Heavy weapons platoon
Heavy weapons platoon (HWP) is a term from military science which refers to an infantry platoon equipped with machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, flamethrowers, grenade launchers, anti-tank weapons, or any other weapons that are portable but heavier than a single infantryman can reasonably transport/use by themselves for combat, generally a crew-served weapon. This is why heavy weapons platoons are grouped into a weapons company or maneuver support company, which focuses on moving and using heavy weapons to support light infantry rifle companies armed with standard-issue small arms.
U.S. Army regulations
According to U.S. Army regulations 320-5 (AR 320-5) "heavy weapons" are all "weapons such as mortars, howitzers, guns, heavy machineguns and recoilless rifles which are usually part of infantry equipment."
As with most support units in any army, the size of a weapons platoon is generally smaller than that of its light infantry equivalent. For example, a typical light infantry platoon consists of 30 to 40 men divided in three or four squads (or sections) of 9–13 men, whereas a weapons platoon substitutes the squads with smaller groups for mortar teams, machine gun crews, anti-tank teams etc. Some platoons also include the assault element of a company. A company's weapons platoon will carry portable support weapons by sections, but also include a fast-attack light-infantry specialist squad of soldiers trained for breaching, raiding, and close combat.
A heavy weapon platoon is generally used as a support group to a number of other platoons in the immediate command area/zone in question. A ratio of one heavy platoon to three basic infantry platoons is the accepted number, anything above or below this may result in a specialised "company" such as a rifle company, or a long-range support company. The addition of a HWP can greatly increase the chances of victory in a combat zone, due to the unique specialist abilities the soldiers in that group can offer to the company.
In more modern times, the application of heavy weapon support groups has increased. The ability to provide covering fire, and the suppression tactics of the heavy platoon mean that it is better equipped to give cover, and forms a vital component to the overall success, supporting the bulk of the company as they advance. The advancement in troop transportation has lessened the problems of re-locating heavy weaponry and large quantities of ammunition.
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- McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms (6E ed.). The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 2003.