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Posted on Sep 4, 2007 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 019 – Attacking in the Blind – Movement to Contact

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

Planning a Movement to Contact

You must conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to determine the enemy’s location and intent while conducting security operations to protect the main body.  Gain contact with the smallest elements possible.  These elements are normally scouts performing reconnaissance or unmanned aerial vehicles or other intelligence systems.  

The frontage assigned to a unit in a movement to contact must allow it to generate sufficient combat power to maintain momentum.  Reducing the frontage enables the unit to generate adequate combat power to develop the situation while maintaining momentum.  The advance guard should have uncommitted forces available to develop the situation without requiring the deployment of the main body.  You will end up relying on fire support to weight the lead element and you should assign combat multipliers that allow it to accomplish the mission such as engineers to breach obstacles.

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The reconnaissance effort may proceed faster in a movement to contact than in a zone reconnaissance because the emphasis is on making contact with the enemy.  This increased speed also increases your risk.

Bypass criteria should be clearly stated.  You don’t want to fight every outpost and lone squad your forward element stumbles upon.  A brigade commander in the desert might declare that no enemy force larger than a platoon can be bypassed.  All other forces will be cleared from the brigade’s axis of advance.  Any force that bypasses an enemy unit must maintain contact with it until handing it off to another friendly unit. 

Executing a Movement to Contact

The lead elements of the main body maintain contact with the advance guard.  The rear guard and flank security maintain contact with the main body.  The security forces prevent the unnecessary delay of the main body and defer the deployment of the main body as long as possible.  The advance guard chooses a combat formation to deploy into once it becomes aware of the enemy’s location.   The main body keeps enough distance between itself and its forward security elements to maintain flexibility for maneuver. 

Your fire support systems should focus on suppression missions to disrupt enemy forces as they are encountered and smoke missions to obscure or screen exposed friendly forces when conducting a movement to contact. 

Movement should be as rapid as the terrain, the mobility of the force, and the enemy situation permit.  The enemy may have also established fire support control measures that allow him to employ non-observed harassing and interdiction fires to interdict friendly forces traversing these choke points.  As the enemy situation becomes known, you may shorten the distance between elements to decrease reaction time.

The force must attempt to cross any obstacles it encounters without loss of momentum by conducting in-stride breaches. Use your forward security forces to seize intact bridges whenever possible.  Lead security elements bypass or breach obstacles as quickly as possible to maintain the momentum of the movement. 

Actions on Contact

Actions on contact are battle drills.  They are a series of combat actions often conducted simultaneously upon contact with the enemy in order to develop the situation. Actions on contact are:

Deploy and report.

Evaluate and develop the situation.

Choose a course of action.

Execute selected course of action

Recommend a course of action to the higher commander.

How quickly the unit develops the situation is directly related to its security.  This tempo is directly related to the unit’s use of well-rehearsed battle drills.

Disrupt The Enemy.  Once contact is made, the main body brings overwhelming fire to bear on the enemy in order to prevent him from conducting a spoiling attack or organizing a defense.  The security force maneuvers as quickly as possible to find gaps in the enemy disposition.  As intelligence becomes available, the main body attacks to destroy or disrupt enemy command and control centers, fire control, and communication nets. The main body conducts operations to prevent enemy reserves from moving to counter his actions.

Fix The Enemy.  Initiate maneuver at a tempo the enemy cannot match since success depends on rapid actions on contact.  The security force does not allow the enemy to maneuver against the main body. 

The techniques you use to fix the enemy when both forces are moving are different than those employed when the enemy force is stationary.  In both situations, when the security force cannot overrun the enemy you must deploy a portion of the main body. When this occurs, the unit is no longer conducting a movement to contact, but an attack.

Maneuver.   If the security force cannot overrun the enemy, then you quickly maneuver your main body to execute a penetration or envelopment.  You should attempt to defeat the enemy in detail, while still maintaining the momentum of the advance.  After the attack the main body resumes the movement to contact.  If you do not defeat the enemy you have three options: bypass, transition to a deliberate attack, or conduct a defense.

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Example Battle Drills: Immediate action on contact.

Summary

To succeed while ‘attacking in the blind’ you must organize your unit, weight your subordinates, and find, fix, and finish the enemy.  Well-rehearsed battle drills for action on contact are key to success. 

Remember Chamberlain.  He found the confederates at Gettysburg.  He engaged them and fixed them.  He bought time for the main body to close and once they did, they established a hasty defense on favorable ground.  The resulting confederate attack was defeated and the Army of the Potomac achieved its first notable win of the Civil War.

Next Month

Our focus for the next several months will be upon urban operations.  We will start with an overview and then tackle subjects such as Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) regarding urban operations, planning an operation, and then executing urban operations.  As always, if you have a question please let us know in the forum.

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3 Comments

  1. One correction on Item 6:

    It was Union cavalry general John Buford who fought the
    delaying action against Heth’s division on July 1, 1863, not
    Chamberlain.

  2. Nice Post ! www

  3. What are the control measure for counter attack during assault and what all are the points to be consider for contingency planning of offensive operation.

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