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Section (military unit)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A section is a military sub-subunit. It usually consists of between six and 20 personnel and is usually an alternative name for, and equivalent to, a squad. As such two or more sections usually make up an army platoon or an air force flight.

However, in the French Army and in armies based on the French model, a section is equivalent to a platoon.

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Standard NATO military map symbol to Section
Squad sized unit
(8-12 soldiers)
Platoon sized unit
(up to 39 soldiers)
“Infantry” friendly / own armed forces

Australian Army

Under the new structure of the infantry platoon, Australian Army sections are made up of eight men divided into two four-man fireteams. Each fireteam consists of a team leader (corporal/lance-corporal), a marksman with enhanced optics, a grenadier with an M203 and an LSW operator with an F89 Minimi light support weapon.

Typical fire team structure:

Position Armament
Team leader F88 Steyr
Marksman F88 Steyr w/enhanced optic (e.g. 3.4× Wildcat)
Grenadier F88 Steyr w/M203 under-barrel grenade launcher
Machine gunner F89 Minimi

At the start of World War I, the Australian Army used a section that consisted of 27 men including the section commander, a sergeant.[1]

During World War II, a rifle section comprised ten soldiers with a corporal in command and a lance-corporal as his second-in-command. The corporal used an M1928 Thompson submachine gun, while one of the privates used a Bren gun. The other eight soldiers all used No.1 Mk.3 Lee–Enfield rifles with a bayonet and scabbard. They all carried two or three No.36 Mills bomb grenades.

Post–World War II, and during the Vietnam War, a rifle section consisted of ten personnel comprising: a command & scout group (three people – two sub-machineguns/M16A1 and a L1A1 SLR); a gun group (three people – an M60 machine gun and two L1A1 SLRs) and a rifle group (four people – L1A1 SLRs).[2][3]

British Army

Second World War and the Cold War

The "Rifle Section" of a Second World War Infantry Battalion was generally formed of 10 men;[4] a Corporal as the section leader with six privates with Lee–Enfield rifles forming a rifle group, and a light machine gun group of a Lance-corporal, a gunner with the Bren gun and a "loader" carrying a spare barrel and extra ammunition.

With the switch from .303 to 7.62mm NATO in the 1950s until the introduction of 5.56 mm calibre weapons in the late 1980s, the typical section was armed with and organized around the 7.62 mm L7 GPMG (general purpose machine gun). The section was typically divided into two "groups": a rifle group and a gun group.

The rifle group comprised the section commander (Corporal) with an L1A1 SLR, the Anti-Tank gunner with the 84mm L14A1 Carl Gustav and a 9mm L2A3 SMG, the Anti-Tank No 2 with spare 84mm rounds and an L1A1, and two riflemen with L1A1s. The gun group was commanded by the section 2IC (Lance Corporal) with an L1A1, and comprised the gunner with the GPMG and the gun No 2 with an L1A1.

All section tactics were basically designed to bring the gun to bear on the enemy and support the gun; once the gun had suppressed the enemy ("winning the firefight"), the rifle group would assault and destroy the enemy position with the gun providing fire until the last safe moment.

1990s and after

The introduction of the 5.56 mm SA80 individual weapon (L85) and light support weapon (L86) in the late 1980s led to the rifle group/gun group organisation being abandoned in favour of fireteams. As such, the British section now consists of two fireteams ("Charlie" and "Delta") of four soldiers[5] each for a total of eight soldiers per section; a Corporal as the section commander and Charlie fireteam commander, a Lance-Corporal as the section 2IC and Delta fireteam commander, and six privates.[6] Three sections together form a platoon.

The standard fireteam grouping from the 1990s onwards is as follows:[6]

  • Corporal (Charlie)/Lance Corporal (Delta) armed with an L85 5.56mm rifle.
  • Rifleman armed with an L85 5.56mm rifle.
  • Gunner armed with an L86 5.56mm light support weapon (Often substituted for an L7A2 7.62x51mm general purpose machine gun owing to the L86's shortcomings, and later replaced entirely by an L110 5.56mm light machine gun; from 2019 the L7 will return to being the standard section machine gun on a scale of one per section, with section commanders having the option to replace this with an additional L85 rifle if needed).
  • Rifleman armed with an L85 5.56mm rifle (Later substituted for a designated marksman armed initially with an L86 5.56mm light support weapon and then with an L129A1 7.62×51mm sharpshooter rifle; from 2019 the section will revert to having two riflemen per fireteam, with the designated marksman taking the place of the second section gunner).

There are two other groupings; an assault team/support team grouping where the Delta fireteam (consisting of the 2IC, a rifleman, and both section gunners) is responsible for covering the Charlie fireteam (consisting of the section commander and three riflemen) during the latter's movement from one position to another, and a modified version of the earlier rifle group/gun group organisation, used if it is felt that the strongest possible manoeuvre force is required, where both section gunners form the gun group and all remaining personnel form the Charlie fireteam which acts as the rifle group.[6] Fireteams can be split into smaller sub-divisions of two men each if needed, particularly during fire and manoeuvre.

Not all sections will consist of eight men; units mounted aboard the FV510 Warrior will only consist of seven men, with one fireteam's second rifleman usually being the section member that is omitted, while the FV432 Bulldog can accommodate an enlarged section consisting of 10 men.[7]

Changes were made to the section's equipment during the 2000s in response to operational demands and experience; one L123 40mm underslung grenade launcher per fireteam was introduced for use by either the fireteam commander or the first rifleman in the fireteam, the L86 was replaced as the section machine gun by the L110, and the second rifleman in the fireteam was replaced with a designated marksman carrying either the L86A2 or (in later years) the L129A1.[8][9] Some units operating in Afghanistan reintroduced the L7 GPMG as a section gun on the scale of one per fire team, meaning that only two L85A2s (at least one of which was fitted with the UGL) were carried per section.[10] LAWs were part of the standard equipment allocation during the 1990s (typically on a scale of two per section)[6], while under current arrangements the NLAW and L2A1 ASM serve as secondary weapon options; the Javelin can also be carried for anti-armour capability. The L86A2 and L110A3 will be removed from service in 2019, leaving the L129A1 and L7A2 as the standard section DMR and machine gun respectively (on a scale of one per section for both weapons); section commanders will also be able to tailor equipment formations as needed instead of having to deploy weapons in a pre-set lineup.[11][12]

Canadian Army

The Canadian Army also uses the section, which is roughly the same as its British counterpart, except that it is led by a sergeant, with a master corporal as the 2IC. The section is further divided into two assault groups of four soldiers each (equivalent to the Australian and British fireteams) and a vehicle group consisting of a driver and a gunner. Assault groups are broken down to even smaller 'fireteams' consisting of two soldiers, designated Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta. Alpha and Bravo make up Assault Group 1; Charlie and Delta make up Assault Group 2. The section commander will have overall control of the section, and is assigned to Fireteam Alpha of Assault Group 1. The 2IC will be in command of Assault Group 2, and is assigned to Fireteam Charlie.

Groupings are as follows:[13]

  • Assault Group 1
    • Fireteam Alpha
      • Section Commander armed with a C7 rifle.
      • LMG Gunner armed with a C9 light machine gun.
    • Fireteam Bravo
      • Rifleman armed with a C7 rifle.
      • Grenadier armed with a C7 rifle and an underslung M203 grenade launcher.
  • Assault Group 2
    • Fireteam Charlie
      • Section 2IC armed with a C7 rifle.
      • LMG Gunner armed with a C9 light machine gun.
    • Fireteam Delta
      • Rifleman armed with a C7 rifle.
      • Grenadier armed with a C7 rifle and an underslung M203 grenade launcher.
  • Vehicle Group
    • Driver armed with a C7 rifle.
    • Vehicle Gunner armed with a C7 rifle.

In a mechanised section, the vehicle group gains a commander and stays with the section vehicle (Currently the LAV III), while the second assault group loses its rifleman[14]

Danish Army

In the Danish Army, the section consists of two squads, usually commanded by a Sergeant First Class. Sections are usually highly specialized support units providing heavy weapons support, EOD support etc.

French Army

In the French Army, a section is equivalent to an English-language platoon and is a subunit of a company, in most military contexts. (In cavalry or armoured units, a subunit of a company is a peloton [platoon].)

A subunit within a modern French section is a groupe de combat ("combat group"), which is divided into:

Singapore Army

Singapore Army's infantry section consists of seven men led by a Third Sergeant and assisted by a Corporal as 2IC. Each section is divided into one 3-man group - including the section commander, and two 2-man groups. Weapons carried by each section include two light anti-tank weapons, two section automatic weapons (SAW), and two grenade launchers.[citation needed]

United States Army

Historically, a section of US Infantry was a "half platoon" (the platoon itself being a "half company"). The section was led by a sergeant assisted by one or (later) two corporals and consisted of a total of from 12-24 soldiers, depending on the time period. In the US Cavalry, a section was roughly equivalent to a squad in the US Infantry. In Armor, Armored Cavalry, Mechanized Infantry, and Stryker Infantry units, a section consists of two tanks/armored vehicles, with two sections to a platoon. The platoon leader, leads one section and the platoon sergeant leads the other. Some branches, such as Air Defense Artillery and Field Artillery, use the term section to denote a squad-sized unit that may act independently of each other in the larger platoon formation. (I.e., the Firing Platoon consists of several gun sections, which are the basic firing elements of the unit.) The section is used as an administrative formation and may be bigger than the regular squad formation often overseen by a Staff Sergeant.

United States Marine Corps

The USMC employs sections as intermediate tactical echelons in infantry, armored vehicle units (individual vehicles being the base tactical element), and low altitude air defense (LAAD) units, and as the base tactical element in artillery units. Infantry sections can consist of as few as eight Marines (heavy machinegun section) to as many as 32 in an 81-mm mortar section. In headquarters, service, and support units throughout the USMC (CE, GCE, ACE, and LCE), sections are used as functional sub-units of headquarters or platoons. For example, the intelligence section (S-2) of a battalion or squadron headquarters; the communications-electronics maintenance section, communication platoon, regimental headquarters company; armory section, Marine aviation logistics squadron. In Marine aircraft squadrons, section is also used to designate a flight of two or three aircraft under the command of a designated section leader. Some sections, such as weapons platoon sections are led by a staff non-commissioned Officer (SNCO), usually a staff sergeant. Tank and other armored vehicle sections, as well as service and support sections, may be led by either an officer, usually a lieutenant (or a CWO, in the case of service and support units), or a SNCO ranging from staff sergeant to master sergeant. Headquarters and aircraft sections are always led by a commissioned officer. Rifle squads generally contain 13 marines.[15]

In infantry units, weapons platoons have sections consisting of the squads and teams that man the crew-served weapons.

Weapons platoon, rifle company:

  • a machine gun section, consisting of a section leader and three machine gun squads, each containing two machine gun teams of three men each
  • an LWCMS mortar section, consisting of a section leader and three 60mm mortar squads, each containing one mortar and four man crew
  • an assault section, consisting of a section leader and three assault squads, each containing two assault teams of two men each

Weapons company, infantry battalion:

  • an 81mm mortar platoon, consisting of a five-man platoon headquarters and two 81mm mortar sections, each section containing four 81mm mortar squads of six men each and an eight-man section headquarters.
  • an antiarmor platoon, consisting of a three-man platoon headquarters and a Javelin section, containing a section leader and two Javelin squads, each having two teams of two men each, and an antitank (TOW) section, containing a section leader and four antitank squads, each having a squad leader and two TOW teams of two men each
  • a heavy machine gun (HMG) platoon, consisting of a four-man platoon headquarters and three HMG sections, each having two HMG squads of four men each.

In armored vehicle units, platoons consist of sections consisting of individual vehicles and their crews:

  • tank and light armored reconnaissance platoons consist of two sections, each containing two tanks/light armored vehicles and crews
  • assault amphibian vehicle (AAV) platoons consist of four sections, each containing three AAV's and crews
  • combat engineer assault breacher sections consist of two CEV assault breacher vehicles and crews

In low altitude air defense (LAAD) batteries, the firing platoons consist of three sections, each consisting of a section leader and five two-man Stinger missile teams.

In artillery batteries, the firing platoon consists of a platoon headquarters and six artillery sections, each containing a section chief (staff sergeant) eight-member gun crew with one howitzer, and a driver and prime mover (i.e., a truck to tow the artillery piece and transport the gun crew and baggage). The gun crew consists of a gunner (sergeant), two assistant gunners (corporals), and five cannoneers (lance corporals and/or PFCs).

Air forces

In some air forces, a section is a unit containing three to four aircraft (if it is a flying unit) and up to 20 personnel. Two or three sections usually make up a flight.

The United States Air Force uses the term element, as well as section, to designate two or three subunits within a flight.

In the context of British Empire military aviation during World War I, the term half flight or half-flight was used for equivalent formations; at the time a flight was normally four to six aircraft. Hence the Mesopotamian Half Flight, the first Australian flying unit to see action, initially comprised three aircraft. After the war, the RAF and other Commonwealth air forces adopted the term section for a formation of three aircraft, while a flight was normally six aircraft.

During the Second World War:

  • in the German Luftwaffe, the equivalent in fighter units was a Schwarm of four aircraft and, in bomber units, a Kette (three aircraft), along with headquarters and support personnel, and;
  • the Soviet Red Air Force the equivalent was a zveno (three or four aircraft).

Other organisations

A section is also the name for a shift or team of police officers in various police forces, particularly in the Commonwealth. The term is no longer used in the British police, in which it originated and where it was the group of officers headed by a Sergeant.

See also


  1. ^ Ryan, Alan (2003). Putting Your Young Men in the Mud: Change, Continuity and the Australian Infantry Battalion. Land Warfare Studies Centre Working Papers. Working Paper No. 124. Duntroon, Australian Capital Territory: Land Warfare Studies Centre. p. 11. ISBN 0-642-29595-6.
  2. ^ "Military Organisation and Structure – Army: Detailed Structure". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  3. ^ "PART 5 – Battalion Organisational Structure 1965 – 1972". .4RAR Museum. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
  4. ^ Kennedy, Gary. "British Infantry Battalion, June 1944 Rifle Company". Battalion Organisation during the Second World War. Archived from the original on 5 November 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom) (1999). Army Code No. 71641, Infantry Tactical Doctrine Volume 1, Pamphlet No. 3 Infantry Platoon Tactics.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Soldier Magazine". British Army. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  12. ^ "Soldier Magazine September 2018". British Army. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  13. ^ Department of National Defence (Canada) (1996). B-GL-309-003/FT-001, The Infantry Section and Platoon in Battle.
  14. ^ Department of National Defence (Canada) (2009). B-GL-309-003/FT-00, Section and Platoon in Battle (Draft 2009).
  15. ^

External links

This page was last edited on 6 December 2018, at 00:37
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