Military Terminology

Note: Nochtish and Ayvartan doctrine differs on the size of unit formations and their organization, as well as their ranks. These are just the basics.

Encirclement: Cutting an enemy from its supply lines or isolating it from supporting units by surrounding it with troops. Because an effective unit must expend supplies such as ammunition and food to fight back, encirclement will whittle down and ultimately defeat any unit no matter how powerful it is if it cannot resupply. Avoiding encirclement while encircling the enemy’s troops is one of the most important aspects of all warfare, whether large scale or small unit.

Enfilade: Effective fire from a flanking position that can cover the length of an enemy’s line.

Engineers: Responsible for construction, demolition and repair duties, and consultation. Combat Engineers are also often responsible for attacking enemy fortifications and obstacles, as well as the destruction or creation of bridges and other mobility support structures.

Flank: An exposed side of the enemy’s formations. Often flanking attacks are delivered diagonal or perpendicular to a column. Successful ambushes can potentially strike at the rear of a small formation (but not likely at the “rear” echelon of a large unit like a Division).

Formations: Combat unit composed of multiple troops. Below are the compositions used in The Solstice War.

  • Squad: A group of around 10-13 combat soldiers, the lowest level tactical unit.
  • Platoon: A group of 3-4 squadrons along with a small leadership cadre. ~30-50 people.
  • Company: A group of 3-4 platoons along with supporting staff. ~100-250 people.
  • Battalion: A group of 3-4 companies along with supporting staff. ~400-1000 people.
  • Regiment: A group of 3-4 battalions along with supporting staff and regimental support units such as regimental artillery and engineering. Some of these support units can also be present at the Battalion level or (to a very small extent) Company level. Commonly held as the first truly Strategic unit, capable of some independent operation. ~3000-5000 people.
  • Brigade: An independent group of Battalions working outside the ordinary composition. Smaller than a Division but larger than a Regiment and often created from the remnants of other formations. 4000-8000 people, but composition varies wildly. Often formed in emergencies.
  • Division: A group of 3-4 regiments along with divisional staff and divisional support units. First truly self-sufficient strategic combat unit. ~10,000-15,000 people.
  • Corps: A group of 2-3 (or 3-4, depending) divisions along with higher-level staff. Ayvartan corps were disbanded during demilitarization. Nocht employs a few dedicated Corps shells like the 1st Vorkampfer. Corps staff tend to be more focused on logistics than Divisional staff.
  • Army: A group of 3-4 corps along with army-level staff. Ayvartan army shells were disbanded during demilitarization and reorganized as “battlegroups.” Nocht employs Army Shells called “Task Forces.” ~100,000-300,000 people. Bread and butter strategic unit.
  • Front: An Ayvartan and Svechthan-exclusive formation of 3-5 armies. Ayvartan Fronts were disbanded during demilitarization and never replaced. Nocht does not employ this level of formation. Currently no significant Fronts are in operation. ~400,000 to 1 million people.

Defilade: Defenses erected such that the unit is properly shielded from enemy fire.

Logistics: Capability to support military operations at any level, and analysis thereof.

Mechanized: An infantry formation that has armored vehicles that carry them and fight alongside them. Mechanized troops dismount from their vehicles before fighting too, but then their vehicles follow them into combat and support them. With good leadership, they can be even deadlier than a Motorized or Tank division; however, they are often expensive to support, since the logistics must account for both large numbers of troops that need food, medical attention and ammunition, alongside their resource-hungry armored vehicles that need fuel, spare parts, heavy ammo, and regular maintenance.

Motorized: An infantry formation that has wheeled vehicles (usually trucks and cars) to ferry it quickly between combat areas. Motor troops dismount from their vehicles before fighting, since their vehicles are often unarmored. However, the fact that they can cover distances faster and redeploy quickly between battles makes them more versatile and useful than unmotorized rifle divisions in the right circumstances.

Officers: People who make decisions. Lower level officers make tactical decisions such as directing fire to crucial targets and organizing forces within enemy territory. Higher level officers make strategic decisions, drafting overarching plans,  choosing the level of commitment, and consuming information about the conflict.

Penetration: Successfully defeating enemy defenses and advancing to a point behind their current front lines. Generally, a truly successful penetration threatens the enemy’s rear echelon in some way, and is not merely “any movement that advances a unit into enemy territory.”

Rear Echelon: An important operational area where the enemy keeps or moves supplies, houses their commanding officers and staff, stations their unprepared reserve forces, and keeps other potentially vulnerable and important assets. Successfully threatening and attacking an enemy’s Rear Echelon will create disarray among its frontline combat units, and can often either force a retreat or outright defeat the formation in question.

Reserves: Units not yet committed to a battle. An Operational Reserve includes combat-ready units that could join the fight at any moment. Most units have a reserve from which they draw reinforcements, and good timing of reserve commitments can swing a battle in one’s favor. However, a formation may also contain refitting reserves or arriving reserves who may not be combat-ready, and who must be guarded until they are as fully prepared as your frontline units.

Riflemen/women: Equipped with bolt-action, full-powered battle rifles. Standard soldier.

Salient: Status of a unit that has successfully penetrated enemy territory but is surrounded on three sides by the enemy. A salient can be extremely useful if well-supported because it could potentially penetrate to the rear echelon of the enemy’s formations. But it is always in danger of being encircled, and committing to expanding a salient must be done carefully. A salient is not always actively fighting on three fronts — if it gets bogged down doing so, it could be encircled. A salient is threatened on three fronts, but is often advancing on a single one.

Staff: People whose primary duty is the gathering and presentation of data and information. Staff keep commanders appraised of the combat situation, the disposition of their troops and equipment, the status of their supplies, supply lines and reinforcements, any intelligence they might possess on the enemy, and any other information a commander might need.

Ultimately, tactical and strategic decisions lie with the commanding officers, but Staff are invaluable in informing those decisions. Different levels of staff handle different levels of information: Company command cadres for example focus on the status of their unit specifically rather than thinking about the Division or Corps as a whole. They are more concerned with their local stocks of ammunition, than with cross-country supply lines.

Strategy: Overarching sets of goals and objectives of a sustained military commitment.

Tactics: The action of carrying out specific tasks to support an overarching objective.

Tanks: Armored vehicles that move via tracked treads and carry a weapon on a turret with 360 degree traverse. Tanks are vehicles used to project powerful, mobile force. They not only carry heavy weapons, they can move much faster than a human weapons team could, while being better protected. As such they’re one of the premier weapons of ground warfare; and a lot of thought has been put into how to both deploy them, and defeat them.

Most tanks are armed with rifled “cannons” known as tank guns. These fire explosive shells of two common types. High Explosive shells are used against infantry, and they are what comes to mind when we envision cannons firing: they detonate to cause explosions. Armor-piercing shells are usually deployed against tanks, and they have a hard pointed nose meant to penetrate armor. Most tanks also have machine guns to fire on close infantry.

Tanks move via two tracked treads. Each track has big wheels visible from the sides: raised wheels on the front or back are the drive wheels, while the big central wheels on the ground are the road wheels. Over the road wheels there are typically smaller components called the rollers. Together these move the track and carry the tank around. Tracks have the advantage that they displace the weight of the tank across a larger area: they “sink” less than an individual wheel does. This is very useful on rough terrain.

Tanks are heavily but unevenly armored: due to their size, most tanks cannot be armored evenly on all sides, or their weight will impact their performance (some very heavy tanks are armored on all sides and move slowly due to this). Tanks’ strongest armor is often concentrated on the glacis plate which protects the driving compartment on the front, and on the gun mantlet in front of the turret that protects the gunnery mechanisms. The back of the tank containing the engine is often the most vulnerable area, with the idea being that a tank will meet the enemy head-on as it assaults their position and face its strongest armor forward. A tank’s sides are often less vulnerable than its back, but not as tough as the front.

Tanks come in three sizes. Light tanks are faster, but have less armor and worse weaponry. They are generally vulnerable to all kinds of anti-tank weapons, and are obsolete despite making up the largest proportions of tanks in the Solstice War’s warring armies. Medium tanks are the workhorses, with a good combination of speed, weaponry and armor, and are much more sturdy against common 45mm or smaller guns; it tends to take a 76mm or higher weapon to score killing blows. Heavy tanks are difficult to produce and often slow but have much thicker armor that gives even a 76mm gun pause.

Inside a tank is the crew. Core crew is a commander, a driver and a gunner; but some tanks also have a dedicated radio operator to keep in contact with other units, and a loader to improve the firing capability of the gunner. Often the commander and gun crew share the space near the turret, while the radio operator is somewhere below and the driver is up front. Tanks have hatches, periscopes and slits from which the crew can peek out to see what they’re doing. When a tank “buttons down” they close all of these to protect themselves, blinding them to the outside world. A buttoned tank is often painfully ineffective in a fight.

Because each individual tank needs a large number of people to crew it and to support it, tank formations tend to have, on paper, less people than a normal formation. For example, a tank Platoon is usually around 5 tanks instead of 50 riflemen/women. A tank division might have between 150 and 300 tanks, far less people in general than a normal 10,000 man/woman division would. However, their strength is vastly multiplied in the right circumstances due to all the things you’ve read about so far, so a Tank Division is usually much more frightening to confront than a normal Rifle Division! Nocht calls these Panzer divisions.

In addition, a lot of tank units have an infantry component as well: they might have one battalion or two of motorized or mechanized infantry that can follow the tanks and lend their help when needed. Nocht calls these Panzergrenadiers.

 

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