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Chapter 12
Engineer Support


Support to Offensive Operations
Support to Defensive Operations
Support to Information Warfare
Route Preparation and Maintenance
Movement Support Detachment
Mobile Obstacle Detachment

OPFOR military art relies on extensive engineer support at every level. Strategic engineer support involves planning and conducting engineer activities in support of operations within a theater. Engineer units at the operational level facilitate the mobility and high rate of advance of combined arms forces while enhancing the survivability of forces.


Engineer troops form elements of combined arms organizations--army groups, armies, corps, divisions, and brigades. These engineer elements range in size from brigades down to companies.

At both army and army group levels, engineer units include an engineer brigade, a pontoon bridge regiment, and possibly an assault crossing battalion. At corps level, an engineer battalion may appear in lieu of the engineer brigade. At army group level, an engineer battalion may appear in place of or in addition to the engineer brigade, and a water crossing regiment may provide pontoon bridge and assault crossing assets. These and other nondivisional engineer units support their commander by conducting engineer missions in support of committed forces. In essence, army group and army or corps engineers reinforce first-echelon divisions as required. However, their primary responsibility is to support and ensure the mobility of operational formations.


Operational employment of engineer units does not follow strict organizational lines. Operational employment of engineer, engineer reconnaissance, and road and bridge units generally involves the formation of one or more of the following functional groupings:

  • Mobile obstacle detachment (MOD).
  • Movement support detachment (MSD).
  • Engineer reconnaissance patrol.
  • Obstacle-clearing detachment.

As with artillery, the OPFOR does not always employ engineer units as complete entities. The army group chief of engineer troops can use his resources to form task-oriented groupings according to the army group commander's decision for the operation and his instructions on engineer support. He forms groupings to--

  • Conduct engineer support at army group level.
  • Reinforce first-echelon armies and operational maneuver groups (OMGs).
  • Reinforce army group surface-to-surface missile (SSM) and air defense troops.
  • Support deception operations.
  • Act as MODs.
  • Act as an engineer reserve.


The OPFOR recognizes several basic technical tasks that engineer troops perform in support of combined arms operations. The nine basic tasks follow:

  1. Reconnoiter the enemy and the terrain.
  2. Prepare fortifications.
  3. Prepare and maintain routes of movement.
  4. Clear passages through obstacles and areas of destruction.
  5. Equip and maintain gap crossings.
  6. Establish engineer obstacles.
  7. Carry out engineer camouflage, concealment, and deception measures.
  8. Extract and purify water and establish supply points.
  9. Carry out engineer measures to eliminate the aftereffects of nuclear and precision weapons strikes.

The three primary engineer tasks performed in combat are reconnaissance, obstacle clearing, and establishing engineer obstacles.

Support to Offensive Operations

In the offense, the engineers' primary mission is to help maintain high rates of advance. Emphasis is on--

  • Clearing and maintaining routes for maneuver elements.
  • Clearing or removing mines and other obstacles.
  • Crossing gaps.
  • Creating obstacles to assist in flank protection and protection against counterattacks.

Engineer reconnaissance, performed independently or with other reconnaissance elements, plays a significant role in achieving high rates of movement. Basic engineer tasks also include the support of logistics operations in the rear area.

The aims of engineer support at both army group and army level are--

  • Creating the necessary conditions for timely and concealed movement and deployment for the attack.
  • Maintaining and enhancing the protection of troops and equipment against all forms of attack.
  • Repelling likely enemy counterattacks.
  • Maintaining momentum in the offensive despite enemy and natural obstacles and possibly NBC-contaminated areas.


To prepare for offensive operations, army group and army engineer tasks include--

  • Performing engineer reconnaissance of the terrain and the enemy.
  • Preparing assembly areas for first- and second-echelon forces, reserves, and command posts (CPs).
  • Constructing protective positions for SSM units, air defense units, and CPs.
  • Establishing and improving road networks to support maneuver forces.
  • Preparing alternative airfields and highway strips to support air assets.


During offensive operations, engineer support includes--

  • Continuing reconnaissance of the enemy and the terrain.
  • Improving road networks.
  • Providing support when crossing water obstacles.
  • Constructing protective positions for SSM units, air defense units, and CPs, as they relocate.
  • Helping to repel enemy counterattack.
  • Maintaining airfields.
  • Supplying engineer equipment, materials, and technical assistance to maneuver units and combat formations.

Commitment of Second Echelon or Operational Maneuver Group

The commitment of a second echelon or OMG is one of the most critical and vulnerable periods of combat. Engineer troops are vital in ensuring success. They facilitate the second echelon's or OMG's timely arrival on the line of commitment and provide support for its deployment and protection against flank attacks. Tasks include--

  • Reconnaissance of the axis of advance and the sector of commitment.
  • Route preparation and obstacle breaching.
  • Obstacle emplacement to increase the stability of a defensive line that the army or army group antitank (AT) reserves establish.
  • Operational camouflage, concealment, and deception to conceal movement and deceive the enemy.

Support to Defensive Operations

Engineer forces at army group and army levels are heavily engaged in the preparation and conduct of a operational defense. The OPFOR defense relies on a combination of positional defense and maneuver defense, exploiting the advantages of both. Comprehensive engineer preparation in the entire depth of the tactical and operational zones of defense is an important precondition for holding occupied lines, as well as for troop maneuver.

Engineer support for defensive operations places emphasis on fortifying friendly troop positions, performing engineer camouflage measures, and adapting the terrain for defense. The defense is also conducive to the extensive use of various obstacles to interfere with the enemy's advance.

The type and scale of engineer support depends on the operational situation, enemy forces, and the conditions under which an OPFOR army or army group assumes the defensive. If it is during the course of the offensive, support may have to begin with the protection of threatened axes by MODs and AT reserves and the route work needed for regrouping. If the OPFOR assumes a defense out of contact with the enemy, support can begin with the creation of defensive works and the improvement of routes for the formation to deploy. In a maneuver defense, the goals of engineer support are to hold up the enemy advance and facilitate the organized withdrawal, maneuver, or counterstrike by friendly forces.

The most important engineer tasks are to--

  • Establish the necessary conditions for organizing the defense.
  • Build fortifications of zones, lines, and positions.
  • Prepare and maintain maneuver routes.
  • Protect personnel and equipment from the effects of both direct and indirect fires.
  • Enhance the effectiveness of weapons.
  • Create an engineer obstacle system.
  • Improve obstacles as time permits.


Engineer support for preparing defensive positions consists of the following:

  • Conducting engineer reconnaissance of the enemy and terrain.
  • Preparing fortifications for protecting weapons, personnel, and equipment.
  • Constructing routes for blocking and counterattacking forces.
  • Constructing obstacles (coordinated with the fire plan and natural obstacles).
  • Preparing camouflage and deception measures.
  • Maintaining the water supply.

Other engineer tasks in the defense are clearing obstacles, crossing gaps, and eliminating the effects of fire strikes.


During defensive operations, engineer support consists of improving on and expanding the scope of all the above measures and undertaking new tasks as situations develop. Support for counterstrikes is similar to that for the commitment of second echelons in the attack.

Support to Information Warfare

The OPFOR has responded at all organizational levels to the challenge posed by enemy advances in sensors and weapons. A wide variety of engineer activities contribute to information warfare. This support involves three interrelated areas:

  • Deception (signature-enhancing measures).
  • Camouflage and concealment (signature-reduction measures).
  • Obscurants (measures used both to conceal and enhance real and decoy equipment).

In addition to the specific activities conducted by engineer troops, all OPFOR units use one or more forms of technical camouflage. The purpose of these techniques is to alter the appearance of personnel and equipment and to blend them with the surrounding terrain. Capabilities available include--

  • Camouflage paint.
  • Artificial camouflage (nets and screens).
  • Antiradar camouflage (radar-absorbing nets, paints).
  • Mock-ups (decoys).
  • Light and thermal camouflage.
  • Smoke camouflage.


The OPFOR implements deception and protective measures in preparation for and during a march to hamper or prevent the enemy from discovering the true deployment of units and their actions and intentions. Measures include--

  • Selecting terrain with good natural concealment.
  • Selecting routes of march that minimize tracks and dust.
  • Constructing artificial screens and concealment (such as horizontal and vertical screens, corner reflectors).
  • Movement at night, in fog, or under conditions of low visibility, including smokescreens created by use of obscurants.


During the offense, the aims of deception are essentially the same as on the march. They include--

  • Selection of terrain with good natural concealment.
  • Use of obscurants.
  • Use of artificial and natural camouflage screens.
  • Use of concealed routes for movement of supplies and reserves.
  • False route preparation to provide misleading indicators.


The OPFOR uses various deception measures to mislead the enemy about size and location of forces and weapons systems and about the nature of defensive engineer preparations. Measures include--

  • Use of screening characteristics of terrain, darkness, and other conditions of limited visibility during engineer preparation of defensive positions and positioning of forces.
  • Camouflage painting of material.
  • Use of local materials and standard-issue camouflage screens.
  • Strict camouflage discipline.
  • Construction of false strongpoints, decoy positions, and equipment.
  • False actions to draw attention from defensive preparations.


Engineer patrols and groups, observation posts, and photographic reconnaissance posts perform engineer reconnaissance. They serve as a means of collecting information including--

  • Observation.
  • Ground and aerial photography.
  • Exploitation of documents, prisoners, and local residents.

When enemy forces are within visible range, the OPFOR establishes engineer observation posts. When conditions restrict visibility, it supplements these with listening posts.

The specific missions of engineer reconnaissance are to--

  • Discover enemy engineer measures taken to fortify positions and strongpoints and to lay and clear minefields and demolitions.
  • Determine the conditions of roads and bridges.
  • Find fording sites and suitable entry and exit points for amphibious combat vehicles.
  • Find local building materials and water-supply sites.
  • Determine the potential of the terrain for cover and concealment.
  • Raid, observe, photograph, or perform direct observation of enemy engineer activity.
  • Determine the characteristics of obstacles and locate bypass routes.
  • Determine requirements for special engineer equipment.


A primary goal of engineer reconnaissance at the operational level is to provide comprehensive information on the trafficability of march routes. Elements performing engineer reconnaissance make the following determinations:

  • The degree of trafficability of the entire route.
  • The location and nature of obstacles and forces or assets needed to overcome them.
  • The condition of crossing sites over rivers, canals, streams, and ravines.
  • The location and quantity of material potentially useful for improving the march route.
  • The nature of the terrain and location of areas without natural concealment.

If the march occurs in the rear of friendly forces, the commander can send the engineer reconnaissance patrol in advance to obtain the required data. When the OPFOR conducts a march in anticipation of contact, the engineer reconnaissance patrol is normally part of troop reconnaissance and reports on engineer aspects of the route.

The purpose of route reconnaissance is to select suitable routes along the axis of advance and to identify suitable halt areas that provide concealment. The reconnaissance element relays topographical and terrain information back to the parent unit. Reconnaissance can occur throughout the battle area.

Reconnaissance determines the condition and trafficability of movement routes and the trafficability of off-road terrain, including bridge conditions and detour routes. Patrols mounted on combat vehicles or onboard helicopters usually perform this reconnaissance. Aerial photography is an important method of gaining general information for engineer intelligence while on the march.


During the offensive, the primary engineer reconnaissance mission is to obtain more precise information on--

  • Enemy obstacles and destruction created both during attack preparation and during the attack.
  • Troop movement routes and trafficability on off-road terrain.
  • Locations where the enemy established obstacles during his withdrawal.
  • Locations for establishing obstacles during enemy counterattacks.
  • Water obstacles on friendly forces' axes of advance and on advantageous positions in a meeting engagement or battle.

Engineer reconnaissance during the offensive seeks to obtain information on the nature of enemy fortifications and defensive positions, as well as the composition and types of equipment and obstacles of the enemy. The basic methods for obtaining this information are observation and aerial or ground photography.


Engineer troops assist in reconnaissance and preparation of the defense by determining the protective and camouflage features of the terrain and by helping select positions for CPs and unit strongpoints. Engineers also determine road and bridge conditions in the defensive area, availability of local materials for construction of positions, and the status of the water supply.

Engineer observation posts usually consist of two or three engineers who have a periscopic rangefinder and, possibly, photographic equipment. These posts are located approximately 2 to 3 km apart along the frontline. They monitor the conditions of roads, barriers, bridges, and the water supply as well as help monitor radiation and contamination levels in the defensive area.


In the defense, engineer elements observe enemy preparations for the attack and determine the character and extent of enemy engineer activity. Emphasis is on--

  • Observing enemy engineer reconnaissance activity and obstacle-clearing elements.
  • Enemy route preparation through or around obstacles.
  • The composition and character of enemy engineer and maneuver elements in forward areas.

Engineer reconnaissance patrols also reconnoiter terrain to determine the best areas for constructing defensive positions and obstacles, establishing CPs, and setting up water-supply and distribution points. Engineer personnel attached to combat reconnaissance patrols gain information on enemy engineer preparations.


During actual defensive combat, engineer observation posts--

  • Monitor enemy engineer activity.
  • Evaluate zones of destruction.
  • Report areas where the enemy is breaching defensive obstacles.

At least one of the posts provides detailed photography of the area of interest. When the OPFOR is on the defensive, engineer reconnaissance elements reconnoiter terrain and the enemy situation to determine routes best suited for a return to offensive action.


Preparing fortified positions is a task for engineers on the march and in the offense and defense. Fortified positions increase weapons effectiveness and protect personnel, weapons, and materiel. Engineers give priority to digging in CPs and SSMs. Fortification preparation combines and uses to best advantage the terrain's protective properties, local construction materials, and engineer excavation equipment. The OPFOR works at night for concealment, although preparing dummy positions must proceed during daylight hours.


The OPFOR recognizes the growing vulnerability of its forces to deep interdiction using precision weapons. It establishes rest, halt, and assembly areas to protect the formation from attack during a march. It positions rest or halt areas on terrain with sufficient camouflage and protective properties and adequate water sources.


Normally, the OPFOR approaches field fortification in a way that benefits the offensive by allowing a smooth and protected movement to contact with the enemy. It locates assembly areas far enough behind friendly lines to deny the enemy ground observation and to lessen direct-fire effects.


When the OPFOR assumes the defense out of contact with the enemy, advance engineer deployment allows better use of terrain features and constructed fortifications. Engineers also have more time to construct lines of communication and conceal forces and stockpiles. In most cases, engineer units have to concentrate only on the most important axes. In a maneuver defense, the center-of-resistance system of preparing positions prevails; fortification efforts often extend only to battalion defensive areas prepared for a perimeter defense.

The full preparation of defensive positions involving entrenchments, communications trenches, positions for tanks and infantry vehicles, and protective CPs is a labor-intensive process. It often exceeds the capability of organic engineers and even that of those likely attached as reinforcements. Consequently, the OPFOR's approach is to use all available personnel and equipment. Units of all arms and services receive training in preparing field fortifications and emplacements.


Information gathered as a result of engineer reconnaissance is critical for determining the selection of march routes. The routes selected should require the least amount of engineer preparation and employment of engineer assets for route clearing.

Route Preparation and Maintenance

The capability of engineer units to prepare and maintain routes depends on the amount of work required. However, the OPFOR has several planning estimates. Optimally, a road-construction company, or engineer company suitably reinforced, can maintain up to 80 to 100 km of road per day in moderate terrain. These figures assume minimum earthmoving and obstacle-reduction requirements during summer. If roads receive severe damage, this capability drops to 20 to 40 km per day. Similarly, one engineer company can prepare 50 to 70 km of cross-country routes per day. The OPFOR reduces these planning figures by 25 to 30 percent at night, 20 to 25 percent in the spring and autumn, and 15 to 20 percent in winter. It increases the capabilities by a factor of 1.5 to 2.0 when preparing cross-country routes for tracked vehicles only.

Movement Support Detachment

To support the preparation and maintenance of lines of movement, the senior or combined arms commander normally creates an MSD before the march. The MSD mission includes--

  • Route reconnaissance.
  • Mineclearing on routes while on the march and in rest and concentration areas.
  • Reinforcement of bridges and minor repairs to roads.
  • Creation of column tracks.
  • Construction of bypasses.
  • Construction of passages through debris and regions of destruction and through contaminated areas.
  • Route marking.

An MSD's composition depends on the mission, terrain, time and equipment available, and the enemy. It usually consists of a reconnaissance and obstacle-clearing group, one or two road and bridge construction and repair groups, and a route-marking group. In addition, it usually has at least one mechanized infantry or tank platoon to provide security and chemical scouts to monitor the chemical and radiological situation. Figure 12-1 shows the normal position of the MSD in march columns.

Figure 12-1. Position of movement support detachment in march columns.


The OPFOR anticipates having to overcome obstacles to its mobility on the march and in the offense and defense. However, this task is most characteristic during the attack. In the offense, troops must cross remotely emplaced obstacles in assembly areas and on movement routes; they must also overcome all types of obstacles in front of and in the depths of the enemy defense.

Creating passages for mobility in all environments is primarily an engineer task. Nevertheless, maneuver units share the responsibility. The methods for creating breaches and passages depend on the situation and on the type of barriers the enemy uses. The OPFOR defines obstacles as explosive, nonexplosive, or a combination of the two.

Of the obstacles the OPFOR expects to encounter, mines are the most significant. The advent of remotely delivered, scatterable mines has increased the threat to the rear area. It has also made clearing explosive obstacles a primary task for troops on the march.

The MSD has the task of mineclearing during the march. Minefield breaching during the offense is generally the responsibility of the combined arms unit. Engineers reconnoiter the minefield, but the initial breaching is not primarily an engineer task.


The OPFOR identifies two methods of overcoming water obstacles--crossing (when not expecting enemy contact) and forcing (when expecting enemy contact).

Crossing is also a generic term identifying the site of a river crossing or the act of crossing. Crossing often involves using bridges, ferries, or amphibious combat equipment. However, the assault crossing is an expeditious forcing, executed using only organic means. It requires minimal preparation and engineer support.

The OPFOR describes two types of forcings--from the march and from positions in direct contact. OPFOR planners consider a forcing of a water obstacle from the march to be the principal water-crossing method in a contemporary combined arms battle.

The OPFOR expects the enemy to use rivers and other water obstacles for defensive purposes. Therefore, forcing is the primary method of overcoming rivers, with the assault crossing as the normal mode for effecting the forcing. Other modes of crossing may follow after the initial assault crossing, depending on the capabilities of the enemy, the time available, and the characteristics of the river.

The OPFOR expects the enemy to try to hold, or at least to delay, on river lines. Ideally, the OPFOR can preempt the enemy's attempts to do so and thwart them. The OPFOR can accomplish this through the actions of forward detachments and airborne or heliborne forces and by crushing enemy main forces on the near side as they try to withdraw. Whether or not these succeed, army groups and armies endeavor to cross water obstacles on a wide frontage, from the march without pause, and to develop the attack into the depth without halting to consolidate. If a forcing from the march does not succeed, the OPFOR could mount a further effort with brief, or even detailed, preparation.

Divisions organize crossings over small rivers (up to 60 m wide) using divisional engineer resources. The forcing of medium rivers (60 to 150 m wide) is an army task using the army's organic and attached means. Major rivers (those over 150 m wide) are an army group-level problem.


Creating engineer obstacles and carrying out demolition activities are significant engineer functions in all phases of the battle. Engineer obstacles include any actions taken to inflict losses and to delay and impede enemy movement. In the attack and in meeting engagements or battles, obstacles protect flanks, disrupt counterattacks, and strengthen captured positions. In the defense, engineer obstacles may strengthen the defense, disrupt enemy operations, and cover gaps.

Where OPFOR troops occupy designated defensive zones in advance, whether in a positional defense or a deliberate maneuver defense, engineer preparation of terrain may be possible. Engineers prepare obstacle plans in advance and closely tie them in with the fire engagement plan (system of fires).

The OPFOR divides engineer obstacles into three categories:

  1. Explosive obstacles (minefields, groups of mines, and objects prepared for demolition).
  2. Nonexplosive obstacles (antitank ditches, escarpments, abatis, wire barriers, and water obstacles).
  3. Combination obstacles (a mix of explosive and nonexplosive obstacles).

Of the three categories, explosive obstacles constitute the nucleus of all engineer obstacles.

Mobile Obstacle Detachment

The MOD is the basic building block of the OPFOR's countermobility effort. The OPFOR forms MODs at every level from brigade to army group. They are a standard feature of tactical and operational formations.


Both army group and army use their engineer units to form MODs specializing in the rapid laying of mines and constructing obstacles. The MOD is a temporary, ad hoc task organization primarily composed of engineers. Its mission is denying key terrain to the enemy, particularly those avenues of approach most suitable for tanks. The OPFOR has specifically designed and created the MOD to maximize minefield and explosive-obstacle support to maneuver forces during combat.

An MOD can vary in size depending on the operational situation and the needs of the maneuver commander. Although the MOD can operate independently, it normally operates with AT reserves to provide flank protection and to repel enemy counterattacks. Antitank reserves may provide covering fire over the minefields that the MOD emplaces. The MOD sometimes operates with two mechanical minelaying platoons.


MODs lay minefields, dig AT ditches, emplace demolitions, and create other obstacles, such as abatis or log cribs to block forest roads. In the defense, they help prepare the obstacle system and, once the attack begins, they wait concealed to create fresh obstacles on the most threatened axes. Whether on the attack or in the defense, MODs--

  • Protect the deployment lines of attacking (counterattacking) forces.
  • Cover the flanks of units.
  • Fill in gaps that exist or develop within the operational (tactical) formation.
  • Cover gun lines.
  • Limit enemy mobility.
  • Help to seal in encircled enemy forces.
  • Inflict damage and losses on enemy forces.
  • Create deceptive obstacles as part of the deception plan.

In the defense, MODs also can help to--

  • Reduce the tempo of the enemy offensive.
  • Gain time for the mounting of counterattacks or counterstrikes.

MODs normally work closely with the AT reserves during the course of an operation or battle. Their work materially contributes to the AT reserve's survivability and the stability of its defense.

Offense. In the offense, the MOD usually moves forward with the AT reserve either on an open flank or in a central position ready to deploy to any threatened axis. In the latter case, it usually advances behind the first echelon to ensure a prompt response to any threat.

The OPFOR considers surprise a critical variable in mine warfare. Enemy reconnaissance can discover minefields laid too far in advance and can take measures to overcome them. Therefore, it is often more effectual to lay a minefield during the course of a battle, preferably at the last minute, directly in the path of a developing threat. Using mines in this way is not only tactically advantageous, but also economical. This may be an important consideration when supplies are limited.

The OPFOR uses MODs aggressively, maintaining close contact with the enemy and attempting to mine areas in which the enemy has already committed himself. An MOD may join AT reserves to counter enemy counterattack threats.

Defense. In the defense, the OPFOR commander may hold the MOD and other forces in reserve and can quickly employ them during an enemy attack to mine potentially vulnerable gaps. Engineer tasks during the defense implement obstacle plans, particularly AT obstacles. Together with AT reserves, MODs provide a quick-reaction AT force to block enemy penetrations.

Engineers create obstacles on approaches into the defensive position, in front of artillery and air defense firing positions, in the gaps between strongpoints, and on flanks. They normally construct barrier systems in coordination with the overall system of fire.

Engineers can lay mines and construct obstacles in front of the forward edge and on likely enemy tank approach routes. They can also lay obstacles in the depth of friendly units in the main defensive zone, and at subsequent defensive lines, all the way back to the army group's final defensive line. However, simultaneous obstacle construction in all three areas can only occur when sufficient time, equipment, and personnel are available. In any of these three areas, minefields and other obstacles require barriers, security, and marked maneuver passages.

A maneuver defense featuring movement from line to line necessitates a carefully planned system of passages and procedures for closing planned gaps in obstacles before the enemy arrives. The army's final defensive line, which aims to prevent further enemy penetration and create conditions for counterstrikes, may use remote minelaying to reinforce threatened axes.


The methods and extent of minelaying depend on--

  • The OPFOR's intentions.
  • The operational or tactical situation.
  • Terrain characteristics.
  • The type of mine.
  • Time available.
  • Available engineer support.

Emplacement means may be manual, mechanical, or remote. Manual emplacement is not possible when there is little time or during high-speed maneuver operations. Therefore, mechanical and remote means have recently become more prevalent.

Rapidly laid and scatterable AT mines in support of maneuver operations will predominate on most future battlefields. The same types of minefield may also support a less than fully prepared defensive position. If the OPFOR plans only a temporary halt or defensive action, it can mechanically surface-lay small protective minefields. It may also use remotely laid minefields (probably with self-destruct options) and controllable minefields. The OPFOR may use not only mechanical minelayers, but also air and artillery means to emplace such minefields.

Minefields may also protect fully prepared defensive positions the OPFOR intends to maintain for some time. If so, the OPFOR can take much longer to carefully bury and camouflage the mines and integrate the minefields into the total defensive scheme. Mine density is also greater, sometimes layed in three separate belts. It is also more likely to have a mix of AT and antipersonnel (AP) mines. In setting up a fully prepared defense, troops of all units are likely to take part in preparing obstacles and laying mines.


The OPFOR continues to develop methods of remote minelaying including delivery by minelaying helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, tube artillery, rockets, or missiles. Maneuver forces use remote mining to protect their flanks or strike targets deep in enemy territory. Remote minelaying can be useful against columns and areas of enemy concentrations, CPs, firing positions, and other targets.

The OPFOR employs remotely delivered minefields against chokepoints to delay and cause bunching that could create vulnerability to air or artillery attack. Remotely delivered minefields fill gaps created by enemy minefield breaching efforts, cause confusion and delay in forming-up points, and halt attacks in areas not covered by an MOD (or gain time for an MOD to do its work). Such unpredictable minefields are becoming increasingly important in OPFOR thinking.

The OPFOR does not use these systems indiscriminately. Mechanized infantry and tank divisions, corps, armies, and army groups have a finite number of organic delivery systems, some of which the division commander might call on to perform minelaying missions. It is likely that a variety of other missions could take priority over minelaying.


No other army in the world approaches the OPFOR's commitment to the offensive use of mines. It usually emplaces mines in groups or in minefields. The five basic types of OPFOR minefields are AT, AP, mixed, decoy, and antilanding.

The AT minefield serves to destroy or disable armored vehicles. The AP minefield targets personnel. Mixed minefields consist of both AP and AT mines. Decoy minefields are a significant form of deception. Antilanding minefields prevent landings by amphibious, airborne, or heliborne assault forces.

The OPFOR also makes distinctions between controlled (command-operated by hard wire or radio linkage or autonomously sensor-controlled) and uncontrolled minefields. The best way to detect OPFOR minefields is by the amount of time needed to emplace them and the different types of mines found in them.

Fire Sacks

The OPFOR stresses the importance of covering minefields with long-range AT weapons. The most forward row or belt of the minefield created in front of OPFOR defensive positions is normally just within the range of OPFOR direct-fire weapons. The purpose of minefields is not only to inflict damage on attacking enemy forces. It also slows and canalizes enemy forces into predetermined fire sacks (kill zones) covered by massed artillery fire and long-range AT fire.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias