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My understanding is that motorized infantry have greater combat value than "standard" infantry (foot soldiers armed with rifles, or perhaps machine guns), over and above their greater mobility.

Do the vehicles give motorized infantry better protection? Do the vehicles carry firepower over and above what their soldiers are carrying? Or do the soldiers carry heavier weapons because they are being transported?

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I think it would be a better question for area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/26843/military –  Felix Goldberg Mar 6 '13 at 13:50
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...if it existed –  T.E.D. Mar 6 '13 at 14:30
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maybe an edit on time period would better help people answer your question. –  franklin Mar 6 '13 at 15:30
    
@FelixGoldberg: I'd be willing to have the question moved to the military site if and when it opens. For now, this is the "best" place for it. –  Tom Au Mar 7 '13 at 23:13
    
Just want to head of some confusion. Motorised Infantry have access to vehicles for mobility between fights. Army trucks have traditionally filled this role but more armoured vehicles like Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle are used nowadays for better protection (with ieds in mind). Mechanized infantry are the guys with the APCs and IFVs, that use the vehicles aggressively and maintain mobility sometimes under fire. –  Nathan Cooper Mar 22 '13 at 18:08
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6 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

here are a few reasons motorized infantry are superior.

  • Motorized infantry are in the cover of an armored vehicle until deployed to fight drastically limiting their exposure.
  • Vehicles transporting infantry can be outfitted with heavy machine guns and anti-tank missiles.
  • Mounted guns can be significantly larger than what a person could carry.
  • Smaller machine guns can be used that could be carried by a person, but by mounting them accuracy can be improved and the shooter can be better shielded.
  • Vehicles can have more powerful sensor arrays that can provide more and better information than previously possible. Technology is advancing to the point where this is starting to be less relevant.
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Interesting question. Believe me I'm no military expert but the strategic value of motorized infantry is two fold:

(1) Speed. As you mentioned before, this is probably the greatest advantage.

(2) Towing capacity. Obviously trucks, motorbikes and the like optimized for military usage have a much greater towing capacity. They are able to deploy heavier equipment, weapons or provisions into the field allowing infantry to spend more man hours on the ground. Otherwise foot soldiers would rely primarily on...well foot. Marches. Some trucks may have pintle mounted weapons like light machine guns or grenade launchers.

The problem is that many motorized trucks that are not cavalry (i.e. tanks, APCs, IFVs) are not armored enough to provide a real tactical advantage in terms of infantry engagements. But the greatest power lies in rapidly deploying forces to areas of need allowing quicker and more precise responses to enemy advances. In other words speed and carrying power are probably the biggest advantages.

Take a look at these:

M3 Halftrack

German Armored Recon. Vehicles

Soviet armored car

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i assume that you're asking this from a World War II perspective. if not @Ryathal's answer may be better. some of the advantages offered by mobilized infantry are no longer noticeable as technology has improved and rendered certain features obsolete. –  franklin Mar 6 '13 at 15:30
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I would add few other notices over great advatange of speed:

  • morale effect: derives from mobility, simply the soldiers in a motorized infantry feel less trapped in situations since if there is a strategic retreat, their mobility is higher, so they have higher chance not to get chased by enemy.
  • fatigure advatange: this is not closely related to speed, but worths to mention they don't have to walk tens of miles/kilometers, they won't be that tired after a movement order.
  • They can carry more and heavier supplies.

And some drawbacks:

  • They are dependent on fuel. Obvious.
  • They are more dependent on weather. Just remember muddy ugly war terrain where the motorized infantry have to struggle with stucked armoured cars.
  • They are more dependent on good supply of spare parts of cars, and repair support. Those cars won't work forever without maintainance.
  • They are more costy. Obvious. You can release several dozens of people with a simple gun and some clothes and supply items on the cost of one car without crew.

Did I miss something?

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Another drawback is that they can isolate the soldiers from the battlefield - they can neither observe nor react as effectively as they could on foot. –  RI Swamp Yankee Mar 6 '13 at 16:14
    
weather affects troops on foot as well. Would be interesting to see a study comparing the relative effects of different adverse weather conditions. As to isolation, common practice in many armies is to have the APC/AIFV transport the troops to the lines under cover, then serve as fire support and maybe headquarters/radio post while the troops are on foot in its vicinity. –  jwenting Mar 7 '13 at 7:10
    
@jwenting far from me to say weather don't affect troops as well, but a motorized infantry can get completly stucked by a very muddy day, in the same time the same effect slows down the troop. It would worth to search on this topic: weather and army relations. –  CsBalazsHungary Mar 7 '13 at 8:46
    
@RI Swamp Yankee you are wrong, motorized infantry is always deployed on foot when engaged. There is no purpose of keeping numbers of people inside transporters. –  Anixx Mar 13 '13 at 10:10
    
@Anixx - They use them a bit differently as of late; often patrols will be done entirely inside an AFV of some description, usually an armored humvee or MRAP. –  RI Swamp Yankee Mar 13 '13 at 16:35
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I want to add one more note. In Soviet Army (and Russian Ground Forces) commander of the AFV (BMP-1, BMP-2, etc.) commands infantry platoon attached to this vehicle too. Obviously, cooperation between infantry and AFV would be better.

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I rode an armored personnel carrier in combat in Vietnam and Cambodia. From my personal experience I would agree with what others have said, only emphasizing the advantage of much greater supplies of food, water, and particularly ammunition. I am a lifetime member of the "plenty more where that came from" school of thought.

Another plus not mentioned was that when you stood atop a personnel carrier, your head was twice as far off the ground, making it easier to relate the ground around you to the images in the military photo map in your hand. These days, GPS does a better job assisting the ground pounder with the art of land navigation.

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My time to add something. Don't forget about the logistic. For example, motorized infantry has definitely bigger chances to provide good medical service to wounded soldiers, or take them out of the battlefield even during the fights.

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otoh the increased demands on the supply chain to provide the fuel for the vehicles can be a big burden. Double edged sword there. –  jwenting Mar 11 '13 at 20:30
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