Infantry Tactics in the Snow

There’s a thin layer of white on the ground outside my office, so it’s probably time to talk about snow. Most of us like snow when we’re looking at it through a window from a nice warm room, but it’s less amusing when you’re outside, with wet boots and freezing slush all over your gear, trying to get stuff done without having to take your gloves off. Unfortunately, if you have to fight in it, things can get even worse.

For light infantry, snow can be a real problem. It’s much harder to hide your presence when the ground takes tracks so well. If snow’s falling, then your footprints will eventually be obscured, although unless there’s a wind, that can take a while. If it’s done falling and is just lying on the ground, it’s going to hold sign until it melts. If you’re moving, make extra efforts to find clear surfaces to walk on, or use any water features that haven’t frozen. Getting wet sucks, but it’s better than getting detected. If you do have to move across snow, you need to be very sure you’re not being followed, so regularly break track, move back parallel to your route, and set up a snap ambush to see if anyone is following your trail.

Snow also muffles sound, so your sentries will have a shorter detection range at night. You might have to pull them in closer to make sure your position has all-round coverage. On the bright side, that works both ways – the enemy will need to be closer to hear any noises from the position.

If you have night vision, you might find it works amazingly well. If snow’s actually falling it blinds most optics – even a thermal imager will struggle to see through heavy snow – but if it’s a clear night, your gear will have amazing performance. Anything alive will stand out like the dog’s danglies against the uniform cold background. NVGs and image intensifiers will get a massive head start thanks to all the light reflected off the snow.

Be aware of the effect snow can have on explosives. Anything that explodes on the ground is going to have its effects radius reduced; fragments that travel parallel to the ground, or close to it, might have to plow through yards of snow before they emerge back into the air, and that can slow them down significantly. Wet snow will have more of an effect than dry powder. Snow won’t make much of a barrier on its own, but if it’s rammed down and allowed to freeze, it can add some extra protection to your defensive positions too.

All climates have their own special issues – snow is no exception. It can be a real test of light infantry skills, on top of the obvious challenge of staying warm enough to be effective. Luckily, modern field gear is a lot better than what was on issue even a couple of decades ago, so it’s a lot easier to fight in the snow than it used to be.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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