(Note, I didn't write this-I just stole it. This is not a perfect guide, but it's good enough for NC. So if myself or chip say something and this guide contradicts it. Don't try and argue with us. Credit goes to CRJ from http://z9.invisionfree.com/21c/index.php.) In recognition of the role military operations play in this game (and especially this forum), and the fact that many players are only moderately knowledgeable about such things at best, a relatively brief guide has been created to help you understand the roles and capabilities of various militaries, units, and equipments. This is a simple guide, and is not intended to tell all or even be 100% accurate in EVERY case. But it will be mostly accurate in most cases. However, this is no more than a supplement to the data that's available, and you are strongly urged to at least check the wiki pages on all participating militaries at the beginning of a conflict.
Links of InterestEdit
Wikipedia : What? You didn't think this deserves mention? Seriously, this provides the most data in the easiest to navigate place. Just search for something like "Military of [desired nation]" and watch the right pages come up. It will usually have equipment stocks, often some degree of data on organization, maybe modernization plans, opponents, deployments, etc. Really, check this first. And do actually READ it. You can skip history for the most part, but most other sections will provide important insight.
Armed Forces of the World Database : Rates the world's armies on several categories and overall capability. Room for contention, but a good starting resource. Even without the tables, the front page also lists most nations and briefly explains the military related problems they do, or could, face.
Infantry Based Opposing Force: Organization Guide : This is an official US Army field manual that deals with the hypothetical Table of Organization and Equipment (TOE) for a military made up mostly of infantry and based on a Soviet organizational model. Naturally, many former Soviet clients still use this, so it can be very useful for orders of battle (OrBats).
Armor- & Mechanized-Based Opposing Force (PDF) : Well, if they had one for infantry, they would also have one for a primarily mechanized army, right? This is Soviet style organization, but is still used today by former Soviet states, Warsaw Pact members, and Soviet clients. That's a long list of countries.
US Army Tables of Organization & Equipment : If they have ones for opposing forces, they certainly have ones for their own, right? This is in a slightly different format, as it breaks down the division’s components and, for each one, links you to an appropriate portion of a field manual. Still official, but in many ways not as well structured as the opfor ones. On the other hand, it also gives equipment and operating costs, as well as personnel requirements (even if they be quite dated)!
The Rest of Globalsecurity There’s a ton here, but a few sections that are relevant to more than just the US, and really jump out. -Systems - an exhaustive section on the equipment of the US Army. A lot of data is out of date, but this is the best one-stop site for info on US equipment on the 'net. You could spend years browsing it and not have caught everything. -Policy - While I already linked to the most important field manuals, there's a ton of other stuff here that may provide interesting insight on military operations. -Countries – Only a small number (relatively) of nations are displayed, but those that are get a nice rundown on equipment, military industry, and a host of other things. And while sometimes out of date and of questionable accuracy, most of the information is very, very good. If your nation has a section here, you should read it. UPDATE: Globalsecurity has transitioned to a pay site, with access to only 7 free articles per month. Cost is fairly low for such things ($10 per month), but this does hamper its utility.
Scramble : Want to know what aircraft you have where? If your air force is posted here, the “order of battle” section will provide a MAP showing the location of your airbases, and information on both the units at each base, and what aircraft those units use. Data is not always complete, but this is an amazing resource.
Aeroflight Countries Index : Outdated inventory data in most cases, but more complete data in several key areas. Most importantly, it may be a bit more complete in orbat data than scramble. Best when used in conjunction with Scramble and Wiki.
Haze Gray & Underway World Navies Index : Well, there are ones for air forces, so one for navies isn't much of a stretch now. Again, data is often a bit dated, but this provides a full list of ALL ships that serve in many navies, and usually will have some stats. These aren't always completely accurate either, but you'll find that, for more obscure support vessels, this may be the only source of ship stats you can find.
Orbat : A site dedicated to, you guessed it, orders of battle. Pickings are a bit slim, but you've got some nice, fairly accurate orbats for a number of unit types from a number of countres. A solid reference.
Armies of the World:Edit
This is a resources that's intended to give a quick and very broad overview of what each nations' army is and isn't good at. This is done through a collection of broad categories that each nation is placed in. Note that, as with any simplification like this, the army of a given nation may not fit perfectly in the assigned category, but in such ambiguous cases, I've placed the army in the category that's most applicable. The categories are as follows:
- Total Defense
- Mobile Defense
- Minor Force
- No Standing Army
- Unique Case
And finally, Transitional, which is just a supercategory indicating the army's current plans can be expected to change its category in the near future.
For convenience, the nations are listed alphabetically. They are based on the most common name, though if necessary for differentiation, I do have some listed with their full title (ie Democratic Republic of the Congo). Also, the most common name for Myanmar is Burma. Below is a list of about 180 nations and claimable disputed territories, with their miliary categorization. A convenient map is also available NOTE: This only applies to national militaries or those forces sanctioned by the government. Insurgent groups and informal militias are not counted, especially if they're against the central government. The only possible exception is a true failed state, which has an informal military by default.
- Afghanistan: Garrison
- Albania: Minor Force
- Algeria: Dispersed
- Andorra: No Standing Army
- Angola: Dispersed
- Argentina: Dispersed
- Armenia: Focused
- Australia: Transitional: Projection to Expeditionary
- Austria: Unique Case
- Azerbaijan: Focused
- Bahamas: Unique Case
- Bahrain: Minor Force
- Bangladesh: Garrison
- BarbadosMinor Force
- Belgium: Unique Case
- Belarus: Mobile Defense
- Belize: Minor Force
- Benin: Minor Force
- Bhutan: Minor Force
- Bolivia: Garrison
- Bosnia & Herzegovina: Minor Force
- Botswana: Minor Force
- Brazil: Dispersed
- Brunei: Minor Force
- Bulgaria: Mobile Defense
- Burkina Faso: Minor Force
- Burma/Myanmar: Garrison
- Burundi: Garrison
- Cambodia: Transitional: Garrison to Dispersed
- Cameroon: Dispersed
- Canada: Projection
- Cape Verde: Minor Force
- Central African Republic: Minor Force
- Chad: Garrison
- Chile: Mobile Defense
- China: Dispersed
- Colombia: Garrison
- Comoros: Minor Force
- Costa Rica: No Standing Army
- Côte d'Ivoire: Minor Force
- Croatia: Minor Force
- Cuba: Focused
- Cyprus: Focused
- Czech Republic: Mobile Defense
- Democratic Republic of the Congo: Transitional: Informal to Garrison or Dispersed
- Denmark: Projection
- Djibouti: Minor Force
- Dominica: No Standing Army
- Dominican Republic: Garrison
- East Timor: Minor Force
- Ecuador: Focused
- Egypt: Focused
- El Salvador: Minor Force
- Equatorial Guinea: Minor Force
- Eritrea: Focused
- Estonia: Unique Case
- Ethiopia: Dispersed
- Federated States of Micronesia: No Standing Army
- Fiji: Minor Force
- Finland: Focused
- France: Expeditionary
- Gabon: Minor Force
- Gambia: Minor Force
- Georgia: Focused
- Germany: Projection
- Ghana: Minor Force
- Greece: Focused
- Grenada: No Standing Army
- Guatemala: Garrison
- Guinea: Minor Force
- Guinea-Bissau: Minor Force
- Guyana: Minor Force
- Haiti: No Standing Army
- Honduras: Minor Force
- Hungary: Mobile Defense
- Iceland: No Standing Army
- India: Dispersed, with elements of Focused
- Indonesia: Garrison
- Iran: Dispersed
- Iraq: Transitional: Garrison to Focused or Dispersed
- Ireland: Minor Force
- Israel: Total Defense
- Italy: Projection
- Jamaica: Minor Force
- Japan: Unique Case
- Jordan: Mobile Defense
- Kazakhstan: Dispersed
- Kenya: Dispersed
- Kiribati: No Standing Army
- Kosovo: Minor Force
- Kuwait: Total Defense
- Kyrgyzstan: Minor Force
- Laos: Garrison
- Latvia: Minor Force
- Lebanon: Focused
- Lesotho: Minor Force
- Liberia: Minor Force
- Libya: Dispersed
- Liechtenstein: No Standing Army
- Lithuania: Unique Case
- Luxembourg: Minor Force
- Macedonia: Minor Force
- Madagascar: Minor Force
- Malaysia: Garrison
- Malawi: Minor Force
- Maldives: Minor Force
- Mali: Minor Force
- Malta: Minor Force
- Marshall Islands: No Standing Army
- Mauritania: Minor Force
- Mauritius: No Standing Army
- Mexico: Garrison
- Moldova: Minor Force
- Monaco: Minor Force
- Mongolia: Minor Force
- Montenegro: Minor Force
- Morocco: Focused
- Mozambique: Informal
- Namibia: Minor Force
- Nauru: No Standing Army
- Nepal: Garrison
- Netherlands: Projection
- New Zealand: Minor Force
- Nicaragua: Minor Force
- Niger: Minor Force
- Nigeria: Dispersed
- North Korea: Focused
- Norway: Garrison
- Oman: Mobile Defense
- Pakistan: Focused
- Palau: No Standing Army
- Palestinian Authority (Hamas): Informal
- Panama: No Standing Army
- Papua New Guinea: Minor Force
- Paraguay: Minor Force
- Peru: Dispersed
- Philippines: Garrison
- Poland: Mobile Defense
- Portugal: Unique Case
- Qatar: Minor Force
- Republic of the Congo: Minor Force
- Romania: Mobile Defense
- Russia: Dispersed
- Rwanda: Transitional: Informal to Garrison or Dispersed
- Saint Kitts & Nevis: Minor Force
- Saint Lucia: No Standing Army
- Saint Vincent & the Grenadines: No Standing Army
- Samoa: No Standing Army
- San Marino: Minor Force
- São Tomé and Príncipe: Minor Force
- Saudi Arabia: Focused
- Senegal: Minor Force
- Serbia: Focused
- Seychelles: Minor Force
- Sierra Leone: Minor Force
- Singapore: Total Defense
- Slovakia: Mobile Defense
- Slovenia: Minor Force
- Solomon Islands: No Standing Army
- Somalia: Informal
- South Africa: Projection
- South Korea: Total Defense
- Spain: Projection
- Sri Lanka: Focused
- Sudan: Garrison
- Swaziland: Minor Force
- Sweden: Transitional: Focused to Projection
- Switzerland: No Standing Army
- Syria: Focused
- Tanzania: Garrison
- Taiwan: Focused
- Thailand: Dispersed
- Tajikistan: Minor Force
- Togo: Minor Force
- Tonga: Minor Force
- Trinidad & Tobago: Minor Force
- Tunisia: Mobile Defense
- Turkmenistan: Minor Force
- Turkey: Dispersed
- Tuvalu: No Standing Army
- Uganda: Garrison
- Ukraine: Mobile Defense
- United Arab Emirates: Unique Case
- United Kingdom: Expeditionary
- United States: Expeditionary
- Uruguay: Mobile Defense
- Uzbekistan: Mobile Defense
- Vanuatu: Minor Force
- Vatican City: No Standing Army
- Venezuela: Dispersed
- Vietnam: Garrison
- Yemen: Garrison
- Zambia: Minor Force
- Zimbabwe: Garrison
- United States
- United Kingdom
Role: An expeditionary force is focused heavily, even almost entirely, on deploying large formations to distant locations. It defends the interests of the nation abroad more so than it protects the borders or provides internal security. Such armies represent true world powers in that they are actually capable of deploying to most countries in the world, and supporting extended operations therein. And all of this with no real assistance from other parties.
Ground Forces: Emphasis is on strategic and tactical mobility, and maximum flexibility. The primary unit of organization and maneuver is the reinforced brigade. Most units are fully mechanized and equipped with modern high-end equipment. Those that aren’t are either airborne forces or trained for operations in restrictive terrain like jungles or mountains. Troops are well trained, and utilize their training, mobility, and technological advantage to overpower numerically superior opponents.
Air Forces: Extremely modern, and very large. There’s usually a disproportionate emphasis on airlift and refueling assets, with combat aircraft being mostly modern multirole fighters. There is also significant electronic warfare capability, including jamming and AEW aircraft. As with the army, training and technology are used to overcome numerical inferiority.
Command & Control: Field commanders are given excellent latitude and flexibility at all levels of command, but are still ultimately answerable to the central government. Regulation mostly occurs in the forms of mission parameters, though there is the potential threat of excessive government interference in some instances.
Advantages: Man for man, expeditionary forces are among the most capable in the world, especially on the offense. With support from bases across the globe, these armies can deploy overwhelming combat power almost anywhere in the world whether welcome or not. They can also defeat most countries’ militaries on their home turf, as well as support major peacekeeping operations, even without international support.
Disadvantages: In addition to being extremely expensive to maintain just from an equipment standpoint, military deployments abroad also consume significant resources. These militaries also suffer from the societies that spawn them, which expect quick, easy victories and often refuse to accept casualties in any numbers. They also suffer from restrictions placed by the government, often in ignorance of military realities, and are over-criticized in both politics and the media. Finally, due to expenses, there’s a common trend of downsizing and canceling needed projects for budgetary reasons, even if this could severely hinder operations in the field.
Role: A projection-oriented force is offensive in nature, and intended to deploy troops abroad. In the most simple terms, this is much like an expeditionary force, but without the logistical support needed to allow for an autonomous operation outside the region. These are regional powerhouses, but pose little threat of invading distant nations.
Ground Forces: As with expeditionary, these are highly trained, mostly mechanized, and equipped with high-end modern equipment (or at least far superior to that of any neighbors). The primary unit is usually a reinforced brigade, and units that aren’t mechanized are usually light airborne forces or trained for operations in restrictive terrain. The high quality of troops and equipment, as well as mobility and tactical flexibility, grant advantages over less modern militaries, despite numerical inferiority. However, they usually don’t have quite the emphasis on logistics that expeditionary forces do.
Air Forces: Very large and well equipped with top-of-the-line combat aircraft, but usually lacking in strategic airlift and aerial refueling assets necessary for true interregional force projection. Also, may be somewhat lacking in electronic warfare assets compared to expeditionary militaries.
Command & Control: As with expeditionary, there is officially a centralized control, but field commanders, at all levels, are given a great deal of latitude to act, except that they are often restrained by mission parameters that are usually set up by a civilian government.
Advantages: These militaries are highly mobile, well trained, well equipped, and fully capable of defeating much larger opponents. They also have the ability to support large-scale operations relatively close to home, and small scale ones almost anywhere in the world.
Disadvantages: Like expeditionary forces, they tend to be hampered by civilian interference in operational doctrine, as they ultimately answer to civilians that often know little of the realities of warfare. And as with expeditionary, they also tend to have an excessive trend toward cost-cutting and downsizing that could jeopardize their effectiveness in future conflicts. They also, as mentioned, do not have the ability to support major operations abroad, especially if deploying to hostile nations.
TOTAL DEFENSE: Edit
- South Korea
Role: It should be easy enough to figure out. This is an army that has so little ground to defend that it must adopt an all-or-nothing attitude toward defense. It may be surrounded by hostile foes or it may just have one numerically superior opponent or potential foe. Whatever the case, it’s either extremely small or just with a critical piece of real estate that’s way too close to the border for comfort, and it has to pull out all the stops in defending itself.
Ground Forces: Primary ground forces are well mechanized, well trained, and well equipped. These are among the best militaries man-for-man. They have to be. But what’s most remarkable is the reserves, which have several times the manpower of frontline forces, and usually possess a system for rapid call-up in the case of an emergency. Proportional to the population, these are among the largest armies on earth, and usually have 7-10% of their population under arms when reserves are included.
Air Forces: Relatively large, extremely well equipped and trained, and based almost exclusively on combat aircraft. They make up for lack of numbers with quality. However, these nations tend to have little need for transport beyond helicopters for airmobile troops.
Command & Control: Maximum flexibility is given to field commanders. Military realities take front seat to politics in these nations, and unit commanders must be able to seize the initiative even when cut off from higher command. As said before, this is all about defending no matter what it takes.
Advantages: These militaries are usually regional powerhouses, even if that’s not what they intend to be. They’re usually much better equipped and more capable than their opponents, and often fully capable of launching limited invasions beyond their borders by simple virtue of their highly mechanized nature. In defense, the small territory being defended and the focus of all military assets within provides obscene tactical flexibility. Even when they have to cover every border, the proximity of their forces to each other is still better than most focused militaries, so they can reinforce anywhere along the front with ease.
Disadvantages: These are phenomenally expensive. Almost all of the nations supporting such armies spend over 5% of their GDP on them, and are thus among the world’s heaviest military spenders. They may even require foreign assistance just to help control costs, including aid and hosting foreign soldiers. Most are also incapable of launching operations that far beyond their own borders because all the focus is on combat forces. Most importantly, when defending, a single breakthrough anywhere along their line can be a catastrophic event leading to the downfall of the entire nation.
MOBILE DEFENSE: Edit
Role: Most commonly seen in former Soviet territories and Warsaw Pact nations, this is something of a variation on a dispersed military. The difference is the modern, highly mechanized forces are both trained and capable of supporting each other – the idea being that if they can reposition forces quickly to react to a situation, less total forces are needed, saving costs. Naturally, this requires nations to be geographically smaller, or at least have only a small area to defend.
Ground Forces: These are well trained, well equipped, being at least equal to those of neighboring countries, and fully mechanized. Total forces tend to be smaller, made up for by the ability to mass combat power. Depending on the specific situation, the entire force could be relatively centrally located and just sent to any territory under threat, or more likely, moderate forces are dispersed throughout the country, but ready to redeploy quickly if needed.
Air Forces: Air forces are moderately to well trained and equipped. The focus, as with any defensive force, is on frontline combat aircraft rather than transportation or special missions.
Command & Control: Despite the fact that forces are usually dispersed, control is usually centralized so that redeployments can be properly coordinated. The level of freedom enjoyed by commanders in the field can vary considerably depending on the specific model adopted.
Advantages: Naturally, this format provides good defensive capabilities at a relatively low cost. Troops can thus afford to be relatively well trained and equipped. The degree of mechanization also guarantees the ability to conduct offensive operations or provide local force projection, and the flexibility of these forces can be quite valuable.
Disadvantages: The biggest problem is that, in the case of a major threat, forces defending other areas must redeploy to face it. This means that, in reacting to protect one territory, it tends to leave others under-defended. Naturally, the army is easily overwhelmed by conflicts on multiple fronts. Also, while it possesses a mechanized force, there is no infrastructure to deploy beyond neighboring countries.
- North Korea
Role: A focused military is one that has a single major adversary, be it genuine or perceived. This opponent, usually more powerful in some way or another, is the central emphasis of all military planning and deployment, to the point that the majority of the military’s power (usually 60-80%) is focused there. Almost all planning and deployments are based around an armed conflict with that one enemy.
Ground Forces: These are very large armies (representing 2 of the top 10 in total personnel), and if not truly modern, at least mostly mechanized. There may be a two-tiered system with all of the best-equipped units arrayed against the main threat, but forces elsewhere equipped with much older equipment. There are often relatively large airborne and/or airmobile forces to provide tactical advantage. Except for smaller/less populous nations, these militaries still deploy and operate at the division level.
Air Forces: Large, if not necessarily modern. The focus is primarily on combat, with very little in the way of strategic transport, and almost all airlift is related to battlefield roles of delivering special forces and airborne or airmobile troops. Depending on the nation, they may or may not be well trained or well equipped, but they are at least capable, usually as a regional influence if nothing else.
Command & Control: Most operations are based on carefully rehearsed plans developed in response to potential outbreaks of war. There’s usually a degree of centralization in control, but units in the field may have some latitude.
Advantages: Against their perceived enemy, these militaries have large forces and excellent infrastructure in place to support a major campaign on short notice. Militaries are professional and generally well equipped. When given foreign support, they are also well equipped for peacekeeping.
Disadvantages: Equipment is often outdated due to the difficulty in supporting such disproportionately large forces. Military forces may lack flexibility, and are particularly weak against any threats that may appear outside of their “main” enemy. There is very little infrastructure to support major forces or operations beyond the predicted battlefield.
Role: A dispersed army is an attempt to deal with multiple current or potential conflicts simultaneously. It always appears in geographically large or sparsely populated nations that have current or potential conflicts on multiple borders. These nations lack the resources to provide a centralized force with enough mobility to deal with all threats, so the solution is to create semi-independent regional commands.
Ground Forces: These forces are usually still dominated by light or truck-mounted infantry formations, but may be fully mechanized depending on their opponents and resources. As with garrison forces, there is a centralized mobile reserve to reinforce local formations if a conflict erupts. Equipment is usually relatively modern to completely obsolete, depending on the specific situation, and training averages at mediocre. Naturally, these represent some of the largest militaries in the world, including 6 of the top 10.
Air Forces: Typically very large, with an emphasis on combat. However, there is usually at least a degree of strategic airlift and refueling assets, even if primarily for internal use. However, despite their size, these forces are still relatively dispersed
Command & Control: Most regional commands operate pretty much independently of each other, though with oversight of the central government. As with garrison forces, they often respond to the needs of local governments more often than the central one. Mobile reserves are tightly controlled, but may become subordinate to local regional commands once deployed to the field.
Advantages: The one greatest advantage of this type is that it is truly capable of supporting wars on multiple fronts, something few militaries can do, since each regional command is almost its own separate army in most respects. Given time, they may also be able to mass overwhelming power against any single neighbor. Dispersed armies are also quite capable of fighting most insurgencies due to their forces being spread out.
Disadvantages: Logistics is a problem, or this type wouldn’t be adopted at all. If the local forces and strategic reserve aren’t enough to deal with a threat, it may be in trouble, since this type of military has only limited capability to concentrate its power. Furthermore, such militaries are extremely expensive to operate and maintain, and thus difficult to keep well equipped.
Role: A garrison army is designed to maintain control over a large territory. Usually this is in response to a large-scale insurgency, but may also simply reflect logistical issues of policing and defending, such as in the case of island nations, or those with significant jungle or mountainous territory.
Ground Forces: The main force is comprised of large number of relatively independent units of battalion size or smaller. These are almost always light infantry forces, with little heavy equipment, and are backed up by a centralized mobile reserve which represents the only force trained and equipped for frontline combat. Garrison armies tend to be very large relative to the size of the nation.
Air Forces: Usually relatively small and made up of older aircraft, with a focus on ground attack, patrol/surveillance, and local transportation. Small numbers of modern, capable fighters may be present to support mobile reserves, and discourage foreign intervention.
Command & Control: The garrison forces are primarily subservient to the local governments on whose territory they operate, and are usually given great autonomy and flexibility in performing their missions. By contrast, the mobile reserves are tightly controlled and regulated by the high command.
Advantages: Garrison forces are highly responsive to local security needs and excellent at dealing with small and mid-scale insurgencies. Garrison troops also build a rapport with local civilians and government, know the lay of the land, have excellent autonomy, and are often experienced in counter-insurgency tactics. As a result, these can become extremely effective insurgents if invaded.
Disadvantages: With the exception of the central reserve, troops are usually undertrained and poorly equipped for heavy combat. Garrison units also tend to be inexperienced in operating as part of a larger force. Poor logistics and limited mobile forces make responding to a major crisis difficult. Garrison armies are rarely able to deploy much beyond their own borders, with no more than 15-20% of total forces available for any external operation, even in a best-case scenario. Thus, these nations have minimal offensive capabilities.
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Palestinian Authority
Role: Predominant in Africa, these represent armies that the government simply can’t afford, but still needs. Found in impoverished nations, there is usually only a small core of truly trained and properly equipped soldiers, while most of the military’s power comes from untrained militia fighters. This also refers to nations in a state of civil war or anarchy where there is no clear-cut government to begin with. These armies usually have extensive insurgency problems to deal with, and often threats from neighboring nations on multiple borders.
Ground Forces: May have significant numbers, but made up almost entirely of “Joe from hut B, plus rifle” types. That’s it, just villagers with guns in loosely formed forces. Even calling them light infantry may be a stretch. Armored and mechanized forces are almost unheard of. Training is negligible to completely nonexistent, with soldiers who live long enough relying almost entirely on “on-the-job training.” As with garrison forces troops are dispersed throughout the territory and operate within regional commands.
Air Forces: If they’re very lucky, they’ve seen a plane in more than just pictures. Air forces are extremely small, a few dozen total aircraft at most, and even many of those may not be serviceable. Aircraft are mostly for surveillance and transport, though a handful of combat units may exist. When they do, that provides a decisive advantage.
Command & Control: For regulars, they are usually directly under the central government. For militia, there is often minimal command and no control. They may receive directions from superiors, often more in local governments than from the central one, but usually act in their own interests. Naturally, the extensive use of militia is a major reason for rampant war crimes.
Advantages: Its amazingly cheap. For a rifle, a few bullets, and a little bit of food each day, you get a soldier that will happily fight for you. The nature of the forces, and their lack of inhibitions in due to self-interest taking precedence, make them much more capable of operating far from regular supply bases for extended periods. Also, with no logistical tail, they can easily be transferred from one end of the country to another, even in large numbers. There’s also no shortage of willing soldiers.
Disadvantages: Militia are virtually impossible to control and prone to violence. Rape, extortion, and ethnic cleansing are common in militia-held territory, especially if it used to be held by someone else. These militaries are also afraid to send those few troops with proper training and equipment at the front, for simple fear of losing their investment. Extremely poor equipment also leads to these forces being easily overrun by any military with any degree of mechanization and fire support. Furthermore, what vehicles exist are often unserviceable and useless in combat. Also, as with any impoverished area, there is extensive corruption within the ranks of most of these militaries, at all levels of command.
MINOR FORCE: Edit
Role: Some nations are very, very small. They may lack the manpower, the financial resources, or maybe just a reason to build up a significant army. Some expect a larger power to come to their aid, others are so far isolated that no one would bother with them. Still others just don’t have the resources to draw enough troops to fully defend themselves, even if they want to. Whatever the case, their militaries are barely adequate for maintaining internal security and/or territorial integrity, if even that.
Ground Forces: Really, really small. A total military of under 20,000 personnel doesn’t leave much. Equipment and training varies, but is always about equal to neighboring countries. Naturally, European and Central Asian ones tend to be heavily mechanized and operate similarly to a mobile defense army, while African, Latin American, and Asian ones tend to be more along garrison lines.
Air Forces: Typically nonexistent. Maybe a handful of aircraft and a few people to fly them. However, fully mechanized armies may have a few squadrons worth of combat aircraft to back them up.
Command & Control: Usually quite centralized for the simple fact that there isn’t very much to command. Forces are usually tightly controlled, but in larger (geographically) nations, they may be much like garrison forces in that they mostly serve the local government.
Advantages: Really not much besides that they’re obviously cheap and not manpower-intensive. Mechanized ones may have some offensive capability, assuming the neighbor also has a minor force.
Disadvantages: The most obvious problem is that little army does not hold up well against big brother. Many of these nations, if not on some isolated island, have one or more neighbors that can easily field a force large enough to completely overrun them. Naturally, that forces some degree of kissing up. Of course, these nations also lack the ability to impose their will on neighbors, since their forces are far too insignificant to provide for a real offensive operation. Finally, they are easily overwhelmed by not just opponents with numerical superiority, but also by multiple conflicts. As such, any that already have one conflict will go out of their way to avoid another. That, or most likely collapse under the pressure.
NO STANDING ARMY: Edit
- Costa Rica
- Marshall Islands
Role: For a number of reasons, there are nations without standing armies – actually numbering over 10% of the countries in the world. These nations, due to history, international agreements, or just plain lack of need, simply don’t have an army. In this category, rather than try something crazy like showing the blatantly obvious advantages and disadvantages, we can instead look at the reasons and types. NOTICE: Lack of a standing army does not mean the complete absence of any military capability. It just means that there is no regular, full-time military establishment. Two nations in this category (Switzerland & Panama), can put up a rather significant defense force.
Defense Agreement: Five pacific nations have defense provided by their previous owners. Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau, all former US territories, signed compacts of free association with the US, which, among other things, grants basing rights in exchange for US-provided defense. Some also include provision for local citizens to serve in the US Army without the normal citizenship restrictions. Two other countries are protected by, and naturally retain strong ties with, Commonwealth nations they used to be part of: Nauru by Australia and Samoa by New Zealand. The only nation outside the pacific that enjoys this is Iceland, which, as a vital strategic asset against the Soviet Union, had protection under NATO, which it is still provided. As such, it has refrained from forming its own military, though it regularly hosts those of other NATO members.
Bad History: Three Latin American nations simply have a bad history of military actions within their own borders, leading to abolishment upon the subsequent regime changes: Costa Rica, Haiti, and Panama. However, while Haiti and Costa Rica do not, Panama still retains an extremely large police force that could provide a decent degree of military protection if needed.
Police: Many nations without a military have all necessary roles fulfilled by the police force, including coast guard when applicable. These include Dominica, Grenada, Kiribati, Mauritius, the Solomon Islands, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, and Tuvalu. One thing most have in common is that they’re out-of-the-way island nations with little threat of foreign incursion.
Neutrality: Liechtenstein is a fun one. It’s been almost 150 years since the nation last fielded any armed force (hey, I see a 150th anniversary RP possibility!), and its small size and complete neutrality guarantee that no one bothers it. In fact, the lack of an army could be considered an instrument of foreign policy. The Vatican is in a similar situation, but additionally protected in that the only way to it is through Italy.
Reserve Army: Switzerland and Andorra both only have a small corps of regular troops whose job is to provide training and command. However, everyone is required to undertake training and become part of a vast nationwide reserve. Now, Switzerland does have an "active reserve" that acts somewhat like, and could be considered, a standing army. However, it does not have the core of professional soldiers that a true standing army would require, and it's actual role and operation are more akin to the US National Guard.
Austria: Technically neutral, Austria maintains a relatively modern force, which is akin to a mobile defense force. This is the result of the Balkans conflicts in the 1990s, which led to a lifting of restrictions in what the army could have. But since it's neutral, it can't really do much outside of support roles in peacekeeping operations, and has little threat of anyone attacking it. However, it does want to be more active in the world, but just can't without discarding its long-cherished neutrality. If that did happen, it would be a projection force in no time.
The Bahamas: Now, if you want one of the most interesting cases out there, here you have it. While the Bahamas does indeed have a military, it does not have an army, or an air force for that matter. The only service branch present is a navy, which is responsible for all defense needs.
Belgium and Portugal: Poor little Belgium, trying to do more than it can. Based on NATO commitments, Belgium has tried, quite hard, to build up a projection force. It hasn't quite succeeded. It's not defensive in nature, but at the same time has no real offensive capability. Complicated politics have prevented it from properly focusing on something, and it thus soldiers on with an army that's not quite designed for its role. Portugal is somewhat similar. Political and financial realities consistently prevent it from building up the regional projection force it wants to have. Again, an offensively oriented force that can't attack.
Estonia & Lithuania: On one hand, the active forces would dictate that these be a minor force. On another, the massive reserves in the hundreds of thousands would indicate something more along the lines of a total defense. Yet, they don't have well trained or equipped militaries either. Both nations are indeed minor forces if not invaded. If invaded, they will throw everything they've got as in total defense, just with the extreme casualties you can expect from poorly trained and equipped militia. They just hope the sheer numbers are enough to discourage larger ex-Warsaw Pact neighbors from trying anything.
Japan: Oh, where to begin. Japan is technically forbidden from having an army at all due to a provision in its constitution, but a liberal interpretation allows for a "self defense force." This is indeed a modern army, but because of its original role of defending against a large-scale invasion, the funny legal situation, and the logistical issues its terrain creates, it has aspects of several types. The equipment and training match any expeditionary or projection force, but the logistics are horrible by comparison, much more akin to a dispersed force at best. It's also somewhere between total and mobile defense if invaded, with most of the army deployed to either the Tokyo area or Hokkaido. Most notably, Japan cannot deploy combat forces beyond its own borders without amending the constitution, and, of course kissing up to every other country in the region. Memories of WWII atrocities remain strong.
United Arab Emirates: The UAE has one of the strangest systems out there. Each emirate acts as a semi-independent nation, and it shows. The armed forces were formed by three emirates that pooled their resources together to form a central Union Defense Force, but individual emirates may have their own standing armies as well. Naturally, the exact role and composition of the armed forces can change based upon which emirate(s) is/are being engaged. But in general, expect a total defense force. The country is tiny by itself, and protecting each of the seven emirates is vital to its survival. To further complicate things, most enlisted personnel in the Union Defense Force are foreign nationals.
As with the army section, this is here to provide a brief overview of the differing roles and capabilities of various navies, and which nations have what. I'd stick this with a paragraph under each army type, but the truth is that some factors that dictate naval design are independent of the factors that influence armies. Thus, two nations with the same type of army can have very different navies.
Now, there are two different ways to classify navies. The most common and popular is the blue/green/brown water system, which is too broad to really help that much - it focuses only on one aspect: how far from home the fleet can operate. The other, which I will use primarily, will be based more on the specific role the navy fills. Blue, Brown, & Green: What does it mean?
- Regional Control
- Unique Case
As with armies, the navies will be listed alphabetically by nation. Same format, just a much shorter list. A convenient map is also available NOTE: this only includes nations with official navies or naval components (this may change later). Those that have "coast guards" or lack any independent or semi-independent naval force are not included. A coast guard is a police force that only undertakes a portion of the duties even a patrol navy takes on. The nations are as follows:
- Albania: Patrol
- Algeria: Denial
- Angola: Patrol
- Argentina: Defensive
- Australia: Transitional: Projection to Expeditionary
- Azerbaijan: Patrol
- Bahamas: Patrol
- Bahrain: Defensive
- Bangladesh: Denial
- Belgium: Unique Case
- Benin: Patrol
- Bolivia: Inland
- Brazil: Regional Control
- Brunei: Defensive
- Bulgaria: Defensive
- Burma (Myanmar): Unique Case
- Burundi: Inland
- Cambodia: Patrol
- Cameroon: Patrol
- Canada: Transitional: Unique Case to Projection
- Central African Republic: Inland
- Chile: Defensive
- China: Transitional: Defensive to Regional Control
- Columbia: Regional Control
- Côte d'Ivoire: Patrol
- Croatia: Denial
- Cuba: Denial
- Cyprus: Patrol
- Democratic Republic of the Congo: Patrol
- Denmark: Patrol
- Djibouti: Patrol
- Dominican Republic: Patrol
- East Timor: Patrol
- Ecuador: Denial
- Egypt: Defensive
- El Salvador: Patrol
- Equatorial Guinea: Patrol
- Eritrea: Patrol
- Estonia: Patrol
- Fiji: Patrol
- Finland: Denial
- France: Expeditionary
- Gabon: Patrol
- Gambia: Patrol
- Georgia: Patrol
- Germany: Regional Control
- Ghana: Patrol
- Greece: Defensive
- Guatemala: Patrol
- Guinea: Patrol
- Guinea-Bissau: Patrol
- Guyana: Patrol
- India: Transitional: Regional Control to Projection
- Indonesia: Unique Case
- Iran: Defensive
- Iraq: Patrol
- Ireland: Patrol
- Israel: Defensive
- Italy: Projection
- Japan: Unique Case
- Kazakhstan: Patrol
- Kenya: Patrol
- Laos: Inland
- Latvia: Patrol
- Lebanon: Patrol
- Libya: Denial
- Lithuania: Patrol
- Madagascar: Patrol
- Malawi: Inland
- Malaysia: Defensive
- Malta: Patrol
- Mauritania: Patrol
- Mexico: Defensive
- Montenegro: Denial
- Morocco: Defensive
- Mozambique: Patrol
- Namibia: Patrol
- Netherlands: Projection
- New Zealand: Patrol
- Nicaragua: Patrol
- Nigeria: Patrol
- North Korea: Denial
- Norway: Defensive
- Oman: Denial
- Pakistan: Defensive
- Papua New Guinea: Patrol
- Paraguay: Inland
- Peru: Regional Control
- Philippines: Patrol
- Poland: Defensive
- Portugal: Defensive
- Qatar: Denial
- Republic of the Congo: Patrol
- Romania: Patrol
- Russia: Regional Control
- Rwanda: Inland
- Saudi Arabia: Regional Control
- Senegal: Patrol
- Serbia: Inland
- Sierra Leone: Patrol
- Singapore: Projection
- Slovenia: Patrol
- South Korea: Transitional: Regional Control to Projection
- South Africa: Defensive
- Spain: Projection
- Sri Lanka: Patrol
- Sudan: Patrol
- Suriname: Patrol
- Sweden: Defensive
- Syria: Denial
- Taiwan: Sea Control
- Tanzania: Patrol
- Thailand: Regional Control
- Togo: Patrol
- Tunisia: Denial
- Turkey: Transitional: Defensive to Regional Control
- Turkmenistan: Patrol
- Uganda: Inland
- Ukraine: Defensive
- United Arab Emirates: Transitional: Patrol to Defensive
- United Kingdom: Expeditionary
- United States: Expeditionary
- Uruguay: Defensive
- Venezuela: Defensive
- Vietnam: Defensive
- Yemen: Denial
Blue, Brown, & Green: What Does it Mean?Edit
A classic form of categorizing navies uses these three terms, indicating how far from shore the fleet can operate. While not really what I was thinking of when categorizing, it deserves mention if for no other reason than the fact that it is so prevalent. Here are the categories (with wiki links):
Brown Water Navy: It gets its name from the murkey, sediment-filled water most commonly found in rivers, and like that water, doesn't reach very far beyond the coastline. A brown-water navy is a riverine or short-range force that is just sufficient to protect the nation's coastal waters from incursion. It has virtually no offense or power projection capability, and relies mostly on small missile and patrol boats.
Green Water Navy: A relatively new term, that used to be part of the brown-water navy. It has some decent-sized vessels that can actually go out for a month or two at a time, and thus can range much further - throughout the entire EEZ of the nation.
Blue Water Navy: A large force capable of true power projection through distant seas. Usually signified by excessive major combatants (see the ship guide), and, of course, aircraft carriers.
- United States
Role: A true power projection force. It is fully equipped to deploy large fleet contingents virtually anywhere in the world, either as support for land operations or a method of intervention in its own right. Dominance is the name of the game.
Ships: Top-of-the-line warships - big ones in big numbers. This force is all about extended operations and force projection. Almost all vessels will be major surface combatants, and it will possess four types of vessel that are not found in most navies: aircraft carriers, amphibious transport ships, underway replenishment ships, and, at least in all current cases, nuclear-powered submarines. If all four of these are found in your navy in decent numbers, it's probably an expeditionary one.
Aircraft: Expect long-range maritime patrol aircraft in decent numbers, with a large fleet air arm consisting of transport helicopters, front-line combat aircraft, and carrier-borne AWACS. Planes will be extremely modern and extremely capable, and most combat and amphibious ships will have embarked helicopters as standard.
Power Projection: Extreme. Replenishment ships extend the range of combat forces without needing refueling stops. Most, if not all, ships have endurance measured in months. Carriers provide wide-ranging sea and air control, along with a deep strike capability. Nuclear submarines have the speed and endurance to deploy and patrol anywhere without support, and most ships have the capability to fire land attack cruise missiles.
Aphibious Capability: Extreme. Expect the ability to land at least a reinforced brigade on any coastline in the world, and support its combat operations for at least a month just without external supply. Most operations are performed from offshore amphibious vessels equipped with helicopters and smaller landing craft.
Littoral Defense: Negligable. Possibly some patrol craft, and minesweepers are a given, but there really isn't much littoeral defense, mostly because these are completely offensive.
Strengths: Obviously, this force can deploy anywhere, defeat almost any opposing navy, and establish an extended presence. It's also the only naval type capable of launching a genuine amphibious invasion on its own. In both tonnage and technology, these navies are the best.
Weaknesses: The cost! Even the nations that have these forces are constantly trying to cut back. Every single one has recently cancelled several major warships that were planned to be inducted, and older ones must soldier on past the end of their intended service life to maintain capability. As hinted, these navies are also much less prepared to deal with a threat that pops up on their own shores, especially while the main fleet is away.
Role: A projection navy is basically an expeditionary one without the amphibious or replenishment capabilities, and also without true fleet carriers. It's more of a regional power that maintains modest ability to deploy greater distances. It's still fully capable of power projection and dominating most navies, but doesn't quite have the staying power or capability to launch a full-scale amphibious invasion.
Ships: These are made up mostly of major warships of the same type you'll find in an expeditionary force. Fleet carriers are rare, but light carriers are common. You'll see the same amphibious and maybe replenishment ships as expeditionary forces, but in smaller numbers. Submarines will be mostly conventional, but capable.
Aircraft: There will be maritime patrol aircraft. There will be helicopters operating from every amphibious vessel and most surface combatants. There might be VTOL or STOVL aircraft such as the F-35B or Harrier, but do not expect normal combat aircraft unless there's a full-size fleet carrier. All of these should be modern and highly capable.
Power Projection: High. The only things lacking are the ability to maintain an extended presence at distant locations without a nearby base for support, and the lower air combat and amphibious capabilities. Well, and the fact that the submarines take forever to deploy anywhere.
Amphibious Capability: Moderate. Expect modest amphibious assets, with the ability to deploy 1-3 battalions, enough for a raid or supporting attack, but not a full invasion by itself.
Littoral Defense: Mostly small patrol vessels and minesweepers, but possibly some more bite than an expeditionary force. Still not that spectacular.
Strengths: It can deploy almost anywhere for short periods, and at least regionally for extended ones, and can also beat most foreign navies with ease.
Weaknesses: It may lack staying power in distant deployments. It still costs an arm and a leg to maintain, and without front-line fighters and AWACS support, is much more vulnerable to air or cruise missile attack than an expeditionary force.
SEA CONTROL NAVYEdit
Role: Want to be a major international player but don't have the funds? That's what we get right here. A navy devoted to sea control is designed to project its power within the region, and basically force any neighbors to cower in submission, but it doesn't have the overseas deployment capability of a projection force.
Ships: Expect to see an extensive core of major combatants, mabye even a few aircraft carriers in the largest ones. However, this may not be the case in some regions - if everyone else is running missile boats, just a few frigates could fulfill the sea control role quite well. There is also usually a significant inshore patrol force backing up the main strikers. Submarines are common, and may even include nuclear powered vessels in some cases. One thing that is most notably not present is long-range deployment assets. You usually won't find replenishment ships here, and even the amphibious vessels are made up almost entirely of LST and LSM-type ships, which are mostly for inshore operations.
Aircraft: For the major players, there's usually a large naval air arm, but with the exception of helicopters, and maybe aircraft carrier complements, most planes are land-based. But the land-based aircraft may include significant numbers of front-line fighters and strike aircraft. Naturally, it's often preferable in these navies to operate primarily within range of land-based aircraft. However, smaller nations that operate in weaker regions may just have some maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters.
Power Projection: Local only. An emphasis on major combat vessels provides obvious capability by simple virtue of range and capability. However, lack of replenishment assets dictates that patrols usually return back to their port of origin for resupply, thus limiting range and patrol endurance.
Amphibious Capability: No long-range deployment capability. Emphasis is entirely on breaching-type landing ships that have short range and poor seakeeping, and are generally restricted to relatively short range deployments. However, the numbers may be quite significant, and a sea control force could actually be able to deploy more troops and equipment than an expeditionary one - just not as far.
Littoral Defene: Pretty good actually. Most still have a strong unit of corvettes and missile boats that provide excellent defense of local waters.
Strengths: As long as it's operating relatively near its home ports, this represents an extremely powerful force. It's also quite flexible, being equipped for most situations, as opposed to a completely offensive or defensive force.
Weaknesses: Depending on the ships, radius of operation for extended deployments is often only about 1500-2500 nm without a distant refueling base, and even less for amphibious operations. Also, since it does a little bit of everything, its cost effectiveness can come into question, and it generally can be foiled by both a strong defensive navy, or a strong offensive (projection or expeditionary) one.
- South Africa
Role: A defensive navy is a locally powerful force designed to protect the nation's interest within its EEZ. The most important thing here is that this is designed to maintain control of this area even against a larger force.
Ships: There's usually a mix of both minor and major surface combatants, though the latter may be outdated. Emphasis is on fast missile-armed attack craft, but with larger combat vessels to provide sea control capabilities. Submarines may be present in modest or even decent numbers. Expect some LST-type amphibious assets as well, and maybe some other short-range landing craft.
Aircraft: Usually just a handful of helicopters and maybe a few maritime patrol aircraft, but depending on the threat, there may be a number of land-based aircraft dedicated to maritime strikes.
Power Projection: Varies from negligable to moderate. Major surface combatants will be able to range through waters of neighboring nations, but may not be present in significant enough numbers to actually control the area.
Amphibious Capability: Low. A handful of LST-type units and landing craft will provide a degree of short-range capability, but are usually intended for operations within the nation's own EEZ, and will be hard pressed to deploy troops that far from home.
Littoral Defense: Very good. Expect a good number of small combatants and patrol craft that will provide excellent cover for the coastline. These nations are often among the strongest in the littoral environment.
Strengths: Within its own territory, this kind of navy is quite strong, and even capable of causing trouble for much larger forces. It also possesses some minor offensive power.
Weaknesses: It has no ability to deploy outside the region without a foreign base. And even when deploying, it only has a handful of major warships to send off, and might not be able to afford doing so. It's also relatively easy for a larger navy to overwhelm a defensive force if it plays its cards right.
Role: Some nations have an "opponent" that they have no chance of even marginally matching, or maybe just so few resources that they can't hope to match anyone. They follow the axiom that if you can't control the territory yourself, at least deny control to the enemy. They invest in minelayers and swarms of fast attack craft that make approaching the coast a hazard to even the largest navies.
Ships: Almost exclusively fast attack craft and patrol vessels, though one or two old frigates might be present. There's often a few landing craft, even some LSTs in some cases. Submarines are usually not present, but one or two may be available in some nations.
Aircraft: Pretty much a land based air arm only. Few ships have any capability to embark helicopters to begin with. Land based aircraft are usually limited to just helicopters for search and rescue and maritime patrol duties.
Power Projection: None whatsoever.
Amphibious Capability: There may be a token to moderate force of landing craft or even LST-type vessels, depending on the specific situation, but generally negligable without a significant number of islands to cover.
Littoral Defense: Good. Large number of missile craft, possibly some submarines, and mine warfare assets make approaching shore dangerous for anyone, but low endurance of vessels leaves potential openings.
Advantages: The cheapest way to keep unwanted visitors away from your coastline.
Disadvantages: No real offensive capability. Fast attack craft are vulnerable to aircraft without friendly air cover, which the navy can't provide. Their limited endurance means that it's difficult to provide a continuous defense for extended periods. Finally, this force is really not sufficient to protect the entire EEZ from incursions.
Role: Most navies in the world don't really have any combat power, their primary role being to enforce the nation's maritime borders against criminals and civilian incursions (ie: fishermen, waste dumping). As such, the navy is only a token force of patrol vessels.
Ships: Almost exclusively patrol craft armed only with light guns. There may be a handful of missile boats in larger navies, and a few even have frigates, though of ancient and completely obsolete designs. Some amphibious vessels may also be present.
Aircraft: Usually none. If they are present, they're almost guaranteed to be little more than a squadron or two of helicopters for SAR duty.
Power Projection: They can't even project 10 feet from the pier.
Amphibious Capability: If it's an island nation, there may be some landng ships. Otherwise, nothing to look at here.
Littoral Defense: Unless someone's dumb enough to let a patrol boat right next to their shiny destroyer so it can cut loose with machine guns, don't expect much here.
Advantages: Well, such a force is cheap enough that any nation could maintain one.
Disadvantages: Worthless in any type of combat.
Role: Some nations, despite being landlocked, still have a navy. Fancy that. Usually, this revolves around the fact that there is a large lake that many nations border, and thus provides justification for some measure of naval presence on said lake. On the other hand, it might just be a river patrol force, or even, as in the case of Bolivia, pining for a lost coastline. Whatever the reason, these "navies" are designed to patrol a very limited area. Note that, while some would qualify them as so, I do not consider the nations on the Caspian Sea to be landlocked, as it's large enough and boasts enough. The only thing it lacks is a direct link to other seas.
Ships: Mostly small patrol boats, often optimized for the calmer waters found in rivers or lakes. Some relatively large (a few hundred tons) patrol vessels may be present. There may be small transports to support river assaults in some cases.
Aircraft: Not a single one.
Power Projection: Well, the river units might be good for a quick raid somewhere upstream, but that's about it.
Amphibious Capability: A handful can support a river assault on a small scale. Beyond that, nothing.
Littoral Defense: They defend their rivers and lakeshores quite well. After all, there's no threat of anything truly dangerous to begin with.
Advantages: It's there. Said nation can honestly claim to have a navy. Also, river patrol forces are good against insurgents.
Disadvantages: Not much really. I could harp about how weak they are, but they're not exactly going to find themselves fighting the United States Navy to begin with.
Belgium: Once again, we meet the little nation that almost could. The Belgian Naval component is best described as a mini-control force, but even that doesn't seem quite right. All it has is a pair of frigates, half a dozen mine hunters, and a dozen assorted support and auxiliary craft. Of those dozen, only four have any value to military operations, the rest being for oceanographic survey or public relations. That and the requisite Royal Yacht. If the actual combat forces were five times the size, I could call this a sea control force. But as it stands, the Belgian Naval Component is only good for providing support to larger navies, and mostly political at that.
Burma (Myanmar): An interesting hybrid here. The navy of Myanmar has a heavy emphasis on riverine operations, and in fact devotes much of its resources to that area. Not surprising considering its insurgency problems, but it does have the largest riverine navy out there, which is interesting since it's not landlocked. In fact, it also has a modest denial force with several dozen missile boats.
Canada: This is a navy in transition. A much needed transition. Canada is currently something of a slightly larger Belgium. It has local survey vessels and tugs and other auxiliaries, and a number of frigates, but not much else. Most importantly, it lacks amphibious vessels, and just sending frigates across the ocean doesn't account for much on their own. It is, however, getting aphibious vessels soon, which will eventually make it a proper projection force.
Indonesia: Another one that doesn't quite fit in. Indonesia is mostly a patrol navy, just with the added complication of having a vast network of islands to do it for. To that end, it actually does have a number of larger warships, that are even capable of fighting. They're still small, none much more than 2000 tons, and all of them are old and in questionable condition, but it actually does have a credible combat force of frigates and corvettes. A total of 13 corvettes and frigates are capable of combat, with two submarines. This is negligable for defending a nation with so much area to cover, but more than would be expected from a patrol force. Thus, this is something of a patrol/defense hybrid.
Japan: Technically, I should call this a projection force. In fact, some argue that Japan has the world's 3rd most powerful navy after the US and UK due to its sheer numbers of modern frigates, destroyers, and submarines. On the other hand, Japan cannot really project, at least not legally, so it gets funny. It gets even more interesting in that some aspirations (not necessarily projects, but at least known desires) would put this at a solid expeditionary force by including nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.
Ground Forces Equipment OverviewEdit
This segment is intended for players who want to RP actual combat, but aren't as familiar with military equipment. It's here to provide a brief introduction to the various classes of combat systems and their roles, along with some of the key advantages and disadvantages of specific types of each. I will not go into much depth here, and will not include personal weapons like pistols, rifles, and grenades. Hopefully, you should know what those are good for.
- Infantry Fighting Vehicles
- Armored Reconnaissance Vehicles
- Armored Personnel Carriers
- Field Artillery
- Rocket Artillery
- Area Air Defense
- Self-Propelled Air Defense
- Towed Air Defense
- Manportable Missiles
- Crew-Served Weapons
Role: Tanks are a staple of modern mobile warfare, and are most commonly used for breaching attacks. Their combination of firepower and protection makes them the ideal unit to place in front of any attacking force. Additionally, as the best weapon against other tanks, they are also a staple of defense.
Advantages: No other unit matches them in the combination of mobility, protection, and firepower.
Disadvantages: Limited visibility for the crew inside leaves them vulnerable to attacks by infantry in restricted terrain. This also holds true for other unit types when camoflaged. They are also expensive to acquire, operate, and maintain. Finally, tanks are mainly good for engaging the enemy and breaking through defense lines. They cannot hold territory without support.
-Heavy Tank: Weighing in at 60 to over 70 tons (54.5-63.5+ tonnes), these are the meanest vehicles on the battlefield. Common to western militaries, they have the best armor protection of anything you'll see, and often have equal or better mobility compared to lighter units. They're also known for their high crew survival rates, and difficulty to completely destroy, thanks to advanced protection systems.
-Medium Tank: These generally run 45-55 tons, but the full range is 40-60 tons (36-54.5 tonnes). They have the same firepower and mobility of heavy tanks, but sacrifice armor and survivability features. That, combined with the more cramped internal space, makes them much more likely to suffer catestrophic damage from enemy fire. However, they're usually much cheaper and easier to mass produce. These are best known for their role in the former Soviet Union and all its successors and client states.
-Light Tank: Something of a rarity these days, this generally has slightly downgraded firepower compared to larger models (ie: 105mm instead of 120, 85mm instead of 100, etc) on a much smaller and lighter chassis. The result is decent firepower, but protection no better than APCs and reconnaissance vehicles. Few nations use these, and those that do have them primarily for terrain even a medium tank can't cross, such as mountains and marshes.
-Amphibious Tank: A subcategory of light tanks, these are small, thinly armored, and relatively lightly armed, but fully capable of swimming, at decent speeds even. They're good for river crossings and amphibious assaults where units need to traverse water without the help of bridges.
INFANTRY FIGHTING VEHICLESEdit
Role: These were initially designed to support tanks. The requirement was for an infantry transport vehicle that was fast enough to keep up with advancing tanks, survivable enough to fight on the front lines, and powerful enough to engage other armored vehicles and support its own infantry unit. Supporting tanks in mobile warfare is still their primary role, but many of these, especially the more capable ones, are often used on their own, as they can fight most units on relatively equal terms.
Advantages: These are cheaper than tanks, yet maintain excellent mobility and firepower, making them an effective combat vehicle even without the infantry squad. Compared to the APCs they partially replaced, they're more survivable and better able to support dismounted infantry. Most are also equipped with ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles) to give them the ability to fight off heavy armored units.
Disadvantages: Anything that can kill a tank can kill an IFV (or two, or three) even better, and then add on many things that can't kill a tank. Unsupported, these do not fare well against heavy weapons. There's also a much greater chance that a penetrating hit will do significant damage due to the inclusion of the infantry squad's munitions, and the infantry squad itself providing more potential casualties. Finally, while equipped with them, all IFVs must stop to fire ATGMs, leaving them vulnerable.
-Heavy IFV: Weighing in at around 25 to 40 tons (22.7-36 tonnes), these are among the heaviest armored vehicles out there outside of tanks, with some units boasting optional add-on armor that brings them as high as 47 tons (43 tonnes), or on par with many medium tanks. Naturally they have high survivability, and can take most light and medium vehicle-mounted weapons with ease. Their only weakness is that their weight reduces strategic, and to a lesser degree, tactical mobility, at least compared to their lighter cousins.
-Medium IFV: These generally fall in the 12-25 ton (11-22.7 tonne) range. Like the medium tanks, these generally have similar mobility and armament to their heavier cousins, but lack armor. Most of these are vulnerable even to light cannons, only providing true protection against machine gun fire. In short, they're not much more survivable than APCs, just better armed. One of the greatest advantages of medium IFVs is that many are fully amphibious, and thus much more useful in amphibious and river crossing operations.
-Airborne IFV: A sub-category of medium IFVs, most of these are developed from the latter, and most are Russian. Early models just reduce weight (and armor) and reinforce suspension to allow the vehicles to be air dropped. Early variants had to be dropped seperately from the crews, but the most modern units are capable of being dropped with the crew inside, and thus moving into the fight almost immediately. While less capable than most IFVs, these are far above the air-dropped trucks that most other airborne forces are limited to.
-Converted APC: A sub-category of medium IFVs, these take advantage of the versatility of older armored personnel carriers, and pretty much just stick an armored turret on the top to increase firepower, with maybe some automotive and/or armor upgrades. Dramatically cheaper than building new units, these are quite popular in many countries with large mechanized forces. Some of these designs are rather cheap and of minimal capability, but others, such as the Egyptian EIFV, are extremely powerful, especially given their cost.
ARMORED RECONNAISANCE VEHICLESEdit
Role: Reconnaissance units have the unenviable task of moving ahead of the main forces and actually finding the enemy. Since this tends to involve getting shot at, mating armor and reconnaissance is kind of obvious. Reconnaissance units have a lot of tasks, but it's too long of a list to fully provide and explain.
Advantages: Since there's so much variety here, it's hard to peg a set that applies for all, but most of these units are very fast, small, and relatively inexpensive. They also tend to be quie well armed for their size.
Disadvantages: Despite their need for survivability, speed tends to take precedence. At best, these are equal to IFVs in protection levels.
-Recon/Assault Gun: A hybrid unit, which is essentially a wheeled light tank, being similar in both protection and firepower. These were designed to provide heavy firepower and operate as not only recon, but also anti-tank and fire support vehicles. Most have 90 or 105mm guns, though both larger (120mm) and smaller (76mm) can be found in some variants, depending on the age of the design.
-Heavy Recon: Often based on IFVs, these use the same light cannons and have similar armor and firepower. In fact, the most notable designs, the Soviet/Russian BRM and the US M3 Bradley, are almost identical to the IFVs they were derived from. This provides a benefit in that enemy forces that encounter them cannot distinguish the screening recon units from the advance elements of the main force.
-Light Recon: Tiny units, usually weighing well under 10 tons (9 tonnes), these are highly mobile, highly deployable, and highly vulnerable. They rely almost entirely on their small size and speed to survive, mostly by avoiding detection in the first place. Many are only lightly armed, a few machine guns at most, but a few, amazingly enough, have small turrets sporting light cannons.
Armoured Personnel Carriers Edit
Role: The most prolific and ubiquitous of all armored vehicles, the truth is that these, when specialized variants are included, do just about everything. The originally envisioned role was to provide a transport vehicle for infantry that could protect them from rifle and machine gun fire, at least until they dismounted. But with modifications, these have done everything from engineering work to NBC Recon (Nuclear, Biological, & Chemical), smoke generation, even antitank and air defense.
Advantages: These are cheap, plentiful, and easily modified to suit most roles. What more could you ask for?
Disadvantages: Well, they're not well protected, and older designs tend to be a bit slow compared to tanks. That's about it.
Types: Actually, this is simply a listing of more common combat modifications. There's no real sub-types unless you consider things like tracked VS wheeled (adressed later) or airborne units.
-ATGM Carrier: Both the Soviet Union and US built modified versions of their APCs to fire heavy antitank missiles in support of infantry units that might otherwise lack such weapons. You'll basically see a turret with 2-8 missiles ready to fire, and probably additional missiles inside. I don't think anyone builds these anymore, but the US ones especially are quite widely proliferated.
-Mortar Carrier: These mount an 81, 82, 107, or 120mm infantry mortar on a turntable, that fires through a roof hatch. They also carry the mortar crew and ammunition. The most common versions are the 120mm ones, and these are everywhere. They're often used in armored and mechanized battalions to provide a degree of organic fire support.
-Air Defense Vehicle: Some mount an AA gun, others a light SAM launcher, and a few just carry and infantry squad equipped with shoulder-fired SAMs. Whatever they do, they provide defense against aircraft for mobile formations.
Role: Field artillery (aka gun or tube artillery) has been a staple of warfare for the past century. Basically, it provides heavy, indirect fire to suppress or eliminate ground formations and fortifications. It has been a primary source of casualties in most of the wars fought in the past 100 years.
Advantages: The ability to provide indirect fire is critical for engaging dug-in forces that are either behind an obstacle or just entrenched. These units are generally rather cheap for the effect they have on the battlefield, particularly psychological, and are an essential part of any assault.
Disadvantages: Artillery guns take time to set up and take down, and are extremely vulnerable to almost anything that shoots at them. Artillery rounds can be tracked in mid-air and ballistically traced to their point of origin, meaning that against a well-equipped opponent, they have only a few minutes of firing at most before they have to move.
-Self-Propelled: These represent a gun, almost always 155mm or 152mm, that has been mounted in an enclosed turret on an armored chassis. These are able to withstand infantry small-arms and shell splinters from opposing artillery rounds. Modern units have very low emplacement and displacement times, as well as high rate of fire and excellent range. These units provide indirect fire support for armored and mechanized units. While almost all current units are in 155 or 152mm, lighter (122 & 105mm) and heavier (203 & 175mm) versions were made up through the 1970s, and can still be found in many less modern militaries.
-Truck-Mounted: A sub-category of self-propelled, these were first seen in the Second World War, but virtually disappeared until making a comeback in recent years. Modern versions involve putting a top-of-the-line 155mm gun on a truck chassis to provide better mobility. They don't have the protection of armored units, or even the integral ammunition storage, but have greater strategic and tactical mobility, and are far beyond the normal towed units.
-Towed Field Guns: Older weapons used to be categorized as either field guns (longer range, flatter trajectory) or field howitzers (shorter range, arcing trajectory). The distinction has virtually disappeared in modern weapons, but many older ones exist. The most notable field guns are former Soviet 180mm, 152mm and 130mm weapons, the last one being one of the most popular and widely proliferated artillery guns in the world.
-Towed Howitzers: Briefly touched on above, these have shorter barrels, less range, but a more arcing trajectory, which is better for hitting targets behind obstacles. Most weapons in service are either howitzers or gun/howitzer hybrids. Common calibers are 155 & 105mm (western), and 152mm & 122mm (eastern). Both sides use heavier 203mm in modest numbers. Vast numbers of weapons can be found in less modern armies. In modern service, these are mostly found in airborne and airmobile units, which need lighter weapons that can be airdropped or transported via helicopter. Some nations with a defensive emphasis also use many of these due to their lower cost compared to self-propelled units.
-Pack Howitzers: Quite simple really. These are light guns that can be broken up into pieces that are light enough that a pack animal (mule, camel, etc) can carry them. These are usually 75mm, though 105mm weapons do exist. You mainly only find them in armies that operate in extremely mountainous terrain or thick jungles, where there's no way any other kind of artillery is coming along with the troops.
Role: Rocket artillery consists of relatively simple launch rails with a number of large, unguided rockets. It's most notable in that it delivers a tremendous amount of ordnance in a very short period. As such, they are often used for their high shock value. A few nations even use them as an alternative to tube artillery because of their strengths. Larger weapons are also used as long-range strike units against rear area targets.
Strengths: These weapons provide tremendous firepower in a very short period, in some cases over 10 times what even the best artillery guns can manage in the same period. They're also very simple to operate, and usually have minimal emplacement and displacement times. This makes them both powerful and survivable on modern battlefields. Larger weapons, while lacking the sheer volume of fire of the more common units, are the longest-ranged artillery systems out there (short of ballistic missiles), and excellent for striking deep targets.
Weaknesses: The main weakness is that, while they have high volume of fire in a short period, they spend much more time reloading. However, that is a function of expending ammunition loads more quickly as much as reload rates. Against modern forces, rockets are also much easier to counter than artillery shells because of larger size and their fuel load.
-Heavy MRL: Thes fire large rockets with diameters in the 200-350mm range, and usually a normal load of 4-12 rockets. The large rocket size and small launcher load dictates that these almost always use submunition warheads, and also allows these have ranges at least matching, and often significantly exceeding, the best artillery guns. They're primarily tasked with counter-battery fire or hitting deep targets like command centers, resupply points, and troop assembly areas.
-Medium MRL: The most commonly seen type, these include a number of weapons usually between 100 and 140mm in diameter. The number of tubes tends to be either 36 or 40, though ones with 18, 21, and 30 tubes have also appeared. Ranges are around 15-20 kilometers for older units, and 30-40+ for the most modern variants, which puts them about equal to artillery guns of the time. Most of these use standard high-explosive (unitary) warheads, though a few variants are equipped with submunitions. The role in this case is usually bombarding forward positions, and with the low cost and high effectiveness of units like the Russian BM-21, many militaries actually use these instead of artillery guns.
-Light MRL: Ranging from 70-130mm, these are relatively small, very short range (under 10 km) rockets that are easily deployed, and are often found in towed variants or as a simple add-on to trucks and APCs. These are often found as part of combat formations, rather than separately like heavier units, and provide organic fire support on the spot. Most launchers have around 12 tubes, but some interesting designs fire as few as 1 rocket.
SELF-PROPELLED AIR DEFENSEEdit
Role: We're specifically referring to the tracked or wheeled units that mount most, if not all, of the equipment necessary for engaging aircraft on a combat vehicle. These are intended to advance with armored and mechanized units, and defend them against air attack. Many also have capabilities against secondary targets like cruise missiles, infantry, light vehicles, artillery shells, and even tanks in one case.
Advantages: Your mobile formations don't get shot up by attack aircraft, flanked by airmobile forces, or annoyed by the buzzing of overflying transports. They also help deal with pesky UAVs.
Disadvantages: A self-propelled unit that is capable of engaging aircraft while moving at combat speeds has not yet been invented. All units have to at least slow down, and most must stop completely, before engaging. Most of these are also relatively vulnerable to stand-off attacks, as their weapons have limited range (2-25 km, depending on the system). Finally, these things are phenominally expensive. Even the cheapest modern ones can easily run $10 million per vehicle.
-Radar-Guided Missile: Though usually used on longer-range systems, a few high-profile units actually use these for short-range defense. The main advantage is that Radar provides longer detection ranges and works in any weather conditions. It also allows for a separate unit to guide the missile if need be, providing both redundancy and increased survivability. The main disadvantage is that radar invites antiradiation missiles. Vehicles radars also tend to have a higher target profile, and are thus more vulnerable to ground fire.
-IR-Guided Missile: The most common means of guiding short-range missiles, these have come a long way since the early units. These tend to be shorter-ranged, only 5-15 km depending on the missile, but can track and fire without any electronic emissions, which makes them harder to counter. These also allow for very small and light launch vehicles, such as the US Avenger.
-Optically-Guided Missile: These are very difficult to use, and not really optimal against combat aircraft, but have still seen use in the anti-helicopter role, and as backups for other systems. Technically, this is called radio command guidance, and can be done by a radar, but in this case, we're talking about ones tracked physically by a gunner much like older antitank missiles. The advantage is that it's completely passive, and there's often little or no warning for targeted aircraft.
-Gun/Missile Hybrid: The Russians love this. It adds an AA gun system for close in and ground targets (and to allow firing on the move), and short-range missiles to hit targets further out. Other countries have also developed modifications for purpose-built gun systems that include launchers for shoulder-fired SAMs (usually 4 weapons, occasionally 6). These are excellent all-around weapons systems.
-Self-Propelled AA Gun: These used to be quite popular, but almost no pure SPAAG units are being built now to my knowledge. Most nations have transitioned to light SAM systems, a few have upgraded their AA guns with SAMs (see above), and most of those with remaining AA guns have had them for decades. These are good in that they're very cheap compared to SAMs due to the fact that even the cheapest missile costs as much as several thousand AA shells. On the other hand, these are VERY short ranged (2-4 km), and generally less likely to shoot an aircraft down.
AREA AIR DEFENSEEdit
Role: These units are designed to provide protection for relatively stationary targets, and in some cases, cover the forward battlefield area. They engage aircraft mostly at high and medium altitudes, and at distances exceeding 30 kilometers. Secondary targets often include ballistic and/or cruise missiles.
Advantages: The long range in and of itself provide a significant obstacle for air operations, and with later models with integrated systems, there may even be over-the-horizon engagement capability. Even less advanced ones can still separate launchers and radars to both provide increased coverage and better survivability. They're also much cheaper than aircraft for controlling airspace.
Disadvantages: Most are not very mobile, taking considerable time to set up, and most are also limited by the horizon, allowing low-altitude penetration by helicopters and some strike aircraft, which can engage with standoff weapons. Antiradiation missiles and jamming are also regular problems. And while less costly to operate than aircraft, they can't so much control airspace as deny it to the enemy.
-ABM System: Among the most expensive single purchases that can be made, these are equipped with powerful radars and extremely advanced missiles intended to destroy incoming ballistic missiles. Many are also fully capable of engaging aircraft, either with the same or different weapons.
-Mobile: There are a handful of medium and long range systems that are actualy completely mobile. They take much less time to set up, and a single unit carries most of the systems and equipment needed to track and engage targets. These are less capable than the fixed and semi-mobile units, but can actually cover advancing ground forces.
-Semi-Mobile: Most modern systems fall into this category. They're highly capable, but use large trucks or semi-trailers to mount everything, and usually take quite some time to set up for operations - up to several hours. Some components, however, may be able to relocate independently to a degree.
-Fixed: It's been decades since any truly modern military relied on these, but in the third world, you'll find more of this type than anything else. Relatively simple and cheap, they have the weakness of that their locations are usually already known or relatively easily discovered, and once discovered, they are easily dealt with since they can't move. That, however, doesn't mean they can't hurt anyone!
TOWED AIR DEFENSEEdit
Role: In modern armies, towed antiaircraft weapons can still be found as point defense for fixed installations, such as airfields, that tend to be overflown directly when attacked. They're also often part of less advanced air defense networks, and are particularly useful for protecting area air defense units from helicopters and strike aircraft. In less modern armies, they're also used to protect front-line units, in lieu of more advanced weapons.
Advantages: These are relatively cheap, simple, and easy to operate. AA guns also have very long service lives, and can, with fire control upgrades, remain viable for decades, making them a good investment for third world armies.
Disadvantages: First off, they're mostly very short ranged units, <15 km for SAMs and usually under 5 km for AA guns. This also means they have limited ability to hit aircraft at medium and high altitudes. Other problems include mobility, and the fact that most leave their crew in the open, and are thus more vulnerable to bombs and indirect fire.
-Towed SAM: A handful of short-range SAM systems are in fact towed, and used more for airfield defense than frontline units. There are often self-propelled variants of the same systems, but even towed versions can see service in modern armies.
-Heavy AA Gun: Massive weapons with a bore diameter exceeding 60mm, these fell largely out of favor after WWII, except in the Soviet Union, which introduced several in the 1950s. Numerous WWII-era weapons are in service around the world, along with quite a few of the later Soviet models. These have impressive range - as much as 20 km against aircraft, and can also operate as artillery and destroy light armor, making them versatile. On the other hand, they have huge crews and limited ability to engage modern combat aircraft.
-Medium AA Gun: Somewhat more manageable weapons in the 40-60mm range, they're a little less versatile than their larger cousins, but much easier to move around, and better for targeting high-speed aircraft. Some, like the Bofors 40mm L/70, are even still in production. Effective range is typically 5-10 km.
-Light AA Gun: These are what dominate the field in this category. Ranging from 20-40mm, they typically have effective ranges of 2-5 km, and are most suitable for the modern battlefield due to their small size and high rate of fire. Many of these weapons have multiple barrels to further improve rate of fire.
-AA Machine Gun: A handful of truly dedicated AA guns are actually little more than heavy machine guns, often grouped in pairs or even quartets. These tend not to have automated tracking or fire control, so they're not much of a threat to fixed-wing combat aircraft, but a helicopter could get torn to shreds if it's not careful.
Role: The biggest problem infantry have is that things like tanks and aircraft are kind of difficult to engage with rifles and grenades. These are missile systems intended for use by infantry to fight things that they are traditionally weak against.
Advantages: They give infantry the ability to fend off their greatest enemies on the battlefield. They're also inexpensive enough that they may be used as a substitute for heavy vehicles, especially on the defense.
Disadvantages: Manportable in no way means that it can be carried for long distances by men in the field. In fact, many of these are usually mounted on light vehicles rather than carried around. Also, unlike armored units, anything that can distract or injure the infantryman can suppress these, especially if they need guidance after launch.
-Heavy ATGM: Weapons like the US TOW and Russian Konkurs (AT-5). Combined missile and launcher weigh in at over 25 kg, and are thus usually carried by truck or mounted on vehicles rather than lugged around by infantry. However, especially for short distances, they can do so. These are designed to engage even the heaviest tanks at ranges of over 3.5 km.
-Medium ATGM: These are more common missile systems in infantry use, which weigh less than half as much as the heavy units and can thus be carried around with much less trouble. Most still engage even heavy tanks, but at reduced ranges, usually 2-3 km.
-Light ATGM: These aren't quite as common (though catching on), but weigh significantly less than even the medium weapons, often only a few kg, and typically are good out to 0.5-1.5 km, depending on the design. Many of these are different from their larger cousins in that they don't need a launcher mount, significantly reducing overall weight. Several are fired from disposable launch tubes like many unguided rockets.
-MANPADS: MAN-Portable Air Defense System, a funny way of saying shoulder-fired SAM. These have short ranges of only 5-10 km, but are relatively light weight and provide the primary defense against aircraft for modern infantry.
This segment is intended for players who want to RP actual combat, but aren't as familiar with military equipment. It's here to provide a brief introduction to the various classes of combat systems and their roles, along with some of the key advantages and disadvantages of specific types of each. I will not go into much depth here, but will hopefully give enough to help out.
All ships whose primary role is the operation of aircraft. It includes the following classes:
- Fleet Carriers
- Light Carriers
Major Surface CombatantsEdit
A broad classification consisting of all non-submarine combat vessels over 2000 tons. Specifically, it includes the following modern ship classes:
Minor Surface CombatantsEdit
Ships and boats that displace under 2000 tons. Consists of the following classes:
- Fast Attack Craft
Those ships that ride beneath the waves.
- Missile Submarines
- Nuclear Attack Submarines
- Conventional Submarines
Ships whose primary role is to deliver amphibious assault troops (usually Marines) to hostile shores.
- Helicopter Landing Ship
- Dock Landing Ship
- Tank Landing Ship
- Air Cushion Landing Vessel
- Landing Craft
- Antiship Missiles
- Naval Air Defense
- Antisubmarine Weapons
- Naval Mines
Role: These floating air bases are the ultimate form of naval power projection. Armed with several squadrons of front-line combat aircraft, they can dominate the sea for hundreds of kilometers and range far inland to boot. Currently, a grand total of four nations operate fleet carriers, with 3/4 of those in service in the US Navy. Another three nations are expected to have fleet carriers in the next 10 years.
Advantages: They have maximum flexibility, as not only can the aircraft have loads changed to suit the missions, but even the number and types of aircraft carried are highly flexible. And with over 40 aircraft, they can have quite a bit of variety.
Disadvantages: Their extremely high profile (cost, power, and crew are all through the roof) to make them highly sought after targets. Furthermore, they have minimal defenses, and are extremely vulnerable to damage due to the vast quantities of fuel and munitions carried. Also, carriers are the single most expensive piece of military equipment that can be procured, usually costing several billion dollars, and several hundred million per year to operate.
-Nuclear Powered: Most US carriers, and one foreign one (France), use this. It gives the advantage of much higher sustained speed and operational endurance, and since it doesn't require the large fuel storage of conventional power plants, it leaves more space for fuel, munitions, and other supplies. On the other hand, these cost significantly more, and the "threat" of reactor leaks, especialy in the event of an attack, is a political issue. Also, since there are no nuclear-powered escorts, the higher sustained speed is only marginally useful.
-Conventionally Powered: In addition to the three already in service, all non-US ships entering service in the coming decades will use conventional steam turbines, which have a larger logistical footprint, but are easier and "safer."
-CATOBAR: Acronym for Catapult-Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (a mouthful, isn't it?), this system uses a special catapult system to boost the speed of aircraft, allowing them to take off in shorter distances. Then, for landing, they use a group of wires that a hook on the aircraft catches to slow it down and reduce landing distance. All current and former US and French carriers use this system, and the future UK ones will have an option to be converted to it. The benefits are that it can accommodate larger conventional aircraft with heavier payloads. But it is more expensive by a few hundred million.
-STOBAR: Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery. See, the second part is the same as the first. The difference is that these ones use a "ski jump" that gives aircraft a slight boost as they come to the edge of the flight deck. Naturally, it's nothing compared to CATOBAR in terms of assistance, and is limited by the need to maintain a better thruse to weight ratio, thus limiting what planes can carry. It still uses conventional aircraft though, and is significantly cheaper than CATOBAR. Currently, Russia is the only nation operating such units, but most future ones, including all Indian, Russian, and Chinese designs, will use this system.
Role: A step down (well, more like 2 or 3) from fleet carriers, these are have only a fraction of the procurement and operating costs of their larger cousins. These are about 1/3 the size: usually 10,000-30,000 tons instead of 30,000-90,000+. They perform many of the same roles, but in a more limited capacity. 6 nations currently use such ships, but one (India) is getting rid of them in the near future.
Advantages: They provide good power projection themselves, but cost a whole lot less than their larger cousins. Generally, light carriers cost less than 1/5 as much as large fleet ones like the Nimitz.
Disadvantages: All the same vulnerability problems as fleet carriers, with the added issue of aircraft. Not only are their complements much smaller, but the planes themselves are restricted to STOVL and V/STOL aircraft, with both having limited options for procurement (US, UK, or cry) and reduced strike capabilities.
-STOVL: Short Take-Off & Vertical Landing. These units are most easily noted by the ski jump at the bow, just as in STOBAR carriers (in fact, those copied it from STOVL units). This allows specialized aircraft like the US/UK Harrier and future F-35B to take off with a decent weapons load, though they usually still have to land vertically.
-Helicopter Carrier: Some carriers are optimized only for helicopters. Aircraft like the Harrier can still operate from them with a very light load, but they're mostly just helicopter platforms, and usually used either to support amphibious assault operations (ferrying troops and supplies) or as mobile ASW patrol bases, as they can embark a large number of ASW helicopters.
NOTE: Light carriers are often difficult to distinguish from helicopter landing ships, a class that they have significant overlap with. For simplicity, we will dictate that if it does not have a well deck, it is a carrier. If it does, it's an amphibious vessel. By this definition, vessels like the Spanish Juan Carlos I and Australian Canberra class are amphibious assault ships, NOT carriers.
Role: Cruisers are large surface warships, usually 8-12,000 tons, but with some units exceeding 20,000. These actually have one of two roles, depending on the design. The original role, maintained through WWII, and up through today in a few nations, was as a largely independent force projection vessel able to take on most opponents. Later, guided missile cruisers came to the fore, and were tasked primarily with providing air defense for the fleet. Only a handful of nations still operate cruisers, and with the demise of the US CGX program, no more are expected to be built in the forseeable future.
Advantages: All cruisers are big, powerful, and a major threat to most other surface vessels. They still remain a symbol of maritime power.
Disadvantages: Most cruiser roles are now filled by smaller vessels, which can do the same things at much lower cost. They also tend to be vulnerable to submarines and/or aircraft.
-Battlecruisers: Actually, this is technically an inaccurate term, but is what has become popular. It specifically refers to the massive Kirov class vessels, two of which remain in service with the Russian navy. These vessels are the most powerful surface warships still on active duty, and are armed with a massive array of missiles for engaging any type of threat. However, their primary targets are surface warships.
-Specialized Cruisers: A handful of older Russian designs are built around a specific role - antiship for the Slava/Moskva class, and antisubmarine for the Kara class. These retain defenses against other threats, but are primarily intended to operate relatively independently, hunting down their specified opponents on the high seas.
-Guided Missile Cruisers: Optimized for fleet air defense, particularly the protection of carrier and amphibious groups, the United States is the only nation that ever really used these to any degree, and eventually intends to replace them with more versatile "destroyers" which are based on the same hull and of similar displacement. Hmmm.
-Gun Cruisers: These practically disappeared starting in the 1950s, but one remains in service: Peru's Almirante Grau. It provides naval gunfire support, and is the most capable vessel in its role in the world - and the last of its kind.
Role: Typically displacing 5000-10,000 tons, Destroyers are, historically, the most ubiquitous vessels in the fleet. However, in modern navies, they've actually become akin to the cruisers of yesteryear - powerful combatants that are the epitome of naval power.
Advantages: They're very flexible, extremely capable, and relatively inexpensive compared to larger cruisers. They can perform most missions effectively.
Disadvantages: They still cost a lot, and are often seen as large targets. Politics actually dictates that many destroyers be called "frigates" to make them feel cheaper. And frigates actually can fill most of their roles at lower cost.
Guided Missile Destroyers: Typically running 6000-10,000+ tons, these are the largest surface combatants in widespread service, with about a dozen nations operating or about to receive them. Their primary role is escorting larger vessels, particularly carriers, but possibly also amphibious forces. To that end, their focus is usually on a mix of antiaircraft and antisubmarine capabilities.
Multirole Destroyers: Something of a jack-of-all trades vessel, these have moderate to good capability against ships, submarines, and aircraft, and are intended to form the backbone of smaller scale operations, and provide backup for other units in major fleet operations.
Specialized Destroyers: Rarely produced nowadays, these were popular in the Soviet Union, and several designs are still running around. They maintain moderate multirole capability, but focus primarily on a specific area like antisubmarine (Udaloy I) or antiship (Sovremenny)
Role: Modern frigates evolved from specialized escorts in WWII, which were smaller ships primarily tasked with protecting merchant vessels, especially from submarines. These ships were between a corvette and destroyer in size. Modern vessels form the backbone of most navies, as they're relatively inexpensive yet still capable, and are the smallest vessels that can truly be called multirole. It should be noted that the current trend in Europe is to call any major surface combatant a "frigate," so to avoid confusion, I would say anything much more than 5000 tons is a destroyer in everything but name.
Advantages: These are the most inexpensive ships that can be used for power projection, and are just large enough to still be flexible.
Disadvantages: Their small size limits the systems that can be carried, and also leaves them much more vulnerable to missiles, torpedos, and mines than destroyers or cruisers.
-Guided Missile Frigate: While most guided missile "frigates" are in fact destroyers, there are a few exceptions, such as the Fridtjof Nansen class. These are usually a bit under their larger destroyer bretheren, with less powerful radars and shorter range missile. They're nonetheless powerful warships.
-Multirole Frigate: The most common type nowadays, it has decent capabilities in all areas, but in many cases is more optimized for dealing with less advanced navies or smaller ships. In some cases, the "multirole" may be little more than token defenses like short-range SAMs. Still, these are popular power projection vessels due to their low cost.
-ASW Frigate: The traditional role of the frigate has, since WWII, been antisubmarine warfare, and it shows. Specialized vessels exist in that area to this day.
Role: Small and inexpensive, yet large enough to have some desgree of endurance, corvettes provide the backbone of many smaller navies. They range in size from 450 to 2500 tons, and are the smallest vessels that can perform multiple roles.
Advantages: They're cheap, and the small size can combine with stealth features to make them highly survivable. These are also the smallest ships that can embark helicopters. These make excellent inshore and short-range sea control vessels.
Disadvantages: The small size means that there's minimal space in the vessel. As such, they lack the extensive sensor suites of larger ships, and their actual effectiveness tends to be dilluted when designed to fight multiple target types equally. Even ones pegged as "multirole" are not turly such.
-Multipurpose Corvettes: Displacing 1500-2500 tons, these are sometimes called light frigates, and naturally used to be more closely associated with larger frigates, but have eventually found themselves classified as corvettes. These are usually slightly more multirole capable, equipped with short range air defense plus either an antiship or antisubmarine focus. They almost always embark helicopters.
-ASW Corvettes: Small ships designed to fight submarines in the inshore and littoral environments, these have little more than point defense against air and/or surface targets, devoting everything to their primary task. While new vessels are not as common, the Soviet Union built dozens, and they were widely proliferated.
-Missile Corvettes: Essentially large missile boats, they're totally devoted to engaging surface targets. These are popular inshore patrol craft, as they generally carry short range air/missile defense systems, improving survivability compared to smaller fast attack craft.
-Patrol Corvettes: Very hard to differentiate from other patrol vessels, these usually have only gun armament, but are equipped with some military systems, such as radar or sonar. They have minimal ability to fight warships on their own, but may be able to be refitted with missiles.
FAST ATTACK CRAFTEdit
Role: These are very small, cheap vessels that provide coastal defense against larger ships. Their role is to quickly get in range of enemy ships, fire their missiles, and get away, hopefully before they can be successfully engaged.
Advantages: These are fast, cheap, and certainly capable of doing tremendous damage to other ships when used properly.
Disadvantages: These are one-trick ponies. If something they're not designed to deal with, such as aircraft, come after them, they don't have much they can do. They're also fairly short ranged, so you'll often find most of them only leaving port once a threat appears, leaving them vulnerable to surprise attack. Also, their sensors are short-ranged, and a larger sensor network including things like AWACS makes it very hard to operate them effectively, as surprise and numbers are their only weapons.
-Fast Attack Missile Boats: The only kind you'll find still in production, these generally have 4-8 antiship missiles as their primary armament, and maybe a gun. Speeds are often over 40 knots, exceeding 60 in some cases, and these ships can be extremely small - some are less than 100 tons.
-Torpedo Boats: Before the advent of the missile, these were the primary form of fast attack craft. Armed with 2-6 torpedoes, they would run in close and drop their weapons before turning around, just like in WWII. Today, they're completely obsolete, but a number of navies still operate them due to inability to afford anything better.
-Submarine Chasers: Really, China and its customers are the only ones using this kind of vessel, which disappeared shortly after WWII. They're small, fast ships equipped with sonar and ASW weapons. They generally have no air defense or antiship capability.
Role: Terror beneath the waves, these vessels are designed to transport and fire long-range attack missiles to strike deep targets with relative impunity. It's that simple.
Advantages: These have 70% of the earth's surface to hide under, and are among the quietest submarines out there due to their high profile. This, combined with their extreme firepower, makes them among the most feared ships in the sea.
Disadvantages: If they are located and tracked, they're somewhat less capable of defending themselves than attack submarines. They're also very expensive, and highly sought after targets.
-SSBN (Ship, Submersible, Ballistic missile, Nuclear-powered): The ultimate naval power, and the most effective form of nuclear deterrent - they could be anywhere, they will survive even a perfect nuclear first strike, and in current ships, they can hit most of the world from most locations. Currently, 42 of these are operated by 5 nations, 1/3 of them US vessels. India will be the 6th, and probably last, nation to employ these.
-SSGN: Similar to SSBNs, these are equipped with cruise missiles instead of ballistic ones. In Russian service, such vessels are usually optimized for the antisip role, using large missiles like the P-700 Granit, which is almost as big as an SLBM. while US vessels are modified Ohio class units loaded with massive numbers of Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles. No other nations operate these.
NUCLEAR ATTACK SUBMARINESEdit
Role: The SSN is a staple of overseas operations. Able to deploy rapidly at speeds exceeding 30 knots, equipped with advanced sensors and weapons (including cruise missiles), it is the main offensive weapon operating beneath the surface.
Advantages: Unlike conventional submarines, these can deploy quickly to a troubled area while remaining submerged. Also, being much larger than conventional submarines, they have correspondingly enhanced weapons loads and superior sensors. Most importantly, they can spend months underwater without coming anywhere near the surface.
Disadvantages: These cost several times as much as conventional submarines, and while capable of exceeding 30 knots, their tactical speed is often far less to avoid generating too much noise.
-Large SSN: Displacing over 7000 tons submerged, and equipped with over 30 weapons in a mix of cruise missiles and torpedoes, these are the epitome of undersea force projection.
-Medium SSN: Displacing 3500-7000 tons submerged, these only have about 20 weapons, give or take, and were popular in Europe during the cold war. The problem is that today, they don't cost much less than the larger units, so there's not much benefit in keeping small. Thus, most navies are retiring them in favor of larger boats.
-Small SSN: These little wonders are as small as, and even smaller than some conventional submarines. Naturally, with only 12-18 weapons and the lower cost-effectiveness of sticking nuclear propulsion on such small vessels, they are on their way out. In fact, the only nations that built them were the USSR and France. The former retired its Alfa class boats over a decade ago, and France will be dumping its Rubis units in the coming decade.
Role: Conventional submarines are primarily defensive vessels whose job is to protect the inshore and littoral areas from other submarines and surface vessels. Also, due to their extreme stealth, a few smaller ones are specialized for inserting special forces.
Advantages: They cost only a fraction as much as nuclear powered boats, and are in fact much quieter and harder to detect due to their small size and lack of constant reactor noise.
Disadvantages: Even the best vessels have very short submerged endurance, about 2-3 weeks at minimal speed, and at full combat speed and maneuvering, it's measured in hours. Older ones are a third of that, and for all of them, once they've reached their limit, they must come close the surface and run diesel engines to recharge in an extremely noisy process called "snorting" or "snorkeling" which leaves them easily detectable by a number of means. Naturally, they're poor for deploying deep into hostile territory.
-AIP Submarine: The big revolution in submarine design that popped up in the '90s, AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) is a catchall for a number of systems that allow a submarine's batteries to be recharged without sorkeling. This extends the endurance to 2-3 weeks at low speed, and actually leaves these capable of limited offensive operations. However, due to their low speed, they primarily work by ambush, placing themselves in an area that enemy vessels are expected to pass through and waiting.
-Patrol Submarine: SSK under US classification, this is the category that most current submarines fall under. As the name suggests, their job is to patrol local waters since they're only good for a few days on batteries. These vessels, even more so than AIP boats, rely on ambush tactics since they're too slow to even change position for intercepts.
-Coastal Submarine: Even smaller than patrol submarines (under 1000 tons submerged), these tiny vessels are extremely short ranged, but also amazingly hard to detect. Aside from size and associated weapons load and endurance, they're not much different from larger patrol submarines.
-Special Operations Submarine: These are small vessels, many of which are variations on coastal submarine designs, and are intended primarily for the task of carrying special forces teams to a hostile shore, and recovering them. They're popular for nations that are right next to their primary opponents as they're nearly impossible to detect, but the short range makes them inappropriate for just about anyone else.
-Special Operations Submersible: These are extremely tiny underwater cargo craft that are carried by larger submarines, and their sole purpose is deploying and retrieving special forces. By having a carrier vessel, they get around the lack of range, but size restrictions dictate that they have virtually nothing in the way of sensors or defenses.
HELICOPTER LANDING SHIPSEdit
Role: These vessels combine the roles of helicopter carriers and dock landing ships, and are distinguishable by their carrier-like general appearance and the presence of provisions to carry and launch landing craft. Able to deploy troops by air and sea, and provide significant air cover, these are the most powerful of all amphibious vessels.
Advantages: These are extremely versatile craft. They can deploy troops to a beach via landing craft, or use assault helicopters when a suitable beach is lacking. And, with little modification, they can also function as light aircraft carriers due to their storage facilities and flight deck.
Disadvantages: These generally cost more than comparable light carriers or dock landing ships, and are second only to fleet carriers and larger nuclear submarines in cost. As with carriers they are also both vulnerable on their own and high profile targets. And as with helicopter carriers, they're usually limited to just helicopters and maybe VTOL or STOVL aircraft.
-Large LHD/LHA: Displacing over 35,000 tons, these are only seen in the US Navy, and are large enough that they can actually operate STOVL aircraft without the aid of a ski jump. These are among the most powerful naval vessels outside of fleet carriers.
-Medium LHD: Displacing 25,000-35,000 tons, these differ from smaller vessels mainly in having additional cargo space for vehicle storage and supplies. They also all include ski jumps for operating STOVL aircraft. None are currenty in service, but two nations (Spain and Australia) will have them within the next few years.
-Light LHD: Displacing 15,000-25,000 tons, these are the most common helicopter landing ships, serving in three nations (France, South Korea, UK), with at least nine more considering them. They're usually equipped to deploy a full battalion, including maybe 1 armored company. Also, most importantly, all current vessels of this type are incapable of operating STOVL aircraft, and are limited to helicopters only.
DOCK LANDING SHIPSEdit
Role: The primary means of amphibious force projeciton, these are large (usually 10,000-20,000 tons) vessels that have a rear well deck allowing them to carry and launch landing craft internally.
Advantages: These vessels, as they do not land troops directly, are able to have much better seakeeping than tank landing ships, as well as far greater displacement, since they don't need to keep a shallow draft. When embarking LCAC landing craft, they can deploy to 70% of the world's coastline, and most carry a small number of helicopters to provide a secondary air assault capability.
Disadvantages: These vessels are limited by the number, speed, range, and payload of their assault craft. For those with LCACs, they take longer to deploy heavy forces, while those with conventional craft are limited in where they can land, and have a great deal of trouble following up the initial landing with a steady stream of supplies. These are also almost completely defenseless, and extremely high value targets for obvious reasons.
-Large LPD (Landing Platform Dock): Ranging from 18,000-25,000 tons, these are extremely large landing ships with excessive payload capacity, and may be capable of landing two battalions or a reinforced battalion task force. Only the largest navies operate ones of this size.
-Medium LPD: Workhorse units for most projection navies, these run about 12,000-18,000 tons, and are optimized to deploy a battalion or so of troops.
-Light LPD: Several navies can't quite afford huge ships, and run ones in the 8000-12,000 range. Many of these can only deploy a full battalion if it's limited to light infantry forces. Most do not deploy tanks.
-LSD (Landing Ship Dock): A variation on the LPD, these have less payload capacity, and minimal provision for helicopters, but generally maintain a much larger well deck to carry additional landing craft.
TANK LANDING SHIPEdit
Role: These ships are usually relatively small (3500-5000 tons), and designed to deliver large vehicle contingents directly to a beach, and are the largest vessels capable of doing so directly. Some have the capability to embark a helicopter or two as well, and a handful are even optimized to operate landing craft. These are also the largest amphibious vessels in most lesser navies that still maintain some amphibious capability.
Advantages: This is the only way a full unit of heavy armor can be deployed to a beach in short order. Landing craft are limited to one or two tanks at a time, while these can load 20 or more. They can also deploy large support or logistics units such as artillery.
Disadvantages: The biggest problem is that only about 15% of the world's coastlines are actually suitable for breaching operations, greatly limiting where these ships can land troops. LSTs also generally don't have good speed, due to the necessities of their design, and many are comparitively short-ranged. Most of these are also very old - the last US designs were built over 30 years ago, and many in service are actually WWII-surplus.
LST/LPD Hybrid: Produced only by the former Soviet Union, there are a handful of designs that had both a bow ramp for breaching and a well deck for small landing craft. The largest of these displaces over 15,000 tons - nearly twice that of even the largest pure LSTs, and can serve as a full LPD. Most, however, are not much larger than other LSTs, being in the 4000-5000 ton range.
Ramp-Type LST: The United States Newport class introduced a novel design that had a pair of ramps that let vehicles drive over the bow, allowing the ship to be designed for higher-speed operations. At 8000+ tons, these are also among the largest of all LSTs. Only the Soviet Ivan Rogov class is larger.
Door-Type LST: The standard design seen in most navies, including most recent ships, these have a pair of giant doors at the bow that open when the ship breaches, and let out a small ramp for vehicles to drive ashore on. They typically displace 3500-6000 tons.
AIR CUSHION LANDING VESSELSEdit
Role: These are hovercraft that provide short range transportation for assault forces. Most are landing craft carried by larger amphibious vessels, but some are designed to operate on their own.
Advantages: While an LST or conventional landing craft can only unload on about 15% of the world's coastline. An LCAC can do so on over 70%. Additionally, these vessels are 3-4 times as fast as conventional landing craft, allowing much more rapid turnover in sustained amphibious operations.
Disadvantages: These are very short ranged, only a few hundred miles for even the best, and typically around 300 miles (~500 km). Also, while they have better turnover than conventional landing craft, they're far larger than boats of similar capacity, and thus cannot deploy as much in the first wave.
-Heavy LCAC: Built only by Russia, these 500+ ton vessels don't have much better range than their smaller counterparts, but do have much higher lifting capacity and endurance, enough to operate for several days, and to deliver multiple tanks to a beach.
-Medium LCAC: Displacing 70-200 tons full load, these are the most common major vessels, and are usually deployed from dock landing ships, and are able to offload significant forces onto a beach. Many also find secondary use as fast, short-range patrol vessels.
-Light LCAC: Smaller vessels (usually under 20 tons) that can only transport troops, these are the most widely proliferated type, and are mostly used for patrol operations and special forces. They're too small to contribute to major operations. LANDING CRAFT
Role: These are small breaching vessels for transporting troops over short distances from ships to shore. The basic role and design has remained largely unchanged since WWII.
Advantages: These are incredibly cheap, among the least expensive vessels out there, and have very good cargo capacity for their size. Naturally, they're also simple and have very long service lives. You can also fit quite a few of them in the average well deck.
Disadvantages: They're painfully slow, with 10 knots being considered fast. The design is also quite poor for oceanic travel, and these (or more likely, the troops inside) tend not to fare too well on the open ocean.
Types Note that these may not be designated under these names, as there's no real standard!
-LCU (Landing Craft, Utility): These are the largest vessels, designed to be able to operate independently for at least a few weeks, and be capable of carrying tanks. The largest are over 1000 tons and able to self deploy (if only at a crawl), as landing ships do not have space for them in their well decks. Smaller vessels of 250-300 tons are carried internally by larger amphibious vessels, and the smallest are only 100-150 tons, and used by lesser navies to deploy troops and light vehicles only.
-LCH (Landing Craft, Heavy): Similar in size to smaller LCUs (300+ tons), these are designed with much less endurance, but are otherwise functionally similar. They self-deploy over moderate distances, and usually are not carried internally. Most have the ability to carry 2-3 tanks or a good number of lighter vehicles.
-LCM (Landing Craft, Mechanized): Primarily tasked with delivering vehicles to shore, these generally run 100-150 tons in the most modern configurations, and as light as 35 in WWII versions. They're intended to be capable of carrying one tank or several smaller vehicles, or a few hundred troops. Unlike LCUs, these have very short range - about 200 miles.
-LCP (Landing Craft, Personnel): These are extremely small vessels, generally under 20 tons, whose sole purpose is to deploy a platoon or two of infantry to shore. They can't do much else.
Role: These are designed to engage and destroy ships. Most designs have air, surface, submarine, and ground launched versions, though some are missing one or two of those launch platforms.
Advantages: They provide high firepower at long ranges that is hard to evade. That's all that really matters.
Disadvantages: The biggest problem for antiship missiles is targeting. For ground and ship launched weapons, line-of-sight only allows for detecting and engaging at up to 30-40 km. Any further, and the launcher MUST have an aircraft or UAV acting as a spotter and relaying target information. For aircraft, there's a thin line between being high enough to detect and engage, and far enough away to avoid air defenses. And for submarines, they can only fire at what they can detect and track, and must come close to the surface to do so. For all missiles, long-range engagements often need midcourse updates to ensure they remain on a proper course to intercept.
-Ultraheavy Antiship Missiles: Developed and employed solely by the Soviet Union, and its Russian successor, these are massive 5000+ kg weapons. All air-launched variants are retired, but submarine and ship-launched missiles remain in service. These are hard to kill, and equipped with 2-4 times the explosive yield as other contemporary weapons. All are supersonic, and ranges are in the hundreds of kilometers.
-Supersonic Antiship Missiles: Intended to dramatically reduce the time targeted vessels have to react to an incoming missile, these fly at terminal speeds of Mach 2 to Mach 3 (2452-3678 km/h). Most are air or ship launched, though recent designs may be submarine-launched as well. These are still quite heavy at 3000+ kg, and tend to be shorter ranged than subsonic weapons, usually going only about half as far in a typical engagement. Later weapons, however, can increase range by over 100% with a different, but more vulnerable, flight profile.
-Long-Range Antiship Missiles: These are smaller subsonic weapons known for being versatile and adaptable. They're usually 500-1000 kg in weight, and have ranges in excess of 150 km. These are especially popular because most designs are small enough that they can be fired from a normal submarine torpedo tube, carried in significant numbers by aircraft, and require minimal provisions for mounting on surface warships.
-Medium-Range Antiship Missiles: Most of these are older designs, and run about 50-100 km, which puts them in the unenviable situation of having a long enough range to need midcourse updates and over-the-horizon targeting, but not long enough for lone aircraft to use as standoff weapons against modern air defenses. These require significant teamwork and data-sharing to use effectively against modern forces.
-Short-Range Antiship Missiles: Most of these are either very old, or designed for use by helicopters and very light aircraft. Range is typically 15-40 km, and the missiles themselves are quite small, sometimes under 100 kg. These are generally not good for modern front-line warships, as the older ones are relatively easy to shoot down, and the helicopter-launched ones are too weak to put a major warship out of commission. Against older ships and small vessels like corvettes and missile boats, however, these are a good alternative to their more expensive counterparts.
NAVAL AIR DEFENSEEdit
Role: To protect ships from nasty planes and helicopters, and their nastier missiles.
Advantages: Naval platforms have much lower size and weight restrictions than ground-based ones, and can thus have much bigger and longer-ranged missiles.
Disadvantages: Aside from being phenominally expensive, warships are greatly hindered by line-of-sight. Which allows aircraft to get relatively close without threat of being attacked, and often limits reaction time when they are detected. Only the most recent systems rectify this problem to any degree.
-Fleet Air Defense: Comprehensive systems that entire ships are designed around, these cost several hundred million each (the system alone, not the ship!), but are equipped with missiles that can have ranges from 100 to over 300 km. Most, like their ground-based counterparts, use some form of command guidance, but a few of the most modern possess active seekers of their own that allow over-the-horizon targeting.
-Medium Air Defense: Used by more multipurpose warships, these have ranges typically in the 30-70 km bracket, enough to engage cruise missiles at a distance and aircraft that wander too close, but easily outranged by most modern missiles, making them vulnerable to stand-off attacks.
-Short-Range Air Defense: Usually made up of ground or air launched systems modified for naval use, these are short ranged (<25 km) line-of-sight systems that protect mostly against cruise missiles and helicopters. If any other aircraft gets close enough to get engaged by these, it did something wrong.
-CIWS (Close-In Weapons System): Last ditch point defense. Ranges are usually 1.5-3.5 km for guns, and 5-10 km for missiles. These are relatively small systems that can be fitted even on small corvettes, and are designed specifically as the last defense against incoming missiles, engaging them at close range just before they hit their target. Most are made up of aircraft or ground-based weapons systems that either have their own radar, or are attached to the ship's own tracking systems.
-Sub-Launched: The Soviet Union pioneered the use of submarine launched SAMs by sticking a launcher for slightly modified shoulder-fired SAMs on the mast of many submarines. Though they had to break the surface to do so, they could quickly pop up to shoot down overflying helicopters or maritime patrol aircraft. Modern versions that can be fired from torpedo tubes while completely submerged are in development in Germany, and likely to be fielded within a few years.
Role: These are devices carried by aircraft, submarines, and surface ships designed specifically to engage submarines. It's that simple.
Advantages: Depends on the specific type, but all of them have some capability against surface ships, and these are the only ways submarines are going down other than mines.
Disadvantages: Some capability is not necessarily enough to warrant use in combat. Most of these have no real purpose other than engaging submarines, and in all cases, the location of the sub must be known or they're useless!
-Heavy Torpedoes: While 533mm (21") torpedoes gained dominance in most countries, the Soviet Union produced 650mm torpedoes specifically for long-range strikes against carrier battle groups. These weapons have long range (50 km) and a powerful warhead, but only a handful of designs can fire them, and they're on the way out.
-Medium Torpedoes: The ubiquitous 21" weapon offers a good mix of speed, power, and range, with the best even matching or exceeding the 25.6" weapons in most areas. Fired from submarines, these are wire-guided until they get very close to the opposing submarines, after which their own sensors take over. Some surface ships can also deploy torpedoes of this size, in which case their range is reduced compared to sub-launch weapons simply due to the fact that wire guidance doesn't quite work as well. It should be noted that in real engagements, a submarine will usually fire 2-3 torpedoes on slightly different headings (ahead of, straight at, and behind the target) to ensure that at least one tracks and hits its target.
-Light Torpedoes: These small weapons are useful in that aircraft, including helicopters, can carry and drop them in significant numbers. They've also found their way into a number of guided and unguided rockets and missiles to engage submarines from long range. Many surface warships also use them for point defense against subs. Their main problems are short range, both in detection and travel, and the fact that their small warheads are insufficient to take out some better protected submarines.
-Underwater Rocket: An emerging technology just coming into service, these are extremely fast, several times as much as a torpedo, but shorter ranged and much more difficult to guide effectively. Their originally intended role was defensive - they were fired towards an enemy submarine that had just launched a torpedo, forcing it to evade, severing its torpedoes' guidance wires. Modern ones are considered first strike weapons due to the lack of reaction time they offer.
-ASW Missile: Long-range, guided weapons fired from specialized launchers in surface ships or submarine torpedo tubes, many of these have been phased out of service, with only four nations still operating them. The smallest of these are no bigger than a medium antiship missile, and have ranges of 20-30 km, while larger weapons weighing several tons can reach as far as 120. These carry either a light torpedo or a nuclear depth charge, and especially with the depth charge, are also effective against surface warships.
-ASW Rocket: Firing out to 25-50 km, these are generally smaller than guided weapons, and are purely ballistic, lacking any real guidance. They've been popular for over half a century and continue to serve in most nations because of their simplicity. Like ASW missiles, these deploy nuclear depth charges or lightweight torpedoes.
-ASW Mortar: These are multiple-tube launchers that deploy depth charges at short range (1-6 km) and are among the most common ASW weapons in existence due to their popularity in Soviet and Chinese designs. They fire in salvoes of up to 12 weapons, and have secondary capabilities agaist divers and even torpedoes.
-Depth Charge: A small bomb that's dropped in the water and sinks, detonating at a set depth. These are usually dropped by aircraft nowadays, but some ships still have the ability. They're always used in significant numbers such that a direct hit is not necessary - the shockwaves from numerous explosions are enough to sink the submarine. More modern weapons may have a degree of guidance and proximity fusing, increasing lethality.
Role: Just like landmines, these are intended to deny a stretch of ocean to the enemy, usually in shallower water. Depending on the type, they can be deployed by aircraft, surface ships, and/or submarines.
Advantages: They are amazingly cheap, with all but the CAPTOR type costing no more than a few thousand dollars, and they are very hard to deal with.
Disadvantages: Many are rather indescriminate in what they hit, and they're also difficult to collect after being deployed. Live mines from WWII, for example, still damage ships to this day. And of course, they can be circumvented if their location is known, since a target has to come within range of the mine for anything to happen.
-CAPTOR (enCAPsulated TORpedo) Mine: This is a small launcher carrying a lightweight torpedo that's anchored to the seabed. Most can be programmed to target only specific classes of ships. Deployed by ships, submarines, and aircraft, these are primarily used against submarines in deeper waters.
-Bottom Influence Mine: These consist of an explosive device that rests on the seabed, and like a CAPTOR, has its own sensors that cause it to detonate when a ship is within range. The resulting shockwave is enough to severely damage nearby vessels, especially if multiple mines detonate simultaneously. Early weapons were pressure sensitive and indiscriminate, while modern ones may use passive sonar and be able to differentiate targets. Since they're resting on the seabed and resistant to many countermeasures, these are especially difficult to counter, though they can only operate at limited depths: <60m against surface vessels, and ~200m against submarines. The mines that damaged the USS Princeton in 1991 were of this type.
-Moored Influence Mine: Similar to bottom influence mines in operation, but much smaller due to both issues with effectiveness and the fact that they're much closer to the target when they detonate.
-Moored Contact Mine: The classic weapon, these are cheap floating designs anchored to the seabed that detonate when a ship hits them. They're popular for their amazingly low cost, even if they're relatively easy to deal with compared to other types. They still damage ships when they're caught off guard, including the USS Tripoli in 1991 and the USS Samuel B. Roberts in 1988, both in the Persian Gulf.
-Bottom Contact Mine: Useful only against submarines (which like to lie on the seabed to reduce their sonar signature) and landing craft, they're a contact mine that lies on the seabed. It's that simple.
Air Forces Equipment OverviewEdit
This segment is intended for players who want to RP actual combat, but aren't as familiar with military equipment. It's here to provide a brief introduction to the various classes of combat systems and their roles, along with some of the key advantages and disadvantages of specific types of each. I will not go into much depth here, but will hopefully give enough to help out.
- Fighter Aircraft
- Attack Aircraft
- Bomber Aircraft
- Transport Aircraft
- Special Mission Aircraft
- Air-to-Air Missiles
- Cruise Missiles
- Attack Missiles
- Smart Bombs
- Dumb Bombs
- Air-to-Air Missions
- Air-to-Ground Missions
- Transport Missions
- Special Missions
- Reading Aircraft Stats
Role: Fighters are primarily tasked with air superiority roles, and are optimized for air-to-air combat. Many can be modified to make quite effective air-to-ground platforms, but that is not their primary purpose.
Advantages: Unlike SAMs, aircraft have no minimum altitude or horizon issues for detecting and engaging targets. And compared to other aircraft, they are usually faster, better armed, more maneuverable, and possessing better sensors for air-to-air engagements.
Disadvantages: Pure fighters are a dying breed. Today, the simple fact is that shrinking air forces need planes that can do more than one thing, something shown in all modern fighters and attempts to upgrade older ones. They also have limited endurance and radar range, meaning fighters alone are not effective for controlling air space - they need significant numbers, and a lot of help, to do so. These also include the most expensive non-bomber combat aircraft.
-Strike Fighters: These are large aircraft, usually twin-engined, that have significant focus on ground attack capability, bridging the gap between fighter and strike aircraft. Their role is to fight their way to a target (air or ground) that may be deep in enemy territory, destroy it, and then fight their way back out. As most are modified heavy fighter designs, they tend to have most of the features and advantages of those, but with additional avionics associated with strike aircraft. The F-15E are Su-30 are the best known examples today.
-Multirole Fighters: These are usually small to medium sized planes that maintain a large payload capacity and significant air-to-ground capability, even if that is not their primary role. They lack the range and sheer power of strike fighters, but are extremely versatile and can perform a wider variety of missions. These usually form the backbone of an air force. Major examples are the Eurofighter, F-16, and MiG-29M.
-Heavy Fighters: Big, powerful aircraft weighing in at up to 60,000 lbs (27,210 kg) fully loaded, these are built solely for air superiority. They mount powerful radars, have large fuel reserves, and as one design has been describe, devote "not a pound for air-to-ground." Most of these are being replaced by strike fighters due to their limited utility, but many still serve, often with modifications to provide some degree of air-to-ground capability. The F-15C and older Su-27 variants are great examples.
-Medium Fighters: With a maximum takeoff weight of usually 35-60,000 lbs (15,873-27,210 kg), these used to form the backbone of many fighter forces. Most have, with upgrades or modifications, become multirole fighters, though many older air forces may still have them in significant numbers. They provide a compromise compared to heavy fighters in that they still retain decent capability, but usually are a few notches below in radar range and weapons load. Major examples of current medium fighters include the J-10 and older MiG-29 variants.
-Light Fighters: Little planes weighing less than 35,000 lbs (15,873 kg) even at maximum takeoff, these tend to be extremely popular in less developed countries, and are particularly common among former Soviet clients. New ones are not produced by many nations today. Most have rather weak radars (or none at all) and limited missile loads, but are extremely popular due to low cost. New designs are not as common as they once were, but older ones are everywhere. The most well known exampls are the MiG-21, Mirage III, and F-5 series.
-VTOL Fighters: A subcategory of light fighters, these are designed with a powerful engine that provides vertical takeoff and landing capability, allowing operation on naval helicopter carriers, and hasty forward "airfields" for ground units. They have relatively short range, and low armament when lifting off vertically, but are highly versatile. The Harriers are the only survivors of this class.
Role: Ground pounders, attack planes are designed completely around destroying ground targets of all kinds. Most are optimized for a specific target or mission type.
Advantages: These planes pack tremendous punch and are ground troops' best friends. They tend to excel at low altitudes and have excellent air-to-ground capability, as well as high survivability.
Disadvantages: Most have little, if any, air-to-air capability, even if many are quite maneuverable. At best, they just carry some short-range missiles for self defense. As such, they require fighters to protect them from enemy aircraft. Their mission profile also tends to put them in the line of fire, particularly AAA, which can be more dangerous than SAMs. And as with dedicated fighters, pure ground attack aircraft are becoming less popular due to their limited ability to perform other roles.
-Gunships: Operated only by the US, these are actually modified transports with significant sensor and fire control systems, along with several heavy weapons. They have very high endurance that allows them to stay on station for hours, performing close support missions for ground troops. The only currently operational planes of this type are the AC-130s.
-Heavy Strike: Think heavy fighter, but without the secondary air-to-air capability. These are very large (60,000+ lb) aircraft that are optimized for missions against targets deep in enemy territory. They may also be used on the front lines, where their high payload makes them excellent for hitting large formations. The Su-24 is one of the few survivors in this category.
-Close Air Support: These are medium weight aircraft, typically 40-50,000 lbs (18,140-22,675 kg), which are designed to support troops on the front line. They tend to be slow, but with high endurance, good agility, heavy payloads, and the most extreme protection of any aircraft out there. The Su-25 and A-10 are the icons of this type.
-Light Strike: These are small planes (<35,000 lb max take-off) that are designed to launch strikes against intermediate targets, including front-line troops and forward support elements like artillery and command posts. Most of these are old designs long out of production, with the only modern ones being modified trainer aircraft.
-Counter Insurgency: Usually modified trainers or commercial aircraft (always small, and always propeller-driven), these are cheap planes that have relatively short range, but low speed and good endurance. They're very lightly armed compared to larger planes, but are inexpensive and easy to operate.
Role: Up until the end of the Cold War, most of these large aircraft were expected to perform nuclear strikes against strategic targets deep in enemy territory, or cruise missile strikes against tactical targets. Most of the focus today is on what were originally secondary roles that are more tactical in nature, such as reconnaissance and conventional bombing.
Advantages: No combat aircraft can fly further or deliver more ordnance to a target than a bomber. They can carry more and heavier weapons than anything else.
Disadvantages: These are expensive. Phenominally expensive. A single bomber can cost more than a squadron of fighters, both in acquisition, and operation. As such, with the exception of maritime patrol units, only a handful of nations (China, US, Russia) still build and operate such aircraft. They also are victims of their own role - they fly too far to be escorted by fighters, but have no real way to defend themselves other than running or hiding.
-Stealth Bombers: Intended to allow for greater survivability over enemy territory, these are difficult to detect despite their size. The only type currently in service is the B-2, which is comparable to other heavy bombers in everything but speed, cost, and radar signature.
-Heavy Bombers: Massive aircraft on par with airliners and strategic cargo planes in sheer size, these carry over 20,000 kg (44,000 lbs) of ordnance several thousand kilometers, and back. Most are primarily tasked with using cruise missiles today, but all have the capability to carry massive numbers of conventional bombs, and are still used in that role.
-Medium Bombers: Smaller aircraft that carry 9000-20,000 kg (20,000-44,000 lbs), these are mostly older aircraft, and mostly retired from service. They still fill similar roles to heavy bombers, just in a smaller plane. The only remaining examples are the Tu-95MS and H-6 (Chinese Tu-16K), both 1950s designs.
-Maritime Patrol: These are a special type of bomber designed specifically for extended missions over water, where they are tasked with identifying, tracking, and possibly engaging warships and submarines. Most are modified airliners, but many are also derived from heavy and medium bombers. They carry a variety of depth charges, mines, torpedoes, and antiship missiles for their task, but have comparatively small payloads, as they focus more on increased range and sensor loads.
Role: As you might expect, these are simple planes meant to transport various types of cargo from point A to point B. These are essential for any global and most regional powers, as while expensive, nothing moves troops and equipment faster.
Advantages: Naturally, these are compared with other forms of transport. They are by far the most expensive, but even the slowest transport aircraft move at over 6 times the rate of the next best alternative. Of the four most popular means of transporting supplies, aircraft are the second most versatile, as building a new airfield is far easier than a new seaport or rail station (which also needs the rails connected to existing tracks).
Disadvantages: Relatively low per-unit capacity makes certain types of popular cargo (tanks, helicopters) difficult to transport in any quantity, and capacity limits also mean that aircraft are not ideal for providing supplies needed for sustaining larg-scale operations. Finally, planes can only take off and land at established airfields.
-Heavy Strategic Transports: big planes for big loads - well over 50 tonnes - great distances (4000-4500 km range fully loaded). These planes are actually used to deploy main battle tanks on occasion, and are designed almost exclusively for large cargo. Though all can be adopted to a troop transport role, they are quite inefficient in that respect. Only two nations build these, and only a handful of others operate them in any numbers. The C-17, C-5, and An-124 are the landmark designs in this category.
-Medium Strategic Transports: Something of an international workhorse, these planes run payloads in the 30-60 tonne range. Most can fly the same 4000-4500 km with a max load as the larger heavy transports, though some may only manage 3000 km. Most of these are still used primarily for transporting supplies and equipment rather than troops, but unlike their larger cousins, they can take on the troop transport role with relative ease. The Il-76 is by far the most numerous plane in this category, and the A400M is the best western example.
-Light Strategic Transports: These are the true workhorses of most modern air forces. Usually running 15-20 tonnes, but going as high as 30, these are relatively small and often highly valued for their short takeoff and landing runs, as well as ability to operate from rough fields. These have similar range to medium and heavy strategic transports, but are more often used to transport troops, a role for which they are much more efficient than their boxy cousins. They still regularly carry cargo and vehicles as well, but are limited to nothing above the lightest armored vehicles due to weight considerations. It should be noted that there has been a relative lack of new developments here, with most new planes being either medium strategic, or tactical transports. The C-130 and An-12 are the best known examples in this category.
-Medium Tactical Transports: In many ways, these are similar to light strategic transports. They have similar payload, design, and often even size. The big difference is range. While a strategic transport can fly at least 3000 km with a full load, and often 4000+, tactical planes are impressive if they manage 2000-2500. Medium tactical transports generally haul 10-20 tonne payloads around 1200-2000 km. While historically popular, these are now, just like the light strategic planes with similar payloads, fading out in favor of either larger or smaller aircraft. The C-160 Transall and An-72 represent landmark designs in this category.
-Light Tactical Transport: Probably the largest current segment in the transport market, these are relatively small planes with 5-10 tonne payload capacities, that are generally good for 1200-2500 km at maximum payload. You mostly see them in smaller air forces, but even the US employs them in decent numbers. The C-27J/G.222 and CN-295 are the newest developments, while older planes like the An-24/26/32 are still quite popular.
-Troop Transports: Usually modified airliners specifically adopted for ferrying troops, these have the payloads of light or medium tactical transports, but may have ranges putting even strategic transports to shame - often exceeding 5000 km fully loaded. They can still be converted to the cargo role as well, but tend to lack the heavy loading ramps of dedicated military cargo planes. The C-40 (Boeing 737) is a prime example.
-Liason: Basically really small aircraft that can only carry a handful of people, and only for relatively short distances (often less than 1500 km, though up to 2500). These have payloads that are completely insufficient for carrying any meaningful cargo, and are used only for training and ferrying troops - a role they do much more cheaply than larger aircraft. These usually come from popular makers of small civilian aircraft like Cessna and Beechcraft.
-VIP Transports: These are modified troop transports or liason aircraft, or in some cases, modified civilian business jets, whose sole job is to provide comfortable travel for more important people, like generals and civilian leaders. The upper end are planes like the VC-25 (Air Force One), the range also includes C-32 (Boeing 757), C-37 (Gulfstream V), and versions of the Beechcraft King Air.
SPECIAL MISSION AIRCRAFTEdit
Role: I'll give you three guesses Seriously though, the term applies to any aircraft that is purpose built for a unique, and narrowly defined mission. Usually, this is a special variant of an existing design. Only rarely is an entirely new aircraft design developed for a special mission platform.
Advantages: Ever hear the hold adage "jack of all trades, but master of none?" Most aircraft can be modified to do a number of things, but none of them particularly well. And a few roles, like electronic warfare, really need a specialized platform to give them a performance edge.
Disadvantages: Well, obviously, if they can only do one thing, they have no use outside their primary role. And to add insult to injury, they tend to be quite expensive. Not surprisingly, the smaller the air force, the lower the ratio of special mission aircraft. In fact, the USAF has an astounding prorportion of existing examples of most types.
-Aerial Tanker: among the more common types of special mission aircraft, tankers are basically big flying gas stations. Their primary role is to get up and refuel other aircraft in the air so they can fly longer distances. Originally, this was mostly for strategic bombers, but in modern times transport aircraft are key recipients. Most of these are modified transports, usually based on commercial airliner designs. However, just to prevent them from being listed in the transport section, some bombers and strike aircraft have been converted as well. Most more modern versions can double as cargo aircraft, and in some cases even carry cargo and extra fuel at the same time. The Boeing KC-767, Airbus A330 MRTT, and Russian Il-78 are all prime examples.
-AEW&C: Or its US counterpart, AWACS. These are massive airborne radars meant for tracking numerous air, and possibly ground or sea, targets at extreme ranges, and controlling friendly forces as they engage. These can range from massive self-contained command centers such as the E-3 and E-767, to much smaller and lower endurance aircraft like the twin-turboprop E-2, and even some modern ones that relay airborne radar data to a ground station. Whatever the size and capabilities, these can track hundreds of targets hundreds of kilometers out, and are a critical component of any first-rate air force.
-ELINT: Short for ELectronic INTelligence, this covers a wide range of aircraft whose role is to monitor radio waves. This can be radio communication, radar (RAdio Detection And Ranging) emmissions, or even remote control systems. These don't just tell the type of transmitter (and by extension, what sort of nasty surprises it's associated with), but also where it is. This is extremely important in dealing with air defense networks. The RC-135 Rivet Joint would be one of the best aircraft in this category.
-Reconnaissance: While most recon aircraft have always been slightly modified fighters and strike aircraft equipped with cameras, they're not the only ones. And while those modified combat planes are all over the place, some others are among those rare planes actually designed from the get-go for a special mission. Regardless, all are tasked almost solely with finding and/or monitoring ground installations and troop movements. They locate targets, track them, and observe the result of air strikes. Most recon aircraft use either ground-mapping radar or the old-fashioned camera to see what's going on down there, with IIR being an occasional alternative. These can be either tactical, like the RF-4 or MiG-25R - both converted fighters, or strategic like the TR-1 and RC-135S Cobra Ball (the latter tracks ballistic missiles). Most UAVs are also purpose-built reconnaisance aircraft.
-EW: short for Electronic Warfare, this is just a fancy way of saying airborne jammer. Some of these, like the EC-130 Compass Call, focus on disrupting communications, but most of these aircraft are arrayed against, you guessed it, radar systems. Planes like the EA-6B, EA-18G, and Tornado ECR are intended to escort airborne strike forces into enemy territory, suppressing air defenses so they don't have to deal with SAMs.
-Special Operations Support: A very few number of aircraft variants in a very small number of air forces are designed specifically for clandestinely deploying, supporting, and even extracting (!) special forces deep behind enemy lines. The US MC-130 variants are pretty much the only purpose-built planes in this category, though some older designs like North Korea's An-2 transports take advantage of some "obsolete" design features to fill a similar role.
-Mapping: You'll probably never see any of these planes get mention in the news, unless they somehow crash or get shot down by accident. But you also wouldn't believe how important they are. Aerial cartography is an important service to both military and civilian establishment - accurate and up-to-date maps being very important.
Role: While much shorter-ranged than fixed wing aircraft, helicopters are much less limited in where they can take off and land, and are thus extremely valuable as tactical asses operating with front line units. They provide local transportation, close air support, and even battlefield command services.
Advantages: They can take off and land on any relatively flat patch of ground that's big enough, which is often almost anywhere, and since they can hover in place, airdropping troops and equipment can still be done with pinpoint accuracy.
Disadvantages: Helicopters have very low ceilings, meaning they cannot fly very high, and are also extremely limited in range, and quite vulnerable to damage as they have numerous exposed, and easily damaged parts that the aircraft can't fly without. They also have much greater size restrictions than aircraft.
-Heavy Lift Helicopter: Capable of lifting 10-20 tonnes, these are the largest and most powerful of helicopters, even if that's only relatively light for a cargo aircraft. In fact, you're unlikely to see anything smaller carrying decent-sized vehicles internally. These, however, can usually only go a few hundred kilometers with their maximum load. The Mi-6, Mi-26, CH-47, and CH-53 are the primary examples.
-Medium Lift Helicopter: Capable of lifting 5-10 tonnes, these are mostly outdated aircraft that were once considered heavy lift helicopters, such as the CH-54 Tarhe. The differ from more modern utility helicopters in that they are clearly optimized for heavy cargo loads rather than troop transport, even if they don't quite carry as much as more modern designs.
-Heavy Utility Helicopter: The utility helicopter is the ubiquitous workhorse of any military, filling most roles in a pinch, and being regularly assigned to any kind of frontline unit. Capable of carrying over 20 passengers or 4500-5500 kg of cargo, these heavier examples bridge the gap between the utility and cargo helicopter designs. The Mi-8/17, AW101, and Cougar/Super Puma are the most popular designs in this class. Some of these can carry very light vehicles internally.
-Medium Utility Helicopter: Capable of carrying 12-20 troops, or 2500-5000 kg of cargo, with good range and endurance (for a helicopter), these form the backbone of most modern helicopter fleets. They often serve a variety of roles, and, along with heavy utility helicopters, are the most prone to having specialized variants.
-Light Utility Helicopter: These are smaller or older designs that still have sufficient internal space and payload to actually haul cargo, and thus can fill the utility role either in absence of, or augmentation to, heavier aircraft. They generally have a passenger capacity of 6-10, and a payload capacity of 1500-2000 kg, up to 3000 kg on some more recent models like the UH-1Y. All UH-1 variants (and related civilian versions), as well as the Russian Mi-2 and Eurocopter Panther, fall into this category.
-Light Transport Helicopter: Sometimes difficult to differentiate from utility birds, these usually have larger cabin space, but lower payload capacity, as with the Eurocopter Dauphin, or just happen to be very light on everything, like the MD 500 series. The latter may serve in a limited utility role as well. Regardless, all of these are among the smallest non-trainer helicopters you will see in any military.
-Attack Helicopter: These are large, heavy, well-protected, and heavily armed aircraft dedicated to providing close support for ground units, as well as a limited interdiction role. Primary targets are enemy armor and SAM positions. Most (Mi-24/35 being the exception) have no troop or cargo carrying capability, and are devoted entirely to heavy weapons loads and sophisticated sensors. The AH-64, Mi-28, and Eurocopter Tiger are some of the best known among these.
-Light Attack Helicopter: These are usually modified recon or light transport units, and have only a fraction of the size, payload, and protection of regular attack helicopters. They are, however, easily transported due to their small size, and difficult to detect and target for the same reason. The AH-6J and PAH-1 are good examples.
-Observation Helicopter: These are small, relatively stealthy aircraft that have the unenviable task of locating and observing enemy ground forces, and directing friendly ground forces, or attack helicopters, to engage or avoid them. Many modern versions, such as the OH-58D, have modest weapons capabilities, and can serve as light attack helicopters in a pinch. Most modern ones will also have a mast-mounted sight that allows them to observe while still remaining behind some piece of cover, and some even carry laser designators that let them paint targets for laser-guided weapons.
-ASW Helicopter: Virtually always modified utility helicopters of various sizes, these are designed to be operated from ships and shore installations (or in rare cases, shore only) and locate and attack submarines, with possible secondary roles including search and rescue and antiship. They're equipped with various detection systems to track their prey, possibly including sonobuoys, dipping sonar, magnetic anomaly detectors, and surface search radar. The Ka-27, UH-60,and NF90 NFH are prime examples of this type.
-AEW Helicopter: These are modified ASW helicopters equipped with a large airborne radar, and are not dissimilar to small AEW&C aircraft. They were intended preform that role for small aircraft carriers and naval surface groups, as an alternative to larger planes like the E-2. However, lower ceiling, and the naturally lower endurance of a helicopter mean that these have never really caught on all that well. The Sea King AEW, AW101 AEW, and Ka-31 are all examples.
-Special Operations Helicopter: Specialized transport helicopters meant to operate deep behind enemy lines and support special operations forces, these tend to have more sophisticated electronics and detection systems, as well as greater capability to carry weapons compared to their regular counterparts. The MH-53J Pave Low and MH-60 Pave Hawk are prime examples.
-Other Special Mission Helicopters: Like fixed-wing aircraft, there are helicopter variants designed for almost anything you can think of, including NBC detection, airborne jamming, airborne command post, search-and-rescue, photoreconnaissance, aerial refueling, etc. With only a handful of excepptions, all of these are modified utility designs.
Role: Abbreviated as AIM (Air Intercept Missile) or AAM (Air-to-Air Missile), these are the primary weapons of fighter aircraft, and give them the ability to effectively engage distant and/or maneuvering targets, both of which the more classic guns have significant trouble dealing with.
Advantages: Even the shortest ranged missiles have 3-5 times the effective range of aircraft cannons (1000-2000m VS 5000-6000+), and unlike shells, missiles follow the target, reducing the effectiveness of wild maneuvers.
Disadvantages: Air-to-air missiles are one-trick ponies. Aside from a handful that have a very modest capability against ground-based radars, the only thing they can engage is aircraft. They're also expensive, with only outdated designs going less than $450-500,000, and long range missiles at 2-3 times that. Also, especially in older aircraft, only a very limited number of these weapons can be carried.
-Long-Range AAM: Despite how awesome these often sound, most are actually obsolete. These are very big, very heavy (1000+ lbs/454+ kg) missiles that were originally designed for intercepters, and tasked with taking out large and relatively unmaneuverable heavy bombers at extremely long range (beyond 150 km) - before they could fire off cruise missiles at vital air or naval targets. Since this bomber threat has dissipated, these have been largely shelved in the west, though continued development elsewhere has occurred based on their potential for destroying AEW&C/AWACS aircraft. With the retirement of the US AIM-54 with its F-14 fleet, the R-33/AA-9 Amos is the only currently active weapon in this class.
-Medium-Range AAM: Often also referred to as BVRAAM (Beyond Visual Range AAM), these are intended to engage maneuvering aircraft at ranges of up to 30-100 km, though they may have maximum ranges of twice that. While current high-end versions have ranges that match current-generation LRAAMs, the key differences are that they have generally about half the weight or less, are optimized against maneuverable fighters and strike aircraft, and are not intended for use at maximum range. All of these need at least midcourse updates from the launching aircraft. The US AIM-120 AMRAAM, Russian R-77/AA-12, and UK Meteor are all examples of this type.
-Short-Range AAM: The classic dogfighting missiles. These were the first to be developed and employed on aircraft for obvious reasons, and are intended for use only in close-in dogfights. Effective range is usually 6-12 km on modern ones - don't let the 20+ km claims for Russian weapons fool you. Just like MRAAMs, they're intended for maneuvering targets, and will virtually never be fired at their maximum theoretical range. The most modern weapons have a very high off-boresight capability - some able to see targets over 90 degrees off (directly beside them), and combined with programming, the latest weapons can even hit aircraft directly behind the launching plane. The AIM-9X, IRIS-T, ASRAAM, and R-73/AA-11 Archer are all examples.
-Active Radar: the missile has its own radar in the nose, and can seek and engage targets without any input from the launching aircraft. Most modern long and medium-range AAMs have this as their primary source. But, as with other things, don't take it too literally. These radars are small and only have a relatively short range, well under 20 kilometers for most targets. Much like torpedoes, these missiles have to be directed to the target so they can get close enough to find it themselves. Usually, this is provided in the form of midcourse updates from the launching aircraft, or a combination with semi-active radar. The AMRAAM, BVRAAM, and AA-12 all use this.
-Semi-Active Radar: This is a generally obsolete system that requires the launching aircraft to "paint" the target with its own radar, directing the missile to the target. Much like a laser-guided weapon, the missile will become useless if the target is not painted throughout its entire flight - meaning the launching aircraft has to keep facing the target, and using its radar, until the missile hits. This leaves it open to return fire, and makes the whole engagement not unlike a high-tech game of "chicken." The AIM-7 Sparrow, AA-9, and French R530/Super 530 are among the handful of designs still in service, mostly with 3rd world militaries.
-Passive Radar: You'll rarely listed as an official guidance for an AAM, but it's still not just for anti-radar missiles. The important application here is a variation known as home-on-jam. This is important for active radar guided missiles as their small radar is easily jammed, making them unable to effectively locate and/or track the target. When that happens, they can automatically switch to this mode, and the same jamming signal that blinded them before suddenly becomes a giant homing beacon.
-Infrared: The oldest and most proven of all of these, this is what made air-to-air missiles even possible. While infrared guidance systems have very short range, their wide field of view and passive nature makes them the clear choice for any short range dogfighting missile. The system is also finding itself on some medium-range missiles where it's used in some variants as an alternative to active radar, as in the French MICA and Russian R-27/AA-10.
Role: Cruise missiles are long-range weapons intended to deliver an explosive warhead to a target from outside the range of air defenses. In other words, a big, guided, flying bomb. Unlike normal standoff attack missiles, cruise missiles are optimized for either extreme stealth or very low-altitude flight, making them difficult to detect and intercept.
Advantages: Cruise missiles let planes hit targets, even pinpoint ones, from impressive distances - up to 3000 km away, allowing the launching aircraft to avoid having to expose itself to enemy air defenses, and in some cases, even fighter interception.
Disadvantages: Naturally, these tend to be big, heavy, and bulky, greatly limiting the number that can be carried even by heavy bombers. They can also themselves be vulnerable to interception - something that is becoming an increasing focus in modern aircraft and air defense weapons. Finally, these are the most expensive weapons out there aside from ballistic missiles, and can easily cost several million each.
-Antiship Cruise Missiles: intended for attacking naval vessels, covered in the naval section. Most models have air-launched versions as well.
-Long-Range Cruise Missiles: epitomized by the famous Tomahawk, these are extremely long range weapons that fly at efficient subsonic speeds to strike targets up to 1000 km or more from the launch platform. Most are ship-launched, but two existing models, the US AGM-86 CALCM and Russian Kh-55/AS-15 Kent, are intended for deployment from heavy bombers.
-Medium-Range Cruise Missiles: These weapons are similar to LRCMs in design and operation, but have shorter ranges of 300-1000 km, usually 300-500. The biggest draw of these weapons is they're small enough to be fitted on tactical aircraft, though at over 1000 kg, they're still too heavy for many, especially if you want to mount more than one or two. Most new developments are in this type. The US JASSM, Anglo-French Storm Shadow, and Pakistani Ra'ad are all examples.
-Short-Range Cruise Missiles: These are weapons that fly less than 300 km, and weigh less than 1000 kg, allowing smaller tactical aircraft to carry them, and large ones to carry them in decent numbers. Most of these are either antiship missiles, or land-attack versions of common antiship missiles. The US SLAM-ER is probably the best example.
Role: Not unlike cruise missiles, these are intended to engage targets from outside the range of defenses. However, they usually focus on tactical rather than strategic targets, and are thus much shorter ranged. They also usually have a straight or ballistic flight profile, with only size and speed working to prevent interception.
Advantages: Much cheaper than cruise missiles, but still able to avoid battlefield defenses, these are also more effective in dealing with targets of opportunity. Their small size and short flight time makes intercepting them both unproductive and extremely difficult, and also means large numbers of weapons can be carried by even small aircraft.
Disadvantages: Most are outranged by long-range air defense, and even medium, leaving launching aircraft vulnerable to any of those with over-the-horizon targeting capabilities. They're also less capable of dealing with large or hard targets than both cruise missiles and conventional bombs.
-Antiradiation Missiles: These are relatively supersonic, long-range (90-150 km) weapons with passive radar seekers, meant to take out search and fire control radars and render air defenses temporarily impotent. Most are either faster than likely SAM opponents, longer ranged, or both, such that the launching aircraft doesn't have to expose itself. Modern ones also may have a loiter capability, where they circle a programmed target area and wait for a radar to turn on, immediately attacking it. Examples include the US HARM, UK ALARM, and Russian Kh-31.
-Long-Range Standoff: relatively large missiles with ranges exceeding 50 km, placing them beyond the range of medium air defense systems. These tend to be rather large weapons, but still primarily use tactical guidance. Examples include the US/Israeli AGM-142/Popeye and US AGM-130.
-Medium-Range Standoff: This is the home of most of the more ubiquitous designs. These weapons have ranges in the 20-50 kilometer range (outside short-range air defense), and usually need no secondary guidance, as their seeker alone is sufficient. These weapons are solely tasked with hitting battlefield targets, even moving ones, and are often used as close support weapons. The AGM-65 Maverick is by far the most important weapon in this class, with its distant contender being the Russian Kh-29 (AS-14).
-Short-Range Standoff: These are small weapons, with ranges of 8-20 kilometers - sufficient to avoid shoulder-fired SAMs and AA guns only. Most are either older weapons, or optimized for use in the antitank role, usually by helicopters. The French AS.30 is a key example of the former, while the Hellfire and Brimstone would be examples of the latter.
-Direct Attack: Or, in short, medium helicopter-launched antitank missiles, such as the TOW, which have ranges of less than 8 km, and leave the launching aircraft quite vulnerable to any air defense that might be lurking.
Role: When is a missile not a missile? Smart bombs are cheaper alternatives to missiles that usually involve using a strap-on "kit" to turn a regular bomb into a guided weapon. This includes a tail section that has fins for both allowing it to glide further, and often also a nose segment for precision guidance.
Advantages: These are cheap, even the most expensive of the strap-on kits costing less than $200,000 (bomb included), and quite versatile in that they can be strapped on virtually any bomb of the proper dimensions. They also have greater power than short-range missiles, but longer range than regular bombs. Plus, virtually any plane can carry and drop them with minimal modification.
Disadvantages: The big problem with these is that range is extremely dependent on launching speed and altitude. With few exceptions, that range is also very limited.
-Purpose-Built: while most glide bombs are just snap-on kits, there are a very small number of weapons that were designed from the beginning for this role. They're most notable in that they have fold-out wings to provide extended range beyond 100 km with high-altitude drops, making them true standoff weapons. Currently, the only examples I know of are the German HOPE/HASBO, and the US SDB and JSOW.
-Third-Generation Snap-On: the most modern weapons often have multiple guidance systems that combine GPS or inertial with IR or semi-active laser terminal homing on a 500, 1000, or 2000-lb class bomb. Either system is fully capable of guiding the bomb to its target, so combining them provides increased accuracy and/or redundance in case of bad weather. They also have improved glide mechanisms, allowing ranges of 15-20 km from low altitude and 30-50 for high altitude release. The French AASM and US Paveway III and IV fall under this category.
-First/Second-Generation Snap-On: These are the original bombs, almost all of which are laser guided only. They have shorter range, especially at low altitudes, and are good to 5-8 km from low and 20-30 km from high altitude drops. The Paveway I & II series, and GBU-15 (all US) are pretty much the only notable weapons here.
-Tailkit-Only Snap-On: The JDAM, which only has a tail kit and no nose section, kind of deserves a special place. Original versions had ranges on par with earlier Paveways, 15-20 km. An ER version good to 40 km has also been developed. Regardless, all of these have GPS guidance only, and are less accurate than counterparts with laser or IR guidance. Of course, they're also cheaper.
-Russian Guided Bombs: You didn't think I forgot did you? The sad truth is that Russia has always been a bit behind in bomb technology. The FAB series bombs used in the conversions are not very aerodynamic, and neither are the snap-on kits. As such, range is generally only 10-15 km. They do, however, make up for it with a vast assortment of sensor and bomb unit options - far greater than in western nations. All such weapons have a KAB designation, and there are 500 and 1500 kg (1100 and 3300 lb) variants.
Role: Unchanged since WWI. Fly over a target, drop a few, watch the fireworks. They come in many different sizes from 250 to 3500 lbs, and a wide variety of warheads too.
Advantages: Phenominally cheap compared to any other option, extremely versatile, and able to be loaded in large numbers, these are the best thing to use if your goal is to put as much air-delivered ordnance on a target as possible. Almost any aircraft worth noting can carry these.
Disadvantages: They have very short range, the plane has to fly almost directly over the target, they may damage the plane if it's too close when they blow, and, well, it's impossible to avoid collateral damage with these, unless there's no collateral.
-Low-Drag General Purpose Bombs: The modern standard bomb, most commonly represented by the Mk.80 series (Mk.81 250-lb, Mk.82 500-lb, Mk.83 1000-lb, and Mk.84 2000-lb). These are designed so that they can be carried and dropped from supersonic aircraft. The Russian equivalents are later versions of the FAB (demolition) and OFAB (fragmentation) bombs, which are a bit more specialized, and only available in 250 and 500 kg.
-High-Drag General Purpose Bombs: the old WWII style blunt-noses. These are generally used either as internal payload for heavy bombers, or by Russian clients, and are not effective when carried externally by aircraft at transsonic speeds or higher. Many Russian bombs, including all 750, 1500, and 3000 kg versions, fall into this category, while the US M117 750-lb bomb is among the few remaining western examples.
-Retarded Bombs: Kind of an insult to injury, since, this is a sub-category of dumb bombs, don't you think? Actually, it refers to the fact that these have some means of slowing the bomb down after being dropped (strakes, vanes, or even parachutes). This is so aircraft can fly low-altitude bombing missions, where slowing the bomb gives the plane enough time to get a safe distance away. The downside is that they're, naturally, less accurate. The most common example is the US Snakeye (Mk.80 series bomb with vanes, as pictured in the link).
-Penetrators: These are similar to general purpose bombs, but with a much thicker shell casing and a delayed fuse. The purpose is to hit buried targets such as caves, bunkers, and other underground facilities. Most are 1000 or 2000-lb class weapons, but 500-lb ones exist. These have similar dimensions and weight compared to their general purpose cousins, and the most common example is the US 2000-lb BLU-109.
-Mines (!): You may be surprised to learn that the ubiquitous Mk.80 series was, in the 1970s, modified to be dropped into the water, or on land, where the bombs would become bottom influence, or very big anti-personnel mines. 500, 1000, and 2000 lb variants were all produced, and called "destructor," with upgraded versions called "quickstrike." A host of other 2000-lb naval mines, including moored weapons and CAPTOR torpedoes, have been employed over the decades.
-Fuel-Air: Originally envisioned as a means of destroying minefields, these release a cloud of chemical vapor that is then ignited, generating a massive fireball. The only such weapons carried tactically on aircaft today are the Russian ODAB series, the US having destroyed its FAE stockpiles. More unique versions include the massive weapons such as the US BLU-82 "Daisy Cutter" and MOAB, and the Russian FOAB.
-Incendiary: As with fuel-air weapons, incendiary bombs have been mostly eliminated from most stockpiles. Traditionally, they carried some long-lasting gel-fuel mixture such as napalm, white phosphorus, or thermite, that started raging fires to either provide smoke signalling/obscuration or burn flammable materials. Most of the few remaining weapons use conventional fuel, such as the JP-4/5 in the US Mk.77 Mod 5.
-Cluster: The final form of dumb bomb is a canister that deploys a number of smaller submunitions over a wide area. These can be antipersonnel grenades, antitank bomblets, landmines, incendiary bomblets, smart munitions, or even nonlethal devices. Most of these are under a lot of heat from international and human rights groups due to their tendency to leave behind unexploded bomblets that later maim civilians, but few countries that have them are fully willing to get rid of them due to their ability to engage large targets and formations effectively.
Role: Originally, guns were the primary weapon of aircraft. Today, they're often the last backup when everything else has been exhausted. BUT . . . virtually every combat aircraft either has one mounted as standard, or has provisions for it. While not the best in any given role, they are still heavily used.
Advantages: The main value of guns is their ammunition supply. While a missile or bomb can only engage 1 target, and a full load rarely more than 10 or 12, a gun may have, alone, enough ammunition to destroy just as many targets as a full bomb load. They're also relatively light, leaving little reason not to have them.
Disadvantages: First and foremost, guns are very, very short ranged. The effective range is generally only 1000-2000 meters (though with a maximum firing range of around 4000-6000), meaning there is no aircraft or antiaircraft weapon that doesn't beat them there. They also have the problem of shell spread. At high speeds, even the best can have several meters between shell impacts when strafing, and similar dispersals against aircraft. Thus, they can easily miss even when perfectly aimed. They also do limited and localized damage, have no homing properties, and can damage or even destroy their own aircraft if they malfunction.
-Rotary Cannon: Sometimes referred to by the name of its ancestor, the gattling gun, this consists of a number of barrels (usually 6) run by an electric motor. These are noted for their extreme rate of fire, up to 10,000 rounds per minute. The US is the only nation that makes heavy use of this type on fixed-wing aircraft, though ones with a reduced number of barrels (3-4), are popular helicopter armament. The US 30mm GAU-8/A and 20mm M61A1, and Russian GSh-6-23 and GSh-6-30 represent aircraft-mounted, while the most notable helicopter mounted are the M197 3-barrel 20mm.
-Multibarrel Cannon: Unique to Russia, these are basically two guns, set up so that when one fires, it causes the other to fire as well. These have a rate of fire between single-barreled and rotary cannons, typically around 3000-3500 rounds per minute, and a weight in between as well. The Russian GSh-23-2 and GSh-30-2 are the only major current examples, with the former being, along with the M61 Vulcan, one of the most widely used aircraft cannons in the world.
-Revolver Cannon: Maybe you could call this the rotary cannon's little brother. It consists of a rotating block with multiple chambers, but a single barrel (not unlike a revolver pistol). These have much lower rates of fire than rotary cannons (1500-2000 rounds per minute), but are also much smaller and lighter, and don't burn through ammunition so quickly. Most European aircraft cannons fall in this category, including the French DEFA and GIAT 30mm, UK ADEN 30mm, and German BK-27 27mm. Ironically, the two largest exporters, the US and Russia, are the only major aircraft developers that don't use this type (though the US did back in the '50s and '60s). Go figure.
-Linear Autocannon: No fancy gigs here, just a single barrel, single chamber weapon. Rate of fire is about 1500-1800 rounds per minute, and far less in some, but these have small size, low weight, and are very cheap and simple (aka reliable). The main examples here are the US M230 (used on the AH-64) and Russian GSh-30-1.
-Minigun: A term that came into use for smaller weapons that operated like rotary cannons, but were chambered for regular machine gun rounds. These are used mostly against infantry and other "soft" targets like trucks, and are most commonly found on helicopters. The US M134 is the best known, but the Russians also run a 4-barreld one called the GShG-7.62. Both the US and Russia also have 12.7mm and 5.56/5.45mm versions in smaller numbers.
-Heavy Machine Gun: Generally speaking, a cannon is a weapon of 20mm or greater bore diameter with an explosive shell, while a machine gun has a bore of less than 20mm and fires a solid bullet. Heavy machine guns are traditionally .50 cal (12.7mm), though the Russians also have 14.5mm weapons. These are very common on helicopters, but have not seen significant use on fixed-wing aircraft since the Korean War. Machine guns have much lower rates of fire than the advanced aircraft cannons, only 450-900 rounds per minute.
-Medium Machine Gun: These are 7.62mm designs, often used as a suplementary armament on transport and utility helicopters, and occasionally on light attack helicopters. Down at this level, the weapons are only good against infantry and completely unarmored vehicles.
Role: The glorious realm of fighter combat. This represents any missione wherin combat aircraft engage other aircraft, and is the most glamorous variation of aerial warfare.
Restrictions: In order to perform this role, an aircraft must have, at a minimum, a weapon capable of engaging other aircraft. Usually, this will be air-to-air missiles. However, guns are also common. In the less common, but not impossible arenas, you will find some rockets and antitank missiles can be used here as well.
-Combat Air Patrol (CAP): This is a defensive mission where a group of fighter aircraft are sent to an area with orders to patrol for an extended period, and engage hostile aircraft that show up. Aircraft with this mission will fly at medium or high altitude during the entire flight, and generally operate in flights of 2-3 planes, with 2-4 flights dispersed along an elliptical patrol route. Often, at least one aircraft in the flight will be using its radar to sweep, with the dispersed flights working together to provide a near continuous coverage of the patrol route and surrounding zone. This mission is done as a peacetime patrol, when hostile attacks are expected, and/or over a combat zone once a degree of air superiority has been established. The purpose is to deny the air space in the patrol zone to the enemy. The CAP has a benefit in that it guarantees planes are in the air, and is the best prepared for a surprise engagement,. It can also be broken to support other mission types. No aircraft are specifically designed for this, but heavy fighters such as the F-15, Su-27, and Tornado ADV are best suited to it by virtue of having greater flight endurance, and thus a longer time on station without refueling.
-Interception: This defensive operation is the most time-critical of all air-to-air mission types. Once an air attack, or even just a breach of restricted air space, is detected, very fast aircraft are launched from airfields or carriers to engage the intruder(s) as quickly as possible. Critical features of intercepter aircraft are very high sustained climb rates, high speed, and high operational readiness. These missions are usually very short in range and duration - the intercepter launches, gets to altitude and range as fast as possible, engages, and heads home. This role is rarely filled by dedicated aircraft today, with heavy and medium multirole fighters taking on the role as-needed. Notable aircraft for this role include the MiG-21, MiG-29, MiG-25/31, and F-14.
-Guard: Something of a merger between CAP and escort missions, this occurs when one or more flights is tasked with defending one or more non-combat aircraft. This usually involves multiple flights spread out to cover different approaches, and they may fly a CAP-style pattern around their charges. The aircraft being protected are usually large, slow, high-value targets - either electronic warfare (including AEW), tankers, or transports. Aircraft for this role should have excellent radar, long endurance, and preferrably an aerial refueling capability. Again, heavy fighters like the F-15, Su-27, and Tornado ADV are the most suitable.
-Escort: For this mission, aircraft are tasked with providing cover for a ground attack. They fly above the strike formation, often at medium or high altitude, and are tasked with engaging any enemy planes that are sent out to intercept the ground attack force. By flying at a higher altitude, they will be able to detect incoming enemies before those enemies can see the strike units, but also leave themselves more open to attack. Naturally, superiority in numbers and/or quality is necessary to succeed here, as is preventing ground defenses from becoming an issue. With the demise of specialized interceptors, all fighter aircraft are expected to be able to perform this role, though some types have advantages in certain situations.
-Air Superiority: Somewhat similar to the CAP, this involves a group of aircraft being sent to an area, where they patrol, and engage any hostile aircraft they find. The difference is that an air superiority mission is offensive - its goal is to attack and destroy the enemy's air forces rather than defend a stretch of sky. As with the escort mission, this role is something any aircraft outside of a specialized interceptor can do well.
-Aerial Interdiction: The antithesis of the guard mission, this involves sending a force to engage a high-value target well away from the front lines, and often well protected. AEW aircraft are the most talked-about targets today, though transports and large reconnaissance aircraft are also attractive. The key here is that the target is known before hand, and this is the only type where this is almost always the case. One of two types of aircraft should be used in a mission like this: either big, powerful fighters that can fight their way through defenses, like the F-15 and Su-27 series, or extremely stealthy ones such as the F-22, Eurofighter, and F-35, which can sneak in, engage the target, and sneak out without being identified.
Role: Not as glamorous as fighter combat, but much more appreciated by the largest branch of most militaries - the army. In fact, all aerial combat is related to either preventing or allowing air-to-ground missions to be successfully launched.
Restrictions: In order to engage ground targets, a plane must be capable of carrying air-to-ground weapons. Preferrably, these are bombs, rockets, or missiles, but in many cases, even a light machine gun can be extremely useful. The most important factors in ground attack aircraft are low-level handling and payload capacity.
-Interdiction: A long-range strike deep behind enemy lines, with the purpose of taking out high-value strategic targets. Planes sent on these missions are often on their own, with little support, so while this role has been historically left to dedicated bombers and long-range strike aircraft, today, heavy multirole fighters like the F-15E and Su-30 are most common.
-Strategic Bombing: Similar to an interdiction, but involving either multiple smaller targets or one very big one that requires a great deal of ordnance to destroy. Naturally, this is almost solely reserved for medium and heavy bombers, as no other aircraft have the range and payload capacity to pull it off effectively.
-Carpet Bombing: Generally limited to large formations of heavy bombers, this involves dumping a massive number of conventional bombs to completely saturate a large area. This overlaps with strategic bombing to a degree, but is generally used only against major troop concentrations and military bases due to collateral damage issues. This can also be used as a form of close support for ground forces, in which case it has been traditionally known as an Arc Light raid, in reference to the Vietnam code for conventional B-52 strikes. The primary platforms for these missions are large, slow moving bombers like the B-52 and Tu-95.
-Strike: This is a mission against a known target at or near the front lines. If an air strike is set up specifically to hit something like a gun position or a warship, it would fall under this mission type. The most common strike targets are troop and vehicle concentrations, and forward supply depots.
-Combat Patrol: Much like a CAP or Guard mission for fighters, this involves an aircraft patroling a set area and engaging any targets of opportunity that show up. Such missions are typically flown just behind the FEBA (forward edge of the battle area), and usually go after logistics and support units and reserve forces that aren't in combat yet. Any combat capable aircraft will be expected to do this.
-Close Air Support (CAS): A CAS mission involves aircraft being called in and directed by ground forces to hit front-line enemy forces in support of said ground units. In most cases, this mission involves aircraft, holding a patrol pattern just behind the lines, and on call for ground forces to use when needed. Alternately, they may be on standby at a forward airfield. For these missions, lower speeds, high endurance at those speed, low-level performance, and the ability to operate from unprepared forward airfields are all valuable features. Thus, most CAS missions are run by dedicated aircraft like the A-10 and Su-25, V/STOL aircraft like the Harrier and F-35B, small modified trainers/light attack aircraft, or by combat helicopters. However, any plane with weapons can fill the role.
-Counter Insurgency (COIN): A special mission variation of combat patrol and CAS, this uses aircraft to both scout and mount attacks against light forces operating in an insurgency capacity. This usually uses helicopters and small, cheap, propeller-driven aircraft that are often variations on basic trainers or civilian aircraft. These have limited weapons loads, and thus do not pose as great a threat of causing collateral damage. However, the main advantage is that they're cheap, and can be used instead of dedicated combat aircraft, freeing those up for regular combat operations.
-Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD, also called Wild Weasel): A highly specialized ground attack mission requiring specialized equipment, this has one or more planes acting as "bait" to draw the attention of air defense networks. They then use a combination of airborne jamming and antiradiation missiles to disable radars and clear a corridor through enemy defenses so that a strike force can get through unmolested. These missions may also include more conventional bombing runs on air defense control centers and other support sites. With the retirement of the F-4G Wild Weasel, there are no dedicated aircraft designs. Instead, aircraft like the F-16, EA-18G, and Tornado ECR carry external mission pods that provide the necessary sensor and control systems.
Mission Flight Profiles
Hi-Hi-Hi: You rarely see this outside of air-to-air combat and heavy bombers. It is the preferred profile for long-range operations because high altitudes have lower air density, so planes can fly faster and further with less fuel than they can "on-the-deck." The disadvantage is the radar horizon - the higher the altitude, the greater the distance to the horizon, and therefore the greater the range that a ground-based radar can detect and track the plane, which is often tied into the appearance of interceptors and surface-to-air missiles. As such, this is only really used when there is minimal chance of fighter interception, and the target is either undefended or lacking defenses capable of reaching the altitude the attack is coming from.
Hi-Lo-Hi: This is the typical flight profile for a strike or interdiction mission, and is used against a target that has primarily only local defenses. It starts with the aircraft climbing to medium or high altitude for greater range and endurance. However, as the aircraft approaches the target, it drops to very low altitude, to reduce the effective range of air defense systems and give it a greater chance of reaching the target without getting detected or engaged. After it leaves the target area, it returns to medium or high altitude to again take advantage of the lower fuel consumption.
Hi-Lo-Lo: In some cases, the aircraft will use different routes to enter and leave the target area. If the exit route takes it through defenses or rugged terrain, this profile is used, where the aircraft remains at low altitude until well inside friendly airspace. This may also be used when an attack is expected to create a great deal of commotion and result in maximum effort by air defense networks to locate and engage the strike aircraft.
Lo-Lo-Hi: The opposite of Hi-Lo-Lo, this time its the route to the target that is frought with danger, or maybe it's just that a strong element of surprise is needed, and the aircraft must remain low to avoid long-range search and surveillance radars. However, once the aircraft has hit the target and is on its way home, it is safe enough that it can increase altitude.
Lo-Lo-Lo: If the routes both to and from the target are too well defended for a high altitude approach or exit, the aircraft will have to remain low throughout the entire mission. It'll come in at treetop level, hit the target from low level, and fly out again the same way. This is usually not popular against distant targets because it maximizes fuel consumption, and thus the chance of running out of it! Lo-Lo-Lo is also the standard profile for close air support and COIN operations, which require the aircraft to be close enough to differentiate the enemy from friendly forces and civiliancs, often visually.
Role: Get people, supplies, and/or equipment from point A to point B. The only complications are what those are.
Restrictions: The plane must both pick up and deposite its cargo, which places limitations on both which plane can be used, and what locations cargo can be picked up or dropped off from.
-Strategic Airlift: This involves large airbases and large aircraft hauling a large amount of cargo. This is usually seen in buildups of troops and supplies prior to major operations. Cargo capacity and range are the most important things in this type of operation, and all the really big planes (C-5, C-17, An-124) are meant for this role.
-Tactical Airlift: While the aforementioned missions are used to move entire military formations, tactical airlift is mostly for keeping them operating, and focuses on delivering supplies and replacements. As such, it does not require as many (or as large) aircraft, and instead places greater emphasis on the planes being able to land, fully loaded, in as many locations as possible. Most tactical airlifters carry between 10 and 25 tonnes of cargo. The C-130, with its good range and payload, and amazing ground maneuverability, is the undisputed king of mission type. At the smaller scale, most cargo helicopters also perform this role.
-Self-Deployment: A variation of strategic airlift most commonly seen in Expeditionary and Projection militaries, though other larger ones can use it. This is where a unit of cargo and/or tanker aircraft deploy to a new, distant base, carrying themselves all the personnel and equipment they will need for extended operations.
-Rapid Deployment: Planes are tasked with loading up with light combat units, and all the personnel, equipment, and supplies they need for short-term operations, and get everything to a distant hot spot in 24-72 hours, tops.
-Battlefield Resupply: Typically, aircraft deliver supplies to rear area bases, and these are then shipped to frontline units using other methods. This isn't always possible, and sometimes the only way to get sufficient supplies to a combat unit is to fly them in. Helicopters are the preferred method of doing this, as they can land in any flat stretch of land big enough, but tactical airlifters have also been known to use some tricks to pull this off.
-Ferrying: This involves small to medium sized aircraft, in many cases modified civilian airliners, whose only job is simply to carry troops from one place to another. This role usually falls to small turboprop aircraft that carry only a few dozen passengers at most, though some forces have larger planes, such as the US's 737 variants.
-Medevac: Not limited to just helicopters, many air forces have airliners converted to this role as well. In both types, the goal is to evacuate the critically wounded to a facility where they can be treated. Helicopters fly from the battlefield to aid stations, while airliners fly patients who need further treatment to major hospitals.
-High-Altitude Airdrop: The most common means of deploying special forces, this involves a plane flying at altitudes of 7600-27,000m, above most local air defenses, and delivering paratroops and their equipment.
-Airborne Insertion: Major airborne operations typically involve static line jumps (see those WWII films), as these are still the best way of deploying large numbers of troops relatively close to each other relatively safely. Such air drops are generally done at altitudes of 90-180m, and may require a plane to stay level for longer than other airdrop types simply due to the time it takes to get everyone out.
-Low-Altitude Airdrop: Used for delivering equipment and supplies to troops on the ground, this involves aircraft flying no more than a few hundred meters above the ground, and often only a few dozen. The low altitude reduces chance for wind and other factors to affect the load, and improves the accuracy of the drop while also leaving the aircraft less vulnerable to interception.
-LAPES: Low Altitude Parachute Extration System, which is a nifty means for cargo aircraft to deliver cargo without having to land, but without the inaccuracy of a high altitude airdrop. They fly a few meters over the the ground, and release a parachute that drags the cargo when it catches the wind. This is commonly used at airfields under fire, or forward positions where there might not be a runway, but at least enough open space to pull it off. Armored combat vehicles, such as the M551 Sheridan and M2 Bradley, have also been airdropped in this fasion.
-Touch-And-Go: If LAPES is not an option for any reason, this involves a cargo plane landing on an airfield, dumping out its cargo without stopping, and then immediately taking off, minimizing exposure to ground fire. Naturally, the plane must have enough runway to both land and take off in the same run. This is also what a helicopter would do when deploying troops to a "hot LZ." In such a case, it would drop low enough for the troops to get off, and immediately go straight up.
-Heliborne Insertion: This is the preferred method for inserting troops in difficult terrain (cities, forests, etc), and involves either a touch-and-go drop off or soldiers rappelling down static lines attached to the helicopter. Both are used to quickly get troops off and minimize the helicopter's vunlerability.
Role: Many larger air forces have aircraft that are designed or modified to do unique things. These are force multipliers that either support intelligence gathering, or in some cases combat operations.
Restrictions: Most of these planes are one-trick ponies that can do their one role extremely well, but nothing else. They also tend to be quite expensive and vulnerable to attack themselves.
-ELINT (ELectronics INTelligence): ELINT is the observation and evaluation of any non-communication related electronic signals, most notably radar emissions. These kinds of missions are typically flown with a modified cargo plane (for endurance and payload) that carefully moniters types, locations, and operating patterns of radars in preperation for possible strike missions. It can also evaluate IFF transmissions and observe other forms of radio traffic for the purpose of locating units and installations.
-COMINT (COMmunications INTelligence): Sister to ELINT, this involves similar (and in some cases, the same) aircraft whose job is to monitor enemy communications. At the simplest end, it looks for who was transmitting to who and any patterns in such transmissions. If possible, it may also attempt to decipher coded transmissions and learn exactly what was said.
-IMINT (IMage INTelligence): Also called photoreconnaissance, this involves an aircraft equipped with cameras that fly over a target and snap pictures for evaluation. Naturally, this is found in most air forces, especially those of nations without satellite reconnaissance capability. The most common aircraft type is a modified combat aircraft that carries a camera and make a high speed, low-altitude pass over the target. However, some more advanced militaries may have more specialized planes that fly at high altitudes and carry a telephoto lens that can snap picutres from great distances - never getting in range of defenses.
-Radar Surveillance: These are aircraft equipped with a large, powerful radar that provides long-distance detection and tracking of ground and/or air targets. They typically fly in a lazy circle at altitude for periods of several hours, letting their radar and computer systems do their work. And while many may process the data themselves, some relay it to ground stations that have less space and personnel restrictions. These are almost always modified cargo aircraft, though a few systems can be found on large helicopters. Examples include all AWACS and AEW&C, JSTARS (tracks ground vehicles), and maritime reconnaissance aircraft like the Russian Bear-D.
-Maritime Patrol: A maritime patrol mission involves an aircraft with multiple sensor types that looks for hostile naval vessels. For most of these, the main target is submarines, and they use an array of detection systems including sonobuoys, magnetic anomaly detectors, radar, and for helicopters, dipping sonars. Since sub-hunting is like finding a needle in a haystack, fixed-wing sub hunters tend to be large and with high endurance, but relatively few weapons. Alternatively, these missions may also be flown against surface ships, in which case radar is usually the primary means of detection.
-Airborne Jamming: Often referred to as ECM or EW (both being blanket terms that technically cover much more), this uses highly specialized aircraft that target signals emitters to render them temporarily impotent. The best known are of course aircraft like the EA-6B, EA-18Gm and Tornado ECR that accompany strike missions and counter enemy radars, but some others (like the EC-130 Compass Call) go after communications. These latter aircraft are quite versatile, being able to simply jam, as well as hijack channels and broadcast propaganda or false information.
-Aerial Refueling: This involves specialized cargo aircraft, or in the unique case of the US Navy, an add-on to strike aircraft, whose job is to replenish the fuel of other aircraft, thus dramatically increasing their range and/or time on station. This allows shorter-ranged aircraft to self-deploy great distances, strike aircraft to fly deeper into enemy territory, and surveillance aircraft to keep watching someone indefinitely.
-Special Extraction: When a simple helicopter extraction just won't do, there are some ingenious and interesting ways to get individuals and small groups out of hostile territory. The best known would be the (admittedly rarely used) Fulton Recovery System, which was employed by Batman when visiting Hong Kong in The Dark Knight.
-Search-and-Rescue: Any navy or air force worth anything has at least a few aircraft dedicated to this role, which is primarily tasked with locating and retrieving downed pilots, people lost at sea, and occasionally those lost in the wilderness as well. This is almost exclusively the domain of helicopters for their ability to actually pick up people once their found, though some fixed-wing aircraft may be employed in a support role since they can cover a larger area more quickly.
Role: These are manportable weapons systems that are used by infantry, but require more than one man to operate. The provide the most basic fire support for small infantry units (squad, platoon, company).
Advantages: Light and portable, these are the only things that can be there, on the spot, when infantry are by themselves. As such, they are critical to any unit. And yes, they are very, very cheap.
Disadvantages: These are only useful against other infantry and very light armor due to lack of firewpoer. They also have limited ammunition and, due to weight, can be quite taxing to the poor soldiers stuck lugging them around.
Heavy Mortar: Mortars are the simplest form of indirect fire support out there. They consist of a tube with a firing pin at the bottom, and you just drop a shell in the barrel and it immediately shoots out. They have extremely high, arcing trajectories and high rates of fire, along with extremely low cost. Heavy mortars fire shells greather than 100mm in diameter, with 120mm being the international standard. Other calibers are seen in older US (107mm) and specialized Russian (160mm, 240mm) weapons. Many of these are actually not manportable, but towed by trucks and pack animals.
Medium Mortar: These are typically 81mm (Western) or 82mm (Eastern Bloc) weapons, which are found at the company level in most militaries, and are the most common fire support weapons in the world. Their extreme rate of fire (over 30 rounds per minute) makes up for the small shell size.
Light Mortar: 60mm weapons and below, these are often integrated into platoons, and their only advantage over medium mortars is weight - they have similar rates of fire.
Heavy Machine Gun: These are machine guns with bore diameters in excess of 10mm, with 12.7mm being the most common by orders of magnitude, the only other size in service being Russian 14.5mm. Like heavy mortars, while most of these are technically manportable, they're just too heavy to carry great distances. However, their powerful rounds are one of the few weapons infantry have that are effective against light armor.
Medium Machine Gun: These are deployed typically at the platoon and/or company level, and are chambered to full-power 7.62mm rounds (no other caliber is in use today). While only good against infantry and unarmored vehicles, they have been one of the most important weapons on the battlefield for the past 100 years.
Light Machine Gun: A concept that has been gaining momentum in the past few decades, these are weapons chambered to assault rifle rounds, which, while not as powerful as medium machine guns, allow for lighter weapons that in many cases can be carried and used by a single soldier, and they also simplify logistics by having all weapons in the squad or platoon using the same round. While some are specially designed, most are simply assault rifles with a heavier barrel (called Squad Automatic Weapons). These are commonly found at the squad level (hence the name), but some armies even use them to replace medium machine guns at platoon and company level.
Recoilless Rifle: Something of a cross between a mortar and a bazooka, these are special tubed weapons that fire large, artillery-type shells in a flat trajectory for short distances. They're typically used for engaging armored vehicles and bunkers, but versatile ammunition allows them to be used as fire support against infantry as well. Smaller weapons below 90mm in diameter can be shoulder-fired, while larger ones are mounted on towed carriages or vehicles.
Anti-tank Rocket Launcher: Dating back to WWII, these are epitomized by the Russian RPG, the US Bazooka, and the German Panzerfaust, all of which have been upgraded over the decades and are still in widespread use. However, their role is now more akin to recoilless rifles, as modern tanks are too well armored for these weapons to be effective.
GENERAL TOE (Table of organisation and equipment) GUIDELINESEdit
Since I've gotten requests on this (more often than you may think), I'm going to put together some generalized data on common organizations for assorted unt types, from section level through division. While the links of interest section has most of this, I'm posting this largely for a quick reference, and because globalsecurity went pay. Regardless, anyone that interested in organization should look it up. Wiki pages are often going to have this concealed in the regular text, and most nations have some degree of info available. These are only rough guidelines. Pages will have information for multiple types.
- Mechanized Infantry
- Motorized Infantry
- Light Infantry
Note that designations can vary considerably, as can specific makeup (you'll see as we move up the ladder). Even if accurate for one unit, these TOEs may not be so for another in the same army. Armored forces are built based on where offensive power is needed, and organization can be modified to reflect that. This does not include support units, as that is highly variable and complicated, and so focuses only on frontline combat vehicles. Note that some nations may use regular APCs instead of IFVs due to availability or doctrinal restrictions.
Important Terminology Depending on the nation and combat arm, a battalion may be referred to as a Battalion (most forces), or under the cavalry system as a Regiment (UK and most former colonies). When listing organization levels, the term before the slash is the normal battalion term, and the term after represents regimental. Administrative units are important for training and planning purposes, but rarely operate as a whole (larger) or alone (smaller). Maneuver units are the ones that fight together, as one, most of the time.
Which One is Right for Me? I break down these in at least 5 categories: US, UK, Europe, Russia, & China. Almost every nation has an army largely supplied and trained by, and thus organized similar to, one of these. ALL former Soviet republics, most former UK colonizes, and many former European colonies will retain the organization of the nation they formerly were controlled by, so this is usually where to start. Most others will follow the organization of their main patron during the Cold War (US or Russia).
PLATOON/TROOP: The smallest administrative unit for armor (a squad would be a single tank). Always homogenous.
- US/Europe: 4 tanks
- Russia/China/UK: 3 tanks
COMPANY/SQUADRON: The smallest maneuver unit for armor. Usually homogenous, but may "trade" a platoon with an infantry company in the same brigade (or battalion if a task force) to provide a combined arms force capable of truly independent operation. In the US Army, these are known as Teams (ie: Team Charlie instead of Charlie Company).
- US: 3 platoons, 2 command tanks (14 total)
- UK: 4 troops, 2 command tanks (14 total)
- Europe: 3 platoons, 1 command tank (13 total)
- Russia/China: 3 platoons, 1 command tank (10 total)*
BATTALION/REGIMENT: The smallest unit capable of long-term independent operations. As such, they may include their own reconnaissance and artillery units (heavy mortars, not howitzers) of up to company size. As with companies, these are usually homogenous, but may "trade" a company with an infantry battalion. This combined arms unit is known as a task force (ie: Task Force 3rd Battalion) in US service.
- US: 3 (formerly 4) companies, 1 command section of 2 tanks (44 total, formerly 58)
- UK: 3 or 4 squadrons, 1 command troop of 2-3 tanks (44-45 or 58-59 total)
- Europe: 4 companies, 1-3 command tanks (53-55 total)
- Russia: 3 companies, 1 command tank (31 total)*
- China: 3 companies, 1 or 3 command tanks (31 or 33 total)
BRIGADE: This is the largest size in which forces may be completely homogenous. Brigades may be administrative subdivisions of divisions, in which case they may or may not be homogenous, or they could be independent formations directly under Corps command, in which case they are always going to include at least 1 infantry battalion, and often support forces such as engineers, air defense, and even artillery, all up to battalion level.
- US: 2 tank & 1 mechanized battalions (88 tanks & 44 IFVs, formerly 116 tanks & 58 IFVs)
- UK (independent): 2 tank regiments & 1 mechanized battalion (88-90 or 116-118 tanks, 44-45 or 58-59 IFVs)
- UK (divisional): as above, or 3 tank regiments (132-135 or 174-177 tanks)
- Europe: 2 or 3 tank & 1 mechanized battalion (106-110 or 159-162 tanks, 53-55 IFVs)
- Russia (independent): 3 tank & 1 mechanized battalion (93 tanks & 31 IFVs)
- Russia (divisional): 2 or 3 tank & 1 mechanized battalion (62 or 93 tanks & 31 IFVs)
- China (divisional): 3 tank & 1 mechanized battalion, 1 command tank (100 tanks & 40 IFVs)
- China (independent): 3-4 tank & 1 mechanized battalion, 1 command tank (100 or 124 tanks, 40 IFVs)
DIVISION: The largest maneuver force (Corps and above are administrative), a division usually has a brigade each of artillery, air defense, and engineers, as well as a battalion of recon forces, and possibly its own helicopters in up to 2 brigades. Typically, these are nominally dispersed evenly among combat brigades, but can be concentrated based on operational situations. Divisions are never homogenous. Europe is not here as major Western European nations no longer have divisional forations, and their colonies/clients either lack them as well or use US/Russian organization.
- US: 2 tank & 1 mechanized brigade (220 or 290 tanks & 176 or 232 IFVs)
- UK (homogenous brigades): 2 tank & 1 mechanized brigade (264-270 or 348-354 tanks, 132-135 or 174-177 IFVs)
- UK (mixed brigades): 3 tank or 2 tank & 1 mechanized brigade (as above, OR 220-225 or 290-295 tanks, 176-180 or 232-236 IFVs)
- Russia (4 brigades): 3 tank & 1 mechanized brigade (217 or 330 tanks, 155 or 186 IFVs)
- Russia (3 brigades): 2 tank & 1 mechanized brigade (155 or 217 tanks, 124 or 155 IFVs)
- China: 3 tank & 1 mechanized brigade (300 or 333 tanks, 120 IFVs)
- For Russian-based forces, they may follow different battalion and company organization when they are support units organic to infantry formations. Battalions in mechanized units, and divisional support battalions for infantry may have an extra company (for 41 tanks). Or, if the company is not part of an armored battalion (such as a brigade-level support unit for infantry forces), it may have an extra platoon (for 13 tanks).
The complement to armor, infantry are necessary to protect tanks in restricted terrain, hold ground, and assault some types of fortified positions. Mechanized forces use IFVs to ensure that mobility and survivability of infantry forces are as close to armored units as possible. Both are rarely found without the other. As with armored, these are often offensive formations and therefore also have highly variable nature. While I use the term IFV here, as that's most common, many larger and/or less well equipped militaries use cheaper APCs, which often have larger infantry squads. Also note that command IFVs/APCs rarely have full squads, but rather a command staff of 2-4 with additional communications gear.
SECTION: The smallest administrative unit for infantry, consists of 3-4 soldiers and their equipment. Always homogenous for obvious reasons. -
- ALL (vehicle): 1 IFV plus crew of 2-3
-ALL (infantrymen): 3-4 soldiers
SQUAD: The smallest maneuver unit for infantry. May operate alone as a patrol, or more likely as part of platoon-level operations. Always homogenous. Variance on size is entirely based on doctrine or carrying capacity of the APC or IFV used. APC-based units typically have 1-2 more infantry sections due to higher carrying capacity, and to balance lack of firepower on the vehicle.
- ALL: 1 vehicle section & 2-4 infantry sections (1 IFV & 6-12 infantry)
- Older Soviet Airborne: 1 vehicle section & 1 infantry secton (1 IFV & 4 infantry)
PLATOON The most common maneuver unit for small-scale operations. A platoon is generally considered the minimum for holding a piece of land, as it can patrol with 1 squad while the main force can attack or defend.
- US/Europe: 4 squads (4 IFV & 24-48 infantry)
- Russia/China/UK: 3 squads (3 IFV & 18-36 infantry)
COMPANY The most common maneuver unit when operating with armor. Sometimes trades platoons with tank companies, in which case both are called teams in US military. May have additional support units, such as mortars or ATGM teams, in other APCs or trucks.
- US: 3 platoons, 2 command IFV (14 IFV, 72-144 infantry) -UK: 4 platoons, 2 command IFV (14 IFV, 72-144 infantry)
- Europe: 3 platoons, 1 command IFV (13 IFV, 72-144 infantry)
- Russia/China: 3 platoons, 1 command IFV (10 IFV, 54-108 infantry)
BATTALION Similar in role to an armored battalion, but with greater emphasis on defense and holding territory. When trading companies with armored battalions, both are known as task forces. Usually have similar levels of support compared to armored battalions, including mortar battery.
- US: 3 (formerly 4) companies, 2 command IFVs (44 IFVs & 216-432 infantry, or 58 & 288-576)
- UK: 3 companies, 1 command IFV, 11 more in ATGM company, (54 IFVs & 282-498 infantry)
- Europe: 4 companies, 3 command IFV (55 IFV, 288-576 infantry)
- Russia: 3 companies, 1 command IFV (31 IFV, 162-324 infantry)
- China: 4 companies, 0-1 command IFV (40-41 IFV, 216-432 infantry)
BRIGADE Extremely similar to a tank brigade, in many cases with the only difference being one tank battalion replaced with a second of mechanized infantry. They will have the same support as armored brigades, and also may be independent or divisional.
- US: 1 tank & 2 mechanized battalions (44 tanks & 88 IFVs, or 58 tanks & 116 IFVs)
- UK (independent): 1 tank & 2-3 mechanized battalions (44-45 or 58-59 tanks, 108 or 162 IFVs)
- UK (divisional): as above, or 3 mechanized battalions (162 IFVs)
- Europe: 1 tank & 2 or 3 mechanized battalions (53-55 tanks, 110 or 165 IFVs)
- Russia (independent): 1 tank & 3 mechanized battalions (31 or 41 tanks, 93 IFVs)
- Russia (divisional): 1 tank & 2 or 3 mechanized battalions (31 or 41 tanks, 62 or 93 IFVs)
- China (divisional): 0-1 tank & 3 mechanized battalions (0 or 31-33 tanks, 120-123 IFVs)
- China (independent): 1 tank & 3-4 mechanized battalion (31-33 tanks, 120-123 or 160-164 IFVs)
NOTE: While rare in these nations, some countries may employ independant mechanized brigades with 2 tank and 2 infantry battalions.
DIVISION This is where the line blurs completely. The difference between an armored and a mechanized division in the US and UK is usually a grand total of 1 battalion, with all else being identical. Support levels are the same as for armor.
- US: 1 tank & 2 mechanized brigades (176 or 232 tanks & 220 or 290 IFVs)
- UK (homogenous brigades): 1 tank & 2 mechanized brigades (132-135 or 174-177 tanks, 324 IFVs)
- UK (mixed brigades): 0-1 tank & 2-3 mechanized brigades (as above, OR 176-180 or 232-236 tanks, 270 IFVs)
- Russia (4 brigades): 1 tank & 3 mechanized brigade (155 or 186 tanks, 217 or 330 IFVs)
- Russia (3 brigades): 1 tank & 2 mechanized brigade (124 or 155 tanks, 155 or 217 IFVs)
- China: 0-1 tank & 3 mechanized brigade (0-200 tanks, 360-369 IFVs)
A variation on mechanized forces, but with cheaper and less expensive transportation. For most armies, this means trucks instead of APCs or IFVs, though heavily mechanized militaries may use the term for APC-equipped units. Unlike mechanized formations, these are almost always homogenous.
SECTION: The smallest administrative unit for infantry, consists of 3-4 soldiers and their equipment. Always homogenous for obvious reasons. -ALL (vehicle): 1 APC or truck, plus crew of 1-2 -ALL (infantrymen): 3-4 soldiers
SQUAD: The smallest maneuver unit for infantry. May operate alone as a patrol, or more likely as part of platoon-level operations. Always homogenous. Variance on size is generally based on the vehicle used for transport. -ALL: 1 vehicle section & 3-4 infantry sections (1 truck & 9-12 infantry)
PLATOON The most common maneuver unit for small-scale operations. A platoon is generally considered the minimum for holding a piece of land, as it can patrol with 1 squad while the main force can attack or defend.
- US/Europe: 4 squads (4 trucks & 36-48 infantry)
- Russia/China/UK: 3 squads (3 trucks & 24-36 infantry)
COMPANY The most common maneuver unit when operating with armor. Sometimes trades platoons with tank companies, in which case both are called teams in US military. Usually has an additional support platoon with mortars, ATGMs, SAMs, and/or machine guns (not counted here).
- US/Europe: 3 platoons (12+ trucks, 108-144+ infantry)
- UK: 4 platoons (12+ trucks, 108-144+ infantry)
- Russia/China: 3 platoons (9+ trucks, 72-108 infantry)
BATTALION The main formation for infantry units. Always includes a heavy weapons company with machine guns and antitank weapons, and usually medium or heavy mortars (not included in below figures).
- US/Europe: 4 companies (48+ trucks & 432-576+ infantry)
- UK: 3 companies (36+ trucks, 324-432+ infantry)
- Russia: 3 companies (27+ trucks, 216-324 infantry)
- China: 4 companies (36+ trucks, 324-432 infantry)
BRIGADE Unlike mechanized forces, these are almost always homogenous, and are rarel seen outside of divisions. They may include a tank company as part of the cavalry/reconnaissance force, but usually do not have any armor. They still have the other usual support, including artillery and air defense.
- US/Europe: 3 battalions (144+ trucks, 1296-1728+ infantry)
- UK: 3 battalions (108+ trucks, 972-1296+ infantry)
- Russia: 3 battalions (81+ trucks, 648-972 infantry)
- China: 3-4 battalions (108-144+ trucks, 972-1728 infantry)
DIVISION Usually reserve or defensive formations, motarized divisions may have an armored brigade or independant armored battalion attached, but usually do not. Otherwise, they have much the same support as mechanized forces, just with less expensive alternatives like towed or truck-mounted artillery instead of traditional self-propelled weapons.
- US/Europe: 3 brigades (432+ trucks, 3888-5184+ infantry)
- UK: 3 brigades (324+ truck, 2916-3888+ infantry)
- Russia: 3 brigades (243+ trucks, 1944-2916+ infantry)
- China: 3 brigades (324-576+ trucks, 2916-5184+ infantry)