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Posted on Dec 4, 2014 in Tactics101

Tactics 101 103 – Bradley Platoon Attack

Tactics 101 103 – Bradley Platoon Attack

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

 image002 Bradley Platoon Attack
A view from the Platoon Leader’s Cupola/Foxhole

“Since I joined the Marines, I have advocated aggressiveness in the field and constant offensive action.  Hit quickly, hit hard, and keep right on hitting.  Give the enemy no rest, no opportunity to consolidate his forces and hit back at you.  This is the shortest road to victory.”

image004General Holland M. ‘Howlin’ Mad’ Smith

 LAST MONTH
In our last two articles, we dissected the Bradley platoon.  We looked at several areas in our discussion.  This included the organization of the platoon, the roles and responsibilities of the platoon’s key leaders, the maneuver techniques and formations a platoon may utilize, and the challenges a platoon has in maneuver.  We believe these articles provided a solid foundation for you in your understanding of the Bradley Platoon.  We will now expand on that foundation.

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image005 THIS MONTH
In this month’s article, we will take a little different approach than normal.  We will look at an attack with the perspective of the Soldier who will lead his unit.  In this case, we will focus on the Bradley Platoon Leader who will lead his Soldiers in the attack.  We will get into the head of the Platoon Leader and address his thoughts on how he will plan and prepare for this offensive operation.  Tough Stuff!  Even tougher when you are a young, relatively inexperienced second Lieutenant.  Fortunately, he has good NCOs to help him.  He must listen and utilize their incredible experience.  Let’s mount up and cross LD!

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THE PRELIMINARIES
Lieutenant Duffer got his OPORD from the Old Man (Company Commander) at o-dark-thirty in the am.  His platoon was to initially lead the company attack in about 24 hours.  They were to seize Objective Red (1) in order to allow the rest of the company to continue the attack south to seize Objectives White and Blue (2).  By seizing Objectives Red, White and Blue, Bravo Company would effectively eliminate the enemy’s security zone.  This would clear the path for the rest of the Battalion Task Force to attack south in order to destroy the enemy’s main belt defensive position (3).  This would ultimately open the valley for maneuver for the rest of the Brigade Combat Team.  It was all nested and the platoon would have an important purpose and task.  The Platoon Leader crafted up the following sketch with some notes to aid in his planning and preparation:

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Duffer wrote his platoon MISSION statement:

 The 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion attacks at 0300 13JUNE2014 to seize Objective Red in order to facilitate the Company attack to seize Objectives White and Blue.

Duffer’s Platoon was a supporting effort.  The fighting 3rd Platoon would clear the way for the main effort 1st Platoon to seize Objective White.  The 2nd Platoon was also a supporting effort.  They would follow and support the 1st Platoon, then would maneuver to the south of them to seize Objective Blue and block any enemy counterattacks.

image012The company scheme of maneuver is as shown to the left.  The 3rd Platoon leads the attack in time and space.  They cross the line of departure (LD) at 0300 in the morning.  They have until 0445 to seize Objective Red and establish an overwatch position overlooking White and Blue 500 meters to the southeast.  Duffer will call in and observe artillery and smoke and will use his platoon weapon systems to suppress the enemy while the rest of the company maneuvers to seize White and Blue.  The 3rd Platoon will stay on Red while Bravo Company (-) suppresses the enemy main belt during the battalion attack.

It’s basically a three step attack led off by 3rd Platoon, B Co.  Although Duffer’s men are only a supporting effort, they will set the tone for the mission.

Now that Duffer understood the missions of his platoon, company, and battalion and how they fit together (nesting), he needed to analyze the ENEMY.  The Battalion S2, Intelligence Officer, said Objective Red was held by a motorized rifle squad.  They were an LP/OP: Listening Post and Outpost.  They were the eyes forward of a motorized rifle platoon combat outpost (COP); a rudimentary security zone.

The enemy squad was dug into a trench that connected to their BMP1 which is dug in.  The trench has three bunkers, probably sheltering a few ATGM (Anti-tank Guided Missile) gunners and a machine-gunner.  There also appeared to be four parapets thought to be firing points for individual riflemen.  They are surrounded by wire and mines with an opening to the rear believed to be an escape route.  The wire is simple concertina and the mines are surface laid; this is a hasty and temporary obstacle meant to disrupt and slow movement, not to stop it.

A BMP1 with a 73mm main gun, Sagger anti-tank missile and 7.62 coax machine gun is dug in on the eastern tip of the hilltop, allowing it to overwatch the gap.  A squad of 9 to 12 Soldiers is dug in a trench line with three bunkers, probably with two RPG’s and two machineguns.

 image013BMP 1 – This is LT Duffer’s Endstate for this Vehicle

Lt Duffer had a pretty good idea about how the enemy was arrayed, equipped, and armed.  He knew where they were and why they were there.  He knew their Saggers could kill Bradleys out to 2 kilometers and their RPG’s ranged out to 400 meters.

image015He knew enough about the enemy to get started on the plan of attack, but he needed to review his own TROOPS to make sure he hadn’t overlooked anything.  It’s easy to neglect this simple step.

The 3rd Platoon was at full strength and morale was high.  His NCO’s were experienced and they knew their jobs.  The BFVs were well maintained as were the platoon’s mounted and dismounted weapons systems.

The role of the BFV’s was not to fight like a little tank.  Their job was to provide mobility, extra firepower and protection to the infantry squads so they can close with the enemy.  That’s what the Infantry does.  The Infantry squads dismount and take objectives; tanks and Bradleys support.

Once in a position to deploy the Infantry on the ground, the BFVs provide suppressive fire so the Infantry can maneuver.  The BFVs suppress enemy armored vehicles and Infantry Fighting Vehicles and kill tanks with their Tow missiles.  Lt Duffer learned early on that the Brads have excellent cross-country mobility and can fire with pinpoint accuracy while on the move.  He also understood the following:

  • Their armor can stop anything up to 30mm rounds all around.
  • They have protection inside and overhead.
  • They pack a 25mm “Bushmaster” Chain Gun capable of firing armor piercing (AP) or high explosive (HE) rounds at 200 per minute out to 2 kilometers – great for fixing and suppressing the enemy.
  • The big guns are backed up by a 7.62mm coax machine gun mounted to the right of the Bushmaster which is highly effective against dismounted enemy infantry.
  • The BFV also comes with the aforementioned TOW Anti-Tank Guided Missile.  Two are loaded in the ‘hammerhead’ at all times and are ready to fire with 7 more ready as reloads.
  • The one thing to remember is that the BFV has to stop to fire the TOWs which means this should be pre-planned when on the attack against a fixed position.  The TOW reaches out almost 4 kilometers and travels at speeds approaching Mach 1.  They are wire guided by the gunner making them deadly accurate.
  • All vehicle combat systems are backed up with state of the art optics for both day and night.
  • The Bradley’s wide tracks and 600 horsepower engine makes it fast and maneuverable over rough ground.  The BFV has a venerable record.  In their first combat test during Desert Storm, only 3 of the 2,200 were disabled and accounted for more armor kills than their partner the M1A1 Abrams tank.
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Click to enlarge.

Duffer has 4 Bradleys but, as impressive as they sound, the meat and potatoes are the three Infantry squads.  They’re the ones he uses to close with and destroy the enemy or to hold ground; close combat is the only way to gain the decision in battle.  The platoon is most effective when it operates at night or during limited visibility.  They can penetrate and hold obstacles and difficult terrain, attack over ground that stops tanks, seize or secure forested and built-up areas, and can control restrictive routes all of which are elements of this mission.

Lt Duffer and the ‘third herd’ can usually count on artillery, mortars, close air, air defense and engineer support, but not this time.  Duffer would get flares over the objective; smoke in front of it, and a few rounds on top of it and that was about all.  Most of the combat support was being held for the larger attacks to the south.  The mortars were, of course, always on call.  He would depend significantly on them. He knew the key stats of his weapon systems:

  • ­        25-mm chain gun: reaches out to 2,500 meters .
  • ­        The TOW tanks and armor killer: reaches out to almost 4,000 meters.
  • ­        The dismounted Javelin tank and armor killer: reaches out to 2,000 meters.
  • ­        Dismounted SAW and M60 reaching out to 1,000 meters.
  • ­        Infantry small arms reaching out to 400 meters.
  • ­        Loads of grenades; HE, smoke, and incendiary.

LT Duffer knew he possessed the firepower required to achieve his purpose and task. He also knew the organization of his platoon.  This included:

The mounted element consists of four BFVs divided into two sections of two BFV’s each (A and B).  The Platoon Leader leads section A and the platoon while the Platoon Sergeant leads section B.  The Platoon Leader dismounts when the squads dismount and he, along with the Squad Leaders, lead the fight on the ground.  The Platoon Sergeant remains mounted and continues to maneuver his section while guiding the mounted element and ensuring its direct support to the ground troops. The Platoon Sergeant also uses the vehicle radios to maintain contact with the company and provides situation reports (SITREPS) and calls for fire.

The A and B wingman Bradleys are controlled by their Bradley Commander (BC).  Their job is to follow the directions of the Section Leader and the Platoon Leader while fighting their Bradley.  He acquires targets for his gunner who remains inside the turret with his eyes glued to his sights.  The BC commands his BFV and keeps it properly oriented relative to the section and the platoon.  He also controls vehicle fires in support of mounted and dismounted maneuver and places his BFV in position within platoon formations.  The BC doesn’t just follow the guy in front of him, he navigates, sends SITREPs, and supports the Infantry he carries.

 image020

The dismounted element consists of the three nine-man rifle squads. The squad has two, four-man fire teams and a squad leader. Each squad has an Anti-Tank weapon and squad automatic weapon or SAW. Two riflemen train on the SAW and Javelin.

Rifleman. Each squad has two riflemen equipped with an M16A2 or M4. One rifleman is designated as the anti-armor specialist. The other is assigned the M240B.

Antiarmor Specialist. The designated Javelin and AT4 gunner provides lethal fire-and-forget, man-portable, top attack anti-armor capability to defeat enemy main battle tanks during day, night, and adverse weather conditions up to 2,000 meters.

Grenadier. The grenadier has an M203 which consists of an M16 with attached 40-mm grenade launcher. The M203 gives the fire team indirect-fire out to 350 meters. He can fire high-explosive (HE) or can employ smoke to screen and cover his movement, fire, and maneuver. During night and adverse weather conditions, he can fire illumination rounds to increase visibility and mark enemy or friendly positions.

Automatic Rifleman. Each squad has two automatic weapons. The automatic rifleman mainly uses the M249 squad automatic weapon. The M249 gives the squad a high volume of sustained, long-range, suppressive, or lethal fires far beyond the range of the M16 or M4 rifle. The automatic rifleman uses the M249 to suppress enemy infantry and bunkers, to destroy enemy automatic rifle and antitank teams, and to enable other teams and squads to maneuver.

LT Duffer considered the following guidelines for tactical employment of his platoon:

  • ­        Fight through contact at the lowest possible level. Upon contact, act at once and follow up. Battle drills help take immediate action.
  • ­        Before the platoon maneuvered, he knew the platoon must establish suppressive fire and gain fire superiority. If the platoon cannot move under its own fire; he should request support from the company. Once they gain fire superiority, he continues maneuver. When he must dismount, the BFVs suppress and build a base of fire for squads to maneuver.

Duffer contemplated…so much for the upside.  The platoon seems more than capable for this mission, but a responsible leader also reviews the downside.  As Clint Eastwood said once, “a man’s got to know his limitations.”  He know his limitations were:

  • ­        The BFVs are vulnerable to anti-tank systems.  The approach to the objective must minimize exposure to ATGMs.  The BMP will have to be heavily suppressed and we’ll have to stay out of range of the infantry AT’s.
  • ­        The rifle squads are vulnerable to small arms fire and artillery when on the ground.  While small arms fire is always a problem, artillery can be devastating.  We need to dismount as close as possible or infiltrate on a route masked from enemy observation.
  • ­        Once the infantry dismounts, they set the pace.  As always, one of the biggest issues is how to synchronize the ground and mounted elements.  Dismount too soon and the attack loses momentum; dismount too late and you deny the infantry the ability to develop the situation.  In this case, the infantry might have to go on foot early on and move to an attack position.  Once ready to initiate the assault, the BFV’s could move forward and begin target suppression.
  • ­        Swimming BFVs is slow and difficult, but doable.  Fording sites have to be found and validated while bridges have to be checked to see if they meet weight classification.  Luckily these are not problems on this mission.

 image021

 After having considered the platoons strengths and weaknesses, capabilities and limitations, Duffer had to roll it all up and consider how to maximize the pluses and minimize the minuses so he could begin making a plan.

  • ­        The platoon is not a tank platoon; it’s not designed to overrun enemy positions mounted. Duffer learned this lesson the hard way at the National Training Center when he tried to do just that as a Green newbie.  The platoon got smoked in a matter of minutes and the shiny new lieutenant had an uphill battle ahead of him to rebuild credibility with his guys.  He wasn’t gonna bum rush another objective again—at least not without a tank escort.  This isn’t the NTC and the enemy isn’t firing lasers.  There would be a well-orchestrated mix of mounted and dismounted action with smoke obscuration, artillery and direct fire suppression at play in order to let the Infantry get up to the enemy position.
  • ­        He needed to fight through contact at the lowest possible level. If he made contact on the way, the lead section would act and the trail would follow up.  The platoon would need to rehearse its mounted and dismounted battle drills and immediate action.
  • ­        Smoke first, suppression next, and fire superiority last; that’s the sequence he’d use to close on Objective Red.  If the platoon finds out that it cannot move under its own fires, Duffer would request additional fire support beyond what was already preplanned.
    • ­        Once they gain fire superiority they’d maneuver.
    • ­        The BFVs build a base of fire for squads to maneuver.

The simple rules of thumb are:

  • ­        Support the rifle squads with direct fire.
  • ­        Suppress or destroy enemy IFV’s and light armored vehicles.
  • ­        Destroy enemy armor with TOW.
  • ­        Success hinges on the actions of the mounted sections, and dismounted rifle squads.
  • ­        BFV Infantry relies on the use of both the rifle squads and the BFVs.  Don’t leave anything out of the fight.
  • ­        Assault enemy positions with small arms and indirect fire.
  • ­        Conduct dismounted patrols to collect intel and to reinforce security.
  • ­        Organize for and over-watch obstacle breaching: Assault–Support—Breach.
  • ­        Be prepared to defeat enemy counter-attacks.

The enemy position provides visibility to the north and northeast, allowing the squad to observe anyone approaching and to direct fires and artillery on them as they move south towards and through the gap. It’s a pretty good position. There’s a wooded ridge to the west and the squad was nestled into the hilltop spur at the end of the ridge. The only concealed approach is down the ridge.

Duffer had 24hours to be on the objective.  He’d backwards plan to make a schedule that gave his subordinates the maximum amount of time necessary to prepare their squads and sections.  The typical rule is 1/3rd to 2/3rds leader to subordinate time although the best shoot for 1/5th – 4/5ths.  Let’s see…

image024

LT Duffer assessed the TERRAIN on and around Objective Red.  The approach is wide open which means no hindrance to the Bradleys on the attack, but which also means the enemy BMP can fire on them as they approach.  He’d need smoke to hinder visibility and artillery to keep the BMP and dismounted AT gunner’s heads down.  If the Bradleys can get into range without taking effective fire, they will be able to put a high volume of suppressive fire on the defenders.

The enemy position provides visibility to the north and northeast, allowing the squad to observe anyone approaching and to direct fires and artillery on them as they move south towards and through the gap.  It’s a pretty good position.  There’s a wooded ridge running downhill from the west ending in a hilltop at the end.  Objective Red is the squad defensive position on that small hilltop.  The only concealed approach is down the ridge.  The ridge runs west to east and is wooded up to the hilltop.  This gentle downward slope though the trees offers an excellent dismounted avenue of approach for the dismounted Infantrymen.  To save time, the BFVs will need to put the troops on the ground at the base of the ridge.  They could then use the cover and concealment to close in on the eastern flank of the position.  They would be able to breach the wire and mines on a narrow front and would gain direct access to the flank position.  The mixture of a relatively flat and open approach to the gap and the wooded ridgeline off to the east makes for an excellent pair of exploitable approaches.

The mission TIME is 0300 or 25 hours from receipt of the order to crossing the Line of Departure (LD).  According to the 1/3rd : 2/3rd Rule, 8 hours would go to LT Duffer and 17 hours would go to his squad leaders.  The thirds is the rule of thumb, but the fourths is the goal: 1/4th : 3:4th.  That would mean roughly 5 hours to Duffer and 20 to his subordinates.  That was better since the squad leaders had to plan, issue orders, rehearse and make sure everyone had the right basic load.  Duffer figured he could prepare and brief a solid plan in 5 hours.

image026

THE PLAN IN A NUTSHELL.   As per Platoon standard operating procedure (SOP); the Platoon Sergeant (PSG) would lead the Bradleys—the mounted element.  Duffer would lead the dismounted element.

The artillery would open fire on Objectives White and Blue at 0245 and would shift fires north to Objective Red at 0300hrs while the Third Herd was crossing the LD as per the Company Commander’s timeline.  Smoke would be mixed into the fires on Red and mortar flares would pop over the hilltop every 10 minutes or so.  The platoon would use the flares as a reference point as they headed to the dismount point to the northeast of Red, at the base of the ridgeline.

Once the Dismounted Infantry was on the ground, the PSG would move the mounted element into place.  The PSG’s section would overwatch as the PL’s section moved into a firing line north of the objective.  The PSG’s section would follow.  The Brads would be 2.5 kilometers out and would keep 200 meters between them.  All would fire; two firing Armor Piercing (AP) rounds at the BMP and two firing High Explosive (HE) rounds at the trenches and bunkers.  The PSG would also report to Battalion and monitor the mortar fires being called by the dismounts.

When the BMP gets hit, whether by the Brads or the Infantry, the PSG would begin maneuvering on the objective.  He’d drive right up to the base of the hill as soon as practical, using his 7.62mm in support of the Infantry.

The three dismounted squads would be 2 kilometers from the objective.  They’d have to move quickly, but cautiously since there could be a listening post (LP) hiding in the woods looking for them.  All in all, it would take 60 to 90 minutes.  No problem; the hush that comes over the battlefield after an arty prep is eerie and unsettling to the defender who knows something is afoot…but what?

The squads were broken down to assault (1st Sqd), support (2nd Sqd), and breach (3rd Sqd) teams.

The support team got extra machinegun ammo and was given control of battalion mortar fires.  The breach team was given rope with grappling hooks, mine probes, chemlites to mark the lane, and other special gear.  The assault team was beefed up with a few troops from the support team.

Duffer would lead a leader’s recon once they were 400 meters out from Objective Red.  The support team would get in position first, while everyone else dropped their gear.

The breach team would use the grappling hooks to drag the wire back, figuring some of the mines to be tethered to the wire as booby traps.  The mines were surface laid so they would be marked to be avoided.  The assault team would charge through the breach as soon as it was open and gain a foothold in the eastern most end of the trench line.  The breach time would follow them in while the support team would reposition to keep fires on the west side.

The Brads would come up when Duffer called them or at the Platoon Sergeant’s discretion.  The pre-requisite to their arrival is the destruction of the BMP.  Once there, they would put fire on Objectives White and Blue, while LT Duffer called the commander who would begin the attack through the gap.

BFV Platoon Planning.  Remember the basics, they apply to all units; large and small, light and heavy:

  • ­        METT-T: Mission, Enemy, Troops, Terrain, Time
  • ­        Troop Leading Procedures

The BFV specific planning considerations include:

  • ­       The Dismounted Element of three rifle squads
  • ­       The Mounted Element of 4 BFVs
  • ­       Maneuver, Firepower, Protection, Leadership, Information
  • ­       Supply Class I, III, V, IX: food, fuel, ammo, and medical supplies

Remember that your Bradleys are not little tanks.  They are Infantry fighting vehicles.  They provide mobility, firepower and protection and their primary purpose is to SUPPORT the infantry when they dismount.  Bradley platoons have fewer troops to put on the ground given the need to crew the IFV’s.  They typically field 27 or fewer ground troops.  The Infantry deficit is made up by tactical mobility and tempo, armored protection, devastating long range suppressive fires, and TOW ATGM’s.  Care must be taken to synchronize the slower ground movement and shorter range weapons with the faster mounted movement and longer range systems.  The Dismounted Infantry and Bradleys allow the platoon to balance the close fight and the longer range armored fight.  Each element, when used properly, mitigates the other’s weaknesses.

 image028

The BFV platoon is uniquely capable to work on the armored and infantry battlefields.  They typically partner with M1A1 Abrams Tanks; making one of the most lethal and capable modern conventional combat teams ever fielded.  When you properly plan a Bradley Platoon attack you are delivering a highly capable force that can create multiple dilemmas for any opponent.  Be sure to use all your combat power; don’t park your Brads and don’t leave your infantry mounted; use both to their fullest advantage!

SUMMARY
In this article, we wanted to provide you a look into the thought process a Bradley Platoon Leader goes through in planning an attack.  Obviously, there is much to think about and not a lot of time to do it. As you can surmise, the growth process a Platoon Leader goes through is tremendous.  He is greatly assisted every step of the way by a crusty old Platoon Sergeant who will take him under his wing.  Surely, LT Duffer has a Platoon Sergeant who has taught him well!

NEXT MONTH
In our next article, LT Duffer will address how he plans and prepares for the defense.  We will dissect his thought process and how he and his platoon will achieve their purpose and task.  LT Duffer has an incredible amount of firepower that he can utilize in accomplishing his mission.  As is the case with the Bradley Platoon Leader; he must synchronize the strengths of both his mounted and dismounted elements.  He must capitalize on their capabilities and ensure that he minimalizes their weaknesses.  In the defense, he must also be a master of time management.  He and his Platoon have an enormous amount of work to be done in minimal time.  LT Duffer will show you how to accomplish all of this.

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4 Comments

  1. Interesting article, but how do you reconcile the bradleys being able to carry 24 personnel (4 x 6), but needing to carry 28 men (3 squads of 9 + 1 CO)?

    • Don’t the SL’s become assistant gunners? Or at least take up the spare slot?

      • Late in the day, but here goes.
        Yes, the original M2 only had space for 3 crew & 6 dismounts, but the current A3 version has room for an extra man. [Wikipedia's source says that the A1 also had room for 7, but the basic A2 dropped back to 6. The extra seat was regained in 1991 for those M2s that were upgraded to M2-ODS standard; the remaining A2s were eventually upgraded to A3 standard.]
        From US Field Manuals, the typical dismountable element was 23 men (Ptn Ldr, 2 x 9-man Squads, Ptn R/TO, an attached Medic, an attached FO and his R/TO), leaving a spare seat. This eventually changed to 28 men (Ptn Ldr and 3 x 9-man Squads) as per this article.

  2. Excellent article, thank you for taking the time to set things up for us.

    I have one comment for this scenario. When the enemy locate on a hilltop, it might not be possible for the IFVs to provide suppressive fires. One has to rely on his mortars.

    Unless a SBF position can be found on dominating ground, or the enemy decide to site on the forward slope. Indeed for the BMP to be able to fire at targets on the lower ground, it must be driven well into the forward slope, where it will be taken out by ATGMs if it’s commander doesn’t happen to be the master of the secret art of invisibility. The same goes for his bunkers. Siting on the forward slope isn’t a good idea when facing a heavy force (with IFVs, tanks and direct firing arty).

    With regard to the infantry attack, my choice would have been to position the support group on the ridge (assuming the ridge dominates the enemy held hill) and maneuver the assault group to the right, so that they can enter the enemy position through the gap.

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