As old as war itself, Infantry are the foot soldiers of any military force. Underestimated and under-appreciated in the eyes of their so-called betters, many a campaign is often won or lost due to the actions of the "poor bloody infantry" while BattleMech and AeroSpace Fighter pilots win the glory. Their training, equipment, battlefield role and organization can vary wildly, allowing them to fulfill a number of disparate goals. The ability of even the poorest Periphery state or pirate band to field large formations of infantry ensures their use throughout known space, from the Inner Sphere to the Kerensky Cluster.
The advent of Battle Armor has also seen a renewed interest in the use of infantry. Though superior in many ways to their unarmored brethren, their sheer expense and unsuitability for a number of roles sees the continued use of "conventional" infantry.
The cheapest and easiest to maintain, foot infantry are able to cross a wide variety of terrain features, although the lack of any transportation beyond their own legs limits their speed and range of movement. Their most common assignments include static defense, population control, garrison duty and counter-insurgency operations. In addition to their small arms, foot infantry also carry support weapons, though they are limited in how many and what type they may carry.
Motorized infantry ride into battle on light vehicles such as motorcycles and jeeps, making them faster than foot infantry although more restricted in the types of terrain they can traverse. In addition to the jobs normally given to foot infantry, motorized infantry also act as scouts and forward observers for their parent force. While some will dismount prior to battle, other motorized forces fight from their vehicles, the high speeds and tight formations they typically fight at giving them a reputation for recklessness. Because of their means of transportation, motorized squads are allowed to tow heavier squad support weapons such as Field Guns. They may also be transported to the battlefield in modified heavy APCs.
Mechanized infantry are carried into battle in smaller fighting vehicles (typically weighing less than five tons, compared to the full-sized machines classified under Combat Vehicles) ranging from halftracks to hoverpods and three-man submarines. Offering more protection compared to motorized infantry, these vehicles are also larger and heavier, capable of providing fire support themselves if sufficiently armed. Because of their means of transportation, mechanized infantry using wheeled or tracked vehicles are allowed to tow heavier support weapons such as Field Artillery. In addition to the normal number of infantry, mechanized squads and platoons include enough personnel to man their vehicles.
One of the most expensive types of infantry, jump infantry are trained in the use of Jump Packs, bounding across the battlefield in "hops" of up to 100 meters. This allows them to clear terrain more quickly, and gives them superior mobility to other infantry when operating in an urban environment. One of their primary roles is to hunt down enemy 'Mechs, for which they receive extra training and equipment to accomplish this mission. Jump infantry may also be carried to the battle on transports, favoring in particular VTOL craft. However, without any transportation, jump infantry are limited in the number and types of support weapons they can carry.
While standard infantry formations are useful in most situations, certain environments and missions require specialized infantry, troopers who have received advanced training and equipment to fulfill roles ill-suited to other soldiers. These forces are organized differently, generally smaller in size with fewer soldiers per squad, and include a wide range of roles, from Firefighters and Mountaineers to Combat Engineers and Space marines. For a full list of all infantry types, see Infantry Units.
- Total Warfare, p. 23, "Infantry"
- TechManual, p. 145, "Designing Infantry"
- TechManual, p. 275, "Conventional Infantry"
- BattleTroops, pp. 34-35, "Platoon Organization"
- Tactical Operations, p. 311, "Field Guns/Field Artillery"