Offense is the decisive form of war. Brigades, battalion/task forces, and company teams are the principal offensive force for the corps or division. Cavalry units normally perform reconnaissance and security missions in support of corps and division offensive operations. Cavalry troops may perform certain offensive missions as part of a squadron, regiment, or other combined arms force. These offensive missions are normally performed during reconnaissance or security operations.
If required, cavalry troops may perform offensive operations within an economy-of-force role for a higher headquarters.
Section I. Purpose and Fundamentals
Section II. Movement to Contact
Section III. Hasty Attack
Section IV. Deliberate Attack
Section V. Raid
Section I. Purpose and Fundamentals
The main purpose of the offense is to defeat, destroy, or neutralize the enemy force. Offensive operations are also undertaken to secure decisive terrain, to deprive the enemy of resources, to gain information, to deceive and divert the enemy, to hold the enemy in position, to disrupt his attack, and to set up conditions for future successful operations.
Successful offensive operations have four fundamentals in common.
- Surprise. Strike the enemy at the time and place or in a manner that he least expects.
- Concentration. Mass available forces, strive for overwhelming superiority in men, weapons, and firepower. With concentration, however, vulnerability becomes a factor. A force that is dispersed is much more survivable. The commander must maintain a high sense of situational awareness to anticipate the conditions of battle that will allow him to mass at the critical point, kill the enemy, and quickly disperse to survive.
- Tempo. Tempo is the rate of speed of military action. Controlling or altering the rate is essential for maintaining the initiative. Tempo can be fast or slow dependent on the capabilities of the troop relative to that of the enemy. Commanders must adjust tempo to ensure synchronization.
- Audacity. Boldness in the plan's execution is key to success in offensive operations. Commanders should understand when and where they are taking risks, but must not become tentative when executing their plan.
Section II. Movement to Contact
A movement to contact is a mission undertaken to gain or regain contact with the enemy. Unlike a zone reconnaissance, which is focused on reporting detailed information on the terrain and enemy within a given zone, movement to contact is focused on finding the enemy. The critical tasks are geared for achieving fast movement and rapid location of enemy forces.
The cavalry troop normally conducts a movement-to-contact mission as the lead element of a squadron or combined arms force hasty attack. The troop may also conduct the mission as part of a squadron movement to contact when the squadron is leading the advance of another combined arms force, such as a brigade or division.
A movement to contact is characterized by rapid aggressive action. The troop commander must rapidly develop the situation and may be permitted to bypass enemy forces to maintain momentum.
During a movement to contact, certain critical tasks will be accomplished. Unless the squadron commander gives guidance otherwise, the troop will-
- Reconnoiter and determine the trafficability of all high-speed routes within the zone.
- Inspect and classify all bridges, culverts, overpasses, and underpasses along high-speed routes. Identify all bypasses and fords that cannot support rapid heavy-armor movement.
- Clear all high-speed routes of mines, obstacles, and barriers within its capability, or locate a bypass.
- Find and report all enemy forces within the zone and determine their size, composition, and activity.
The cavalry troop can perform movement to contact in a zone up to 10 kilometers wide. The size of the zone depends on the terrain and enemy situation. Scout squads, and in some cases sections, must be mutually supporting during movement based on the enemy situation. Mutual support between squads and sections is gained by reducing the size of the zone based on the terrain. The more restrictive the terrain the less mutual support becomes available.
When considering techniques for conducting a movement to contact, remember the basics.
- Always retain the ability to maneuver.
- Make contact with the smallest force possible.
- Employ forces in depth; stay flexible.
- Develop the situation rapidly once contact is made with the enemy force. Operate at a tempo that forces him to react to you, not you to him.
Use a troop vee or split vee formation when conducting a movement to contact. Deploy scout platoons abreast and have them accomplish all the related reconnaissance tasks. Move them out first across the line of departure. The mission of the scouts is to find the enemy, develop the situation, and recommend to the troop commander the best course of action for the employment of the tank/AT platoons.
The mortar section, under control of the troop fire support officer or mortar section sergeant, follows about 2 kilometers behind the scouts, centered in the zone, to provide continuous coverage forward of the scouts. The troop command post, under control of the XO, displaces in the zone, positioning on terrain that affords effective and continuous communication with troop elements and the squadron. The troop trains, under control of the 1SG, follow about 2 kilometers behind the tank/AT platoons, and bound from one covered and concealed position to another. The troop commander positions himself well forward to observe one scout platoon or the other. His position is usually located where he expects initial enemy contact or difficult situations.
Due to the survivability and firepower of scout platforms (M3) in the heavy troop, the tank platoons may be kept in considerable depth (1,000 to 3,000 meters) behind the scouts until enemy contact is made. Once contact is made and the scouts have developed the situation/recommended a course of action, the troop commander may then employ his tanks, using firepower and maneuverability to fix the enemy or destroy it by hasty attack.
In the light cavalry troop, the AT platoon(s) should be kept close (500 to 1,500 meters) to the scout platoons. Upon contact, the HMMWV scouts will require more time to develop the situation than Bradley-mounted scouts. The AT platoon(s) can assist the scouts in developing the situation by overwatching the scouts. Also the TOW takes time to employ, so reaction time is slower than with the tank. During movement to contact, the light troop commander must be able to execute his actions on contact very quickly to maintain the momentum of the operation. A technique the light troop might use is outlined below.
- Scouts make contact with an enemy force.
- The troop commander immediately moves one AT platoon forward to overwatch the scouts as they develop the situation.
- If the situation dictates, the AT platoon suppresses with direct fires to allow the scouts to maneuver.
- Once the situation is developed, the troop positions to either fix the enemy for the follow-on force or destroy it by a hasty attack.
The troop is ordered to reestablish contact with elements of a withdrawing enemy mechanized infantry platoon. As the troop deploys in a split-vee formation, the 1st and 3d platoons cross the line of departure abreast, north and south respectively, and begin to reconnoiter in troop zone up to PL BOOT. The scout platoons determine the trafficability of high-speed routes within their zones, and search for the enemy in areas that dominate the routes. The bridge across the creek at checkpoint B will support only 20 tons, so the 1st platoon finds a solid-based fording site 100 meters south of the bridge. Thus far, the high-speed routes are not damaged or blocked. The 3d platoon reports finding tracks of what appears to be three BMPs heading northwest from Hill 244. The 1st platoon reports tracks of an enemy company-size force heading west along Route 220. Track patterns indicate BMPs and T-64s/T-72s. The mortar section eavesdrops on the troop command net, and moves with the scout platoons, staying back about 1.5 kilometers, centered in the troop zone. The 2d and 4th platoons are paired with their sister scout platoons and key their movement on the scout platoon's progress, staying back about 1 kilometer and using terrain that affords good cover and concealment. The troop CP and trains hold in place (see Figure 5-1).
The 1st platoon maneuvers to the flanks of the enemy position. Dismounted scouts report a reinforced MRP in prepared positions oriented on Route 220. Enemy infantry is dug in around the buildings, and dug-in BMPs are in defilade behind them. The enemy's left flank appears to be ignored and weakly defended. Based on this information, the 1st platoon identifies a good covered and concealed armor approach that swings north around Hill 886 into the vulnerable flank. The 3d platoon reports no enemy contact in the south. The troop commander decides to conduct a hasty attack with both tank platoons to eliminate this enemy force. The hasty attack succeeds (see Figure 5-3).
The troop commander quickly orders the 1st platoon to continue its reconnaissance, and sends the 4th platoon back to the 3d platoon zone. The 1st and 3d platoons continue their reconnaissance. As scout elements of both platoons approach PL SADDLE, they observe what appears to be minefield belts and AT ditches astride Routes 220 and 1357 in the Morman Valley. Dismounted reconnaissance determines the extent of the obstacles, and reveals heavy concentrations of enemy forces in several company strongpoints along the dominating ridgeline by Highway 920.
Section III. Hasty Attack
A hasty attack is conducted with a minimum of preparation to defeat an enemy force that is not prepared or deployed to fight. It is a course of action routinely employed in cavalry operations to seize or retain the initiative, or to sustain the tempo of operations. A hasty attack can be executed while the troop is engaged with a zone reconnaissance mission or movement to contact. (See Chapter 3, Section II, and Section II of this chapter for other examples of hasty attack.)
To execute a hasty attack, the following critical tasks must be accomplished:
- Reconnoiter and determine the size, composition, and orientation of the enemy force.
- Determine if the objective enemy force is supported by other units nearby.
- Find a high-speed covered and concealed approach into the enemy's flank(s).
- Establish a maneuver element (usually one or both tank platoons) to move to a position of advantage over the enemy and attack him by fire.
- Establish a base-of-fire element (usually one or both scout platoons) to defeat or suppress all observed enemy AT weapons with long-range direct and indirect fires before the maneuver force deploys into its attack.
- Isolate the objective enemy force from other mutually supporting units with indirect fires (usually with smoke and HE ammunition).
- Attack the enemy by fire or by fire and movement, and defeat him.
- Once the attack is completed, immediately establish hasty defensive positions and OPs on high-speed avenues of approach into the troop position.
Each critical task has a time at which it will be accomplished in relation to all other critical tasks. A good hasty attack depends on the commander's sense of timing and on his ability to employ his forces to accomplish the tasks in the proper sequence. The commander has to synchronize-to concentrate and apply different forms of combat power against the enemy at the right times and places. The decision to conduct a hasty attack is usually made after an enemy force's reconnaissance and dispositions show that winning requires a quick strike, with little preparation. Tactics for conducting a hasty attack have three common features.
- Known or suspected enemy AT weapons are suppressed and destroyed with direct and/or indirect fires before the maneuver force is committed.
- The enemy is forced to fight in two directions.
- The enemy is suppressed and unable to react.
While conducting other missions, scouts will often make contact with an enemy force. In developing the situation, a scout platoon may recommend hasty attack as a course of action to the troop commander, who decides to execute the recommended course of action. The troop commander issues FRAGOs that will position forces to execute an attack simply and effectively.
The scout platoon in contact continues to reconnoiter the enemy's position and to accomplish its reconnaissance tasks. One section of the scout platoon remains in contact with the enemy. The other scout platoon continues its reconnaissance up to a limit of advance established by the troop commander. Both scout platoons continue to develop the situation further by looking for the presence of other enemy units, to the flanks or rear, supporting the enemy contact.
The FIST moves to a good position to see the battlefield and to control the indirect fires. The FSO places the mortar section on terrain where it establishes a firing position and prepares to suppress the enemy position.
The size and strength of the enemy may require the use of one or both tank/AT platoons. The commander may choose to do one of the following options:
- Move one tank/AT platoon into an overwatch position and attack by fire with one.
- Keep one in reserve behind the scout platoon not in contact and attack by fire with one.
- Attack by fire with both platoons.
The troop commander moves to collocate with the scout platoon in overwatch. The 1SG moves medics and recovery vehicles close to the battlefield. The XO assists the commander in control of the troop and keeps the higher commander informed.
INDIRECT FIRES IN SUPPORT OF A HASTY ATTACK
Indirect fires should complement the troop's scheme of maneuver. In the light troop, dependent on availability of supporting indirect-fire systems, indirect fires may prove to be the best weapon of destruction. The troop can acquire and engage the enemy with indirect fire from positions offering good protection from enemy direct/indirect fire. Because the light troop is in covered and concealed positions, the survivability of the troop is enhanced. Indirect fires must also be controlled to prevent fratricide. The troop commander must determine the following:
- Who will control the indirect fires during the hasty attack?
- Who will initiate indirect fires onto the objective?
- Who will lift and shift the indirect fires to subsequent targets?
- What will the signal be for lifting and shifting indirect fires?
- Are there any restrictive fire measures or restrictive fire areas?
The troop commander should use available indirect fires from mortars and supporting artillery to-
- Suppress the enemy while scouts are maneuvering to develop the situation.
- Screen enemy observation of scouts or assault element during the conduct of the hasty attack.
- Isolate the enemy contact by firing HE and smoke between the enemy force and any possible supporting positions.
- Shift indirect fires off the objective to block enemy withdrawal routes.
When executing the hasty attack the troop must combine indirect fires with direct fires. The direct-fire systems available to the heavy troop commander are highly destructive. The high rate of fire from the M3 and M1 allows the commander to quickly place effective fires into the objective area while stationary or moving.
The systems available to the light troop commander can be just as destructive when used in combinations and against a comparably equipped enemy. The light troop commander should strive to engage the enemy with combinations of weapons. Using the bounding technique and move-set drills by platoons, the troop commander can place effective suppressive and destructive fires into the objective area. (The high rates of fire from the M2 caliber .50 and MK-19 should be used to suppress the enemy and cover the TOW systems as they engage.) See Figure 5-5.
Choose your next action:
Return to FM 17-97 Table of Contents
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|