July 08, 2013
Under the transformation of the Bundeswehr, Germany's armed forces, much of the army's combat capability is to be provided by trained and supported infantry.
In the latest structure, the army has two mechanized divisions totaling six deployable, sustainable and rotatable brigades (three per division) capable of operating across the entire spectrum of intensity. Each brigade will have at least two infantry battalions: jaeger (light infantry) battalions with Boxer armored transport vehicles; and panzer grenadier (mechanized infantry) battalions in Puma armored infantry fighting vehicles, plus airborne and mountain infantry units. This will enable the army to fight in all types of operations and intensities in most terrains and climates. The panzer grenadiers operate as dismounted infantry but also form the mechanized core of the army, along with its panzer armored units.
In addition to their combat battalions, the brigades have logistics, engineering and reconnaissance battalions. The logistics battalions now have company-size maintenance, supply and transport companies assigned to the combat battalions, improving the support of brigades for a wide mission spectrum. The engineering battalions have armored and heavy engineering equipment and capabilities to deal with threats such as improvised explosive devices (IED). The reconnaissance battalions provide ground-based and airborne capabilities, this last with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
Joint fire support comes from PzH 2000 155-mm self-propelled howitzers of the divisions' artillery battalions, army Tiger combat helicopters and air force combat aircraft. But Lt. Col. Alexander Zoller, procurement staff officer for infantry force development, sees limitations in the availability of joint fire support caused by terrain and weather. He recalls an occasion in Afghanistan when a PzH 2000 could not hit a target in a mountain village because its trajectory was not high enough to avoid mountaintops and threatened a low-flying U.S. aircraft in its field of fire. High buildings could cause similar limitations, he adds, although mortars with their higher trajectories can fire over mountaintops and tall buildings.
“Poor weather degrades the availability of joint fire support,” Zoller says. Furthermore, “the use of joint fire support requires extensive airspace coordination,” and “larger areas of operations require more extensive airspace coordination and result in delays.”
He notes “infantry requires indirect fire support with guaranteed availability and sufficient effectiveness.” To achieve this, Zoller recommends procurement of 81-mm mortars for infantry companies and platoons, in addition to the eight Wiesel 120-mm armored mortars already being procured for 2015.
At the individual soldier level, the army has introduced a revised marksmanship-training concept. Based on experiences in Afghanistan, this involves more training with small arms at shorter ranges of 3-30 meters (roughly 10-100 ft.) and the integration of marksmanship and combat training. The previous concept focused on marksmanship at medium and long ranges, but Afghanistan revealed the requirement for immediate reaction in complex situations such as ambushes or IED attacks.