Combined arms

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Ramses II at Kadesh.jpgGustavus Adolphus at the Battle at Breitenfeld.jpgM1A1 abrams front.jpg Military history

Combined arms is 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). Combined arms doctrine contrasts with segregated arms where each military unit is composed of only one type of soldier or weapon system. Segregated arms is the traditional method of unit/force organisation, employed to provide maximum unit cohesion and concentration of force in a given weapon or unit type.

Though the lower-echelon units of a combined arms team may be of homogeneous types, a balanced mixture of such units are combined into an effective higher-echelon unit, whether formally in a table of organization or informally in an ad hoc solution to a battlefield problem. For example an armored division — the modern paragon of combined arms doctrine — consists of a mixture of infantry, tank, artillery, reconnaissance, and perhaps even helicopter units, all coordinated and directed by a unified command structure.

Also, most modern military units can if the situation requires it call on yet more branches of the military, such as fighter or bomber aircraft or naval forces, to support their operations. The mixing of arms is sometimes pushed down below the level where homogeneity ordinarily prevails, for example by temporarily attaching a tank company to an infantry battalion.


Ancient warfare

Combined arms operations dates back to antiquity, where armies would usually field a screen of skirmishers to protect their spearmen during the approach to contact. Especially in the case of the Greek hoplites however, the focus of military thinking lay almost exclusively on the heavy infantry. In more elaborate situations armies of various nationalities fielded different combinations of light, medium, or heavy infantry, cavalry, chariotry, camelry, elephantry, and artillery (mechanical weapons); for example the ancient Persian army. Combined arms in this context was how to best use the cooperating units, variously armed with side-arms, spears, or missile weapons in order to coordinate an attack in time and space that would best disrupt and then destroy the enemy.

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