Yesterday SampanViking made the observation in a post on the Rifle Squad/Section Thread that the PLA seems to reserve its best trained and equipped infantry for its mechanized infantry in order to be used as Shock Troops, while using most (excepting of course PLAAN Marines, PLAAF Paratroops, and PLA Special Forces and certain Light Infantry) of the rest of its lesser trained and more lightly equipped motorized and foot infantry in order to hold ground and infiltrate into the enemy's own ground in order to keep him off-balance while aforementioned elite mechanized infantry (as part of armoured forces) struck the decisive blow. There has been a lot of controversy over the last 30 years about the usefulness or otherwise of light, medium, and heavy ground forces in general and foot, motorized, and armoured infantry in particular. Those of us old enough to remember the Energy Crisis in the 1970's and subsequent events in and around the Middle East will also remember the controversy (which rages to this day) over the then new "Light Infantry Divisions" that the US Army began to raise for the Rapid Deployment Force (now Central Command). The US Army even raised an experimental Motorised Infantry Division intended to fill a gap in between the Light Infantry and the Mechanized Infantry/Armoured Divisions. Their proponents claimed that the Light Infantry could get anywhere they nedded to be fast enough to beat the enemy to the punch, easy to supply by airlift, and able to hold off the enemy (because of their training) until Heavy Forces (ie US Armoured and Mechanized Infantry Divisions) arrived in strength to deal the knock-out blow. Alternatively, their opponents claimed that the Light Infantry Divisions were "too light to fight" as they lacked the necessary equipment and heavy weapons to beat off enemy armour, and that they required a great deal more airlift than their proponents admitted that they required in order to keep them sufficiently supplied until their relief-in-place by Heavy Forces. While the US model differed from the PLA model mentioned at the beginning of this post in that US Light Infantry Division were supposed to feature better-trained and led foot infantry than the more heavily armed and equipped armoured infantry of the US Mechanized Infantry and Armoured Divisions, they both share the making off a real distinction in quality between light, medium, and heavy ground force units. The Russians, on the other hand, favour the bulk of their army to consist of heavy ground force units (Tank and Motorized Rifle Divisions, Unified Army Corps) with large numbers of armoured infantry to do most of the fighting, and a much smaller proportion of light and medium ground forces - Naval Infantry (also motorized), Airborne (with some light armour), Air Assault (helicopter-borne infantry), and Spetsnaz (commando infantry and special forces) - to operate in support of the heavy units. Another distinction that has been made between light, medium, and heavy ground force units is the number of infantry that each possess, and for what purpose. Yesterday SampanViking even raised the question of was there a difference in the size and composition of Rifle Squads/Sections between light, medium, and heavy units - and the short answer is yes, no, sometimes, not necessarily. And, not to forget, mountaineers, marines, paratroops, commandos, and even special forces are involved here. The broader issue originally raised by SampanViking and that is being presented for discussion in this thread is are such distinctions being made by many armies between light, medium, and heavy forces really necessary in that each has a viable role on the battlefield that complements the others, or are such distinctions largely illusory or mistaken, and say, heavy ground units with substantial proportions of armoured infantry should form the bulk of most armies, with a few light ground units made up of mainly of commando-trained light infantry (and even smaller numbers of special forces) for rapid-reaction and specialized climatic and terrain conditions operations, or to operate in support of heavy ground units at the operational level by raiding or seizing beachheads, airfields, enemy headquarters, depots, road junctions and critical terrain features, artillery emplacements, coastal and air defense sites, etc., as heavy ground units follow up to relieve them and carry on the rest of the campaign? Is the Russian approach more practical, or are the US and the PLA on to something - even if in different ways?