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Combined Arms Maneuver During Urban Combat
by Arthur A. Durante, Deputy Chief of Doctrine, U.S. Army Infantry School
and CAPT Shenandoah Sanchez, Tactics Instructor, Basic School, USMC


The Air Assault brigade assisting the Cortinian government in its struggle against the insurgent Cortinian Liberation Force (CLF) was faced with a daunting task. It was to retake Shugart-Gordon from a CLF main force battalion and return the city to Cortinian government control. The commander knew from experience that fighting in the city against the fanatical CLF would be difficult. The city presented many different conditions that his soldiers had not faced in earlier combat in the forests and swamps of Cortina.

The commander reviewed the forces at his disposal: a powerful maneuver force of three infantry battalions and a tank company team, armed helicopters, two artillery batteries, and all the combat support and combat service support units of a modern army.

How would he meld these forces into a team to accomplish his mission? How would he use this combined arms team to wrest Shugart-Gordon from the CLF with the least amount of friendly and non-combatant casualties? How would he avoid destruction of the vital parts of the town so that the Cortinian government could return life to normal for its citizens in as short a time as possible?

All these questions went through his mind as he began to formulate commander's guidance for his staff. He knew that urban combat at the brigade level, something the American Army had not done since operations in Panama City, was different from other operations. It was his job to determine how different, in what way it was different, and to lead his brigade to victory.


U.S. Army doctrine is consistent when describing the steps a commander must take to conduct successful offensive operations.

In each of the doctrinal manuals, such as FM 100-15, Corps Operations, and FM 7-10, The Infantry Rifle Company, the steps of a deliberate attack include isolation of the objective area and seizure of the objective. This doctrinal guidance applies to deliberate attacks on all terrain, but isolation of the objective area is particularly important during urban combat. Unfortunately, due to the nature of urban combat, it is particularly difficult to achieve.

Deliberate attacks are fully synchronized operations that employ all the assets and forces available to a unit. At echelons above the brigade, the corps and division prepare for deliberate attacks by employing operational security measures, engaging in deception, and selecting a time and location for the attack to achieve tactical surprise.

The corps uses maneuver combined with firepower and information operations to isolate the division's objectives. The corps and division commanders ensure full integration of joint assets, particularly the effects of joint fires and joint acquisition systems, to isolate the close battle area.

It is at the brigade level, however, that true isolation of the objective area first becomes possible. This is especially true of urban objectives.


OBSERVATION 1: Isolation of the brigade objective. The brigade commander planning to attack an urban area must carefully determine how much isolation of the objective area his forces can accomplish, and how they can accomplish it. Regardless of the technique chosen, effective isolation of a brigade objective in an urban area is a difficult task.

DISCUSSION 1: Although the doctrinal principle of isolation of the objective is a constant, the brigade commander must consider each of the factors of METT-TC (mission, enemy, terrain, time, troops available, and civilian considerations) when planning isolation actions. Just as every urban area is different, the factors of METT-TC combine to make every operation in an urban area unique.

This does not mean that doctrinal principles do not apply, but it does mean that a set of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) appropriate for one urban attack with its unique set of METT-TC conditions may be completely inappropriate for another attack a few miles away. This is the challenge the commander and his staff faces every day in an urban area: to recognize the differences and to apply the established doctrinal principles to determine the appropriate TTP.

The degree of isolation the brigade can achieve is completely different if the objective is a small-to medium-sized town with a clearly definable boundary than it is for one part of a built-up area that is connected directly to a larger metropolitan complex. Commanders must not allow themselves to become prisoners of the mind-set that sees isolation of the objective as something that is as clean and neat as a line drawn on an overlay. Sometimes isolation is more psychological than physical or more relative than absolute.

TTP: Isolation begins with the efforts of the division and corps psychological and civil affairs operations to influence enemy and civilian actions. The brigade commander should consider using PSYOPS (psychological operations) teams to broadcast surrender solicitations to the enemy forces and to deliver pamphlets directing the civilian populace to move to a designated safe area. These actions must be coordinated with the overall PSYOPS plan for the theater and must not sacrifice surprise.

There are drawbacks to this technique. By themselves, PSYOPS are seldom decisive. They take time to become effective and their effects are difficult to measure until after the actual attack, but they have proven to be successful in the past. Under some METT-TC conditions, they have achieved results far outweighing the effort put into them.

TTP: Sensor and reconnaissance units, to include air force assets, prove to be useful only if ground forces in the areas have control of those assets. Reconnaissance elements such as a squad or a platoon must be able to directly interact and communicate with all reconnaissance elements. Too often units use an information buffer, such as an S-2, to intercept information.

The most common isolation is to use a combination of sensors and reconnaissance units along avenues of approach to detect significant enemy forces as they attempt to enter the objective area. The brigade can engage these enemy forces with indirect fires, aerial fires, or a combination of the two. This TTP may be effective in detecting and stopping large enemy units from entering, but the cover and concealment the urban area provides makes it very difficult to totally seal off the urban objective.

To be successful, this technique requires skillful reconnaissance units and responsive fires. It may not be possible for the brigade to observe all avenues of approach, and enemy units may escape detection by infiltrating. It may be difficult to tell the difference between enemy personnel and non-combatants moving in the urban area. Indirect fires may cause unacceptable damage to key parts of the city.

TTP: The most effective method of isolating an urban objective may be by using a combination of sensors, reconnaissance elements, and maneuver forces. The brigade commander moves platoons and companies into positions where they can dominate avenues of approach with observation and direct fires. This is much easier to do where the urban area is small and has clearly defined boundaries than in large urban areas. Large urban areas will prevent a maneuver force from gaining access to a position from which to stop enemy movement into the objective area.

TTP: In some instances, intense indirect and aerial fires are the sole techniques to isolate. This is the most destructive technique; it demands large amounts of ammunition and it may only last for short periods of time. In many urban areas, it may not be completely effective, but it may be the only choice left to the commander.

Brigade fire planners can improve the effectiveness of this technique by careful selection of targets. Mortar and light artillery fires falling onto large buildings are not as effective in preventing enemy movement as fires falling in open areas. Targeting them against larger avenues, parks, and other open areas will force the enemy to move only within buildings.

Heavy artillery and aerial fires can be directed against buildings that the enemy is using for movement or observation. This will greatly slow his movement but not stop it. It will hinder his resupply efforts and make it difficult to reinforce units under attack. Targeting obvious choke points such as bridges or main road junctions can improve the isolation effect.

Smoke can be used to isolate the objective from enemy observation, but it is difficult to predict what smoke will do in the urban area, and obscuration rounds may cause uncontrolled fires in the city.

TTP: Specific isolation TTPS should be considered in the effort to isolate a village, town or city. Friendly minefields delivered by air or truck may be the answer to isolating an objective. Delivered volcano could isolate the objective from possible enemy reinforcement or any mechanized threat. Consider the use of air defense assets to counter enemy aviation from disrupting friendly forces momentum once it is established.

TTP: Brigade commanders can also offer another type of isolation--political. In peacekeeping operations, these commanders can influence counterparts via the Joint Military Commission (JMC) or by civilian bilateral meetings. The commander provides resources when there is cooperation and denies is when there is a lack of cooperation. The commander uses the targeting synchronization meeting to identify political objectives and assigns responsibilities to units to accomplish these objectives.


OBSERVATION 2: Isolation of the battalion objective. Isolation of the battalion objective involves limiting enemy fires, movement, and observation not only from ground level, but also from the upper stories of buildings and below ground level.

DISCUSSION 2: Isolation of the battalion objective is critical in urban combat because of the close ranges and limited sight distances of the city. Enemy units occupying buildings outside the battalion's objective area may be in other buildings so close that they can quickly reposition to counterattack or can bring direct fire to bear on friendly forces.

TTP: Often, the most effective tactic for isolating the battalion's objective is for other units of the brigade to conduct supporting attacks directed against buildings on the flanks while indirect aerial fires strike buildings to the rear. These supporting attacks can be tied into the brigade's deception plan as feints, but they must include at least attacks by fire. In some cases, the supporting attacks must actually assault buildings bordering on the battalion's objective.

Once again, smoke may be useful in isolating the objective. As in any use of smoke in an urban area, it is difficult to predict how smoke will obscure, and the mortar or artillery rounds may start uncontrolled fires that hinder further friendly actions. If an urban area adjacent to the battalion's objective is semi-detached from the area around it, fires to deliberately ignite the buildings should be considered. Although perhaps not desirable because of other considerations, a fire can make the buildings unusable for quite some time, up to three days for a large fire.

Field artillery-delivered mines can be used to deny the enemy the use of parks or other open areas, but the effect of those munitions on non-combatants and the brigade's future operations must be considered. Short-term self-destruct mines are normally the most useful.

Isolation of the battalion's objective may become a detailed, ammunition-intensive effort, but it is important to allow the brigade's main effort battalion to operate unhindered.

TTP: Isolation of the battalion objective includes controlling access in and out of the area of operations. Commanders need to assign responsibility for security zone operations while the main effort is conducting the MOUT attack. All efforts must be synchronized for the main effort to succeed. This security zone force has to be equipped with adequate forces in order to prevent an enemy counterattack. Cordon of the urban area may prove to be unattainable; thus commanders either request additional assets or focus on the most probable enemy avenues of approach into the objective area.


OBSERVATION 3: Combined arms assault of the company objective. The enemy force on the company's objective must be fully suppressed before a successful ground assault can be launched.

DISCUSSION 3: Historically, most assaulting unit casualties occur as the unit departs covered and concealed positions and moves into the open area between buildings. For a company to maneuver its main effort platoon onto the objective, it normally requires a combined arms effort by all the other units in the company.

Although an all-infantry force can be successful in urban combat (especially against light resistance), it lacks firepower and mobility under small arms fire. A truly integrated combined arms team is the most effective urban combat force. This means infantry working as a well-oiled team with tanks, armored fighting vehicles, engineers and engineer vehicles, armed helicopters, and field artillery. It is at the company level that all these different units come together under fire in a very small area. Infantry needs to be cross-trained by engineers in demolitions and engineers need to be trained in room clearing techniques by the infantry. They must all work together.

Individual and small team initiative, audacity, and aggressiveness commensurate with the commander's intent will make the plan successful. Small unit leaders need to be aware of the operations plan and know the intent of their higher commander. Crossing a danger area in order to gain a foothold in a building becomes a significant emotional event. Leaders at all levels need to show courage, candor, and confidence in the conduct of their operation. Doubt in mission success and lack of confidence in leader ability will prevent soldiers from responding aggressively in time of intense stress. Mission rehearsal and small unit discipline will build confidence in the plan and in the leader.

TTP: Task organize the tank platoon into two sections of two vehicles each, and assign each section to a rifle platoon. A squad of infantry is needed to protect tanks which ultimately depletes the platoon of vital manpower and firepower. The protection needed should come from a uncommitted unit if possible.

TTP: Depending on the urban environment, a platoon located in a building may not be able to effectively control a tank section. The platoon leader will already be over tasked with requests for indirect fire, CASEVAC, clearing rooms, and EPWs. An infantry company may be able to command and control a tank platoon if the urban area does not consist of high-rise or multiple story buildings. A squad that is dedicated to protecting tanks from ATGMs can assist a tank section in support to lead squads or platoons, but the command and control should remain with the company commander. The issues that need to be addressed to change this type of relationship are communications tank to ground, considerations of the physical and mental challenges of urban combat, and the limited maneuver space available for tanks to properly support operations.

OBSERVATION 4: The first and most fundamental lesson from recent U.S. and allied operations in built-up areas is the value of the fully integrated combined arms team.

DISCUSSION 4: In spite of the critical value of light infantry forces during urban combat, combat in urban areas should never be considered a pure infantry task. Such fighting by units composed entirely of infantrymen is a historical anomaly. Across the spectrum of combat action in urban areas, powerful combined arms teams produce the best results. Light infantry units operating alone suffer from critical shortcomings that can only be compensated for by the creation of teams containing the appropriate mix of mechanized infantry, armor, and engineers. These teams must be supported by closely integrated aviation, fire support, communication, and logistical elements.

Combat in some urban areas is decentralized and the avenues of approach so channeled that massed armored vehicles cannot be employed. The heavy firepower, mobility, and armor protection of the tank or BFV are still needed; however, urban combat often calls for fewer armored vehicles deployed over broader areas.

TTP: Task organize by attaching a tank platoon to an infantry company with the tanks of the platoon further sub-attached on the basis of two tank sections to each of the lead rifle platoons. Individual tanks can be employed, but sections are preferable. Each of the tanks attached to a platoon should have a rifle squad designated to work with it. This TTP must be used carefully. Attachment is a doctrinal relationship that carries with it the requirement to provide logistical support for the attached unit. An infantry rifle company cannot provide all the logistical support a tank platoon needs. Special accommodations must be made for fuel, ammunition, and maintenance support.

TTP: Use anti-tank (AT) systems, mortars, attack aviation or close air support (CAS) to destroy or suppress enemy AT positions that might hinder mechanized movement into the objective area.

TTP: Use AT assets to isolate the objective. The use of AT can provide building direct fire breaches with TOW shots and suppressive fires to upper floors with the MK-19 and the M2 machine gun. The idea of task organizing a TOW company or platoons with primary crew-served weapons mounted for the fight is worth considering.

TTP: Combined arms breaching must consider the use of MICLIC with sappers in support. Infantry and engineer use of demolition (demo kits) to create holes in buildings to facilitate covered movement through the objective is necessary. Shadowing infantry with a tank is not the only method proven to work in urban street fighting.

OBSERVATION 5: Sniper employment in urban combat. The value of the sniper to a unit operating in an urban area depends on several factors. These factors include the type of operation, the level of conflict, and the rules of engagement. When the ROE allows destruction of a building, snipers may not be needed since other weapons systems available to a mechanized force have greater destructive effect. However, they can contribute to the fight. When the ROE prohibit collateral damage, snipers may be a valuable tool to the commander.

DISCUSSION 5: Sniper effectiveness depends in part on the terrain. Control is degraded by the characteristics of an urban area. To provide timely and effective support, the sniper must have a clear picture of the scheme of maneuver and the commander's intent.

  • Observation and fields of fire are clearly defined by roadways, but surveillance is limited by rooftops, windows, and doorways; each of these require constant observation. Also, the effects of smoke from military obscurants and burning buildings can degrade what appears to be an excellent vantage point. The requirement for all-round defense must be met because the enemy can fire from many directions and because enemy infiltration attempts must be countered.
  • Cover and concealment are excellent for both the attacker and the defender. However, the defender has a decisive advantage; the attacker normally must expose himself during movement through the area.
  • Avenues of approach that remain inside buildings are best. Movement there is less easily detected than movement through the streets. The sniper must be conscious of ALL avenues of approach and must be prepared to engage targets that appear on any of them.

Snipers should be positioned in buildings of masonry, concrete, or stone construction. These buildings should also offer long-range fields of fire and all-round observation. The sniper has an advantage because he does not have to move with, or be positioned with, lead elements. He may occupy a elevated position to the rear or flank and some distance away from the element he is supporting. By operating far from the other elements, a sniper avoids decisive engagement, but remains close enough to kill distant targets that threaten the unit. Snipers should not be placed in obvious positions, such as church steeples and rooftops, since the enemy often observes these and targets them for destruction. Indirect fires can generally penetrate rooftops and cause casualties in top floors of buildings. Also, snipers should not be positioned where there is heavy traffic; these areas invite enemy observation as well.

TTP: Snipers should be free to operate throughout the area of operations, moving with and supporting the companies as necessary. Some teams may operate independent of other forces. They search for targets of opportunity, especially for enemy snipers. The team may occupy multiple positions. A single position may not afford adequate observation for the entire team without increasing the risk of detection by the enemy. Separate positions must maintain mutual support. Alternate and supplementary positions should also be established in urban areas.

TTP: Snipers may be assigned the following tasks:

  • Conducting counter-sniper operations.
  • Killing targets of opportunity. The sniper team prioritizes these targets based on their understanding of the commander's intent--for example, enemy snipers first, then leaders, vehicle commanders, radio men, sappers, and machine gun crews, in that order.
  • Denying enemy access to certain areas or avenues of approach (controlling key terrain).
  • Providing fire support for barricades and other obstacles.
  • Maintaining surveillance of flank and rear avenues of approach (screening).
  • Supporting local counterattacks with precision fire.

TTP: Snipers can be valuable to commanders in operations other than war. Since excessive collateral damage and civilian casualties are normally restricted by the ROE, snipers can selectively engage key individuals who pose a threat to friendly forces. This selective engagement avoids unacceptable civilian casualties or collateral damage. Enemy personnel may hide in the midst of the civilian populace. Engaging these targets would probably cause innocent casualties. This puts U.S. forces at a disadvantage. The soldiers must first identify the gunman (this may be nearly impossible from their vantage point). Then, without hurting innocent bystanders, they must stop him from continuing to fire or from fleeing. This is an easier task for a sniper than for the infantry on the ground. The sniper can look down on the crowd, use his optics to continuously scan, and employ precision fire to eliminate the identified threat without harming bystanders. Though other unit optical systems may supplement the surveillance effort (Dragons and TOWs from the ground or from the upper floors of buildings), they cannot engage the target for the previously stated reasons. The sniper rifle provides the commander with the ONLY system that can both identify and engage the target. Also, after identifying the target, Dragons and TOWs still need time to guide a precision weapon or maneuver unit to the target to deal with it.

OBSERVATION 6: Observation and fields of fire. Estimate of the situation and urban terrain analysis are crucial at squad and platoon level. Because of the complexities involved in urban combat, leaders at all levels should use OCOKA as a guide when conducting an estimate of the situation and analyzing the urban terrain in detail. OCOKA stands for:

Observation and fields of fire.

Cover and concealment


Key Terrain and weather

Avenues of approach

DISCUSSION 6: Observation and fields of fire are usually restricted to the lanes established by structures, alleys, and streets. Observation is further restricted by smoke, dust, and debris created by intense fighting. Due to limited visibility, fighting is often at close range, and the outcome largely depends on the initiative and aggressiveness of small unit leaders. Engagements historically occur at ranges less than 50 meters. Fields of fire may or may not be restricted based on the type and height of building construction. Because of these restrictions, increased importance is placed on seizing or securing the taller buildings and structures for use as observation posts. Rubble and debris created by the destruction or damage of buildings can severely obscure observation and, in some cases, restrict existing fields of fire.


  • Defenders may consider deliberately reducing selected buildings to rubble, or partially destroying buildings to improve observation and fields of fire.
  • Attackers should employ smoke and suppress likely enemy OPs to facilitate movement.
  • Rubble also reduces mobility and increases the vulnerability of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other vehicles to ambushes by dismounted forces.

OBSERVATION 7: Cover and concealment.

DISCUSSION 7: Built-up areas can provide excellent cover and concealment for both the attacker and the defender. However, the defender has an important advantage in that the attacker must eventually expose himself to move through the built-up area.


  • The defender increases his advantage by preparing defensive positions in solidly constructed buildings offering good fields of fire.
  • The defender may also rubble or partially rubble buildings likely to be used by the enemy for cover and concealment and place obstacles to deny the enemy access to cover.
  • The effectiveness of cover depends both upon the density of the buildings (i.e., a city block versus a housing suburb) and the nature of their construction (wood, cinder block, reinforced concrete).
  • Buildings constructed of flammable materials can prove to be death traps for those using them.
  • Stone and masonry buildings with thick walls offer excellent cover even when bombardment has reduced them to rubble.
  • Buildings with basements or cellars and those with two or more stories offer increased overhead cover.
  • Attackers can better capitalize on cover and concealment by conducting good reconnaissance and by using city maps or building blueprints if available.

OBSERVATION 8: Obstacles.

DISCUSSION 8: MOUT offensive operations include getting combat power to the objective. Existing obstacles are abundant in MOUT, and they can easily be strengthened with reinforcing obstacles to enhance counter-mobility. Buildings set close together in geometric patterns present obstacles to both troops and vehicles. This is particularly true in areas of block-type construction, such as that found in a downtown area of a city. The commander should assign engineer mobility assets and breach elements in order to secure routes into the objective area. Obstacle reduction becomes a task force effort and not the sole responsibility of the attached engineer elements.


  • Streets are relatively easy to barricade and cover with fire, thereby adding effectiveness to the obstacles.
  • Rubble caused by artillery, air, direct-fire weapons, and explosives create further obstacles that disrupt, fix, or block movement.
  • Obstacles are also extremely effective inside buildings.
  • Stairwells, hallways, doors, and windows can all be easily barricaded or booby-trapped to kill, delay, or harass an attacking force.
  • Both attackers and defenders alike will depend on extensive engineer support to fight in the urban environment.
  • Increased amounts of obstacle material for buildings, breaching equipment, and material will be needed in the built-up area.
  • Suppress, obscure, secure, and reduce (SOSR) needs greater emphasis on securing the far side of the obstacle 100 to 250 meters out.
  • Assign priority of fires to the breaching unit.
  • Conduct squad and team level breaching rehearsals.

OBSERVATION 9: Key terrain.

DISCUSSION 9: Key terrain is key structures and critical public areas that dominate an urban area and have strategic, operational, or tactical value. Key terrain in a built-up area includes areas such as: heavily constructed or fortified buildings covering large or important avenues of approach, major intersections, electric power plants, water supply and water purification plants, transportation centers, communication centers, buildings with historical or religious significance, government buildings, and bridges. Terrain surrounding the urban area that facilitates entry or denies escape can also be key terrain.

Decisive terrain consists of a critical public area or key structure, the control of which provides a decisive advantage to the attacker or defender. In Mogadishu, Somalia, for example, the "21 October Road," which runs the length of the city and is the major thoroughfare, was considered by some to be decisive. Failure to control this road meant that the warlords controlled the major transportation route and line of communication in Mogadishu.

Critical public areas are locations within a built-up area that may require special coordination to seize or defend, or to avoid damage. Hospitals, for example, may be critical areas because the laws of war prevent their attack when not used for military purposes other than caring for the wounded. Civil defense facilities, air raid shelters, and food supply locations may be critical in dealing with the civilian population.


  • Use all intelligence gathering and reconnaissance/surveillance assets as much as possible to identify key terrain, decisive terrain, and critical public areas as early as possible in the planning process for the initial attack.
  • Thereafter, key terrain, decisive terrain, and critical public areas will continue to change with the situation; the important thing is to keep identifying and updating these areas continuously.

DISCUSSION 10: Avenues of approach.

DISCUSSION 10: The most obvious avenues of approach within built-up areas are streets, alleys, and other open areas. The defender may have many of these avenues barricaded and covered by fire.


  • Often the best avenue of approach is through existing buildings, across roofs, or in subterranean tunnels, sewers, and drainage systems.
  • Avenues of approach are considered in terms of their suitability for both day and night.
  • Both attackers and defenders may need to consider avenues of approach to the urban area, as well as within built-up areas.

OBSERVATION 11: Weather plays a significant role in urban combat.

DISCUSSION 11: Considerations for weather in an urban environment are generally the same as for those in any other environment. Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, may convince units to occupy the interior of structures as opposed to securing both the interior and exterior. Precipitation (heavy rain, snow, sleet or ice) may preclude mechanized/motorized use of certain avenues of approach. Likewise, sewer and tunnel systems that offer dismounted avenues of approach into the urban area may be impassable. In large cities with block-type construction, wind direction and speed may be altered and may affect the employment of smoke, riot control agents, and white phosphorous. Air inversion layers over cities may cause smoke and dust to linger longer than normal and reduce visibility. Illumination percentage for the time of month will affect the overall effectiveness of NVGs if there is no electric power in the city. If electric power remains, building and street lights will increase visibility at night but also reduce the effectiveness of NVGs.


  • Do not undervalue the effect of weather during your estimate of the situation.
  • Weather effects can provide both friendly and enemy forces with certain decisive advantages and disadvantages in any given situation.

OBSERVATION 12: Close Quarter Combat (CQC). CQC techniques employed by special operations forces significantly enhance regular light infantry marksmanship techniques and room-clearing procedures, and provide a preferred movement and clearing method when enemy forces are intermingled with noncombatants.

DISCUSSION 12: Precision MOUT, such as those conducted in Mogadishu, place a premium on limiting collateral damage and non-combatant casualties. In addition, the urban combat environment is extremely Class V intensive. For these reasons, the importance of well-aimed fire is critical. The battle drill outlined in FM 7-8, Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad, to clear a building or room is effective, but not always feasible. Units deployed in Somalia trained using two techniques--the battle drill and the CQC technique used by Special Operations Forces. They prefered the CQC technique.

The CQC technique teaches soldiers how to engage targets with well-aimed accurate fire and instinctive fire methods, as well as the importance of operating as a team. This method, coupled with the use of "stun" and "stinger" grenades, saves many lives, reduces needless ammunition expenditures, and minimizes collateral damage.


  • Close quarter combat marksmanship (CQCM) and room-clearing techniques should be incorporated into infantry doctrine and training. This addition should not totally replace the battle drill, but should be used in appropriate tactical conditions.
  • CQC techniques are referenced in FM 90-10-1, change 1.
  • The close quarter combat marksmanship techniques in FM 90-10-1, change 1, refer to reflexive shooting as a simplified technique in urban combat. These techniques were oriented toward the standard M-16 Rifle and considerations that in time have changed. The new FM 23-9, Close Quarter Marksmanship Training, DRAFT, which is now being staffed, incorporates many of the references used in the Ranger Training Circular RTC 350-1-2, June 1991, that is now obsolete. The new CQMT Manual will reflect changes in techniques developed and perfected since the FM 90-10-1, change 1 publication and will include new weapons such as the M-4 Carbine.

OBSERVATION 13: Units at all levels must exercise tactical patience. One reason urban fighting is so difficult is the time it takes to execute tasks in this environment. If the "team" is not synchronized in the time phasing of one element as it maneuvers in front of the other, the result will be fratricide. If follow-on forces move too quickly they could bottleneck all units behind the lead forces and stagnate their fight, or worse, get engaged in a fight they had not planned on fighting. The result would be unnecessary use of valuable assets (ammunition, demolitions, fuel, and personnel) which the unit needs for its primary tasks at the objective.

TTP: Commanders and leaders at all levels must understand the need for tactical patience, augmented by a clear reporting of status, location, and the situation. This will provide the situational awareness the commander needs to make sound decisions under duress.

* * * * * * * *

Mout Operations
by CPT Nicholas Panagakos, (SME) Company Commander
and 1SG Ralph Kluna, (SME) Company 1SG
25th ID


Military operations on urban terrain (MOUT) provide units with multiple challenges different from other combat operations. However, wherever war breaks out, it is most likely that some of the combat will take place in urban areas as diverse as huge metropolitan cities or remote villages. Regardless of the specific site, certain doctrinal fundamentals will remain valid if urban combat is to be successful.

The fog had begun to move into the low-lying areas surrounding objective "Gloria." Gloria was the name of the small village when it became an objective for the infantry company to clear. Intelligence reports had identified the village as a possible safe haven for the enemy to cache supplies and lager their troops. You could feel the anticipation throughout the company as H-hour was growing near. RTOs conducted final communications checks on the company net, and squad leaders were continuing to conduct final backbriefs with their soldiers. At H-30, the company would move out.

At H-30 the high-pitched whine of the M1 tanks' turbine engines could be heard. This alerted the company to form for move out. Tank section one, assigned as support by fire, would move first. The infantry could hear the crunching of trees as the tank section maneuvered its way into position. All could hear as the tank section halted, then waited for the radio message of "SBF one in position." When the message came in, it was time to move.

First platoon would be a supporting effort and move first. The lead squad had identified a dry creek bed on an earlier reconnaissance and was using it now to infiltrate the platoon up to the village. Tank section two would be moving with the platoon, positioning one tank on each flank along the high ground. First platoon's task was to breach any obstacles that could delay the tanks from moving into the town. The platoon had been task organized with an attached tank section and an attached engineer squad. The tank section would provide close support up to any obstacles and then pass the mission on to the second platoon and support the main effort in gaining a foothold. The engineer squad would execute any breaches necessary en route to the objective.

As the platoon moved along the creek, tank section one, at the support by fire position, began to report movement in the village. The enemy had begun moving much earlier than anticipated. If the enemy had detected them, it would become an exercise in reaction and possibly result in numerous casualties. The latest developments were unexpected, but would not hinder the company's mission, First platoon continued to move, now with a greater sense of urgency.

Tank section two spotted an obstacle, and it was time for first platoon to go into action. Second squad began to move slowly into a support-by-fire position. When the squad leader could see the obstacle, he called the platoon leader with "second in position." The platoon leader moved the first squad forward with the engineer squad to execute the breach. The obstacle appeared well built; it had triple-standard concertina with both anti-tank and anti-personnel mines in and around it. It stretched as far as the squad leader could see; there would be no by-pass of this obstacle. The engineer squad had prepared the demolition charges while in the assault position. All they needed to do now was place the charges under the wire obstacle to form the breach necessary to move the tanks through and onto the objective. With the assistance of first squad, the engineers moved forward to place the charges. First squad threw smoke forward of the obstacle to obscure it; there was no need for suppressive fire because they had not yet been engaged. This would not be the case much longer.

With a thunderous roar, machine-gun fire erupted, penetrating the smoke barrier at the breach. Two soldiers become casualties instantly from the automatic fire. Tank sections one and two immediately returned fire with their machine guns. First squad leader rushed forward to evacuate his casualties and assist the engineers with placing their demolition charge, but was wounded en route. Bravo team tried to assist the engineers and continue with the breach, but received a casualty as well. First squad and the engineers had received seven casualties in less than thirty seconds.

Third squad, the platoon reserve, immediately sprang into action. The squad leader fired and maneuvered his squad forward and completed placing the breaching charge, while the first squad evacuated their casualties to the platoon's casualty collection point (CCP). The platoon sergeant was forward now and began requesting for MEDEVAC over the command net. It would be two hours before first platoon could evacuate the casualties.

After third squad had set the charge, the platoon pulled back and blew the breach. The blast was deafening, and debris fell all around the soldiers of first platoon. The smoke and dust caused confusion, but the infantrymen were able to press on. Third squad moved forward to proof and mark the breach, then reported when it was ready.

Second platoon, the company main effort, started moving through the breach towards the first building. Their task was to gain a foothold for the company and clear buildings one and two. With squads using tanks from section two as shields, first and second squads moved toward their objective. When the two squads moved within 25 meters of the building, second squad started throwing smoke. The smoke was going to obscure the enemy from seeing them enter building one.

First squad of second platoon would enter the building through the back door. The Alpha team leader aggressively maneuvered his team into position. They were stacked on the left side of the door, when the team leader turned to kick the door in. In a flash of fire and vaporous smoke, the team leader had disappeared. The door had been booby-trapped. Immediately the squad leader pushed first squad through the door and continued with their mission to secure building one. Once the building was secured, the platoon passed second squad through the building and on to building two, second squad's objective.

The infantry company would be able to accomplish their mission and secure objective Gloria. Their ability to move into the village and gain a foothold ultimately ensured their success. The company paid a heavy price in accomplishing their goal, and would not be combat ready for another 72 hours.

OBSERVATION 1: Using armor as a shield effectively reducing casualties from small arms and indirect fires. Use of a doorway to enter an enemy-held building is a bad idea.

EXAMPLE: In the vignette above--


  • By executing the breaching fundamentals of SOSR (suppress, obscure, secure, and reduce) while placing the attached tank section between the enemy and the dismounted infantry to form a shield, some of the casualties from small arms could have been prevented.
  • Do not use the door of an enemy occupied building as the entry point. The doors most likely will be booby-trapped. Create an entry point while simultaneously clearing the enemy from that room. Otherwise, use a window as an entry point (less dangerous than doors).


For such risky and potentially complicated operations, what does doctrine tell us about planning, preparing, and executing MOUT operations? What these manuals do not provide are techniques for employing tanks with infantry during MOUT in a role other than support by fire.

"The increased population and accelerated growth of cities have made the problems of combat in built-up areas an urgent requirement for the U.S. Army; this type of combat cannot be avoided..."

--FM 90-10-1 w/change 1, An Infantryman's Guide to Combat in Built-Up Areas

The concept of using tanks and infantry as a combined arms force in built-up areas is not new. However, the organization of the heavy infantry division places mechanized infantry and armor together. This does not give light infantry the opportunity to habitually train with tanks. The addition of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle further reinforces the armor relationship with mechanized infantry.

Throughout modern military history, planners combined tanks with infantry to accomplish specific tasks. The last time U.S. tanks and infantry were combined and used extensively in an urban environment was 30 years ago during the battle of Hue. In 1968, U.S. forces had the mission to clear the city of Hue. The enemy resistance was so strong that the infantry could not do it alone. The Marine Corps combined the efforts of infantry and tanks to accomplish their goal and clear the city.

In 1993, while conducting operations in Somalia, U.S. forces operated in an urban environment (Mogadishu) without the support of armor. The Ranger Battalion did not properly coordinate for this support. When the enemy had decisively engaged the infantry, U.S. ground forces were initially unable to move into the area and extract them. This resulted in 18 hours of intense combat, leaving 18 American soldiers dead and dozens of others wounded. These forces were eventually extracted by elements of the 10th Mountain Division using borrowed tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs). The lack of prior coordination by the Rangers was a calculated risk taken to maintain operational security. The addition of armor might have allowed for quicker reaction and possibly fewer casualties.

A more recent incident, not involving U.S. forces, occurred during the Russian invasion of Chechnya in late 1994. The Russian attack on Grozny was led by a motorized rifle regiment (roughly 2,000 troops), with the goal of seizing the train station. The infantry and tanks were not prepared for the resistance they encountered. Russian infantry rode on top of the tanks during movement into the city. This made them easy targets for the Chechen rebels. The rebels simply used machine-gun fire to engage the infantry and RPG-7s to engage the tanks. The covering infantry either was separated from the tanks or dismounted too late. At the end of the battle, the attacking Russian brigade lost 20 of its 26 tanks, 100 of its 120 APCs, and half of its 1,000 men were either killed, wounded, or missing in action. The lack of combined arms training and a poor plan combined for devastating results during the assault on Grozny.


Planning provides the cornerstone to success. Military plans must be simple yet provide enough detail to allow subordinates to execute with minimal guidance. Plans should identify main and supporting efforts as well as the decisive point. These help the commander shape a plan maximizing the effectiveness of his combined arms force. What follows are some experiences based on MOUT planning considerations for combined arms employment.

OBSERVATION 2: Task organization for urban combat operations and an unclear chain of command and control.

DISCUSSION 2: The result of inappropriate task organization and lack of a clear chain of command resulted in confusion and lack of control during mission execution.


  • The task organization should reflect where elements will be assigned for a given mission; more importantly, the senior maneuver element leader should be in control of each element.

    EXAMPLE: There are three traditional ways to task organize a tank platoon into an infantry company.

    • Put the tank platoon under company control (see Figure 1). The tank platoon leader should be responsible for maneuvering the tanks in accordance with the commander's intent. With this task organization, tanks would most likely be used in support-by-fire and overwatch missions. This task organization is the most difficult to maneuver tanks with the infantry. However, the tank platoon leader can choose to maneuver the platoon by sections to execute the mission. This would provide greater flexibility in supporting the infantry during the close fight.

      Figure 1

    • Break the tank platoon into two sections, each under control of one infantry platoon (see Figure 2). The commander relinquishes direct control of the tank maneuver to the infantry platoon leaders. This technique is very effective in keeping the tanks at the same rate of progress as the infantry. However, infantry platoon leaders burdened with the additional command and control responsibilities often have a difficult time maneuvering the tank sections because of a lack of experience with tanks and overall battlefield focus. Typically, the infantry platoon leader is focused on clearing a building and on his maneuver squads. This results in his forgetting the tanks and failing to maneuver them forward.

      Figure 2

    • Break the tank platoon into two sections: one under company control and one under platoon control (see Figure 3). The maneuver infantry platoon has a tank section available to support the close fight. As stated in the previous option, the infantry platoon leader would still face the difficulties associated with this additional element to command and control. However, the commander has a tank section to deploy at the critical place and time, as he determines. This task organization technique still allows support to the infantry close fight while keeping additional support options in reserve for the commander to employ. There are drawbacks here as well. The tank platoon leader is not maneuvering his tanks--an infantry platoon leader is. The number of tanks directly available to the company commander is reduced by half.

      Figure 3

None of these techniques are inherently better than the others. The task organization has to be tailored to best suit the given mission. Regardless of the technique selected, what follows are some rules of thumb to remember during planning, preparation, and execution:

  • If using tanks to shield squads and teams from building to building as part of the maneuver, the leader of the forward element needs to control the tanks.
  • Infantry using tanks as shields must remain in constant contact with the TC. If the tank identifies a threat and moves in reverse, infantryman can be killed.
  • If the commander is controlling the tanks, he needs to move forward to a position where he can effectively maneuver the tanks in support of the infantry.
  • The task organization should support the span of control. If the commander is going to control the tanks, then there is no reason to task organize the tanks by section under infantry platoons.

OBSERVATION 3: Use of Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) products during the development of the plan is essential for company-level planning.

OBSERVATION 4: Unit leaders fail to consider mounted avenues of approach portrayed in the Modified Combined Obstacle Overlay (MCOO).

DISCUSSION 4: Commanders devise plans without adequate consideration of how the enemy fights. An enemy will react differently to an armor threat than to an infantry threat. However, when such reactions are not considered, tanks are often left vulnerable to enemy anti-tank weapons and obstacles because of planning oversights.

The failure to effectively use the MCOO gives specific examples of planning oversights. For example, mounted avenues of approach encompass far more than the road network. Road networks will be the first place that the enemy will emplace mobility obstacles.


  • In many cases, the integration of IPB products into the planning process would have eliminated the oversights that do not often show up until mission execution.
  • In planning, pay close attention to available terrain that will support tank cross-country movement. The pace may be slower, but by using terrain for concealment, far greater security is possible.
  • Infantry commanders must fully understand the capabilities and limitations of the tanks attached to their company.
  • Involve tank platoon leaders and platoon sergeants in the infantry company-level IPB process; their tank expertise will hasten the understanding of what tanks can and cannot do and aid the infantry commander in making the best employment decisions.
  • At every level of IPB, always address enemy capabilities and limitations.

OBSERVATION 5: Employ tanks as a load-carrying platform. This usually means infantry fails to consider tanks as a readily available mobile platform.

OBSERVATION 6: Light infantry units are unable to resource the Class III, IV, and overall maintenance requirements associated with attached tanks.


  • Light infantry elements can use attached tanks to carry water and ammunition as well as other supplies. This obvious benefit to the dismounted infantryman is too often overlooked, especially when operations are extended or require the expenditure of large amounts of ammunition. Units should guard against placing mission- critical equipment on tanks, and should monitor impact of this decision on mission accomplishment.
  • To keep attached tanks mission capable requires planning for refueling and rearming of the tanks. Additionally, there may be a requirement for recovery of one or more tanks because of maintenance problems or the tank being disabled during contact. Light infantry logisticians need to ensure they understand the planning factors for fuel and ammunition consumption, and then make the necessary arrangements for adequate resupply, maintenance support, and recovery capability. Failure to do so can result in unnecessary loss of attached tanks. Push the necessary support packages well forward on the battlefield. Put them under the control of the company XO to provide the most immediate support reaction. This will shorten the recovery period.


The preparation phase of any operation is critical to the success of the operation. Steps taken prior to mission execution can greatly impact the ultimate success or failure of the mission during the execution phase. MOUT operations are no exception. The addition of tanks to the battle mix of light infantry gives even greater necessity to thoroughly prepare for operations.

OBSERVATION 7: Pre-combat inspections (PCIs) and pre-combat checks (PCCs) lack the necessary thoroughness to be useful.

OBSERVATION 8: Units fail to sufficiently rehearse operations; backbriefs take the place of full-force rehearsals. While backbriefs have their place, they pale in comparison to the value of rehearsals conducted in greater detail, particularly with tasks related to actions on the objective.

OBSERATION 9: Soldiers are not aware of the contingencies involved when operating with tanks in close combat. The addition of tanks to a light infantry task organization inherently implies the necessity for thorough and detailed preparation. For example, Rules of Engagement (ROE) may be very specific about collateral damage in an urban area, and failure to understand the destructive power of tanks can make ROE compliance difficult.

OBSERVATION 10: The presence of civilians provides very unpredictable challenges for elements executing close combat in urban areas, challenges which too often are glossed over during mission preparation and which prove detrimental to successful mission completion.



  • The addition of tanks to the light infantry task organization does not change the basic requirement for PCIs--tanks simply increase the amount and type of inspections necessary. The PCIs are still geared to ensuring the unit can move, shoot, and communicate. However, it is advisable that the commander initially use infantry personnel to inspect infantry equipment, and that tankers inspect the tanks. THEN, the two elements can help inspect each other, particularly with equipment directly involved with support.

    EXAMPLE: Use infantrymen to inspect the external phone box on each tank, since the infantry relies on these phones as a means of communication during close combat supported by tanks. This helps ensure the equipment is serviceable AND that the infantry knows how to use the phones.

  • Commanders must specifically set aside time for PCIs and sub-divide the time to include cross-over inspections; for example, joint PCIs with tanks and infantry, as described above.
  • Commanders must ensure PCI standards are briefed and then enforced.
  • Commanders should develop PCI checklists as a tool to assist leaders at all levels to effectively inspect their equipment and the equipment of attached elements.


  • Conduct a combined arms rehearsal, time permitting, at the level tanks are task organized.
  • The following aspects of the combined arms operation need to be rehearsed:
    • Graphic and fire control measures
    • Communications
    • Direct fire plans
    • Breach drills
    • Procedures for infantry riding on tanks
    • Techniques for using tanks as infantry shields
  • Try to replicate conditions for mission execution during rehearsals; i.e., day, night, civilians on the battlefield, and host-nation personnel, as well as ROE.


As with any other combat operation, the ultimate success or failure of the mission is determined by how well the units execute the mission. Obviously the planning and preparation for any given mission are key to any subsequent success or failure. However, regardless of the plan or the level of pre-mission preparation, a soldier's and an officer's ability to execute the individual and collective tasks inherent in the mission clearly determine the likelihood of mission success. This task ability is a direct result of disciplined training and repetition. If soldiers can execute their tasks to standard, then it is up to leaders to position their soldiers for success.

OBSERVATION 11: Light infantry fails to properly employ tanks to reinforce the infantry's attempts to gain a foothold during urban combat operations, a critical step in achieving mission success.

DISCUSSION 11: To gain a foothold to access a village or a town, use tanks to reinforce light infantry. Gaining a foothold is executed under one of two basic conditions: detected or undetected. Obviously, being undetected by the enemy is preferred. Additionally, the following task organization conditions exist: supporting the infantry will be armor, engineer, and field artillery elements. Each element will combine their efforts to gain the foothold.


  • Use of tanks in a support by fire for the infantry.
    • Employ tanks as a support by fire element.
      • Employ stand off to maximize the effectiveness of the tanks' weapon systems.
      • Stand off allows for greater coverage of the objective.
    • Use clearly understood control measures (graphic, visual and direct/indirect fire) to mark the progress of the infantry.
    • Maintain enough maneuver flexibility that tanks can reposition their support-by-fire positions based on and relative to the infantry advance.
    • All the tanks in the combined arms force should not be dedicated to support by fire.

    Figure 4

  • Use tanks to maneuver infantry squads into the village.
    • With some tanks in the support-by-fire role, the remaining tanks can move infantry soldiers into a position to gain the foothold.
    • Tanks can provide a mobile shield for dismounted infantry, protecting them from small arms fire and shell fragments. This allows an infantry squad to move behind a tank all the way forward to the targeted building. The tank also provides immediate direct fire support for any threat to the infantry squad. Tanks can move a maximum of nine personnel.
    • After gaining the foothold, continue to use tanks to move infantry.
    • Maintain communication between tanks and infantry throughout mission execution.
    • Establish Identification of Friend/Foe (IFF) to prevent fratricide.

    Figure 5

  • Use smoke to screen movement from those areas that tanks cannot block. Use the smoke to obscure the vision from other buildings, not between the infantry and the building they wish to enter.

    Figure 6

OBSERVATION 12: The majority of casualties occur as units move outside of buildings or move between buildings.

TTP: To minimize casualties when moving outside or between buildings:

  • Cover all possible threat locations with either observation or fire.
  • For those areas it is not possible to cover with observation or fire, use smoke to set a screen to block enemy observation of friendly movement.
  • Move tanks forward to support infantry moves. Properly position the tanks before the infantry begins moving, whether the tanks are supporting by fire or being used as shields, or both.
  • Pre-plan the positions if possible, but devise a marking system and communication signals to designate situationally dependent positions to help maintain momentum.
  • When using tanks as a shield for the infantry, move the tanks as close as possible to the start point to allow the infantry the freedom of movement when exiting the building.
  • Tanks need to move at the infantry's rate of movement.
  • When the distance between buildings is short, tanks can position themselves to block the open area from enemy fire.

OBSERVATION 13: Company commanders do not position themselves where they can best command and control all of their elements. They are either too far back and unable to see the fight, or they get too far forward and get decisively engaged in squad- or platoon-level fights.

DISCUSSION 13: The commander is unable to effectively maneuver forces he is responsible to synchronize, unable to mass direct and indirect fires at critical points, or position key elements under his control. This results in a failure to ensure the main effort is at the decisive point with the overwhelming combat power necessary to be successful.

TTP: Use graphic and other type control measures, widely disseminated and clearly understood by all elements in the task organization, to assist the company/team commander's command and control. The following control measures are particularly useful in MOUT:

  • Phase lines
  • Number and lettering systems for buildings
  • Tentative support-by-fire positions
  • No-fire areas

These control measures can assist the commander to visualize the battle, which is critical for those portions of the battle he may not be in a position to actually see (see Figure 7).

Figure 7

This article has been previously published in CALL Newsletter No. 98-10, Fighting Light/Heavy in a Restricted Terrain, Apr 98.

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