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Defensive operations retain ground, gain time, deny the enemy access to an area and damage or defeat attacking forces. The defense can deny the enemy victory; it cannot assure victory. The defense is a temporary state that creates the conditions that allow the force to assume offensive operations. Defensive operations are conducted to--

  • Defeat an enemy attack.
  • Gain time.
  • Concentrate forces elsewhere.
  • Control key or decisive terrain.
  • Wear down enemy forces as a prelude to offensive operations.
  • Retain strategic, operational, or tactical objectives.

During defensive operations commanders will synchronize deep, close, and rear operations to execute their defensive plan. The use of smoke, integrated with jamming and deception can disrupt an enemy force. Smoke platoon can execute operations throughout the battlefield.

Smoke units are integrated throughout the defensive battlefield.

    Security: Smoke units provide the security force commander flexibility.

    MBA: Smoke units provide the commander flexibility and enhance the survivability of defending units.

    Reserve/Mobile Striking Force: Smoke units enhance the survivability of these forces and provide the commander with flexibility once the reserve is committed.

    Rear: Smoke units assist the commander's ability to retain freedom of maneuver in rear areas. Survivability of forces in the rear area is also enhanced by these units.


The Covering Force Fight
Defense in Sector
Defense of a Strongpoint
Defense of a Battle Position



Mobile defense orients on the destruction of the enemy forces by trading terrain to expose the enemy to a counterattacking mobile striking force. The minimum force possible is committed to pure defense; maximum combat power is placed in a striking force (with mobility greater than the enemy's) that catches the enemy as he is trying to overcome that part of the force dedicated to the defense.


An area defense focuses on denying the enemy access to designated terrain for a specified time, rather than on the outright destruction of the enemy. A commander may conduct an area defense by using mutually supporting positions in depth. Where ground cannot be easily surrendered or when enemy forces are weak and disorganized, the commander may use a forward defense, which is an area defense with little depth. A perimeter defense is a type of forward defense, where a commander maintains the integrity of the perimeter by making his main effort well forward and counterattacking early.


The main focus of smoke in the defense is to defeat enemy reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance, and target acquisition (RISTA), and to conceal maneuver and support forces. Our intent is to deny the enemy information about the disposition and composition of our forces. That allows us to gain time, concentrate forces elsewhere, control key or decisive terrain, and wear down enemy forces as a prelude to offensive operations.

The overall goal is to improve the commander's ability to retain his initiative in operations against a potentially numerically superior force. Uses of smoke in the defense to support maneuver, provide additional firepower, and to protect the force are essentially the same as in the offense.

Key insights on smoke use in the defense are:

  • Smoke compresses the battlefield, with engagements fought at shorter range.
  • We must use alternate weapon positions in smoke.
  • Smoke requires more detailed planning and command and control (C2) coordination.
  • Use smoke in deception, at night, and for obstacle reduction.
  • Units that do not train in smoke do not perform well.



Planning at the platoon level during defensive operation does not differ from the planning conducted during offensive operations. To support a maneuver unit during a defensive operation, the platoon leader must consider--

  • Command and support relationship.
  • Friendly scheme of maneuver.
  • Supported unit commander's intent.
  • Likely enemy course of action.
  • Location of friendly obstacles.
  • Steering wind direction and speed.

As during offensive operations, it is important that the platoon leader conduct a leader's recon. The platoon leader should conduct a physical reconnaissance of the area and determine the location of friendly obstacles. This will prevent fratricide from friendly minefield and other obstacles.

The smoke platoon leader conducts a terrain analysis in the same manner as the S2, but with a different focus. Since the smoke platoon will not make smoke until the enemy force has been engaged, there is lower risk that the smoke unit will give away the location of the battle position (BP). Tasks during planning and preparation include-

  • Terrain Analysis.
  • Weather Analysis.
  • Reconnaissance.

Smoke control is critical to avoid interference with friendly target acquisition. Obtain guidance from the supported unit on "No Smoke Areas." Ensure the smoke control officer has communication with the platoon and can stop smoke if steering winds carry it into the engagement area. The engagement area is a target-rich environment that the supported commander will generally want left completely unobscured.

The platoon leader will obtain a copy of the fire support overlay prior to departure, or coordinate with the fire support officer (FSO) to use existing terrain index reference system (TIRS) to adjust fire. Again, under most conditions, the smoke platoon will not need to call for or be allowed to adjust fires.

The smoke platoon will generally provide support from stationary positions which afford the maximum camouflage and cover immediately available. Ensure that each vehicle commander knows the primary and alternate routes from their positions back to the assembly area. Ensure squad leaders have conducted a reconnaissance of those routes.

Because of the nature of a defense, the air threat may be very high. Obtain the current air defense warning and weapons control orders prior to issuing the platoon operations order. The air threat may dictate assigning air guards at all times. Rehearse platoon response to the air threat.

The smoke platoon may be directed to conduct smoke operations well prior to the enemy being engaged. Screening the engineer preparation of the battlefield and obscuring locations of reserves or support areas are typical missions. The smoke platoon may participate as part of the supported units deception operations.


The squads and platoon conduct precombat checks and inspections. All equipment and personnel are readied for the upcoming mission. The platoon leader issues his order to the platoon leadership, providing them a defensive overlay and using a sandtable when possible. Platoon orders must thoroughly cover the defensive operations and possible enemy courses of action to reduce reaction time of the platoon.

If the platoon is to operate forward of the main battle area, the platoon must know the--

  • Location of friendly obstacles.
  • Location of designated passage points and lanes.
  • Recognition signals.
  • Location of the counter-reconnaissance screen.

The need for close coordination with the supported unit remains the same during defensive operations. Smoke units operating forward of the supported unit's defensive positions must understand the unit's scheme for counter-reconnaissance. This will reduce the possibility of fratricide. The platoon must coordinate all movements in the main defensive area to prevent losses to friendly minefields, obstacles, and counter-reconnaissance efforts.

The platoon leader should obtain a copy of the fire support overlay prior to departure or coordinate with the FSO to use existing TIRS to adjust fire.

Ensure that each vehicle commander knows the primary and alternate routes from their positions back to the assembly area. Ensure squad leaders have conducted a reconnaissance of those routes.


The smoke platoon's mission may begin prior to the execution of the defense. The platoon may be executing smoke operations during the supported unit's preparation of the defense. Throughout the conduct of the defensive operation, the platoon must be aware of increased enemy reconnaissance operations. This means that the platoon could encounter enemy reconnaissance elements during smoke operations or while in their assembly area.

The platoon must determine the exact nature of the steering winds prior to starting the generators. A smoke grenade is one method of testing the surface wind conditions. By testing the wind direction, the platoon leader can modify the smoke plan if necessary.

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 then reposition the platoon to ensure adequate coverage of the target area. The smoke platoon should not be positioned as the most forward positioned ground element.


The platoon must recover quickly to support possible follow-on offensive operations. The platoon will rearm, refuel, & refit as quickly as possible. The platoon's main objective during this phase is to become folly mission capable.


This section describes how a smoke platoon provides smoke support during the various defensive operations.


Corps and division may establish a covering force as the first echelon of a two-echelon defense. The function of the covering force is to destroy the leading elements of the attacking force causing the deployment of follow-on forces and forcing the enemy to disclose his main effort. The size and composition of the covering force is dependent on METT-T. Normally a covering force is organized around tank-heavy task forces and armored cavalry regiments.

Normally, the covering force will defend, delay, and attack with its maneuver units. When elements of the covering force are unable to retain terrain forward of the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA), they will withdraw through the element conducting the defense of the main battle area. Generally the entire covering force will not withdraw as a whole.

Smoke units will provide smoke to conceal movement of friendly forces, defeat enemy intelligence gathering efforts, and conceal the emplacement of obstacles. Smoke provides the commander with flexibility and agility. Smoke is used to support deception operations.

Typically the covering force will fight from a series of battle positions, trading space for time. The covering force can use smoke to screen disengaging forces. Because of the uncertain nature of the covering force, the supporting smoke platoon will most likely execute a series of hasty smoke missions.

Supporting the Covering Force

The smoke platoon occupies a position near the rear of the covering force area. The platoon's mission is to create a smoke screen to slow attacking enemy forces and allow the engaged covering force element to break contact. Enemy contact in the southern portion is heavy. The brigade commander orders the smoke platoon to provide the southern TF smoke support. The platoon leader moves the platoon in a column formation using the traveling overwatch technique. This allows the platoon to reposition quickly. The platoon leader contacts the southern TF on their command net. The TF commander orders the platoon to occupy a position vicinity Checkpoint B12 and gives the coordinates where he wants smoke. The platoon occupies a smoke line near the checkpoint and begins to generate smoke using one generator per vehicle. The platoon leader occupies a smoke control point overmatching the target area. The platoon adjusts the smoke line to insure the target area is concealed with a haze. Once the TF elements withdraw through the haze, the platoon with use both generators on each vehicle to create a blanket. The platoon uses the bounding overwatch technique to move to the passage point. Prior coordination with the unit providing command, control, and security at the passage point is essential in order to avoid fratricide as the platoon withdraws. Once at the passage point, the platoon stops smoke and moves through the passage lane. The platoon occupies an assembly area. The platoon leader contacts the brigade for further instructions. While in the assembly area, the platoon refuels.


A defensive sector is an area designated by boundaries that define where a unit operates. In a defense in sector, several applications for smoke are possible. Possible uses include screening obstacle emplacements, concealing disengaging forces, concealing counterattacking forces, obscuring and isolating enemy formations, and screening the flanks to prevent enfilade fires. Vulnerability of fuel supply assets is a limiting factor, since it is often impossible to conduct on-line refueling during the defense.

The platoon will be operating forward of TF BPs in a future engagement area. The smoke platoon leader must coordinate egress and ingress routes with the appropriate maneuver commander. This is particularly important for the fuel support squad. The fuel support squad may make multiple trips to sustain the smoke platoon. Unless the defending units are aware of movement of the support squad and smoke platoon, there will be an increased risk of fratricide.

Supporting a Defense in Sector

The smoke platoon occupies a smoke line and begins to generate smoke. The smoke platoon leader occupies a smoke control point that overwatches the target area. The platoon leader maintains communication with the engineers emplacing the obstacles to ensure that the smoke does not hinder their operations. Three hours of fog oil and MOGAS supplies are pre-positioned near the smoke line. The support squad has established an FFSP behind the northern BP. The platoon leader shifts the squads to maintain the screen. As the air stability changes from inversion to unstable, the platoon changes from maintaining a smoke haze to a smoke curtain. As conditions become more unfavorable for making smoke, the platoon uses the orbital technique for making mobile smoke. By making mobile smoke, the platoon can maintain the smoke curtain. However, diesel fuel consumption is greater as the vehicles move in their orbits.

After ending evening nautical twilight (EENT), the platoon repositions and creates a smoke haze to conceal the movement of the two tank teams. Once the tank teams are in position, the platoon moves along designated routes through the main battle area. The platoon occupies an assembly area in the brigade rear. The platoon immediately begins to refit.


A unit is given a strongpoint defense mission when terrain retention is required to stop or redirect enemy formations. Battalion strongpoints may be positioned adjacent to restrictive terrain or other defensive positions. In a strongpoint defense mission, the applications of smoke include screening obstacle emplacements, concealing maneuver of reserve forces, and protecting the force from enfilade fires.


A BP is a location and orientation of forces on the ground from which units defend. Maneuver forces use BPs when the brigade controls the maneuver of all forces throughout the sector or at some point within the sector. In a defense by battle position, the same applications of smoke apply as in a defense in sector. Tactics include screening obstacle emplacements, concealing disengaging forces, concealing counterattacking forces, obscuring and isolating enemy formations, and screening the flanks to prevent enfilade fires.

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