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Posted on Mar 28, 2008 in Tactics101, War College

Tactics 101: 025. Urban Operations: Truisms and Nuggets

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

Cost. The cost of conducting MOUT (Military Operations on Urban Terrain) is relative to the percentage of total expended resources over the time and the results achieved. The attacker usually pays a high cost in the majority of urban battles. The high cost does not necessarily mean that the results were not worth it. Quite the contrary—Stalingrad was enormously expensive for the Soviets, but the results were priceless. We’ll look at cost analysis from the attacker’s point of view first. First, isolation of the urban area is critical. Second, overwhelming superiority is needed to minimize overall costs. Third, MOUT must be carefully planned. Fourth, intelligence is critical: Knowing where and how the city has been prepared for defense is important. Fifth, attacking forces should understand the unique nature of urban combat. Different tactics, techniques, and procedures are required for urban combat. The unit must pause to train and equip to the new MOUT standards. Every aspect, from taking a building to using destructive technology and coordinating combined arms, must be thoroughly drilled and rehearsed and understood. Careful consideration of these five factors can minimize the cost of urban warfare to the attacker. Attacker cost is generally high in casualties, time, and resources in most urban operations. The defender has a whole different set of costs to consider. His critical variable is the preparation of the city. Defensive prep should include measures to prevent isolation. The capture of a prepared city can be made to be extremely costly. The Russians penetrated deep into Grozny almost unchallenged but couldn’t hold their ground. The Chechen defenses were too much for the non-combined armed attack and Russians’ failed isolation attempt. Preparations also include the creation of engagement areas, clearing fields of fire, constructing canalizing obstacles, establishing alternative and supplementary positions, decentralizing command and control, and establishing movement corridors above ground, between rooftops, and subterranean (subways and sewers).

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Control Measures:

The urban environment is no different than any other environment in regards to control measures. You must develop control measures that are definable and understood by the Soldiers on the ground. Control measures greatly assist in command and control, information flow, and are a great asset in diminishing the potential for a tragic fratricide incident. Below we will discuss some of the commonly used control measures in an urban attack.

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