Making the light infantry even lighter

With threat scenarios becoming more and more complex, today’s light infantry needs to be more flexible and more manoeuvrable.

The world we live in is rapidly evolving – and nowhere is this truer than on the battlefield. Lightning fast changes in the geopolitical situation, the emergence of new military tactics, and the arrival of ever more sophisticated technology all mean that combat forces must operate in a wider range of locations and threat scenarios than ever before.

Light infantry forces, whose job is to engage and defeat the enemy at close quarters, can be thrown into situations as diverse as street-to-street fighting in a city under siege to a remote deployment in a desert or mountainous region. Such variability places extreme demands on troops and their equipment.

"Today’s light infantry is never exactly sure what kind of situation they will find themselves in next," says Anders Haster, Director of Business Management for Saab’s Ground Combat business unit. "They are required to go into a wide range of very complex terrains. And with conflicts increasingly being dragged into urban areas rather than rural areas, they also need to be prepared for the presence of civilians."

Haster, a former Major in the Swedish army, explains the role of light infantry or what the British call dismounted close combat forces is often to finish off the job started by heavy artillery or air strikes. They travel into the battle zone and neutralise the enemy through close-quarter combat.

To achieve this, they need maximum manoeuvrability and flexibility.

Increased mechanisation

Haster says the job has been made more challenging in recent years by the increased use of vehicles such as armoured personal carriers and infantry fighting vehicles. "Previously, when you went into complex terrain, you didn’t really expect to see a great deal of mechanised enemy forces", he says. "Today, you frequently see mechanised forces supporting the infantry, even in complex terrain." Meanwhile, with battles increasingly taking place in urban areas, light troops must do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties.

Equipment challenge

Haster says one of the key challenges light infantry forces face is having the right equipment to deal with the wide range of scenarios they must deal with. Training on multiple weapons systems takes time and adds to the complexity of combat situations, while also adding to the weight that individual soldiers must carry. "Troops can end up having many different weapons and so much kit that they can barely move in the complex terrains they’re operating in," Haster says. "The challenge to the defence industry is to provide them with flexibility and power while reducing the load."

The light weight of Saab´s new Carl-Gustaf M4 system means that it can be used both by individual soldiers and by teams. "A single soldier can jump out of a helicopter or vehicle with the weapon loaded, move into position and fire immediately," Haster says. "Or teams of two can quickly fire six to eight rounds a minute."

Learn more about our Carl-Gustaf M4 here