Mountain operations are described in detail in
FM 90-6. This appendix describes special conditions associated
with operating in mountains such as those in the southern Sinai
and on the shores of the Red Sea. It does not address tactics
and techniques for mountain operations that are equally applicable
to all mountains, except for the purpose of clarity.
Mountains are high and rugged, with very steep
slopes. Valleys running into a range become more and more narrow
with the sides becoming gradually steeper. Valleys are usually
the only routes that allow ground movement of men and equipment
at any speed or in any quantity. Water is nonexistent on hilltops
and unusual in valleys except during flash floods after rains.
Lateral ground communications are limited unless the force is
moving across the spines of mountain ranges. Navigation may be
difficult, as maps are likely to be inaccurate.
Troops operating in mountainous country must
be in peak physical condition. Regardless of their normal physical
condition, personnel operating in mountainous areas require additional
stamina and energy. They must also possess the ability to conduct
sustained physical exertion and recover from it quickly.
Acclimatization is described in Chapter 1. Acclimatization
to height, which varies much more among individuals than that
for heat, must also be considered for operations in mountains.
Lack of oxygen at high altitudes can cause unacclimatized troops
to lose up to 50 percent of their normal physical efficiency when
operating in altitudes over 6,000 feet. Mountain sickness may
occur at altitudes over 7,800 feet and is usually characterized
by severe headache, loss of appetite, nausea and dizziness, and
may last from 5 to 7 days. Troops can acclimatize by appropriate
staging techniques. It may take several weeks to become completely
acclimatized, depending on altitude and the individual's personal
The risk of sunburn, particularly to the uncovered
face, is greater in mountains than on the desert floor due to
thinner atmosphere. Use antisunburn ointment and keep the face
in shade around midday, using face nets or sweat rags. An individual
camouflage net or scarf is particularly useful for this purpose.
Recognition of heat illnesses in higher altitudes may not be as
apparent as at lower altitudes because sweat evaporates very quickly.
Measures to avoid dehydration and salt loss are extremely important.
Daily temperature variations may be considerable making it necessary
to ensure troops do not become chilled at night. Layering of clothing
is essential. Troops who have been sweating heavily before the
temperature starts to drop should take their wet shirts off and
place them over relatively dry shirts and sweaters. Soldiers/marines
should add layers of clothing as it gets colder and remove them
as needed. This may have to be leader supervised and disciplined
in the same manner as water consumption.
Requirements for hygiene areas important in mountainous
areas as in the desert itself. Normal rocky ground will make it
extremely difficult to dig any form of latrine so cover excrement
with rocks in a specially marked area.
Infantry is the basic maneuver force in mountains.
Mechanized infantry is confined to valleys and foothills (if these
exist), but their ability to dismount and move on foot enables
them to reach almost anywhere in the area. Airmobile infantry
can also be extensively used. Consideration should be given to
modifying the TOE of infantry units operating in barren mountains.
A strong antitank platoon may not be necessary. However, the infantry
requires extra radars and radios for the number of observation
posts and separate positions that they may expect to occupy.
Mountains are not a good environment for tank
and armored cavalry operations, because tanks and armored cavalry
are unable to maximize their mobility, flexibility, and firepower.
Avenues of approach at ground level are few.
Roads or trails are limited and require extensive engineer effort
to maintain. Off-road trafficability varies from relatively easy
to very difficult. Most movement and maneuver in this type of
terrain is either by air or on foot. Unnecessary vertical foot
or vehicle movement should be avoided. Rock slides and avalanches,
although not as common as in high cold mountains, do exist and
can restrict movement.
Air cavalry is the major reconnaissance means
but they must guard against being ambushed by ground troops located
at their own altitude or even higher. Security of units must include
observation, especially at night, of all avenues of approach including
those within the capabilities of skilled mountaineers.
It is relatively easier to conceal troops in
barren mountains than on the desert floor due to rugged ground,
deep shadows (especially at dawn and dusk), and the difficulties
an observer encounters when establishing perspective. Carefully
placed rocks can be used to hide equipment however, rocks can
chip and splinter under small arms fire. The normal type camouflage
net, which breaks up outline by shadow, maybe used rather than
the overall cover normally used in the desert.
Helicopter units of all types can be used, although
they maybe slightly inhibited by altitude and rugged terrain.
Payloads and endurance are degraded due to density and attitude.
Winds are turbulent with considerable fluctuations in air flow
strength and direction, particularly on the lee side of mountains.
These winds, combined with the terrain, produce extra strain on
crews as they have little margin for error. Flight crews should
receive training in these conditions before flying in operations
under these conditions.
When using men on foot for navigation, use all
available maps, the lensatic compass, and a pocket altimeter.
The pocket altimeter is essentially a barometer, measuring height
by means of varying air pressure. If a navigator can only establish
his location in the horizontal plane by resection on one point,
the altimeter tells him his height, and thus his exact position.
The instrument must be reset at every known altitude as it is
affected by fluctuations of air pressure. Air photographs can
also be helpful if they are scaled and contoured.
Supply of water and ammunition and the evacuation
of wounded, especially if helicopters cannot land, can complicate
operations. Water and ammunition may have to be transported by
unit or civilian porters using A-frames or other suitable devices,
or even by animal transport such as camel or mule.
The objective in mountainous areas of operations
is normally to dominate terrain from which the enemy can be pinned
down and destroyed. Avenues of approach are normally few, with
very limited lateral movement except by helicopter. Reconnaissance
must be continuous using all available means, as enemy defensive
positions will be difficult to find. Observation posts are emplaced
on high ground, normally by helicopter.
When contact is made, airmobile infantry can
be used to outflank and envelop the enemy while suppressive fires
and close air support are placed on all suspected positions, especially
on dominating ground. Engineers should be well forward to assist
in clearing obstacles. If airmobile infantry is unable to outflank
the enemy, it will be necessary to launch a deliberate attack.
Frontal attacks in daylight, even with considerable
supporting frees, have a limited chance of success against a well-emplaced
enemy. Flank attacks on foot take a lot of time. The best opportunity
is at night or in very poor visibility, but progress of men on
foot will be slow and objectives should be limited.
The force should make every effort to secure
ground higher than enemy positions to allow the attack to be downhill.
Mobile forces should select objectives to the enemy's rear to
kill the enemy as they reposition or counterattack. Foot mobile
forces must seek adequate terrain (restrictive) to equalize the
enemy's mounted mobility advantage.
Air superiority is required to allow a continuous
flow of supplies and combat support by helicopter. Friendly mobile
units must concentrate to destroy enemy command and control, artillery,
service support, and air defense assets. It may be possible to
infiltrate to a position behind the enemy, preferably using the
most difficult, and hence unlikely route. Although this is very
slow, it normally has the advantage of surprise.
The importance of dominating terrain, together
with the enemy's knowledge that troops on the objective will be
physically tired and dehydrated, makes an immediate counterattack
likely. Supporting weapons must be brought forward at once, preferably
by helicopter, and casualties removed by the same method.
Airmobile and attack helicopter units are well
suited for pursuit operations. They can be used to outflank retreating
enemy, and set up positions overlooking likely withdrawal routes.
Small engineer parties can be emplaced to block defiles and interdict
trails. Close air support and field artillery are used to reinforce
airmobile and attack helicopter units and to counter efforts by
enemy engineers to create obstacles.
A defense from a series of strongpoints is normal
in hot mountains due to the need to hold dominating terrain and
restrictions on ground mobility. Due to the amount of rock in
the soil, it takes more time to prepare positions and normally
requires engineer support.
It is necessary to hold terrain dominating avenues
of approach. Any terrain that dominates a friendly position must
either be held, or denied to the enemy by fire. It may be necessary
to stock several days' supplies, especially water, ammunition,
and medical equipment in a position in case helicopters or supply
vehicles are unable to reach it.
When a covering force is used, it is organized
around cavalry reinforced with attack helicopters, supported by
field and air defense artillery. Airmobile infantry operates on
ridge lines. If the enemy closes on a battle position it is difficult
to extract airmobile infantry, so sheltered landing sites nearby
should be available. In any event, extractions must be covered
by air or ground suppressive fires. Stay-behind observers should
be used to call down field artillery fires on targets of opportunity
or to report enemy activity. When tanks are a threat and terrain
is suitable, the covering force is reinforced with tank-heavy
units and antitank weapon systems.
Combat in the main battle area is usually a series
of isolated actions fought from strongpoints on ridge lines and
in valleys. Patrols are used extensively to harass the enemy and
prevent infiltration; all possible routes must be covered. If
the enemy attempts to outflank the friendly force, he must be
blocked by attack helicopters, if available, or airmobile infantry.
Reserves should be kept centrally located and
deployed by air to block or counterattack. If this is not possible,
reserves may have to be split up and placed behind key terrain
where they are available for immediate counterattack.
If retrograde operations are necessary, mountainous
terrain is as good a place to conduct them as anywhere. More time
is required to reconnoiter and prepare rearward positions, and
they should be prestocked as much as possible. Unlike the desert
floor where movement between positions is likely to cover relatively
great distances, movement in these conditions is usually from
ridge to ridge. Routes must be covered by flank guards, especially
at defiles or other critical points, as the enemy will attempt
to block them or cut off rear guards.
It may be difficult to find good gun positions
at lower altitudes due to crest clearance problems-so high-angle
fire is often used. The best weapons are light field artillery
and mortars that are airmobile and can be manhandled so they can
be positioned as high as possible.
Field artillery observation posts are emplaced
on the highest ground available, although in low-cloud conditions
it will be necessary to ensure that they are staggered in height.
Predicted fire may be inaccurate due to rapidly changing weather
conditions making observed fire a more sure method for achieving
the desired results.
Like field artillery, there is limited use for
self-propelled weapons in this environment, although some may
be used in valleys. Airmobile towed weapons allow employment throughout
the mountainous area of operations.
Major tasks for engineer, even in an airmobile
force, are: construction, improvement, and route repair, and their
denial to the enemy. Mining is important due to the limited number
of routes. Lines of communication require constant drainage and
possibly bridging to overcome the problem of flash flooding.
Because of the frequent interdictions of mountainous
roadways, military police will experience multiple defile operations.
Use temporary traffic signs to expedite traffic movement to the
front. The number of stragglers may be expected to increase in
this environment. Because of difficulty in resupply, the supply
points for water, POL, food, and ammunition will become especially
lucrative targets for enemy attack. Military police rear area
security elements must develop plans for relief and for augmenting
base defense forces.
COMBAT SERVICE SUPPORT
Air transportation is the best CSS means in mountain
operations due to its mobility. It may be limited by the weather,
enemy activity, or the scarcity of landing sites, so there should
be alternative means available. Terrain permitting, wheel-vehicle
transportation should be employed as far forward as possible,
using high-mobility vehicles off main mutes. Beyond the limits
of wheel transport the only alternatives to CSS transport are
animals (which may need to be acclimatized) or porters.
The composition and employment of trains in mountain
operations are described in FM 90-6. Brigade trains should locate
near an airstrip that can handle USAF tactical airlift. They are
an obvious target for enemy air attack or artillery, or raids
by enemy deep patrols, so adequate air defense and a coordinated
area defense plan are necessary. Guards must be placed on all
dominating terrain around the area, equipped with ground surveillance
radars and STANO devices, and patrols should be employed outside
Supply points may be set up in the brigade trains
area to operate distribution points for Class I, III, and V supplies.
However, where routes are limited it may be necessary to resupply
totally by air from the DISCOM area.
The variations of supplies in demand in the desert
are very much the same as for those in temperate climates and
are described in Chapter 4. The differences are described below:
- Class I. Mess trucks are not practical in this
terrain. Food is either eaten cold, or heated on can heaters.
Each soldier/marine should carry a one-day supply of emergency
rations to be used if the daily resupply does not arrive.
- Class II. There is a high demand for footwear.
Combat boots may be expected to last approximately two weeks in
the harsh rocky terrain.
- Class III. Individual vehicle consumption will
be greater than normal. Aircraft fuel requirements are greater,
but it should be possible for much of their refueling and servicing
to take place well to the rear where resupply is relatively easy.
- Water continues to carry a high priority. Demand
for water is approximately 9 quarts per day, per man, as a minimum,
and sometimes considerably more. Troops should carry four canteens
of water, and every effort should be made to prestock water in
positions or along routes.
First aid at squad arid platoon level is very important as medics will not necessarily y be able to reach individual isolated positions. It is easy to lose casualties in this terrain so a buddy system to keep watch on each individual should be a matter of SOP. Medical evacuation is most often by air. It is a comparatively long distance to the nearest helicopter landing site, so teams of stretcher bearers will be required.
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