The offense is the decisive form of war. Offensive operations aim at destroying or defeating an enemy. The offense presents the greatest challenge in the employment of the antiarmor company and platoon. This challenge is compounded because airborne, air assault and light infantry battalions and Stryker brigade combat teams typically will operate in noncontiguous environments. The antiarmor company (or platoon) possesses the greatest firepower (TOW, M2, and MK19) and mobility (HMMWV or ICV) available to the parent organization. In the offense, these units provide tank-killing, bunker-destroying, and suppression capabilities that can influence the outcome of the operations. This chapter describes the tactics and techniques used by antiarmor companies and platoons in the movement to contact and in an attack.
Section I. GENERAL PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS
The outcome of decisive combat derives from offensive actions. All operations are designed to transition to and support the offense. A sound doctrinal foundation during offensive planning assists the antiarmor company commander (or platoon leader) in capitalizing on the increased tactical flexibility of his unit.
Offensive operations seek to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative to decisively defeat the enemy. Additionally, offensive operations accomplish the following:
Surprise, concentration, tempo, and audacity characterize the offense. The company commander (or platoon leader) does not use these as a checklist to conduct successful offensive operations; rather, he must ensure that his offensive plan incorporates the spirit of these characteristics.
a. Surprise. Units achieve surprise by striking the enemy at a time, at a place, or in a manner for which he is unprepared. Total surprise is rarely essential; simply delaying or disrupting the enemy's reaction is usually effective.
(1) Surprise delays the enemy's reactions, stresses his command and control, and induces psychological shock in his soldiers and leaders. This may allow an attacker to succeed with fewer forces than he might otherwise require.
(2) A unit's abilities to attack during limited visibility, to operate in small units, and to infiltrate are often key to achieving surprise. The company (or platoon) must exploit the effect of surprise on the enemy before he can recover.
b. Concentration. The attacker concentrates combat power at the decisive point to achieve the unit's purpose. Leaders strive to concentrate the effects of their combat power without concentrating forces.
(1) Because the attacker is often moving across terrain the enemy has prepared, he may be exposing himself to the enemy's fires. By concentrating overwhelming combat power, the attacker can reduce both the effectiveness of enemy fires and the amount of time he is exposed to these fires.
(2) The challenge for the company commander (or platoon leader) is to concentrate combat power while reducing the enemy's ability to do the same against his unit. Actions that cause the enemy to shift combat potential away from the decisive point result in a greater advantage in combat power at the decisive point. The company commander (or platoon leader) must consider all of his available weapons systems (such as TOW, M2, and MK19) to achieve overwhelming combat power at the decisive point.t
c. Tempo. Tempo is the rate of speed of military action. Controlling or altering that rate is essential for maintaining the initiative. Speed promotes surprise, keeps the enemy off balance, contributes to the security of the attacking force, and prevents the defender from taking effective countermeasures.
(1) Properly exploited, speed confuses and immobilizes the defender until the attack becomes unstoppable. Speed is built into operations through careful planning.
(2) The company (or platoon) increases its speed through its ability to transition rapidly from movement to maneuver by using simple plans, decentralized control, and mission orders. Speed of movement depends on reconnaissance, using proper movement formations and techniques, and selecting good routes for mounted movement. Antiarmor units develop SOPs to facilitate their transition from movement to maneuver.
d. Audacity. Audacity is the willingness to risk bold action to achieve positive results. The audacious leader develops confidence by conducting a thorough analysis of the factors of METT-TC. His actions, although quick and decisive, are based on a reasoned approach to the tactical situation and on his knowledge of his soldiers, the enemy, and the terrain. He is daring and original, but he is not rash.
(1) Audacious commanders throughout history have used the "indirect approach." They maneuver to maintain a position of advantage over the enemy, seek to attack the enemy on the flank or rear, and exploit success at once, even if this briefly exposes their own flanks.
(2) Boldness and calculated risk have always been the keystones of successful offensive operations. They must, however, be consistent with the higher commander's mission and intent.
The following paragraphs describe factors the anitarmor company commander (or platoon leader) must consider for the employment of specific battle operating systems, including fire support, air defense, mobility and survivability, and combat service support.
a. Fire Support. As part of the top-down fire planning system, the company commander (or platoon leader) must refine the fire plan from higher headquarters to meet his mission requirements. He incorporates the results of his METT-TC analysis and makes key locations and targets from the fire plan an integral part of his rehearsal. Additionally, he works with the battalion fire support officer (FSO) to develop a corresponding observation plan and triggers for initiating or shifting fires. The SBCT antiarmor company has an organic FIST and will coordinate all fire planning through the company FSO. The company commander (or platoon leader) and the FSO must have a thorough understanding of organic and supporting fire support elements. The majority of the unit's fire support in an airborne, air assault, and light infantry battalion will be from mortar systems organic to the battalion. The company commander (or platoon leader) employs supporting fires in the offense to achieve a variety of operational goals:
b. Air Defense. Mounted Stinger sections may be attached with organic vehicle support to travel with the antiarmor company (or platoon). Their security must be a consideration in planning for offensive operations. The leader must plan for and rehearse internal air security and active air defense measures. SOP normally dictates air defense requirements and procedures. The leader also must anticipate possible contact with enemy air assets by determining likely enemy helicopter and fixed-wing air corridors and avenues of approach.
c. Mobility and Survivability. The higher headquarters may task-organize the company with engineers as part of an in-stride breach during the offense. The company commander (or platoon leader) normally receives additional mobility assets, such as engineers. If the antiarmor unit is attached to mechanized forces, it can receive equipment suited for mounted mobility such as a mine clearing line charge (MICLIC), an armored combat earthmover (ACE), or an armored vehicle-launched bridge (AVLB) based on an analysis of the factors of METT-TC. (FM 3-34.2 [90-13-1] and FM 90-7 provide more detailed discussions of mobility and survivability operations and support.).
d. Combat Service Support. The main purpose of CSS in the offense is to assist maneuver elements in maintaining the momentum of the attack. Key CSS planning considerations for antiarmor company (or platoon) offensive operations include the following:
In the offense, CSS functions are performed as far forward as the tactical situation permits. The company trains remain one terrain feature (or a relative distance based upon the factors of METT-TC) behind the location of the vehicles (HMMWV or ICV). The company commander must consider the enemy situation and how it relates to the security of the company trains. If the company is conducting decentralized operations, the company trains are located where they can best support the platoons in the accomplishment of the company's mission. CSS functions for the antiarmor platoons (light infantry battalions only) are typically performed by the battalion combat trains command post (CTCP) or the infantry company to which the platoon is attached. If attached to an infantry company, the antiarmor platoon leader must express the importance of the three key CSS planning considerations to that company commander.
As the company commander (or platoon leader) plans an offensive mission, he generally considers the following sequence of events that applies to many, but not all, offensive operations.
a. Assembly Area. He directs and supervises mission preparations in the assembly area to prepare the unit for the upcoming battle. Preparation time also allows the unit to conduct pre-combat inspections and checks, rehearsals at all levels, and CSS activities.
b. Reconnaissance. Reconnaissance should be conducted at all echelons. The enemy situation and available planning time may limit the unit's reconnaissance, but leaders at every level must aggressively seek information about the terrain and enemy. The "on-the-ground" antiarmor company (or platoon) reconnaissance effort reports on enemy activity near the line of departure, attack position (ATK PSN), assault position (ASLT PSN), or the unit's assigned objective (OBJ). This reconnaissance provides the antiarmor leader the information needed to execute the best possible tactical plan.
In digitally equipped units, this information may be available via FBCB2; however, leaders must never forget the benefit of having patrols and leaders on the ground to the front of the maneuver force.
c. Movement to the Line of Departure. When attacking from positions not in contact, the antiarmor company (or platoon) often stages in rear assembly areas, road marches to attack positions behind friendly units in contact with the enemy, conducts forward passage of lines, and moves to the AO. When necessary, the unit employs indirect fires, close air support (when available), and direct fire to facilitate movement.
d. Maneuver. The antiarmor company commander (or platoon leader) plans the approach to the objective to ensure security, speed, and flexibility. He selects the routes, techniques, and formations that best support actions on the objective. All leaders must recognize this portion of the battle as a fight, not a movement. The unit may need to overcome enemy resistance en route to the objective and should plan accordingly. When possible, the company commander (or platoon leader) employs those techniques that avoid the enemy's strength and conceal his unit's true intentions. He deceives the enemy as to the location of the main effort, uses surprise to take advantage of his initiative in determining the time and place of his attack, and uses indirect approaches, when available, to strike the enemy from a flank or the rear.
e. Deployment. As a unit deploys and moves toward the ASLT PSN, it begins the final positioning of its forces so it can pass through the ASLT PSN with minimum delay and confusion. This tactical positioning allows units the opportunity to continue to "flow" the force in its best tactical posture through the assault position to begin the attack. Movement should be as rapid as the terrain, force mobility, and enemy situation will permit. The probable line of deployment (PLD) is the next control measure following the ASLT PSN. This is where the force fully commits to the attack.
f. Assault. During an offensive operation, the unit's objective may be terrain- or force-oriented. Terrain-oriented objectives require the unit to secure and retain a designated area and often require fighting through enemy forces. If the objective is force-oriented, an objective area may be assigned for orientation, but the unit's effort is focused on the enemy's actual disposition. The enemy may be a stationary or moving force. Actions on the objective start when the unit begins placing fires on the objective. This normally occurs with preparatory indirect fires while the unit approaches the objective. Preparatory fires are normally used during a deliberate attack, with fires placed on key targets before the assault begins. Fires are initiated on call or at a prearranged time. The commander must weigh the benefits of preparatory fires against the potential loss of surprise. The unit reorganizes and consolidates as required by the situation and mission.
g. Consolidation and Reorganization. The company (or platoon) executes follow-on missions as directed by the higher commander. Whether a raid, hasty attack, or deliberate attack, the unit must posture itself and prepare for continued offensive operations.
In a typical sequence for an offensive operation, the company (or platoon) maneuvers against its adversary in the objective area. Maneuver places the enemy at a disadvantage through the application of friendly fires and movement. Properly executed, maneuver allows units to move on the battlefield while in contact. At the same time, maneuver allows a unit to advance, while in contact, to reach the point on the battlefield from which it executes its next tactical task. Maneuver is an integral part of tactical tasks, all of which require the combination of fire and movement. The five forms of maneuverpenetration, envelopment, turning movement, frontal attack, and infiltrationdescribe the positional relationships of opposing forces to attacking forces. In every attack, the company commander (or platoon leader) must determine how to maneuver his unit to get overwhelming combat power at the decisive point. He applies the basic forms of maneuver, individually or in combination, to do this. Regardless of the size of the enemy, the forms of maneuver remain unchanged. Reconnaissance is the key to selecting the proper form of maneuver. Once the maneuver is initiated, surprise, speed, and stealth are crucial to the unit's security and to preventing an effective counterattack. FM 3-0 and FM 3-90 provide greater detail on the forms of maneuver.
a. Penetration. Penetration is used when enemy flanks are not assailable and when time does not permit some other form of maneuver. Its purpose is to rupture enemy defenses on a narrow front and thereby create both assailable flanks and access to the enemy's rear (Figure 4-1). The company (or platoon) will normally conduct this as part of a larger force. Penetration may be tried at one or several points, depending on the forces available. However, a single unit usually focuses combat power at one breach point.
DRAFT Figure 4-1. Penetration.
b. Envelopment. Envelopment avoids the enemy's front, where his forces are more protected and his fires more easily concentrated. Instead, while fixing the defender's attention forward by supporting attacks, the attacker maneuvers his main effort to strike at the enemy's flanks and rear. Flank attacks are a variant of envelopment in which access to the enemy's flank and rear results from the enemy's movement (Figure 4-2). Successful envelopment requires discovery or creation of an assailable flank. In meeting engagements and counterattacks, this may be the actual flank of the enemy force. In less fluid conditions, it may be a gap or weak point in the enemy's defense.
DRAFT Figure 4-2. Envelopment.
c. Turning Movement. The turning movement is a type of envelopment in which the attacker attempts to avoid the defense entirely. Instead, he seeks to secure key terrain deep in the enemy's rear and along his lines of communication. Faced with a major threat to his rear, the enemy is thus "turned" out of his defensive positions and forced to attack rearward. For a turning movement to be successful, the unit trying to turn the enemy must attack something that the enemy will fight to save. For some, it is their supply routes; for others, it may be artillery emplacements or a headquarters. In addition to attacking a decisive target, the turning unit must be strong enough to pose a real threat to the enemy (Figure 4-3).
DRAFT Figure 4-3. Turning movement.
d. Frontal Attack. A frontal attack strikes the enemy across a wide front and over the most direct approaches. For deliberate attacks, it is the least desirable form of maneuver since it exposes the attacker to the concentrated fire of the defender while at the same time limiting the effectiveness of the attacker's own fires. As the simplest form of maneuver, however, the frontal attack is useful for overwhelming weak defenses, security outposts, or disorganized enemy forces. It is often the best form of maneuver for an attack or meeting engagement in which speed and simplicity are key.
e. Infiltration. Infiltration is a means of reaching the enemy's rear without fighting through prepared defenses (Figure 4-4). It is the covert movement of all or part of the attacking force through enemy lines to a favorable position in their rear. The infiltrating unit avoids detection and engagement.
DRAFT Figure 4-4. Infiltration.
Maneuver is the foundation for the employment of forces on the battlefield. At the antiarmor company (or platoon) level, maneuver is the essence of every tactical operation and task. The company commander maneuvers his platoons (platoon leader maneuvers his sections) to close with the enemy, to gain positional advantage over him, and ultimately to destroy his will. Typically, the antiarmor unit will be the base of fire force for a bounding infantry force; however, this should not replace a detailed analysis of the factors of METT-TC to determine what unit will be the base-of-fire force and what unit will be the bounding force.
The combination of fire and movement first requires a base of fire, in which the antiarmor unit remains stationary and provides protection for the bounding forces by destroying, suppressing, or fixing enemy forces. The decision on weapon selection is based on a detailed METT-TC analysis. (See Appendix A, Weapon Reference Data.)
a. As the base-of-fire force, the antiarmor company (or platoon) occupies positions that afford effective cover and concealment, unobstructed observation, and clear fields of fire. Once it is in position, the base-of-fire force has the responsibility both for placing the effects of direct fires on known enemy forces and for aggressively scanning assigned sectors of observation; it identifies previously unknown enemy elements and then fires upon them. The protection provided by the base of fire force allows the bounding unit to continue its movement and to retain the initiative even when it is under enemy observation or within range of enemy weapons.
b. Maneuver is decentralized in nature; therefore, decisions on where and when to establish a base of fire must be made at the appropriate level. These decisions normally fall to a leader on a specific part of the battlefield who knows what enemy forces can engage the bounding force and what friendly forces are available to serve as the base of fire. At the antiarmor company level (airborne and air assault battalions and SBCT), these decisions may be made by the company commander with the base of fire provided by one or more platoons. At the antiarmor platoon level (light infantry battalions), these decisions may be made by the battalion commander with the base of fire provided by the four antiarmor squads.
Movement in a maneuver situation is inherently dangerous. It is complicated not only by the obvious potential for harm posed by enemy weapons but also by the uncertainty caused by unknown terrain and other operational factors.
a. The bounding force must take full advantage of whatever cover and concealment are provided by the terrain. If bounding, antiarmor leaders and drivers can enhance security by enforcing or applying the principles of terrain driving such as use of intervening terrain and avoidance of "skylining."
b. All antiarmor squads involved in the maneuver must maintain 360-degree security at all times. Soldiers in the bounding force must continuously scan their assigned sectors of observation.
c. Although the factors of METT-TC ultimately dictate the length of the bounds, the bounding force should never move beyond the range at which the base-of-fire force can effectively suppress known, likely, or suspected enemy positions. This minimizes the bounding force's exposure to enemy fires.
d. In severely restricted terrain, bounds are generally much shorter than in more open areas.
e. The bounding force may need infantry squads or individual crewmen to observe intervening gaps or dead space. Although this usually causes the unit to make a tactical pause, it does not slow the operation as much as the loss of a vehicle and an antiarmor squad to a hidden enemy weapon system.
f. The bounding element must remain focused on its ultimate goal of gaining a positional advantage, which it then can use to destroy the enemy by direct and indirect fires.
In both offensive and defensive operations, contact occurs when a member of an antiarmor company (or platoon) encounters any situation that requires an active or passive response to the enemy or to nonhostile elements, such as civilians. These situations may entail one or more of the following forms of contact:
Leaders at all echelons conduct actions on contact when they or a subordinate element recognize one of the forms of contact or receive a report of enemy contact. The unit may conduct actions on contact in response to a variety of circumstances, including
Company commanders (or platoon leaders) analyze the enemy throughout the troop-leading procedures to identify all likely contact situations that may occur during a mission. Through the planning and rehearsals conducted during troop-leading procedures, leaders develop and refine COAs to deal with probable enemy actions. The COAs eventually become the foundation for the unit's scheme of maneuver. During the troop-leading process, the leader must evaluate a number of factors to determine impacts on the unit's actions on contact.
EXAMPLE: The company commander needs to consider how the likelihood of contact affects his choice of movement techniques and formations during the attack. In doing this, he can begin preparing the unit for actions on contact. He may outline procedures for the transition to more secure movement techniques before a contact situation.
Company commanders (or platoon leaders) must understand that properly executed actions on contact require time at section, platoon, and company levels. To develop the situation fully, a subordinate unit may need to execute extensive lateral movement, conduct reconnaissance-by-fire, and call for and adjust indirect fires. Each of these activities requires time. The commander (or platoon leader) must balance the time required for subordinate elements to conduct actions on contact with the need of his organization or the higher headquarters to maintain tempo and momentum. In terms of slowing the tempo of an operation, however, the loss of a platoon or team is normally much more costly than the additional time required to allow the subordinate element to properly develop the situation.
The antiarmor company (or platoon) should execute actions on contact using a logical, well-organized process of decision-making and action entailing these four steps:
The four-step process is not intended to generate a rigid, lockstep response to the enemy. Rather, the goal is to provide an orderly framework that enables the unit and its subordinate elements to survive the initial contact and then to apply sound decision-making and timely actions to complete the operation. Ideally, the unit will acquire the enemy before being sighted by the enemy. It then can initiate physical contact on its own terms by executing the designated COA.
a. Step 1, Deploy and Report. Events that occur during the first step of actions on contact depend in great measure on whether the contact is expected or unexpected. Whether contact is expected or unexpected. In either event, the first step of actions on contact concludes with the unit deployed (into base-of-fire and bounding forces), the enemy suppressed or destroyed, and the commander (or platoon leader) sending a contact report to the higher headquarters. The following discussion examines some of the variables a company commander faces in expected and unexpected contact situations and discusses the roles of platoon battle drills, SOPs, and reports.
(1) Expected Contact. If the company commander expects contact, he will already have deployed the company by transitioning to the bounding overwatch movement technique. If the company is alert to the likely presence of the enemy, it has a better chance of establishing visual contact, and then physical contact, on its own terms before being detected by the enemy. Contact, either visual or physical, usually is made by an overwatching or bounding platoon, which initiates the company's actions on contact. In a worst-case scenario, the platoon may be engaged by a previously undetected (but expected) enemy element. If so, the platoon in contact conducts a battle drill for its own survival and then initiates actions on contact.
(2) Unexpected Contact. In some cases, the antiarmor company will make unexpected contact with the enemy while using traveling or traveling overwatch. The element in contact, or if necessary the entire company, may have to deploy using battle drills to survive the initial contact.
(3) Battle Drills. Battle drills provide virtually automatic responses to contact situations in which immediate and, in many cases, violent execution of an action is critical both to the unit's initial survival and to its ultimate success in combat. Drills are not a substitute for carefully planned COAs; rather, they buy time for the unit in contact and provide a framework for development of the situation. When contact occurs, the antiarmor company's platoons deploy immediately, executing the appropriate battle drills under the direction of the commander. (For additional information on antiarmor platoon battle drills, refer to ARTEP 7-91-DRILL.)
(4) Maneuver SOP. An effectively written, well-rehearsed maneuver SOP helps to ensure quick, predictable actions by all members of the company. The SOP, unlike platoon battle drills, allows leaders to take into account the friendly task organization, a specific enemy, and a specific type of terrain. Therefore, the SOP can assist the company in conducting actions on contact and maintaining the initiative in a number of battlefield situations.
(5) Reports. Timely, accurate, and complete reports are essential throughout actions on contact. As part of the first step of the process, the company commander must send a contact report to his higher headquarters (airborne and air assault battalion or SBCT) as soon as possible after contact occurs. He provides subsequent reports to update the situation as necessary.
b. Step 2, Evaluate and Develop the Situation. While the antiarmor company is deploying, the commander must evaluate the situation and, as necessary, continue to maneuver to develop it.
(1) He quickly gathers as much information as possible, either visually or, more often, through reports from the platoon(s) in contact. He analyzes the information to determine critical operational considerations, including
(2) After evaluating the situation, the commander may discover that he does not have enough information to identify the necessary operational considerations. To make this determination, he must further develop the situation in accordance with the higher commander's intent, using a combination of these techniques:
(3) Once the commander determines the size of the enemy force the company has encountered, he sends a report to his higher headquarters.
c. Step 3, Choose a COA. After developing the situation and determining that he has enough information to make a decision, the company commander selects a COA that both meets the requirements of his higher commander's intent and is within the company's capabilities.
(1) Nature of Contact. The nature of the contact (expected or unexpected) may have a significant impact on how long it takes a commander to develop and select a COA.
EXAMPLE: In preparing to conduct an attack, the company commander determines that the company will encounter an enemy security force along its axis of advance. During the TLP, he develops a scheme of maneuver to defeat the security force. When the company's lead platoon makes contact with the enemy, the commander quickly assesses that this is the anticipated contact and directs the company to execute his plan. On the other hand, unexpected contact with a well-concealed enemy force may require time for development of the situation at the platoon and section levels. The company commander employs several techniques for developing the situation as his subordinate elements fight for critical information that will eventually allow him to make a sound decision.
(2) COA Procedures. The company commander has several options for selecting a COA.
(a) If his development of the situation reveals no need for change, he directs the company to execute the original plan.
(b) If his analysis shows that the original plan is still valid but that some refinement is necessary, he informs his higher commander (prior to execution, if possible) and issues a FRAGO to refine the plan.
(c) If his analysis shows that the original plan needs to be changed but that the selected COA will still comply with his higher commander's intent, the company commander informs the higher commander (prior to execution, if possible) and issues a FRAGO to re-task his subordinate elements.
(d) If his analysis shows that the original plan deviates from the higher commander's intent and needs to be changed, the company commander must report the situation and, based on known information in response to an unforeseen enemy or battlefield situation, recommend an alternative COA to his higher commander.
(e) If the battlefield picture is still vague, the company commander must direct the company or a platoon to continue to develop the situation. This will allow him to gather the information needed to clarify a vague battlefield picture. He then uses one of the first four options to report the situation, choose a COA, and direct further action.
d. Step 4, Execute the Selected COA. In executing a COA, the antiarmor company transitions to maneuver. It then continues to maneuver throughout execution, either as part of a tactical task or as an advance while in contact to reach the point on the battlefield from which it executes its tactical task. The company can employ a number of tactical tasks as COAs, any of which may be preceded and followed by additional maneuver. As execution continues, more information will become available to the company commander. Based on the emerging details of the enemy situation, he may have to alter his COA during execution.
Section IV. TYPES OF OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS
This section focuses on offensive operations that the antiarmor company (or platoon) normally conducts as part of a larger element: attack, movement to contact, exploitation, and pursuit. The section examines the various roles the antiarmor company (or platoon) may hold in these operations and the tactics for conducting
An attack is a type of offensive operation characterized by movement supported by fire. The purpose of an attack is to defeat an enemy force or to seize terrain. The antiarmor company (or platoon) can attack independently or as part of a larger element. The two basic types of attack are the hasty attack and the deliberate attack (see paragraph 4-12). Figure 4-5, illustrates the situations under which a unit conducts an attack, compares them to the amount of planning and preparation time, and provides options for the commander (or platoon leader) to accomplish his purpose and support the higher commander's intent. (For more information on the attack options, see paragraph 4-13). All attacks, both hasty and deliberate, depend on synchronization for success. They require planning, coordination, and time to prepare.
a. The company commander (or platoon leader) translates the mission assigned by the higher headquarters, through analyzing the task and purpose, into specific missions for subordinate units. To facilitate parallel planning, he immediately forwards these, along with the appropriate portions of the higher headquarters' plan and order, to subordinate units. Commanders and platoon leaders must work together to develop the best plan. This requires sharing information freely between the command posts. The goal is not simply to reduce the time required to produce and distribute the plans, but, more importantly, to produce a better plan by including input from adjacent, higher, and lower elements. Additionally, this collaboration promotes understanding of the plan, thereby enhancing preparation and execution.
b. As the antiarmor company (or platoon) plans, the enemy also has time to improve his defenses, disengage, or conduct spoiling attacks of his own. Clearly, planning must be accomplished in the shortest time possible and must accommodate the changes driven by what the enemy does.
The information systems available to the SBCT antiarmor company facilitate detailed planning. By properly leveraging digital INFOSYS and sensors, the SBCT antiarmor company commander can obtain near-real-time knowledge of enemy composition, locations, activity, and probable intentions. Thus, modern technology improves the company commander's ability to develop his COA and plan his actions against an enemy force from either stationary or moving C2 platforms.
DRAFT Figure 4-5. Continuum of attacks.
In addition to having different forms based on their purposes, attacks are characterized as hasty or deliberate. The primary difference between them is the extent of planning and preparation conducted by the attacking force, but no clear distinction exists between deliberate and hasty attacks. Attacks range along a continuum. At one end of this continuum the company commander (or platoon leader) issues a FRAGO that directs a hasty attack with rapid execution of battle drills by forces immediately available. These attacks rely on an implicit understanding and FM radio (or digital) communication with detailed orders and appropriate branches or sequels that make understanding explicit. Information on the general enemy situation may come from a movement to contact, and the unit launches a hasty attack as a continuation of the meeting engagement. The hasty attack capitalizes on a temporary advantage in relative combat power and may preempt enemy actions. At the other end of the continuum, the unit moves into a deliberate attack from a reserve position or assembly area with detailed knowledge of the enemy, a task organization designed specifically for the attack, and a fully rehearsed plan. Most attacks fall somewhere between these two ends of the continuum.
a. Hasty Attack. The antiarmor company commander (or platoon leader) may conduct a hasty attack during a movement to contact, as part of a defense, or whenever he determines that the enemy is in a vulnerable position and can be quickly defeated by immediate offensive action. A hasty attack is used to
Because its primary purpose is to maintain momentum or take advantage of the enemy situation, the hasty attack is normally conducted with only the resources that are immediately available. Maintaining unrelenting pressure through hasty attacks keeps the enemy off balance and makes it difficult for him to react effectively. Rapidly attacking before the enemy can act often results in success even when the combat power ratio is not as favorable as desired. With its emphasis on agility and surprise, however, this type of attack may cause the attacking force to lose a degree of synchronization. To minimize this risk, the commander (or platoon leader) should maximize use of standard formations and well-rehearsed and thoroughly understood battle drills and SOPs. By maintaining situational understanding and assigning on-order and be-prepared missions to subordinate units as the situation warrants, the antiarmor company (or platoon) is better able to transition into hasty attacks. The hasty attack is often the preferred option during continuous operations. It allows the commander (or platoon leader) to maintain the momentum of friendly operations while denying the enemy the time needed to prepare his defenses and to recover from losses suffered during previous action. Hasty attacks normally result from a movement to contact, successful defense, or continuation of a previous attack.
(1) Task Organization. The hasty attack is conducted using the principles of fire and movement. The controlling headquarters normally designates a base-of-fire force and a bounding force. This may be within the antiarmor company (or platoon) or as part of a larger force. As part of a larger force, the company (or platoon) typically will be designated as the base-of-fire force, while an infantry unit will be designated as the bounding force.
(2) Conduct of the Hasty Attack. The unit must first conduct actions on contact, allowing the commander (or platoon leader) to gather the information he needs to make an informed decision. The term "hasty" refers to trading available planning and preparation time for speed of execution. The commander (or platoon leader) bases his decisions on his current knowledge of the enemy situation, his own forces, and the terrain. He makes this choice in an environment of uncertainty, which may entail some risk.
(a) Execution begins with establishment of a base of fire, which then suppresses the enemy force. The bounding force uses a combination of techniques to maintain its security as it advances in contact to a position of advantage. These techniques include, but are not limited to, the following:
(b) Once the bounding force has gained the positional advantage, it can execute a tactical task, such as assault, to destroy the remaining enemy.
b. Deliberate Attack. The antiarmor company (or platoon) typically will conduct a deliberate attack as part of a larger force. It conducts a deliberate attack by itself only when the enemy's strength prevents it from conducting a hasty attack. A deliberate attack normally is conducted against a strong enemy defense. As the company (or platoon) prepares for the attack, the enemy will continue to strengthen his position. Deliberate attacks follow a distinct period of preparation, which is used for extensive intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, detailed planning, task organization of forces, preparation of troops and equipment, coordination, rehearsals, and plan refinement. The deliberate attack is a fully synchronized operation that employs every available asset against the defending enemy. It is characterized by a high volume of planned fires (direct and indirect), use of major supporting attacks, forward positioning of resources needed to maintain momentum, and operations throughout the depth of enemy positions. Thorough preparation allows the attacking force to stage a combined-arms and fully integrated attack. Likewise, however, the enemy will have more time to prepare his defensive positions and integrate fires and obstacles. The factors of METT-TC dictate how thoroughly these activities are accomplished. A unit normally conducts a deliberate attack when enemy positions are too strong to be overcome by a hasty attack. In weighing his decision to take the time required to prepare for and conduct the deliberate attack, the commander (or platoon leader) must consider the advantages that may be gained by both friendly and enemy forces.
(1) Task Organization. Typically, antiarmor companies and platoons will be task-organized by the higher headquarters as the support force for the conduct of a deliberate attack. However, the higher headquarters may give other assets (such as infantry or engineers) to an antiarmor company to perform the duties of the assault or breach forces.
(2) Conduct of the Deliberate Attack. A deliberate attack is normally broken into the following steps:
(a) Attack in Zone. The attacking unit advances to within assault distance of the enemy position under supporting fires and using any combination of movement techniques. Subordinate units advance to successive positions using available cover and concealment. The company commander (or platoon leader) may designate support-by-fire positions to protect friendly forces with suppressive direct fires. As the unit maneuvers in zone, it employs indirect fires to suppress or obscure enemy positions.
(b) Actions at the Probable Line of Deployment. The PLD is normally a phase line or checkpoint where elements of the attacking unit transition to secure movement techniques in preparation for contact with the enemy. Subordinate units may maneuver from the PLD to designated support-by-fire positions or to breach or bypass sites. The PLD may be collocated with the assault position.
(c) Actions on the Objective. The final assault combines the effects of overwhelming combat power and suppressive fires with the use of maneuver to gain positional advantage over the defending enemy. Fires from support forces and from supporting indirect fire assets isolate the objective area and suppress the enemy. These fires protect the assault force as it closes with the enemy. Other measures the unit may use to set the conditions for the final assault include, but are not limited to, the following:
Once the conditions are set, the assault forces maneuver to close with and destroy the enemy. Other elements continue to provide support as necessary throughout the assault.
The forms of attack an antiarmor company (or platoon) is most likely to conduct are raid, ambush, spoiling attack, counterattack, feint, and demonstration. The following paragraphs describe the company's role in accomplishing these forms of attack. The commander (or platoon leader) selects weapons based on a detailed analysis of the factors of METT-TC. (See Appendix A, Weapon Reference Data.)
a. Raid. This is a limited-objective form of attack entailing swift penetration of hostile terrain. A raid operation always ends with a planned withdrawal to a friendly location upon the completion of the assigned mission. A raid is not intended to hold territory. The antiarmor company (or platoon) can conduct an independent raid or it can participate in a higher unit offensive operation that encompasses several related raids or other related operations.
(1) Role. The antiarmor company (or platoon) conducts raids to accomplish a number of missions, including the following:
(2) Task Organization. Task organization of a raiding force is based on the factors of METT-TC and the purpose of the operation. It normally consists of the following elements:
(3) Conduct of the Raid. The main differences between a raid and other attack forms are the limited objectives of the raid and the associated withdrawal following completion. Raids may be conducted in daylight or darkness, within or beyond supporting distance of the parent unit. When the area to be raided is beyond supporting distance of friendly lines, the raiding party operates as a separate force. An objective, usually very specific in nature, normally is assigned to orient the raiding unit. During the withdrawal, the attacking force normally takes a route or axis different from that used to conduct the raid itself.
b. Ambush. An ambush is a surprise attack, from concealed positions, on a moving or temporarily halted enemy. It may take the form of an assault to close with and destroy the enemy, or it may be an attack by fire only, executed from concealed positions. An ambush does not require that ground be seized or held. Although the execution of an ambush is offensive in nature, the unit may be directed to conduct an ambush in a wide variety of situations. It may stage the ambush during offensive or defensive operations, as part of the higher unit's sustaining operations, or during retrograde operations. The commander (or platoon leader) in his METT-TC analysis must consider the capabilities of his unit in the mounted and dismounted role. Operational security (OPSEC) is critical to the success of an ambush. The unit must take all necessary precautions to ensure that it is not detected during movement to or preparation of the ambush site. The unit must also have a secure route of withdrawal following the ambush.
(1) Role. The antiarmor company (or platoon) generally conducts an ambush to reduce the enemy force's overall combat effectiveness. Destruction is the primary reason for conducting an ambush. Other reasons for an antiarmor company (or platoon) to conduct ambushes are
(2) Task Organization. The unit is normally task-organized into assault, support, and security forces for the execution of the ambush.
(a) The assault force executes the ambush. It may employ an attack by fire, an assault, or a combination of those techniques to destroy the ambushed force.
(b) The support force fixes the enemy force and prevents it from moving out of the kill zone, allowing the assault force to conduct the ambush. The support force generally uses direct fires in this role; however, it may also be responsible for calling for and adjusting indirect fires to assist in fixing the ambushed force.
(c) The security force provides protection and early warning to the ambush patrol and secures the objective rally point (ORP) or assault position. It isolates the ambush area both to prevent the ambushed enemy force from moving out of the ambush site and to keep enemy rescue elements from reaching the site. The security force may also be responsible for securing the unit's withdrawal route.
(3) Conduct of the Ambush. An ambush normally consists of the following actions:
(4) Types of Ambushes. Once the unit receives an order to conduct an ambush, the commander (or platoon leader) must determine which of the two types of ambush operations is best suited to the situation and the capabilities of his company. In a point ambush, the unit deploys to attack an enemy force in a single kill zone. In an area ambush, the unit is deployed to conduct several related point ambushes throughout an ambush area.
c. Spoiling Attack. This is a limited-objective attack to delay, disrupt, or destroy the enemy's capability to attack. Units mount spoiling attacks from defensive postures to disrupt expected enemy attacks. A spoiling attack attempts to strike the enemy while he is most vulnerableduring his preparations for attack in assembly areas and attack positions or while he is on the move prior to crossing his line of departure. In most respects, units conduct spoiling attacks like any other attack. They may be hasty (when planning time is short) or deliberate (when the unit has obtained adequate forewarning). When the situation permits, commanders (or platoon leaders) exploit a spoiling attack like any other attack.
d. Counterattack. This is an attack by defensive forces to regain the initiative or to deny the enemy success with his attack. Commanders conduct counterattacks either with a reserve or with lightly committed forward elements. They counterattack after the enemy launches his attack, reveals his main effort, or creates an assailable flank. The antiarmor company commander (or platoon leader) conducts a counterattack much like other attacks, but synchronizing them within the overall defensive effort requires careful timing.
(1) Counterattacks afford the defender the opportunity to create favorable conditions for the commitment of combat power. If it is possible to fix the enemy, then counterattacks can be rehearsed, their timing can be controlled, and the ground to be traveled can be prepared. Counterattacks are most useful when they are anticipated, planned, and executed in coordination with other defending, delaying, or attacking forces and in conjunction with a higher commander's plan.
(2) As in spoiling attacks, company commanders (or platoon leaders) prepare to seize the opportunity to exploit success by the entire force. However, counterattacks may be limited to movement to better terrain in order to bring fires (TOW, M2, or MK19) on the enemy. Given the same forces on both sides, counterattacks can achieve greater effects than other attacks because the defender can create more favorable conditions through rehearsal and control of the timing.
e. Feint. The feint is in many ways identical to other forms of the attack. Its purpose is to cause the enemy to react in a particular way, such as by repositioning forces, committing its reserve, or shifting fires. The key difference between the feint and other attack forms is that it is much more limited in scope, with an extremely specific objective. The scale of the operation, however, usually is apparent only to the controlling headquarters. For the element actually conducting the feint, such as an antiarmor company, platoon, or section, execution is just as rapid and as violent as in a full-scale attack.
(1) Role. The unit normally participates in a feint as part of a larger element. Among the planning considerations that the anitarmor company commander (or platoon leader) must keep in mind are the following:
(2) Making Feints Believable. Feints are successful only if the enemy believes that a full-scale attack operation is underway. To be believable, the unit must be task-organized to appear as a credible threat, and the unit must conduct the feint with the same violence and the same level of precision as any other attack. The controlling headquarters must issue a clear task and purpose to the unit conducting the feint. This should include identification of the specific enemy action the feint is supposed to trigger or deny (purpose), such as forcing the commitment of an enemy reserve force or preventing an enemy element from repositioning against the main effort attack. Feints are most effective under the following conditions:
f. Demonstration. The demonstration is an attack whose purpose is to deceive the enemy about the location of the decisive operation. The purpose of a demonstration is similar to that of a feint, but the friendly force does not make contact with the enemy.
EXAMPLE: A light infantry battalion antiarmor platoon's role might entail establishing an attack-by-fire (ABF) position beyond the enemy's direct fire engagement range. This will cause the enemy commander to commit his tank platoon reserve away from the light infantry battalion's decisive operation simply by virtue of the positioning of the antiarmor platoon.
In preparing to participate in a demonstration as part of a larger force, the antiarmor company commander (or platoon leader) should keep in mind these planning considerations:
(1) The limit of advance must be carefully planned so the enemy can observe the demonstration force but cannot effectively engage it with direct fires. The force must also take any other security measures necessary to prevent engagement by the enemy.
(2) The demonstration force must develop plans so it can respond effectively to enemy direct or indirect fires, avoiding decisive engagement.
(3) Clear and concise "follow-on" orders must be issued to ensure that the demonstration force is prepared to exploit the success of the decisive operation, if necessary.
Movement to contact is designed to gain or regain contact with the enemy. It is normally used when the enemy situation is vague and there is not time to reconnoiter extensively to locate the enemy. Movement to contact ends when contact is made. (Contact results in initiation of another operation such as attack against a stationary or moving enemy force, defense, delay, or withdrawal.) The antiarmor company (or platoon) normally conducts movements to contact as part of a larger force. Based on the factors of METT-TC, however, an antiarmor company might conduct the operation independently.
EXAMPLE: An airborne infantry battalion antiarmor company may conduct movement to contact prior to occupation of a screen line. Because the enemy situation is not clear, the company moves in a way that provides security and supports a rapid buildup of combat power against enemy units once they are identified.
Two techniques for conducting a movement to contact are the approach-march technique and the search-and-attack technique. If no contact occurs, the company may be directed to conduct consolidation on the objective. The following paragraphs examine the role of the antiarmor company (or platoon) in a higher unit's movement to contact.
a. Fundamentals. The antiarmor company commander (or platoon leader) analyzes the situation and selects the proper techniques to conduct the mission. He reports all information rapidly and accurately and strives to gain and maintain contact with the enemy. He retains freedom of maneuver by moving the unit in a manner that
b. Considerations. The higher unit may direct the antiarmor company's technique. If not, the antiarmor company commander considers his mission and the higher unit concept as he conducts his estimate to select the best technique. Normally, when operating as part of a higher unit's movement to contact, the company employs the same technique as that unit. The company commander must consider the mounted capabilities of his company during both techniques. The following considerations also may assist the commander in developing his concept.
(1) Time Available. The time available for planning, coordinating, and rehearsing may affect the decision. The approach-march technique generally requires much less time for preparation. The company may require only a brief FRAGO assigning the movement formation or technique and some simple graphic control measures to begin movement. The search-and-attack technique may require more preparation time because the subordinate units have more planning responsibilities (such as patrol base, linkups, and casualty evacuations [CASEVACs]).
(2) Speed of Movement. The speed at which the antiarmor company is required to move is a major factor. With either technique, the faster the company moves, the less effective are the reconnaissance efforts. Thus, it becomes more likely that the enemy will initiate fires at the time and place he selects. The approach-march technique normally is more effective for quickly reacting to enemy contacts.
(3) Enemy. The company commander considers the clarity of the enemy situation. Although the enemy situation is vague in every movement to contact, the company commander should have some information. Knowing where the enemy will probably locate and in what strength is key. The company commander considers the enemy's probable locations to plan the company's movement and their probable strength to determine his security needs and analyze the risks for each technique. The company commander also considers the expected enemy action upon contact. If he expects the enemy to fight, then the approach march may be the more effective technique. If the enemy will attempt to avoid detection or quickly disengage, the search-and-attack technique may be the better method.
(4) Security. The amount of preparation time, the required movement speed, and the enemy situation all directly impact on the company's security requirements. The company commander also considers the terrain, the adjacent units, the available combat support, and the present status of his unit to determine how to provide security for his company. Successful movements to contact depend on locating the enemy without being detected. This provides the company commander the initiative to develop the situation by fully coordinating and supporting the attack with all available resources.
c. The Approach-March Technique. An approach march (a method of troop movement) is the advance of a combat unit when direct contact with the enemy is intended. The antiarmor company (or platoon) normally uses this technique when it is conducting a movement to contact as part of the larger force. The company (or platoon) can be tasked to act as the advance guard, to move as part of the higher unit main body, or to provide flank or rear guards for the higher unit, depending on its location in the formation and its assigned mission. The antiarmor company (airborne or air assault battalion or SBCT) is capable of conducting a movement to contact by itself using this technique.
(1) Planning. When planning for a movement to contact (approach-march), the antiarmor company commander needs certain information from the higher commander. With this information, he develops his scheme of maneuver and fire support plan. He provides this same information to the platoon leaders. As a minimum, he needs to know
(2) Lead Company Responsibilities. The higher unit may conduct a movement to contact on a single axis or on multiple axes. If the antiarmor company is the lead company on an axis, it is responsible for
(3) Lead Company Movement. The lead company or advance guard on an axis moves using traveling overwatch or bounding overwatch, depending on the situation. It is normally assigned an axis of advance or a zone of action and a march objective on which to orient its movement. Phase lines and checkpoints also may be used to help control movement.
(a) The company commander selects the movement technique and formation based on the likelihood of enemy contact and the speed of movement desired by the higher commander. Bounding overwatch provides the best security, but traveling overwatch is faster. If the company uses traveling overwatch, the lead platoon may use bounding overwatch for added security.
(b) The company commander must retain the freedom to maneuver his platoons and weapons systems. He analyzes the terrain, anticipates where he might make contact, and plans fires on those locations. He should avoid terrain that restricts maneuver such as draws, ravines, narrow trails, and steep slopes.
(4) Other Companies. A company not in the lead uses traveling or traveling overwatch. It must be ready to fire or maneuver in support of the lead company or to assume the lead company's mission.
(5) Contact. Once contact is made with the enemy, the company commander maintains that contact until ordered to do otherwise by the higher commander. The following actions must take place immediately:
(a) When there is an unexpected contact as a result of inadequate information, the platoon in contact returns fire immediately and seeks cover. If the enemy is unaware, the platoon making contact reports and deploys to prevent detection. The maneuver to a position of advantage by this platoon (or other units) should maintain the element of surprise until preparation for the hasty attack is completed. If detected, or once the decision is made to initiate the hasty attack, the platoon leader attempts to fight through, destroying the enemy with the resources that are immediately available. He should begin calling for fire. He then reports to the company commander and develops the situation. The overwatch element immediately fires at the enemy position. Trail platoons that are not able to fire take cover and wait for orders.
(b) The antiarmor squad or platoon that initially received direct fire immediately executes the react to contact battle drill (ARTEP 7-91-DRILL). The intent is to use aggressive small-unit actions to seize the initiative rapidly and at the lowest echelon possible. The unit in contact attempts to achieve fire superiority to fix or suppress the enemy with the resources that are immediately available. The unit then executes a flank attack directed against an identified enemy weakness. If this is not possible, the unit develops the situation to identify the enemy's flanks, any covered and concealed routes around the enemy position, possible supporting positions (both friendly and enemy), and any protective obstacles that the enemy has constructed. It then reports this information to the company commander.
(c) Upon receipt of this information, the company commander determines the proper action to take. The XO reports the situation to battalion. The company commander may conduct, or direct his units to conduct, additional reconnaissance. The company FSO requests and coordinates indirect fires to support the company's maneuver. Possible actions include
d. The Search-and-Attack Technique. This decentralized technique uses multiple, coordinated, small-unit (squad, section, or platoon) actions to find, fix, and finish the enemy. If the unit makes contact without being detected by the enemy, the unit gains the initiative and has three options:
Antiarmor units will conduct the search-and-attack as part of a larger force. The antiarmor platoon in a light infantry battalion will typically isolate the search area or reinforce a rifle company. The antiarmor companies from airborne or air assault battalions or SBCTs can isolate the area or be task-organized by the higher headquarters to effectively conduct a search-and-attack in an assigned AO. During his planning, the antiarmor company commander decides how to find the enemy, how to fix or follow him, and then how to finish him.
(1) Concept Development. Initially, the decisive point is identified as the most likely enemy location. Once the enemy location has been confirmed, a concept can be developed for generating overwhelming combat power at that location. The initial concept must include the actions to finish the enemy force once it is located. At times, this part of the plan may be very general or consist only of control measures and be-prepared missions to provide flexibility and support the rapid issuance of fragmentary orders (FRAGOs).
(a) The company commander must understand the higher commander's concept and what freedom of action the company has to engage the enemy. At times, the company must engage and destroy all enemy forces within their capabilities. In other cases, the company is expected to locate, follow, and report small enemy units to allow other companies to concentrate and destroy these enemy forces.
(b) The company commander must focus his platoons on the likely enemy locations. He assigns missions in accordance with (IAW) the higher commander's concept. Possible operations include a zone or area reconnaissance, an ambush, and surveillance. Small unit leaders (for example, antiarmor squad leaders or attached rifle squad leaders) must know what actions to take when they locate the enemy either with or without being detected. The platoon most likely to make contact is normally designated the company's main effort.
(2) Considerations. The company commander usually determines the number and size of the units that will conduct reconnaissance and combat actions against the enemy. The size of the area, the duration of the mission, and the probable size of the enemy force are key to this decision.
(a) A detailed METT-TC analysis is essential to the success of a search-and-attack. The size of the AO is considered in relation to how much time is available to search the area. When allocating terrain, the company commander considers how the subordinate units will conduct the reconnaissance, how to provide security, and how to provide control. One technique is to assign a small AO that keeps the subordinate units more concentrated, helping to maintain control. On order, the subordinate units are directed to move into the next AO. Another technique is to divide the area into zones. The company commander concentrates most of the company in one zone and uses small team or rifle squad patrols to reconnoiter the next zone. Once the antiarmor company has completed the reconnaissance in the initial zone, it moves into the area that has been reconnoitered by the small units. This technique is effective when a detailed reconnaissance is required, but it also supports the seizure of the initiative through speed, stealth, and surprise. The small, dispersed units have a better chance of locating the enemy and remaining undetected. The company commander focuses the remainder of the company's reconnaissance efforts based upon the information gathered during the initial reconnaissance.
(b) The company commander must consider how the duration of the mission affects the company. If the mission will continue for days or longer, the commander must develop a concept that allows his subordinates to maintain combat effectiveness. The concept must address operations during limited visibility. He must ensure that the concept provides sufficient rest to maintain his soldiers' stealth, alertness, and security.
(c) The duration of the mission also affects the need to resupply. This has a tremendous impact on a search-and-attack mission. The longer the mission is expected to last, the more often the need for resupply. Resupply operations hinder the ability to move with stealth and security while close to the enemy and allow the enemy to locate the unit by following or observing the resupply vehicles. The company commander must determine the essential supplies required for the operation. If this results in excessive amount of supplies, he plans for resupply operations that avoid enemy detection and maintain the security of the company. Another technique is to identify platoon ORPs or company patrol bases throughout the AO. The company moves between these locations using the approach-march technique to provide greater control and security. After securing and occupying the next ORP or patrol base, the unit receives the necessary supplies.
(d) Knowing the size of the enemy units with which the company is likely to make contact assists the company commander in determining the risk to the company. The company commander also must consider the enemy's capabilities, likely COAs, and specific weapons capabilities in order to understand the threat and ensure the security of his company, even when conducting decentralized operations. The company commander may direct specific force protection restraints such as "no patrols smaller than a rifle squad or antiarmor section," "platoons must be able to consolidate within 20 minutes," or "platoons will depart their patrol bases NLT 60 minutes prior to BMNT."
(3) Find the Enemy. During this step, the focus is on reconnaissance to locate the enemy. Generally, small units able to move quickly and with stealth are more likely to locate the enemy without detection. The company commander's concept may restrict the platoon's authority to destroy the enemy once located. It may be more important to locate and follow enemy units to identify their base camps. When not restricted, however, the unit making contact takes immediate action to destroy the enemy. If it is not within this unit's capabilities, the platoon conducts linkups to mass sufficient combat potential and to coordinate the attack.
(a) Platoons do not receive a mission with the vague requirement to search-and-attack. The company commander must be more specific in stating his concept. His concept also must address the likely actions to destroy the enemy once it is located. Specific taskings may include route, area, and zone reconnaissance or surveillance tasks. Platoons may also be tasked to conduct ambushes, to be prepared to conduct an attack to destroy enemy forces, to provide security for another force such as the command post (CP) or the mortars, or to perform duties as the company reserve.
(b) During limited visibility, reconnaissance is more difficult and potentially more dangerous. If a unit makes contact with the enemy in the dark, a hasty attack is very risky. Reconnaissance is also less effective in the dark because the unit covers less area and is unable to detect many signs of enemy activity. Route and small-area reconnaissance tasks are more effective for limited visibility.
(c) Ambushes are also very effective during limited visibility. The enemy may avoid daylight movements if aware of the company's presence in the AO. Ambushes should be set up on the enemy's likely routes or near their sources of supply. Patrol bases should integrate ambushes and observation posts (with thermal sights and NVDs) into their security plans.
(4) Fix and Finish the Enemy. These steps of a search and attack are closely related. An initial attempt to finish the enemy by the platoon in contact quickly may become the fixing effort for the company's attack if the enemy is too strong for the platoon or if the platoon is unable to achieve surprise. When the authority to conduct offensive actions to destroy the enemy has been decentralized to the lowest level, the fundamentals of an attack apply at every echelon.
(a) Achieve Surprise. Locate the enemy without being detected. This allows more time to plan and coordinate the attack. Once detected, speed and violence in the assault may also achieve surprise, but this is rarely true against a prepared enemy defense.
(b) Limit the Enemy's Freedom of Action. Fix the enemy in position. Block his routes of escape with indirect fires, maneuver forces, or both. Suppress his weapons systems, obscure his vision, and disrupt his command and control. Reconnaissance is continuous; leaders at every echelon are seeking out the enemy's dispositions, strengths, and weaknesses. Initially, these actions are directed toward supporting an attack by the lowest echelon. At some point, the leader of this unit must determine if he is able to achieve fire superiority and conduct the assault. If it is determined that the unit in contact has insufficient combat power to complete the destruction of the enemy, the leader focuses on fixing the enemy and reconnoitering to support the attack by the next higher echelon.
(c) Maintain Security. While attempting to take these actions against the enemy, the enemy is attempting to do the same. Do not assume the enemy that has been identified is alone; there may be mutually supporting positions or units. The planned envelopment or flank attack of one enemy position may move through the kill zone of another unit, or this maneuver may expose the flank of the assault force to fires from undetected positions.
(d) Concentrate Combat Power. Once contact is made, the plan must support the rapid concentration of combat power to fix and finish (destroy) the enemy. Leaders at each echelon plan to destroy the enemy within their capabilities. The combat potential of small units may be increased by ensuring each has the ability to request fire support. The company commander may retain a portion of the company as a mobile reserve to react quickly to enemy contact by one of the small units. If the unit or platoon cannot finish the enemy, the company commander determines how to fix or contain the enemy while concentrating his dispersed combat potential. He then develops an attack plan to destroy the enemy force. He may use the fixing force to support by fire and assault with another platoon(s), or he may use artillery and mortars to destroy the enemy. Each leader must report the results of his reconnaissance to support the company commander's planning. Leaders recommend effective support positions, good assault positions or directions of attack, and likely enemy weak points. The leader of the unit in contact should also identify good linkup points in case the preplanned points are not effective. In most cases, this leader should coordinate face to face with the company commander or the leader of the assault element before initiating the assault.
(5) Follow the Enemy. When the purpose of the operation is to locate the enemy's base camps or other fixed sites, the company commander's concept must avoid non-decisive fights between small units. When friendly units locate small enemy units, they report and attempt to follow or track these units back to their base camps. The company commander must ensure that his concept does not risk the security of his force in the attempt to make undetected contact and track enemy units. Units following the enemy must be ready to react to enemy contact and avoid likely ambush situations. It may also be possible to track the enemy's movement through the AO by using stationary OPs as trail watchers to report enemy activity.
(6) Enter the Area of Operations. The company commander also decides how the company will enter its zone or area of operations, how to move once in the area, where to locate certain units or facilities, and what the requirements for contingency plans are. This includes establishing the proper graphic control measures to control the movement of the units, to provide for linkups between units, and to support the rapid concentration of the company's combat power. It also includes synchronizing the actions of the company and providing specific tasks or constraints to ensure subordinates understand what actions to take once they make contact with the enemy. The company may enter the area or zone by moving as a company then splitting up (Figure 4-6), by infiltrating platoon and section (Figure 4-7), or by air assault.
DRAFT Figure 4-6. Infiltration by a company.
DRAFT Figure 4-7. Infiltration by platoon and section.
(a) Movement within the area or through the zone of attack may be conducted by the entire company or by individual platoons. Figure 4-8, shows a concept sketch for a search and attack conducted without a company linkup.
DRAFT Figure 4-8. Antiarmor company search-and-attack concept sketch.
(b) The company commander must decide where to locate the company CP. He may collocate it with the main effort platoon, or he may position the CP in a central location where it can communicate with and move quickly to each platoon's location. A technique is to rotate a platoon each day to provide security for the CP. Each platoon spends only 48 hours actively searching for the enemy and then rotates into this security role. This should prevent a serious degradation in effectiveness due to sleep loss. This platoon may be the company's reserve.
A company normally takes part in exploitations as part of a larger force; however, all company commanders should prepare to exploit tactical success at the local level. Any action must be within the higher commanders' intent and concept of the operation.
The objective of the pursuit is the total destruction of the enemy force. The antiarmor company (or platoon) may take part in a pursuit as part of a larger force or, because of its organic transportation, may task-organize a pursuit force that can close with and destroy the remnants of the enemy force.
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