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Posted on Aug 25, 2008 in Tactics101, War College

Tactics 101: 029 – The Defense

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

TYPES OF DEFENSIVE OPERATIONS

Doctrine describes three basic types of defensive operations. These are area defense, mobile defense, and retrograde. Although each has unique aspects, a unit can conceivably execute all three types in a particular mission. For instance, a division may begin by conducting a withdrawal (retrograde) into defensible terrain. Within that terrain, individual brigades could be executing area defenses to hold pieces of key terrain and mobile defenses focused on defeating attacking enemy forces with planned counterattacks. Below is a brief discussion on each of these types. We will discuss each in much more extensive depth in the coming months.

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Area Defense – An area defense is generally focused on terrain and not principally on conducting a task against the enemy. In an area defense, a unit focuses on denying their opponent terrain for a certain period of time instead of defeating or destroying them. There are generally some conditions existing that may influence a unit to develop an area defense. These include: 1) The purpose they receive from their higher headquarters may dictate holding a piece of terrain as an economy of force, retaining a piece of key terrain, or protecting key assets. 2) The unit does not have as much mobility as their opponent so engaging them in a mobile defense may not be the wisest thing to do. 3) The terrain simply limits the potential maneuver avenues a unit may have to conduct counterattacks. 4) Conversely, the terrain limits the enemy’s maneuver options.

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