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Would large power armour or tankettes be superior for "medium/line infantry" support? The power armour is 10-12ft tall & weighs about 3-5 tonnes & has all round protection at STANAG 4569 level 3. While the tankettes are 4-10 ton small tracked vehicles, with all round protection equivalent to STANAG 4569 level 3 armour & frontal protection at somewhere in-between level 3 & 4. The weapons technology available to both of these is a bit in advance of modern day. The units that would use these exist in about a ratio of 1 platoon of these vehicles to every company of infantry.

The type of unit they're supporting (line infantry) isn't something that typically appears in modern day. The units are effectively infantry in lightly armoured trucks. These units don't have to worry about transportability that much, but cost is these units main reason for existence. They have support from light self propelled howitzers & AA Vehicles as well.

The primary opponents these would face are other well equipped militaries. The units they would be supporting aren't expected to perform quick maneuver & more to just hold the line. Sometimes they operate in counter-insurgency warfare but this isn't there primary intended use & units operating in that situation tend to be re-equipped for it but it would be nice to have it be able to be used in that situation.

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    $\begingroup$ This has the potential to be a good question, but you need to provide much better detail about what "power armor" and "tankettes" are. I can imagine that a Bradley Fighting Vehicle is a "tankette" and there are quite realistic problems with powered armor, which is why your design is required for analysis. Also, note that tanks don't support infantry, infantry supports tanks. Read my answer to another Q for more insight. $\endgroup$ Aug 4 at 3:58
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH The weight range should give you a good idea of the size. The tankettes are around the size of a Wiesel 2 to a CVR(T). 2 Tanks support infantry & infantry supports tanks when there needed to. For the type of unit these vehicles are intended to support the infantry is the main arm & as such the tanks are there to support them. Other units are there where the infantry supports the tanks rather than the other way around. $\endgroup$
    – OT-64 SKOT
    Aug 4 at 4:07
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    $\begingroup$ The weight range alone is irrelevant. A heavy truck matches the weight range. Please define the nature of the objects you're asking us to compare. (And you might want to study a bit more about the relationship between infantry and tanks...) $\endgroup$ Aug 4 at 4:12
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    $\begingroup$ While the relationship between tanks and infantry has varied over time, to answer the question of what would be more effective we need to know the specific relationship and context you are asking about. If you're looking to justify cool mechs in your setting you can always say "They're more effective" and just leave it at that. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Aug 4 at 4:40
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, that was a massive brain fart on my part. I'm doing too many things at once. Nevertheless, the situation is still important. While I continue to assert that mechs are never superior, without knowing the circumstances to judge mechs vs. tankettes, it's just an opinion one way or the other. $\endgroup$ Aug 4 at 4:54
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Even without knowing the details of the power armor, I will give the nod to the tankette.

  • The 2-3 person crew on the tankette allows splitting up the load of driving, navigating, searching for threats, firing weapons, maintenance, etc. Two heads are better than one, particularly when each can focus on one role.
  • The lower profile of the tankette, e.g. 6-7 ft. in height for a German Wiesel / Wiesel 2 (aren't they cute?), versus the 10-12 ft. of the power armor makes it much easier to hide and avoid incoming fire. Given that neither can afford to carry enough armor to stop autocannon or HMG fire, being more difficult to hit is critical to their survival.
  • The higher center of gravity on the power armor constrains the amount of weapon recoil that can managed. The same also applies to the total weapons mass before the power armor becomes top heavy.
  • If it's as usually depicted in sci-fi, the pilot of the power armor is standing on their feet the whole time and walking from destination to destination (ouch). Granted, they aren't using their own muscles but it's still a source of pilot fatigue. Walking locomotion is inherently unstable and requires more pilot attention.
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Each in their role.

GrumpyYoungMan mentioned the German Wiesel. That's actually an air assault AFV, slightly smaller and lighter than the Soviet/Russian BMD. It is accepted in the real world that the main battle tank is superior to the light tank for general use.

Each tank balances firepower, armor, mobility, and cost. Tankettes with machine guns need to be armored against common infantry weapons. They were popular when budgets were limited and there were few anti-tank weapons at the squad or platoon level.

Tankettes with anti-tank weapons (like the Wiesel 1 ATM TOW) emphasize high firepower with sufficient mobility. They are not really armored to assault an enemy position (they're air assault because they fit into heavy helicopters).

You could have AFVs like that as a brigade or division asset to "plug" penetrations of the infantry lines. Perhaps there is a divisional anti-tank battalion with both wheeled/unarmored and tracked/lightly armored companies, both firing similar ATGM. These anti-tank teams might be able to dismount and move a short distance, but they are larger than foot-mobile weapons in line infantry companies/battalions. Infantry brigades could get wheeled/unarmored ATGM companies as above.

Power armor might emphasize high mobility with sufficient firepower. They could be used in close terrain, forests or (rubbled) cities, to bring heavy-machine-gun level or automatic-grenade-launcher-level firepower into most places where foot infantry can go. (It would still have problems with ground pressure, e.g. in swamps or in weak/weakened building floors.) They would be better armored than a rifleman, but not really up to resist HMG-level firepower themselves.

Not sure that the right level is for those. A battalion at division level, routinely parceled out to the brigades? Or organic at a lower level?

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  • $\begingroup$ Why would ground pressure be a problem? Wouldn't you simply use a larger foot with more articulations to spread the weight and deal with more elevation differences beneath the foot? $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Aug 4 at 10:36
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You've pretty much described HEAVY GEAR mechs from the game franchise of the same name. Albeit in the game they tended to conduct more ops on their own as independent units (going toe to toe with the other side's Gears) than they did supporting their own infantry.

I might suggest they would have a role at the battalion rather than company level though. Because the gears could effectively replace the heavy weapons element at battalion level by varying their load out to fit the mission.

Variants of the gears typically carried light auto-cannons and anti-armor rockets supplemented with an MG sometimes. But others carried mortars/semi auto grenade launchers for indirect fire support or sniping rifles or sensor and jamming pods etc.

Basically think any light crewed weapon deployed by infantry units and stick it on a armored suit (which also had wheels if they hit roads or trails that were solid enough to let them use them).

As far as tankettes go they would probably have a speed or mobility advantage but only on open country, everywhere else the mechs would probably have the edge. The tanks would probably also have lower profile when moving which is definitely an advantage compared to your 10-12 ft tall mechs, albeit they can kneel or possibly even lie down as required.

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