Chain of Command of the British Army
Latvian platoon at Camp Lejune.jpg
Unit Soldiers Commander
Fireteam 4 NCO
Squad/Section 8–13 Squad leader
Platoon 26–55 Platoon leader
Company 80–225 Captain/Major
Battalion 300–1,300 (Lieutenant) Colonel
Regiment/Brigade 3,000–5,000 (Lieutenant) Colonel/
Brigadier (General)
Division 10,000–15,000 Major General
Corps 20,000–45,000 Lieutenant General
Field army 80,000–200,000 General
Army group 400,000–1,000,000 Field Marshal
Army Region 1,000,000–3,000,000 Field Marshal
Army theater 3,000,000–10,000,000 Field Marshal
Standard NATO code for a friendly infantry battalion.
Australian 11th (Western Australia) Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force posing on the Great Pyramid of Giza on 10 January 1915

A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel. Several battalions are grouped to form a regiment or a brigade.

The nomenclature varies by nationality and by branch of arms, for instance, some armies organize their infantry into battalions, but call battalion-sized cavalry, reconnaissance, or tank units a squadron or a regiment instead. There may even be subtle distinctions within a nation's branches of arms, such as a distinction between a tank battalion and an armored squadron, depending on how the unit's operational role is perceived to fit into the army's historical organization.

A battalion is generally the smallest military unit capable of independent operations (i.e., not attached to a higher command), although many armies have smaller units that are self-sustaining. The battalion is usually part of a regiment, group or a brigade, depending on the organizational model used by that service. The bulk of a battalion will ordinarily be homogeneous with respect to type (e.g., an infantry battalion or a tank battalion), although there are many exceptions. Every battalion will also include some sort of combat service support, typically organized within a combat support company.

The term is Italian in origin, appearing as battaglione. The French changed the spelling to bataillon, whereupon it directly entered into German.


British Army

Symbol of the Austrian 14th Armoured Battalion in NATO military graphic symbols

The term battalion is used in the infantry, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, (MSSM) and Intelligence Corps only. It was formerly used for a few units in the Royal Engineers (before they switched to regiments), and was also used in the now defunct Royal Army Ordnance Corps and Royal Pioneer Corps. Other corps usually use the term regiment instead.

An infantry battalion is numbered ordinarily within its regiment (e.g., 1st Battalion, The Rifles, usually referred to as 1 Rifles). It normally has a Headquarters Company, Support Company, and three Rifle Companies (usually, but not always, A, B and C Companies). Each company is commanded by a Major, the Officer Commanding (OC), with a Captain or senior Lieutenant as Second-in-Command (2IC). The HQ company contains signals, quartermaster, catering, intelligence, administration, pay, training, operations and medical elements. The support company usually contains anti-tank, machine gun, mortar, pioneer and reconnaissance platoons. Mechanised units usually have an attached Light Aid Detachment (LAD) of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) to perform field repairs on vehicles and equipment. A British battalion in World War II had around 845 men in it. With successive rounds of cutbacks after the war, many infantry Regiments were reduced to a single battalion (others were amalgamated to form large Regiments which maintained multiple battalions; e.g., the Royal Anglian Regiment).

Important figures in a battalion headquarters include:

Battalions of other corps are given separate cardinal numbers within their corps (e.g., 101 Battalion REME).

Battalion group

A battalion group is a military unit based around a battalion. A typical battalion group consists of an infantry or armoured battalion with sub-units detached from other military units acting under the direct command of the battalion commander. Battalion groups may be permanent or temporary formations.

Under modern military doctrine battalion groups are being replaced by battlegroups.[citation needed] The key difference between battalion groups and battlegroups is that battlegroups consist of a mixture of sub-units and typically do not include all sub-units of any single battalion.

The battalion staff includes the operations officer (usually a major) who is also generally the next in command hierarchy after the battalion 2nd in command.

Armoured Infantry Battalion

  • HQ of 5 FV432, 2 Warrior MCRV (Mechanised Combat Repair Vehicle) and 1 Warrior MAOV (Mechanised Artillery Observation Vehicle)
  • 4 Armoured Infantry Companies (1 Coy has only 2 pltns):
  • Manoeuvre Support Company:
    • HQ of 5 FV432, 2 Warrior MCRV and 1 Warrior MAOV
    • Anti-Tank Platoon:
      • HQ of 2 Warriors and 2 MILAN Teams
      • 3 Sections of 1 FV103 Spartan (HQ) 3 Warriors and 6 MILAN Teams
    • Recce Platoon:
    • HQ ISTAR Group of 1 FV432
    • Mortar Platoon:
      • Pl HQ of 2 FV105 Sultan
      • 4 Sections of 3 FV432 with L16 81mm Mortar
      • OP Section of 4 MFC teams and 4 FV103 Spartan
    • CSS Detachment of 1 FV432
    • Pioneer Platoon of 4 Warriors, Pl HQ (L9A1 51 mm Light Mortar), 3 Sections (2 L86 LSW each)
    • LAD Section of 1 FV432, 1 FV434 "Carrier, Maintenance, Full Tracked" and 1 FV106 Samson

Canadian Army

In the Canadian Forces, most battalions are reserve units of between 100–200 soldiers that include an operationally ready, field-deployable component of approximately a half-company apiece. The nine regular force infantry battalions are each composed of four companies totalling approximately 600 soldiers. Canadian battalions are generally commanded by lieutenant-colonels, though smaller reserve battalions may be commanded by majors.

Those regiments consisting of more than one battalion are:

Tactically, the Canadian battalion forms the core of the infantry battle group, which also includes various supporting elements such as armour, artillery, combat engineers and combat service support. An infantry battle group will typically be commanded by the commander of the core infantry battalion around which it is formed and can range in size from 300 to 1,500 or more soldiers, depending on the nature of the mission assigned.

Colombian Army

In the Colombian Army, a battalion usually has a strength of 1,200 to 1,300 men, and is divided in companies. Normally it is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel. Counter Insurgency Battalions are the exception as they usually have around 300 soldiers, and are commanded by a Major. Two or more battalions form a Brigade.

Battalions are numbered ordinarily and according to its speciality:

  • Infantry
  • Artillery
  • Engineers
  • Mechanized Infantry
  • Mountain Infantry
  • Counter-Insurgency
  • Military Police
  • Combat Service Support
  • Infrastructure Protection

Royal Netherlands Army

  • Infantry: one mechanised infantry platoon usually consists out of one one command- and medical company, three mechanised infantry elements, and one support company which has 3 platoons with heavy mortars and 1 (later 3) platoon(s) with anti-tank missiles (TOW). With the Dutch artillery units the equivalent of a battalion is called an "afdeling" (which translates to "department").
  • Combat companies consist of (usually mechanised) infantry, combat engineers, or tanks. In the latter case the unit is called an "eskadron", which translates roughly to "squadron". There are also support battalions in the Dutch army, which specialise on specific task: for example, supplies and transport or communication.
  • The Netherlands have four battalions that are permanently reserved for the United Nations, for the purpose of peacekeeping duties.
  • An infantry battalion, logistical battalion, combat battalion, or even the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps all have a battalion structure. Each battalion usually consists of the following:
    • Battalion command
      • Commander
      • Second in command
    • General service
      • Personnel section
      • Intelligence section
      • Opterations section
      • Materiel section
      • Communication section
    • Command company
      • Command group
      • Administration group
      • Medical group
      • Communication group
      • Supply platoon
    • 3 Infantry companies
    • Support company
      • Command group
      • Recon platoon
      • Mortar platoon
      • Anti-tank platoon

Swiss Army

With the major reform of its Armed Forces in 2004, the Swiss Army abandoned the old regimental system and adopted a combat team approach centred on battalions as the building blocks of mission-oriented task forces. Battalion sizes vary between branches. For example, an infantry battalion has a nominal strength of 1,224 men.

United States

US Army

In the United States Army, a battalion is a unit composed of a headquarters and two or more batteries, companies or troops. They are normally identified by ordinal numbers (1st Battalion, 2nd Squadron, etc.) and normally have subordinate units that are identified by single letters (A Battery, A Company, A Troop, etc.). Battalions are tactical and administrative organizations with a limited capability to plan and conduct independent operations and are normally organic components of brigades, groups, or regiments.

A United States Army battalion includes the battalion commander (Lieutenant Colonel), his staff, and headquarters, the Command Sergeant Major (CSM), and usually 3–5 companies, with a total of 300 to 1,200 soldiers. A regiment consists of between two and six organic battalions, while a brigade consists of between three and seven separate battalions.

During the American Civil War, an infantry or cavalry battalion was an ad hoc grouping of companies from the parent regiment (which had ten companies, A through K, minus J as described below), except for certain regular infantry regiments, which were formally organized into three battalions of six companies each (numbered 1–6 per battalion vice sequential letter designations). After 1882, cavalry battalions were renamed squadrons and cavalry companies were renamed troops. Artillery battalions typically comprised four or more batteries, although this number fluctuated considerably.

During World War II, most infantry regiments consisted of three battalions (a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd) with each battalion consisting of four companies. That is, companies A, B, C, and D were part of the 1st battalion, companies E, F, G, and H constituted the 2nd battalion, and I, K, L, and M in the 3rd. There was no J company. [The letter J was traditionally not used because in 18th and 19th century old style type the capital letters I and J looked alike and were therefore too easily confused with one another.] It was common for a battalion to become temporarily attached to a different regiment. For example, during the confusion and high casualty rates of both the Normandy landings and the Battle of the Bulge, in order to bolster the strength of a depleted infantry regiment, companies and even battalions were moved around as necessary.

From the 1960s through the early 1980s, a typical maneuver (infantry or tank) battalion had five companies: Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) and A, B, and C Companies, plus a Combat Support Company with a scout platoon, mortar platoon and other elements that varied between organizations. These included heavy anti-tank missile platoons, ground surveillance radar sections, man portable anti-aircraft missile sections and others. Beginning in the early to mid-1980s some elements of the Combat Support Companies (the mortar and scout platoons) were merged into the Headquarters Company with the staff and support elements, others were moved to their parent type organization (ground surveillance radar and air defense), and in infantry battalions the heavy anti-tank missile platoon was organized as a separate company (Echo/E). Simultaneously, there was a fourth "type" company added (Delta/D) in most infantry and tank battalions.

In this older structure, United States Army mechanized infantry battalions and tank battalions, for tactical purposes, cross-post companies to each other, forming a battalion-sized task force (TF).

Starting in 2005–2006 with Transformation, U.S. Army mechanized and tank battalions were reorganized into Combined Arms Battalions (CABs). Tank battalions and mechanized infantry battalions no longer exist. These new combined arms battalions are modular units, each consisting of a headquarters company, two mechanized infantry companies, two armor companies, an engineer company, and a forward support company. This new structure eliminated the need to cross-post (or as it is more commonly referred to, cross-attach) companies between battalions; each combined arms battalion was organically composed of the requisite companies. At a higher level, each heavy brigade is composed of two CABs, an armored reconnaissance squadron, a fires battalion (field artillery), a special troops battalion (STB), and a brigade support battalion (BSB).

United States Marine Corps

A United States Marine Corps battalion includes the battalion headquarters, consisting of the commanding officer (usually a lieutenant colonel, sometimes a colonel), an executive officer (the second-in-command, usually a major), the sergeant major, and the executive staff (S-1 through S-8). The battalion headquarters is supported by a Headquarters and Service Company (Battery). A battalion usually contains 2–5 organic companies (batteries in the artillery), with a total of 500 to 1,200 Marines in the battalion. A regiment consists of a regimental headquarters, a headquarters company (or battery), and two to five organic battalions (Marine infantry regiments - three battalions of infantry; Marine artillery regiments - three to five battalions of artillery; Marine combat logistics regiments - two or more combat logistics battalions). In the US Marine Corps, the brigade designation is used only in Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB). A MEB is one of the standard Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTF), is commanded by a brigadier general or major general, and consists of command element, a ground combat element (usually one reinforced Marine infantry regiment), an aviation combat element (a reinforced Marine Air Group), and a service support element (a Marine Logistics group, which includes Naval Construction Force (SEABEEs) and naval medical elements).

In the U.S. Marine Corps, an infantry or rifle battalion typically consists of a Headquarters and Service Company (H&S Co.), three rifle, or line, companies (designated alphabetically A through M depending upon which battalion of the parent regiment to which they are attached) and a weapons company. Weapons companies do not receive a letter designation. Marine infantry regiments use battalion and company designations as described above under World War II, with company letters D, H, and M not normally used but rather held in "reserve" for use in augmenting a fourth rifle company into each battalion as needed.

United States Marine Corps infantry battalions are task organized into Battalion Landing Teams (BLTs) as the Ground Combat Element (GCE) of a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). A "standard" U.S. Marine infantry battalion is typically supported by an artillery battery and a platoon each of tanks, amphibious assault vehicles, light armored reconnaissance vehicles, reconnaissance Marines, and combat engineers. The battalion structure is designed to readily expand to include a fourth rifle company, if required, as described above under battalion organization. Often naval gunfire liaison officers (NGLO) are assigned to the battalion, to coordinate naval gunfire support.

The United States Navy has also had construction battalions since World War II.

See also


External links

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