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FM 71-3
The Armored and Mechanized Infantry Brigade


During offensive operations the brigade commander sets the conditions for successful operations. He accomplishes this by employing all of his organic and supporting systems with precision. These systems are employed at their maximum capability to meet the conditions set by the brigade commander. The commander then maneuvers his force to decisively defeat the enemy.

Section I. Fundamentals of Offensive Operations
Section II. Forms of Tactical Offense
Section III. Brigade as a Covering Force
Section IV. Combined Arms Breaching Operations
Section V. Night Offensive Doctrine



The offense is the primary means of gaining and maintaining the initiative. Through constant offensive pressure on the enemy, the brigade commander is able to force the enemy to conform to his intent and retain his own freedom of maneuver. Even in the defense the commander seeks to regain the initiative through offensive action at the earliest opportunity.

The success of the attack depends on the proper application of the four offensive characteristics of initiative:

  • Surprise.
  • Concentration.
  • Tempo.
  • Audacity.


Commanders achieve surprise by attacking the enemy at a time or place and in a manner for which he is not physically or mentally ready. The commander must anticipate the enemy commanders intent and deny the enemy the ability to collect intelligence on friendly forces. Surprise is achieved by the direction, timing, boldness, and force of the attack. Sudden and violent attacks have a devastating effect on the enemy as do attacks from unexpected directions. Surprise can also be achieved from unexpected changes in tempo.


Concentration is achieved by massing the effects of combat power. To achieve concentration on the modern battlefield, and provide security for the force, the commander uses a combination of dispersion, concentration, deception, and attack. The commander designates a main effort and allocates enough CS and CSS to accomplish his desired end state. The plan must be flexible enough to allow the commander the ability to shift the main effort to the supporting effort if the situation provides a greater opportunity for success.


Tempo is the rate of speed of military action and may be either fast or slow. Controlling and altering the tempo are essential to maintaining the initiative. While a rapid tempo is often preferred, the tempo is adjusted to ensure synchronization. Controlling and altering enemy and friendly tempo promotes surprise, keeps the enemy off balance, denies the enemy freedom of action, and contributes to the security of the attacking force.


Audacity is key to successful offensive action. This is the ability of leaders to understand and decisively and boldly operate within the commanders intent. This type of action often negates the disadvantage of numerical inferiority. The commander takes advantage of opportunities and plans for success throughout his battle space.


To organize the battlefield, the commander and staff must view tactical offensive battles as operations in depth, which consist of three interrelated parts:

  • Deep operations. In vital parts of the attack zone, deep operations contribute to the success of the brigades close fight. Deep operations limit the enemys options and disrupt its coordination and synchronization. Brigade deep operations are closely linked with division operations. Identification of division deep operations assists the brigade in targeting units and setting priorities for brigade deep operations.
  • Close operations. These operations include reconnaissance and security actions, the main effort, and reserve actions.
  • Rear operations. Rear operations are necessary to maintain offensive momentum. This may include fighting enemy airborne and airmobile units within the BSA until augmented by combat units from brigade or division and conducting the necessary activities to sustain the brigades offensive momentum.


Successful offensive action requires the concentration and synchronization of all assets. Available ground and air maneuver forces, engineers, FA, ADA, attack helicopter, CAS, and EW assets must be concentrated at the decisive point and time to ensure tactical success. This requires that the brigade mission be analyzed and translated into specific objectives that, when secured, permit control of the area or facilitate destruction of the enemy force. The brigade plan designates:

  • The deep attack.
  • The main attack and main effort.
  • The supporting attack.
  • The reserve.
  • Follow-and-support forces, if any.
  • Reconnaissance and security forces.

The deep attack is focused on utilizing the brigade's available deep fires (lethal and nonlethal) to disrupt enemy functions or to delay or destroy enemy forces. The deep fight will set and maintain the conditions for success in the close fight. Inherent in deep operations planning is the detail necessary to ensure that the forward observers on the battlefield are linked (redundantly if possible) to the delivery systems. This effort contributes to the success of the deep fight.

The main attack is directed to secure the objectives that contribute the most to mission accomplishment.

The supporting attack contributes to the success of the main attack in one or more of the following ways:

  • Fixing enemy forces to facilitate the main attack.
  • Controlling terrain that facilitates maneuver of the main attack.
  • Destroying enemy forces that hinder the main attack.
  • Deceiving the enemy as to the location of the main attack.
  • Preventing or delaying enemy concentration against the main attack.

Reserves are constituted to be committed at the decisive time and place to exploit success or to ensure mission accomplishment. They should not be used to reinforce failure in the hope of reversing a defeat.

A reserve provides the commander with the flexibility to deal with unforeseen contingencies. It also adds to security, although this is not its primary function. Reserves may consist of maneuver and CS units. The reserve is specifically used to:

  • Exploit success by moving to attack an enemy weakness or vulnerability.
  • Reinforce or maintain momentum by passing through or around units held up by enemy forces.
  • Defeat enemy counterattacks.

The size of the reserve is determined by METT-T. The more vague the situation, the larger the reserve. Whenever possible, one-third or more of the available combat power is retained in reserve.

The reserve is positioned to:

  • Permit rapid movement to points of probable employment.
  • Weight the main attack by destroying or blocking enemy counters to the main attack.
  • Provide security to unoccupied terrain within the brigade sector.
  • Provide maximum protection from hostile observation and fire consistent with mission requirements.

Reserve missions should be sufficiently detailed to provide the reserve force commander a clear understanding of the brigade commanders intent and commitment criteria. Plans are made to reconstitute a reserve at the earliest opportunity after the original reserve is committed. Designating on-order reserve missions to committed units is a recommended technique.

Follow and support is an assigned mission from a higher headquarters. The follow-and-support force is not a reserve; it is a committed force that accomplishes the following tasks:

  • Destroys bypassed units.
  • Relieves units that have halted to contain enemy force.
  • Blocks enemy reinforcements.
  • Secures LOCs, EPWs, or key areas.
  • Controls refugees.

Follow and assume, like follow and support, is not a form of the offense. A follow-and-assume force is also a committed force. It plans and prepares to take over and complete the mission of the force it is following. This mission is common in offensive operations. A follow-and-assume force will often follow the main attack.

Reconnaissance is the precursor to all operations. It focuses on locating the enemy and provides information on terrain. While conducting reconnaissance, the brigade relies on limited assets. This reinforces the importance of a focused R&S plan designed to confirm the adopted enemy course of action.

In the offense, as in all operations, the brigade commander secures his force. Surveillance, fires, OPSEC, and the effective use of obstacles and security forces protect the brigade.


Successful offensive operations require coordination, integration, and synchronization of all combat, CS, and CSS elements within the brigade AO. Synchronization of the BOS occurs vertically from corps and division through brigade to battalion and separate company. It also occurs horizontally among the staff sections. Major considerations for integration of the BOS in offensive operations follow.


The brigade commanders guidance to the S2 should contain the commanders PIR. After coordinating with the S3, additional intelligence requirements may be recommended to the commander during the S2s and staffs IPB.

It is especially critical that the brigade S2 prepare an up-to-date enemy data base during the IPB process to support offensive operations and to answer the commanders PIR. The threat estimate and data base are used in identifying specific enemy vulnerabilities and weaknesses. This information assists the brigade commander in properly concentrating his available combat power.

The development of PIR and IPB is a continual process throughout the planning and execution of the offensive operation. The brigade intelligence section answers PIR using a detailed R&S and collection plans developed and coordinated by the brigade S2 and the battalion task force S2s and S3s. The brigade S2 requests additional information and collection assets from its higher headquarters when the brigade commanders PIR cannot be gathered by organic brigade assets.

During the operation, the brigade S2 provides the commander continuous updates of enemy activities and anticipated enemy COAs. His sources include reports from the ASAS, monitoring of battalion radio nets, and analysis of reported sightings.

Maneuver (Army Aviation)

Elements from the divisional aviation brigade may be placed OPCON to the brigade commander to accomplish a mission or for the duration of an operation. Cavalry elements conduct reconnaissance and security operations. Assault elements conduct air assault operations and provide limited CSS functions. Attack helicopter battalions augment and extend the brigades maneuver capability and are most effective against massed enemy armor and stationary or moving artillery. They are also well-suited to conduct reconnaissance and security missions.

Aviation units operating with the brigade or in the brigade AO coordinate locations for assembly areas, forward assembly areas, and FARPs through the depth of the zone with the brigade S3. In offensive operations, these areas will be used in sequence as the main body advances.

Aviation units placed OPCON to the brigade remain the responsibility of the aviation brigade for logistics support. Efficient distribution of certain critical classes of supply may require coordination with the brigades FSB.

For a detailed discussion on ground maneuver see Section II of this chapter.

Fire Support

FS can deliver a variety of munitions to support brigade operations. FS assets available to the brigade are normally one DS FA battalion and organic battalion mortars. Additional FS assets may include:

  • CAS.
  • NGF.
  • Army aviation.
  • Reinforcing and general support reinforcing battalions.
  • Electronic warfare assets.

The brigade FSE is the focal point for integration of all FS for the brigade. To effectively integrate FS into the operation, the FSCOORD must understand the mission, the commanders intent, the concept of the operation, and the commanders guidance for FS. The FSCOORD must be involved in the planning process from the outset. Using the products of the IPB and TVA processes, the FSCOORD and the FSO jointly wargame COAs with the brigade command and his staff. Following the commanders decision, the FSCOORD produces the FS plans or execution matrix, an attack guidance matrix, and the HPT list. These tools fully integrate FS for the operation by focusing attack and acquisition systems on enemy systems that must be eliminated. The FSCOORD ensures FS assets are properly employed and synchronized.

Specific considerations for the employment of FS in offensive operations include:

  • Weighting the main attack by assigning priorities of FS to lead elements.
  • Isolating the point of attack.
  • Softening enemy defenses by delivering effective preparatory fires.
  • Suppressing enemy weapon systems to reduce the enemy stand-off capability.
  • Suppressing and obscuring overwatching enemy forces during breach operations.
  • Screening maneuver forces adjacent to enemy units.
  • Suppressing bypassed enemy elements to limit their ability to disrupt friendly operations.
  • Interdicting enemy counterattack forces, isolating the defending force, and preventing its reinforcement and resupply.
  • Providing counterfire to reduce the enemy's ability to disrupt friendly operations and to limit the enemy's ability to rapidly shift combat power on the battlefield.
  • Supporting rear operations.

Air Defense

The division commander's ADA priorities determine what ADA resources the brigade will receive. Normally, the brigade receives a battery of ADA attached, OPCON, or DS.

The ADO must understand the commander's mission, intent, and concept of operations. Continued involvement by the ADO in the planning process is critical to the successful integration of ADA support with the brigade concept. The brigade S3 needs to consider terrain requirements to optimize ADA weapon systems and ground-based sensor/light and special division interim sensor coverage.

Considerations for employing ADA in the offense are:

  • To concentrate ADA to achieve massive fires at decisive points.
  • To integrate ADA weapon systems throughout the brigade.
  • To weight the main effort with ADA protection.
  • To assist the S2 during the IPB process and in analyzing air avenues of approach.
  • To identify potential choke points and plan their protection.
  • To ensure the supporting ADA unit is as mobile as the supported force.

The ADA battery should be task organized to support the operation from the LD to the objective. In the offense, the following are normal air defense priorities:

  • Maneuver forces.
  • Choke points.
  • Command, control, communications, and intelligence assets.
  • CSS assets.

Mobility and Survivability

The brigade engineer plans and coordinates mobility, countermobility, and survivability tasks to support the offensive mission. He links engineer planning at division level and execution at battalion task force level.

The engineer develops a scheme of engineer operations, through terrain visualization, that focuses on providing mobility support throughout the depth of the attack. The combined arms breaching tenets provide the framework for planning breaching operations:

  • Intelligence.
  • Organization.
  • Fundamentals.
  • Mass.
  • Synchronization.

The engineer battalion is task organized forward to support in-stride, deliberate, or assault breaching operations. The staff engineer officer (S2, S3, and ABE) work closely with the brigade S2 in developing obstacle intelligence. The data is collected and used to develop the obstacle and situation templates.

Countermobility planning in the offense includes the coordination and wargaming of FASCAM delivery assets by the brigade engineer to close potential flank avenues of approach, fix enemy forces, and close retreat routes for engaged enemy units. Upon consolidation of the objective, tactical obstacles are emplaced to support the defense against enemy counterattacks.

Survivability missions are of lower priority during offensive maneuvers; they become important upon consolidation on the objectives and must be anticipated.

The brigade engineer must receive clear guidance and priorities for engineer efforts. He is an integral part of the development of the scheme of maneuver; he coordinates with the S3, FSO, ADA officer, S2, and S4 to integrate and synchronize engineer operations.

Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical

Division assets available to support brigade offensive operations include NBC decontamination, NBC reconnaissance, and smoke. These assets will normally be platoon-size organizations. Based on the factors of METT-T, these organizations may be OPCON, attached, DS, or GS to the brigade.


Brigade decontamination operations during the offense focus on immediate decontamination operations. Thorough decontamination operations are designed for reconstitution operations. Operational decontamination operations are conducted at the battalion level using organic lightweight decontamination equipment. To facilitate decontamination operations, the brigade decontaminates:

  • As soon as possible.
  • Only when necessary.
  • As far forward as possible.
  • By priority.

The brigade commander identifies mission-critical assets and establishes priorities for decontamination within the brigade. Logistics support for decontamination is coordinated by the S4 and provided through normal supply channels.


All brigade units have an implied mission to conduct NBC reconnaissance, using organic detection and identification equipment. The brigade S3 establishes the NBC reconnaissance requirements and tasks based on the brigade chemical officers recommendations. The detection, marking, identification, and reporting of contaminated areas are established in SOPs according to relevant STANAGs.


The brigade conducts smoke operations in the offense to screen friendly forces and to obscure or deceive enemy forces. Assets that are available to provide smoke include the vehicle engine exhaust smoke system, smoke pots, artillery and mortar smoke, and smoke generators. To conduct a successful smoke mission, the brigade must provide the following information to the supporting smoke unit:

  • Commanders intent.
  • Location of target.
  • Length of mission.
  • Start time.
  • Visibility requirements.

Combat Service Support

CSS operations in the offense are designed to maintain the momentum of the attack. The FSB commander prepares and executes a logistics plan developed to support the maneuver brigades tactical plan.

The specific logistics needs of the maneuver brigade are identified and coordinated by the brigade S4. Based on the brigade S4s planning estimate, the FSB commander and his staff tailor a mobile CSS package to be pushed forward to support the brigade. Specific coordination for locations of ATPs, UMCPs, and MSRs outside the BSA are coordinated between the FSB S3 and brigade S4 at the rear CP and approved by the brigade S3. This coordination ensures the integration of the CSS plan and the tactical plan.

FSB logistics support must be continuous. The FSB displaces priority resupply classes by bounds to support the momentum of the offense. The movement of the FSB is coordinated among the FSB, rear CP, and main CP to ensure continuous support and to avoid impeding maneuver elements.

Command and Control

The command group, augmented by other special staff as desired by the commander, is positioned to see and sense the battle. By being well forward, the commander can feel the tempo of the battle, improve communications, and influence the main effort with his presence. The command group moves much of the time and relies on the brigade TOC to maintain communications with higher and flanking units.

The TAC CP and the main CP are required to move frequently during offensive operations. The TAC CP has command and control for the main CP during these relocations. Therefore, the TAC CP may be augmented with more people from the current operations, intelligence, operations support, and FS sections out of the main CP. The signal section will leapfrog multichannel and FM retransmission systems forward to maintain communications.

The main CP will continue to perform its essential current battle coordination; however, the main CP will weight its effort toward future battle planning. This is possible because the disruption of frequent displacement causes much of the command, control, communications, and intelligence structuring for working the current battle to be pushed forward to the TAC CP and command group.

The rear CP and the FSB commander are heavily committed to coordinating and facilitating the pushing of CSS forward through the cluttered battlefield to sustain the attack. The rear CP and the FSB commander are initially concerned with sustaining forward units; providing rear area security; clearing MSRs; evacuating casualties, equipment, and EPWs; and preparing to reestablish CSS base areas forward.


The five basic forms of maneuver are envelopment, turning movement, infiltration, penetration, and frontal attack. The brigade can conduct a frontal attack, penetration, and envelopment. The brigade can participate as one element of a turning movement conducted by corps. Subordinate infantry units can conduct an infiltration as part of the brigade's larger mission.


Envelopment is the basic form of maneuver that seeks to apply strength against weakness. Envelopment avoids the enemy's front where forces are most protected, attention is focused, and fires are most easily concentrated. The attacker fixes the defender with supporting attacks. The attacker maneuvers the main attack around or over the enemy's defenses to strike at its flanks and rear. Detailed IPB and reconnaissance of the enemy defensive position are required for successful envelopments. If there is no open flank or gaps leading to a flank, gaps can be created by fires, maneuver, or by deception operations.

Successful envelopment often depends on speed to prevent the enemy from reacting quickly and with enough force to slow the attack. Brigade envelopments usually require fixing the enemy with a battalion supporting attack. Remaining battalions then maneuver past the enemy flank to rear positions. The enemy is then forced to fight in several directions or to abandon positions.

Envelopment is the preferred form of maneuver. Striking from several directions at once or from unexpected directions forces the enemy to fight along unprepared, lightly defended, or undefended avenues of approach (see Figure 4-1). The double and the single envelopment are variations of the envelopment.

Turning Movement

A turning movement is a large scale envelopment in which the attacking force passes over and around the enemy defense to secure objectives deep in the enemys rear. As a result, the enemys position is made untenable. The enemy is forced to "turn" and attack to his rear, or attempt a retrograde operation. Brigades participate in turning movements as part of a larger force.


Infiltration is the covert movement (mounted or dismounted) of all or part of the attacking force through enemy lines to a favorable position in the enemy's rear. An armored brigade cannot expect to infiltrate all its combat elements through the enemys defense. The brigade attacks after infiltration or uses infiltration to obtain intelligence and to harass the enemy. Though it is not restricted to small units or dismounted infantry, the brigade normally employs infiltration techniques with a part of its units and performs offensive operations with the remaining units.

Dismounted infiltration is particularly effective when both threat forces are mechanized and unaccustomed to defending against dismounted troops. In these instances, infantry with supporting engineers infiltrate, followed quickly by mounted attacks. FS assists infiltration by supporting the deception plan. The commander centralizes control of FS to preclude the loss of surprise and fratricide as the infiltration is conducted.

Normally infiltration is conducted with light infantry forces assigned to a brigade for the purpose of attacking elements along the FEBA or in the security zone to facilitate friendly maneuver. Targets normally include company defenses located on terrain within a major choke point that hinders the brigades ability to maintain its momentum.


The penetration attempts to rupture enemy defenses on a narrow front and create both assailable flanks and access to the enemys rear. Penetration is used when enemy flanks are not assailable, when enemy defense is overextended, or when time does not permit some other form of maneuver. Penetrations typically comprise three stages: initial rupture of enemy positions, roll-up of the flanks on either side of the gap, and exploitation to secure deep objectives.

A successful penetration depends on the ability of the attacker to suppress enemy weapons, mass forces and fires to overwhelm the defender at the point of attack, and quickly pass sufficient forces through the gap to rupture the defense. Once this is accomplished, the commander has two options. He can continue forward to rupture successive defense lines and ultimately enter enemy rear areas, or he can turn forces to roll-up enemy positions from the flanks.

Frontal Attack

The frontal attack is the least desirable form of maneuver. A frontal attack is used to strike the enemy across a wide front and over the most direct approaches. The purpose of the frontal attack is to overrun and destroy or capture a weakened enemy in position or to fix an enemy force in place to support another friendly attack elsewhere. Although the frontal attack strikes along the entire front within the zone of the attacking force, it does not require that all combat forces be employed in line or that all combat forces conduct a frontal attack. During a frontal attack, the commander seeks to create or take advantage of conditions that permit a penetration or envelopment of the enemy position. Fires are delivered across the zone of the attacking force, then shifted to the points of penetration or envelopment to facilitate rapid movement through enemy positions.


The brigade may use any of several basic formations in offensive operations. The scheme of maneuver identifies the initial attack formation that offers the best chance for success. These formations are not restrictive drills but general techniques for employment of subordinate battalion task forces.

Brigade in Column

A column of battalion task forces may be adopted for the initial attack when terrain or enemy defenses force the brigade to attack on a narrow front (see Figure 4-2). In certain situations, the strength, composition, and location of enemy reserves may require the brigade to adopt this formation to provide the depth necessary for a sustained attack. This formation facilitates retention of the initiative and permits flexibility because the following battalion task forces are in position to move through or around the leading elements to maintain the momentum of the attack. It also provides a degree of security because the following battalions are in position to counter a threat from either flank and support the uninterrupted advance of the leading companies. However, brigades in column can concentrate only a small portion of their combat power to the front initially and are subject to piecemeal commitment and slower deployment to the front.

Brigades require multiple routes in their zones if they are to attack effectively from columns. Passage of the brigade through a given area using this formation usually requires more time than when other formations are used.

Brigade Vee

The brigade vee may be employed when great depth in the attack is not required, such as in a limited-objective attack (see Figure 4-3). It may also be used in the initial attack against a weak enemy, vulnerable to defeat by an attack on a relatively wide front. In the envelopment, this formation can be used when the brigade can envelop an assailable flank on a broad front. Lead task forces receive priority for FS.

Brigade on Line Without a Reserve

Normally, the brigade commander retains some degree of flexibility in his initial attack by withholding part of his force in reserve; however, where METT-T warrants, a formation with two or more task forces abreast without a reserve may be used successfully (see Figure 4-4). Inherently dangerous, it is considered when the enemy has been routed and is incapable of a large-scale counterattack. This might occur during a corps or division exploitation or pursuit. FS is usually positioned well forward to provide maximum continuous fires as the brigade attacks. The fundamental consideration for using this formation is whether the mission dictates a rapid advance on a broad front.

After commitment to battle, the brigade can rapidly alter its formation and organization for combat to conform to the changing situation. The brigades scheme of maneuver should ensure superior combat power at the point of decision. Regardless of the initial formation for an attack, rigid adherence to formations and FS plans contradicts the basic concepts of the attack. Subordinates freely exercise initiative to exploit enemy weaknesses within the context of the operation to achieve the commanders intent.

Brigade Box

The brigade box provides combat power forward over a relatively broad front. The box allows the commander to employ the rear elements in mutually supporting attacks. He can converge the combat power of leading units into one coordinated assault. The box formation also allows the commander to gain information across a broad front (see Figure 4-5). Gaps, weak points or flanks of the enemys disposition are more rapidly discovered.

Brigade Wedge

The brigade wedge/diamond allows the commander to gain contact with minimal combat power. This formation also provides the commander flexibility in massing combat power once contact is made (see Figure 4-6). The wedge/ diamond provides good 360-degree security for the brigade.


The forms of brigade offensive operations are:

  • Movement to contact.
    • Planning.
      • Security force.
      • Advance guard.
      • Flank and rear security.
      • Main body.
    • Preparation.
    • Execution.
  • Attack.
    • Hasty attack.
      • Planning.
        • Advance of reconnaissance and security forces.
        • Deployment of reconnaissance and security forces.
        • Assault by the main body.
      • Preparation.
      • Execution.
    • Deliberate attack.
      • Planning.
        • Support force.
          • Mission.
          • Composition.
          • Employment
        • Maneuver force.
          • Mission.
          • Composition.
          • Employment.
        • Actions on the objective.
        • Scheme of maneuver.
      • Preparation.
      • Execution.
      • Continuation of the attack.
    • Feint.
    • Raid.
    • Demonstration.
  • Exploitation.
  • Pursuit.

The brigade is trained and task organized to pass from one operation to another without delay. The types of operations may be conducted in sequence in a successful battle, beginning with a movement to contact to locate the enemy and ending with the destruction of the enemy through pursuit.

Each of these offensive operations will be disclosed in terms of planning, preparation, and execution.


When the enemy situation in the objective area is vague, a movement to contact is conducted to gain or reestablish contact with the enemy. It is used to develop the situation early to provide an advantage before decisive engagement (see Figure 4-7). The movement to contact is characterized by decentralized control and rapid commitment of forces from the march. If the brigade gains contact with the enemy, the operation ends in an attack, a defense, a withdrawal, or a bypass.

During the movement to contact, the brigade provides security by posting flank and rear security screens as appropriate. This is not necessary when the flank(s) or rear is protected by adjacent or following friendly units. Forward security is established by the use of a forward security force.

In the separate brigade, this is an ideal mission for the brigades cavalry troop. In divisional brigades, the forward security force is provided by the lead battalion task force. The size and composition of the force are based on METT-T, particularly the width of the brigade sector and the enemy situation. The forward security force:

  • Conducts reconnaissance.
  • Develops the situation.
  • Destroys enemy reconnaissance elements.
  • Secures key terrain.
  • Reports and breaches obstacles (if possible).
  • Prevents unnecessary or premature deployment of the main body.

The main emphasis is placed on the best use of roads and terrain. The brigade conducts aggressive reconnaissance to identify enemy locations, obstacles, and areas of possible NBC contamination and prepares to overcome obstacles and rapidly pass through defiles. Normally, movement is conducted in multiple columns. Subordinate battalions adopt the formations that enable them to accomplish their missions.

The brigade integrates FS into march columns and attack formations. Normally, this includes one FA battery immediately behind the lead task force and the remainder of the battalion behind the following task force.

Brigade air defense protection is provided by attached ADA assets and organic weapon systems. ADA occupies selected sites along the route of march and integrates into the moving column. These elements provide low-altitude air defense. See FM 44-16 for discussions of air defense procedures applicable to this offensive operation.

The decision to attack, bypass, defend, or withdraw must be made rapidly at each echelon. This decision is governed by the understanding of the division commander's intent. Commanders should not hesitate to take appropriate action in the absence of orders. While efforts to retain the initiative remain decentralized, the decision to commit the entire force or to halt the attack remains with the senior commander.


The primary consideration in planning a movement to contact is the determination of actions that are anticipated during the movement. This drives the organization of the brigade for the mission. Potential threat defensive locations, OPs, EAs, and obstacles are among those items that must be identified early and incorporated into the R&S plan.

Security forces for a brigade movement to contact may consist of the advance, flank, and rear guards. When a brigade is moving as part of a division movement to contact, it can provide elements to reinforce or augment the division covering force, and provide and control either right or left flank guard and/or rear guard.

Security Force

The security force locates the enemy, develops the situation, and prevents the unnecessary or premature deployment of the main body. Its missions may include destroying enemy reconnaissance, securing key terrain, or containing enemy forces. The security force operates well forward of the main body.

When planning for the security force, the commander considers whether there has been any contact with the enemy, the enemy has broken contact, or the enemy situation is vague. The commander must move his forces toward an objective until it is reached or there is enemy contact. To maintain flexibility of maneuver after contact, he must put forward the minimum force possible. The mission best suited to execute security of a movement to contact is a guard. The main factors that determine which mission is used are the enemy situation, the terrain, and the amount of risk assumed by the commander. His risk is keyed to the amount of time the security force gives the commander to maneuver his other elements.

Advance Guard

The advance guard is normally furnished and controlled by the leading element of the main body. It is organized to fight through small concentrations of enemy forces identified by the covering force or to make sure the main body can deploy uninterrupted into attack formations. Necessary CS, such as engineers and artillery, is integrated into the advance guard. Reconnaissance assets and surveillance systems are used to assist the advance guard in detecting the enemy before actual contact.

Flank and Rear Security

Flank and rear security protect the main body from observation, direct fire, and surprise attack. These forces may be strong enough to defeat an enemy attack or to delay it long enough to allow the main body to deploy. The commander must perform a risk analysis to tailor the size of the security force.

Flank and rear security operate under the control of the brigade main body. Flank security travels on routes parallel to the route of the main body. It moves by continuous marching or by successive or alternate bounds to occupy key positions on the flanks of the main body. During the movement to contact, the flank security also maintains contact with the advance guard. Rear security follows the main body.

A rear or flank guard is similar to an advance guard in strength and composition. If the flanks or rear of the brigade are secured by adjacent or following units, the size of the brigade security force can be reduced.

The Main Body

The main body contains the bulk of the brigades combat power. It is organized and deployed to conduct a hasty attack or defense on short notice. March dispositions of the main body must permit maximum flexibility during the movement and after contact with the main enemy force.

Elements of the main body may be committed to reduce pockets of resistance contained or bypassed by the covering force, or may be left for elimination by follow-and-support units. Elements of a covering force that are assigned containing missions are relieved as rapidly as possible to rejoin the covering force and avoid dissipating their strength.

The main FS task in a movement to contact is to provide immediate responsive suppressive fires to the maneuver units in contact.

The staff engineer plans and wargames critical engineer tasks. His objective is to integrate and synchronize the tasks with other BOS. In a movement to contact, he considers the enemy situation and allocates his forces accordingly. He recommends a task organization for the advance guard and forward task forces to support in-stride breaching. The objective is to maintain the speed of the main body and not become impaired by obstacles. The brigade engineer anticipates and assigns a "be prepared" deliberate breach mission. His thought process includes the tenets of breaching (intelligence, mass, synchronization, organization, and fundamentals) as he conducts the wargaming process. See FM 90-13-1 for additional information.

Air defense protects both the forward ground forces and the main body. Some air defense assets accompany the maneuver forces, moving with them as part of the tactical formation, and others will bound with the force, providing protection from a stationary position.

Because movement to contact is characterized by increased consumption of petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL), increased vehicular maintenance requirements, and reduced ammunition expenditure, planning should be geared toward pushing supplies forward. The speed of the operation and the high POL consumption necessitate careful planning of CSS operations; moreover, the brigades support organization must be capable of sustaining uninterrupted delivery of supplies. As a result, the support units will often require reinforcements during movement to contact. Additional MP units may also be necessary to ensure adequate traffic control.

The brigade main CP would normally displace as far forward as possible before beginning movement to contact to support the operation with a stable command and control environment. The location depends on the depth of the movement to contact, time available, and location of the division command and control facilities. The TAC CP and command group would operate forward with the main body to facilitate decision making and transition to other offensive tactical missions (see Figure 4-8 and Figure 4-9).


When preparing for movement to contact, the primary concern of the commander is that his subordinate commanders understand their individual missions within the context of his intent. This is partially accomplished after the order is issued by an immediate backbrief. Once the battalion task force commanders have an opportunity to conduct their own TLPs, they may be recalled to the brigade commander for a rehearsal and update.

The commander must think through the entire operation before rehearsal. He must identify possible choke points and examine the enemys probable COAs.

When conducting the rehearsal, he must ensure the brigade players understand their individual and team responsibilities. Options and contingency planning are essential during rehearsal so virtually every eventuality is addressed. He must point out where formations may have to change, or where speed of the operation is adjusted as a result of the terrain or suspected enemy. Integration and coordination between combat, CS, and CSS elements will go a long way toward lessening the support problems after crossing the LD.

Each commander rehearses what to do when making contact with the enemy, not only for his benefit but so the other commanders understand their responsibilities to the element in contact. The S2 should role-play the enemy commander.

The most critical decision the brigade commander must make is the commitment of his reserve force. It is paramount that he be provided timely and accurate intelligence on the situation so the reserve is effectively committed. Even after the reserve is committed to the fight, the commander should look for forces to create a new reserve.

As with maneuver, it is important to rehearse the FS plan. The brigade commander reviews the conduct of battery movement and the brigade FS plan with his FSCOORD, and ensures subordinate maneuver commanders understand their role in executing the plan.

The engineer commander and staff ensure task organization linkup is complete, monitor precombat checks and inspections, and supervise rehearsals. The engineer battalion commander is the key player at the brigade rehearsal. He talks through critical engineer missions, tasks, actions, and decisions as the battle is played out.

CSS rehearsal is very important in a movement to contact due to the extended lines and speed of the operation. Planned LRPs should be checked during rehearsal as should any scheduled refueling operations. Route security and convoy security are especially important as there are no established enemy lines. Moreover, the possibility of bypassing undetected enemy forces is all too real and could become a severe threat to CSS operations. The echeloning of trains is an effective technique for moving CSS assets without creating overwhelming space control problems.


The brigade moves as directed by the brigade commander. The mission is to regain contact with the enemy. The enemy may leave nuisance minefields; or he may leave obstacles guarded by small stay-behind parties to slow the brigades movement. It must be assumed the enemy will overwatch choke points and defiles.

The commander must be aware of these delaying actions, and give bypass criteria so the speed of the main body is not impaired. Unless an enemy stay-behind force provides a significant threat to one of the formations, it is fixed, bypassed, and handed over to a follow-on support force.

Forward and flank security forces execute their mission in terms of both the commanders intent and the R&S plan. The movement of the brigade can be controlled using PLs and checkpoints on easily identifiable terrain. Unit orientation is first directed in zone with respect to the formation itself, and second toward those areas suspected of posing a threat to the brigade.

Movement to contact ends with the occupation of an objective or limit of advance without enemy contact, or when contact is made and the enemy cannot be defeated or bypassed. This occurs in a series of engagements and/or hasty attacks. In an encounter with a moving force, action should take place without hesitation. Battalions use fire and movement to fix the enemy. The decision to attack, bypass, or defend must be made rapidly at each echelon. The decision must be governed by an understanding of the division commanders intent.

In the execution of the movement to contact, the FS plan should continuously be updated to reflect the availability of more detailed information provided by the maneuver units and the S2s refinement of the situation template. This includes changes to the maneuver plan made by the commander in response to enemy actions.

During movement, engineer assets must be protected by the combat maneuver elements. Only after an obstacle has been identified and no bypass route found, will the engineers move forward to breach. However, during the reconnaissance for bypass routes, an engineer element may move forward to conduct initial reconnaissance and assessment of the obstacle to confirm or deny whether planned engineer support will accomplish the mission. On order of the maneuver commander, engineer assets found in the follow-on forces have the additional responsibility to reduce obstacles bypassed by the advance guard, or to breach obstacles encountered by the flank guards.

As the air defense elements maneuver with the brigade, the air defense plan must be continuously refined to reflect any changes in the enemy situation.

CSS elements follow the main body and are protected by the rear guard. As forces require refueling and resupply, the support elements move forward in logistic packages (LOGPAC). UMCPs are established as required.

The most critical control measures are objectives, PLs, checkpoints, axes of advance, and boundaries. Intermediate objectives may be used to coordinate the essential movements of attacking forces, but their excessive use can reduce the momentum of the attack. On-order objectives are used to orient following forces and reserves quickly and to increase the flexibility of tactical maneuver throughout the force.

Attacking units may bypass local obstacles and stubborn pockets of resistance that do not threaten overall success according to the higher commanders intent. Bypassed enemy forces then become the responsibility of the higher commander. Also, the directing maneuver headquarters needs to retain some ability to reinforce fires and redirect maneuver with minimum oral instructions. The most effective means of accomplishing this goal is with an operation overlay that reflects the higher commanders intent and scheme of maneuver (see Figure 4-10). The overlay gives each command echelon flexibility to mass fires and modify maneuver plans as the situation develops.


Hasty Attack

A hasty attack is conducted to gain or maintain the initiative. Before mounting a hasty attack, the commander must develop the situation, determine enemy strength, and rapidly mass firepower against the enemy. A hasty attack is usually conducted following a movement to contact. To maintain momentum, it is conducted with the resources immediately available.


The commander has a vague picture of where and how the enemy defends, based on input from the S2 as well as his own experience. Much of the planning for a movement to contact is based on the desired outcome on contact. If the situation is vague and the enemy is a considerable distance away, he may choose to lead with a large number of reconnaissance elements spread over a wide area to develop the situation and retain the main body in a tighter, more responsive formation.

Regardless of the formation selected for reconnaissance and security elements, the hasty attack normally occurs in the following sequence. Therefore, the drills and SOP tasks that are associated with each step should be reevaluated within the context of the current situation.

  • Advance of Reconnaissance and Security Forces

In planning the advance of reconnaissance and security elements, the commander should identify the direction of movement, possible danger areas, objectives to be occupied, and bypass criteria. This planning is the same process used in the movement to contact planning.

  • Deployment of Reconnaissance and Security Forces

Once contact has been made with the enemy, the security force attempts to develop the situation. In planning, the major consideration for deployment is task organization. Reconnaissance elements generally are not heavy enough to deploy against an enemy and must be augmented by armored forces. The commander ensures that the organization of the security force is a mix of armored and reconnaissance elements.

Based on the commander's guidance, the reconnaissance force will move to the flanks or continue its reconnaissance. In either case this force maintains contact with the enemy until the security force arrives.

Again, the organization must be based on METT-T considerations. One of the key points the commander should remember is that the enemy may want to slow the main body by making it deploy. The advance guard must have enough firepower to destroy smaller size elements. If it does not, the enemy will have accomplished its mission. If the enemy encountered is too strong for the advance guard, it must be prepared to become the support force for an assault by the main body.

  • Assault by the Main Body

As the security force suppresses the enemy with direct and indirect fires, the main body changes from a movement to contact formation to an assault formation. The size of the actual assault force is determined by the intelligence generated by the advance guard. The planning for this assault is generally limited to templated or suspected enemy defensive locations. In this regard, the identification of areas such as checkpoints corresponding to these and other easily identifiable locations allows the maneuver units to execute quickly from FRAGOs. However, not all maneuver units will be committed to the assault. The commander maintains security throughout the operation; therefore, he identifies which units maintain security if the main body is deployed.


The commander prepares for the brigade hasty attack while rehearsing the movement to contact. Specifically, he must run the brigade staff and commanders through a series of enemy COAs. This exercises command and staff drills and SOPs. There are several enemy actions to consider during rehearsals:

  • The advance guard makes contact with a small force. Options may include fix and bypass so as not to sacrifice speed, or conduct a hasty attack.
  • The advance guard makes contact with a large force. Options include possible hasty attack, suppressing for the main body attack, or hasty attack while the main body bypasses.
  • A flank security force makes contact with a small force. The flank security force can fix and bypass or conduct a hasty attack. What does the rest of the main body do in the meantime?
  • A flank security force makes contact with a large force. The flank security force suppresses the enemy, while elements of the main body conduct the attack. What does the remainder of the formation do during the attack?

The commander reinforces his intent throughout the rehearsal, and identifies any possible difficulties in execution. The S2 ensures the enemy COA is accurately portrayed.

During the rehearsal, the commander verifies that his control measures are adequate for the hasty attack. More often than not, the hasty attack will be a FRAGO. Therefore, the commander ensures "on order" graphics are adequate to control the hasty attack. The commander ensures control measures sufficiently control movement and direct and indirect fires.


The commander has a particularly difficult role during the hasty attack. He allows his subordinates to develop the situation and make decisions quickly, with very little planning. It is paramount, therefore, that subordinate commanders understand the brigade commanders intent; likewise, the brigade commander must trust the judgment of his battalion commanders. Once the brigade commander decides to conduct a hasty attack, he puts his full weight into assuring that each subordinate commander gets the necessary support. Any CAS sorties that may be allocated to the brigade should be synchronized to augment the fires of the assault force. Each element must move quickly as in a drill. Commanders talk laterally and vertically, making suggestions and maneuvering as a team. The brigade operates as a close-knit unit, where each knows his role and that of his teammate. The commander must know, through continuous information flow from subordinate commanders, what to expect of each element and what he can give in return.

The element that makes initial contact has the responsibility to develop and make a quick assessment of the situation. In particular, the commander of the unit in contact must quickly decide whether to fix and bypass, attack, or become the support force for an attack by the main body. Also, his report to higher headquarters drives the decisions of the higher commander. Assuming the situation is such that the advance guard must lay down a base of fire for a hasty attack by the main body, thus becoming the support force, the advance guard commander must move to a position of advantage over the enemy force. Specifically, the support force attempts to fix the enemy to deny their freedom of movement. While this occurs, the commander of the support force constantly updates the higher commander about the situation and attempts to identify the most effective direction of attack for the assault force. The brigade commander quickly gives instructions for the CS elements to support the brigade designated main effort. For example, the artillery positions forward to range to the identified enemy, probable adjoining enemy positions, and enemy counterattack avenues of approach.

The force designated to conduct the assault must rapidly change formation from whatever it was for the movement to contact to the appropriate attack formation. The assault force commander communicates with the support force commander to coordinate direct and indirect fires as the assault force conducts their movement to the enemy position and during the final assault of the enemy position. In particular, the assault force commander isolates the position quickly from other possible enemy positions and suppresses the enemys ability to observe or engage the assault force. This is accomplished by a combination of direct and indirect fire. In the meantime, reconnaissance elements must screen to any exposed flank(s) of the assault force, ensuring security.

Deliberate Attack

A deliberate attack is a fully synchronized operation. Due to the detailed planning and synchronization required, a brigade may conduct a deliberate attack from a defensive posture. If in an offensive posture, a brigade may transition to deliberate attack immediately after entering an area of operations. In either case, the enemy situation is known and the brigade commander has enough combat power to defeat the enemy. This is accomplished through a detailed reconnaissance effort that identifies the enemys weakness. Once identified, the brigades combat power is focused on this weakness and is exploited to the extent that leads to the enemys defeat, destruction, or neutralization. Brigade commanders plan deliberate attacks when directed or as the opportunity warrants and execute them to support the overall purpose of operations.


The factors of METT-T influence each situation in which a deliberate attack must be made and prevent development of a standard organization for combat. While the commanders estimate process must be conducted for each deliberate attack, general rules can be stated. The brigade commander organizes forces to fix and to maneuver against the enemy. Engineers are task organized to the force penetrating the enemys defensive positions. An intelligence collection effort is conducted to locate enemy reserves and second-echelon forces.

FS planning is characterized by the full integration of intelligence-gathering sources into the targeting process. The brigade DS FA battalion uses the DIVARTY, intelligence officer, and brigade controlled and supporting intelligence sources to locate HPTs. Fires are planned for HPTs. FS systems are positioned well forward and in depth to provide continuous support throughout the attack. Displacement of FS systems is executed to maintain continuous FS.

Brigades conduct deliberate attacks through coordinated battalion task force attacks consisting of fire and maneuver. A battalion task force participates in a brigade deliberate attack as a main effort or as a supporting effort. Key to the main attack achieving its purpose, a battalion task force is designated as the main effort. The brigade commander designates the supporting effort, ensuring the main effort accomplishes its mission through supporting attacks, a follow-and-support role, or follow-and-assume-the-main-effort role.

  • Supporting Effort

The mission, composition, and employment of the supporting effort are explained in the following paragraphs.

  • Mission

The supporting effort sets and maintains the conditions necessary for the success of the main effort. A battalion task force, as the supporting effort, fixes enemy forces by attacking objectives that support the main efforts objective. The supporting effort can also suppress large forces that it cannot destroy, allowing the main effort to have maneuver options. These may be forces that the main effort is attacking directly or they may be forces that could influence the successful attack of the main effort. Tasks for supporting forces are offensive or defensive in nature. They include fix, attrit, suppress, or delay, and also may include seize, secure, or destroy.

  • Composition

Supporting efforts at brigade level normally consist of battalion task forces, or in some situations, a portion of a task force that is working directly for the brigade. They are still allocated resources for successful mission accomplishment, but supporting efforts are only allocated enough to accomplish their missions so that the main focus will be the main effort. In some cases, direct or indirect fire assets may be increased to set the conditions for the main effort.

  • Employment

Depending on the missions given, supporting efforts attack as any other force. The difference is that the supporting effort must plan with the main effort in mind. (How will direct and indirect fires assist the main effort? How will maneuvering of forces aid the main effort and not mask its forces?) Additionally, the supporting effort must also be prepared to engage targets of opportunity within the commanders intent. Similarly, the supporting effort must be prepared to move to other positions from which it can continue to aid the main effort.

  • Main Effort

The mission, composition, and employment of the main effort are discussed in the following paragraphs.

  • Mission

The main effort closes with the enemy to defeat, destroy, or neutralize him. In most cases, tasks are purely offensive in nature, e.g., seize, destroy, secure, or neutralize.

  • Composition

The maximum possible strength should be placed in the main effort. When possible, it should be a combined arms unit of tanks, mechanized infantry, engineer, and aviation. The main effort should be supported to the fullest extent possible with artillery and CS/CSS assets.

  • Employment

The main effort closes with the enemy as quickly and directly as possible to exploit the effects of the supporting efforts. It is usually committed so that it has mass, and when possible, it seeks to attack at an identified weak point in the enemys defense. Once the main effort is committed, it should proceed with all the speed and violence at its command. The advance should be timed so the elements of the main effort arrive on the objective simultaneously. Tanks and mechanized infantry can then provide mutual support. As the objective is reached and overrun, the supporting effort shifts its attention to the flanks and rear of the enemys defense.

  • Actions on the Objective

As the assault force secures the objective, the brigade begins to focus on the enemy elements that could counterattack. The brigade commander will reposition battalion task forces on the objective either to defend against an enemy attack or to prepare for future operations. The brigade continues to synchronize the consolidation on the objective. Based on the end state combat power of each battalion task force, the commander may adjust task organization.

  • Scheme of Maneuver

This is the detailed plan for the placement and movement of the main attack into advantageous positions on the objective with respect to the enemy. In developing the scheme of maneuver, consideration is given to its possible effects on future operations.


In preparation for the deliberate attack, the commander rehearses the maneuver and synchronization of the brigades assets. Specifically, the commander ensures that his commanders understand both the maneuver plan and his intent, so that if they must deviate from the maneuver plan it is within the context of his intent.

The brigade commander first ensures that the supporting efforts understand their role within the maneuver plan. He must be prepared to maneuver supporting efforts so they maintain continuous and effective pressure on the enemy force. He must then determine where they will shift their focus once the main effort closes on its objective. (Where will they shift their direct and indirect fires? What criteria should be developed that allows them to join the main attack or assume the main effort?)

Likewise, the main effort must demonstrate the best use of terrain to support his approach to the objective. He must be prepared to conduct hasty breaches of obstacles and change his maneuver formation to suit the terrain and enemy situation. Finally, and most importantly, he must rehearse the final assault on the objective. Can he effectively suppress the objective or will it require help from a supporting effort as he closes? How has the objective been divided into battalion/company objectives? What happens if the assault force is counterattacked just as they are about to assault? How can this be prevented? Where is the limit of advance? How are the task forces using their scouts during the assault? What actions are being taken to deny effective enemy fires from adjacent and depth positions? These are only a sampling of the questions that must be answered as the commander conducts the rehearsal.


An indirect-fire preparation may be delivered immediately before the attack (see Figure 4-11). The preparation is coordinated with the movement of attacking units, depending on the amount of surprise desired or necessary to soften the point of attack. The preparation must have a specific purpose. Criteria must be developed prior to execution. This criteria may include:

  • All targets must be confirmed.
  • The targets justify the loss of surprise and expenditure of ammunition.
  • The targets justify the risk to the DS artillery battalion.

Desired effects on the target are established.

The attack plan is vigorously executed, and all favorable developments are exploited. If the attack lags in one portion of the zone, the main effort is shifted to another portion offering a greater opportunity for success.

The progress of the attack is not delayed to preserve the alignment of units or to adhere to the original plan of attack. Follow-and-support units reduce isolated enemy resistance as necessary.

The attack may be a single, rapid advance and assault until the brigade objective is secured, neutralized, destroyed, or overrun, or it may be a series of rapid advances and assaults to obtain the same results. As enemy resistance is encountered, the attacking echelons converge, following close behind their supporting fires, until they are within assaulting distance of the hostile position. After the assault, attacking units disperse as rapidly as possible (to preclude forming lucrative targets), continue the attack, or prepare for other operations.

The reserve is kept ready for immediate employment. The reserve moves within the overall formation of the brigade and is positioned to permit rapid movement to the point of probable employment and to provide security by its presence. When conditions dictate its use, the reserve is committed without hesitation. With the compression of TDIS factors inherent in the mobility of the brigade, teams of the reserve can be assigned a specific short-term mission and the reserve quickly reconstituted.

Continuation of the Attack

When the brigade objective is secured, reorganization is accomplished rapidly, and all means are used to continue the attack (if so ordered). Maximum use of supporting fires is made during this critical period. Minimum forces normally retain control of objectives and remaining units disperse to defend themselves and the objective, prepare to continue the attack, and block enemy avenues of approach, if required. Ground mobile or air assault units maintain contact with the enemy, keep the enemy off balance, and obtain information.

Continuing the attack or exploitation must be an integral part of the attack plan. The commander's intent includes the disposition of the force as part of his end state. Immediate reorganization of the force is necessary to maintain momentum and prepare for the next phase.

Continuing the attack frequently depends on the ability to resupply attacking forces. Large quantities of ammunition, POL, and equipment expended during the attack must be replenished. Provisions for this logistic support are an integral part of the attack plan. During continuous day and night operations, leading elements of the brigade are rotated to provide time for rearm and refit operations.

The commander must anticipate halts and prepare orders to include the time or circumstances of the halt, missions and locations of subordinate units, and command and control measures. To prevent congestion, some units may be diverted into defensive positions before the halt of the entire brigade.


A feint is a limited objective attack; it is a show of force intended to deceive the enemy and draw attention and (if possible) combat power away from a main attack. Feints must be of sufficient strength and composition to cause the desired enemy reaction. Feints must appear real; therefore, some contact with the enemy is required. The feint is most effective when it reinforces the enemys expectations, when it appears as a definite threat to the enemy, when the enemy has a large reserve that has been consistently committed early, or when there are several feasible COAs open to the attacker. Some of the desired reactions are to force the enemy into improper employment of its reserves, attract enemy supporting fires away from the main attack, force the enemy to reveal defensive fires, or accustom the enemy to shallow attacks in order to gain surprise with a deep main attack. Normally, the brigade executes a feint as part of a corps or division attack plan. Planning for a feint follows the same sequence as any other offensive operation.


A raid is usually a small-scale offensive tactical operation. It is based on detailed intelligence, involves swift movement into hostile territory, and ends with a planned withdrawal. Typical raiding missions are

  • Capture prisoners, installations, or enemy materiel.
  • Destroy enemy materiel or installations.
  • Obtain specific information of a hostile unit such as its location, disposition, strength, or operating scheme.
  • Deceive or harass enemy forces.
  • Liberate friendly, captured personnel.

The raid operation is appropriate to the brigade because of its capabilities for shock, speed, mobility, and firepower. Normally, raids are so short in time and distance that only a limited amount of supplies can be carried on the combat vehicles. Maintenance support is confined to the crews ability to make minor repairs.

FS systems are positioned during a raid to support the attacking force throughout the operation. HPTs are attacked to provide the maximum shock effect on the enemys force. Interdiction fires, counterfires, and FASCAM are delivered to reduce the enemys ability to react to the raid.

After reaching the objective and accomplishing the mission, the raiding force can anticipate vigorous enemy reaction in the area through which they have passed. For this reason, the withdrawal of the raiding force is usually over alternate routes. Brigade forces should avoid main LOCs and should consider using routes for attack and withdrawal that are not usually considered feasible for mechanized movement.

Once the brigade raid objective has been achieved, no time is wasted in returning to friendly territory. The longer the withdrawal is delayed, the greater the chance the enemy has of defeating the raiding force. In this phase of the raid, the operation corresponds to techniques used during linkup.

When Army aviation assault and attack helicopter assets are available, an aerial raid may be conducted with dismounted infantry to quickly move behind enemy lines, perform the required mission, and return.


A demonstration is an attack or show of force in an area where a decision is not being sought. It is made with the intention of deceiving the enemy; however, no contact with enemy forces is made. Demonstration forces use fires, movement of maneuver forces, smoke, EW assets, and communication equipment to support the deception plan to include firing false artillery preparations and delivering fires comparable to a thrust forward in a deliberate attack.


Exploitation is an offensive operation that follows a successful attack to take advantage of weakened or collapsed enemy defenses. Its purpose is to prevent reconstitution of enemy defenses, prevent enemy withdrawal, secure deep objectives, and destroy command and control facilities and enemy forces. During the exploitation, the brigade advances on a wide front (if the terrain and road net permit), retaining only those reserves necessary to ensure flexibility, momentum, and security. The exploitation is initiated when an enemy force is having recognizable difficulty in maintaining its position. Although local exploitations may appear insignificant, their cumulative effects can be decisive.

Depending on the situation and its task organization, the brigade can exploit its own success; it can be used as an exploiting force for a higher echelon; or it can follow and support another exploiting force. The heavy brigades inherent mobility, firepower, and shock effect make it an ideal exploiting force. Exploiting forces can have the mission of securing objectives deep into the enemys rear, cutting LOCs, surrounding and destroying enemy forces, denying escape routes to an encircled force, and destroying enemy reserves.

Preparation for the exploitation entails planning, issuing WOs, grouping of exploiting forces, planning for CSS, and establishing communications. The commander must be ready at all times to use every opportunity afforded by the enemy for exploitation. Exploitation opportunities are indicated by an increase in prisoners captured; an increase in abandoned materiel; and the overrunning of artillery, command facilities, signal installations, and supply dumps. The transition from the deliberate attack to the exploitation may be so gradual that it is hardly distinguishable, or it may be abrupt. The abrupt transition occurs most frequently when nuclear or chemical munitions are used. After transition to the exploitation, every effort is made to continue the advance without halting, bypass enemy resistance when possible, and use available FS to the maximum when appropriate targets are presented. FS target acquisition systems and observers are positioned well forward with lead elements.

Once the exploitation begins, it is carried out to the final objective. The enemy should be given no relief from offensive pressure. Enemy troops encountered are not engaged unless they are a threat to the brigade or cannot be bypassed. The decision to bypass or engage these enemy forces rests with the next higher commander. Normally, freedom of action is delegated to commanders in the exploitation. The leading elements of the brigade habitually attack from march column to reduce roadblocks and small pockets of resistance and to perform the reconnaissance necessary to develop the situation.

Follow-and-support units clear the bypassed areas and expand the zone of exploitation. Follow-and-support units are assigned missions to assist exploiting forces by relieving them of tasks that would slow their advance (such as preventing the enemy from closing the gap in a penetration and securing key terrain gained during a penetration or envelopment). Follow-and-support forces are allocated FS as the situation dictates. As the exploiting brigade advances farther into the enemys rear areas, the follow-and-support units secure lines of communication and supply, support the exploiting elements of the brigade, destroy pockets of bypassed enemy, and expand the area of exploitation from the brigade axis.

Follow-and-support units relieve brigade elements blocking or containing enemy pockets, or protecting areas or installations, thereby enabling these elements to rejoin the exploiting force. Liaison must be maintained between lead units and follow-and-support units to facilitate coordination.

Decentralized execution is characteristic of the exploitation; however, the commander maintains enough control to prevent overextension of the command. Minimum control measures are used. CSS operations are normally centralized.

Reconnaissance systems maintain contact with enemy movements and keep the commander advised of enemy activities. CAS aircraft, deep FA fires, and attack helicopters attack moving enemy reserves, withdrawing enemy columns, and enemy constrictions at choke points. CAS, FA, and attack helicopters may also be used against enemy forces that threaten the flanks of the exploiting force.

Petroleum consumption rates are high; therefore, provision for rapid resupply is essential. Since forward elements may be operating to the rear of bypassed enemy forces, security of ground supply columns must be considered. Aerial resupply may be necessary. Exploiting forces take advantage of captured supplies whenever possible.

In the exploitation, the attacker seeks to follow up the gains of a successful penetration. The attacker drives deep into the enemys rear to destroy his means to reconstitute an organized defense or to initiate an orderly withdrawal.


The pursuit normally follows a successful exploitation. The primary function of pursuit is to complete the destruction of the enemy force. As a successful exploitation develops and the enemy begins to lose the ability to influence the situation, the brigade may be ordered to execute the pursuit. Unlike exploitation, in which the attacking force avoids enemy units in order to destroy their support system, in the pursuit the brigade may point its advance toward a physical objective; however, the mission is the destruction of the enemys main force.

Friendly forces in the exploitation are alert for indicators of an enemy collapse that would permit a pursuit operation. There are several indicators of a weakening enemy:

  • Continued advance without strong enemy reaction.
  • An increased number of captured prisoners, abandoned weapons, and unburied dead.
  • A lessening of hostile artillery fire.
  • A lack of enemy countermeasures.

The pursuit is ordered when the enemy can no longer maintain its position and tries to escape. The commander exerts unrelenting pressure to keep the enemy from reorganizing and preparing its defenses. The brigade may conduct a pursuit operation as part of a corps or division pursuit, functioning as either the direct-pressure or encircling force.


A covering force is a tactically self-contained security force that operates a considerable distance to the front or rear of a moving or stationary force. Its mission is to develop the situation early; defeat hostile forces (if possible); and deceive, delay, and disorganize enemy forces until the main force can cope with the situation.

The brigade may participate in a covering force mission as part of a division that is in turn the covering force for a corps, or as a complete covering force for a division or corps. Because the brigade as a covering force is operating on a broad front, a well-prepared, coordinated plan is required. The plan must reflect centralized, coordinated planning and decentralized execution. Control measures governing the rate and direction of movement are specified. The rate of movement is controlled by successive march objectives, checkpoints, and PLs. The axis of advance or withdrawal is controlled by establishing boundaries between battalion task forces. Army aircraft may be used to provide auxiliary communication, liaison, and other controls between commands.

As a covering force, the brigade will normally operate forward and without the support of the divisions main body. The brigade may have up to three or more task forces abreast operating in task force zones keyed on high-speed routes. Tank-heavy battalion task forces usually lead the advance. Engineers are kept well forward with the task forces. When the brigade conducts a covering force operation, supporting CS and CSS assets are attached to preserve unity of command. Small tank-heavy reserves may be maintained at both battalion and brigade level to influence local actions.

Covering force actions are characterized by speed and aggressiveness (especially in reconnaissance) by developing situations rapidly with strength, by unhesitating commitment of reserves, and by keeping the enemy off balance. The brigade concentrates its attention against enemy forces that are of sufficient size to threaten the main force. Minor resistance is bypassed. Every action is directed toward ensuring the uninterrupted advance of the main body.

Tailored, mobile, high-demand CSS is moved forward with the brigade. Limited Classes III and V supplies and medical triage and evacuation assets move with and are provided march security by the reserve battalion of the brigade.


The commander plans for the operation by task organizing his forces to suit the mission. In this example, he commands an element consisting of the divisional cavalry squadron, an armored and mechanized infantry battalion, and a DS artillery battalion. Knowing that the cavalry squadron operates in zones, essentially with a ground and an air troop working together in each one, the commander designates a task force to follow and support in each zone. He task organizes the battalions so that each task force is able to respond to a variety of threats, generally 2 x armor and 2 x mechanized, with the mechanized task force retaining the ITV company (in an M113-equipped mechanized battalion). The artillery trails, yet remains within the body of the formation.

Based on the commander's bypass criteria, the mission of the covering force is to identify and destroy those enemy elements that can influence the divisions maneuver. In effect, the cavalry troops and the battalion task forces become "hunter/killer" teams. However, some enemy forward detachment positions may be too strong for the covering force battalions. When this occurs, the covering force commander must attempt to find a bypass route that cannot be observed or influenced by a forward detachment. He should also fix the position with indirect fire and, if available, Army aviation or CAS assets.


The brigade commander conducts a rehearsal following the issuance of the OPORD to confirm that each subordinate commander understands his mission within the context of the intent. In particular, the commander reviews actions on contact and the bypass criteria. Commanders must overcome the temptation to focus on each enemy element that attempts to engage the force, but at the same time, they must clear the axis of enemy elements that may significantly impair the movement of the main body. It is the responsibility of the brigade commander to exercise this decision making during the rehearsal and to ensure that the subordinate commanders operate as a team.

The commander observes the rehearsal and provides comments when appropriate. Generally, however, he allows his subordinate commanders to demonstrate their knowledge of the plan and their decision making within the context of the commander's guidance. For his part, the commander practices his use of the DST in an effort to anticipate likely enemy actions. Once he has made a decision, he then rehearses synchronizing his resources to achieve the greatest effect. The commander must resist making changes. Normally, there will not be enough time to coordinate a change in the operation throughout the entire force. Subordinate commanders will already have prepared (and probably issued) their OPORDs. At this point in the process, changes will only increase the confusion that always exists in combat. The commander must continually weigh the amount of combat power he is willing to commit to an area against his overall mission to guard the division main body. Moreover, he must identify the conditions under which he would no longer be able to effectively operate as the covering force, such as increasing strength of the enemy defense, his own attrition, or a combination of the two. The impact of having a covering force become ineffective prior to reaching the enemys main defensive belt is that the attacking force would have to commit prematurely, arriving at the objective area at less than the desired combat strength. Ultimately, this could be the difference between success and failure.


As the brigade advances along the division axis of advance, enemy units are identified by the divisional cavalry squadron. This information is passed to the battalion task forces, which in turn maneuver against the enemy position. In execution, the cavalry troop hands over the enemy to the scout platoon of the following task force. Elements of the air troop may continue to observe the enemy until the arrival of the task force. The cavalry and scout platoons should have gathered enough information about the enemy position so that, upon arrival, the task force can be directed into the assault. This hasty attack should be supported with an appropriate level of CS to ensure success; otherwise, the operation could develop into a deliberate attack and consequently slow the covering force operation significantly.

Weak enemy elements are handed over to the advance guard battalions or brigade main body for destruction. Conversely, those enemy positions that the covering force clearly cannot destroy are maintained under observation by reconnaissance elements; a bypass route is selected around the area, out of direct fire and observation. All information concerning the enemy position is relayed to the division commander, who must then decide to continue to bypass or destroy the position.

As the covering force nears the enemy force, the cavalry squadron probes to confirm possible weaknesses in the enemys array. The task forces adopt a hasty defense that maintains the shoulders of the division penetration and also supports the attack of the main body elements. The cavalry screens farther forward of the hasty defending battalions to provide flank security, or it may continue to infiltrate depending on the division commander's concept of the operation. At this point, the covering force operation ceases, and the brigade commander awaits further instructions or possible task organization changes.

One of the commander's greatest challenges is the control of the two task forces when one is in contact conducting a hasty attack and the other is continuing to move. The commander must stay abreast of the location and situation of the task force in the other zone. He must also guard against focusing too much attention on the action in his own zone. The maintenance of a consistent rate of march through the use of PLs, and the continual adjustment to the speed of each task force in its zone, are essential to a unified action across a broad front.



Commanders and staffs plan breaching operations as a part of all offensive missions. Successful combined arms breaching is a function of applying the four tenets of breaching. The tenets are:

  • Intelligence.
  • Breaching fundamentals and organization.
  • Mass.
  • Synchronization.

See FM 90-13-1 for additional information on breaching operations.


In any operation where enemy obstacles can interfere with friendly maneuver, obstacle intelligence becomes a PIR. Finding enemy obstacles or seeing enemy obstacle activity validates and refines the S2s picture of the battlefield. Obstacle intelligence does several things:

  • Supports the situation template.
  • Helps determine enemy intentions as well as the strength of his defenses.
  • Focuses intelligence-gathering assets.
  • Drives breach/maneuver planning.

Breaching Fundamentals

Suppress, obscure, secure, and reduce (SOSR) are breaching fundamentals. These fundamentals apply to all types of breaching operations (in-stride, deliberate, assault, and covert) with some variations based on the situation.


Suppression is the mission-critical task for breaching operations. Direct and indirect fires serve to isolate the breach site/point of penetration and protect forces reducing and maneuvering through the obstacle.


Effective emplacement of smoke degrades enemy observation and target acquisition and conceals friendly activities and movement.


The force secures the breaching operation site to prevent the enemy from interfering with obstacle reduction and passage of the assault forces. Security by fire or force depends on the enemy situation. The security force secures the breach site by suppressing outposts and fighting positions near the obstacle, and against overwatching and counterattacking forces.


Reduction means creating lanes through the obstacle to allow the attacking force to pass. The actual breaching of obstacles is a major part of actions on the objective. The number and width of lanes varies with the situation and type of breaching operation. Reduction cannot be accomplished until the other SOSR fundamentals are applied.

Breaching Organization

The commander organizes the forces to accomplish SOSR. This requires him to organize support, breach, and assault forces with the necessary assets to accomplish their roles.

Support Force

The support forces primary responsibility is to eliminate the enemys ability to interfere with the breaching operation. It must:

  • Isolate the battlefield with fires and suppress enemy fires covering the obstacle.
  • Mass direct and indirect fires to fix the enemy in position and to destroy any weapons that are able to bring fires on the breaching force.
  • Control obscuring smoke to hinder enemy-observed direct and indirect fires.

Suppression is critical for a successful breach. The first priority of force allocation is the support force. The commander allocates direct and indirect-fire systems to achieve the support force ratio of 3 to 1 for a deliberate breach.

Breach Force

The breach force is a combined arms force. Its primary mission is to create the lanes that enable the attacking force to pass through the obstacle and continue the attack. It includes engineers, breaching assets, and a maneuver element capable of providing internal SOSR operations. The breach force commander can be the engineer commander or any subordinate commander working for the brigade commander in a command relationship.

The commander allocates engineer platoons and equipment based on the number of lanes required. The breach force must be capable of creating a minimum of one lane for each assaulting company or two lanes for an assaulting task force. The commander should expect a 50 percent loss of mobility assets in close combat. Therefore, breaching a lane in close combat requires at least an engineer platoon in the breach force.

Assault Force

The assault forces primary mission is to destroy or dislodge the enemy on the far side of the obstacle. It secures the far side by physical occupation in most deliberate or light-force breaching operations. The assault force may be tasked to assist the support force with suppression while the breach force reduces the obstacle.

If the obstacle is defended by a small force, the assault force mission may be combined with the breach force mission. This simplifies command and control and provides more immediate combat power for security and suppression. Combat power is allocated to the assault force to achieve a 3 to 1 ratio on the assault objective.


Combined arms breaching is conducted by rapidly applying combat power to reduce the obstacle and rupture the defense.

Table 4-1. Types of breaching operations versus enemy size.

Maneuver Unit Instride Deliberate Assault Covert Enemy Size
Overwatching Obstacles
X X Battalion
Task Force







X - Type of breach normally conducted
* - Possible variation depending on scheme of maneuver

Massed combat power is directed against an enemy weakness. The location selected for breaching depends largely on a weakness in the enemy defense where its covering fires are minimized. If the attacker cannot find a natural weakness, he creates one by fixing the majority of the defending force and isolating a small part of it for attack.

The need to generate enough mass strongly influences which echelon can conduct a breaching operation (see Table 4-1). A company team generally cannot simultaneously mass sufficient fires, breach the obstacle, and also assault the defending position unless it is a simple obstacle defended by no more than a squad. A task force has sufficient combat power to attack an obstacle defended by a company and is normally the echelon used to execute the breach.

The brigade has sufficient combat power to attack a complex and well-defended obstacle but has difficulty deploying all its combat power within range. Normally, the brigade breaches by isolating a small segment of the defense (platoon or company) that a task force can then attack as the breaching echelon. If the obstacle and defense are in-depth (large scale), brigades would normally receive additional support (such as artillery, engineer, aviation) from division for large-scale breaching operations. A large-scale breach is defined as a deliberate operation conducted by brigades and divisions to create a penetration through well-prepared defenses so that follow-on brigades and divisions can pass through them.

The commander also masses his engineers and breaching equipment to reduce the obstacle. The breach force is organized and equipped to use several different reduction techniques in case the primary technique fails (a key breaching asset is destroyed or casualties render dismounted engineers ineffective). Additional breaching assets are available to handle the unexpected. Normally, 50 percent more than required are positioned with the breach force.


Breaching operations require precise synchronization of SOSR by support, breach, and assault forces (see Table 4-2). The commander ensures synchronization through proper planning and force preparation. Fundamentals to achieve synchronization are:

  • Detailed reverse planning.
  • Clear subunit instructions.
  • Effective command and control.
  • A well-rehearsed force.

Synchronizing the combined arms breach begins by using the reverse planning process to ensure actions at obstacles support actions on the objective. Planning a breach without regard to actions on the objective leads to disaster. The commander first decides how he must attack an objective to accomplish his mission. This decision drives where, how, and with what force he must support, breach, and assault through the enemys obstacles and take the objective.

Table 4-2. Breach complexity.

Develop situation (verifying boundary of enemy obstacles system) Force in contact M to 2 S3
Maneuver support force into overwatch position Support M+2 to 15 Support Cdr
Maneuver assault force into covered assault position Assault M+2 to 15 Assault Cdr
Call for artillery DS artillery M+2 to 15 FSO
Build smoke Mortars M+5 to 10 FSO
Suppress enemy with direct fires Support M+15 to 29 Support Cdr
Suppress enemy with artillery fires DS artillery M+10 to 29 FSO
Maintain smoke DS artillery/mortars M+10 to 30 FSO
Maneuver breach force to breach location Breach M+20 to 23 Breach Cdr
Reduce obstacle
Prepare two lanes
Breach M+23 to 30 Engineer Leader
Place smoke pots Breach M+23 to EOM Breach Cdr
Shift direct fires off of OBJ Support M+29 to 30 Assault Cdr
Shift indirect fires beyond OBJ DS artillery M+29 to 30 Assault Cdr
Assault to destroy enemy on far side of obstacle Assault M+30 to 45 Assault Cdr
Reorganize to continue mission TF M+45 to EOM S3
M = contact with obstacle

The most effective synchronization tool available to the commander is the rehearsal. The inherent complexity of a breaching operation makes rehearsals at every level essential to success. The commander must afford his subordinates the time to plan how they will execute their assigned missions and to rehearse that plan with their unit. Breaching operations are a part of every rehearsal.



In-stride breaching is a very rapid technique using standard actions on contact and normal movement techniques. It consists of preplanned, well-trained, well-rehearsed breaching actions and reduction procedures by predesignated combined arms elements. The force uses the in-stride breach against either weak defenders or very simple obstacles and executes it from the march. Subordinate forces always move configured to execute an in-stride breach with organic and task organized engineer assets. A brigade in-stride breach is a deliberate breach for a task force.

Deliberate Breach

The maneuver force attacks a stronger defense or more complex obstacle system with a deliberate breach. It is similar to a deliberate attack, requiring detailed knowledge of both the defense and the obstacle system. Units conduct a deliberate breaching operation when:

  • The unit fails an attempted in-stride breach of enemy tactical obstacles.
  • Force ratios indicate that a confirmed enemy situation is beyond the capabilities of a subordinate unit.

A brigade conducts a deliberate breach using one or more task forces in support, breach, and assault roles. Breach task organization considerations and application of SOSR breaching fundamentals are the same as for the task force deliberate breach. The brigade scheme of maneuver must address how task forces maneuver to accomplish their support, breach, and assault missions. Since the brigade deliberate breach involves the maneuver of task forces, the brigade commander and staff are responsible for detailed planning, centralized rehearsals, and synchronization.


The maneuver force uses an assault breach to break a dismounted force through enemy protective obstacles onto the enemy position. Depending on the size and difficulty of the defensive obstacle system, this breaching procedure can be a variation of either deliberate or in-stride breaching techniques.


Light and dismounted forces use covert breaching operations to pass secretly through obstacles. The covert breach also uses elements of the deliberate or in-stride breach. Surprise is the primary consideration that drives the commander to a covert breach. Covert breaching centers around using stealth to reduce the obstacle with support and assault forces executing their mission only if reduction is detected.

A brigade with automated capabilities can conduct deliberate and in-stride breaching operations with greater speed and precision than a conventional unit. Rehearsals are still key, because breach operations are complex, yet the entire breaching operation can be conducted with greater confidence of success; this includes during periods of limited visibility. Units designated to conduct reconnaissance for the breach force unit can transmit accurate bypass information to the brigade with waypoints. This keeps units from blundering into the obstacle and allows for rapid passage through the obstacle system. Accurate and timely information on enemy and friendly forces allows the brigade to disperse, provide accurate direct and indirect fires on the enemy, and aggressively move to continue attacking the enemy. The brigade uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), scouts, and other observation systems to accurately locate deep enemy targets (artillery, logistics) and attacks them prior to the assault forces arrival.


Night offensive operations are conducted to exploit the possibilities for security and surprise or to continue combat operations. By conducting night operations the commander expects to conceal his action from the enemy, achieve surprise, exploit earlier success, or maintain the momentum. In each case, the focus is gaining or retaining the initiative.

Note. All limited visibility operations require more detailed planning, rehearsals, and graphic control measures.



Advantages of night offensive operations include:

  • Defenses are more susceptible to infiltration.
  • Despite increased efforts at protection, the defender is more susceptible to NBC attack because of reduced efficiency and sleep rotations.
  • Movement of large forces is concealed by darkness.
  • Physical and psychological factors favor the attacker. Shock, disorientation, and isolation are more easily achieved.
  • Air assets can operate more safely due to difficult observation.
  • Surprise is enhanced. Defenders are more susceptible to deception techniques (dummy lights, noise, smoke, and fires).
  • The speed at which a defender can employ his reserves is reduced at night. DPs must be farther out in time and space.


Disadvantages of night offensive operations include:

  • Command and control and coordination of units become more difficult, and it is easier for the defender to react to a changing situation and alter operations than it is for the attacker.
  • It is difficult for the attacker to determine the limits of obstacles.
  • Attackers can be deceived with light, smoke, noise, and fires.
  • The attacker can lose momentum during the final assault because of the reduced speed of the attack.
  • Navigation is difficult for night attacks. Units may be separated, command and control lost within units, and support elements moved out of position.
  • The battlefield can be changed during darkness. Obstacles that escape reconnaissance can be emplaced under darkness.
  • Adjustment of indirect fire is difficult, even with the use of night-vision devices (NVD) or illumination.
  • Units require significantly larger quantities of signal ammunition (smoke, tracers, flares, and illumination rounds).
  • Locating and evacuating casualties is very difficult.
  • Use of FA illumination can render the artillery vulnerable to counterfire.
  • Muzzle flash from the artillery guns can be detected easily.


The following is a list of tactical planning considerations, by BOS, that are different for a night offensive operation when compared to a daylight offensive.


Reconnaissance of the enemy should not be confused with reconnaissance of the routes to the objective. Units should reconnoiter their routes and rehearse if possible. Reconnaissance assets may be tasked to provide guides to a point on the battlefield, but are best used to pinpoint enemy fortifications. Reconnaissance of night objectives should include:

  • Presence and number of searchlights and NVDs.
  • Location of illumination points.
  • "Duty" positions, that is, those that are continuously manned. These may also be false positions for daylight occupation only.
  • Locations of AT weapons and FA guns.
  • Forward locations of the reserve, command and OP positions, and counterattack routes.


The forms of maneuver for the night offense are the same as for the daylight offense; however, conditions of METT-T may change the commander's perception of which form of maneuver best ensures mission accomplishment. Some additional planning considerations for night maneuver are:

  • If attacking an enemy that has technological parity in night observation equipment and training or has the means to fully illuminate the battlefield, the envelopment or the turning movement can take advantage of darkness to flank or avoid enemy fields of fire, since not all areas of the defense will have equal coverage of night-vision equipment.
  • Conversely, if the attacker has the advantage in night observation technology or is better trained than the defender, darkness may be used to conduct a penetration, infiltration, or frontal attack that may not have been feasible in daylight.

Unit reconnaissance of routes and axes is invaluable in conducting a night maneuver. Plans for night movement should include:

  • Leader reconnaissance, in daylight, as far forward as possible.
  • Measuring distances to check-points, PLs, and other control measures along the route of advance.
  • Designation of guides for the combat formations.

Fire Support

The adjustment of indirect fire by human observation becomes degraded at night. Darkness and the use of NVDs both degrade depth perception. To counter these effects, plans should include the use of radar, illumination, and terminally guided munitions to ensure accuracy of adjustments. Each fire support team vehicle (FISTV) has a ground/vehicle laser locator/designator (G/VLLD) that can be dismounted to provide increased observation capability. The following considerations apply when conducting night attacks:

  • Plan for illumination. A nonilluminated attack plan ceases to be one with the first enemy illumination round. Contingency plans should be made to illuminate at any point of the attack or to switch to continuous illumination.
  • Plan counter observation to degrade night observation devices (NOD). Illumination rounds can white out enemy image intensification sights, and smoke can obscure the ambient light needed to use intensification devices.
  • Initiate and cancel fires for prearranged handheld illumination.
  • Place fire support coordination measures (FSCM) on identifiable terrain. Permissive measures should be as close as possible in front of friendly forces.
  • Exercise caution when using FASCAM at night because it is difficult to see.
  • Mark targets for ground burst illumination for ground forces as well as for CAS.

If possible, register as many targets as possible during daylight.

Mobility and Survivability

The process of planning and preparing combined arms breaching during hours of darkness is the same as during daylight. The only difference is the inherent command and control difficulties experienced when conducting night operations. The tenets of combined arms breaching are planned and the operation wargamed and synchronized. Special considerations for breaching at night include:

  • Covert breaching. Consideration must be given to decreasing the signature of firing demolitions.
  • Additional time required to position forces and conduct the breaching operations.
  • Control measures for moving and positioning forces.
  • Night marking devices (far recognition, final approach, and lanes).
  • Fire control measures.
  • Rehearsals (night).

Air Defense

At night, identification, friend, or foe (IFF) relies mostly on electronic interrogation. Visual detection capability depends on the ambient light available.

Forward area air defense (FAAD) has immense signatures; it should not be positioned where it brings return fire onto adjacent units.

Combined arms for air defense should not normally be employed at night, except for immediate self-defense.

Combat Service Support

Units in a night offensive must be resupplied, rearmed, and refueled before execution. Logistics activity is much tougher at night.

Casualty location, identification, and evacuation require additional control measures and ground resources. The battalion aid station should be farther forward, and plans for aeromedical evacuation must include marking signals for the pickup zones.

Pre-positioning supplies and services forward helps support night attacks. OPSEC must be maintained so that an imminent offense is not detected.

CSS should be brought forward rapidly at first light to allow the momentum of the offense to continue.

Command and Control

This is the area of tactical planning that changes most during night offensive operations. That is because centralized control can simplify synchronization of the plan in this instance.

Graphic control measures are usually more restrictive for a night attack. There are graphic control measures that apply specifically to limited visibility, point of departure, and probable line of deployment (see FM 101-5-1). All leaders must be familiar with these terms and symbols. All control measures should translate into easily identifiable locations on the ground, under all levels of visibility.

Navigation at night must be planned in greater detail and take advantage of visual and nonvisual technological capabilities. It may also include the use of guides and traffic control points.

Communications must also be planned in greater detail. Plan redundant means of communication. Place particular emphasis on COLT, scout, and FS links. Specify communications events in the synchronization matrix and plan event triggers. Pre-position single vehicles forward to act as manual radio relays to back up retransmission failure. Link vulnerable communication teams with scouts and MPs for force protection.

Scout and other reconnaissance elements such as COLTs, ADA scouts, MPs, or engineer scouts require highly detailed signal support and extensive back-up. Reconnaissance elements operating well forward at night should not plan operations beyond their communications ranges. This is even more true during air insertions and dismounted/light scout operations.

Forward to Chapter 5.
Return to Chapter 3.
Return to the Table of Contents.

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