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Lets say that we are in the modern world, which looks mostly the same as it does today. However, rapid healing has become available, in my world due to sudden influx magic but for this question you could easily hypothesis some new technology, nanotec healing whatever. The point is that a small number of trained folks can rapidly heal wounds when sustained. The healing has a few limits

  1. Healers can heal most kinds of traumatic wounds in anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes depending on severity, type of wound, and how focused they are. It requires close contact and dedicating most of your attention to treating the wounded
  2. Healers can heal someone for variable amounts as they see fit, but are capable of healing even severely wounded back to fighting strength rapidly. They can not heal brain injury and brain death is permanent. They can't heal heal a severed body part to reattach it and certain types of extreme trauma may be either impossible to heal or simply too expensive to be viable.
  3. Healing expands the healer's resources rapidly, amount expended depends on severity of wound mostly. Generally they can heal severely wounded back to fighting strength a few times (say 3-6 depending on type and severity of wounds?) but will eventually run out.

I'm looking to see how this would effect combat strategies for small scale battle. By small scale battle I mean at least one 'elite' team (think something like seals, small group of 4-10 extensively trained and equipped expert soldiers, above and beyond standard infantry). The elite team would be fighting either against another elite team or a larger group of less elite common infantry soldiers, but not entire armies, and without tanks, artillery, attack helicopters etc that come into larger scale battles. Basically, the sort of forces seals are usually dispatched against currently.

The obvious first answer is shoot the medic first, I already have a question about this in somewhat related situation: Convention for Healers during a war where some rapid healing is available? so I don't want to focus on this part as much. Assume that an Elite team would have one or two healers, but they would be trained combatant's as well, fair game to be shot, and would not wear any identification to mark them as Healers. Small enemy infantry platoons if they have healers likely would be fair game if they were healing anyone beyond the "don't die" level.

I'm wondering how tactics of both the elite forces and the more traditional infantry fighting against elite forces may be modified by the presumption of rapid healers being available.

As a general example of the sort of things I'm talking about, not a list of things that must be answered, I'm looking at questions such as will different ordinance be preferred (is a bullet type more desired as more likely to be instantly fatal or do more physical trauma to be more exhausting to heal, maybe more explosives used?). Will the focus on suppression fire be the same, or will the lowered threat of suppression fire (if you get hit by an targeted bullet you probably won't die) change how it's utilized. Will a focus on making sure you completely finish off one target (beyond modern focus) occur, or will they just try to hurt the enemy enough for the healer to 'run dry' etc.

One obvious answer is that head shots will be preferred, specifically for the elite team with better trained soldiers, which I'm sure is true. However, given the difficult of head shots, and the presence of suppression fire that isn't aimed at all, I don't see this being the primary target except in ideal circumstances.

I don't know if this is too open ended or not, due to my ignorance on modern weaponry and tactics mean that I don't know how hard it is to analyze changes to tactics. If deemed too open ended I mostly want to focus on general tactical changes with this question, and specifics such as ordinance used or how to implement higher level tactical differences can be made as follow up questions.

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    $\begingroup$ if you don't understand modern weapons and tactics then how will you understand how such tactics must be modified for this scenario? Asking people to go into details from the very basics all the way to their own modifications and ideas base on your criteria is asking a lot. Maybe research modern engagement techniques and tactics? I'm sure YouTube has dozens of videos on it. I hate to say it but I haven't detected a large amount of research effort on your part before asking these questions. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Dec 15 '15 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM perhaps it would be more accurate to say I understand them to reasonable degree, but I don't understand them with such deep comprehension to fully envision the affect of modification. I understand them, but I don't Grok them, if your forgive my geeky clarification :) I think I can reasonable write modifications others suggest, besides this is only affecting something that is sort of 'off-camera' to my story, I ask more to ensure I have a consistent vision of the world. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Dec 15 '15 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ Does this healing remove drugs from peoples' systems? If I shot an opponent with a strong tranquilizer, would the healer be able to revive him before his spleen/liver/kidneys do? If no, I have a good answer for you... $\endgroup$ – PipperChip Dec 15 '15 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ @PipperChip that is an interesting idea. I'm not certain, I'll keep it as an option though :) $\endgroup$ – dsollen Dec 16 '15 at 14:23
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The first thing that happens is everyone carries less medical gear. When the smaller injuries stop being anything you need to worry about, including infection, you reduce your kit or replace it with something else more useful. This cascades to larger logistics: evac choppers carry less, military hospitals need less, and so on.

If healing is equally spread around the world (doesn't require study of controlled information), it ends up helping guerillas and militaries without a lot of logistical support.

Depending on how easy or difficult it is to heal most wounds, will determine things from there. If serious but non-immediately life threatening wounds ("getting shot in the hand") are easy, then the weapons we use increase in power to do nastier wounds to at least delay the opponents and fatigue the healers. The point is not necessarily to kill, but to render someone unable to fight, so if smaller wounds no longer rate, we upgrade guns, grenades, etc. to do bigger wounds.

After all, if someone is dead, then the healer isn't going to waste energy and time trying to fix them - better to get them to burn out saving lives but not getting people well enough to fight.

Unless healing is instantaneous or within a few moments, the healer is #3 on the kill list which usually goes: squad leader, communications man, then whoever is next down. Removing the leader disrupts the squad, removing the comm stops coordination between squads, removing the healer comes third - still a great target, but not the first target in mind.

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I think there is still limitation on the level of fatigue the soldiers will encounter.

A person can't fight forever without rest.

If you are looking to create a long fight then create a bottleneck where a few people can hold it.

If someone is injured let him fallback to a safe area and let another take its place. Basically the group can alternate between fighting, resting and eating. The healers can alternate too. you can have a few of them near the fighting itself to attend critical wounds.

They can impair the enemy visibility(smoke grenade) to mask their healing.

If you want a longer fight then that, you need to start worrying about supplies.

You can get creative with that as well but I think that is a bit beyond the scope of the question.

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  • $\begingroup$ hmm. In theory a healer should be able to heal fatigue as well, it's just tears in muscles and chemical build up. Though I admit I hadn't considered fatigue issue at all. In other news, welcome to the site! $\endgroup$ – dsollen Dec 15 '15 at 19:03
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I don't think head shots are automatically preferred. A combatant who has been shot in the head is dead, so none of the unit's healers will reveal themselves after such a shooting. Head shots should therefore be avoided, except when shooting healers which you have identified as such, by administering a non-lethal wound to your original target, then waiting to see who comes to help.

Also, since healers have a limited reserve of healing ability, every wound that you inflict should be designed to consume as much of that reserve as possible. Your bullets should not only be high-caliber, but also poisoned, radioactive and possibly infected with a bio-weapon. When such specialized ammo is unavailable, use incendiary rounds at least.

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    $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that poisonous ammunition is also dangerous to the person wielding it (you may have to touch the ammo, etc). Same with radioactive ammo - you've got a bunch of clips of them on your person, it might affect you more than the enemy. Otherwise a nice answer. +1 $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Dec 15 '15 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ Great feedback! Thanks. To confess my ignorance, I thought the grit that hits the person firing the gun was just propellant(gun powder). Didn't realize that bullet particles are in there too. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Dec 15 '15 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ Radioactive bullets (assuming this is a core of radioactive material inside a protective jacket) shouldn't spill back on you, the shooter (the jacket material will strip slightly during the firing process) but you will A) have lots of radioactive material spread around the impact area as bullets hit rocks, structure, and combatants and B) if YOU get hit in the magazine, you could expose yourself as your ammunition is shredded. $\endgroup$ – Jason K Jul 14 '16 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ @JasonK, good points. Perhaps radioactive, poisoned and infectious bullets are overkill. Stick with hollow points and incidiary rounds. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 15 '16 at 4:26
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Personally, I don't think it would change modern infantry tactics a whole lot. Obviously, you would carry less medical gear, which is nice, and a few more rounds of ammo instead, but for the most part, you would be using the same kinds of tactics and weapons as we do today.

Why? Because modern weapons do extreme amounts of trauma to a human body. If these super healer guys can't regrow a limb or organ, they aren't much of a game changer. It is simple, dirt cheap, and very easy to cause massive trauma to a human body with even the most common weapons available now. You might bleed out in less than two minutes, have a huge chunk of your chest blown out (with things the healer can't replace completely gone) or get a lower leg blown off. Healers would have to be very fast and right up at the front with the grunts to make much of a dent.

One exception would be that the combination of effective super healing and not needing to carry as much medical gear would probably be a big increase in the use of body armor. Today we use it, and it is effective against most small arms, but it is heavy, and we don't bother covering legs and arms. I could see an almost complete body suit being used (though you would need to deal with the weight issue by stripping everything else you carry to the bone). With body armor like that, you are less likely to suffer such massive trauma that the healer would be totally ineffective. As far as actual combat tactics go, all the same stuff would apply as today.

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Modern medical technology already has "the Golden Hour", a theory that most battlefield injuries are survivable if you can get back to a medical facility within an hour. The US employs this liberally since they usually have air supremacy on the battlefield and can evac casualties at will. Of course surviving a wound is not the same as returning to full capability.

The implications of your technology is that soldiers with access to it will become MUCH more aggressive and capable. Their level of training will dramatically intensify because they can now ignore injuries that would previously limit how hard they could train or would eventually debilitate them. So you would have a bunch of 40 year old seasoned warriors instead of a few old grunts leading mostly young soldiers. Not to mention that regenerative healing like this would almost completely eliminate the social burden of wounded vets on a population, which might REALLY lower the bar for a "go to war!" proclamation.

On the battlefield, this tech would allow for forward casualty treatment, though the immediate action drill to evacuate the wounded from direct conflict probably wouldn't change. Your "shoot the medic first" strategy probably wouldn't work because A) the medic would be intentionally obscured to prevent this very thing and B) would be held back out of direct conflict as much as possible.

Modern weapons using small, fast, fragmenting rounds were rumored to be adopted due to their great wounding potential under the theory that 3 people would be taken out of the fight for a casualty (2 to take the wounded guy to the rear) versus just 1 for a direct kill (as no one would stop to deal with a dead soldier). I question that theory, but on-site rapid healing could drive a trend towards more direct kill weapons or conversely towards more debilitating weapons (like sonic weapons or blinding lasers) that could then be healed up by the victor once the battlefield is secured to blunt the negative PR from using such devices. So your elite small team may just blow up the building they want to assault, then heal all the wounded folks up later so they would have some prisoners to interrogate.

Currently we are GREATLY limited in destructive potential by various treaties and general public relations motives. We could easily employ chemical weapons to sterilize vast swaths of the battlefield but there are higher order considerations preventing us from doing so. Rapid healing tech may lead one side (probably the side WITHOUT the tech) to use more lethal NBC weapons out of desperation as you can't really "up-gun" an infantry soldier with more kinetic energy weapons than they have already to compensate for the rapid healing. So opponents of the elite team would immediately go to their most devastating weapon first if they know whom they are fighting.

If both sides have access to this healing tech then it is largely cancelled out. This could escalate things into WMD territory if it mostly negates conventional conflict (i.e. one force immediately runs away if things look grim, just to heal up and counter attack almost immediately). But of course armored conflict with tanks and such would still be so lethal to the soldiers in the vehicles that this tech probably wouldn't change much. What is left when a 105mm depleted uranium sabot round punches through your tank ain't gonna be fixed by some nanotech!

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  • $\begingroup$ all great points, thank you. Though one response, the availability of this healing is still limited enough that it isn't guaranteed for everyone, preventing some of the affects you mentioned, such as not having enough available to be wasted on healing wounds from training excesses. Still, great answers thanks! I think the point about experienced veterans being more common is particularly interesting. I'll need to think what that may mean, that people survive long enough to grow more skilled. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Jul 14 '16 at 22:27
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Beyond the excellent answers already presented, two points jump to mind.

  1. Effects on Morale: Soldiers who have good reason to believe that they will not only survive, but be fully restored of any wounds relatively quickly, will be much more daring in combat, maybe even to the point of reckless that would undermine the mission. You may very well see a return to the "glorious" days of the frontal assault or the cavalry or bayonet charge, even if they are tactically less effective. Conversely, the esprit of a unit would be severely whenever the medic-sorcerers are incapacitated. If you take out the medics of a unit who are used to relying on them for their survival, they may quickly break or surrender.
  2. Weapons that cause multiple traumatic injuries at one time, such as shotguns, claymore mines, grapeshot, etc... would seem to be favored, since under the rules of your magic system, the constraint is on the number of traumatic wounds they can heal. Weapons that cause more pain than actual injury might be favored for similar reasons.
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