Mechanized infantry are infantry equipped with armored personnel carriers (APCs), or infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) for transport and combat (see also mechanized force).
Mechanized infantry is distinguished from motorized infantry, which is transported to battle by trucks or wheeled armored vehicles, in that their vehicles provide a degree of protection from hostile fire, as opposed to "soft-skinned" wheeled vehicles (trucks or jeeps). Most APCs and IFVs are fully tracked, or are all-wheel drive vehicles (6×6 or 8×8), for mobility across rough ground.
The support weapons for mechanized infantry are also provided with motorized transport, or are built directly into combat vehicles, in order to keep pace with the mechanized infantry in combat. For units equipped with most types of APC or any type of IFV, fire support weapons such as machine guns, autocannons, small-bore direct-fire howitzers, and even anti-tank guided missiles are often mounted directly on the infantry's own transport vehicles.
Compared with "light" (foot-mobile) infantry or motorized infantry, mechanized infantry can maintain rapid tactical movement and (if mounted in IFVs) possess more integral firepower. They require more combat supplies (ammunition and especially fuel) and ordnance supplies (spare vehicle components), and a comparatively larger proportion of their manpower is required to crew and maintain the vehicles.
For example, most APCs mount a section of seven or eight infantrymen but have a crew of two. Most IFVs carry only six or seven infantry but require a crew of three. To be effective in the field, mechanized units also require large numbers of mechanics with specialized maintenance and recovery vehicles and equipment.
Arguably, the first mechanized infantry were 36 two-man infantry squads carried forward by Mark V* tanks at the Battle of Amiens in 1918. In a battle of such scale, their contribution went unnoticed.
Towards the end of World War I, all the armies involved were faced with the problem of maintaining the momentum of an attack. Tanks, artillery or infiltration tactics could all be used to break through an enemy defense, but almost all the offensives launched in 1918 ground to a halt after a few days. Pursuing infantry quickly became exhausted, and artillery, supplies and fresh formations could not be brought forward over the battlefields quickly enough to maintain the pressure on the regrouping enemy.
It was widely acknowledged that cavalry was too vulnerable to be used on most European battlefields, although many armies continued to deploy them. Motorized Infantry could maintain rapid movement, but their trucks required either a good road network, or firm open terrain (such as desert). They were unable to traverse a battlefield obstructed by craters, barbed wire and trenches. Tracked or all-wheel drive vehicles were to be the solution.
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