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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

Box

  • When – You are conducting an approach march, exploitation or pursuit, you have minimal knowledge of the enemy.
  • Strengths – Easy facilitation to other formations and good all around firepower/security.
  • Weaknesses – Needs more maneuver space than most formations.

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Diamond (Similar to box except that it facilitates maneuvering either left or right without repositioning)

  • When – You are conducting an approach march, exploitation or pursuit, you have minimal knowledge of the enemy.
  • Strengths – Quickly maneuver left or right, easy facilitation to other formations and has good all around firepower/security
  • Weaknesses – Needs more maneuver space than most formations.

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Wedge

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  • When – Formation of choice when conducting a movement to contact.
  • Strengths – Excellent for speed in open terrain, easy to transition to most other formations, and enables quick changes in the orientation of the unit.
  • Weaknesses – Needs significant maneuver space to disperse vehicles/units and is difficult to command and control in restricted terrain and limited visibility.

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Vee

  • When – You expect enemy contact, when you have relatively good intelligence on the enemy.
  • Strengths – Excellent frontal firepower, and enables rapid transition to an assault.
  • Weaknesses – Difficult to command and control in restricted terrain and limited visibility and needs more maneuver space for dispersion.

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THE LANGUAGE OF THE OFFENSE

As in all areas of tactics, you must speak a common language.  Unfortunately, it is our experience that this is not necessarily the case.  Certainly, we all know the ramifications when the meanings of words are not understood by all those concerned.  To ensure we are all talking the same language, we have included the meanings of key terms frequently used when discussing offensive operations.

  • Approach March – This is a high speed maneuver to an attack position, assembly area, or assault position.  Normally, you know where the enemy is and you are simply trying to get from A to B as quickly as possible.
  • Artillery Preparation – Delivered just before an attack to set the conditions for effective maneuver.  When conducting a prep you must be careful to not give away the time of your attack.  Good units can almost concurrently conduct the prep and begin maneuvering on an objective.
  • Assault Position – This is the last covered and concealed position before you assault an objective.  A unit can pass through the position or it may halt to make final preparations or allow an artillery prep of the objective.
  • Attack Position – This is the last position you occupy before crossing the line of departure (LD)
  • Axis of Advance – A general route that a unit is designated to maneuver.
  • Bypass Criteria – Usually directed by your higher headquarters. This tells you which size enemy force you can bypass and continue maneuver.  The key in this is that trail units understand you have bypassed these units, so there is no surprise.
  • Direction of Attack – Usually associated with light infantry units at the battalion or below.  It is a directed route in which the unit can not deviate from.
  • Final Coordination Line – A designated line on the ground (near enemy positions) where fires will be lifted and shifted when the maneuver unit draws near the objective. If at all possible, this should be easily recognized by forces on the ground.
  • Limit of Advance – A recognizable terrain feature where attacking formations will not maneuver past.
  • Line of Departure – The line in which formations maneuver past to begin offensive operations.
  • Restrictive Fire Line – A line designated by converging forces (both could be moving or one could stationary) that prohibits fires or effects to be sent without permission from all affected units.  This line is usually directed by the next higher commander.

OVERALL KEYS TO SUCCESS

(We will go into greater depth on these during the coming months)

1. The ability to synchronize all your resources at the right time and right place (normally the decisive point) is critical.

2. You do not have to physically destroy every vehicle in an attack to accomplish your mission.  The true art of tactics is to beat your opponent mentally and conserve your valuable resources.

3. Understand the strengths of your opponent’s defense and avoid them.

4. Understand your opponent’s weaknesses in their defense and exploit them.

5. Understand your strengths during an attack and exploit them.

6. Identify your main effort and weight it to accomplish your decisive point. Remember, this main effort can change during your operation.

7. Your supporting efforts must have a task and purpose that assists the main effort in accomplishing its task and purpose.

8. You must have a reserve to exploit success or assist you if things are not going as well as anticipated.

9. Reconnaissance is vital.  In any type of offensive operation, you strive to understand the terrain and the enemy as quickly as possible.  The only way to achieve this is through a thoroughly planned and diligently executed recon plan.

10. Develop a flexible plan that allows you to exercise options.  Once you lose options, you become very predictable and very beatable.

We hope this article has been a good source of information for some and a good review for others.  Now that we have reviewed the basics, we will go into far greater detail on the deliberate attack in the next several months.  In next month’s article, we will discuss the overall keys to conducting a deliberate attack.  Following that article, we will focus on the mechanized deliberate attack and then utilizing infantry in the attack.

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