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Table of





Critical Task: B-100-000



The lesson defines the fundamentals of the Army operations doctrine and describes how they impact on Army operational and tactical levels of offensive operations.


ACTION: You will identify and define the fundamentals of Army operations, identify the purpose and characteristics of offensive operations, and identify the forms of offensive maneuver and the types of offensive operations.
CONDITION: You will use the materials contained in this lesson.
STANDARD: You will correctly answer all questions on the practice exercise at the end of the lesson.
REFERENCES: The materials contained in this lesson were derived from FM 100-5, ST 100-9, FM 5-71-100, and other materials approved for instruction by the United States (US) Army Engineer School.

Refer also to Appendix C (extract pages 3-2 through 3-18 from FM 71-2).


Task forces (TFs) are organized to fight and win within the context of Army operations. Armored battalion/TF operations feature the employment of all elements of the combined-arms team including combat, combat support (CS), and combat service support (CSS) battlefield operating systems (BOSs). The key to victory is to quickly mass the combat power of maneuver company/teams (CO/TMs) and to integrate and synchronize combat, CS, and CSS combat multipliers.

1-1. Fundamentals of Army Operations. The term Army operations describes the Army's approach to generating and applying combat power at the operational and tactical levels of war. It is based on securing or retaining the initiative and exercising it aggressively to accomplish the mission. This concept emphasizes the total interdependency of the air and land forces to defeat the enemy on future battlefields.

Army operations doctrine, the US Army's maneuver-oriented solution to fighting when outnumbered and winning, embraces the concept of maneuver warfare and mission tactics. It has five basic fundamentals: initiative, agility, depth, synchronization, and versatility. They are discussed below in terms of operational and tactical requirements.

a. Initiative. Initiative is the ability to set or change the terms of battle by offensive action. It implies an offensive spirit in the conduct of all operations.

(1) Operational requirements. Initiative requires a constant effort to force the enemy to confirm to our operational purpose and tempo while retaining our own freedom of action. It requires a willingness and ability to act independently within the framework of the higher commander's intent. In the chaos of battle, it is essential to decentralize decision authority to the lowest practical level because overcentralization slows action and leads to inertia. Initiative requires audacity, which may involve taking risks, and a supportive atmosphere. In the attack, initiative implies never allowing the enemy to recover from the initial shock of the attack. This requires surprise in selecting the time and place of attack; concentration, speed, audacity, and violence in execution; seeking soft spots; flexible shifting of the main effort and prompt transition to exploitation. The goal is to create a fluid situation in which the enemy steadily loses coherence and track of events.

(2) Tactical requirements.

(a) Command and control (C2). Initiative requires a C2 process that uses available assets effectively, especially time.

(b) Use of mission-type orders. The commander must allow subordinates flexibility to improvise and act aggressively to defeat the enemy. The commander provides this latitude by developing concepts of operation based on battle outcomes that subordinate-unit actions must accomplish. The commander directs subordinate-unit execution only when necessary.

(c) Commander's intent. The commander must ensure that subordinates understand the desired outcome of the operation. He expresses his intent in terms of where the enemy will be destroyed, how the TF will be positioned, and which actions are critical to the success of the mission. He also considers risks and key contingencies inherent to the plan.

(d) Surprise. Surprise is gained by TF security actions (counter-reconnaissance, operations security [OPSEC], deception) and reconnaissance and surveillance (R&S) efforts. The TF uses surprise by taking advantage of confirmed intelligence and by doing the unexpected, such as attacking over rough terrain or under adverse conditions.

(e) Speed of execution. Aggressive, continuous reconnaissance finds or develops weak spots that the TF immediately attacks by fire or maneuver. Through war gaming, the commander and his key subordinates identify and develop likely contingencies that are included in the plan.

(f) Aggressive staff support. An aggressive staff coordinates, plans, and anticipates contingencies while supporting the ongoing operations.

b. Agility. Agility is the ability of friendly forces to act and think faster than the enemy. It is the first prerequisite for seizing and retaining the initiative.

(1) Operational requirements.

(a) Successive concentration of forces. Greater quickness permits the rapid concentration of friendly strength against enemy vulnerabilities. This must be done repeatedly so that by the time the enemy reacts to one action, another has already taken its place. The enemy's plans are disrupted and lead to late, uncoordinated, and piecemeal responses. It is this process of successive concentration against locally weaker or unprepared enemy forces that enables smaller forces to disorient, fragment, and eventually defeat much larger opposing formations.

(b) Reading the battlefield. To achieve successive concentration, leaders and units must be agile. Friction (the accumulation of chance errors, unexpected difficulties, and the confusion of battle) will impede both sides. To overcome it, leaders must continuously read the battlefield, decide quickly, and act without hesitation.

(c) Risk. Commanders must be prepared to risk commitment without complete information, recognizing that waiting for such information will invariably forfeit the opportunity to act. Units must be physically and psychologically capable of responding rapidly to changing requirements. Formations at every level must be capable of shifting the main effort with minimum delay and with the least possible necessity for reconfiguration and coordination.

(2) Tactical requirements.

(a) Intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB). IPB is used to see the battlefield, understand likely enemy courses of action, and aid planning. R&S plans developed concurrently with the IPB provide a means to verify or deny expected enemy situations in time for the commander to make changes to the plan. The IPB gives the commander enough correct information to plan and, when necessary, to act without waiting for all information to be verified.

(b) Initiative. The commander must be positioned well forward to see the battlefield, recognize tactical opportunity, and ensure that critical actions are accomplished to seize and maintain the initiative.

(c) Reports. Reports must be precise and timely.

(d) Staff updates. Staff updates to the commander must reflect an analysis of multiple information sources and generate options and, ultimately, decisions.

(e) Main effort. The commander must maintain the ability to rapidly shift the main effort.

(f) Orders. Decisions must be rapidly translated into clear, concise orders.

(g) Standard procedures. Units must use standard procedures to transmit the commander's intent. Fragmentary orders (FRAGOs), graphic control measures, rehearsals, and standing operating procedures (SOPs) shorten the time needed to transmit the commander's intent and for subordinates to act.

c. Depth. Depth is the extension of operations in space, time, and resources. Depth emphasizes the ability of friendly forces to conduct planning in time to degrade the enemy's freedom of action. Momentum in the attack and elasticity in the defense are derived from depth.

(1) Operational requirements.

(a) Momentum in the attack is achieved when

  • Resources and forces are concentrated to sustain operations over extended periods.
  • Adequate reconnaissance is provided beyond areas of immediate concern.
  • Committed enemy forces are adequately fixed.
  • Uncommitted enemy forces are interdicted or otherwise prevented from interfering.
  • Adequate air protection is provided.
  • The enemy's C2 is disrupted.
  • Adequate reserve, follow, and support forces are provided.
  • Vulnerable rear-area facilities are protected.
  • Logistical resources are moved forward.
  • Combat forces project tactical operations deep into the enemy's vulnerable areas.

(b) Elasticity in the defense is achieved and maintained when

  • Resources and forces are employed in depth.
  • Adequate reconnaissance is provided beyond areas of immediate concern.
  • Reserves are positioned in depth with adequate maneuver room to strike critical blows at exposed enemy forces.
  • Uncommitted enemy forces are delayed or prevented from interfering with the defense of forward-deployed or counterattacking forces.
  • Adequate air protection is provided.
  • The enemy's C2 is disrupted.
  • Vulnerable rear-area facilities are protected.
  • Defending forces aggressively concentrate combat power in critical areas.

(2) Tactical requirements. To achieve depth, the battalion/TF must

(a) Employ formations that enhance depth, security, and agility.

(b) Attack the enemy beyond the range of his direct-fire weapons with indirect fire.

(c) Use engineer support, fire support, air-defense artillery (ADA), and smoke assets to isolate enemy units and disrupt their mutual support.

(d) Maintain a reserve.

d. Synchronization. Synchronization is the arrangement of battlefield activities in space, time, and purpose to produce maximum relative combat power in a decisive manner (see Figure 1-1). Synchronization involves the visualization of the battle. It is most effective when coupled with implicit coordination based on an understanding of the commander's intent, anticipation of future events, and unity of purpose.

Figure 1-1.  Synchronization
Figure 1-1. Synchronization

(1) Operational requirements.

(a) Visualize the battlefield. Synchronization usually requires explicit coordination among the various units and activities taking part in any operation. By itself, such coordination is no guarantee of synchronization unless the commander first visualizes the outcome and determines how activities must be sequenced to produce it. Synchronization thus takes place first in the mind of the commander and then in the actual planning and coordination of maneuver, fires, and supporting activities.

(b) Understand the commander's intent Synchronization need not depend on explicit coordination if all forces involved fully understand the commander's intent and have developed and rehearsed well-conceived standard responses to anticipated contingencies. In the chaos of battle, when communications fail and face-to-face coordination is impossible, such implicit coordination may make the difference between victory and defeat. The enemy will do everything in his power to disrupt the synchronization of friendly operations. The less synchronization depends on active communication, the less vulnerable it will be.

(c) Concentrate forces at the decisive point. One aspect of synchronization is the actual concentration of forces and fires at the point of decision. Examples of some activities that must be synchronized in an operation include interdiction with maneuver or the shifting of reserves with the rearrangement of air defense. This synchronization must occur before the decisive moment and may take place at locations far distant from each other. These activities are synchronized if their combined consequences are felt at the decisive time and place.

(d) Synchronize supporting fires with maneuver. As attacking forces break out of defilade, supporting fires are shifted from counterfire against enemy artillery to suppression of enemy direct-fire systems. On a larger scale, main and supporting attacks are synchronized if supporting attacks take place at precisely the right time and place to divert enemy forces and fires from the main effort as it strikes the enemy. At the operational level, two major operations are synchronized if the first attracts the bulk of enemy forces and uncovers a key objective for decisive attack by the other.

(2) Tactical requirements. Commanders must

(a) Use clear, concise orders that describe the mission, convey the commander's intent, and assign critical tasks to subordinates.

(b) Use the IPB process to determine enemy time-lines, name areas of interest, target areas of interest, and determine TF decision points.

(c) War-game contingencies with the staff and subordinate commanders to ensure that maneuvers and corresponding support are understood, planned, and timed before the battle is joined.

(d) Designate and resource the battalion's main effort.

(e) Coordinate and integrate CS and CSS assets.

(f) Mass combat power rapidly to achieve local surprise, mass, and shock effect without lengthy explanations or orders.

(g) Plan in advance to identify and exploit the opportunities that tactical success will create.

(h) Decentralize execution of operations.

e. Versatility. Versatility is the ability of units to meet diverse mission requirements. Commanders must be able to shift focus, tailor forces, and move from one role to another. Versatility implies a capacity to be multifunctional; to operate across a full range of military operations; and to perform at the tactical, occupational, and strategic levels.

(1) Operational requirements. Units must

  • Possess the capability to rapidly realign forces and refocus on widely divergent missions.
  • Be disciplined, highly trained, and competent throughout the range of military operations. This is the wellspring of versatility.

(2) Tactical requirements. Units must

  • Adapt to different missions and tasks.
  • Adapt quickly to the environment and to enemy tactics.
  • Be prepared to move quickly from one geographic region to another.
  • Be prepared to transition from one type of warfare to another.

1-2. Threat Doctrine. Threat doctrine prescribes offense as the principal combat operation and views the defense as necessary at times but always temporary in nature. Threat commanders resort to defense to

  • Economize their force.
  • Gain time.
  • Concentrate forces.
  • Repel a stronger force.
  • Consolidate an objective.
  • Cover a withdrawal.

a. Containment. While he defends, the threat commander will focus on containing the attack, violently counterattacking to defeat committed troops, and regaining the initiative. The integration of electronic warfare and smoke into the threat's defensive plan is routine.

b. Tactics. Tactically, threat defensive operations seek surprise, employ large concentrations of troops and fires, integrate combined arms, and provide defense in depth. The threat defense is designed to hold an occupied area and repulse attacks by exhausting attacking forces, methodically depleting their strength, and then counterattacking.

Study Appendix C, pages C-18 and C-19, for a more thorough grasp of this subject.

1-3. Purpose of the Offense. Offense is the decisive form of war. It is the commander's ultimate means of imposing his will on the enemy. While strategic, operational, or tactical considerations may require defense, defeat of an enemy force at any level will sooner or later require shifting to the offense. Even in defense, seizure and retention of the initiative require offensive operations. The more fluid the battle, the more true this will be. The TF conducts offensive operations to achieve one or more specific purposes:

a. Defeat enemy forces. Because offense requires the attacker to expose himself by movement, offensive operations usually require the attacker to achieve a local superiority in combat power at the point of attack. These facts, and the need to have sufficient force available to exploit success, imply accepting risk elsewhere. A successful attack must be pressed relentlessly to prevent the opponent from recovering from the initial shock, regaining his equilibrium, and reconstituting a cohesive defense or attacking in turn.

b. Deceive and divert the enemy. While offensive operations may have as the objective destroying or neutralizing an enemy force, inflicting physical damage is often incidental to offensive success. Rather, large gains are achieved by destroying the coherence of the defense, fragmenting and isolating enemy units in the zone of the attack, and driving deep to secure operationally decisive objectives. Historically, the most successful offensive operations have produced more enemy prisoners than casualties, reflecting the corrosive impact of offensive shock on the enemy's will to resist.

c. Deprive the enemy of resources. Success is most likely from attacks that avoid the enemy's main strength, turn him out of his defensive positions, isolate his forces from their sources of support, and force him to fight in an unintended direction over ground he has not prepared. Successful commanders have consistently attempted to produce such conditions, thereby shifting to the defender all the disadvantages of fighting exposed and surprised.

There will be times when only more direct attacks are possible. Even General Douglas MacArthur, a master of maneuver, was forced into frontal attacks to seize Buna and Gona in New Guinea. Such attacks are nearly always costly in lives and materiel. They should be undertaken only when no other approach is possible or will accomplish the mission.

d. Seize key or decisive terrain. Offensive operations may also be conducted for purposes other than the outright defeat of the opposing force. Attacks may be mounted to seize key terrain for use in defense or subsequent attack or to secure or protect vital lines of communication. The Israelis' capture of the Mitla Pass in 1967, for example, provided the springboard for their subsequent drive to the Suez Canal. Attacks may also be conducted to secure critical war-supporting resources, as in Germany's effort in 1941 to seize Great Britain's oil fields in the Near East.

e. Gain information. Sometimes an attack may be launched simply to force the enemy to disclose his strength, dispositions, or intentions: Such a reconnaissance in force may develop into a major attack if the initial probe discloses an exploitable weakness in the enemy's defenses. Attacks may also be used to deceive or distract the enemy. Used in conjunction with other deception measures, such diversionary attacks can delay the enemy's identification of and reaction to the main effort and may induce him to shift forces away from critical areas. Feints and demonstrations are special forms of diversionary attack. An attack may be designed to fix an enemy force in position, preventing its interference with a friendly maneuver elsewhere.

f. Disrupt an enemy attack. Attacks may be used by a defending force to disrupt an expected enemy attack, upsetting its preparation and buying time and information. As in the case of the reconnaissance in force, a spoiling attack may develop into a major offensive operation if the attack reveals an exploitable weakness. Raids are a special form of spoiling attack designed to destroy installations or facilities critical to the enemy's operations. Raids may also be mounted prior to or in conjunction with other offensive operations to confuse the enemy or divert his attention.

g. Hold the enemy in position. Fixing or blocking are important for holding the enemy in a position of disadvantage.

1-4. Types of Offensive Operations. The five forms of offensive operations are movement to contact, hasty attack, deliberate attack, exploitation, and pursuit.

a. Movement to contact. The battalion TF conducts a movement to contact to make or regain contact with the enemy and to develop the situation. TFs conduct movement to contact independently or as part of a larger force. The battalion TF will normally be given a movement-to-contact mission as the lead element of a brigade attack or as a counterattack element of a brigade or division. Movement to contact terminates with the occupation of an assigned objective or when enemy resistance requires the battalion to deploy and conduct an attack to continue forward movement.

A TF given a movement-to-contact mission is assigned a zone of action or an axis of advance and an objective at a depth sufficient to ensure contact with the enemy. Movement to contact is conducted in a manner that allows the TF to maneuver to fully develop the situation, maintain freedom of action and, if possible, defeat the enemy once contact is made.

b. Hasty attack. The hasty attack differs from the deliberate attack only in the amount of time allowed for planning and preparation. The hasty attack is conducted either as a result of a meeting engagement or when bypass has not been authorized and the enemy force is in a vulnerable (unprepared or unaware) position. The hasty attack is characterized by the phases of advanced reconnaissance and security elements, deployment and assault by security forces, and assault by the main body. Hasty attacks are initiated and controlled with FRAGOs. The forms of maneuver for battalions and larger units are:

  • Attack of one flank while part of the enemy force is fixed from the front.
  • Attack of both flanks in conjunction with a frontal fixing attack.
  • Frontal attack.

(1) When the hasty attack is not succeeding, the commander may elect to establish a hasty defense on key terrain until a greater number of maneuver and artillery units can be brought to bear on the enemy. Because preparation time is short, planning time is nonexistent, and orders of necessity are brief during the hasty attack. It is imperative that commanders locate themselves with lead elements to control the situation as it develops.

(2) Fire-support planning for the movement to contact and the hasty attack is a continuous process. The operation needs extremely responsive fire support to compensate for the relatively small amount of maneuver power initially echeloned forward. At division level, the majority of fire-support assets stay within the body of the main force by positioning direct-support (DS) artillery with the attacking brigades. During the movement to contact and the hasty attack, engineers

  • Assist the movement of maneuver elements and supporting units by reducing obstacles as part of a combined-arms breaching operation.
  • Assist in the assault of strongpoints.
  • Protect flanks by creating obstacles on avenues of approach.
  • Maintain routes.
  • Assist in organizing captured ground against counterattacks.

(3) Engineer vehicles and launch bridges play a key role in the attack and should be located forward where they can provide responsive support to leading elements of the brigade.

c. Deliberate attack. A deliberate attack is planned in detail and is expensive in terms of manpower, equipment, and supplies. If the enemy can be kept off balance and under pressure by hasty attacks, he may be denied the opportunity to establish an effective defense system, and the deliberate attack may be avoided.

A deliberate attack is characterized by thorough, detailed planning; rapid concentration of forces; opportunistic exploitation of enemy weaknesses; violent execution; early transition to exploitation; and positive, aggressive leadership at all echelons of command. A deliberate attack involves overcoming strong enemy forces in established positions and is undertaken after a time-consuming reconnaissance, acquisition and development of targets, and analysis of all other factors affecting the situation. This type of offensive operation requires the sudden, violent concentration of combat power in an area where there is a high probability of surprise.

d. Exploitation. Exploitation may follow the deliberate or hasty attack to destroy the enemy's ability to reconstitute an organized defense or to conduct an orderly withdrawal. The division can either exploit its own success, act as the exploiting force for a higher echelon, or follow and support another exploiting force. Exploiting forces can have the mission of securing objectives deep in the enemy rear, cutting lines of communication, surrounding and destroying enemy forces, denying escape routes to an encircled force, or destroying enemy reserves. In most cases, exploitation proceeds directly from attack dispositions and is initiated by committed units. There is rarely a pause between attack and exploitation.

(1) The commander exploits opportunities afforded by the situation. Opportunities for exploitation are indicated by an increase in prisoners captured; an increase in abandoned materiel; and the overrunning of artillery, command facilities, signal installations, and supply dumps. The Assistant Chief of Staff, G2 (Intelligence) (G2) must be prepared to furnish information-gathering agencies with appropriate and timely intelligence requirements (IR). The transition from the deliberate attack to the exploitation may be so gradual that it is hardly distinguishable, or it may be abrupt.

(2) Once the exploitation has begun, it is carried out without letup to the final objective. The enemy is given no relief from offensive pressure. The exploiting force secures terrain only as necessary to accomplish its mission.

(3) Decentralized execution is characteristic of the exploitation. However, the commander must prevent overextension of the command. CS and CSS plans must be flexible to support the extending lines of communication. Petroleum consumption rates are high, making preparation for rapid resupply to forward areas essential.

(4) The exploiting force performs aggressive reconnaissance to the front and flanks to maintain contact with enemy forces, assist in locating enemy strongpoints, and avoid ambushes. Employment of forces in the exploitation is similar to the movement to contact. Attack from multiple march columns is normal due to the size of the units.

(5) The exploiting force clears only enough of its zone to permit it to advance and secure its flanks. Commanders avoid dissipation of forces to achieve minor tactical success. Enemy forces that interfere or can interfere with the mission are destroyed, contained, or bypassed. However, approval to bypass enemy units still rests with the next higher commander, who must reduce the bypassed enemy unit. Bypassed enemy forces are reported to adjacent units, follow-and-support units, and to higher headquarters.

(6) When the leading elements of a march column make contact with enemy forces, they deploy and attempt to bypass or continue to advance. If the resistance is too heavy for the leading elements yet cannot be bypassed, the leading elements develop the enemy position and report this fact to the main body. Succeeding elements in the column strengthen the leading elements or execute a hasty attack.

(7) Employment of active electronic countermeasures can inhibit enemy reaction at critical phases. The rapid advance of an exploiting force reduces its vulnerability to enemy counteraction.

(8) As the exploiting force advances, the follow-and-support units secure lines of communication, mop up or destroy bypassed pockets of resistance, expand the area of exploitation from the exploiting force's axis of advance, and block the movement of enemy reinforcements into the area. Follow-and-support units must relieve elements of the exploiting force that have been left to block or contain enemy forces or continue the mission of the exploiting force. Commanders of the follow-and-support units and the exploiting force maintain close liaison. Elements of the follow-and-support units may be attached to the exploiting force.

e. Pursuit. The pursuit is a natural extension of the exploitation. It differs from the exploitation in that its primary function is to complete the destruction of the enemy force that is in the process of disengagement. While a terrain objective may be designated, the enemy force itself is the primary objective. The pursuit usually consists of direct pressure and encircling forces. The TF participates in the pursuit as part of a larger force. The pursuit is conducted using a direct-pressure force, an encircling force, and a follow-and-support force. The TF may comprise or be part of any of these forces.

(1) The mission of a direct-pressure force is to prevent enemy disengagement or subsequent reconstitution of enemy defense and to inflict maximum casualties. It does this by attacking constantly, day and night. The enemy is not allowed to break contact. He is denied the opportunity to reorganize and reestablish his defense. Leading elements of the direct pressure forces move rapidly along all available roads, containing or bypassing small enemy pockets of resistance, which are reduced by follow-and-support units. At every opportunity, the direct-pressure force envelops, cuts off, and destroys enemy elements, provided such actions do not interfere with the primary mission.

(2) The mission of the encircling force is to get behind the enemy and block his escape so that he can be destroyed between the direct-pressure and enveloping forces. The encircling force advances along or flies over routes paralleling the enemy's line of retreat to reach defiles, communications centers, bridges, and other key terrain ahead of the enemy main force. Airborne, air-assault, armored, and mechanized units are particularly effective as encircling forces. If the encircling force cannot outdistance the enemy, it attacks the enemy main body on its flanks.

(3) Direct-pressure forces advance relentlessly, while the encircling force cuts the enemy's lines of retreat. Double encircling of the retreating main force or its elements is accomplished when conditions permit. Hostile rear guards or forces on flank positions should not divert the main force from its mission. Airborne or air-assault units are used to envelop enemy rear guards and to expedite their destruction. This allows the pursuing force to move more rapidly. If the enemy's main force establishes itself on a position from which it cannot be quickly dislodged, the commander attacks immediately. If the attempt to cut the enemy's escape routes fails, a new encircling force is immediately dispatched.

(4) R&S aircraft and lead elements inform commanders of enemy locations and activities. Attack helicopters and close-air-support aircraft concentrate on his lines of withdrawal, columns, and reserves.

The pursuing force employs all available means of electronic countermeasures to confuse the enemy, deny him use of his C2 communications, and hinder his attempts to consolidate and reorganize.

Study Appendix C, pages C-6 through C-11, for a more thorough grasp of this subject.

1-5. Characteristics of Offensive Operations. All successful offensive operations are characterized by surprise, concentration, speed, flexibility, and audacity.

a. Surprise. Commanders achieve surprise by striking the enemy at a time or place or in a manner for which he is unprepared. Surprise delays enemy reactions, overloads and confuses his C2, reduces the effectiveness of his weapons, and induces psychological shock in soldiers and leaders. By radically diminishing enemy combat power, surprise enables an attacker to succeed with fewer forces than he might otherwise require.

(1) Operational requirements. Achieving outright surprise once hostilities have begun has never been easy. Modern surveillance and warning capabilities have made it even more difficult. Surprise can still be achieved, however, by operating in a manner contrary to the enemy's expectations such as attacking over a more difficult, therefore less obvious, avenue of approach or in adverse weather. Germany's precipitate defeat of France in May 1940, for example, resulted in large measure from the surprise created by attacking through the impassable Ardennes Forest. Four years later, German armies surprised American forces by attacking in the dead of winter over the very same ground.

Surprise can also be created by radically altering the structure or tempo of the battle. For example, the insertion of airborne, airmobile, or special-operations forces deep in the enemy's rear can sharply and suddenly increase the enemy's sense of threat, sow fear and confusion and, in extreme cases, induce outright paralysis. British and American airborne attacks the night before the Normandy invasion had such an effect on defending German forces. Similarly, deep ground attacks can achieve surprise simply through the rapidity with which they move, by confronting rearward enemy forces with a wholly unanticipated threat. The Israeli attack in the Sinai in June 1967 illustrated such surprise-gaining agility.

Surprise can be achieved by manipulating the enemy's expectations through deception, feints, and ruses. Egypt's attack across the Suez Canal in 1973 owed its success in part to a succession of demonstrations and maneuvers conducted in the months prior to the attack. These actions led Israeli commanders to believe the preparations for the actual attack were merely part of the same pattern. More recently, British forces in the Falkland Islands used deception effectively to surprise Argentine forces defending Port Stanley.

(2) Tactical requirements. Units must

(1) Emphasize R&S.

(2) Hit the enemy at a time and place he does not expect.

(3) Employ deception measures.

b. Concentration. Concentration is the massing and synchronization of overwhelming combat power against enemy weaknesses.

(1) Operational requirements. While surprise may often contribute to offensive success, concentration of effort is essential to achieving and exploiting it. Virtually all modern offensive operations have been characterized by sudden concentrations followed by rapid, deep exploitations. Germany's attack through France in 1940, the Soviet attack into Manchuria in 1945, MacArthur's counteroffensive in Korea in 1950, and Israel's seizure of the Sinai in 1967 illustrate the rapid concentration of combat power to penetrate or envelop, then shatter the enemy's defenses. In all but the Manchurian case, the attacker enjoyed little overall numerical advantage. Each operation succeeded by achieving overwhelming local superiority, then preserving that initial advantage by rapid and relentless exploitation.

Modern technology has made the process of concentration more difficult and more dangerous. While advances in ground and air mobility enable the attacker to concentrate more rapidly, they also enable the defender to react more quickly. The lethality of modern weaponry, especially nuclear weapons, radically increases the threat to concentrated formations.

To overcome these difficulties, the attacking commander must manipulate his and the enemy's concentration. First, he must disperse forces to stretch the enemy's defenses and avoid presenting lucrative targets for the enemy's deep fires. He next concentrates rapidly along converging axes to overwhelm enemy forces at the point of attack. Finally, by dispersing once again, the commander exploits his initial success and shatters the enemy's defenses in depth.

This pattern of rapid concentration and dispersal requires flexible leaders, agile units, and careful synchronization of combat, CS, and CSS activities. Commanders at all levels must designate a main effort, focus resources to support it, and be prepared to shift it rapidly without losing synchronization as the attack unfolds. Units making the main attack must be allocated enough CS and CSS to adjust to changing circumstances without time-consuming and potentially confusing reorganizations. At the same time, the commander must retain control of sufficient assets to shift his main effort to a supporting attack if the latter appears more promising.

At every level, but especially at division and higher, special effort must be devoted to concealing concentration until it is too late for the enemy to react to it effectively. Units must avoid or mask patterns of movement and preparatory activity that might reveal the and indirect fires must be monitored to preclude a visible change in the attacking force's operating pattern. Speed, security, and deception are essential to successful concentration for attack.

(2) Tactical requirements. Units must

(a) Plan based on information generated by aggressive reconnaissance.

(b) Fix the enemy to prevent his reaction to maneuver.

(c) Mass forces and fires rapidly to overwhelm the enemy defense.

(d) Synchronize maneuver with CS.

c. Speed. The attack must move rapidly. Speed is absolutely essential to success. It promotes surprise, keeps the enemy off balance, contributes to the security of the attacking force, and prevents the defender from taking effective countermeasures. Properly exploited, speed can confuse and immobilize the defender until the attack becomes unstoppable. Finally, speed can compensate for a lack of mass and provide the momentum needed for attacks to achieve their aims.

(1) Operational requirements.

(a) Attacking forces move fast and follow reconnaissance units or successful probes through gaps in enemy defenses. They shift their strength quickly to widen penetrations, roll up exposed flanks, and reinforce successes. The attacker tries to carry the battle deep into the enemy rear area to break down the enemy's defenses before he can react. The enemy must never be permitted to recover from the shock of the initial assault, never be given the time to identify the main effort, and above all, never be afforded the opportunity to mass his forces or supporting fire against the main offensive effort.

(b) Speed is built into operations through careful planning. Commanders must identify the best avenues for attack, plan the battle in depth, provide for quick transitions to exploitation and pursuit, and concentrate and combine forces effectively.

(2) Tactical requirements. Units must

(a) Plan and rehearse battle drills.

(b) Conduct route reconnaissance.

(c) War-game contingencies with subordinate leaders.

(d) Exercise responsive C2.

(e) Issue mission-type orders.

(f) Use routes, movement techniques, and formations that allow the force to move rapidly and securely.

(g) Isolate enemy forces through fixing and suppressing fires.

(h) Provide rapid resupply with logistics packages (LOGPACs) to sustain the force's offensive capability.

(i) Maintain momentum to keep the enemy from reestablishing his defense.

d. Flexibility. Flexibility is the ability to divert from the plan and exploit success by maintaining freedom of maneuver. Flexibility in planning results from war-gaming.

(1) Operational requirements.

(a) Use detailed advance planning. The attack must be flexible. The commander must foresee developments as far ahead as possible. However, he must also expect uncertainties and be ready to exploit opportunities. To preserve synchronization on a fluid battlefield, initial planning must be detailed.

(b) Understand the commander's intent. Subordinates must understand the higher commander's aims so well that they can properly exploit battlefield opportunities even when communications fail. The corps or division must coordinate on a daily basis for the support of all arms and control operations that may cover 50 to 80 kilometers and may change direction frequently. Brigades and battalions must sustain themselves in such an environment and maintain the ability to change direction quickly without losing their concentration or synchronization.

(c) Exploit opportunities. The plan must use routes that permit the maximum possible opportunities for maneuver around strongpoints. A major offensive operation must provide:

  • Branches from the main approach.
  • Plans for reversion to the defense and for exploitation.
  • Control measures that facilitate changing the direction or location of the main effort.
  • Provisions for combat at night or in limited visibility.

(d) Provide nuclear and chemical support/protection. Even if nuclear and chemical weapons do not support the attack, commanders must plan to protect the force from the enemy's use. Plan for maximum dispersal of units, use of multiple routes, and protection of reserves to ensure flexibility.

(2) Tactical requirements. Units must

(1) Conduct aggressive reconnaissance that continues to seek enemy weaknesses and ways to attack him from his flanks and rear.

(2) Create and maintain a reserve that can assume the mission of the main attack or exploit an enemy weakness. A reserve is a commander's primary means of maintaining flexibility.

(3) Maintain a C2 system that allows the commander to transmit decisions rapidly during the battle.

(4) Use FRAGOs, checkpoints, and reserve graphic-control measures.

(5) Plan for contingencies that permit shifting the main effort.

e. Audacity. Audacity is the willingness to risk bold action in order to win. The audacious commander is quick, decisive, and willing to take prudent risks. He bases his decisions on sound tactical judgment, personal observation of the terrain, and first-hand knowledge of the battle. He constantly seeks to attack the enemy on the flanks or the rear and to rapidly exploit success. He shares the hazards of the battlefield with his troops, moving to the critical places to lead by example. Audacity has always been a feature of successful offenses. More attacks have been defeated because of lack of audacity than for any other reason.

Study Appendix C, pages C-4 through C-7, for a more thorough grasp of this subject.

1-6. Forms of Maneuver. TF attacks are of two basic types: hasty and deliberate. The two are distinguished primarily by the time available for planning and the extent of preparation. In either case, the attack is violent, resolute, and synchronized. The basic forms of maneuver used in an attack are envelopment, turning movement, infiltration, penetration, and frontal attack. While frequently used in combination, each maneuver attacks the enemy in a different way and poses different challenges to the attacking commander.

a. Envelopment. Envelopment is the form of maneuver that seeks to achieve surprise and apply strength against weakness. It is the preferred form of maneuver.

b. Turning movement. The turning movement is a variant of envelopment in which the attacker attempts to avoid the defense entirely. Instead, the attacker seeks to secure key terrain deep in the enemy's rear area and along his lines of communication.

c. Infiltration. Infiltration is another means of reaching the enemy's rear area without fighting through prepared defenses. It is the covert movement of all or part of the attacking force through enemy lines to a favorable position in their rear area.

d. Penetration. Penetration is used when enemy flanks are not assailable and when time does not permit any other form of maneuver. It attempts to rupture enemy defenses on a narrow front (normally the frontage of a defending platoon) and to create assailable flanks and access to the enemy's rear area.

e. Frontal attack. The frontal attack is the simplest but least-preferred form of maneuver. Because it strikes the enemy across a wide front and along the most direct approaches, it is nearly always costly in lives and materiel.

Study Appendix C, pages C-7 through C-12, for a more thorough grasp of this subject.

1-7. Summary. This lesson discussed offensive operations within the context of Army operations doctrine. It defined the fundamentals of the doctrine and their impact on Army operational and tactical levels of offensive operations. It discussed the purposes of the offense, characteristics of offensive operations, and forms of offensive maneuver. TFs are organized to fight and win in the context of Army operations. Armored battalion/TF operations feature the employment of all elements of the combined-arms team, including combat, CS, and CSS BOSs. The key to victory is to quickly mass the combat power of maneuver CO/TMs and to integrate and synchronize combat, CS, and CSS combat multipliers.


Lesson 1 Practice Exercise
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