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Coordination Meeting: How the OPFOR Prepares for the Defense

by LTC James Zanol


This article describes the National Training Center (NTC) Opposing Forces (OPFOR) Regiment's preparation technique for the defense. Known as the coordination meeting, the technique is a very effective tool because it provides:

1. Information to the commander on the status of preparation.

2. All leaders in the unit a common understanding of the enemy, and how each battlefield operating system contributes to the battle.

The coordination meeting most closely resembles the combined arms type using the map rehearsal technique (see CALL Newsletter No. 98-5, Mar 98, Rehearsals). One difference is that the coordination meeting does not use unit symbols to move according to the scheme of maneuver on the map. The coordination meeting is held after the subordinate units have conducted mounted rehearsals of their actions.

The motorized rifle battalion is the unit used in this example. The following leaders attend this meeting:

OPFOR AttendeesBLUFOR Counterpart
MRR CommanderCommander
MRR Chief of StaffExecutive Officer
MRR Chief of ReconnaissanceS2
MRR Chief of ArtilleryFSCOORD/FSO
MRR Chief of OperationsS3
Chief of Radio-Electronic Combat MI Commander
Air Direction OfficerS3 Air
Chief of Air DefenseADA Commander
Engineer CommanderEngineer Commander
Chief of SignalSignal Commander/Signal Officer
MRB CommanderSubordinate Commander
MRC CommandersSubordinate Leaders
MRR/Combined Arms Reserve CommanderSubordinate Leader

All personnel come to the meeting with the latest status of their units' preparations and a set of common graphics. The Chief of Operations opens the meeting by taking role to ensure all required attendees are present before starting. He provides any updates or changes to the mission, task organization, and critical events. The meeting then follows this agenda:

Chief of Reconnaissance (COR):

Intelligence update. The COR starts his briefing with a recap of all enemy activity. He provides the time, place and action of each enemy contact. Most often when the MRB is preparing its defense, this contact is with Scouts and COLTs that are attempting to infiltrate. He will also brief the location and composition of any assembly areas that Regimental reconnaissance can see.

Enemy Courses of Action. The most likely and most dangerous courses of action (COAs) are briefed. These are the COAs used during the planning process for the mission. If this is not the first battle with the enemy, then the COR will provide information that will modify the COAs based on what the Regiment has learned about how the unit fights.

Regimental reconnaissance observation posts. Finally, the COR briefs the positions of each of the reconnaissance teams currently in sector. He also describes the area that each team has primary responsibility to observe. This brief allows all the leaders in the unit to see where the recon assets are in order to clear fires and make adjustments as the battle progresses. Any gaps in the observation plan between regimental and battalion positions are identified and corrected.

MRB Commander:

Intent/Scheme of maneuver (deep, close, rear). This section is self-explanatory. What is important about the coordination meeting is that specific combat power by position is briefed. All members of the MRB understand the starting positions for all the combat systems in the defense.

Counter-reconnaissance and Deception Plan. The commander then provides the details of two key parts of his plan: counter-reconnaissance, and his deception plan. The MRB Executive Officer, the officer in charge of the counter-reconnaissance force, usually does this part of the briefing. He will brief the location of all observers, confirming the Regimental reconnaissance positions briefed by the Chief of Reconnaissance. He will then give the specific positions his MRB-level observers and the positions of the vehicles that will destroy the enemy.

Specific positions for deception measures are briefed. This includes grids to deception turrets that portray a false position and the time that the heating elements will be lit. The grids to deception obstacles are also disseminated (deception turrets are fiberglass and PVC pipe VISMOD kits heated by a bucket of charcoal, and deception obstacles are a combination of shallow trenches and concertina wire. (See CALL CTC Bulletin No. 98-8, 2QFY98, Apr 98, "Krasnovian Update: OPFOR TTP.")

Occupation Criteria. The OPFOR will occupy their primary vehicle fighting positions at the last possible moment, just as the enemy is entering the direct fire engagement area. The MRB commander designates this trigger line, usually a phase line, based on the expected movement of the enemy. Vehicles will not occupy their positions until this trigger is met. This protects the force from preparatory fires focused on the prepared fighting positions. The MRB commander will occupy only that part of the defense required by enemy action, again not until the trigger is met. This also protects the force, keeps part of the defense out of contact and make the defense very difficult to see by enemy reconnaissance assets.

Repositioning Plan. A key component of the OPFOR defense is maneuver of combat power to mass against the enemy's main effort. The MRB commander will designate and brief how the repositioning will take place (criteria/trigger, signal, primary and alternate routes). Again, this is described in specific terms, the position combat power starts from and the position to which it will go. The repositioning plan addresses multiple enemy courses of action, giving the MRB commander a ready plan to reposition to meet the enemy wherever his chooses to penetrate. In addition to lateral repositioning, this plan includes repositioning in depth. This way the commander can build another engagement area in depth if the enemy makes a strong effort in one area.

Repositioning includes all combat power available to the MRB commander. Anti-tank weapons, tanks, and BMPs naturally will reposition. The OPFOR makes a specific effort to reposition infantry positions with their anti-tank capability through the use of dedicated trucks to pick up and move them.

Limited Visibility Plan. There are two parts to the limited visibility plan:

  • First, those positions that will be occupied during normal limited visibility hours. These positions observe the obstacles and participate in the counter-reconnaissance fight. Generally, one tank and BMP will occupy their positions in each MRC's battle position.

  • Second, the limited visibility plan is for fighting under heavy obscuration or weather conditions such as ground fog. Those positions are identified and rehearsed. Most often vehicles prepare hasty positions directly on the obstacles and identify alternate positions that provide better observation in the engagement area.

Disengagement Criteria. Much like the occupation criteria, the MRB commander will specify criteria for disengagement of elements of the defense. This includes combat security outposts and ambush positions forward of the MRC positions. Depending on the instructions given to the MRB, criteria may be time delay of the enemy, enemy or friendly losses. The positions these vehicles move to is also briefed.

No move time. The commander then gives the "no-move" time for all elements of the defense. After this time, no vehicles in the defense can move without coordination through the executive officer. This aids target detection, identification, and destruction, and is also an important anti-fratricide measure.

Changes/additions to graphics. Finally, the MRB commander posts any changes or additions to graphics he has made as he prepared his defense. All briefers at the coordination meeting repeat this step. The MRB commander will leave his graphics posted following the meeting so all can copy his changes ("Krasnovian Appliqu").

Chief of Artillery. For an MRB defense, the Chief of Artillery is a regimental staff officer who briefs the parts of the regimental fire support plan that affects the MRB.

Focus of Fires. The Chief of Artillery briefs the focus of fires using target locations and primary observers by both phases of fire and the most likely and most dangerous enemy courses of action. This information is complimented by the Air Direction Officer's close air support (CAS) plan described later.

Illumination Points. The MRB executive officer in charge of security operations coordinates the required illumination missions. Designated across the battlefield, these missions are planned for likely infiltration routes and avenues of approach into the MRB sector during limited visibility. Illumination points are planned for all defenses.

Smoke. Preplanned smoke missions that support the repositioning plan are coordinated with the MRB commander and briefed.

Special Munitions (FASCAM/Chemicals). Artillery-delivered scatterable minefields are planned throughout the width and depth of the battlefield. In coordination with the MRB commander, specific minefields are nominated as priority targets. Again, these targets are nominated based on the expected points of penetration of the enemy, to complete gaps in the obstacle plan or to deny fighting positions from the enemy. At the NTC, the OPFOR has persistent and non-persistent munitions available. The same procedures used for FASCAM missions are used for these targets.

Triggers/Decision Criteria. Specific criteria for shifting the focus of fires, CAS, employment of special munitions are reviewed.

Chief Radio-Electronic Combat (REC) Officer. This officer is the equivalent to the MI Company commander. Fully integrated into the scheme of maneuver and fires, the Chief of REC briefs the details of his plan. (See CALL CTC Bulletin No. 99-3, 1QFY99, Jan 99, "OPFOR Electronic Warfare: More than Just Jamming".)

Intercepts/DF Hits: The Chief of REC reviews the intercepts and relevant information his assets have collected throughout the defensive preparation. He also reviews the direction-inding lines of bearing, intersections, and fixes collected to date. He, along with the Chief of Intelligence, assess what enemy forces are at those locations. He then provides specific information on his assets.

Collectors:

  • Positions. Starting locations, repositioning routes, and subsequent locations.
  • Collection Priorities. The SOP is to command and control, provide reconnaissance, and fire support frequencies. Chief of REC will brief any changes.

Jammers:

  • Positions. Starting locations, repositioning routes, and subsequent locations.
  • Jamming Priorities (by phase).

Air Direction Officer. The ADO is the equivalent of the S3 Air. Responsible for coordinating army aviation and air force support, the ADO works in close coordination with the MRB commander and Chief of Artillery.

CAS Focus: Like the Chief of Artillery, the ADO briefs the initial plan for the focus of CAS by phase of fires. Typically, the ADO and FSO have deconflicted CAS and artillery fires by time and or space. This briefing includes:

  • Station Time for Air.
  • Number of sorties.
  • Attack helicopters. Key information on the use of attack helicopters.
  • Station Time.
  • "DRT Sweeps"/Air Battle Positions. A critical action to protect the force is deliberate search and attack patrols by OPFOR attack helicopters. The ADO briefs the time periods for the "sweeps" and the focus for search. He develops the focus areas through coordination with the Chief of Intelligence and the Chief of Radio Electronic Combat. These officers combine their scout reports and EW intercepts to provide possible scout and COLT locations. The ADO also points out the likely air battle positions that OPFOR attack helicopters will use during different phases of the battle. Therefore, all defenders know when and where SOKOL (the Russian acronym for "Aviation") will appear on the battlefield, reducing the likelihood of fratricide.

Chief of Air Attack. The Chief of Air Attack plays a crucial role in force protection particularly when the enemy has attack helicopters. His action provides freedom of maneuver for the defense. The air attack assets maneuver aggressively around the battlefield, making situational awareness across the defense a challenge. This highlights the importance of a common understanding of the air attack plan.

Intent for Air Defense Coverage. The Air Attack commander states his intent. This includes his assessment of the major air avenues of approach for fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. He will also list those areas that are likely air battle positions for attack helicopters. This information gives everyone the general concept for air attack operations. The commander will maneuver his assets across the battlefield to aggressively counter air actions. He briefs the starting locations for his air attack assets:

Position of ADA Assets.

  • ZSU-23-4.
  • SA-18.
  • SA-8.
  • SA-9.

Focus of Fires. This is the likely air avenue of approach and air battle positions, allowing all weapons to orient fires.

  • ADA Assets.
  • Maneuver Units. A key feature of OPFOR operations is all-arms air attack. Direct fire weapons do much of the destruction of enemy attack helicopters: tanks, BMPs, AT5s, even RPGs and heavy machineguns.

Anti-Desant Force. Reflecting the aggressive nature of the OPFOR, the anti-Desant force is another feature of air attack. Composed of command and control BRDMs with mounted machine-guns, these vehicles will rapidly converge on helicopter activity in sector, in the manner of a QRF to destroy the equivalent of a Threat Level I or II. The air attack commander briefs:

  • Composition/location. The vehicles in the force and their starting locations.
  • Scheme of Maneuver. Likely landing zones or air battle positions and routes used to attack them.
  • Communication nets. This force will use a designated frequency to keep the MRB and regimental command frequencies free for the defense.

Engineer. The engineer commander gives all leaders a current status of the engineer preparation of the battlefield in one of the critical elements of the briefing.

Vehicle Fighting Positions. First, the status of fighting positions by battle position. The number, type and proofing of vehicle fighting positions are briefed.

Obstacle Preparation. The engineer commander gives a percentage of completion for:

  • Horizontal: Task, purpose, type, location and percentage complete for minefields.
  • Vertical: Task, purpose, type, location and percentage complete for wire obstacles, tank ditches or berms.

UMZ/MOD. Scatterable minefields available to the MRB commander to reinforce or complete obstacle preparation, these minefields are briefed to include:

  • Target Locations: Listed by target number, the minefield start and end points. Additionally, time required for the UMZ/MOD to move from their hide positions to the start point is briefed. Usually, the UMZ/MOD is positioned in the vicinity of the primary target planned by the MRB commander. This information leads to the next piece of information.
  • Triggers: Coordinated between the MRB commander and the engineer commander, all personnel are briefed on the execution criteria for all scatterable minefields.

Chief of Signal.

Like all other briefers, the Chief of Signal briefs the specific grid locations where his retransmission vehicles will be positioned. He confirms the frequencies for retransmission by net. In the defense, retransmission is generally used to talk across corridors for repositioning units and for regimental reconnaissance positions (see CALL News from the Front!, May-Jun 98, "NTC Opposing Force (Scout-Command and Control) TTP.")

He next confirms the Battle Command Time and frequencies. This is a pre-planned frequency change made usually 30 minutes prior to the defend not later than (NLT) time or at another designated time.

Finally, the Chief of Signal will brief the preplanned frequency changes. While tedious and a restatement of SOI data, this step ensures that all personnel have the same jump frequencies for both regiment and the MRB.

MRB Commander. The MRB commander closes the meeting by reviewing his maintenance status and identifying any assistance he needs from the Regimental Staff. The Regimental Chief of Staff can then focus maintenance resources on the critical problems of the MRB. All commanders present (Engineer, Air Defense, Anti-tank, combined arms reserve) also raise their maintenance issues.

Finally, the MRB commander voices any concerns or issues he has with the conduct of the defense. With all commanders present, the Regimental commander can then reallocate resources or direct changes that address those concerns.

Regimental Commander's Guidance. An outline of the coordination meeting process presented in the article is provided below.

Chief of Reconnaissance (COR)

Intelligence update.
Enemy Courses of Action.
Regimental reconnaissance observation posts.

MRB Commander

Intent/Scheme of maneuver (deep, close, rear).
Counter-reconnaissance and Deception Plan.
Occupation Criteria.
Repositioning Plan.
Limited Visibility Plan.
Disengagement Criteria.
No move time.
Changes/additions to graphics.

Chief of Artillery

Focus of Fires.
Illumination Points.
Smoke.
Special Munitions (FASCAM).
Triggers/Decision Criteria.

Chief Radio-Electronic Combat

Intercepts/DF Hits.
Collectors.
Positions.
Collection Priorities.
Jammers.
Positions.
Jamming Priorities (by phase).

Air Direction Officer

CAS Focus.
Station Time for Air.
Number of sorties.
Attack helicopters.
Station Time.
DRT Sweeps/Air-Battle Positions.

Chief of Air Attack

Intent for Air Attack Coverage.
Position of ADA Assets.
ZSU-23-4.
SA-18.
SA-8.
SA-9.
Focus of Fires.
ADA Assets.
Maneuver Units.
Anti-desant Force.
Composition/location.
Scheme of Maneuver.
Communication Nets.

Engineer

Vehicle Fighting Positions.
Obstacle Preparation.
Horizontal.
Vertical.
UMZ/MOD.
Target Locations.
Triggers.

Chief of Signal

Retransmission.
Battle Command Time and Frequencies.
Jump Frequencies.

MRB Commander

Maintenance status.
Concerns/issues.

SUMMARY

The coordination meeting is particularly important for the MRR Chief of Staff and the MRR jump TOC. Under the direction of the Chief of Staff, these personnel are responsible for the synchronization of all systems available to the regiment. Additionally, the Chief of Staff and the Chief of Artillery must clear fires. The information provided at the coordination meeting ensures that they know the location of all MRR soldiers and equipment in sector. Their full understanding of the friendly and enemy courses of action allows them to make timely recommendations for repositioning, use of reserves, and the combined arms reserve.

The coordination meeting is a comprehensive review of all aspects of the defense. Attended by all leaders in the defense down to the MRC/platoon leader and, in some cases, squad/section/TC sergeant level, the coordination meeting provides an unsurpassed common understanding of how the defense will be fought.


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