TOPIC: AirLand Battle Doctrine
DISCUSSION: AirLand Battle doctrine is ideally suited to desert environments. Its thrust of securing and retaining the initiative can be optimized in the open terrain associated with the desert environments of the world. In that environment, the terrain aspect of METT-T offers the potential to capitalize on the four basic tenets of the doctrine: initiative, agility, depth, and synchronization.
Initiative: Israeli efforts in 1967 and initial Egyptian assaults in 1973 clearly illustrate the effect of initiative in the desert environment.
Agility: The Egyptian success in 1973 was negated by their failure to ensure agility. Conversely, the Israeli actions on the flanks of the Egyptian force demonstrated the effect of a force capable of rapid and bold maneuver.
Depth: Depth does not necessarily relate to distance. In the nonlinear battlefield offered by the desert, depth often equated to an agile reserve force of sufficient size to counter enemy efforts into flanks and rear areas. Depth is also a concept of all-round defense for forces - the ability to fight in any direction.
Synchronization: To a large measure, the German successes against the British in the Western Desert were due to their ability to synchronize their operating systems. More recent events illustrate this tenet between, and internal to, operating systems. Heavy/light operations have demonstrated that light forces can be the key to achieving tactical and operational momentum. The Israeli airmobile assault against supporting artillery in the 1967 battle of Abu Ageila is a good example of the effective use of light forces.
TOPIC: Tactical Deception, Surprise, and the Movement of Forces.
DISCUSSION: Analysis of desert operations from World War II to the present day indicates that tactical deception and surprise are clearly linked to the ability to move and mass forces during periods of limited visibility.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: Operational planning should emphasize night movement of units. To minimize the problems of dust and enhance deception, movement should be accomplished utilizing multiple routes. Priority should be placed on training to support this requirement. Associated with night movement is the requirement for night passage through lanes in minefields and forward passage through friendly forces.
DISCUSSION: In every modern desert war, deception has played a major role. The lack of concealment leads commanders to believe that with a reasonable reconnaissance effort they can gain an accurate picture of the enemy's dispositions. Reconnaissance by all sides, German, British, Israeli, Egyptian, Syrian, has been sufficient to detect the presence of combat forces in the desert. Deception has been successfully used in each of the modern desert conflicts to mislead enemy commanders.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: Since you can't hide it, make it look like something else: trucks and plywood made to look like tanks, tanks made to look like trucks. Use packing material to establish phoney ASPs. Inflatable tanks were used to great success by the British as early as 1940.
DISCUSSION: The movement of personnel, equipment, and the placement of logistic support installations are normally indicators of a forces intent. The movement of empty boxes/pallets of ammunition and the establishment of fuel storage areas with real or dummy assets can deceive the enemy as to planned offensive actions. Use minimal actual transportation assets making numerous, visible trips to simulate a large effort. There are many examples of successful deception efforts by U.S. forces from World War II. In September 1944, the 43d Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Reinforced) occupied a 23-mile front on the left flank of XX (US) Corps on the Metz Front. This squadron portrayed an armored division for several weeks and was so successful that the German Order of Battle Maps showed the 14th (US) Armored Division (AD) to be in the area. The 14th AD was not even in Europe at the time. Expertise in deception operations is critical to success.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: Small convoys can be used to make dust clouds as deception. Tray ration boxes can be filled with sand and stacked at landfills. Trucks can move into and out of the area giving it the appearance of being a storage facility or logistic base.
TOPIC: Navigation in the Desert
DISCUSSION: Navigation may be the single most important technique for desert warfare. Units have traditionally used a combination of compass, odometer and time to assist in navigation when terrain features were minimal. These methods are effective and should continue to be emphasized in unit training.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: Division- or corps-level staffs should publish the exact degree reading for sunrise and sunset. It would be helpful and more accurate for soldiers to know the exact bearing to the sun every day. Additionally, a summary sheet on celestial navigation should be published. Since most movement in desert operations is conducted at night, it would be very beneficial to have instruction and navigational aids available to units. Senior commanders should also consider ways to mark critical routes during operations. Training should stress the ability to navigate during periods of reduced visibility in unfamiliar terrain. Techniques, such as resection, the use of marking rounds, and the designation of extra navigation teams within tactical functions, should be employed. Every vehicle should be equipped with a compass.
TOPIC: Reassembling Scattered Units
DISCUSSION: Reassembling units which become scattered or separated is always a problem which merits consideration. How commanders gain control of these fragmented units is worthy of serious consideration due to the operational impact and because of the potential security problems associated with conventional recovery techniques.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: The use of pyrotechnics has traditionally proven to be an effective measure to assemble units which have become fragmented due to enemy action or navigational problems. This measure will continue to be effective in the future. Senior commanders should ensure that the signals for assembling units are standardized to avoid confusion on the battlefield. Additionally, senior commanders should carefully consider the possible security compromise if a small unit commander initiates an assembly measure at a time or place which is not appropriate. Restrictions may be appropriately specified in the basic order.
TOPIC: Training in Assembly Areas
DISCUSSION: The German army in North Africa made extensive use of available time for the training of units and soldiers. General Montgomery also stressed training for units of his 8th Army.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: For soldiers and small units, the following areas warrant special consideration:
- Exercises of all types in marching and maneuvering in open, sandy terrain.
- Techniques of cover and camouflage in open terrain, recognition and identification of targets in varying light and temperature conditions.
- Boresighting, zeroing, and firing of all weapons at maximum effective ranges.
- Night driving in sandy terrain, navigating by compass or stars.
- Laying and recovering mines, constructing fortifications in sandy terrain.
TOPIC: Capabilities and Limitations of Aviation Assets
DISCUSSION: Most senior commanders overestimate the capabilities of aviation assets and underestimate the decision cycle for successful employment of those assets.
LESSON(S) LEARNED: Require the aviation commander to educate supported commanders on realistic capabilities limitation and decision cycle. Push operations officers and fire support planners for early decisions on potential engagement areas. Ensure everyone understands IFF procedures, has the same codes, and has no doubt when and how to change codes. Finalize search and rescue procedures early and ensure everyone understands them.
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