The Beginning: The Combined Arms of the Word War II
Throughout the history of human conflict, individuals have used different weapons to kill one another, and acting together to achieve their military goals. When civilizations were able field massive armies, they were not just composed of the most basic fighting element, the foot soldier, but they also the horse cavalry, crossbows, slings, archery, and even the chariots. Those concepts continued to develop over centuries of warfare, leading to the war machines of World War One, the blitzkriegs of World War Two, and the rolling thunder of the Gulf War. Today, the inclusion of all combat forces working together is the basic foundation of modern warfare. This concept is known as Combined Arms. This blogpost originally appeared on FWS in the early days, 2011. I am reediting and adding new pictures and text to update the blogpost in 2014.
What are Combined Arms?
Wikipedia defines as: "an approach to warfare which seeks to integrate different branches of a military to achieve mutually complementary effects (for example, using infantry and armor in an urban environment, where one supports the other, or both support each other).
" What does that mean? All manner of modern war machinery, soldiers, and technologies work in concert to destroy the enemy, achieve their military goals, and hold the field of battle.
Combined Arms of the Vietnam War
Blitzkrieg, the lightning war of Nazi Germany, was the beginning of the modern day vision of Combined Arms, were tanks, artillery, air power, and mounted infantry pushed with overwhelming firepower and speed at their enemy. This is similar to the concept of traditional English fox hunting, keeping your enemy on the run, with your own forces being organized to be on the chase with all elements being mobile. The result, is a broken, disorganized enemy, that is more focused on retreating, than attacking. However, this concept runs out of steam when your army is no longer on the offensive, like Russia in the winter, or being be chased itself. For the most part, the limits of battlefield communications, close air support, and supply lines forced most much of WWII to be an "soldier's war".
The war that the US was preparing to fight was not the hellish terrain of Vietnam, with its dense jungles, poor roads, lack of urban development and fluid battle lines. This forced the US military to abandon their concepts of conventional ground warfare with the Warsaw Pact across Europe with armored elements. These heavily armored mechanized units could not operate in the dense jungles and mud. Instead, Vietnam was a war waged between soldiers, special forces, frontline artillery positions, and airpower. While during the Nazi campaigns, air power was one element normally used to soften up the enemy for the armor, in Vietnam, close air support was the critical element to counter the VC/NVA guerrilla warfare tactics. To lessen the advantages of the VC/NVA, and disadvantages of the dense jungles, the United States developed air mobility using helicopters to evac/insert troops and provide close air support, however this made the US forces very dependant on those chopper pilots and their green machines.
Combined Arms of Afghanistan and Iraq (1991 and 2003)
If we look at the 1991 Gulf War, the coalition armed forces bombarded the Iraqi army for a month with all manner of seaborne and airborne munitions. The ground operation rolled heavy armored units across the desert sands, with rocket-based artillery, close air cover, and infantry units tucked in HUMVEEs and APCs. Within 100 hours, the ground campaign was over, and the enemy was routed. This was the very definitions of Combined Arms warfare, and it crushed one of the largest armies in the world.
Then in 2003, we returned to the desert to finish the job, and changed the theory of combined arms. The Iraqi Army was no where near the strength it was during the 1991 Gulf War, instead the coalition forces faced the Fedayeen and their unconventional warfare tactics in urban environments. Armor and artillery were lessened, the need for air mobility, gunship helicopters, and mixed units of special forces increased greatly, and forced military planners to redesign their combined arms strategy for a fluid battlespace.In comparison, when the US armed response came to A-stan after the attacks of September 11th, it was launched with a very small CIA SAD team armed with AKs and Browning Hi-Powers, and loaded down with millions in cash. There were no tanks or massive rolling armies, instead there were warriors and fighters on horseback, Special Forces team directing F-15s with lasers-guided bombs, and M4's getting dirty. The combined arms of the war in Afghanistan is a blend of the low-tech and high-tech. While Special Forces were going back to their roots of guerrilla warfare, they used spy satellites, UAVs, laser designators, gunships, and close air support, to pound the Taliban/AQ forces.
Elements of Modern Combined Arms
-Close Air Support (CAS)
The role of close air support (CAS) is primarily fulfilled by fighters, fighter-bombers, attack helicopters, and/or gunships. In the realm of modern warfare, CAS is one of the most critical elements for a battle either being a victory or defeat. In order for CAS to be effective, there several factors, one being the troops in the shit are able to communicate the location of where the munitions are needed, and where friendly forces are location in relationship to the enemy. This were GPS, laser designators, and combat controllers come in. Next, is distance, CAS aerocraft need to be close enough to the warzone to arrive within ten to fifteen minutes of the call, or else the point may be moot. One factor, that is often overlooked, is trained and skilled pilots to preform these bombing runs without killing the good guys. The last factor is that skies above the battlespace are firmly controlled, or else the CAS mission could be air combat mission or even SAR...
Attack helicopters, and soon, attack Tilt-rotors, do fulfill CAS roles on the battlefield, however, the attack helicopter is also used in other roles important to the combined arms unit. Aircraft, like the AH-64 Apache
were envisioned by NATO to be used in anti-tank roles, softening up the numeral advantage held by the old Warsaw Pact. During the Gulf War and The War in Iraq, attack helicopters were used in CAS operations in urban environments and anit-armor. Then during the operations in Afghanistan, attack choppers used their abilities to attack Taliban and AQ fighters in the dense mountain regions, were friend or foe are often burred.
The task of taking and holding ground as gone to the footsoldier since the beginning of warfare, and in the combined arms theory of warfare, it is still their primary role. Unlike heavy armored vehicles, Infantry units are able to operate conditions that trap or disable armored vehicles, like urban and jungle. During combined arms operation, infantry often are used to sweep-and-clear areas for any anti-tank mines or infantry wielding TOW missiles, then securing the frontline. When mankind does wage wars off-world, you can beat the infantry will be there.
The current main battle tank is the modern combination of the old horse Calvary and artillery that is able to be the main offensive push of the advancing forces, the spearhead. However, like all elements in the combined arms unit, everything as to work together in order to function as a successful military unit...while tanks are dealers in destruction, they have poor visibility, lessened air-defense, and need mechanized infantry to defense them against enemy infantry wielded anti-tanks weapons. In the last twenty years, military planners and governments have been favoring the fielding of main battle tanks only, eliminating the various mixed bag of light and medium tanks.
In a mechanized platoon, the Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) and/or the Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), serve as armored battle taxis, allowing infantry units to speed along with the spearheading armor, and the armor and armaments of the IFV/APC protect the soldiers on the way to the objective. During the Gulf War and War in Iraq, the traditional role of hauling infantry around in their hulls seemed to be subjugated by the HUMVEE, and the M2 Bradley seemed to entered into a role as an urban infantry vehicle and light tank.
Modern field artillery comes in two forms on the modern battlefield: self-propelled tank-like cannons (like the US Army 15mm M109) and more traditional cannons that need a vehicle to tow them into position. These two forms of field artillery can use either rockets or shells. The role of all this firepower at the hands of field artillery is to pound enemy positions to drive them to retreat or to crush the enemy force allowing for the advance of friendly units. Field artillery also support in-field units when the shit gets thick. With the changes in warfare over the last fifteen years, field artillery's role on the battlefield is being filled rapidly by close air support.
At present, orbital satellites assets allow for surveillance, communications, and in the future, orbital artillery support. Works like Gears of War
, Bubblegum Crisis, Akira,
have demonstrated the power of space-based artillery, and unlike ground-based artillery cannons, they much more difficult to destroy, and operation from a superior point-of-view, allowing for command of the battlefield situation. Space-based artillery could be much easier to deploy and unitized than conventional field-artillery or CAS. One can imagine specially trained soldiers with targeting devices similar to the Hammer-of-the-Dawn that access the satellite(s) in GSO, lock in a target, and then destroy them with either DEW or KEW systems. However, without protection from endoatmospheric fighters and/or GSO warships, the enemy could launcher missiles from fighters in the upper atmosphere, or strike from orbiting warships.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, like the Predator
have changed the face of intelligence gathers, warfare, and wetwork operations. Within the world of combined arms units, UAV can be overhead sending real-time data to the HQ on the battlefield. This allows commanders the ability to adapt to the changing conditions, and eliminates the need for risky flyover or scout missions, added to these eyes-on intel missions, UAVs can hang over the target area for 24 hours, watching, and then when the moment arrives, it strikes with its Hellfire mission, being being watcher and executioner .
With UAVs transforming in size, it soon will be possible for frontline units to deploy "backpack"or even bug-sized UAVs to scout a few miles ahead in all types of conditions, and send back the raw data to the unit on the ground in real-time. Unlike the successful and battlefield tested UAVs,. their ground-based cousin, the Unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) is waiting to prove its combat role. UGVs could be used to setup patrols while soldiers sleep, scout out terrain, enemy positions, watch the soldiers' backs, and be a cargo hauler. Some of the UGVs that are under developed, mount light machine guns, making them part of the combat team and one step closer to the ED-209 from Robocop
Special Operations Forces:
Special Forces Operators are unitized at times within combined arms, to be the eyes and ears of the big army. When the Operators use their skills for special assaults (like Somalia in 1993 or killing Bin Laden), or in the mountains of Tora-Bora, when DELTA and SBS were tagging targets for CAS. SOF units can be the eyes, ears, and claws of a larger combine arms force, like during Operation Anaconda, D-DAY, or even in the deserts of North African with SAS and their modified Jeeps. Most of the time, SOF soldiers do not operate in large mechanized units.
In the realm of military sci-fi, one of the most celebrated pieces of futuristic warmachine is Mecha, the walking tank that is about 10-15 meters tall, and weights between 20-100 tons, and according to most sources, powered by a fusion core and mounts impressive weaponry, more than several tanks. Within combined arms, mechs would served in terrain that does not allow traditional armored vehicles to operate, like jungles, urban (due to Mechas maneuverability), mountains, and mud conditions. Smaller urban combat mecha, similar to the Vietnam-era Ontos
tank, could support infantry during street-to-street urban battles. I don't believe that mecha would exist within a spearheading mechanized platoon of armored vehicles.
Armored Power Suit
In sci-fi, the famed powered armor of anime, manga, and Iron Man
hold the promise of making every soldier an Ubermensch, who commands the battlefield and lords over the normal infantry. Adding to the extra protect, powered armor, would allow for greater weapons to be carried, The promise of powered armor could alter warfare as we know it, however, when you look at the reality of the powered armor and within the concept of combined arms, the powered armor is just another part of the complete tactical picture. The role of powered armor in future warfare will not be the standard tool of the infantry, powered armor is just too expensive and the support staff needed would be massive. I can envision them for special assault, ship boarding, attached to spaceborne troops for securing drop zones, and urban operations.
During the Vietnam War, the concept of helicopter warfare was pioneered and forever placed into combined arms. Much like the horse Calvary of old, soldiers rode into battle, and rode out, sweeping down on the enemy. This ability of transporting soldiers quickly and directly into the battlespace as changed warfare, and killed off the old-style airborne drops, due to the soldiers are protected by the transports weapon systems and they drop in with ready for combat. It is not just troops and Operators that benefit from air mobility, some tanks, artillery pieces, and Jeeps can be air-lifted. The vehicles of deploying air mobility have gone from the UH-1 of Vietnam, to the UH-60 Blackhawk,
now to the MV-22 Osprey
, and in the future, it will be vehicles like ducted-fan Hunter-Killer aerial patrol vehicles from Terminator
Light Military 4x4 Vehicles
The original utility military vehicle, the famed Jeep, was developed in 1941 by American Bantam company, it was to be a replacement for the horse/mule, and was delivered from drawing board to prototype in 49 days. The military Jeeps were jack-of-all-trades, due to their off-road abilities, flexibility, and simply design. In modern warfare, Jeep-like vehicles are a critical element in Combined Arms, preforming all manner of tasks, from being a battle-taxi, infantry support vehicle, scout, and workhorse, but these class of vehicles are pretty much ignored by sci-fi writers. The tradition of the military Jeep lives on in J8, and all similar patterned vehicles, like the Russian GAZ, the British Land Ranger, and the Mahindra. As a side note, the most insane military 4x4? The 1980's Rambo-Lambo, the Lamborghini LM002.
Off-World Warfare and Combined Arms
Here are some topics to consider when talking about the reality fielding something like our modern combined arms units in off-world combat situations.
Why would an futuristic government that could settle exoplanets not be able to delivery the heavy goods to the front? In a word: Starlift capability. Starlift capability is one most critical elements in any futuristic army, and is how they can get the army from point A (most likely a space station, cargo ship or other planet) to point B. the FTL transport, then onto the battlezone, point C. Once the transport arrives in orbit around the planet, there is the ship-to-shore operation of hauling the vehicles, troops, and supplies down to the surface. This barely discussed in any work of sci-fi, only the ALIENS: The Colonial Marines Technical Manuel
layout the scale of the operation to project combined arms over lightyears. Here is a quote from ALIENS: The Colonial Marines Technical Manuel: The deployment of Colonial Marine Armor assets is limited by the availability of heavy starlift capability to transport both the tanks and their considerable logistic and service support.
Next Generation Armored Vehicles
When we consider the challenges of transporting armored vehicles from one world (or space station) to another off-world battlefield, we can see the alternation of what we presently understand to be an tank. Already the US military and DARPA are developing the GVX tanks that will crewed by two and light in weight and more maneuverable, and this could be what future main battle tanks that serve on off-world battlefields. In addition, these new tanks will be flex-fuel vehicles and low-maintenance to deal with varying conditions on the colonies.
Loss of the Orbital "High Ground"
Terrain and/or Hostile Environments
In the ALIENS: Colonial Marines Technical Manuel
, author Lee Brimmicombe-Wood states that planets are the only location worth the price of commenting the very expensive FTL ships to combat. Orbital space is the best piece of restate in off-world combat, the side that controls orbital space controls the ability to resupply their troops, reinforce, monitor the enemy's movements, and deploy satellites for C3 purposes...and best of all, orbital artillery. Imagine, if your side of a conflict gets wiped off of the high ground, you're at the mercy of the other's side abilities to rain down artillery from a position you cannot reach, you are watched, and worse off all, the other side as the upper hand at every engagement, no matter if it's dirtside or starside.
Terrain is one of the key elements in warfare, and for the entire history of humanity, we've been fighting on one world, but at some point (hopefully) the human race will get off-world, and commanders of armies will have to deal with fighting on worlds that I've never seen outside of a map. Added to this, these contested worlds could be not atmospheric standard (like Earth), this means that soldiers would be forced to fight in space suits. This factor would raise the casualty rates, complexity of bases, vehicles, and supplies, and morale would dip.
shows us how easy it can be...transporters teleport you instantly from ship-to-shore within a few seconds. Machines seemly construct food, tools, and toys from thin air...why not do that with tanks, gunships, killer robots? That is one element sci-fi creator need to take into account, far-future technology. Teleporting your vehicles from cargo holds onboard ship would be much easier than the other methods discussed here. Hell, why even store those vehicles and weapons? Why not construct them via replicators? One can imagine having a industrial replicator planetside that could build new tanks, guns, and supplies without the need for cargo modules or even ships in orbit....it just seems too easy. These Star Trek
high-tech devices are commonplace with their universe, but are never fully unitized by the writers for creating a far-future military, which is a real shame. Most sci-fi works that feature combined arms are constructed on the basis of near-future technology, even my own, it would have been nice to see something like Star Trek
demonstrate how their far future technology would be used on the planetside battlefield.
The ability to maintain communications on the battlefield, allowing for coordination between the different battlefield elements is key to victory and avoiding blue-on-blue fire. Just like in surgery or in a kitchen (just watch Hell's Kitchen
), communications is key to coordinating combine arms elements in the local battlespace for maximum lethality against the enemy. That means active and decatied command and control systems, either in orbital, at the FOB, or even riding into battle. This local battlenet would be one of the first targets of an enemy, and besides shelling the hub of their enemy's battlenet, they also could using "soft-kill" systems, in the form of computer viruses and attack programs (see Ghost in the Shell
on this subject). Given the scope of planetary future combat, if that battlenet was brought down, all of those fantastic lethal elements of combined arms is scattered, deaf, and mute, causing the enemy a giant opportunity to swing the conflict in their favor.
Contrary to most works of sci-fi, faster-than-light travel is not as like getting onto an highway on-ramp, and, at the moment, modern science as been unable to locate any hyperspace corridors. This means that FTL in a hard science universe is an commitment in terms of a lifetime. The reality of FTL travel involves massive amount of energy, time dilation, acceleration to light speed, then de-acceleration. All of this means that the supply chain for the combined arms units on-planet would be separated by vast gulfs of space and time, leading to the possibility these journeys to the warzone could be a one-time deal. All of the troops, supplies, warships, and vehicles in an FTL expedition would be the only force sent to the warzone, because reinforcements would a lifetime behind the soldiers on the front. This topic is heavily explored in the 1975 MSF founding classic, The Forever War
Endo/Exo Atmospheric Vehicles
When the armed FTL transports achieve GSO over the planetary battlesite, the process of getting their cargo down the gravity well begins. And the real question becomes where on the vast battlefield on a planetary scale do you drop in the combined arms vehicles and troopers? If you are invading a planet, then the need for secure drop-zones becomes paramount. This would fall to specialized troops and vehicles, like the ODST from the HALO
universe, and the spaceborne and SOF APS units from my book Endangered Species.
This concept is seen in a few video games, especially in military real-time strategy simulation games.
Combined Arms in Sci-Fi
Vehicles that can go up-and-down from a planet's surface with the easy of a helicopter, like HALO's Pelican,
the UD-4 Cheyenne
or the Raptor
from Battlestar Galactica
are simply not in keeping with the hard reality of science. The space shuttles fielded by the US and the USSR require booster rockets to be pushed beyond the grip of gravity, which entails massive launch platforms, support staff, and vast amounts of fuel. The idea of vehicles slipping from ship-to-shore and back again with the easy of what as been seen in science-fiction, is exactly that, science fiction. The unsexy truth of delivery vehicles, troops, and supplies from a ship in GSO down planetside would be accomplished via cargo modules. It is possible for there to be a few dual atmospheric fighter, like the SR-71, to move from the air to orbit and back, but not something similar to the attack helicopters. For there to be the futuristic equal to the Hind-D gunship for planetside combat, it would broken down, loading onto drop cargo modules, shipped down, then fully assembled down on the planet....all that means a secure drop zone, technical staff to assembly it and a base to support its operation.
It seems that sci-fi creators have no trouble conjuring up vast fleets of FTL warships that cross the Cosmo, but when it comes to futuristic planetside warfare, these same creators dream up soldiers wearing advanced powered armor, but nothing else. Added to this, warfare of the future is similar to the allied airborne drops of 1944, where only lightly armed soldiers are the only means of offensive warfare. So, we are to believe that a government that can field vast arrays of warships that travel beyond the speed of light, cannot afford or plan for their starborne infantry to have any support of any kind?! The real question is why sci-fi creators don't include combined arms in their tales of future warfare? My guess is that some authors focus so much on their narrative of future soldier's experiences during wartime, that they forget to round out the rest of military. Another idea, is since the experience of infantry combat is the most accessible to the general public (FPS video games, war movies, and paintball), they just direct all their creative energy on the footsloggers.
Of course, there is a bad tradition in MSF works to equate futuristic battlefields with the allied paratroopers of D-Day, in having lightly armed, highly trained soldiers that drop into the warzone to fight other infantry units. This is reflected in the founding classics of military science fiction, like Starship Troopers. For anyone that read this blog, and write stories that involve future war, please, for the love of the Lords of Kobol, either show combined arms warfare or tell us why there are not used in your fictional universe!
Examples of (or lack of) Combined Arms in Sci-Fi
The United Earth Forces and the Chigs from Space: Above and Beyond
is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi shows, and one of the few "pure" military Television sci-fi works. It saddens me to say this, when it came to the concept of Combined Arms, the show fails. SAAB
had the various Terran military of 2063 fielding nuclear-powered space carriers, attack dual-atmospheric fighters, and armored VTOL shuttles that transported soldiers to the distant shores, but often the show displayed marines combat units using only their rifles, no LMGs, little air cover, and only one tank (a modified M113 APC).
The Armies from the Warhammer 40K Universe
In most of the art for this landmark RPG, heavily armored and armed warriors are facing masses of alien hordes, all weapons are blazing, and people dying left and right. Normally, tucked away in these scenes of choas and blood are massive warmachines of all types. This combined arms approach to 41st millennium combat is due to Warhammer 40K
being a tabletop war simulation RPG, allowing players to many options with facing their friends on the battlefield. These warmachines vary from armored power suits, heavy tanks, gunships, mobile artillery pieces, and regular non-suited infantry. Even the infantry units, from the Space Marines to the lesser Imperial Guard, all have support weaponry of heavy machine guns, rockets, flame units, and motars.
The Battle of Hoth from Star Wars: TESB
It is odd to me, that a work of space fantasy, Star Wars
, manages to be one of the only sci-fi films to ever show two combined arm units engage in open classical warfare. This takes place on the icy ball of Hoth, and as the rebels using ground-based space artillery to disable incoming Star-Destroyers, while they evac the hell out. Somehow, despite the rebel alliance's ion cannons, the imperials land a massive force of heavy walkers, light scout walkers, snow-troopers, in unseen landing craft. The rebels strike back with entrenched troops, laser-based cannons, and snowspeeders. Oddly, the imperial landing force does not seem to bring any air support...allowing the snowspeeders to bring down a few AT-AT walkers without any contest.
The Battle of Geonosis from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
If one looks up "dogshit" in the encyclopedia then surely the Star Wars
prequel come up, especially the dumbass who named them. This is what I waited all of these years for? Despite the fact that Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
, is the worst named movies in history, it's end battle on Geonosis was a grand epic battle between armies both using combined arms that it is rarely seen in sci-fi films. The newly minted clone army fields close air support with their LAAT/i, support-propelled artillery cannons, and heavy walkers all backing up legions of clone troopers and Jedi leading them. The newly foamed Confederacy of Independent Systems also came to battle with armored walkers, droids, and air power.
The RDA SecOps from AVATAR
This film shows a realistic combined arms unit made up of only a few elements, but mount an impressive destructive power. The RDA's security personnel use air mobility to counter the Nav'is use of the dense and hostile jungle. What is interesting about the use of combined arms in Avatar
is the use of the Dragon
assault ship, as an C&C vessel, heavy fire support to the Samson
VTOL craft, and able to deploy Amp combat suits via bomb-bay like doors, making the Dragon
one of the more creative designs I've seen in many years. On the ground, the RDA security operations soldiers use various configurations of their CARB caseless rifles, and are backed up with heavy fire support via the 30mm hand-cannon. The Nav'i also mounted an combined arms army of their own to deal with the RDA threat.
The Starfleet Marines? from the Star Trek Universe
I'll confess something, when I was a kid, I wanted to serve in Starfleet of the movies era, I wanted to wear the uniform and serve on an Excelsior
class vessel. But, now, I realize that the Federation that spans 8,000 Lightyears and is composed of over 150 members is somehow void of any ground forces. Really?! The armed response to an hostile alien invasion of one of their colonies is to security personnel and a non-movable cannon?! Even sadder is the fact that the big bad enemies of the Federation, the Klingons, the Romulans, and the Dominion, all lack any sort of combined arms of any kind. However, in the 1980's RPG universe created by FASA in the 1980's, there was the Starfleet Marines, and I believe some ground vehicles, but of course, these were all non-canon and died when the studio pulled the licence from FASA.
The Warriors of Armor
In one of the founding classics of military science fiction, John Steakley was attempting in Armor
, to remake Starship Troopers
with more action and less politics. In the book, Terra is defeating its colonies from an aggressive species of spaceborne ants. The main weapon of this war, is the APS-encased warriors armed with "Blazers" DEW rifles. However, there is no mention of aircraft, tanks, or even artillery is made in the book, some of these elements of combined arms may have been filled by several other types of powered armor that the scout verison seen in the book.
The Mobile Infantry from the 1997 Starship Troopers Film
The sad thing is that the 1997 Starship Troopers
film is the most pure military sci-fi film to date, and it sucks. The first time I saw Starship Troopers
I noticed that the Terran Federation, which could field a vast fleet of FTL warships, sends legions of soldiers down to the homeworld of their enemy, with nothing in the way of heavy support? Hell, the Mobility Infantry doesn't even give them a machine gun! The only support seems to come from these soft-ass landers with a puny cannon and a micro-nuclear launcher(!). The mighty fleet does not aid the MI with any sort of space-based artillery bombardment of the planet, and only once do we use of the TAC fighters...all-in-all, pretty shitty combined arms. This all speaks to either the view of the MI by the Terran Federation, as cannon-fodder, or the simple lack of imagination from Paul Verhoeven and his writing crew.
The Mobile Infantry from the 1959 Starship Troopers Book
In the 1958 founding classic of military sci-fi, the Terran Federation flexes it power via their use of powered armor, and Rico mentions that three different classes of suits exist...but it seems that the suits mount little in the way of small-arms (unless you call atomic grenades small-arms), and from the raid on Skinny cities at the opening of the book (and the best part), it seems that the APS are used for mobility...similar to second world war paratroopers. This book and the future military would be the template for most sci-fi authors to this very day. There is no mention of any other type of MI combat machinery other than the powered armor.
The UN Taskforce from The Forever War
In another founding classic of military science fiction, we see yet another powered armor using future military fielding soldiers with little or support of any kind. This seems odd to me, since the author served in Vietnam and saw the effect of in-field artillery and CAS. However, in the graphic novels, it clearly shows tanks, APCs, and CAS support, making the earth response more well-rounded. My hope, is that the upcoming Forever War
film uses the graphic novel as the template.
The Colonial Marines of the ALIENS Universe
The first (as far as I know) on-screen realistic futuristic combine arms units was seen in 1986's ALIENS
. The small United States Colonial Marines rapid response unit that took off from Gateway Station was outfitted with a massive amount of firepower and mobility for such a small unit. If we take from what was shown on screen, this unit of marines had a fully outfitted M577 APC with a number of support weaponry from anti-armor and anti-air, couple this with Hudson exclaims to Ripley.
"I'm ready, man. Check it out! I am the ultimate bad-ass! State of the bad-ass art! You do not want to fuck with me. Check it out! Hey, Ripley, don't worry. Me and my squad of ultimate bad-asses will protect you! Check it out. Independently targeting particle-beam phalanx. WHAP! Fry half a city with this puppy. We got tactical smart missiles, phase plasma pulse rifles, RPGs. We got sonic, electronic ball breakers! We got nukes, we got knives, we got sharp sticks".
Then there is the ubercool UD-4 Cheyenne
Dropship. The small marine unit is transport from ship-to-shore via a heavily armed dropship that can be used from hot-drops, hot evacs, and for CAS. Within the colonial marine squad, their are flame units, two machines, and riflemen outfitted with grenade launchers. If the marine squad needed to secure a parameter, than they carry four sentry cannons. Very cool. More thought and effort were made in just these few concepts than most author's entire series of books. ALIENS
...the best damn MSF film ever!
The Combined Arms of the Hammer's Slammers Universe
One of the earliest examples of Combined Arms in military science fiction is the far future military of Hammer's Slammers
. Once again, I must confess that I've not read Hammer's Slammers,
it sits on my night table, waiting in-line to be read. However, from what I able to pull off of the internet and the Hammer's Slammers
tabletop RPG website, this work seems to feature mechanized infantry, tanks of various classes, and gunships. All of this was expanded by various RPG games and miniatures. The heart of the Hammer's Slammers
universe was the air-cushioned, fan-inducted grav-tank.
The Inner Sphere Armies from the Battletech Universe
Back in the mid-1980’s, I along with my brother and his friends all played Battletech by FASA. The favorite of our household was Citytech, which came with infantry units, tanks, and APCs. At times, my brother and his friends would give the normal ground force, and use the mecha to crush me. Other times, we attempted to use the ground forces and the mechs to form a combined arms unit. However, the ground units were always at the mercy of the mecha. This changed when FASA introduced the Clans and forced the Inner Sphere forces to utilize all of their military power. Most of the attention by players and the company were on the main product of the Battletech universe was Mecha and mech-combat. While it would have been easy for FASA to focus the attention on mech-on-mech combat, there were a vast number of non-mecha combat vehicles featured in the Technical Readouts, and some of the later games. Adding to range of traditional combat vehicles were infantry, gunships, submarines, and blue water naval vessels. The Mechwarrior Xbox games featured all of these attacking our mech...I normally crushed the infantry under my metal feet...
The Forces of GROPOS from the Babylon 5 Universe
was a show that mainly focused on space battles in a space opera setting, not planetside combat. However, during the episode GROPOS
, we see 25,000 Earth Force Marines being supported by several VTOL Valkyrie
gunships during an assault on an alien walled fortress.This led to an tabletop RPG combat miniature game called GROPOS by Agents of Gaming that featured ground combat units for all of the major races, expect for the Vorlon. This game had each race with mechanized infantry, VTOL gunships, and several classes of tanks, included with he infantry were heavy weapons. It is too bad we never saw this in the TV series.
The UNSC and the Covenant from the HALO Universe
If you look at the UNSC's tools of war, they seem somewhat limited, however, these few vehicles can be modified for various uses, like the Pelican
dropship and the Warthog
recon-vehicle, and be deployed rapidly from ship-to-shore via the Pelican
that itself can be transformed from transport to gunship with a few attachments. Both sides of the war between the Covenant and the UNSC use combined arms in the form of gunships/transports, Jeep-like vehicles, field artillery, tanks, and infantry with various heavy arms. I am impressed with the level of thought that when into the concept of the UNSC planetside forces, especially since Bungie ripped-off
The RDF/REF from the ROBOTECH Universe
is a massive saga of three generations fighting for Earth against three invasions of aliens over the science of Robotech, and this leds to the Robotech Defenders to develop three generations of military technology. The first series, Macross
, was mainly devoted to the Veritech tri-transform aircraft and the SDF-1 during their year old journey through the solar system, there were times of various other non-transformable mecha and ground soldiers in the fight.By the time the Robotech Masters showed up, the Armies of the South Cross were a vastly different military than the days of the SDF-1, with gunships, legions of armored infantry, artillery, transformable tanks, faced off against an limited Robotech Master military of large powered armor.The broken Armies of the Southern Cross were no match for the hungry Invid, and only the distant Robotech Expeditionary Force offered any hope of liberation. I must confess, the third generation of Robotech Defenders is my favorite, and as some of the coolest mecha. The REF combined arms was built around a futuristic blitzkrieg, where Alpha/Beta fighters, motorcycle mounted infantry, and heavy ground vehicles coupled with next-gen Zentraedi mecha rush into battle...this may be due to the REF being far from their supply lines, and limited in their number of soldiers. However, for much of the New Generation
series, Scott Bernard rebel group was limited to a few fighters and Cyclones. Really, really, wished they had made Robotech II: The Sentinels
The Forces of Skynet from the Terminator Universe
In the war against the humans, the defense supercomputer Skynet
used a vast array of warmachines produced in automated factories that were
being updated to be more effective killers. From aerial and ground units,
Skynet used to form a lethal combined arms force, to patrol the ruins of human
civilization. When the opportunity presented itself, Skynet would deploy massive
amount of Hunter-Killer tanks, aerial units, walker mechs, and Terminators to
press and destroy the human resistance force.
Engagements on this scale were
rare in the post-Judgment Day world. When it came to the human resistance,
especially under John “The Bear” Conner, combined arms were a rare sight. Human
aircraft were often lacking fuel, parts, and experienced personnel by 2029. The
say was true of the surviving pre-war tanks and armored vehicles. Most of the
human mobile firepower came in the form of retrofitted junk vehicles recovered
from outside the main nuclear detonation sites. Stolen Skynet heavy plasma
cannons and some shoulder fired rockets made up the firepower. Humans often
engaged in guerrilla warfare and not direct action. The dark future battle
scenes of Terminator II are some of
the most iconic in sci-fi of combined arms… I mean who could forget the images
of Skynet's machines patrolling through the ruins of LA and the air?
The Starfist book series
From what I can figure from the cover-art and a few pages, the Confederation Marine Corps uses limited combined arms during their off-world engagements. However, I cannot speak if the combined arms exist in the books, because, this is another one of those long-run MSF book series that I've not read yet. However, during trips to bookstores, I have done some light reading one a ew of the books in the series. They are on my list of books to buy and at some point, thee will be a review for FWS.
The ISA and Helghast forces from the Killzone Universe
Both the ISA and Helghast forces make use of light combined arts vehicles, from Jeeps, light tanks, boats, APCs, and VTOL transports. However, rarely do these elements seem together, into a fully integrated combined arms unit, this is still a game about shooting.
Various Military Organizations from the Old Man's War Universe
Most of you know that I think that Old Man's War
is one of the finest military science fiction books...however, when it comes to demonstrating the concept of futuristic combined arms, these books fail. These books show a war between many species for colonial worlds, and Earth via the Colonial Defense Forces is trying to stake out their claims on exo-planet territory...and trying to keep it. The CDF's armed response to the alien threats is their highly advanced soldiers and weapons, and Skip-Drive equiped warships. However, these soldiers are on their own against the aliens...neither Old Man's War
or The Ghost Brigades
show the CDF using any sort of combined arms to defend worlds like Coral. Pity....all the effort and thought that was put into these books by Mr. Scalzi simply ends when one thinks about the reality of a military being made of starships and infantry...even if they are ubermensch.
The Cylon and Colonial Fleet Forces from the Battlestar Galactica Universe
The central plot of BSG
is about the ragtag fleet and the last colonial Battlestar, not ground combat, so little hardware was shown in the series, mainly its toasters vs, humans in ground combat. There were a few uses of AAA missile batteries, mortars, and CAS, but given the story and the role of the battlestar, it is a logical. I do wonder, during the Occupation of New Caprica, the Cylons make use of military heavy trucks...where did they come from? Galactica
? In the classic BSG
, the colonial warriors used a tracked armed vehicle called a Landram that was delivered on planet via the colonial shuttles. Despite having the Vipers, and some ground operations during the run of BSG
, there is not any examples of CAS...odd. The Landram does make an appearance in the new BSG
, during the episode "Scar", on the mining asteroid...blink and you miss it.
The Factions of the Starcraft Universe
Ignoring the story for a minute, the Starcraft games are massive popular military strategy game that is
centered on the use of futuristic combined arms in concert to defend two their
enemies. Each faction with the Starcraft universe
use different variations of combined arms. However, unlike other future
military combined arms units, Starcraft
allows for the use of powered armor marines, siege tanks, gunships, and other
alien military units. Like any good field commander, the players of Starcraft have manage and utilize their
The TG and RL from the Renegade Legion Centurion Universe
Back when FASA was turning out gold, one of their more interesting products was the Renegade Legion
universe of war-games. According to the RPG's backstory, in the 69th century, the galaxy spanning Terran Overlord Government is attempting to crush the last resistance to their rule, the Renegade Legion. are the resistance. Both sides of the endless war in the 69th century is fought using fighters, anti-gravity tanks, fighters, infantry.
Battle Engine Aquila
This is an 2003 PS2/Xbox/PC video game that takes place on world swallowed up by raising seawaters after climate change. This climate results in a bloody war between two surviving governments on the alien world of Allium. During this war between the Muspell and the Foseti, and is waged over the last of dry land and resources. The Muspell, the industrial and military power is staging invasions of the more peacefull and green energy Foseti, in response, the Foseti developed the Battle Engine, a transforming mecha that switches from a short-range fighter to "gerwalker", which unitized different weapons. During the war, the Aquila is used to overcome the Muspell superior and the weakness of the Foseti, during massive battles between combined arms units. This is a rather odd, but good game that is original, still have it for my Xbox. FWS will be reviewing Battle Engine Aquila
in a future blogpost.