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  #1  
Old 30 Jan 17, 18:15
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Urban warfare controversy

I've been going through (carelessly, I must confess) some studies in urban combat that raised some doubt on my belief of urban environment being favorable to defenders.

Haka Yazilitas comes to the conclusion that attacker's casualties is lower in urban environment than in non-urban ones. The inverse would be true to defenders.

The Dupuy Institute "Measuring the Effects of Combat in Cities, Phase I" concludes that slower opposed advance rates is the primary influence of urban terrain. It concludes that the assumption that combat in urban environment produces higher casualties is unsupported; the same would be true for greater expenditure of supply. Fortification outside cities would be responsible for most of the effort expended in some urban campaign.

Jim Storr, quotes David Rowland: "(...)defender is at systematic disadvantage in close country (be it woods or built-up areas). It seems that amongst other things, in close country the defender is generally unable to mass the fire of his weapons due to very short ranges available in relation to unit frontages. Given their relative protection, if only from view, the attacker's can mass forces more safely than is normal. They can therefore isolate and attack small bodies of enemy relatively easily. The overall effect was described as 'counterintuitive' (...) Attacking infantry generally have an advantage of 3.57:1 in terms of attacker's to defender's casualties in FIBUA"

Concerning Jim Storr, I have only read some articles on the net about it, but I supposed he must have gone through some statistical data in order to get this 3.57:1 figure. The first two sources, however, present rich statistical data.

I've researched the net to find statistics on casualties from other sources but wasn't able to. I have gone through dozens of intuitive analysis based on battle narratives and personal experience stating what seems clearly to be the consensus about urban warfare, i.e. that it is violent and costly in human life, mainly to the attacker. Some state that a defender on a city would be able to keep position against huge odds.

My problem is that all those defending this point of view doesn't present statistical data to support it. Is there some serious study about this stuff that would contradict the ones I quoted? I would like to hear the impressions of those convinced that urban environment favors the defenders and how would they refute the data in those works, if they know them.

Notice that I'm not taking any position here. I just intuitively believed that urban environment would favor the defenders, like most. Now, I'm just not sure about it.
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  #2  
Old 30 Jan 17, 23:02
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If you can create rubble and channel attackers into certain paths, attacking casualties go way up. Defenders have their choice of where they set up and how they modify the building.

Defenders can board the doors and windows and create holes to fire through. They can fortify basements, upper stories and towers. Best of all they can knock holes through walls that connect into the next building. They can also use the sewers.

The Red Army in WW2 was magnificent in creating fortified defenses. If you allow them only a few hours to work, you almost can't get them out of an urban area.

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  #3  
Old 31 Jan 17, 03:05
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Urban warfare options in the 21st century center around two concerns:
1) How much of the urban structure are you willing to preserve while trying to extract the enemy resistance forces?
2) How many "innocent" civilians/non-combats are present in that combat environment you want to try and prevent from becoming "co-lateral damage"?

If the answer to either or both above is minimumal, or next to none, than there is a ready technology work around.

First secure/seal the perimeter of the target/urban area ...
Then hang back a bit while ...

FAE-Ze (pronounce "phase") is applied.

Fuel-Air Explosive(FAE) or Thermobaric Weapon(TW) bombardment (softening-up)(REAL "Shock and Awe").

... or we could say FAE-TW (Fay-tway?)("fatwah' )

A development of the latter 20th century which 21st century tech now makes even more desirable against "entrenched positions".

Fuel Air (Thermobaric) Weapons - (FATW)
EXCERPT:
...
Fuel Air or Thermobaric weapons have been around since the 1960s and have evolved from the traditional incendiary round into a much more deadly and versatile weapon now in its 3rd generation. Fuel air weapons work by using a small charge within a bomb, rocket or grenade warhead to scatter a the contents of the warhead which are either volatile gases , liquids or finely powdered explosives. These then form an aerosol cloud (often poisonous to inhale) which is then ignited creating a fireball which burns the surrounding area and consumes oxygen in a wider area. This lack of oxygen creates an enormous overpressure in a few micro seconds, which can reach 427lbs per square inch (30kg/cm2) at the centre of the explosion and create temperatures of 2500-3000 centigrade. The pressure is twice that created by traditional explosives, those not incinerated are crushed to death and a powerful blast wave is sent out followed by a vacuum sucking in objects as the cloud rapidly cools. All this creates a weapon as powerful as a low level tactical nuclear weapon without the radiation.
...http://www.historyofwar.org/articles...ermobaric.html

Further consideration, EXCERPT:
...
Thermobaric weapon
...
A thermobaric weapon is a type of explosive that utilizes oxygen from the surrounding air to generate an intense, high-temperature explosion, and in practice the blast wave typically produced by such a weapon is of a significantly longer duration than a conventional condensed explosive. The fuel-air bomb is one of the most well-known types of thermobaric weapons.
Most conventional explosives consist of a fuel-oxidizer premix (gunpowder, for example, contains 25% fuel and 75% oxidizer), whereas thermobaric weapons are almost 100% fuel, so thermobaric weapons are significantly more energetic than conventional condensed explosives of equal weight. Their reliance on atmospheric oxygen makes them unsuitable for use underwater, at high altitude, and in adverse weather. They do, however, cause considerably more destruction when used inside confined environments, such as foxholes, tunnels, bunkers, and caves—partly due to the sustained blast wave, and partly by consuming the available oxygen inside. Thermobaric weapons have the longest sustained blast wave and most destructive force of any known explosive, excluding nuclear weapons.
There are many different types of thermobaric weapons rounds that can be fitted to hand-held launchers.[1]
...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermobaric_weapon

When large enough and/or a few to several employed, next best thing to a tactical nuke.

The over-pressure will do quite a bit of structural damage, whether to buildings or mountain caves, etc. (Tora Bora? ) ... collapse, etc.

And the overpressure followed by vaccum mostly kills/shocks useless any fauna present.

Done in a series of "arc light" (3-4 B-52s say) bombing pattern sequences (say ten to thirty minutes apart to allow atmosphere/oxygen to refill blast zone), not much resistance left to put up a fight, organized or other/not, afterward.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em!





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Last edited by G David Bock; 31 Jan 17 at 03:19..
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Old 31 Jan 17, 06:41
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Whatever technique you use if there are significant numbers of non combatants in the area there is no way to take the place without causing major casualties amongst innocent civilians. This was true in the sieges of Saragossa in the resistance to the French invasion by Napoleon and it still remains true today. There may be ways of destroying people and leaving structures intact (Chemical, Biological or a Neutron bomb) but nothing that works the other-way round.

Work was tried in the 1960s on producing psychotropic chemical weapons that incapacitated defenders but did not kill but these proved to be ineffective, severely harmful to the victim, dangerous to troops occupying the captured area afterwards or some combination of several of these. They are now banned by various international treaties.
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Old 01 Feb 17, 14:06
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I would like to thank you guys for the insights, but I'm really looking for some source of statistics that will corroborate the idea of urban warfare being more casualty prone and more difficult from the point of view of attackers.

Dupuy Institute presents numbers such as:

Attacker's | Defender's
Casualties | Casualties

281 | 1144
222 | 1851
117 | 604

and so on. Most battles present such figures or even worse, from the point of view of attackers. In fact, even non-urban combat would have lower attacker's casualties, if compared to defender's casualties, going against the idea that attack is more costly, considering the fact that attacks will be conduced mostly with favorable odds. Yet, what really calls attention is the fact that non-urban casualties are greater and more unfavorable to attackers. Perhaps the data used is biased by the fact that most of the battles took place in WWII 1944 or by the way casualties were reported and extrapolated.

Yazilitas seems to be using the same database.

Since I don't know Jim Storr's book, I don't know what kind of data he used.

Does someone knows any statistical analysis that would contradict these studies? I have the same impression that most, i.e. that urban warfare is costlier for attacker's, but I'm trilled by these numbers.
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Old 01 Feb 17, 14:27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Damezzi View Post
I would like to thank you guys for the insights, but I'm really looking for some source of statistics that will corroborate the idea of urban warfare being more casualty prone and more difficult from the point of view of attackers.

Dupuy Institute presents numbers such as:

Attacker's | Defender's
Casualties | Casualties

281 | 1144
222 | 1851
117 | 604

and so on. Most battles present such figures or even worse, from the point of view of attackers. In fact, even non-urban combat would have lower attacker's casualties, if compared to defender's casualties, going against the idea that attack is more costly, considering the fact that attacks will be conduced mostly with favorable odds. Yet, what really calls attention is the fact that non-urban casualties are greater and more unfavorable to attackers. Perhaps the data used is biased by the fact that most of the battles took place in WWII 1944 or by the way casualties were reported and extrapolated.

Yazilitas seems to be using the same database.

Since I don't know Jim Storr's book, I don't know what kind of data he used.

Does someone knows any statistical analysis that would contradict these studies? I have the same impression that most, i.e. that urban warfare is costlier for attacker's, but I'm trilled by these numbers.
As presented those figures are meaningless - do the sources analyse casualties between combatants and non combatants for example? It is very rare that an evacuated built up area is defended for example and very unlikely that attackers will include non combatants
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Old 01 Feb 17, 15:32
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I remember a FIBUA (Fighting in Built Up Areas) exercise I was on in which we were the attacking side, we were attacking a mock up village on Salisbury plain (Imber Village).
Back then SAWES kit ( Small Arms Weapons Effect Simulator) was brand new in the British army and we were to use that for our first assault.
We went in and the kit gives out a high pitch beeping if you're hit, the only way to stop it is to lie down and an umpire uses a key to reset it.
There was literally nobody left out of the three platoons that made up my company to continue the assault, a sobering thought.
Especially when we were using all of the tactics and skills we had always used.
The blokes were strangely quiet afterwards, even the dumbest of us realised there was something seriously wrong.
What did we do about it ?
We took the SAWES kit off and done it again, this time everything went to plan and we won!

Very worrying.

Perhaps the increased lethality and generally higher availability of heavy weapons like grenade launchers has made what used to be quite decent hard cover not so effective now, that coupled with every infantryman having some kind of magnification on his weapon and instant comms connected to choppers that will put 6x 30mm HE rounds through whatever window you point out could result in higher casualties for the defenders.

Perhaps the data was collected from Middle Eastern conflicts where buildings are generally built out of cinder block while conventional wisdom has Western armies suffering inordinately high casualties assaulting into stone and brick buildings?

My gut tells me that an assaulting force attacking an equivalently armed enemy in a defence posture in a well built, stone and brick environment will suffer heavily.
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