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This chapter discusses how Army divisions defeat an attacking enemy through defense. Without a compelling reason to defend, however, Army divisions continue the attack. The defense is a temporary state that permits the division to survive an enemy attack, halt the enemy, and create conditions for offensive operations.

As part of a corps or joint force, divisions perform multiple operations. They could be required to simultaneously attack, defend, or delay as part of the higher organization's security, main battle force, or reserve force. Defensive operations are normally conducted with the immediate purpose of causing an enemy attack to fail. A force may also defend because it is unable to continue the attack. Division defensive operations may also achieve one or more of the following: gain time, concentrate forces elsewhere, wear down enemy forces before offensive operations, or retain tactical, strategic, or political objectives.


The division conducts simultaneous operations in the defense to eliminate the enemy's will to fight, to defeat his capability to fight, and to protect friendly forces. Defensive operations prevent the enemy from gaining momentum in his attacks and eliminate his freedom of maneuver. Simultaneity and precision fires set the conditions for decisive defensive battles.

Through modern technologies, the division commander can compress and control the battlefield. Target acquisition improvements help him to predict enemy intentions and apply the division's combat power to quickly defeat an enemy at the time and place he chooses. Enhanced acquisition and information, combined with technological advancements such as longer-range delivery and Army and joint precision fires, allow the commander to mass the effects of his combat power throughout the battlefield.

The division commander's concept for simultaneous operations may include-

  • Electronic warfare and cannon fires to blind or destroy the enemy's forward reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities.

  • Rocket and missile fires to destroy enemy command, control, communications, and intelligence (C31) facilities, which are located and continuously tracked with intelligence assets.

  • Electronic warfare and indirect fire systems (Army and joint) to fire on enemy C31 facilities and deny the enemy commander the means to effectively recover, synchronize, and concentrate his combat power.

  • Attack helicopter battalions to destroy selected enemy units throughout the enemy's depth.

  • Planned exploitation to strike at the enemy's weaknesses.


There are two general forms of defensive operations-mobile defense and area defense. The commander articulates terms for the form of defense


within his concept of operation. Staffs must be in consonance with the commander as they develop the scheme of maneuver, specifically paragraph three, execution. They must also ensure that subordinate unit missions and tasks support the commander' s intent and the scheme of maneuver.

Mobile Defense

The mobile defense orients on the destruction of the enemy force. Generally, the division commander resorts to a mobile defense when-

  • Friendly forces are insufficient to adequately defend the AO.

  • He possesses sufficient mobile forces to create a striking force.

  • The defense orients on the destruction of the enemy force versus the retention of terrain.

The mobile defense combines fire and maneuver, offense, defense, and delay to defeat the enemy attack and destroy the enemy force. The commander may "shape" the battlefield through a fixing force using strongpoints, delays, or defenses in sector. Such actions

deny terrain to the enemy in one area while creating an illusion of success in another area. This may entice the enemy to attack in a direction of the commander's choosing.

In a mobile defense, the mobility of the striking force is equal to or greater than that of the attacker. Minimum force is committed to the fixing force; maximum combat power is given to the striking force making the decisive attack. The commander's visualization of the battlefield includes a decisive point-the place he sees as the most advantageous to allow the enemy to proceed in order for the striking force to destroy the force. The enemy's initiative must create a vulnerability, such as exposing a flank to the striking force. The striking force engages and destroys the enemy as he is trying to overcome that part of the force with minimum defenses.

The main effort in the mobile defense is the striking force. Other considerations might include the forward displacement of fire support assets when the striking force attacks, the ability of the defending force to provide fire support to the striking force to mass fires, and the fact that the targets of the striking force may be beyond artillery range.

Although the mobile defense normally orients on destroying the enemy force, it may also keep the enemy from achieving his objectives. Further, it may be used as a "shield of protection" to strengthen the entire defense or to buy time for the defending forces.

Figure 5-1. Mobile defense

Figure 5-2. Area defense

Since the striking force is key to the commander's scheme of maneuver, the mobile defense may fail without its commitment. It is not a reserve since it is deployed on a specific mission and is not available for commitment elsewhere. The mobile defense normally has a reserve independent from the striking force.

The echelon that executes the mobile defense retains command of the striking force. A division may be used as a corps striking force or it may task-organize its own striking force within its AO. The division staff must synchronize the activities in time and space to ensure the striking force arrives at the right time and place with the right force.

The commander conducting a mobile defense may commit his reserve to assist the defending units in shaping the battlefield. When committed, the reservenormally becomes the main effort until the striking force is committed. At this time, the main effort reverts to the striking force, its only mission being to deliver the decisive blow to the enemy force.

Accepting risk is inherent in a mobile defense because the division retains the bulk of its combat power in the striking force. Risks to the division are twofold. First, the forces defending possess only sufficient combat power to

shape the penetration, not defeat the enemy. The commander determines what unfavorable force ratio he will accept in the defending or delaying sector (prior to commitment of the striking force). Second, the enemy may not see the battlefield as planned. He may not be lured or maneuvered into the defending commander's intended area, which may preclude use of the striking force. Both situations require contingency plans. Figure 5-1 shows mobile defense.

Area Defense

The area defense focuses on denying the enemy access to designated terrain or facilities for a specified time, rather than on destroying the enemy. The division normally conducts an area defense in depth. (See Figure 5-2.) However, where ground cannot be easily surrendered or when enemy forces are weak and disorganized, the commander may use a forward defense, in which there is little depth. A perimeter defense is another type of area defense. In a perimeter defense, a commander defends in all directions and maintains the integrity of his area.

The area defense is normally organized around static defensive positions in depth, seeking to destroy the enemy forces with interlocking fires. The division commander normally positions his forces in sectors or battalion

battle positions on suitable terrain with a specific orientation of fires. He uses local counterattacks against enemy units penetrating between defensive positions.

Occasionally, the commander may direct the construction of a strongpoint (company, battalion, or brigade in size). A strongpoint is a key point in a defensive position that is usually heavily armed and strongly fortified, around which other positions are grouped for protection.

Subordinate commanders usually exercise more autonomy in the area defense than in the mobile defense. They fight engagements within their sectors while the division commander retains a reserve to commit where needed.


All defenses use terrain, depth, and mutual supporting fires as force multipliers. Proper use of terrain helps mass combat power at decisive points, influences the tempo of enemy attacks, and provides cover and concealment to the defender. Depth provides operational flexibility and dispersion. It also reduces the defender's risk. Mutual support integrates the fires and maneuver of the total force and focuses combat power at decisive points to defeat enemy forces.

Division defensive battles are generally organized into three interrelated but equally important operations. These are-

  • Deep operations.

  • Close operations, consisting of reconnaissance and security actions, main effort, and reserve actions.

  • Rear operations.

Their simultaneous execution, as well as actions to secure our forces, defeats attacking enemy forces.

Deep Operations

Deep operations in the division defense destroy, delay, disrupt, or divert critical enemy elements. Deep attacks strike at the enemy's critical functional nodes, such as command posts, artillery positions, logistics sites, troop concentrations, and air defenses. They create windows of

opportunity for friendly commanders. Deep operations complement close and rear operations. All divisions execute deep attacks as part of their defensive battle.

To ensure unity of effort, the division's deep operations complement the corps' or joint force's deep attacks. The division commander and his higher commander agree on targeting responsibilities during the deep fight. Normally, the corps commander assigns the division specific deep targets. A forward boundary or phase line delineates the area of responsibility between the corps or joint force and the division.

Deep operations begin well before the enemy closes into engagement areas. Division areas of interest and operations extend far enough forward of the FLOT to give the commander time to identify approaching enemy forces, assess his options, and target and execute deep attacks accordingly.

Destruction and defeat of enemy forces deep, though preferable, are difficult to achieve because destruction normally requires massive resources of forces and fires. Disruption of enemy movements and timings through the destruction of key assets may be the only element achievable. Disruption normally reduces the enemy's correlation of forces and can be accomplished through a combination of Al, deception, PSYOP, EW, artillery fires, aviation attacks, and ground maneuver.

In preparing for and conducting deep operations, the division commander makes specific demands on organic and supporting intelligence systems to focus the intelligence collection effort. As enemy formations approach, the commander monitors their movement within his area of interest and identifies the enemy's main effort. As the enemy enters his AO, the division commander attacks high-payoff targets, disrupting and delaying the enemy, as he modifies his defensive plan.

The DOCC plans and synchronizes the division's deep operations. Through the division's internal targeting process, high-payoff targets that division assets cannot hit are passed on to the corps or joint targeting board. The means available for conducting deep operations may be limited. The DOCC ensures that deep fires and deep aerial maneuver are used efficiently to obtain effects that contribute directly to the overall defense.

Air-delivered weapons, air maneuver units, electronic warfare, and field artillery are the division's weapons for deep operations. Their effective employment depends on careful planning, coordination, and IPB before the battle begins. Additionally, they require a responsive, survivable targeting process once operations are underway. Further discussions of division deep operations are in Chapter 2 of this manual and in FM 71-100-1 and FM 71-100-2.

Close Operations

Division close operations include reconnaissance, security, main battle area actions, and employment of the reserve force.


Reconnaissance is a vital and continuous division operation. Initially, through reconnaissance, divisions acquire knowledge about the terrain and gain and maintain contact with the enemy. Divisions use various units and technical assets to conduct reconnaissance throughout the division's AO.

The division tracks and assesses the situation as the enemy approaches through the deep, and into the close, operations area. The division's technical and aerial reconnaissance assets maintain contact with and provide continuous reports on the enemy's situation. Reconnaissance missions include area, zone, and route. Reconnaissance should not be confused with security operations. Reconnaissance orients primarily on the enemy to provide intelligence for current and future operations. Reconnaissance is detailed in Appendix A.


Security operations protect friendly forces. Security operations include screen, guard, cover, and area security missions. The division conducts security operations to provide maneuver space and reaction time to protect the main body. Security operations orient on the forces (or facilities) they secure. Security actions are detailed in Appendix A.

Main Battle Area Actions

Covering Force. The commander may use a covering force for all-weather security of MBA forces. He establishes a covering force depth allowing for sufficient room to maneuver and to force the enemy to reposition his artillery and air defense forces prior to his attack into the MBA. Enemy repositioning of artillery and air defense artillery indicates his main effort, makes them vulnerable to deep attacks, and limits the effectiveness of his massed artillery fires.

The covering force fight in the security force area is not a preliminary operation before the main battle fight. It is directly tied to the future fight in the MBA as part of one battle, one scheme of maneuver. The division must understand how the covering force can affect the MBA fight. For example, the covering force might inflict too much enemy attrition, causing the enemy to stop and defend well forward of the MBA. This action could derail a corps plan that called for luring the major enemy force into the corps MBA and destroying it in accordance with the corps commander's intent.

In the absence of corps covering force units, the division normally assigns a maneuver brigade to conduct the covering force battle. A division-controlled covering force allows the division to seize the initiative from an attacking enemy force. The size and composition of the covering force depend on its mission, the enemy, the terrain, and available forces. These factors take on added significance and complexity, depending on the enemy's chosen course of action, the depth and width of the sector available for the covering force fight, and the time required for MBA defenders to prepare for action. A covering force is normally a combined arms force that one commander commands and controls.

The division's initial plan includes contingencies for unexpected covering force battle results that will directly impact on the MBA fight. A situation may develop that requires the division commander to establish a strong covering force to form the first part of his defense in depth. The commander decides that his covering force mission is to destroy and disrupt leading enemy formations, causing the commitment of follow-on units, and forcing the repositioning of enemy artillery and air defense systems. This will cause the enemy to disclose his main effort. While the covering force fights the enemy's lead elements, the division conducts deep operations against follow-on forces and critical enemy nodes.

Brigade commanders operating as covering force commanders may use the same tactics and control measures that the MBA brigade commanders use. Brigades tasked as the division's reserve should not be used in covering force operations and then revert to the reserve force on completion of the covering force operations. The covering force may be unable to reorganize fast enough to assume critical reserve missions. Having the MBA brigade control battalion- or task force-sized covering forces is not a preferred technique because MBA commanders must divide their attention between the security area and MBA preparation. This diffuses the picture of the covering force battle, limits lateral maneuver in the security area, and makes it harder for the division to locate the enemy main effort.

Generally, in division covering force operations, one DS artillery battalion supports one maneuver battalion. If artillery is insufficient, one or more corps or division GS or general support reinforcing artillery battalions may also provide fires to the covering force.

Air defense artillery is positioned in support of the covering force. While HIMAD units do not normally support the covering force, they may be able to range far enough forward from the MBA to provide some general support. Generally, forward area air defense (FAAD) units are initially positioned to support critical CP, aviation, and CSS assembly areas in the security area and to assist in covering the passage of lines as covering forces begin to pass into the MBA. FAAD units in the security force area engage enemy attack helicopters, high-performance aircraft, and enemy remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs). Man-portable AD teams are task-organized and should habitually associate with supported units.

Depending on the priority of effort, division engineers locate well forward in the security area to emplace obstacles, prepare vehicle fighting positions, and provide for the mobility of the covering force. Obstacles are more important to the covering force operations when the enemy has numerical advantage in artillery and maneuver strength. The division commander must make a key decision involving priority of engineer effort-security force area versus main battle area. Engineer units mounted in armored vehicles are required for covering force operations; other less-protected engineer units can

complete the terrain reinforcement of the security area.

The MI battalion GSRs and remote sensor teams also operate in the covering force, as do collection and jamming assets from the division MI battalion and corps MI brigade's tactical exploitation battalion. The division G3 and the security area commander coordinate their locations and inclusion into the covering force scheme of maneuver.

Electronic warfare operations are conducted to locate the enemy's main effort and to locate and destroy enemy jammers. Jamming operations against the enemy's electronic command and weapon control systems are in accordance with division commanders' established priorities. Corps EW assets augment the division EW capability in the security area to provide continuous EW operations while delaying rearward.

Because the covering force fight is short, only essential classes III and V and medical elements locate in the security force area (normally toward the rear). All CSS assets must be 100 percent mobile to function in the fluid arena. DISCOM maintenance collection points and BDA and repair teams are of limited value. Damaged equipment must be destroyed in place if it is not capable of quickly being recovered to the MBA. A covering force forward support battalion (FSB) normally locates temporarily in the MBA near passage points, lanes, and road networks that support the forward covering force. The CSS elements require extensive coordination with MBA ground commanders for multiple forward and rearward passage of lines necessary for security area sustainment and terrain management.

The G4 controls and coordinates the division's reorganization of the covering force based on priorities the G3 and the covering force commander establish. Planning for the covering force's reorganization precedes the battle. The division has neither the time nor the resources to conduct regeneration. The corps must assume this responsibility. Based on the covering force's follow-on mission and the division's or corps' ability to effect timely reconstitution, the division commander normally states to the covering force commander the losses acceptable in both personnel and weapon systems.

All nondivisional and divisional units not assigned to, but in support of the covering force battle and located within the

security area coordinate with the covering force commander. Coordination includes terrain management, security, movement, and synchronization of covering force operations.

Battle Handover. Main battle area brigades normally assume responsibility for the battle as enemy forces reach the FEBA. The headquarters establishing the covering force prescribes where covering force units will pass through and designates routes, the battle handover line (BHL), and contact points. The MBA commanders and the covering force commanders normally coordinate adjustments to the location of the line and other designated control measures and recommend changes to the higher commander. They also coordinate specific passage lanes and other details not contained in higher headquarters' overlay graphics. Generally, the boundaries of the covering force units coincide with those of the main battle area brigades, which simplifies battle handover coordination. The risk is, however, that the enemy will find the "seams" in the security area and exploit them through to the MBA.

Covering forces retain freedom of maneuver prior to passage of lines. The covering force passes through or around the MBA forces quickly to minimize the vulnerability of both to nuclear strikes or conventional fires. Moving around a friendly force rather than through it minimizes tactical vulnerability and confusion. The CS and CSS elements in the security area pass rearward early to preclude hampering combat element passage. The MBA units normally provide direct and indirect fire assets in the vicinity of the BHL, which is normally positioned forward of the FEBA. This allows direct fire systems to provide overwatching fires to cover the withdrawal of covering force units and to close lanes.

The division commander must consider the subsequent employment of division covering force units. Only in emergency situations are they attached to the forward committed brigades. They are most effectively employed after reorganization as the division reserve on commitment of the initial reserve force. Passing covering forces to the reserve may allow for reorganization but, at the same time, add considerable time before they are ready for commitment.

Combat Outposts. Combat outposts provide

commanders at various levels of command a technique to secure their forces in the defense. They are well suited for use in mountainous areas. Commanders can use combat outposts to provide substantial security for their forces when breaking up momentum of enemy attacks, or when disengaging from the enemy and a covering force is not available. The use of combat outposts differs somewhat from the traditional security missions of screen, guard, and cover. Combat outposts normally fight from well-prepared, well-dug-in, nonmobile positions. If directed, they accept a large amount of ground combat. They engage and destroy initial enemy forces with direct and indirect fires. Based on their need for extended early warning or time, commanders augment combat outposts with substantial fire support and CS forces to achieve desired results.

Commanders can establish a series or line of combat outposts which, in addition to securing their forces, may deceive the enemy on the location of the divisions' defensive positions. These outposts observe the FEBA and may cause the enemy to deploy early and reveal his main effort.

If a requirement exists for a combat outpost line, coordination and control are necessary else the enemy can easily bypass or flank individual outposts. Usually the division directs the trace of the line and brigades control teams within sectors. A brigade commander may pass control of outposts to the task forces, permitting teams to fight or withdraw as required to achieve the intended mission of these outposts. Further, if divisions do not require an outposts line, a brigade or battalion may establish one if the situation requires.

Main Effort. The overall defensive battle matures in the MBA. Division main battle and reserve forces normally fight the decisive fight. If the enemy is not defeated deep, the simultaneity of the deep battle and the MBA engagement ultimately defeats the force. The division allocates combat, CS, and CSS assets to its brigades and reserve for the MBA fight. Brigades fight engagements as part of the overall division battle. In the defense, the division normally designates one brigade as its main effort. That brigade fights the most critical engagement and is resourced accordingly. The division shifts and synchronizes combat power where necessary to reinforce its brigades. Units subordinate to the division organize their MBA defenses similar to the division; that is, they include reconnaissance, security, a main effort, and reserve forces.

Forces positioned in the MBA conduct area or mobile defenses. They control or repel enemy penetrations. Combat, CS, and CSS options for friendly and enemy forces become less numerous during MBA engagements. The division and brigades adjust their initial plans to the developed situation and commit themselves to decisive combat. Decisions in defense may be reached through a single, massive counterattack or in a series of local actions, depending on the capabilities of the opposing commanders. The destruction of the attacker is always sought, but under some economy of force circumstances, simply stopping the enemy or limiting his advance can be success in the defense.

The MBA brigades direct and control close operations using direct and indirect fires and maneuver against the assaulting enemy forces. The division directs operations involving forward brigades and the commitment of reserves. Concurrently, the division conducts deep operations and counterfire operations against enemy follow-on forces and critical functional nodes.

A brigade structures its defense around static, mutually supporting positions deployed in depth throughout the MBA. Holding out a large mobile reserve and committing fewer elements to the initial MBA defense enhance defense effectiveness. The primary function of committed elements in such a defense is to slow the attack and fight it throughout the area. Ground and or air units then strike exposed enemy forces and engage those that have penetrated the defended area. Additionally, these mobile reserves may be directed to conduct a spoiling attack.

Light forces can perform a variety of missions in the MBA. Their use may free up mechanized and armored forces for use elsewhere. Light infantry forces could conduct night infiltration attacks against key enemy targets; attack to secure rugged, restricted terrain that would deny the enemy the use of indirect approaches into friendly flanks and rear; and provide a rapidly deployable force to respond to opportunities on the battlefield. Light forces need an area large enough to conduct offensively oriented defensive operations. They exploit such techniques as air assaults, ambushes, armored hunter-killer team missions, and raids.

The defender cannot be strong everywhere and should not attempt to be; he takes risks. For example, he may

have to accept risk when moving forces from ground positions to reinforce the reserve in a decisive blow against the enemy rear or flank. Air and ground cavalry, attack helicopter units, airmobile infantry, and battalion task forces operating as economy of force over wider areas could cover less-threatened areas. Ground surveillance radars, remote sensors, and obstacles can also help cover such areas. Contingency plans are developed to counter enemy efforts in these risk areas.

Employment of Reserves

The reserve provides the division a means to regain the initiative through offensive actions. Early in his planning, the division commander decides on the size, composition, and mission of the reserve based on METT-T. Its primary purpose is to preserve the commander's flexibility of action. Secondary purposes are to-

  • Reinforce the defense of committed forces.

  • Block enemy forces that have penetrated the FEBA.

  • React to rear area threats.

  • Relieve depleted units and to provide for continuous operations.

  • Counterattack into the flanks of vulnerable enemy forces.

The division commander must balance capabilities against requirements, assign priorities, and take risks based on METT-T.

The division must develop force protection plans that mask the probable location of the reserve's commitment. Its commitment must be consistent with and integrated into the corps commander's scheme of maneuver and intent. The division considers time and distance factors associated with the reserve's initial positioning to trigger the decision to begin moving it toward specific objectives or enemy forces. The commander may not be able to wait until favorable conditions are created to commit the reserve. To accomplish its mission, he may have to take risks. Movement times or unexpected enemy actions could possibly affect the reserve force.

In difficult terrain lacking routes for movement, smaller reserve units may be positioned in the brigade areas to react quickly to the local battle. Lateral and forward high-speed

deployment routes should be available. In more open terrain, the armored division positions a brigade in reserve at considerable depth. Prior to the reserve's commitment, engineers are assigned mobility and countermobility tasks to support the reserve commander's multiple routes of movement. Control of engineers task-organized to support the reserve must pass to the reserve force in sufficient time to link up, resupply, reorganize, and rehearse to support the reserve mission.

With substantial reserves, the division commander can permit or direct subordinate commanders to commit all their forces. If he does not have sufficient reserves of his own, he may require his subordinates to obtain his permission prior to the employment of their reserves and he may specify their location.

Once the designated reserve force is committed, division and brigade commanders must reorganize or redesignate a reserve. Forces most easily designated are the TCF and the reserves of subordinate units, depending on their level of commitment. Artillery units earmarked to support reserves are positioned for short-notice support throughout the scheme of maneuver. Until the reserve is committed, the designated artillery supports the main battle, usually in a GS or general support reinforcement role.

Attack helicopters may be held initially in division reserve or temporarily designated as the reserve during the battle when other reserves have been committed. Because of their mobility and firepower, attack helicopters are the quickest and most effective means of stopping enemy tank penetrations. They can be given missions with or without other maneuver elements.

The division commander uses decision points throughout the sector to trigger early decisions on commitment of the reserve and other actions. Enemy arrival at decision points is tied to the time and space considerations needed for employment of the reserve. This information is graphically portrayed on the decision support template. The commander then determines which of his units will attack, where they will be positioned after the attack, and what interdiction or deep attack is needed to isolate the enemy. Success of the reserve depends on its timely commitment, mass,

surprise, speed, and boldness.

Attacking units seek to avoid enemy strength. The most effective attacks seize strong positions that permit the attacking force to deliver fire on the exposed enemy's flanks and rear. If the reserve force is to stay and defend against another enemy force, it must complete its tasks, reorganize, and gain good defensive positions before overwatching or before the following enemy forces can interfere.

A counterattack is normally done with a reserve or lightly committed forward element. The division's reserve counterattack plan normally includes the mission, a brief statement of the higher headquarters' assigned mission, and the intent of the higher headquarters; assumptions-the size and shape of an assumed penetration or enemy formation; the strength and composition of the enemy force; and the status of friendly forces in the MBA. Other factors include the capability to contain the enemy, deep battle assets available to support the attack, strength and responsiveness of the reserve at the time of the attack execution, and availability and capabilities of all munitions.

In some situations, the division or brigade commander may determine he cannot counterattack with a reasonable chance of success. He then uses his reserve to contain or delay the enemy to gain time for the use of the higher echelon's reserve. The reserve must have fire support available or be able to fire and maneuver to counterattack when an unexpected penetration occurs earlier than planned or at a different location.

Such local counterattacks must be launched during the temporary confusion and disorganization that occur when the attacking forces have entered the position. The attackers have not had time to reorganize and establish themselves and cannot maintain the operational tempo that allowed them to penetrate. Since this period is relatively short, counterattacks must be delivered judiciously and on the initiative of the local commander. With available assets, he must eject the enemy and restore conditions necessary to support the commander's concept and intent.

The reserve counterattack, when committed, becomes the division's main effort. The commander avoids piecemeal commitment of the reserve. He does not counterattack as an automatic reaction to an enemy penetration nor does he commit the reserve solely because an enemy force has reached a certain phase line or area. Although he plans for

counterattacks in the overall defensive planning, he realizes the enemy course of action will not correspond exactly to prepared attack plans. As the situation develops, the commander answers these basic questions:

  • Should we use fires or ground element of reserve?

  • Is an MBA counterattack feasible or should the reserve be employed to contain enemy forces?

  • When and where should the reserve counterattack be executed?

  • In an enemy penetration of the MBA, which portion of the enemy should be attacked and which should be blocked or contained?

Speed of a counterattack is essential to destroy isolated forces before they can be reinforced. Division counterattack plans and concepts are prepared to counter assumed enemy formations on multiple avenues of approach. Major factors involved in visualizing an assumed enemy formation are the size force the enemy can employ on the avenue of approach; the terrain; the capability of the forward-defending forces to control the enemy; and the responsiveness, strength, and composition of the reserve.

The division staff considers spoiling attacks to prevent, disrupt, or delay the enemy attack. Spoiling attacks are normally launched against enemy forces that are forming or assembling for an attack. Troops, fire support means, or a combination of the two can carry out spoiling attacks. They are usually conducted against targets of opportunity. The objective is to destroy enemy personnel and equipment, not to secure terrain and other physical objectives. However, all opportunities to regain the initiative should be exploited.

The division staff considers several factors when contemplating a spoiling attack. They must know the commander's guidance on the size of force to be used for the spoiling attack and his decision on acceptable risk. Spoiling attacks are not conducted if the loss or destruction of the force jeopardizes the future integrity of the defense. The staff must also ensure that deep operations are planned and support the spoiling attack. Deep operations may prove critical to the spoiling attack by drawing off or destroying enemy reinforcements and by masking the intent of the spoiling forces.

Commanders coordinate plans for counterattacks and spoiling attacks using the offensive techniques discussed in Chapter 4.

Rear Operations

The division plans and conducts rear operations to ensure freedom of maneuver, continuity of sustainment, and continuity of battle command. Rear operations include all activities conducted for the sustainment of deep, close, and rear operations. They comprise four interrelated functions:

  • Sustainment.

  • Movement.

  • Terrain management.

  • Security.

The division conducts rear operations within the division rear area (DRA). The DRA extends from the rear boundaries of forward brigades to the division's rear boundary. It contains many CS and CSS units, assorted munitions and delivery means, C2 headquarters, and uncommitted combat units. It may also contain joint facilities, such as air bases, host nation facilities, and population centers.

The division is responsible for securing the rear area from the forward brigades' rear boundary to the division rear boundary. Planning for combat operations in the rear should not unnecessarily divert combat power from the main effort. Division defensive planning must address the early detection and immediate destruction of threat forces attempting to operate in the division rear.

Additional emphasis on rear operations may be required based on the form of defense. The degree of risk accepted during a mobile defense is invariably passed to the rear commander as an increased threat to support forces. This may impact on their ability to continue operations at the anticipated level.

The basic mission of CSS units is to sustain the battle. Their sole purpose is to maintain and support division soldiers and their weapon systems before, during, and after operations. Tactical logistics functions are those actions that man, arm, fuel, fix, move, and sustain soldiers and their systems. (Sustaining division defensive operations is detailed in Appendix E.)

Rear operations focus on maintaining the capability to sustain the division's forces. Movement, security, and terrain management, as well as area damage control, are integrated with sustainment to provide the division synchronized rear area support.

Three levels of enemy activity guide the planning for rear operations. These levels focus on the friendly response required to defeat the enemy rather than on the size or type of enemy. Level I threats can be defeated by base or base cluster self-defense measures. Level II threats are beyond base or base cluster self-defense capabilities and can be defeated by response forces, normally consisting of MPs with supporting fires. Level III threats require the command decision to commit the TCF or a reserve force. Chapter 2 and Appendix E provide additional information on rear operations.


When attacking units cease their attack and must defend, they generally have two options. One is to commit forces and push forward to claim enough ground for a security and or covering force area (that is beyond the majority of enemy artillery). The second is to fall back to defensible terrain to establish a security area, establishing the FLOT generally along the attacking force's line of advance of final objectives. In both options, the FLOT is the forward edge of the security area. The FEBA is the forward edge of the main defensive area.

In the first option, the security area often lacks depth. Additionally, the enemy force will probably accurately template the friendly FEBA trace and engage with artillery. Unfortunately, these actions often result in the loss of additional personnel and equipment and the expenditure of more resources.

In many cases, the second option is better. Commanders pull back the bulk of their forces to defensible terrain and establish the MBA on ground the attacking force already owns rather than under the threat of enemy artillery. The forward edge of the security area (the FLOT) remains along the line of contact.

Commanders must remain mentally agile and anticipate a transition to the defense. They must not fixate on phase lines and other control measures.

Deliberate planning is a must in any transition. Deliberate planning allows commanders to set conditions for a transition which include maintaining contact, keeping the enemy off balance, and controlling tempo. Deliberate planning using METT-T and the operational plan will determine the depth of the security area and the defense.


The corps or JTF commander sets the stage for division and brigade planning. One of these commanders provides the division commander a mission, his intent, and a concept of operation. Likewise, the division commander provides his subordinate commanders a clear mission, intent, and the division's concept of operation. Coupled with decentralized command and control, these elements provide brigade and battalion commanders flexibility and agility to respond to rapid change to exploit opportunities on defensive battlefields.

Division, brigade, and battalion commanders organize their defensive plan based on the mission, the nature of the enemy force, the terrain and weather, the troops available, the time available for troop-leading procedures, and orders from their higher commander. They identify and war-game possible enemy reactions for inclusion in the plan. Contingency plans to the basic defensive plan enable the commanders and staff remain proactive and ready for possible forthcoming situations.

In the offense, commanders must remain mentally agile and anticipate a transition to the defense.

The key to successful division defensive operations is the integration and synchronization of all available combat assets to maximize combat power. To accomplish this synchronization, the division commander visualizes how and when combat, CS, and CSS assets are best applied to support his main effort as well as his other forces.


Prior to the battle, the division and brigade commanders require specific information about-

  • The composition, equipment, strengths, and weaknesses of the attacking enemy force.

  • The location, direction, and speed of enemy reconnaissance elements.

  • The location and activities of enemy units and reserves.

  • Enemy command, control, and communications facilities.

  • The location of enemy fire support and air defense Systems, with associated command and control nets.

The G3, G2, and MI battalion commander synchronize the efforts of the MI battalion and any attached intelligence assets with fire support, aviation, and maneuver to locate, jam, and destroy the enemy's electronic command and weapon control systems. Corps collection and jamming assets and MI battalion teams operate forward to support the division's intelligence requirements. MI battalion GSRs are normally attached to committed brigades. Airborne sensors operate further to the rear.

Electronic support means and target acquisition battery assets locate the enemy's field artillery headquarters. Locating enemy air defense weapon radars is also critical. Friendly fires and EW systems can neutralize these systems and allow attack helicopters and air support assets to operate in a safer environment.

The division G2 and supporting intelligence assets are aggressive in the access, acquisition, and dissemination of current intelligence. They provide the division and brigade commanders and staff with a common view of

the battlefield as well as timely combat information. They provide early and accurate intelligence assessments, information, and best estimates that will expedite decision cycles.

Intelligence for the mobile defense focuses on helping to shape the enemy's penetration. The intent is to confirm his main avenue of approach and locate his follow-on forces. The defending commander can then decide where he can arrange his forces in an economy of force role to defend, yet still shape, the battlefield. This allows him the time necessary to laterally shift his forces. The focus in the area defense is toward identifying enemy strengths and weaknesses to allocate sufficient combat power to defeat or destroy his advancing forces.



In the defense, the aviation brigade provides the division commander rapid maneuver and aerial fires. This brigade adds depth to the division's battlefield. The aviation brigade can engage targets deep to delay and destroy attacking enemy units. The aviation brigade also attacks critical targets and units to disrupt the enemy's scheme of maneuver, isolate committed elements, and facilitate defending ground units' seizure of the initiative. Aviation has both the agility and capability to find and exploit the seams, flanks, and rear of the attacking enemy force and often is employed as a combined arms team.

During defensive operations, the division aviation brigade may perform forward of FLOT operations. These operations require close coordination and detailed control measures with ground forces. Attack helicopter battalions are most effective when employed as part of an aviation brigade attack. This centralized approach capitalizes on the inherent firepower, speed, and agility of the aviation brigade to conduct offensive missions in support of an overall defensive plan.


The cavalry squadron is eyes and ears for the division. In the defense (as in the offense), it performs reconnaissance and security missions. The squadron finds the enemy, develops the situation, and continuously reports on the enemy's movements and actions. During security missions, the squadron may defend and accept decisive engagement to

provide the time and space required by the division commander. When the corps' cavalry regiment is used as a corps covering force, the division's squadron may conduct a flank guard or perform an advance guard role. Following security area operations, the squadron may become part of the division reserve or perform rear operations. (Security and reconnaissance missions are detailed in Appendix A.)

Fire Support

Field Artillery

The division commander allocates available fire support to defending brigades. He places at least one field artillery battalion in direct support of each committed maneuver brigade. In exceptional circumstances, field artillery battalions may also provide direct support to battalion task forces or economy of force units operating over wide frontages. The division commander weights the main effort with other organic, nonorganic, or joint fires. In both the area defense and mobile defense, fire support weights the main effort. Under certain circumstances, a field artillery brigade (from corps artillery) can be given a mission of direct support, or general support, to a maneuver brigade, or reinforcing or general support reinforcing to the brigade DS artillery battalion.

The division fire support plan and task organization must also provide for lethal and nonlethal deep fires, counterfire, and SEAD and support rear and deep operations. These fires are synchronized with other division assets, such as aviation, intelligence, and maneuver forces. The division artillery commander, the FSCOORD, plans and controls counterfire and SEAD operations. He is best positioned where he can see, sense, and anticipate the battle. The FSCOORD recommends to the division commander the artillery organization for combat of sup-porting FA brigades and battalions that gives the FSCOORD the flexibility to meet the division commander's guidance.

To use fire support effectively, division commanders must be able to fight not only with their organic fires, but also with joint fires. Joint fires increase the division commander's destructive force. Planners must be aware, however, of sister service capabilities and time

requirements in requesting strikes. This is imperative when integrating multiservice delivery systems in simultaneous attacks across the depth of the battlefield. (See applicable joint publications listed in references.)

Combat Air

The G3 air and the senior ALO ensure that joint air support is integrated and synchronized with the overall division defensive plan. The TACP must anticipate future air requirements to support the division's transition from the defense to the offense. (See Chapter 4.) While priorities may shift, air support of division defensive operations is identical to that required to support offensive operations. Combat aircraft are also effective counterfire weapon systems. The FSE and ALO coordinate and integrate these assets into all fire support operations at the division main CP. (Air support discussions are also in Chapters 1 and 3.)

Mobility and Survivability


The division engineer controls and establishes the priorities for both division and corps engineer units in response to the commander's defensive plan. (This is the engineer brigade commander in armored and mechanized divisions; the battalion commander in light infantry divisions.) The division engineer constantly monitors the tactical situation and anticipates future engineer support requirements to ensure that sufficient personnel, equipment, and materials are at the right place, at the right time. He positions himself where he can best see and influence engineer support to the division.

In the defense, major engineer efforts are directed toward preparing routes for the mobility of friendly forces (mobility), establishing obstacle zones and emplacing obstacles (countermobility), and preparing strongpoints and fighting positions (survivability). The priority of engineer effort may change as the division shifts its main effort from support to the MBA brigades to the mobility of the reserve.

In a mobile defense, engineer assets must resource both the striking force and the more static defending forces. Priority of effort for the striking force is to mobility and then countermobility operations. The priority of effort for the static forces is survivability and then countermobility. The senior commander establishes obstacle zones to turn and fix the

penetrating enemy force and still permit rapid attack by the striking force. Aerial-delivered mines are critical to completing the obstacle plan in shaping the battlefield in front of the attacking enemy force. The striking force may even conduct a hasty breach and attack through a short-duration minefield after the mines have disarmed.

Engineers should be task-organized with the reconnaissance elements in front of the striking force. Highly mobile engineer forces should be well forward and integrated into the leading maneuver formations of the striking force. Follow-on engineers conduct route improvement, replace AVLBs with bridges, and expand obstacle breaches. Engineers with flank units focus on countermobility to impede potential enemy counterattacks.

In all defenses, synchronization of mobility and countermobility requires specified obstacle zones and obstacle-restricted areas. This ensures emplaced obstacles do not interfere with, and are synchronized with, the division's overall defensive plan. At all echelons, maneuver commanders, fire supporters, and engineers work together to combine the combat multiplier effects of obstacles (friendly, enemy, and terrain) and to enhance friendly direct and indirect fires.

Air-delivered artillery and engineer-emplaced FASCAMs disrupt and fix enemy movement or sudden enemy penetrations so that counterattacking forces can engage them. Engineer actions must be coordinated among maneuver, CS, and CSS units to ensure a synchronized effort. The assistant division engineer (ADE) is a special staff officer within the division headquarters. The ADE is normally located at the division main CP where he coordinates and monitors engineer operations. For example, division and corps transportation assets must be synchronized with the division's countermobility and survivability effort to ensure the timely and uninterrupted flow of adequate obstacle and class V material.


Throughout the defensive planning process, the division commander plans for enemy use of NBC weapons and his division's employment of NBC defense units. The G3 and the division chemical officer analyze all plans, tactical units, and CSS units to determine their vulnerability to these

weapons. The division commander specifies the degree of risk he is willing to accept. The division chemical officer recommends changes to the defensive concept of operation if the concept involves unacceptable risks from enemy NBC weapons. Division NBC defensive operations are geared toward identifying contaminated areas that will directly impact on the division plan. The division chemical officer employs the NBC reconnaissance and smoke where it can best support the division's main effort.

Air Defense

Division air defense artillery is employed in mass and mix to support the defensive scheme of maneuver. The ADA battalion commander advises the division commander on air defense systems employment, support relationships, and air threat status. His headquarters is responsible for the division's early warning systems.

In the defense, ADA priorities often include covering forces, logistics, fire support, and C2 facilities. ADA units must be as mobile and protected as the maneuver unit they are supporting and must be integrated into the combined arms plan. Air defense units from the covering force transition into the MBA air defense scheme when the covering force returns to the main battle area. Normally, a division ADA battery directly supports each ground maneuver brigade. All units use passive and internal air defense measures to protect their operations from enemy air activities. Air defense must be continually synchronized with aviation operations to preclude fratricide of friendly aviation assets.

Combat Service Support


The G4 and the DISCOM commander must understand the intent of the division, corps, and or JTF commanders to develop a support plan to sustain the defense. Knowing the intent and concept of operation allows them to anticipate CSS requirements. The G4, in conjunction with the ADC-S, develops a concept of support and recommends support priorities to the division commander. With the G3 and the DISCOM commander, the G4 recommends a CSS task organization to support the division defensive plan.

The DISCOM commander tailors the task organization of the brigade's direct support FSB to meet specific needs of units operating within the maneuver brigade's area of operations. The DISCOM must look beyond the defense to anticipate support requirements as the division transitions to the offense. Additional sustainment considerations are discussed in Appendix E.

Military Police

The employment of MP units in the defense differs somewhat by division type. Support relationships depend on the commander's concept for the operation, a METT-T analysis, and risk assessment. (Often in lighter divisions (light, airborne, and air assault), the MP company will be in general support.) Optimally, each forward brigade receives an MP platoon to support its defense. Remaining MP platoons of the divisional MP company are in general support to the division with the priority to battlefield circulation control, area security, and EPW operations. During the defense, the commander may place the division band OPCON to organizations responsible for rear area security operations. The band should be employed intact for these operations, facilitating the commander's ability to quickly return them to their primary mission.

Command and Control

Battle Command

In the defense, the division commander employs a command group and or a TAC CP forward in a brigade AO to directly influence and maintain control of the close fight. Most critical is that the division commander locate where he can see the total battle and make timely decisions. The division's deep operations are normally controlled at the main CP through the DOCC. The ADC-S controls the division's rear operations from the rear CP in the division rear area.

Command and control facilities in forward areas must be lean enough to rapidly and constantly relocate to survive. Emphasis is on locating them in hardened areas or protective terrain and reducing electronic signature. All personnel and equipment not

required for the express purpose of commanding and controlling the division are left elsewhere.

The essence of command and control is not communications gear or equipment. The essence is leadership; detailed, yet simple plans rehearsed to the point that everyone understands their piece in the fight and are confident with their ability to execute, and then decentralized execution.

COL James T. Hill
Cdr, 1st Bde, 101st ABN DIV
(Air Assault)
Operation Desert Storm


Division planners must develop a deception story that supports the corps' deception plan. The deception story must portray a logical, situational, and doctrinally correct scheme of maneuver that is not only believable to enemy commanders, but supports the true friendly scheme of maneuver. It should cause the enemy to perform some action or nonaction that is favorable to friendly courses of action. The division must then develop the means to identify enemy reconnaissance patrols (both ground and air) entering the division's security area. These enemy patrols must be engaged and destroyed from locations with the type weapons that support the deception story.


In the defense, the division's signal battalion connects all major command elements and establishes entry procedures into the communications systems for covering forces, units in the MBA, the rear, and the reserve. Communication centers displace less often in the defense. However, they must have plans to rapidly displace personnel and equipment (particularly MSE) on short notice. Messengers and secure digital data reduce the requirement for voice radio transmissions and provide a high degree of signal security. Radio communications are normally not used if other communications means are available. Radio nets remain open, but on listening silence. Digital data and wire communications are the primary means used during the preparation of the defense.

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