The offense is the decisive form of war. The primary purpose of offensive operations is to destroy the enemy and his will to fight. Generally, smoke favors the attacker. In the offense, maneuver commanders can achieve surprise and protect their force by combining obscurants with maneuver and firepower. Smoke allows us to reduce our vulnerability through concealment as we mass forces to attack. Obscurants will conceal friendly forces and movements and screen breaching of obstacles and river crossings. They will also negate the standoff capabilities of enemy long- range anti- armor weapons and interfere with enemy guidance and acquisition systems. Smoke supports tactical objectives by deceiving the enemy as to the exact location, timing, and axis of the main attack. It also isolates units for piecemeal destruction.
The main focus of smoke in the offense is to defeat enemy reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) efforts, conceal maneuver and support forces, and contribute to tactical deception operations. The intent of smoke operations is to deny the enemy information about the disposition and composition of our forces, which enhances surprise and security. Smoke also allows the commander the flexibility to mass the forces required to conduct attacks.
Smoke is used during the offense to--
- Defeat enemy surveillance efforts.
- Conceal moving forces.
- Isolate enemy defensive positions.
- Conceal maneuvering forces from enemy observation.
- Provide tactical surprise and allow the commander to set the terms of combat.
- Allow the commander to mass forces unobserved.
- Support the deception plan.
- Conceal obstacle breaching.
- Defeat enemy weapons by defeating enemy target acquisition efforts, defeating enemy guidance systems, and negating standoff capability of enemy long-range direct fire weapons.
All smoke operations during offensive operations tend to occur in sequential phases. The length and nature of each phase, and whether it even occurs, varies from situation to situation. The four phases of support are planning, preparation, execution, and recovery.
The platoon leader must understand the supported unit's mission, concept of operations, and the commander's intent for using smoke. The platoon leader then begins his troop leading procedures. To support a maneuver unit conducting offensive operations, the platoon leader must consider-
- The command and support relationship.
- Impact of smoke on friendly forces.
- Location of enemy forces (known and template).
- Range of enemy weapons systems.
- Location of both enemy and friendly obstacles (known and template).
- Steering wind direction and speed.
The platoon will only be effective if the surface wind direction is either tail or tail quartering. Under some situations it also may be possible to provide smoke support if the winds are flanking. Only under special conditions could the platoon provide support if the winds are head winds.
It is important that the platoon leader conduct a leader's recon of the mission area. When possible, the platoon leader, platoon sergeant, and squad leaders should conduct a physical reconnaissance of the area. However, if the situation does not permit a physical reconnaissance, the platoon leader should conduct a detailed map reconnaissance.
The platoon leader, if possible, should issue his order at a terrain vantage point overlooking the operational area. If this is not possible, the platoon leader uses a sandtable when issuing his order. A smoke plan overlay accompanied with the supported unit's operations overlay must also be provided to the squad leaders and higher headquarters prior to mission execution.
During the planning phase, the platoon leader must also consider the platoons resupply. The platoon leader must plan and coordinate the class III resupply of the forward fuel supply point. Other mission considerations include resupply of class I, V, and IX. The element providing any support must understand what is required for mission accomplishment. This requires detailed coordination with the supporting logistics units.
Once the platoon sergeant and squad leaders have received the warning order from the platoon leader, they can begin preparing the platoon for the next mission. The squads and platoon physically prepare for the offense by conducting precombat checks; maintaining and inspecting equipment; distributing supplies; feeding, resting, and checking the physical health of soldiers; and camouflaging. The platoon leader issues his order to the platoon leadership. He also coordinates with the supported unit to ensure that they understand how he will execute the mission. A smoke plan overlay is provided to the supported unit. The platoon leader may be required to briefback the supported unit and attend rehearsals. Depending on the type of rehearsal, just the platoon leader or the entire platoon may be involved in the supported unit's rehearsal. The platoon under control of the platoon leader and the squad leaders should rehearse its actions. A sand table type rehearsal may be the best for the platoon. The entire platoon should attend. In any spare time, the platoon should continue to train and rehearse. Training and rehearsals must always be mission specific.
The smoke platoon's mission may begin prior to the start of the supported unit's operation. The platoon begins movement with sufficient time to get to the operational site or to cross the LD in designated order of march. The platoon will test the steering wind direction prior to starting any smoke operations. A smoke grenade thrown to test the surface winds will identify any deviation from the predicted wind direction and speed. This will allow the platoon to reposition their smoke line or place in the supported unit's formation. The platoon leader will monitor both the platoon net and the supported unit's net (usually the command net). Radio traffic on the platoon net should be kept to a minimum. The platoon, if operating in an unsecure mode, must not discuss the operational aspects of the mission without using codewords.
A technique is for the platoon to occupy a position one or two terrain features from the operational area. The leaders go forward to conduct final climatic checks. Based on the findings of the final climatic check, the platoon leader adjusts the plan. Upon returning to the hasty assembly area, the platoon leader briefs the key personnel on the adjusted plan. The platoon then moves out to the operational area.
Once smoke operations begin, the platoon leader should attempt to position himself at a vantage point to observe both the smoke cloud and the intended target area. The platoon leader can the reposition the platoon as required to ensure adequate coverage of the target area.
If the platoon is stationary, each smoke vehicle driver will attempt to find a covered and concealed position for his vehicle. The platoon should be concerned about local security.
While moving, the platoon must react quickly if it encounters an enemy force unexpectedly. The platoon will execute its battle drills and attempt to continue the mission.
The platoon sergeant will monitor the consumption of class III and V during the mission. If necessary, the platoon will conduct resupply during the mission. After the completion of each smoke mission, the platoon leader will inform the supported unit of the platoon's status. The format of this report is specified in the platoon SOP to minimize radio traffic.
During the recovery phase, the platoon will rearm, refuel, and refit as quickly as possible. The platoon's main objective during this phase is to become fully mission capable and ready for future operations. If the platoon has suffered losses, both in equipment and personnel, during the execution phase, it will require more time to become mission capable. The platoon may need to conduct training if it has had a significant number of replacements. The platoon leader may be involved in the planning of the next operation while the platoon is recovering. The platoon sergeant will supervise the platoon's recovery efforts. The platoon could conduct recovery operations under the control of the supported unit or under company control. If the platoon requires significant time to recover, it must be placed back under control of its company headquarters. Movement back to the parent headquarters may require additional coordination with the supported unit for recovery assets, use of main supply routes (MSRs), and so forth.
The purpose of a movement to contact in an offensive operation is to make initial contact with the enemy or to regain lost contact. Because a movement to contact is characterized by a lack of information about the enemy, movement techniques are chosen for maximum security and flexibility. A movement to contact usually ends in a meeting engagement with a moving or stationary enemy, followed by a hasty attack or hasty defense.
The supported force conducts a movement to contact in a way that risks the smallest part of the force while the remainder is available to immediately respond when contact is made. The movement to contact is characterized by decentralized control and rapid movement and commitment of forces from the march. Each side attempts to seize the initiative or overwhelm the opposing force and impel it into the defense.
The force conducting a movement to contact is normally organized into a forward security element, security force, flank and rear guards, and a main body. The forward security element develops the enemy situation and prevents the unnecessary delay of the main body. The security force fights through small concentrations of enemy forces. It ensures that the main body can deploy uninterrupted into the attack formations. The flank and rear guards protect the main body from ground observation and surprise attack. Flank guards travel on routes parallel to the main body. The flank guards travel continuously or by alternate bounds to occupy key terrain on the flanks of the main body. The main body is organized to execute hasty attack or defense.
Most smoke operations during a movement to contact will be hasty smoke, initiated because of enemy contact. Most commanders will not use smoke prior to contact so that target acquisition is not obscured. Once contact is made with the enemy, the commander will most likely choose to use hasty smoke. By using smoke prior to enemy contact, the commander may signal his intentions or by- pass enemy forces unknowingly. The use of projected smoke should be coordinated with the employment of the smoke platoon.
Typically, smoke platoon in support of maneuver forces will move with the main body. The advanced guard will encounter the enemy and use projected hasty smoke. The main body will continue to move forward to outmaneuver the enemy force. The smoke platoon will provide screening smoke to conceal the main body as it maneuvers and assaults the enemy.
The best formation for the smoke platoon to travel in is a wedge or vee formation. This allows for security and a rapid transition to smoke operations. The platoon leader will order the platoon into the appropriated formation for smoke operations based on the main body commander's order and the wind direction.
If possible, the smoke platoon should attempt to establish a stationary smoke line. The smoke line provides more security than mobile operations because of the unclear enemy situation. In a movement to contact, the exact location of all enemy forces is not known and it is possible for the platoon to encounter an enemy force moving or making smoke.
Upon contact with the enemy, the platoon leader must quickly determine the threat and respond appropriately. If the platoon is capable of destroying the enemy force (dismounted troops or lightly armored vehicles), the platoon should engage. If the enemy is of sufficient size, the platoon must execute a break contact drill. The platoon leader must keep the supported force informed of the situation.
The hasty attack differs from the deliberate attack by the amount of time allowed for planning and preparation. The hasty attack results from a meeting engagement or when bypass has not been authorized. It is conducted when enemy forces are in a vulnerable position. The enemy is vulnerable when he is unprepared or unaware of hostile forces. Hasty attacks are conducted to catch the enemy off- guard. The commander must move quickly to gain the advantage. Speed and violence can overcome lack of preparation. Hasty attacks are initiated and controlled with FRAGO's. The use of SOPs and battle drills are critical to effective execution of hasty attacks. There are two categories of hasty attacks depending on the disposition of the enemy: an attack against a moving force and an attack against a stationary force.
A hasty attack against a moving force occurs when two opposing forces coverage. The side that wins normally acts the fastest and maneuvers to positions of advantage against the opponent's flank. Tanks normally lead the attack against a moving enemy force.
A hasty attack against a stationary force is initiated after scouts or lead maneuver forces reconnoiter the enemy's positions. They try to find flanks or gaps in the enemy's positions to exploit.
The supported units contingency planning and SOP reactions to contact simplify the execution of a hasty attack. At the brigade level, the brigade commander maneuvers trailing or adjacent units against the enemy's flanks or rear. He attacks by fire and interdicts enemy units attempting to do the same.
The scouts and security force provide initial information on the enemy force and develop the situation. The lead unit defends from hasty positions to fix the enemy element. The trail units attack enemy flanks supported by indirect fires and close air support.
Since time is a limited resource, priorities of support must be established and an abbreviated coordination process must occur. A hasty attack following a meeting engagement relies on SOPs and battle drills. Smoke units will be employed with the supported force to provide large-area smoke screens to hinder enemy observation and conceal friendly maneuver.
The smoke can be employed to screen the movement of the battalion, obscure the enemy's observation, or deceive the enemy. The use of projected smoke should be coordinated with the employment of the smoke platoon.
The deliberate attack differs from the hasty attack by precise planning based on detailed information, through IPB, and rehearsals. Deliberate attacks normally include large volumes of supporting fires, identified main and supporting attacks and deception measures. Since time is taken to plan and prepare for a deliberate attack, the enemy has had more time to prepare his defense.
Thorough reconnaissance throughout the zone is conducted to obtain detailed information on the enemy's disposition. Sufficient time is provided to prepare for the attack. Deliberate attacks are generally conducted against well- organized defenses. There are several applications of smoke to support deliberate attacks. Possible applications include screening the line of departure, screening vulnerable flanks, screening open areas, screening an obstacle breach, or confusing the enemy (supporting deception operations). Screening obstacle breaches are difficult because obstacles are normally covered by fire. When planning, smoke units must consider the range of enemy direct fire weapons. The use of generated smoke in support of a breaching operation depends on favorable steering winds. Winds blowing from the enemy side of the obstacle will normally negate the use of generated smoke. When the wind direction is unfavorable, the use of projected smoke must be considered.
Typically, fire support assets do not have sufficient quantities of smoke munitions to provide sustained smoke during the attack. Smoke units will provide sustained large area smoke operations. Projected smoke munitions should be used to create enough smoke to allow the smoke unit to get into a position to sustain the screen. Projected smoke is also used directly on enemy positions.
Other considerations when supporting a deliberate attack are the tempo of the attack and duration of the operation.
- Tempo. The M1059 Mechanized Smoke System cannot keep pace with M1A1 Abrams Tanks and M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (BIFV). The maximum speed of the M1059 is approximately 45 mph. However, after fully combat loading the M1059, its speed is considerably reduced (about 25 mph).
- Mission Duration. The length of the mission can be a constraining factor, The M1059 can generate smoke for a maximum of two hours maximum by operating only one generator. Smoke platoons executing long duration missions or multiple missions must refuel throughout the extended duration mission.
During offensive operations against a well established, defending enemy, smoke mission of long duration can be used to preserve the attacking force. Large smoke hazes, started well before the LD time can conceal the intended route or axis of advance. Additionally, friendly forces can use smoke to conceal their movement against an enemy force that has clear or unhindered view of the friendly maneuver (open grass lands or deserts). The friendly force can maneuver within the smoke hazes, changing his scheme of movement to attack the enemy in an unexpected point.
Supporting a Deliberate Attack
During a recent rotation at the National Training Center, a mechanized smoke platoon provided long duration smoke support to a mechanized infantry task force conducting a deliberate attack. The smoke mission began three hours prior to the TF's LD. By 0530 hours, a smoke haze had formed from Colorado Wadi to Hill 876, a distance of about 10 km. The TF crossed the LD and moved along the southern attack axis. Shortly After crossing the LD, an OPFOR forward reconnaissance element detected movement of the TF. The OPFOR commander repositioned his reserve to his southern battle position. Under cover of the smoke haze, the TF executed a turn to the north and attacked along it's northern axis. This sudden change from the southern axis to the northern axis caught the OPFOR by surprise.
An exploitation is an offensive operation that usually follows a successful attack to take advantage of weakened or collapsed enemy defenses. Its purpose is to prevent reconstitution of enemy defenses, to prevent enemy withdrawal, and to secure deep objectives. It may follow either a hasty or deliberate attack. An exploitation can include--
- Securing objectives deep in the enemy rear.
- Severing lines of communications.
- Destroying enemy units.
- Denying escape routes to an encircled force.
In an exploitation, the prime considerations are speed and the placement of maximum firepower forward. Generally, generated smoke support for this type of offensive is infeasible. However, because exploitations are normally follow-on missions, refueling operations and vehicle maintenance are prime concerns of combat service support (CSS) elements. Further, a trafficable and flexible MSR is vital to the success of the exploitation. While the enemy is greatly reduced, the threat to CSS activities from bypassed forces or even counterattacking forces remains. To mitigate their vulnerability, smoke can be used to provide concealment and protection. Potential smoke employment options, therefore, may include screening an MSR, screening a logistical resupply points (LRPs), conceding a traffic control point, or concealing a unit maintenance collection point (UMCP).
Since the exploitation mission will evolve from another offensive action in which the smoke platoon was likely used in another capacity, the platoon must undergo resupply before continuing the mission. Weather and terrain will continue to determine the suitability of smoke employment.
A pursuit is an offensive operation against a retreating enemy force. It follows a successful attack or exploitation and is ordered when the enemy cannot conduct an organized defense and attempts to disengage. The purpose of the pursuit is to complete the destruction of the enemy while he's withdrawing. The enemy force itself is the main objective.
The pursuit usually consists of direct pressure and enveloping forces. The direct pressure forces prevent the enemy from disengagement and inflict maximum casualties. These forces must not allow the enemy to break contact. The enveloping force penetrates to the rear of the enemy and prevents his escape. It destroys the enemy with support from the direct pressure force.
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