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Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain

Because of the trend of increasing urbanization in every region of the globe, the potential is growing for US forces to become embroiled in combat operations in urban settings. Known as MOUT, these operations are conducted on a complex, three-dimensional battlefield. Characteristics of this area of operations include close, restricted terrain; severely limited fields of fire and maneuver space for mounted elements; and virtually unlimited cover and concealment for dismounted forces.

The urban battlefield presents commanders and leaders, including the scout platoon leaders and his subordinates, with many challenges. At the tactical level, the platoon leader must decide how he will deal with the civilian population, what tactics and weapons systems he can employ, and which key terrain within the city his unit must seize to achieve designated objectives. The enemy may deliberately try to avoid engagement by entering and hiding within the cluttered urban environment. On the other hand, he may have been forced to operate in and around an urban area simply because much of his logistics support is located there.

In some instances, both combatants may simultaneously recognize that an urban area constitutes a decisive point on the battlefield. Combat becomes unavoidable. In this uncertain environment, the scout platoon, whether it is charged with gathering reconnaissance information or providing security to the friendly main body, can find itself conducting MOUT.

NOTE: Refer to Appendix C of this manual for a discussion of stability and support operations, some of which are conducted in the MOUT environment.
Section 1 General Considerations
Section 2 Role of the Scout Platoon in MOUT
Section 3 Conduct of MOUT


The worldwide trend toward urbanization is making it increasingly difficult for military forces to avoid or to physically bypass built-up areas. Many cities have grown explosively, their halted only by terrain that is unfavorable to urban life and military operations alike. As a result, the only maneuver options available to commanders may include attacking through urban areas.

Given the highly variable factors that must be taken into account, the friendly commander can be faced with the choice of entering this environment to destroy the enemy, isolating the enemy within the urban area, or engaging the enemy only if he emerges into more open terrain. In each instance, the commander's reconnaissance effort is initially focused on gathering information that will enable him to determine the best choice given the specific parameters of his mission. After this choice has been made, reconnaissance focuses on obtaining information to support the desired COA.

As the Army makes the transition from a forward-deployed force to one that relies on force projection, the capture of ports and airfields will become increasingly significant during forced-entry operations. Such operations will invariably occur in urban terrain, with the attacking force attempting to secure of adjacent urban areas that will permit it to establish (and subsequently expand) its initial lodgment.

In addition, the capture of cities can provide significant resources that the attacker who then use to his advantage. For example, cities lie along key lines of communications and provide a tactical advantage to the commander who controls them. Control of key infrastructure such as bridges, telephone exchanges, and water and electrical generating/distribution stations can significantly influence both the actions of both the local population and the enemy. Battalion scouts can expect to receive missions to locate critical structures and facilities, as well as to identify enemy forces tasked with defending or securing these key points.

The decision to commit forces into urban areas may also be based on the potential threat these areas, and the human elements in them, pose to other operations. As an example, the terrain around a built-up area may facilitate a bypass, but the enemy force within the urban area may be able to interdict lines of communications. Scouts may be required to enter the city as part of a larger force tasked to eliminate potential threats.



Scout platoons must work in four physical dimensions as they conduct reconnaissance and security tasks during MOUT:

  • The airspace over the city. Airspace provides a rapid avenue of approach into the urbanized area. While aviation assets are unaffected by obstacles such as rubble, they must consider towers, signs, power lines, and other obstructions to flight. Scouts can locate these obstructions and assist the commander in determining how to use them to advantage.
  • Buildings. Buildings provide cover and concealment, limit or enhance fields of observation and fire, and restrict or block movement of ground forces.
  • Streets. Streets afford avenues of approach and are the primary means for rapid ground movement in a built-up area. Forces travelling along streets, however, are often canalized by buildings and have little space for maneuver off of the main thoroughfares.
  • Subterranean systems. These areas, which can easily be employed as avenues of approach for dismounted elements, include subways, sewers, cellars, and utility systems. Both attacker and defender use subterranean routes to outflank or turn enemy positions and to conduct ambushes, counterattacks, infiltration, and sustainment operations.
NOTE: In some instances, a sizable civilian population may function as a fifth dimension to MOUT, adding another unique set of operational considerations. The scout platoon's role in dealing with civilians is discussed later in this section.

The scout platoon leader and his subordinates must always be aware of the impact each operational dimension may have on their mission. For example, having to operate in one or more of the dimensions may have a significant impact on the platoon's ability to gather information. The decision to enter a MOUT environment may necessitate reorganization of the scout platoon to handle the unique operational challenges.


Scout platoon operations during MOUT often begin outside the urban area. In some situations, the enemy will not be established within the city at the onset of the campaign. Friendly forces may find themselves tasked to retain an urban area or to deny an unoccupied city to the enemy. To accomplish this, scouts are positioned to detect threat preparations to seize or occupy key urban terrain.

In other cases, the enemy may not currently be conducting MOUT because of military limitations or political restrictions. The friendly commander (as well as the scout platoon leader) must realize that this situation may change unexpectedly once restrictions are lifted or the enemy realizes he can significantly benefit from MOUT. The scout platoon can be employed to identify preparations as the enemy force postures itself for a rapid transition to MOUT. The commander can use this information to interdict the enemy before he can seize or occupy key urban terrain.


Once it has deployed within the city, the scout platoon seeks to pinpoint enemy defenses as well as undefended or weakly held areas that can be used to bypass or isolate the threat. The following discussion focuses on some of the operational considerations involved in the scouts' MOUT tasks.

Exploitation of surprise and enemy weakness

The friendly commander should try to exploit tactical surprise to preempt effective defensive preparations within the city. Effective employment of his scouts, using appropriate reconnaissance techniques, significantly enhances the commander's ability to achieve surprise when his unit is conducting offensive MOUT. At the same time, in using intelligence-collection and fire support assets to set necessary preconditions within the urban environment, he must avoid prematurely disclosing the presence of the scout platoon. The commander should also be aware that surprise is much more difficult for the defender to achieve in this situation; it is often possible only when the attacker suffers major failings in collection, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence.

The scout platoon can also assist the commander in concentrating sufficient combat power at decisive points within the city. Based on historical experience, the ideal attacker-defender ratio in MOUT is 4-to-1. In cases in which the attacker won despite being inferior in manpower and firepower, the defender almost always violated one of more principals of war. Reconnaissance forces in support of an attacking force in MOUT should always be alert to the chance that the defender has not positioned his forces correctly or exhibits some other shortcoming.

The commander may be able to capitalize on such a shortcoming, or he may be able to artificially induce one. As an example, intelligence sources, including the scout platoon, have determined that the defending force relies on the local telephone exchange and military FM communications for command and control. The commander probes this weakness by directing his reconnaissance to identify key communications nodes. Once these have been pinpointed, the commander can disrupt enemy command and control by destroying the telephone system and jamming FM communications. Other types of commercial broadcasting systems (TV, radio) may also be destroyed to deny the enemy a backup communications capability. The friendly commander then exploits this situation by massing overwhelming combat power against isolated threat forces to seize key areas.

Support for combined arms teams

Combined arms teams have proven to be the critical ingredient for success in MOUT. Consisting of armor, infantry, engineers, and field artillery, these teams provide the commander with a range of capabilities necessary to operate successfully in an urban setting. For example, tanks, with the infantry elements protecting them, can serve as an assault force, delivering concentrated, sustained fire to reduce stubbornly held strongpoints. In addition to conducting direct assaults, combined arms teams built around heavy forces are employed to isolate an urban area or, conversely, to prevent isolation of an area by the enemy.

Scout platoons can be employed to focus on avenues of approach that support combined arms teams. Scouts can also identify key terrain along these avenues that must be seized in advance to facilitate the movement of the combined arms maneuver elements. Examples of key urban terrain may include a series of high-rise buildings, the intersection of major highways, or a critical bridge or tunnel providing access to the urban area.

Role of scouts in employment of fires

The scout platoon can also play an important role in employing fires during MOUT. Reconnaissance assets direct fires, guide precision munitions, and discriminate between threat forces and civilians. They can accomplish this by virtue of effective positioning on the battlefield and effective use of their acquisition capabilities.

Artillery-delivered indirect fire has traditionally been a significant factor in successful MOUT execution. Fire support has proved to be the primary means by which the commander can interdict enemy supply operations, as well as prevent the reinforcement and evacuation of enemy troops. In such instances, fires are placed on routes leading into and out of the city rather than within the built-up area itself.

During offensive operations, the commander must ensure that precision fires are employed to avoid causing problems for his own forces. Indiscriminate bombardment can degrade the ability of friendly forces to conduct ground maneuver while simultaneously providing the enemy with barricades, construction or barrier materials, and extensive cover and concealment. Indiscriminate or inaccurate placement of fires can also result in significant collateral damage. In addition to causing civilian casualties, friendly fires can seriously damage the support infrastructure of the city or create natural disasters such as inadvertent release of toxic gases from a commercial chemical facility.

In support of his indirect fire plan, the MOUT commander uses the scout platoon both to accurately place fires on enemy positions and to prevent the problems associated with inaccurate fires, such as collateral damage. Scouts are especially valuable in preventing fratricide by helping to ensure that the commander remains aware of the location of friendly and enemy forces within the built-up area.

Isolating the enemy force

The primary focus of the scout platoon during MOUT is driven by the overriding requirement to isolate the opposing force. No single factor in MOUT has proven more important to success than isolation of the urban area. The attacker always wins when the defending force is totally isolated. Even partial isolation of the enemy force normally results in victory for the side that is able to accomplish it.

The scout platoon provides the commander with information that will allow him to determine how he can isolate the enemy. Scout platoon operations also key on identifying when and where the enemy plans to defend a city. The commander uses this reconnaissance information to create opportunities to exploit the four dimensions of MOUT for the purpose of achieving a significant tactical advantage. He can then isolate the enemy by massing overwhelming combat power at decisive points and by bypassing or conducting economy of force operations in areas that are not decisive.

Interaction with the civilian populace

The scout platoon also assists the commander in leveraging the fifth dimension of MOUT, the local civilian populace. The commander must always remain aware of his responsibilities to civilians; this factor cannot be minimized in the age of modern media. Scouts perform several roles to assist the commander in his dealing with the civilian population. They conduct reconnaissance to ensure that collateral damage resulting from tactical operations is limited to the absolute minimum. They can locate civilians who have sought refuge in the urban area and identify facilities that sustain the populace. Scouts also assist in determining whether or not civilians within a built-up area pose a threat to friendly forces.


This section focuses on operational considerations the scout platoon will face when it conducts MOUT. As in other operational environments, the platoon leader and his subordinate leaders must learn to tailor their planning, preparation, and execution to the specific conditions they encounter. Refer to the discussion of the scout platoon's role in the urban environment in Section 2 of this appendix.

MOUT are conducted most frequently as light/heavy operations, with the scout platoon and armor and mechanized forces supporting light infantry elements. Planning for the light/heavy force in a MOUT environment is the same as in any other terrain. CFVs are most effective when employed in terrain that allows for offensive maneuver. In some situations, it may be possible to keep armored forces around the perimeter of the town rather than to expose them to the inherent dangers in the built-up area. Armored vehicles can then operate outside the town while still providing adequate fire support to the infantry.


Scout platoons equipped with the CFV can be employed in built-up areas to assist dismounted forces in seizing and clearing streets and buildings. Scout platoons equipped with the HMMWV do not normally operate inside the built-up area because of their lack of armor protection; they are used to secure the avenues of approach around the perimeter of the area. Both the CFV and the HMMWV can provide suppressive fires for the initial assault on the built-up area.

CFV capabilities. The CFV has these capabilities related to MOUT:

  • It is armed with the 25-mm cannon and 7.62-mm coax machine gun.
  • It is capable of 60-degree elevation, allowing it to engage targets on the upper floors of tall buildings.
  • It can employ 25-mm TP-T or HEI-T ammunition to penetrate buildings.
  • It provides armor protection for crew and passengers.
  • It is equipped with multiple FM radios.
  • It can assist in MEDEVAC/CASEVAC operations.
  • It can assist in resupply operations.

CFV limitations. The CFV has these vulnerabilities related to MOUT:

  • It is restricted primarily to streets and lacks maneuverability inside built-up areas.
  • There is dead space around the CFV into which the vehicle cannot fire its weapons.
  • It is vulnerable to enemy infantry firing antiarmor weapons from cellars and drains.
  • It is dependent on infantry for all-around protection.

HMMWV capabilities. The HMMWV has these capabilities related to MOUT:

  • It is armed with the caliber .50 heavy machine gun and/or the MK-19 40-mm machine gun with automatic grenade launcher.
  • It can suppress and destroy light armor vehicles.
  • It is highly mobile and has a small thermal signature.
  • It is equipped with multiple FM radios.
  • It presents fewer logistical problems than the CFV.
  • It can operate in narrow streets.

HMMWV limitations. The HMMWV has these vulnerabilities in MOUT:

  • It provides armor protection only against small arms.
  • It lacks the ability to transport infantry soldiers.
  • It has no antiarmor capability.


Light infantry forces conduct the attack of a built-up area in three phases: isolating the area, gaining a foothold, and seizing and clearing the objective. The scout platoon can support all three phases. Normally, it will operate as part of the fire support element or the security force.

Isolating the objective. The isolated area may be a building, village, small town, or large built-up area. The scout platoon is effective in this phase of the operation; operating outside the town allows the armored force to use long-range fires, speed, and mobility. The defender often positions forces outside the town to disrupt an attack and to limit friendly reconnaissance and mobility; CFVs may be able to prevent these enemy forces from accomplishing their goals and from withdrawing into the town. The scout platoon surrounds the objective by seizing key terrain and covering enemy avenues of approach (see Figure D-1). In addition to security, scout platoon tasks may include the following:

  • Preventing enemy forces from escaping.
  • Preventing reinforcement of the built-up area.
  • Protecting the assault force from counterattack.
  • Calling for and adjusting indirect fires.

Figure D-1. Isolating the objective in MOUT.

Gaining a foothold. The scout platoon can use its sights, including thermals, to conduct long-range reconnaissance and to locate enemy positions and/or vehicles during periods of limited visibility. The platoon can also provide fire support for infantry assaulting the objective. During the assault, the attacking force penetrates the area on a narrow front, concentrating all available supporting fires on the entry point. In support of the assault, scout platoon tasks include the following:

  • Attack by fire.
  • Support by fire.
  • Attack with the infantry.
  • Coordinate and control indirect fires.

Attack by fire. The CFVs attack by fire while the infantry assaults the objective. Once the assault force establishes a foothold, CFVs move forward to provide close-in support. This method is used when enemy antiarmor fires or obstacles block the only possible armor avenue of approach.

Support by fire. CFVs conduct support by fire during the assault, this may include covering critical areas on the assault force's flanks. Once the assault force establishes a foothold, CFVs move forward to provide close-in support (see Figure D-2).

Figure D-2. Gaining a foothold in MOUT (scout platoon conducts support by fire).

Attack with the infantry. CFVs and the infantry advance together, with the infantry moving behind the CFVs for protection from small arms fire. Infantry squads or fire teams protect the CFVs from the enemy's
hand-held antiarmor weapons (see Figure D-3). Attacking with infantry is difficult to coordinate and execute because of differences in speed between the mounted and dismounted forces.

Figure D-3. Gaining a foothold in MOUT (scout platoon attacks with infantry).

Seizure and clearance. Once the infantry seizes its initial foothold, the scout platoon provides supporting fires while the infantry clears each building. Because of the danger of ambush, scout vehicles should support by fire from cleared positions rather than moving ahead of the infantry. They can sometimes provide fire support without entering the built-up area.

Because target identification and fire control measures change rapidly as clearance progresses, CFVs in the built-up area must be closely controlled by the infantry leader in charge (see Figure D-4). Scout vehicles provide suppressive fires to allow the infantry to establish a foothold in each building. To isolate buildings, vehicles engage known or suspected enemy locations. Once the infantry is inside the building, the scout vehicles continue to suppress enemy positions on other floors or in adjacent buildings. Specific actions of the scout platoon in clearing a building include the following:

  • Firing into the upper stories of the buildings to drive enemy forces to lower floors or the basement, where the infantry can trap and destroy them.
  • Suppressing and destroying enemy weapons and personnel.
  • Providing antitank protection.
  • Using direct fires to open holes in walls and reduce barricades.

Figure D-4. Scout section supports isolation and seizure of a building.

Seizure and clearance operations can range between two extremes: a systematic, block-by-block, house-by-house reduction of the built-up area or a rapid advance with friendly forces concentrating on seizing and clearing critical areas and buildings. (Figure D-5 shows a CFV supporting an infantry squad in seizing and clearing an urban area.) The scout platoon's role is roughly the same in either type of operation. These guidelines apply:

  • Clearing streets:
    -- CFVs lead, closely followed and supported by infantry.
    -- CFVs work in pairs.
    -- CFVs concentrate fires on windows and rooftops.
    -- Infantry protects CFVs from close-in fires.
    -- Infantry moves alongside or directly behind CFVs and scans for potential antiarmor positions.
  • Seizing and clearing buildings:
    -- CFVs provide suppressive fires, concentrating on windows, doorways, and rooftops.
    -- CFVs create holes in building walls to allow the infantry to enter through unexpected entrances.

Figure D-5. CFV provides support as infantry squad seizes and clears a building.


Combat power is difficult to mass during MOUT because fighting is isolated. Command and control are further aggravated because units can easily become separated. Such conditions make it necessary to decentralize the fight down to the smallest unit. These small units, scout sections and infantry squads, must communicate continuously and effectively if they are to survive and win on the urban battlefield.

Visual signals. Visual signals are the most effective and reliable means of communications between the infantry force and the scout vehicles. Targets are identified with tracer fire, grenade launcher rounds, smoke grenades, VS-17 panels, or hand-and-arm signals. Visual signals are used to trigger specific actions such as initiating fires, lifting or shifting fires, moving forward to the next position, and providing smoke obscuration.

FM radio and wire. The infantry leader and scout vehicles can use FM radios and/or land lines to communicate while stationary. FM communications may be affected by the terrain; land lines can be used when FM communications are disrupted. To use land lines, run wire through the hatch to the inside of the CFV or connect it to the sponson box on the rear of the vehicle. A TA-1 is used to relay fire control instructions to the vehicle.


Indirect fires are most effective when used against open spaces within built-up areas; high-trajectory indirect fires are more effective than lower-trajectory fires. Because of these factors, mortars are normally more desirable than artillery for indirect fire support in MOUT.

Scouts can play a valuable role as the link between infantry squads and platoons and the mortars of the cavalry troop or armored battalion. Scout sections or squads are trained to call for and adjust indirect fires from these assets in support of the infantry's attack.

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