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Posted on Apr 26, 2007 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 015 – The Basics of the Offense

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

Exploitation – Larger units normally conduct exploitations after they have just succeeded in an attack.  Just as the name suggests, they want to exploit their success.  The end state of this is to totally destroy their opponent.  Exploitations are extremely time sensitive and a commander must act if he sees the window of opportunity to conduct one.  The indicators that an enemy may be susceptible to an exploitation are: large increase in prisoners of war, he has abandoned significant number of vehicles and supplies, or you begin overrunning many of his combat support and combat service support units.  As we have discussed earlier, you must plan for this success.  If you don’t, you will not have the capabilities in place to conduct an exploitation.   

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Pursuit – The pursuit generally follows a successful exploitation.  Again, this is an operation conducted by larger units.  During an exploitation, a commander may sense that his enemy has completely lost all command and control and the ability to fight.  Thus, the opponent is fleeing as quickly as he can.  The pursuit is then the operation in which the commander maneuvers his forces to destroy as many enemy formations as possible before they become out of reach.  Again, the commander must understand the indicators and can not let the window of opportunity close.

WHAT ARE THE FORMS OF MANEUVER?

Before discussing the specific forms of maneuver, let’s ensure we understand what maneuver is and the difference between it and movement.  In maneuver, a commander is attempting to employ his maneuver forces (in conjunction with fires) to gain an advantage over his enemy to accomplish his mission.  In movement, a commander is simply trying to go from Point A to Point B.      

Envelopment – This is the cornerstone of the forms of maneuver.  In it, we utilize a smaller portion of our forces to fix the enemy’s frontal defensive positions.  While we are fixing these forces, we maneuver the preponderance of our forces to attack into the enemy’s rear area from the flank.  With this attack, we are focused on the enemy and consequently, we assign objectives to our forces which are enemy oriented.  A commander may use a single envelopment or if he possesses the right forces and the terrain allows it – a double envelopment.    

“Never attack in front of a position that can be taken by turning.”  
Napoleon

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Turning Movement – The turning movement is often confused with the envelopment. This is because the turning movement like the envelopment utilizes both a fixing force and a larger element tasked to maneuver on the flank of the enemy.  However, there are some key differences in these forms of maneuver.  First, where as the envelopment is enemy focused; the turning movement is terrain focused.  In fact, the turning movement seeks to avoid enemy contact.  Its objective is to seize terrain deep in enemy territory and thus cause the enemy to react to this maneuver.  This reaction could be either an attempted counterattack or perhaps withdrawing from their defensive positions.  Obviously, if the turning movement is successful it has truly seized the initiative from the enemy.  The second difference between the two forms of maneuver (which is implied earlier) is that the flank maneuver on the turning movement is much deeper than the envelopment.  This is again, because the turning movement attempts to avoid large enemy contact   

“Exploit the line of least resistance, so long as it can lead you to any objective which would contribute to your underlying objective.”
Liddell-Hart

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