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Combat cloud

What are advanced weapons?

Weapons have existed in one form another since the dawn of mankind. The term refers to an implement or tool that can be used to kill, injure or defeat an enemy to gain an advantage.

In modern ground combat scenarios, weapons can include items ranging from the bayonets, grenades and handguns carried by individual soldiers right through to recoilless rifle systems, air defence missiles, tanks and heavy artillery.

But not all weapons are created equally. The term ‘advanced weapons’ is used to describe arms, munitions and equipment that provide the user with an enhanced level of support, thereby increasing effectiveness. Advanced weapons are more lethal to the enemy, but safer for operators and non-combatants. They remain easy to operate, even under intense combat conditions.

A rocket propelled grenade can be considered a standard weapon. It’s effective in some circumstances, but can also let users down due to its overly lack of both accuracy and flexibility. The Saab Carl-Gustaf® recoilless rifle system, on the other hand, can be considered an advanced weapon. It’s lightweight, dependable, easy to use and offers extraordinary flexibility thanks to a wide variety of round types. Fitted with the new standard FCD 558 fire control device and an optical sight, it is both highly accurate and lethal. A true advanced weapon.

The importance of confidence

A soldier is behind cover in the forest when an enemy main battle tank comes into view. He is carrying a tank-killing weapon, but must make a split second decision. Does he remain still to avoid being detected? Or does he use the weapon and fire on the tank?

Whether it’s a single soldier, a battalion or a brigade, that decision to put oneself on the line and fight assertively often comes down to a single factor: confidence.

A confident soldier who has faith in his training, his equipment, his leaders, and his comrades is more likely to take the risk and engage the enemy.
They will have greater faith in their combat skills – and trust in their ability to accurately read the situation.
And for that reason, they are also more likely to succeed in any given situation.
The same rule applies for whole armies. Where a nation’s armed forces have confidence in themselves and the organisation supporting then, they can achieve extraordinary results.
They may even defy the odds to defeat opponents with superior fire power, a stronger strategic position or greater numbers of troops.
A range of factors can contribute to confident soldiers. These include solid training, reliable and robust weapons, clever tactics, strong leadership and a strong bond with comrades.

Marines - Soldiers

The power of confidence

Read full article where John Knight, Rtd USMC Infantry Weapons Officer shares his view.

Why boots on the ground still matters

We live in an age where remotely operated weapons are becoming increasingly common. Think of the US Army’s successful use of UAVs in the Middle East. Of Russia’s tactics of combining surveillance drones with remote fires when it invaded Crimea in 2014. Or of the effective use of weaponised drones in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Yet, despite this evolution in warfare, there remains a strong case for ‘boots on the ground’. The term refers to the act of deploying ground troops into conflict zones rather than simply maintaining a no-fly zone in the air and sending in drones.

Carl-Gustaf story
Photo - US Department of Defense

Boots on the ground bring a number of benefits. Troops who are physically present can gather intelligence that may not have otherwise be available. They are able to interact with the local population, helping to win the battle for hearts and minds. Having troops on the ground is also an important symbolical gesture, an indication that an army has skin in the game.

Despite the rise of drones, the final stages of many conflicts continue to be fought on the surface of the planet, making boots on the ground essential. As a wise old armed forces saying goes, ‘any kind of soldier can start a war, however it takes the infantry to end it’.

The evolving role of the modern soldier

World War II produced some of the greatest soldiers the world has ever seen. Battle-hardened and with a can-do attitude, many performed acts of extraordinary courage.

But put a seasoned soldier from 1945 into a modern ground combat unit and they would be bamboozled. While they might recognise the modern versions of their rifles and hand grenades, they would struggle to understand the wide range of tasks expected of modern soldiers.

Today’s soldiers are just as likely to be deployed for peace keeping missions as for combat. They need to be proficient at fighting and killing the enemy, but also able to engage and communicate with local populations, winning allies in the process. Modern soldiers also need to be conscious of the fact that their actions can be recorded and broadcast on social media, and be savvy about cyber warfare and misinformation.

Soldier with Carl-Gustaf M4

Today’s soldiers need to have a good understanding of information technology and how to use a range of sophisticated weapons. While their counterparts in the past were often deployed in mass landings and trench warfare, today’s soldiers are far more likely be fighting independently in complex, decentralised environments. Lower ranked soldiers are far more likely to have responsibility for directing fire using weapon such as Saab’s Carl-Gustaf system or helping co-ordinating an air strike from the ground.

The challenges of modern day conflicts

Warfare has always been one of the most challenging endeavours a human being can engage in, filled with confronting sights, sounds and smells. And modern combat environments can often be even more demanding due unprecedented levels of complexity.

The information age means that extraordinary amounts of data are now being generated during conflicts. Soldiers at every level are expected to take in new information at a rapid pace, with battle strategies often changing at incredible speed across the course of a campaign.

Troops are being called on to work alongside a range of new technologies, from surveillance drones and weaponised drones to quadruped ‘mules’ that carry equipment. The rapidly evolving geopolitical situation means that no two wars are ever the same, with each conflict bringing new, unforeseeable strategies, threats and challenges.

Saab´s 9Land Battle Management System
Saab´s 9Land Battle Management System

Thankfully, there are emerging solutions that have the potential to help bring simplicity to complex environments. These include enhanced reality systems that allows soldiers to distinguish between friends and foes by looking through a weapon sight or pair of goggles. Dismounted battle management systems (BMS) promise to help ground troops maintain situational awareness, while personalised handsets and sights may one day recognise the level of stress in the user and adjust the user experience to match.

Focus on the combat cloud

Modern combat can take place simultaneously across the domains of land, sea, air, space and cyber, with countless thousands of soldiers, assets and weapons in play at any given time.

Situations can change in the blink of an eye, as an asset is captured or destroyed or a strategic position won or lost. To be successful, different branches of the same nation’s forces need work together seamlessly.

Combat cloud

The combat cloud is a concept that aims to enhance an army’s chances of battle success by achieving information superiority. The idea is to bring together the enormous amount of data and communication generated during a conflict into a central, cyber-secure network using cloud-based technologies. Doing so makes it easier for different divisions to share information and coordinate attacks and for strategic leaders to make more effective decisions in the heat of battle.

A key benefit of the so-called multi-domain combat cloud is the ability to share information in real time and to rapidly recalibrate the battle strategy. Proposed systems will unite data from manned and unmanned platform with both human decision makers and artificial intelligence.