The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW

Military

SECTION 5 - TYPES OF
OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS

INTRODUCTION

This section focuses on the two high-frequency offensive operations, movement to contact and attack, that the company team normally conducts as part of a larger element. (NOTE: The team may also conduct these operations independently.) The discussion examines the various roles the team may hold in these operations, which are performed at task force and higher levels. Included are a discussion of the operational considerations involved in hasty and deliberate attacks and a description of three forms of attack (raid, feint, and demonstration) that the company team may execute to accomplish specific tactical purposes. (NOTE: The company team can also conduct two other types of offensive operations, pursuit and exploitation, as part of a brigade or larger unit. For a detailed discussion of these operations, refer to FM 100-40 and FM 100-5.)

NOTE: Illustrations in this section show the company team's role in several task force operations. The situations depicted are examples only; they are not intended to prescribe any specific method that the team must use.

MOVEMENT TO CONTACT

Movement to contact is an offensive operation designed to gain or regain contact with the enemy. It ends when contact is made. The company team normally conducts movement to contact as part of a task force or larger element. Based on METT-TC, however, it can conduct the operation independently. As an example, the company team may conduct movement to contact prior to occupation of a screen line. (NOTE: Contact will result in initiation of another operation such as attack against a stationary or moving enemy force, defense, delay, or withdrawal. If no contact occurs, the company team may be directed to conduct consolidation on the objective.) This section examines the role of the company team in a task force-level movement to contact.

Task organization

A task force or larger unit conducting a movement to contact is task organized into four successive elements:

  • Reconnaissance force.
  • Advance guard.
  • Main body.
  • Reserve.
Reconnaissance
force

The primary attribute of this organization is the depth it creates in the unit formation. Depth is essential in providing early warning and reaction time for leaders at the platoon, company team, and task force levels; it enables them to conduct effective actions on contact that will preserve the freedom of maneuver of the parent unit. The company team normally conducts movement to contact as part of a task force operation. It may serve as the advance guard, as part of the main body, or as the task force reserve. The following paragraphs describe the functions and responsibilities of each element in the movement to contact.

Composition of the reconnaissance force is based on METT-TC factors. In many situations, it will consist of a maneuver element (the task force scout platoon or a tank or mechanized infantry platoon) along with CS attachments such as engineers and forward observers. This element may operate under the control of the task force headquarters, remaining far enough ahead to provide early warning to the advance guard. In some circumstances, the reconnaissance force may be attached to the advance guard. In either case, the reconnaissance force must cover the width of the task force sector and focus on finding enemy maneuver elements.

Advance guard

The advance guard performs forward reconnaissance and security with, or in addition to, the task force security force. When the company team serves as the advance guard, as shown in Figure 3-14, its responsibilities include the following:

  • Provide security and early warning for the main body and facilitate its uninterrupted advance.
  • Conduct reconnaissance to locate enemy forces along the task force axis of advance.
  • Conduct actions on contact to retain freedom of maneuver for the task force.
  • Call for indirect fires to impede or harass the enemy.
  • Destroy enemy reconnaissance elements.
  • Find, fix, defeat, destroy, or contain enemy security forces to retain freedom of maneuver for the task force.
  • Bypass and report obstacles or act as the task force support or breach force during breaching operations.

Task organization of the advance guard is based on METT-TC factors. Engineers or additional tank or mechanized infantry platoons may be attached to or follow the advance guard. The mortar platoon or a mortar section may also support the advance guard.

Figure 3-14. Example of a company team serving as task force advance guard when contact
is not likely (with scout platoon as the task force reconnaissance force).

Main body

The company team may operate as part of the main body, which moves behind the advance guard. (NOTE: The distance between the advance guard and the main body is based on METT-TC factors.) Tasks the team may perform within the main body include the following:

  • Provide flank security by positioning a platoon on the flank of the task force formation and establishing either a flank screen or a flank guard. Figure 3-15 illustrates this type of company team deployment. The platoon must be far enough away to provide the task force with early warning and maneuver space, but close enough to remain responsive to the company team once it gains contact with the enemy main body. Depending on terrain, this may require a separation of one terrain feature or, in flat terrain, 3 to 4 kilometers. This is a protective mission; it is executed by aggressively acquiring and defeating enemy reconnaissance and/or security elements that threaten the flank of the main body. Refer to Chapter 5 of this manual for a detailed discussion of flank screens and flank guards.
  • Find, fix, defeat, destroy, or contain the enemy's first-echelon forces, which may be the AGMB or first-echelon MRB(s), to retain freedom of maneuver for the remainder of the brigade combat team.
  • Execute a COA (such as a tactical task) to defeat or destroy a designated enemy main body element.

Figure 3-15. Example of two company teams moving as part of the task force main body, with
platoons deployed for a flank guard (planned BPs for flank guard elements are also shown).

Reserve

The task force commander normally designates a portion of the main body as the reserve. When the unit makes contact with the enemy, the reserve provides the commander with the flexibility he needs to react to unforeseen circumstances.

Completion of the
movement to contact

Movement to contact continues until an element of the task force makes contact with an enemy force. At that point, which marks completion of movement to contact, the task force initiates actions on contact and executes follow-on tactical tasks to defeat the enemy. Successful completion of the operation demands the execution of well-rehearsed schemes of maneuver to defeat specific enemy elements (such as the FSE and main body). In turn, these schemes of maneuver are based on the actions on contact, conducted at the appropriate level with the primary function of maintaining the freedom of maneuver of the parent unit.

When it serves as the advance guard, the company team normally has the responsibility for finding, fixing, and containing or destroying the enemy's FSE. The advance guard normally will be task organized with CS assets (mortars, engineers, and ADA) to assist it in accomplishing its mission.

As part of the task force main body, the company team moves to gain contact with the enemy main body based on reports from the reconnaissance force and advance guard. Once contact is made, elements of the main body (at platoon, company team, and task force levels) conduct actions on contact and execute tactical tasks to defeat the enemy main body.

ATTACK

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 company team can attack independently or as part of a task force or larger element. There are several forms of the attack, including search and attack, spoiling attack, counterattack, raid, feint, and demonstration. Any of these forms can be executed as either a hasty attack or a deliberate attack.

Hasty attack and
deliberate attack

The two basic types of attack are the hasty attack and the deliberate attack. The primary difference between them is the extent of planning and preparation conducted by the attacking force.

Hasty attack

The commander may conduct a hasty attack during 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. Because its primary purpose is to maintain momentum or take advantage of the enemy situation, the hasty attack is normally conducted only with the resources that are immediately available. 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 should maximize use of standard formations and well-rehearsed, thoroughly understood battle drills and SOPs.

The hasty attack is often the preferred option during continuous operations. It allows the commander 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.

Task organization. The hasty attack is conducted using the principles of fire and movement. The controlling headquarters normally designates a base of fire element and a maneuver force.

Conduct of the hasty attack. The company team first must conduct actions on contact, allowing the commander to gather the information he needs to make an informed decision. The term "hasty" refers to limits on planning and preparation time, not to any acceleration in the conduct of actions on contact. Because the intelligence picture is vague, the commander will normally need more time, not less, during this process to gain adequate information about the enemy force.

Execution begins with establishment of a base of fire, which then suppresses the enemy force The maneuver element 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:

  • Use of internal base of fire and bounding elements.
  • Use of covered and concealed routes.
  • Use of indirect fires to suppress or obscure the enemy or to screen friendly movement.
  • Execution of bold maneuver that initially takes the maneuver force out of enemy direct fire range.

Once the maneuver element has gained the positional advantage, it can execute a tactical task (such as an attack by fire or assault) to destroy the remaining enemy. Figures 3-16 and 3-17 illustrate a company team and task force conducting hasty attacks following movement to contact.

Deliberate Attack

The deliberate attack is a fully synchronized operation that employs every available asset against the enemy defense. It is characterized by a high volume of planned fires, use of major supporting attacks, forward positioning of resources needed to maintain momentum, and operations throughout the depth of enemy positions. Deliberate attacks follow a preparatory period that includes planning, reconnaissance, coordination, positioning of follow-on forces and reserves, preparation of troops and equipment, rehearsals, and operational refinement. The factors of METT-TC will dictate how thoroughly these activities are accomplished.

The commander 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, he must consider the advantages that may be gained by both friendly and enemy forces. Thorough preparation will allow the attacking force to stage a fully integrated attack. Likewise, however, the enemy will have more time to prepare his defensive positions and integrate fires and obstacles.

Task organization. The task force commander will normally task organize the unit into support and assault forces for conduct of a deliberate attack. He will also designate a breach force if the task force must conduct a breach as part of the attack. Figures 3-24 and 3-25 (respectively) illustrate an example of a task force deliberate attack, with company teams serving as the support, breach, and assault forces. Specific duties of these elements are covered in the discussion of company team operations and tactical tasks as follows:

Figure 3-16. Example of movement to contact with the AGC and enemy FSE both conducting
maneuver to facilitate maneuver of the task force main body and enemy AGMB.

Figure 3-17. Example of movement to contact with the task force main body and
enemy AGMB both conducting hasty attacks.

Conduct of the deliberate attack. The task force deliberate attack is normally broken into the phases outlined in the following discussion.

Attack in zone. The attacking task force advances to within assault distance of the enemy position under supporting fires and using a combination of traveling, traveling overwatch, and/or bounding overwatch movement techniques. Company teams advance to successive positions using available cover and concealment. The task force commander may designate support by fire positions to protect friendly forces with suppressive direct fires. As the task force maneuvers in zone, it employs lethal and nonlethal fires to suppress, neutralize, and obscure the enemy positions.

Actions at the PLD. The PLD is normally a phase line or checkpoint where elements of the attacking task force transition to secure movement techniques in preparation for contact with the enemy. Company teams may maneuver from the PLD to designated support by fire positions, assault positions, or breach or bypass sites. The PLD may be collocated with the assault position.

Obstacle breaching. In selecting the scheme of maneuver, the task force commander normally tries to avoid COAs that will require breaching of enemy obstacles. Because all forces construct defensive obstacles around their positions, however, the attacking unit must be prepared to conduct a breach. In a task force deliberate attack, the company team may be tasked as the breach force; it may conduct breaches with its organic countermine equipment or with attached engineer assets. As an alternative, the company team may be designated as the support force, with responsibility for conducting support by fire to protect the breach force. In its other role, as the assault force, the company team gains access to the objective area by maneuvering through the breach; it then conducts its assault against the enemy.

Actions on the objective. The final assault is characterized by the combined effects of overwhelming combat power and suppressive fires and by the use of maneuver to gain positional advantage over the defending enemy. Suppressive 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 enemy elements. Other measures the task force may use to set the conditions for the final assault include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Employment of artillery, mortar, and/or direct fires from support by fire positions to destroy enemy forces on the objective and create favorable force ratios.
  • Use of feints or demonstrations. (NOTE: Refer to the discussion of these forms of attack later in this section.) These measures can achieve the following purposes:
  • - Fix the enemy reserve or force its commitment to another area of the battlefield.

    - Prevent the repositioning of adjacent enemy units that could influence the outcome of the battle.

  • Use of obscuring smoke to isolate enemy forces on the objective.

Once the conditions are set, the assault forces maneuver to close with and destroy the enemy. Other task force elements continue to provide support as necessary throughout the assault.

Forms of attack

Attacks can have different forms based on their purposes. As outlined in FM 100-40, the forms of attack are search and attack, spoiling attack, counterattack, raid, feint, and demonstration. A search and attack operation is normally executed by light forces. A spoiling attack is similar to other attack forms at the company team level except that it is executed from a defensive posture. A counterattack is also executed from a defensive posture; refer to the discussion in Chapter 4 of this manual.

The commander's intent and the factors of METT-TC determine which form(s) of attack may be used in a specific situation. Each form can be conducted as either a hasty or deliberate attack; refer to the previous discussion of these terms covering the characteristics of the attack. The following paragraphs examine the role of the company team in raids, feints, and demonstrations.

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 friendly lines upon the completion of the assigned mission. It is not intended to hold territory.

Company team role. The company team conducts raids as part of a larger force to accomplish a number of missions, including the following:

  • Capture prisoners.
  • Capture or destroy specific command and control locations.
  • Destroy logistical areas.
  • Obtain information concerning enemy locations, dispositions, strength, intentions, or methods of operation.
  • Confuse the enemy or disrupt his plans.

Task organization. Task organization of a raiding force is based on the purpose of the operation. It normally consists of the following elements:

  • Support force (with the task of support by fire).
  • Maneuver force (with the task of attack by fire or assault).
  • Breach force (if required).

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, normally very specific in nature, is usually assigned to orient the raiding unit. In the withdrawal phase, the attacking force normally takes a route or axis different from that used to conduct the raid itself.

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, is usually apparent only to the controlling headquarters; for the element actually conducting the feint, such as a company team or task force, execution is just as rapid and as violent as in a full-scale attack.

Company team role. The company team normally participates in a feint as part of a larger element. Among the planning considerations that the team commander must keep in mind are the following:

  • The higher commander's intent regarding force preservation.
  • Disengagement criteria and plans.
  • Assignment of limited depth and attainable objectives.
  • Clear follow-on orders to ensure that the feinting force is prepared to exploit the success of the main attack if necessary.

Making feints believable. Feints will be successful only if the enemy believes that a full-scale attack operation is under way. To be believable, they must be conducted with the same violence and the same level of precision as any 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), 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:

  • When they reinforce the enemy's expectations.
  • When the attack appears to present a definite threat to the enemy.
  • When the enemy has a large reserve that he has consistently committed early in the battle.
  • When the attacker has several feasible COAs, any of which the enemy could mistake for the main effort.

Demonstration

The demonstration is an attack whose purpose is to deceive the enemy about the location of the main attack. This purpose is similar to that of a feint, but the friendly force does not make contact with the enemy. For example, the company team's role might entail establishing an attack by fire position beyond the enemy's direct fire engagement range; the purpose would be to cause the enemy to commit a specific element simply by virtue of the positioning of the demonstration force. In preparing to participate in a demonstration as part of a larger force, the company team commander should keep in mind these planning considerations:

  • The limit of advance must be carefully planned so the enemy can "see" 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.
  • The demonstration force must make contingency plans so it can respond effectively to enemy direct or indirect fires, avoiding decisive engagement.
  • Clear, specific follow-on orders must be issued to ensure that the demonstration force is prepared, if necessary, to exploit the success of the main attack.

SECTION 6 - OFFENSIVE TACTICAL TASKS

INTRODUCTION

Tactical tasks are specific activities that are performed by units as they conduct tactical operations and/or maneuver. At the company team level, these tasks are the war-fighting actions the team may be called upon to perform in battle. This section provides discussion and examples of eight high-frequency offensive tactical tasks:

  • Advance in contact.
  • Attack by fire.
  • Support by fire.
  • Follow and support.
  • Bypass.
  • Clearance in restricted terrain.
  • Assault.
  • Ambush.

NOTE: The situations used in this section to describe the company team's role in the conduct of tactical tasks are examples only. They will not be applicable in every tactical operation, nor are they intended to prescribe any specific method or technique that the team must use in achieving the purpose of the operation. Ultimately, it is up to the commander or leader on the ground to apply the principles discussed here, along with his knowledge of the situation (including his unit's capabilities, the enemy he is fighting, and the ground on which the battle is taking place), in developing the most effective tactical solution.

ADVANCE IN CONTACT

Advance in contact is a tactical task that occurs after enemy contact is made, actions on contact are conducted, and the company team commander decides to move forward in contact. In most situations, it is conducted to gain a position of advantage over the identified enemy force. At the position of advantage, the company team may transition to another tactical task, such as attack by fire, support by fire or assault. Because it has the positional advantage, however, the company team may already have forced the enemy to withdraw or may have destroyed him in the conduct of its maneuver. Advance in contact combines fire and movement by platoons and sections, as well as by infantry squads and individual vehicles. For examples of the company team advancing in contact, refer to Figures 3-9 through 3-13.

Position of advantage

A position of advantage is simply a location from which the enemy is vulnerable and/or from which the company team can effectively execute its tactical task. Examples of positional advantage include the following:

  • A covered breach site upon which the enemy cannot mass fires.
  • A short intervisibility line with a protected flank from which the company team can suppress the enemy.
  • A covered route (such as a small trail, wood line, wadi, or low ground) that allows the company team to bypass an enemy fire sack.
  • A small depression that provides a covered dismount point and access to covered and concealed routes to the enemy position.
  • A defilade fighting position from which a tank, BFV, or Javelin gunner can acquire and destroy key enemy positions and vehicles.

Positions of advantage may be very subtle; they may not be easy to identify during the planning process. An example of this is a planned support by fire position. The commander can make an estimate of where this position should be based on a line-of-sight analysis and his analysis of friendly and enemy weapons ranges; however, the position from which the company team can actually execute support by fire may be entirely different because the enemy has repositioned or because the selected position does not afford adequate fields of fire. In this example, the company team must identify a new position during actions on contact; it then must advance in contact and take the actions necessary to seize the position. Identification of the ground that will provide a marked advantage is critical to the success of the company team. The commander's intent should guide platoon leaders, vehicle commanders, and infantry squad leaders in identifying positions of advantage. The intent should additionally empower them to take the initiative to seize these positions as necessary and report them to the commander.

Execution

While advancing in contact, the company team employs the procedures and considerations discussed in the maneuver section of this chapter. The following principles of maneuver apply:

  • Employ a base of fire to suppress known and suspected enemy positions, allowing other elements within the company team to conduct mounted or dismounted movement and preventing the enemy from repositioning.
  • Maintain all-around security for both base of fire and bounding elements. Flank security is especially critical for bounding elements.
  • Take full advantage of available cover and concealment.
  • Use correct elements to conduct bounds based on the terrain and enemy.
  • Use indirect fires to suppress or obscure the enemy or to screen friendly movement.

Open terrain that affords a sufficient view of both friendly and enemy elements may allow the commander to conduct the advance in contact as a more centrally controlled operation. He may establish elements as a base of fire. He may also be able to set other battlefield conditions; for example, he can use suppressive indirect fires or obscuring smoke to allow the movement of other platoons.

In more restrictive terrain, the advance in contact operation may be more decentralized. Platoons may move forward by bounding (either by section or within sections), or they may dismount infantry squads or tank loaders to clear dead space prior to the advance of platoon vehicles. The decentralized nature of the operation, however, must detract neither from the tempo of the operation nor from the commander's visualization of the situation; accurate, timely FRAGOs and concise reporting are key factors in preventing these potential pitfalls. As in all operations, commanders and leaders must maintain the critical balance of security and tempo. Battlefield opportunities are fleeting; if the enemy is allowed to reposition, the advantage that a piece of terrain may have provided to the company team could be lost.

ATTACK BY FIRE

Attack by fire focuses on the employment of fires at a distance to accomplish its purpose of destroying or attritting a maneuvering enemy force. It can also be employed to fix a defending force, preventing it from repositioning. The attacking force employs long-range fires from dominating terrain or uses flanking fires; it can also take advantage of the standoff range of the unit's weapon systems.

This task is most commonly conducted when the mission or tactical situation does not dictate or support occupation of the objective. In the offense, it is usually executed by supporting elements; during defensive operations, it is often a counterattack option for the reserve force.

Planning

When the company team is tasked as the attack by fire force, the commander should obtain the most current intelligence update on the enemy and apply his analysis to the information. He should take the following actions in planning and preparing for the attack by fire operation:

  • Conduct line-of-sight analysis to identify the most advantageous locations for attack by fire positions.
  • Conduct direct and indirect fire planning and integration.
  • Determine triggers for lifting or shifting direct and indirect fires.
  • Plan and rehearse actions on contact, as well as maneuver to attack by fire positions.

Execution

The operation begins with the establishment of positions from which the blocking force fixes the enemy while the attack by fire force maneuvers to its position. Both elements have a part in security for the operation. The attack force can provide its own security by using the principles of maneuver and/or by employing screening or obscuring smoke. The blocking force helps to protect the attack force by establishing a base of fire.

Several other considerations may affect execution of an attack by fire. The company team may have to conduct an attack against enemy security forces to seize the ground from which it will execute the attack by fire. The initial attack by fire position may afford inadequate security or may not allow the team to achieve its task or purpose; this could force the team to reposition to maintain the desired weapons effects on the enemy force. In addition, because the attack by fire may be conducted well beyond the direct fire range of the blocking force, it may not be possible to destroy the targeted enemy force from initial positions. The company team may at first be able only to fix or attrit the enemy at extended ranges; additional maneuver would then be required to close with the enemy force to complete its destruction.

Throughout the attack by fire operation, which is illustrated in Figure 3-18, the company team should adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Employ infantry squads whenever possible to assist mounted elements. Infantry support functions may include the following:
  • - Secure positions prior to occupation by mounted elements.

    - Augment mounted antitank fires with Javelin fires.

    - Provide local security for the attack by fire force.

  • Maintain communications between blocking and maneuver forces.
  • Maintain 360-degree security.
  • Execute timely, decisive actions on contact.
  • Use maneuver to move to and occupy attack by fire positions.
  • Destroy enemy security elements protecting the targeted force.
  • Employ effective fires to attrit, fix, defeat, or destroy the enemy force.
  • Use repositioning and/or maneuver to maintain flexibility, enhance survivability, and maintain desired weapons effects on the enemy.

Figure 3-18. Example of a company team conducting an attack by fire (in conjunction
with another company team in a blocking position).

 

Chapter 3 (continued)

 



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list