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The purpose of military operations in the next battle is to win. To achieve success, our forces must gain the initiative, deploy in depth, and stress agility and synchronization of activities and functions. Such an approach will prevent the enemy from freely maneuvering forces in depth to reinforce an attack, build up a defense, or counterattack. In the next fast-paced battle, our forces must protect themselves as never before from a wide range of highly technical weapons systems. Thus, in both the offense and defense, we will have to be ever-conscious of the enemy's ability to detect, engage, and destroy us. Careful planning and diligent work will enhance our ability to survive.

Survivability doctrine addresses five major points significant to the AirLand battlefield:

1. Maneuver units have primary responsibility to develop, position, and begin building their own positions.

2. The engineer's ultimate role in survivability is set by the maneuver commander controlling engineer resources.

3. Based on those resources, engineer support will supplement units as determined by the supported commander's priorities.

4. Engineer support will concentrate on missions requiring unique engineer skills or equipment.

5. Survivability measures begin with using all available concealment and natural cover, followed by simple digging and constructing fighting and protective positions. As time and the tactical situation permit, these positions are improved.

The following AirLand battle conditions will shape our protection and survivability efforts:

  • The need to win at the forward line of our own troops (FLOT), conduct deep battle operations, and overcome threats in the rear area.

  • The use of effective firepower and decisive maneuver.

  • The existence of a nonlinear battlefield resulting from dissolution of battle lines and areas due to maneuvering, and rapid dispersion from areas of nuclear and chemical weapons effects.

  • Coordinated air/ground operations involving frequent movement by friendly troops.

  • Proliferation of nuclear and chemical tactical weaponry.

  • Active reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition efforts through visual, remote sensing radar, and tactical radio direction finding procedures.

  • Reliance on electronic warfare as a combat multiplier.


During the next battle, US forces are likely to encounter or work with nations of widely diverse political systems, economic capabilities, cultures, and armies. Whether the battle is with Warsaw Pact or Third World countries, US forces will be exposed to Soviet-style weaponry and tactics. The following outline of Threat tactics and battle priorities provides a key to understanding survivability requirements for US forces. (See Field Manuals (FMs) 100-2-1, 100-2-2, and 100-2-3 for more detailed information.)


The opposing Threat is an offensively-oriented force that uses massive amounts of firepower to enhance the maneuverability, mobility, agility, and shock of its weaponry. It seeks to identify and exploit weak points from the front to the rear of enemy formations. The tank is the Threat's primary ground combat weapon, supplemented by armored personnel carriers (APCs) and other armored fighting vehicles. Large mechanized formations are used to attack in echelons, with large amounts of supporting suppressive direct and indirect fire. To achieve surprise, Threat forces train to operate in all types of terrain and during inclement weather. Threat force commanders train for three types of offensive action: the attack against a defending enemy, the meeting engagement, and the pursuit.

The Attack Against a Defending Enemy

Threat forces concentrate their attack at a weak point in the enemy's defensive formation. Threat doctrine emphasizes three basic forms of maneuver when attacking a defending force: envelopment, frontal attack, and flank attack. Penetration of enemy defenses is the ultimate objective in all three operations. The Threat force uses echeloned forces in this effort, and their goal is to fight through to the enemy rear and pursue retreating forces.

Threat attacks of strongly-defended positions will usually have a heavy air and artillery preparation. As this preparation is lifted and shifted to the depths of the enemy, advance guard units conduct operations to test the strength of the remaining defenders. Critical targets are reduced by artillery or by ground attacks conducted by advancing armor-heavy main forces. These forces attack from the march unless they are forced to deploy into attack formations by either the defending force or terrain conditions. The Threat seeks to overwhelm its enemy by simultaneously attacking as many weak points as possible. If weak points cannot be found, the Threat deploys into concentrated attack formations, usually organized into two echelons and a small reserve. These formations are initially dispersed to limit nuclear destruction, but are concentrated enough to meet offensive norms for attack. The Threat attacks defensive positions in a column formation and continues the attack into depths of the defense. Threat regimental artillery directly supports battalions, companies, and platoons for the duration of the engagement.

United States Forces

United States defending forces conduct extensive survivability operations during an enemy attack. Preliminary activities include deliberate position construction and hardening for both weapons and command and supply positions. Alternate and supplementary positions are also located and prepared if time allows. Finally, covered routes between these positions are selected, and camouflage of all structures is accomplished.

The Meeting Engagement

The meeting engagement is the type of offensive action most preferred by Threat forces. It relies on a standard battle drill executed from the march using combined arms forces and attached artillery support. Threat doctrine stresses rapid maneuver of forces and attacking while its enemy is on the march--not when it is in a prepared defense. Attacking a defending enemy requires superiority of forces--a requirement the Threat seeks to avoid.

The meeting engagement begins as the Threat advance guard of a combined arms force makes contact with the enemy advancing force. As soon as contact is made, the Threat battle drill begins. When possible, the main Threat force maneuvers its advance guard to a flank and attacks. This preliminary maneuver is supported by a barrage from the Threat force organic artillery which has deployed at the first sign of contact. The Threat force then makes a quick flank or frontal attack on enemy forces as they advance support their engaged advancing forces.

Upon withdrawal from contact and as the enemy force reacts to the flank attack, the Threat reconnaissance force continues its advance. This tactic then relies on the elements of surprise and shock for success. The Threat seeks to disable the enemy force along the depth of the enemy's formation.

United States Forces

When US forces are involved in a meeting engagement, survivability operations are needed, but not as much as in the deliberate defense. Hastily prepared fighting and protective positions are essential but will often be prepared without engineer assistance or equipment. Maneuver units must also use natural terrain for fighting and protective positions.

The Pursuit

The pursuit of retreating forces by a Threat advancing force takes place as leading echelons bypass strongpoints and heavy engagements and allow following echelons to take up the fight. After any penetration is achieved, Threat doctrine calls for an aggressive pursuit and drive into the enemy rear area. This often leaves encircled and bypassed units for follow-on echelon forces to destroy.

United States Forces

Survivability in retrograde operations or during pursuit by the Threat force presents a significant challenge to the survivability planner. During retrograde operations, protective positions--both within the delay and fallback locations--are required for the delaying force. Company-size delay and fall back fighting and protective positions are most often prepared. Planning and preparing the positions requires knowledge of withdrawal routes and sequence.


Threat commanders want to achieve precise levels of destruction through implementation of the rolling barrage, concentrated fire, or a combination of the two. Combined with tactical air strikes and fires from direct fire weapons, these destruction levels are-

  • Harassment with 10 percent loss of personnel and equipment; organizational structure is retained.

  • Neutralization with 25 to 30 percent destruction of personnel and equipment; effectiveness is seriously limited.

  • Total destruction with 50 percent or more destruction of personnel and equipment.

The Threat can plan for the total destruction of a strongpoint by delivering up to 200 rounds of artillery, or 320 rounds from their medium rocket launcher, per 100 meter square. Thus, the Threat force attacks with a full complement of direct and indirect fire weapons when targets of opportunity arise or when the tactical situation permits.

United States Forces

To survive against this tremendous indirect fire threat, US forces must counter the physical effects of indirect fire, such as fragmentation and blast. Protection from these effects creates a large demand for engineer equipment, materials, and personnel. Careful consideration of the time and construction materials available for the desired level of survivability is necessary. Therefore, priorities of construction are necessary. Covered dismounted firing positions and shelters adjacent to large weapons emplacements are constructed by maneuver units, usually without engineer assistance. The maneuver commander must prioritize the construction of overhead cover for command, control, and supply positions.


Threat plans and operations for their nuclear systems are ranked in the following order:

  • Destroy US nuclear delivery systems, nuclear weapons stocks, and the associated command and control apparatus.

  • Destroy US main force groupings.

  • Breach US main lines of defense.

  • Establish attack corridors within US battlefield boundaries.

Threat nuclear targeting plans are based on the use of massive amounts of supporting conventional direct and indirect fire. These massive artillery barrages enable the use of Threat nuclear weapons systems against targets which conventional weapons cannot destroy or disable.

United States Forces

Due to the multiple effects of a nuclear detonation, survivability operations against nuclear weapons are difficult. Thermal, blast, and radiation effects require separate consideration when designing protection. However, fortifications effective against modern conventional weapons will vary in effectiveness against nuclear weapons.


Often, Threat forces may use massive surprise chemical strikes in conjunction with nuclear and conventional attacks. These chemical strikes are aimed at destroying opposing force offensive capability, as well as disrupting logistics and contaminating all vulnerable rear area targets.

United States Forces

United States (US) forces must plan to fight, as well as survive, on a chemical contaminated battlefield. Open or partially open emplacements afford no protection from chemical or biological attack. Personnel in open emplacements or nonprotected vehicles must use proper chemical protective clothing and masks to avoid chemical vapors and biological aerosols.


Threat doctrine dictates that the attack must advance to the enemy rear area as quickly as possible. To supplement this main attack, the Threat may deploy its airborne, airmobile, or light forces to fight in the enemy rear until relieved by advancing forces. In most cases, smaller airborne/airmobile forces (battalion or regimental sizes) are deployed to strike targets in the enemy rear which are critical to the success of Threat forces. Additionally, covert reconnaissance missions or sabotage and harassment missions are accomplished by small Threat teams deployed in the rear. All of the Threat forces involved in a deep attack are trained and equipped to operate in contaminated environments.

Threat organization in the deep attack normally consists of the airborne/airmobile battalion for missions involving a long-range strike group. Operational maneuver groups will also conduct deep attacks using armor heavy forces. Organization for covert reconnaissance is normally a platoon-or company-size reconnaissance element.

United States Forces

When attacks on rear areas are made by Threat force aircraft, or by covert or overt airborne/airmobile forces, rear area activities are susceptible to many of the weapons encountered in the forward area. Thus, survivability of these rear area activities depends on adequate protective construction before the attack. Technical Manual (TM) 5-855-1 describes permanent protective construction in detail.



Commanders of all units must know their requirements for protection. They must also understand the principles of fighting positions and protective positions, as well as the level of protection needed, given limited engineer assistance. Survivability measures are subdivided into two main categories: fighting positions for protection of personnel and equipment directly involved in combat; and protective positions for protection of personnel and equipment not directly involved with fighting the enemy. In order to protect their troops in the combat zone, commanders or leaders must fully understand the importance of fighting positions, both in the offense and in the defense. The initial responsibility for position preparation belongs with the maneuver commander's own troops. Even within the fluid nature of the AirLand battle, every effort to fortify positions is made to ensure greater protection and survivability.


The engineer's contribution to battlefield success is in the five mission areas of mobility, countermobility, survivability, general engineering, and topographic engineering. Although units are required to develop their own covered and/or concealed positions for individual and dismounted crew-served weapons, available engineer support will assist in performing major survivability tasks beyond the unit's capabilities. While the engineer effort concentrates on developing those facilities to which the equipment is best suited, the engineer also assists supported units to develop other survivability measures within their capabilities. Before the battle begins, training as a combined arms team allows engineers to assist other team members in developing the survivability plan.

Survivability on the modern battlefield, then, depends on progressive development of fighting and protective positions. That is, the field survivability planner must recognize that physical protection begins with the judicious use of available terrain. It is then enhanced through the continual improvement of that terrain.

In the Offense

In the offense of the AirLand battle, fighting and protective position development is minimal for tactical vehicles and weapons systems. The emphasis is on mobility of the force. Protective positions for artillery, air defense, and logistics positions are required in the offense and defense, although more so in the defense. Also, command and control facilities require protection to lessen their vulnerability. During halts in the advance, units should develop as many protective positions as possible for antitank weapons, indirect fire weapons, and critical supplies. For example, expedient earth excavations or parapets are located to make the best use of existing terrain. During the early planning stages, the terrain analysis teams at division, corps, and theater levels can provide information on soil conditions, vegetative concealment, and terrain masking along the routes of march. Each position design should include camouflage from the start, with deception techniques developed as the situation and time permit.

In the Defense

Defensive missions demand the greatest survivability and protective construction effort. Activities in the defense include constructing protective positions for command and control artillery, air defense, and critical equipment and supplies. They also include preparing individual and crew-served weapons positions and defilade fighting positions for fighting vehicles. Meanwhile, countermobility operations will compete with these survivability activities for engineer assistance. Here again, maneuver commanders must instruct their crews to prepare initial positions without engineer help. As countermobility activities are completed, engineers will help improve those survivability positions.

Two key factors in defensive position fighting development are: proper siting in relation to the surrounding terrain, and proper siting for the most effective employment of key weapons systems such as antitank guided missiles (ATGMs), crew-served weapons, and tanks. Critical elements for protective positions are command and control facilities, supply, and ammunition areas since these will be targeted first by the Threat. The degree of protection for these facilities is determined by the probability of acquisition,and not simply by the general threat. Facilities emitting a strong electromagnetic signal, or substantial thermal and visual signature, require full protection against the Threat. Electronic countermeasures and deception activities are mandatory and an integral part of all activities in the defense.


The survivability requirements for the following units are shown collectively in the table on Survivability Requirements.

Light Infantry

Light infantry units include rifle, airborne, air assault, and ranger units. They are ideally suited for close-in fighting against a force which has equal mobility or a mobility advantage which is degraded or offset. Difficult terrain, obstacles, and/or weather can degrade a mobility advantage. Surprise or stealth can offset a mobility advantage. In restricted terrain such as cities, forests, or mountains, light infantry units are also a challenge to enemy armor forces.

Due to the lack of substantial armor protection, light infantry units may require extensive fighting positions for individual and crew-served weapons, antitank weapons, and vehicles. Command and control facilities require protective positions. The defense requires fortified positions when terrain use is critical and when covered routes are required between positions.

Light forces readily use local materials to develop fighting positions and bunkers rapidly. Priorities are quickly established for position development-first to antitank and crew-served weapon positions, and then to command and control facilities and vital logistics positions. Artillery positions must have hardening improvements soon after emplacement is complete. In air assault units, aircraft protection is given high priority. Aircraft is dispersed and parapets or walls are constructed when possible.

Mechanized Infantry

Mechanized infantry operations in both the offense and the defense are characterized by rapid location changes and changes from fighting mounted to fighting dismounted. Mechanized infantry units normally fight integrated with tanks, primarily to destroy enemy infantry and antitank defenses. When forced to fight dismounted, such units need support by fire from weapons on board their APCs or infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs). When the terrain is not suitable for tracked vehicles or visibility is severely restricted, mechanized infantry may have to fight dismounted without the support of APCs or IFVs. When mounted, mechanized forces rely heavily on terrain positioning for fighting positions. Fighting positions increase survivability when the situation and time permit construction.


The tank is the primary offensive weapon in mounted warfare. Its firepower, protection from enemy fire, and speed create the shock effect necessary to disrupt the enemy's operations. Tanks destroy enemy armored vehicles and suppress enemy infantry and ATGMs. Armor and infantry form the nucleus of the combined arms team and both complement and reinforce each other. Infantry assists the advance of tanks in difficult terrain, while armor provides protection in open terrain, thus providing flexibility during combined arms maneuver.

Armor units rely on terrain positioning to decrease vulnerability. When possible, these terrain fighting positions are reinforced (deepened) by excavation. Protective positions for thin-skinned and lightly-armored support vehicles, as well as command posts and critical supplies, require significant hardening. Armor units enhance protection by constructing alternate and supplementary positions and defining routes between them.

Armored and Air Cavalry

Armored cavalry units need minimal fighting and protective positions. They rely almost totally on effective use of maneuver and terrain to reduce the acquisition threat. Air cavalry units, performing the same reconnaissance and security missions as ground armored cavalry, require somewhat more protective construction. Protective revetments and/or parapets are required at forward arming and refueling points (FARPs) and, in some cases, at forward assembly areas. These activities are always time consuming and supplement the basic survivability enhancement techniques of dispersion and camouflage.


Army aviation units, in addition to air cavalry units, consist of attack helicopter and combat support aviation forces. Attack helicopter units are aerial maneuver units which provide highly maneuverable antiarmor firepower. They are ideally suited for employment in situations where rapid reaction time is important, or where terrain restricts ground forces.

Combat support aviation units give dismounted infantry and ground antitank units tactical mobility. This enables them to move rapidly to the enemy's flanks or rear, or to reposition rapidly in the defense. Combat support aviation units can quickly move towed field artillery units and other lighter combined arms team elements as the commander dictates. They also provide critical supplies to forward areas in the defense and attacking formations when groundlines of communications have been interdicted.

Protection for Army aviation units is employed with full consideration to time constraints, logistical constraints, and the tactical situation. The primary means for aircraft protection on the ground is a combination of terrain masking, cover and concealment, effective camouflage, and dispersion. When possible, protective parapets and revetments are built. Aircraft logistics facilities, including FARPs and maintenance facilities, require additional protective construction. The FARPs require some protection of supplies and ordnance through the use of protective parapets and bunkers. They also require fighting positions for occupants of the points.

Field Artillery

Field artillery is the main fire support element in battlefield fire and maneuver. Field artillery is capable of suppressing enemy direct fire forces, attacking enemy artillery and mortars, suppressing enemy air defenses, and delivering scatterable mines to isolate and interdict enemy forces or protect friendly operations. It integrates all means of fire support available to the commander and is often as mobile as any maneuver force it supports. Fighting and protective position use is one of several alternatives the field artillery leader must evaluate. This alternate may be alone or in combination with other survivability operations, such as frequent moves and adequate dispersion.

Counterfire from enemy artillery is the most frequent threat to artillery units. Dug-in positions and/or parapet positions, as well as existing terrain and facilities, can provide protection. Threat acquisition and targeting activities are heavily used against artillery and are supplemented by some covert Threat deep ground attacks. Thus, personnel and equipment need some direct fire protection. Fire direction centers and battery operation centers should be protected with hardened bunkers or positions to defeat counterfire designed to eliminate artillery control.

In urban areas, existing structures offer considerable protection. Preparation for these is minimal compared to the level of protection. The use of self-propelled and towed equipment for positioning and hardening efforts enhance survivability. Some self-propelled units have significant inherent protection and maneuverability which allow more flexibility in protective structure design.

Combat Engineers

Combat engineers contribute to the combined arms team by performing the missions of mobility, countermobility, survivability, topographic operations, general engineering, and fight as infantry. Mobility missions include breaching enemy minefield and obstacles, route improvement and construction, and water-crossing operations. Countermobility missions include the enhancement of fire through obstacle and minefield employment. Survivability missions enhance the total survivability of the force through fighting and protective position construction. Topographic operations engineering missions include detailed terrain analysis, terrain overlays, trafficability studies, evaluation of cover and concealment, soils maps, and other information to base mobility, countermobility, and survivability decisions. General engineering missions support theater armies with both vertical and horizontal construction capabilities.

Combat engineer fighting and protective position requirements depend on the type and location of the mission being performed in support of the combined arms team. Personnel and equipment protective positions are used when project sites are located within an area that the Threat can acquire. Engineers have limited inherent protection in vehicles and equipment and will require fighting positions, protective command and control, and critical supply bunkers when under an enemy attack. When time is available and when the mission permits, revetments and parapets can protect construction equipment. Generally, engineers use the same methods of protection used to protect the maneuver force they are supporting.

When engineers fight as infantry, they employ protective measures similar to those required by light or mechanized infantry forces.

Air Defense Artillery

Air defense units provide security from enemy air attack by destroying or driving off enemy aircraft and helicopters. Their fire degrades the effectiveness of enemy strike and reconnaissance aircraft by forcing the enemy to evade friendly air defense. Short-range air defense systems normally provide forward air defense protection for maneuver units whether the units are attacking, delaying, withdrawing, or repositioning in the defense. Air defense units also provide security for critical facilities and installations.

The main technique for air defense artillery (ADA) survivability is frequent movement. Because their main mission is to protect divisional and corps assets, ADA units are a high-priority target for suppression or attack by enemy artillery and tactical aircraft. Signature acquisition equipment, smoke, dust, contrails associated with firing, and siting requirements allow them to conduct their mission. Available terrain is generally used for cover and concealment since little time is available for deliberate protective construction. Dummy positions are constructed whenever possible, since they may draw significant enemy artillery fire and aircraft attack.

The ADA equipment used is usually protected by parapets, revetments, or dug-in positions similar to infantry and armor/tracked vehicle positions as long as fields of fire for the systems are maintained. Deliberate protective construction is always done when systems are employed to defend fixed installations, command posts, or logistics systems.

Unit Support Systems

Several types of combat support equipment and their positions are considered unit support systems. These systems include communications and power generation equipment, field trains, forward supply points, decontamination sites, and water points. Protection for each of these positions depends greatly on their battlefield location and on the mission's complexity. Protective measures for both equipment and organic and supported personnel are normally provided. Initial positioning of these systems takes full advantage of terrain masking, cover and concealment, and terrain use to enhance camouflage activities.

Major Logistics Systems and Rear Areas

Major logistics systems and rear area operations include rear area supply depots; petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) tank/bladder farms; rear area/depot level maintenance activities; and so on. Survivability planners are most concerned with denial of acquisition and targeting of these positions by the Threat. A combination of camouflage and deception activities is usually used to conceal major logistics system activities.

Actual survivability measures used to protect large activities depend on the type of threat anticipated and target analysis. The obvious threat to large facilities is conventional or nuclear/chemical artillery, or missile or air attack. These facilities need physical protection and built-in hardening. A less obvious threat is covert activities begun after a Threat insertion of deep-strike ground forces. Measures to counter this type of threat include some fighting and protective positions designed to defeat a ground force or direct fire threat.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias