to moderately uneven terrain
- He / she is susceptible to physical obstacles: a 2m depth of water or a 3metre high wall poses immediate problems.
- On the positive side, when dug in , they are relatively immune to artillery and small weapons fire,
- They can be armoured but again at an increasing cost to mobility and ability to operate in adverse (hot) environments,
- They are very susceptible to supply chain blockage: a soldier can only carry so much food, water and munitions and supply bases need to be very close to the front line of a battlefield to allow resupply of soldiers.
Erasmus :The Air Infantryman
- Still weighs the same at 70-80 kg + the flier itself
- Can carry up to say 300 kg in equipment, weapons and supplies: including the air mobility platform or aerial vehicle
- His power rating : ability to do physical work is about 2000 watts give or take, equivalent to about 20 usual infantrymen or about three and a half horsepower
- He can move at about 60 km per hour to 120 km per hour on any except the most extreme terrain, (i.e. real mountains)
- He / she is immune to physical obstacles: a 2m depth of water or a 3metre high wall poses no problems.
- They can’t dig in but they can hide at treetop height.
Because they function at variable heights in three dimensional space, shooting them becomes a problem for bullet type projectile weapons. These fire in an arc, so height and range assessment are an essential part of targeting, factors which can be difficult to an infantryman on the ground. Their height advantage gives then a range advantage, much like that of the nomadic hose archer who could use the momentum of their mount to add to the speed of their projectile, increasing range and hitting power. These same factors reduce the hitting power of soldiers’ weapons when ground based.
- They can be armoured but limited cost to mobility and at a low cost to operate in adverse (hot) environments, A mechanised platform could carry air conditioning or heating as necessary to expand its functional range and allow more efficient working conditions for the machine operator
- They are much less susceptible to supply chain blockage: an air infantryman can carry much more food, water and munitions. A supply base 30km from the front line is not a problem for an air infantryman but is impossibly remote for an “on the ground” soldier. This means this type of unit is much less susceptible to being cut off than the average ground pounder or grunt. GoToAerialInfantryTop
How do you see the new weapons system being used?
Erasmus : Every military unit has its unique aspects, strengths and weaknesses.
- Heavy weapons could be moved many km quickly, to give situational dominance in an engagement. They could then be redeployed again quickly to a new battlefield.
- Infantrymen could be isolated and guerrillas tracked, till reinforcements could be moved in into a favourable situation to achieve battlefield dominance. Infrared tracking could restrict the ability of the enemy to break off combat, forcing them to engage in prolonged battles favouring the incumbent.
- Line of sight precision mini aerial artillery would redefine the role of long range artillery. Perhaps now the need is for “very” long range weapons with much greater striking ranges.
- High altitude floating rockets could be sown like mines into the path of oncoming aircraft. Aerial infantry could secure these aerial fortifications.
- Small air to air missiles could be deployed in numbers and moved in anticipation of an enemy’s flight path. These weapons could then be re-harvested and redeployed by aerial infantry units.
- Guerrilla warfare units now have eyes in the sky and long range weapons capability. You could just mount some RPGs on an ultralight. One man in an aircraft could probably deliver a dozen shots into a confrontation situation on the battlefield from the relative safety of an aerial platform.
- Clouds or aerial infantry could be used in ground attack situations. A very terrifying prospect for many modern weapons systems due to the increased ability to bring into play much heavier ordnance in combat. It opens the proposal of close multisystems infantry support.
- The role of Helicopter and larger Aircraft would change as infantry support moved to the small aerial infantry unit. Big expensive machines are best used for missions where heavy ordnance is required.
Erasmus :In considering the deployment of the new weapons system: the air infantryman, the face of modern warfare would change again.
The Advantage would go to the more mobile forces with more aerial units. There is still a role for the big fighters and big bombers with the big payloads: but the air infantry force is potentially able to deliver the most force to a specific site, the fastest, and to have the most situational mobility at that site for the longest. A big fighter travelling at 1000kph has seconds over a target site. A cluster of small mobile vehicles gives the most time on site. A cluster of small mobile vehicles with appropriate weapons systems can give situational weapons dominance.
In addition, small units are obviously more plentiful than big units. One hundred air infantry units on site may well be more useful than a plane lying over at mach1-2 for seconds. Radar or Battlefield telemetry systems could even allow small air infantry vehicles the mobility to engage the big heavy weapons aerial systems such as existing fighters or bombers in the air.
The battle for aerial dominance does not necessarily go to the big knight in the heavy armour. A small explosion will bring down a big aircraft just as reliably as a big one. In fact, high speed creates as many problems as it solves in combat.
Kinkajou : To win, a unit must maximise its strength, minimise its weaknesses and force the enemy to engage on its own terms on its field of choice.
In the long term as the weapon is used, it becomes more obvious where the trade-off between speed and weaponry and weight should be. Should the vehicle fly at 60kph or is 100kph critical for its function. Will the air infantry unit fragment or subspecialise into ground attack weapons systems or ground attack support vehicles with max speed 50-60 kph and aerial attack support vehicles with speed to 120 kph.
Experience is the only teacher for these answers.
Erasmus : And the right answer depends on the question posed by the enemy.
Old Dogs with New Tricks.
Not the Bosses.
Not the state.
Let Erasmus and Kinkajou map our fate.
Read about Kinkajou's interview with an Aerial Infantry Master on Galactic Travelogue. Click Below
Read about the Truth of the matter about Aerial Infantry, as Kinkajou Tells it True. The truth is out there. Let Kinkajou tell you.
Kinkajou : So what have you learnt , Goo?
Goo : Modern warfare is about mobility.
Moving more stuff, moving stuff faster, and moving bigger weapons to exactly where they are needed.
Plus playing at war is different to the reality of war. As the enemy destroys your stuff, you start running out of equipment. If you only have a few tankbusters, you need them where the enemies tanks are, not deployed where they can be lonely.
Tactics will change to incorporate new weapons and strategies. No one in their right mind would engage the enemy as was routinely done in the trenches of the western Front in World War One. Firing off all your artillery then stopping. Then everyone climbing out of their trenches and moving off across No Mans Land while the enemy lines up to shoot you.
In WW2, the tactic was supported attack. Some troops attack while others enfilade the enemies position with fire, denying the enemy open slather on the shooting range. Having vehicles in the air may well enable aerial heavy weapons support to advancing infantry. Routinely, rear flanking the enemy with troops and heavy weapons may well become a routine strategy as well.
I think one of the key issues I see is when to introduce new tech like this. If you introduce this tech in peacetime, it gives your enemies time to devise countermeasures, countertechnology and to train troops to tactically deal with the innovation.
It makes sense to introduce new tech in large (effective) numbers at critical times on the battlefield. Witness the effect of submarine warfare in the Atlantic in WW2, until the development of new tactics and tech. Similarly, se the use of blitzkrieg tactics in early WW2. Witness the use of air forces at Pearl Harbour and Singapore. In both these these cases, airpower came to replace sea power. A lesson the British were very slow to learn until they lost a number of battleships. Yet only a few years prior, it was the battleship that rules the waves.
How time and technology does change things.