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LESSON THREE

SOVIET DEFENSIVE OPERATIONS

MQS Manual Tasks: 01-3353.01-0010

OVERVIEW

TASK DESCRIPTION:

You will become familiar with Soviet defense doctrine with emphasis on hasty and prepared defense.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE:

 

ACTIONS:

You will describe the hasty and prepared defense of the Soviet doctrine.

CONDITIONS:

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

STANDARDS:

You will be able to describe the Soviet doctrine defense postures at any time.

REFERENCES:

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

INTRODUCTION

The Soviets' constant emphasis on the offensive in their writings and their training exercise scenarios overshadows the underlying realism with which they approach the necessity for adopting the defense in the overall course of battle.

Defense doctrine, grounded in the vast defensive battles of World War II, now demonstrates a thorough recognition of the impact of weapons of mass destruction and, in the conventional picture, of the defensive use of armored combat vehicles, ground air defense weapons, and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs).

DEFENSE DOCTRINE

The Soviet's defense doctrine stresses that defense is temporary, for a portion of the force while the rest of the force remains on the offense.

These temporary missions are only until the offensive can be resumed. The descriptive term is the "defense in the course of the offense," or simply the hasty defense. When expecting a major attack, the defense must be established in depth, without resuming the offense. This is termed the prepared defense.

Soviets emphasize the offensive as the only means to achieve decisive victory. The constant repetition of offensive themes in exercise scenarios after only a short defensive play further confirms the offensive spirit of Soviet doctrine. The defense is to consolidate advance elements, and await additional resources when temporarily halted by the enemy during the course of an offensive. Other functions include, to protect the flanks of a formation or along a sea coast, to repulse an enemy counterthrust, and regroup after severe losses suffered from nuclear weapons, to free resources for other elements of the formation that are on the offensive, and/or await logistic support.

Prepared Defense Versus Hasty Defense. The prepared defense, compared to the hasty defense, differs in initial intent and mission, and tends to merge with the hasty defenses; the later stages of hasty defense may in fact be converted to a prepared defense. Modern defensive doctrine at Front and Army levels stresses defense in depth; but rather than multiple continuous belts, the defensive area consists of clusters of strongpoints. At both Front and Army levels, the key is stubborn defense of the FEBA by motorized rifle forces, deployed in depth, and decisive counterattacks by highly mobile, tank-heavy force of a second-echelon. The Reserves and second echelon may make up half of the force; their major tasks will be counterattacks and destroy the enemy forces penetrating the forward defenses.

Counterattack. Counterattacks are planned around tank-heavy forces. The speed and shock power of a tank unit makes it ideal for destroying a penetration by an enemy force. The tank forces, where terrain allows, will launch their counterattack against the enemy's flank using their speed to disorganize the enemy. While all Soviet commander's plan counterattacks, it requires the permission of the next higher commander to launch one. This is to prevent, for instance, a regimental commander from opening a hole in the division's defenses by moving his counterattack force early. It is the first-echelon divisions that hold the forward edge of the Army and Front positions. It is at division level we find all the principles of defense employed. The remainder of this section will examine the defense as conducted by a first-echelon division.

PREPARED DEFENSE

The prepared defense is organized with a security echelon or zone and a main defensive area. The security echelon is formed of the main defensive area to delay and deceive the enemy as to the location and deployment of the main defensive elements. The security force engages the enemy at the longest possible range and attempts to cause him to deploy prematurely. The security force size and composition depend on the mission, enemy, terrain, troops, and time available (METT-T). The zone extends 30 kilometers at Army level and 15 kilometers at division level, far enough forward to prevent direct fire from being placed on the main defensive area.

The Main Defensive Area appears as bands, belts, or layers. It is defense in depth with forces, including Armies and Fronts. The building block is the company strongpoint.

A Strongpoint. Typical frontages and depths for units are shown in Figure 3-1. The basic element of the main defensive area is the company (sometimes platoon) strongpoint. This is established on terrain which is key to the defense and must be retained at all costs. The unit occupying the strongpoint prepares an all-around defense with alternate and supplementary fire positions for all weapons. Fires are planned to be mutually supporting and provide for fire sacks and kill zones. Vehicles are dug in, and a network of communication trenches are constructed linking weapon positions with supply, command and control, and fighting positions. Everything that can provide the primary means of communication and everything that can be dug in will be. Minefields and barriers are emplaced and fires are planned to cover all approaches to the position, and finally, the entire position is camouflaged. This includes the use of dummy positions to draw fire and deceive the enemy as to the true location of the defenses.

Anti-tank Defense is essential to any defense that uses massed artillery and nuclear weapons for direct fire engagements.

Fires. Maneuver by fire is the concentration of fires from many guns on an advancing enemy in a sudden and devastating barrage. Fire sacks, or pockets, are preplanned fires of artillery in specific areas in conjunction with minefields or barriers.

Tank Ambushes are planned when opposed by armor-heavy forces, encirclement or a decisive engagement, the forces of the security zone will attempt to withdraw under cover of artillery fire and return to the main defensive area.

Figure 3-1. Defensive Frontages and Depths.

HASTY DEFENSE

The hasty defense is more prevalent than prepared defense. Offensive actions may be necessary to gain defensible terrain to establish the defense. A hasty defense cannot provide time for the detailed preparation associated with the prepared defense because the mission of hasty defense is more changeable and attack more imminent. The terrain may be unfavorable for organization of a defense; it may even be better suited for the attacker and time will be short.

Establishing the Defense, while in contact with the enemy, poses problems because forces cannot dig in while under fire and observation by the enemy. For this reason, a reverse slope defense is often chosen. Forces will be left in contact with the enemy on the forward slope(s) while the remainder of the force prepares the position on the reverse slope(s). This prevents observation by the enemy, and attacking forces will not be able to use direct fire support or anti-tank fires. The attacking enemy forces will be silhouetted on the crest of the hill and killing grounds are organized where both slope defenses will be used to take maximum advantage of the terrain.

Since the force going on the defensive will be in contact with the enemy, it will be difficult to establish a security echelon. Also, long-range fires will not play the part they did in the prepared defense because the enemy will be within small arm range. Barriers and minefields will be deployed in depth, denial of access to a specific area is the primary objective, not destruction, however, attrition of the enemy is still essential and defensive positions are chosen for their ability to support resumption of offensive action rather than a prolonged defense.

Use of Engineer Mobile Obstacles Detachments. The mission of laying barrier minefields across critical avenues of approach, by using armored minelayers, armored engineer vehicles, and dozer blades attached to armored vehicles ensures constant readiness to repulse an enemy attack.

Combat Service Support. Devoted to preparing units for future offensive actions with priority of support going to those units selected to spearhead offensive actions, such as vehicle recovery and repair.

WITHDRAWAL

The withdrawal is associated with the defense, or used when shifting forces for the offense to strengthen another sector considered especially threatened. The Soviets resort to deception, movement at night, and secret preparations to avoid alerting the enemy. They withdraw without occupation of intermediate lines and move on as many routes as possible to avoid presenting lucrative targets. The main force moves without pause and under radio silence until established in the new area.

Force Relocation. Withdrawals are carried out only by order of the superior commander in a deliberatly organized manner with emphasis on strict secrecy and security. The mission is to relocate the force in a timely and organized fashion from one position to another without sacrificing the combat capability of the unit. Forces are divided into three distinct groups: main body, rear guard, and covering force, each with a specific mission.

The main body, the bulk of the force to be withdrawn. Its mission is to disengage and withdraw without disclosing the operation to the enemy. It will withdraw from the position under cover of darkness or adverse weather if possible. Fires will be planned to deceive the enemy about the true nature of the operation. The withdrawing forces provides its own rear and flank security. Reconnaissance of the route and new position are conducted, and guides posted to ensure the uninterrupted movement of the force. Air and artillery strikes will be planned to cover the withdrawal, if the withdrawal is carried out under enemy pressure.

The rear guard is to cover the movement from one location to another and delay the enemy if it attempts to pursue the withdrawing force. It is organized to delay the attacking enemy independently, and is not dependent on forces in the main force or the covering force. It consists of tank units reinforcer with motorized rifle, artillery, and engineers assigned to each major route of withdrawal.

The covering force is left in position to deceive the enemy and cover the disengagement withdrawal from the position. The covering force units come from the forces along the forward edge of the defense. This force consists of a reinforced platoon from each company, supported by selected artillery units.

Conduct of the Withdrawal. The initial stage of the withdrawal is the disengagement. (See Figure 3-2.) This stage is most vulnerable to attack. Maximum use is made of dummy positions, weather, and covering tires to ensure the enemy does not detect the disengagement. Unengaged forces are withdrawn first with the second-echelon and reserves. Next, the artillery and first-echelon force (less the covering force) are withdrawn from the position. After the main force has withdrawn through the rear guard force, the covering force may begin its withdrawal. The covering force will withdraw suddenly with all forces departing at the same time. If the covering force is withdrawn under pressure, they will leapfrog their units to the rear to join the main force in the new area.

With speed, stealth, and radio silence, the rear guard is on lines to cover the withdrawal of the main force. These force the enemy to pause and reorganize before attacking the next line. Forces are withdrawn to subsequent defensive lines by leapfrogging, with mutual fire support, ambushes, and engineers lay minefields, destroy bridges, and construct barriers. Artillery forces fire at maximum range on road junctions, defiles, and crossing points, and on enemy forces threatening to overrun or envelop positions, and withdraw by leapfrogging for continuous fire support.

Figure 3-2. Withdrawal.

If the enemy does not pursue the force or attempt to envelop it, the rear guard may form march columns and return to the main body under its own security force to the new area. In the new area, the force is reorganized, refueled, rearmed, repaired, and cares for the wounded.


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