Time for some fun. Today we are going to look at the armored company, the building block of armored forces. Please note the semantics of names – it is intentional.
This company is very similar to the heavy armored cavalry regiment organization at the end of the Cold War and into Iraq. The mix of tank, infantry fighting vehicles, and mortars at the company level is a solid mix. I’ve added in a few things to reflect a challenging world.
The Armored Company is much bigger than the current Armor Company, Mechanized Infantry Company, or Armored Cavalry Troop. The Armored Company included 26 armored vehicles, 9 wheeled vehicles, and 157 total personnel in its organic form. Organizationally, the Armored Company comprises of a Headquarters Section, two Tank Platoons, two Armored Infantry Platoons, a Fires Platoon, and a Maintenance Section. Importantly, it is a well balanced force that is capable of independent operations across the full spectrum of warfare. As you peruse the pictures below, you will see vehicle bumper numbers/call signs, duty positions and ranks for illustrative purposes.
The Headquarters Section is fairly representative of current headquarters sections. The Company Commander has a tank, the executive officer a Bradley, and the First Sergeant a personnel carrier. The M1283 is slowly replacing the M113 of Vietnam vintage in the role of the personnel carrier.
In both the attack and the defense, the commander and the executive officer provide a major part of both firepower and command and control. The first sergeant provides command post for the company, helping keeping track of the battle from a different perspective. I’ve added a sniper team and a designated UAV operator to assist with developing the battlefield, while being able to provide surgical targeting. The medic’s armored medical evacuation vehicle generally won’t charge into the fighting alone and pairs up with first sergeant or the company recovery vehicle.
The headquarters section’s wheeled vehicles become part of the company trains, back from the fight. Still, the vehicles need to be armored because indirect fire happens. The command team of the company can use the wheeled vehicles for travel that does not require a tank. Additionally, those vehicles only have one assigned soldier to trim the force some. The risk of a solo soldier assigned to a vehicle is mitigated by the vehicle staying with the trains. The supply truck pulls an 800 gallon water tank.
The two Tank Platoons are pretty standard stuff. The organization of the tank platoon has changed little over the course of time. Each platoon has an A Section and a B Section, the smallest size the platoon can break down. The equal number of tank sections and infantry sections comes into play when you consider running split section platoons. This is the reason for two platoons of each. This allows the commander to tailor the force easily within the company for missions. In Sadr City, we ran a modified split section of two tanks and one Bradley and part of a squad.
Now we depart somewhat from the traditional force. The Armored Company has two Armored Infantry Platoons. Again, the matching with the Tank Platoons enables robust options for task organizing and it also ensures higher commanders can select companies for missions based on talents instead of simply equipment.
While the two sections of Bradleys is standard, the organization of the dismounts is different. Traditionally, the mechanized infantry platoon has three squads. Let’s unpack the rational for the change. First off, the number of seats dictates the number of troops. While you can fit seven into the back of a Bradley, modern fighting kit makes it a tight squeeze. When dismounting under fire, ergonomics actually does matter. I’m capping my Brads at six troops in the back. Any extra space can be used for ammo or equipment.
There are two squads, so a split section organization does not result in a split up squad like currently the case. Each of the two squads still has the pair of fire teams, in a familiar organization. Now the squad has a weapons team. The two members report to the squad leader. One is the Javelin ATGM gunner and the other the machine gunner. Depending on the mission, they can leave the needed weapon(s) and be assistant gunner to the other. If clearing a building and neither weapon is needed, the team can augment the two fire teams.
The two 11 soldier squads leave two seats in the Bradleys. The Platoon Leader has a soldier who’s dedicated job is to slide up into the turret after the Platoon Leader dismounts with the squads. It is vital to have a fully crewed vehicle in a fight. The Platoon Sergeant has the medic.
The Fires Platoon is a major change from the current and traditional organizations. The Armored Company’s Fire Platoon has three roles: Foreward Observers to call for and adjust indirect fire, a 120mm mortar section to provide organic indirect fire support, and an air defense squad.
The M7A3 BFIST is a dedicated forward observation vehicle the Army uses. Importantly, it looks like the other Bradleys. The FIST includes a SUAV. This is in addition to the one in the headquarters section, allowing the Armored Company to use one for targeting while the other for reconnaissance. The pilot has a forward observer to allow focused roles so nobody is juggling flying with working up a fire mission. The platoon leader is the Armored Company’s artilleryman forward observer, the expert in indirect fire.
The mortar section has 120mm mortars. In the mortar world, this is the biggest we have. 81mm is a great choice based on the size of the warhead, but the range is the reason 120mm is needed for the Armored Company. The company needs a system that can out-range the majority of enemy ATGM platforms and 81mm would have to be at the very pointy tip of the formation to achieve parity with most ATGM ranges. The mortar section needs to be farther back. One of the other key considerations for having mortars in the company, is high angle fires are often more useful than the more shallow angle tube or rocket artillery.
The air defense squad has a Bradley to ride in. The Army officially parted ways with the Bradley Stinger vehicle, which had the TOW launcher replaced by a Stinger surface-to-air missile (SAM) launcher a long time ago. I’ll still reference their ride as a BSTING though, pulling the TOW racks out of the troop compartment and putting Stinger racks in. (I know those are still in storage somewhere.). The dismounts of the squad have a Stinger team and a Electronic Warfare anti-drone system. Small UAV are hard to target with direct fire, though I would sure try, and near impossible with a missile. Electronic Warfare systems are promising and exist. The Armored Company needs it.
The final piece of the Fires Platoon is the platoon sergeant’s ammo vehicle. The mortar carrier vehicles don’t hold all that many rounds, and having more under armor and readily accessible may well make the difference. This also allows the platoon to have a variety of rounds in sufficient quantities for changing threat environments. I’d also want some extra Stingers.
The final piece of the Armored Company is the Maintenance Team. The team has three elements. The armored recovery vehicle, the shop, and the mobile contact team. The Maintenance Team is lead by the maintenance team chief. Some changes from the current organization is replacing the 5 ton parts truck with a PLS and trailer. The fleet is double the size and has more variety, so a unit basic load needs more parts. The extra space can also serve as the baggage train, allowing the the headquarters section’s 5 ton M1083 to concentrate on bringing supplies forward instead of serving as a storage unit. The pair of tool contact trucks instead of standard trucks allows the team to perform more maintenance at the tracked vehicle’s location instead of forcing it to return to the shop’s location.
The Headquarters Section’s wheeled vehicles will generally stay with the shop when the company is on the move or in the fight, forming the company trains.