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MQS Manual Tasks: 01-3353.01-0010



In this lesson you will become familiar with all Soviet offensive formations and types of maneuver with emphasis on tactical offensive operations.




Describe tactical formations and movement employed by the Soviet from one point to another on the battlefield.


You will be given narrative information and illustration from FM 100-2-1, 100-2-2, and 100-2-3, and FM 1-402.


You as the intelligence officer must know the different types of tactical formations the Soviet have and can employ in any given situation.


The material contained in this lesson was derived from the following publications:

  FM 1-402
FM 100-2-1
FM 100-2-2
FM 100-2-3


The Soviets emphasize swift, efficient movement of combat power from one point on the battlefield to another. This is accomplished by movement in march formation, prebattle formation, and attack formation. Strictly controlled and frequently rehearsed, transition from march column into prebattle and attack formation is practiced for a rapid transition into combat with security, speed, and firepower.


The March. Conducted in column formation on roads or cross-country. An administrative move from one point to another is planned and conducted with the expectation of contact. A march is used from a rear assembly area to a forward assembly area or to launch an attack from the march in anticipation of a meeting engagement, during pursuit, or when conducting a passage of lines.

March Norms. The following norms apply in preparation for a march.

* A division is assigned either a march zone or march routes. As many as four routes are possible

* A regiment is normally assigned one or two routes.

* A battalion marches on one route.

* Distance between routes should be at least 3 kilometers to ensure two units will not be destroyed by one enemy nuclear weapon.

March formation elements. March formation consists of reconnaissance, advance guard, flank security elements, the main force, and rear security element. The focus for march planning is security of the main force and creation of conditions for its successful commitment into battle.

A division on the march is preceded by a reconnaissance battalion. Scout elements of the reconnaissance battalion may operate 50 kilometers forward of the division. A regiment is preceded by a reconnaissance company, whose scouts may operate 25 kilometers forward of the division. Reconnaissance force obtains information about location of enemy nuclear delivery systems, movement of enemy columns, strength and composition of the enemy, lines and routes of march, and locations of contaminated areas.

Advance Guard precedes the main force and provides security. It consists of one-third of the total combat power of the main force. For example, the advance guard for an MRR, is an MRB reinforced with tank, artillery, anti-tank, antiaircraft, engineer, and chemical elements.

March Considerations include dispersion, rate of march, and march order. Particularly under nuclear conditions, march formations must ensure dispersion both laterally and in depth. A division will attain lateral dispersion by marching in a zone up to 25 kilometers wide on as many as four routes, each separated by 3 to 4 kilometers. The average rate of march is based on the total route distance and the time allowed for the march. Dispersion in depth is the intervals between units and vehicles with requirements for timely commitment of forces in case of enemy contact.

Prebattle Formation. For speed, the Soviets prefer to remain in column, or march formation. Lateral deployment is used when combat is imminent. Prebattle formation advances dispersed, laterally and in depth when approaching the battlefield, or moving in the enemy's rear area, attacking enemy defenses, crossing nuclear contaminated zones, and areas that are burning or obstructed. This formation minimizes the target for enemy tactical nuclear, artillery, and air strikes. It facilitates rapid maneuver and quick deployment into attack formation, or return to march formation. In prebattle formation, a regiment advances with its battalions deployed on line, in a forward or reverse wedge, or echeloned left or right. Each battalion is, in turn, organized internally into one of these formations, while its companies move in march column within the formation.

Attack Formation is formed immediately before combat. This entire unit disperses into line wedge, or echelon formations, based on the situation. Tanks on line precede BTRs or BMPs. If troops dismount, they follow closely behind the tanks. The BTRs or BMPs follow between 100 to 400 meters behind the tanks. Attack formation is assumed between 300 and 1,000 meters of enemy positions.


An attack follows a plan, based on mission, enemy, terrain, troops, and time available (METT-T).

Principles of Attack Doctrine. The principles of Soviet attack doctrine are:

* Conduct aggressive reconnaissance.

* Breach enemy defenses at weak points and create gaps.

* Maneuver against enemy flanks and rear to bypass strong points.

* Rapidly maneuver forces and mass fires in decisive direction with priority to destruction of enemy nuclear weapon systems.

* Strike rapidly and deeply into the enemy's rear.

* Maintain momentum under all conditions.

* Empty radioelectronic combat.

Methods of Attack. The two methods of an attack against a defending enemy are attack from the march and attack from a position in direct contact.

Attack from the March is the preferred method of attack. It is launched from a march formation out of assembly areas in the rear. Subunits deploy laterally at designated control lines and assume attack formation within approximately 1,000 meters of enemy defenses.

The Soviet advantages of the attack from the march are that the unit is not committed before an attack allowing surprise and flexibility; less vulnerability to enemy artillery; and enhanced momentum.

The disadvantages of the attack from the march are commanders are not familiar with the terrain and enemy dispositions, and it is difficult to coordinate fire and maneuver.

Attack from a Position in Direct Contact. The least preferred method, launched from part of, or immediately behind, a defense position.

An attack from a position in direct contact allows a study of terrain and enemy disposition and permits more refined organization of battle to coordinate fire and maneuver. These are advantages.

Its disadvantages are less chance of surprise, less chance to build up momentum and overcome inertia, units may be already committed and are under threat of attack during preparation.

Maneuver Forms. The three basic maneuver forms in the attack are the frontal attack, envelopment, and flank attack. These may be used in either the attack from the march, or from positions in direct contact.

The Frontal Attack is against front-line forces to penetrate defenses along single or multiple axes. A frontal attack creates openings for offensive maneuver to penetrate and depends on superiority of forces and firepower, reserves, and planning. The frontal attack is the least preferred form of maneuver, and is normally used with a flank attack or an envelopment. (See Figures 2-1 and 2-2.)

The Flank Attack strikes enemy forces in their flank or rear at a relatively shallow depth. Fire support is maintained between forces conducting the flank attack and those conducting a simultaneous frontal attack. (See Figure 2-1.)

The Envelopment is a deeper attack that causes the enemy to turn and fight in a new direction. It is launched against enemy flanks or through gaps or breaches. There is no requirement for mutual fire support with forces conducting a frontal attack. (See Figure 2-2.) This is the preferred form of maneuver.

Conduct of the Attack. A division conducts an attack as part of its parent army under the control of a Front. A division attacking in the first-echelon would penetrate enemy forward defenses, attack through the enemy brigade rear, and continue the attack to the full tactical depth, the enemy division rear area.


Figure 2-1. The Flank Attack.


Figure 2-2. The Envelopment.

Soviet Tactical Objectives are dashed lines on a terrain map, at various depths, based on enemy dispositions and modified because of terrain. An objective requires units to attack to the limit of the objective line and destroy or neutralize enemy troops, weapons, equipment, and support systems.

The Objective Lines, are assigned by higher command. Divisions are assigned an immediate objective, a subsequent objective, and/or an objective of the day. Regiments are assigned immediate and subsequent objectives. Battalions and companies, are assigned an immediate objective and direction of attack. At the tactical level, objectives form a progressively higher and deeper hierarchy. The depths of objectives are not fixed but vary with the situation. Figure 2-3 shows hierarchy of objectives for a division attacking in an Army first echelon. As the offensive continues and enemy resistance decreases, objective depths would increase and a division objective of the day could be as deep as 80 kilometers.

To achieve these objectives, divisions normally attack in two echelons, and employ a reserve. The first-echelon contains the bulk of the combat power (up to three regiments). The remaining maneuver forces are found in either the second echelon, or the reserve.

The second echelon is given a stated, explicit, mission. This mission is usually to seize the subsequent objective. Reserves, on the other hand, do not have a mission per se', but are a contingency force.

Figure 2-3. Possible Hierarchy of Tactical Objective for Attack Against Defending Enemy.

The Reserve. There are three types of reserve: combined arms reserve, the anti-tank reserve, and special reserves (engineers and chemical defense troops). The tactical situation determines the strength and composition of each reserve force. For a division, a typical reserve force is battalion size and has no preplanned mission, acting as a contingency force.

Within the division's attack zones, a main attack axis is based on terrain, enemy defenses, or orders. Two of its first-echelon regiments would attack abreast along the main attack axis. The other first-echelon regiment would conduct a supporting attack. (See Figure 2-4.) Follow-on forces include a second-echelon regiment and a small reserve to continue the attack. The second-echelon regiment would commit after the division's immediate objective has been achieved and may be committed on an alternate axis.

Figure 2-4. Soviet Division Attack Against a Defending Enemy.

If enemy defenses are not well-prepared and most of its forces are deployed forward, or are very weak a Soviet division may attack on multiple axes with no predetermined main attack. (See Figure 2-5.) Follow-on forces include a second-echelon regiment and a small reserve to continue the attack. The second-echelon regiment would commit after the division's immediate objective has been achieved and may be committed on an alternate axis. The attack is conducted with three regiments in the first echelon, dispersed across the division front of 15 to 25 kilometers. The first-echelon regiments attack and probe for weak points in enemy defenses, penetrate wherever they can, develop penetrations, and carry the attack as deeply as possible. The division commander allows the battle to develop then commits the second echelon in the area of greatest success, which becomes the division main attack axis to maintain the battle.

Figure 2-5. Soviet Division Attack Against a Defending Enemy.

Attack with forces massed across a narrow frontage is an attack conducted to breach well-prepared, deeply arrayed, enemy defense. The division in these circumstances would be two regiments in the first-echelon massed across a frontage of 6 to 10 kilometers, and followed by two second-echelon regiments and a small reserve. (See Figure 2-6) This type of attack is extremely vulnerable to tactical nuclear strikes. Such an attack requires rapid concentration of forces and fires to create the breach, and just as rapid dispersal of forces on the other side of the breach.

Figure 2-6. Soviet Division Attack Against a Defending Enemy.


The Soviet division attack options described are representative, not all inclusive. The organization, concept, and conduct of a Soviet division attack will vary with the division's mission, the commander's estimate of the situation, and the factors we know as METT-T. The basic concept for a Soviet attack is to find or create a gap, slip through, and drive deep at top speed.

Artillery and Air Preparation. The division attack is preceded by an artillery and air preparation of targets in the enemy forward defense area.

A division making attack on the main attack axis of its Army or Front receives many more artillery assets and close air support sorties than does a division making a supporting attack. A first-echelon division receives artillery units from higher headquarters. The division commander allocates some artillery to his first-echelon regiments to form regiments artillery groups and retains the rest in a division artillery group. These are a temporary grouping which will be modified based on need.


The Soviets consider the meeting engagement as "A clash between opposing Forces when they are simultaneously striving to fulfill assigned missions by means of offensive actions. A meeting engagement is characterized by obscurity of the situation and by abrupt changes in rapid changes in march, approach march, and combat formations." The meeting engagement is either part of the offensive or defensive, and may occur when the defender is advancing to forward positions, after penetrating enemy forward defenses in a clash with advancing reserves, pursuit, or counterattack. The meeting engagement objectives are destruction of the enemy's forces, seizure of key terrain, and continuation of the advance.

Planning Factors. Anticipating a meeting engagement, careful planning and decision-making includes: use of reconnaissance information for making and transmitting of decisions in anticipation of enemy air and artillery strikes, nuclear or non-nuclear, and the use of such information in deployment of maneuver forces and flank and rear security assets, in an effect to seize the initiative.

Tactical March in Anticipation of the Meeting Engagement. The march column will vary with the size of the main force (division or regiment), the enemy situation (particularly the nuclear and chemical situation), and the number of routes available.

A division rarely advances on a single route with regiments in column, since this formation slows the forward movement and delays deployment into battle formation when resistance is encountered. A division could be forced onto a single route by road nets, mountains, swamps, or forested terrain. A division rarely advances on four routes with regiments abreast except when weak resistance is expected. A regiment leading a division march is the advance guard of the division. The advance guard is one-third of the main force's total combat power.

Conduct of the Attack. A division's attack from the march can be made five hours from the initial contact by lead elements of the advance guard. Follow-on forces can be engaged in less than three hours after the lead regiment's main force is engaged. There are several possible outcomes of a meeting engagement.

Successful Attack by the Lead Regiment. The lead regiment exploits success or resumes march with follow-on regiments in pursuit or consolidate positions and await orders or resume march in a new direction.

Enemy Establishes Hasty Defense. The lead regiment attacks enemy defenses and, by fixing enemy force, facilitates committment of division follow-on forces. Depending on maneuver space and size of enemy force, follow-on regiments flank or envelop enemy, artillery fire is centralized, and helicopter/assault forces are employed, if appropriate. If follow-on forces succeed, exploitation or pursuit is carried out, the position consolidated, forces regrouped, and the march resumes.

Lead Regiment in Hasty Defense. The lead regiment holds waiting arrival and deployment of follow-on forces. The follow-on forces counterattack and attempt to envelope enemy, artillery fire is centralized, and helicopter/assault forces are employed, if appropriate.

The Lead Regiment is Unable to Contain the Enemy Attack. The follow-on forces conduct the counterattack. If enemy withdrawn, exploitation or pursuit is initiated to consolidate the position, regroup, and resume march. If the follow-on forces establish defensive positions, the lead regiment withdraws, and the division holds pending commitment of Army follow-on forces.

The division's actions in a meeting engagement have been portrayed as a sequential, front-to-rear unfolding of combat. A normal situation when the division is marching on one to three routes with a lead regiment in advance of the division. The meeting engagement will not always unfold in the sequence of encounters by reconnaissance elements, advance elements, and main bodies, or begin with head-to-head, direct, or oblique encounters. The Soviet formula for a successful meeting engagement requires surprise, rapid and decisive maneuver, and concentrated fires when either side assumes a different type of combat action, such as defense, withdrawal, or pursuit.


The Soviets define pursuit as: "An attack on a withdrawing enemy, undertaken in the course of an operation or battle for the purpose of finally destroying or capturing his forces. Destruction of withdrawing enemy is achieved by hitting his main body with body with strikes, by relentless and energetic parallel or frontal pursuit, by straddling his withdrawl route, and by...attacking his flanks or rear." Pursuit features swift the enemy and movements with short deployments of small forces to strike the enemy and develop into a contest of mobility and initiative. By definition, a pursuit occurs when the enemy withdraws as a result of a meeting engagement, penetration of his position, or following a nuclear strike. On the other hand, an enemy might deliberately withdraw when threatened with encirclement, when making a redistribution of forces, in attempts to draw the other side into a kill zone, or withdraws before nuclear strike. Frontal, parallel, or combination fronts/parallel, are forms of pursuit used consistently in Soviet writings. The more descriptive terms "direct pressure" and "pursuit" on parallel axis," are encountered in western writings. The preferred and most effective form is a combination of frontal/parallel.

Figure 2-7. Frontal Pursuit.

Frontal Pursuit. It is conducted by forces in contact (See Figure 2-7) at the beginning of enemy withdrawal, at night, in difficult terrain, when overcoming obstacles, or when off-road maneuver is limited. It applies constant pressure on the enemy and limits freedom of maneuver, ability to take up defensive positions, and ability to disengage. The pursuit forces the enemy to deploy and delays the withdrawal. The frontal pursuit is not considered decisive because it only pushes the enemy back on its approaching reserves.

Figure 2-8. Parallel Pursuit.

Parallel Pursuit. During the parallel pursuit (See Figure 2-8), the pursuit force advances on routes parallel to the withdrawing enemy. High-speed parallel pursuit may permit either attack on the enemy's flank or cutting its main withdrawal routes. Under the threat of flank attack, the enemy may be required to split its force and delay withdrawal while defending against pursuer's attacks. Unless accompanied by frontal pursuit, this method gives the enemy some opportunity to maneuver and counterattack.

Figure 2-9. Combination Frontal/Parallel.

Combination Frontal/Parallel. In the execution of the combination frontal/parallel pursuit (See Figure 2-9), the main force moves parallel to the withdrawing enemy, while a small force pursues directly, maintaining constant contact. Tanks are the preferred force on the parallel axis, because of their speed and shock power. The combination form has the advantages of both frontal and parallel. It hinders disengagement and leads to flank attacks and cutting enemy withdrawal routes.

Termination. The pursuit is terminated on order of the next higher commander. Pursuit would be terminated when the enemy has been destroyed, the pursuing force has outdistanced its logistic support, the pursuing force has become overextended and is in danger of being cut off, or the advantage no longer belongs to the pursuit force. When pursuit ends, units are regrouped, and forces are deployed for subsequent operations.


Practice Exercise: Lesson 2
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Page last modified: 27-04-2005 07:34:49 Zulu