by COL Harry M. Emerson, III, Commander, OPSGP-B, BCTP,
and MAJ Michael T. Edwards, BCTP

Deep operation planning and execution is generally the first major combat operation during a division or a corps BCTP Warfighter Exercise. Its success or failure usually sets the tone for the remainder of the Warfighter. This article relates some observations made during numerous exercises with different type divisions and shares some views of the deep battle. Much of what follows is not published doctrine. Rather, it is the result of BCTP experience in the field - what we have seen work well, and not so well. The intent is to stimulate thought and discussion in the school house and in our doctrinal literature. The desired end state is to cause units in the field to revisit their tactics, techniques, and procedures relative to the conduct of deep operations. This article sets a foundation by reviewing new doctrine and definitions, and then focuses on the division's deep operation.


Our improving capability to see, track, attack and kill the enemy is revolutionizing our ability to fight and win deep. These increasing capabilities cause doctrine writers to revisit some of our most fundamental warfighting philosophy. In doing so, the new FM 100-5 (June 1993) introduces new terminology and definitions. Depth, as defined by the new FM 100-5, is "the extension of operations in time, space, resources, and purpose," allowing commanders to press the fight and attack enemy forces and capabilities simultaneously throughout the battlefield. We conduct deep operations to limit the enemy's freedom of action and alter his tempo to our advantage. Instead of isolating the close battle through deep operations, commanders engage both committed and uncommitted enemy forces as part of a synchronized attack, limiting their opponents' ability to successfully prosecute their course of action.

Closely related to depth is the concept of battle space. Battle space as defined in the new FM 100-5 is "determined by the maximum capabilities of a unit to acquire and dominate the enemy; includes area beyond the area of operations; it varies over time according to how the commander positions his assets." Battle space extends the previous concept of area of interest to include the third dimension, joint assets, and national capabilities. Generally, any friendly capability that can add to the commander's combat power and has the potential to influence the execution of his mission affects his battle space.


What is a deep operation? It is an ongoing process of targeting, engagement, and reprioritization of attack guidance. It is a high-risk, high-payoff operation that, if successful, sets the conditions for the successful prosecution of the close fight. It has specific definitions for each level of command. FM 71-100 defines the division deep operation for the defense as "...division deep operations initially focus on interdicting second echelon regiments of first echelon divisions, then shift to interdicting regimental sized elements of second echelon divisions. " For the offense, "the primary focus of division offensive deep operations is to interdict by delaying, disrupting, or diverting enemy reserves, then shifts to units defending in the third defensive positions." The focus in both types of divisional missions seems more oriented toward Threat maneuver forces rather than artillery. Most of our threats, both those modeled in the BCTP simulation and those considered most dangerous by the intelligence community, are artillery based. The enemy fire support system is usually cited as the center of gravity during the IPB process. This disconnect sometimes causes a lack of focus in the targeting process as units try to execute doctrine versus focus on the "real threat" as depicted in Corps Battle Simulation (CBS). But units are improving as they begin to realize what can hurt them the most. Once the enemy and his intent are defined, all assets contributing to the commander's battle space must be employed in deep operations planning and execution. In relation to the battle space of the Army corps, division deep operations are part of the corps' close operations. As such, they must support the intent and concept of the corps commander.

Corps Battlefield Structure

Deep operations are fought by divisions and corps, not by brigades or battalions. Brigade and battalion commanders are fully engaged; they have neither the time nor the visibility of the battlefield to effectively plan and direct a deep operation in its absolute sense. Certainly a brigade commander will attempt to delay, disrupt, or destroy uncommitted units, but the division really has this fight. We have seen an aviation battalion commander unilaterally attempt to execute his commander's guidance and lose precious division assets with small return. Some units have attempted to plan and execute at the DIVARTY or aviation brigade command post - usually with less than optimal synchronization and target damage. Although not specified by doctrine, the deep operation is normally planned and executed at the division or corps main command post. Alternatively, the planning and execution must be done by those commanders and key staff officers that usually reside at those command posts. We are not specifying the "main" is the only place, but rather stating that these key individuals must be in contact with each other and their units, be aware of the battlefield and be able to transmit decisions into action.


Successful operations at the division level require the division to give weight to, and focus on, the main effort.

Schematic of Weighting the Main Attack

Depending on METT-T and purpose, deep operations could be the main effort for the division. As such, deep operations must be considered when organizing the division for combat. Events within the context of deep operations must have sufficient resources and time to plan and execute to provide a reasonable chance of success. This includes, but is not limited to, dedicated fire support, intelligence collection assets, engineer, signal, and, if applicable, aviation assets. For the period that a deep operation is being conducted, exercises show that usually it is the main focus of the unit. The plan, therefore, should reflect that - facilitating synchronization, focusing the intelligence effort, and generally bringing the command and staff awareness to the appropriate level. A deep operation is a combined arms operation.


The deep fight at the division level is a precisely planned and executed operation designed to delay, disrupt, or destroy an opponent's ability to influence the close fight with uncommitted forces or resources. The division deep fight is not always a function of depth in relation to the FLOT. The targets are those enemy capabilities that present the greatest threat to friendly operations within the division commander's battle space. It is not limited to only the 2d echelon regiments of the lead division. Instead, the deep attack should focus on the enemy's center of gravity at the level that the division commander wants to influence. In the case of an attack against an artillery heavy mechanized force, the center of gravity may be the DAG, AAG, or AGRA as opposed to an echeloned maneuver force or an operational reserve. Once destroyed or defeated (the definitions of which are another discussion), the focus of the deep fight could shift toother high payoff targets, such as maneuver formations, command and control nodes, or any other asset or resource whose destruction directly contributes to the accomplishment of the division commander's mission and protection of his force. In a BCTP environment, if the deep attack is early and decisive, chances for a successful outcome of the battle are significantly improved. A successful deep fight for a division is one that is synchronized and has shaped the battlefield in such a way as to allow ground maneuver brigade commanders to fight and win the close fight. FM 71-100 lists a variety of units available to the division commander to conduct the deep attack. In reality, he has four assets he can use to conduct his deep attack: ground maneuver, air maneuver, field artillery, and electronic warfare (EW) units. Use of the Air Force for the division is generally limited to "push" CAS and can be easily integrated into the fire support plan. Principal users of air power for deep operations are the corps and higher commanders.

Deep ground maneuver is a difficult mission and, potentially, a costly one. Although the impact on the morale and will to fight of an enemy is severe and damaging, ground maneuver forces are generally not committed in this role. There are more efficient methods to accomplish the same end.

Command, control and communications countermeasures (C3CM) disrupt the enemy's command and control process, increase his decision times and reduce his ability to react and concentrate forces. EW units employ C3CM in deep operations for jamming, deception, and detecting and tracking high payoff targets. C3CM are generally not effective when employed separately. Effectiveness of EW units is significantly enhanced when they are employed in conjunction with deep air maneuver and/or deep fires.

Field artillery is a deep strike option anytime, and under any weather condition. Divisional artillery has the capability today to reach out to the 30-km mark with its organic MLRS battalion or battery, or M198 battery in the case of light divisions. That reach will increase by approximately 50 percent in the very near future. When coupled with an efficient sensor, a timely sensor-to-shooter link, and positioning well forward on the battlefield, this system can significantly extend a division commander's battle space.

Air maneuver units possess the capability to strike rapidly and deep, and bring the fight into the third dimension. When combined with an efficient field artillery system, effective C3CM and near real-time intelligence with enhanced capabilities to detect and track high payoff targets, aviation assets provide a decisive deep strike option for the division commander, and become the force of choice for deep operations.


Successful deep operations require focusing the intelligence collection and targeting effort. The decide-detect-track-deliver-assess methodology was designed to support this. It is an integral part of the planning process and is dynamic in that it occurs both simultaneously and sequentially. The purpose is to identify enemy targets for possible engagement and to determine the best mix of sensor and attack systems. How the division fights deep is a direct result of decisions made during the decide function of the process.

Targeting Process

There are two objectives in the targeting process. The first is to provide the commander with direct targeting information for immediate engagement with fire and maneuver in the close fight. The second is to collect and correlate information from all sources to develop targets for deep operations. During the decide function, a firm grasp of the commander's intent and concept is essential because the decisions made here provide the framework and battle focus for the synchronization of the division assets for the deep operations. Intelligence assets are identified, high value and, subsequently, high payoff targets are determined, along with NAIs, TAIs, and decision points. Target selection standards identifying the accuracy requirements for attackable targets are determined, and the attack guidance matrix is developed. Trigger points and attack timings are determined, BDA requirements are identified, and the collection plan is finalized. Organic sensors are tasked, and nonorganic support requirements are identified and requested. With the planning complete and the assets ready, the next function is to detect, with the critical subfunction, track. The G2 is the principal figure in this. Collection management is focused on situation development and detection of high payoff targets identified in the decide function. Target detection is accomplished using all available assets in the division. Those assets include FISTs, COLTs, target acquisition radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, air defense artillery radars, aerial fire support officers, EH-60 "Quickfix" radio intercept, direction finder and jammer, TRQ-32 "Teammate" radio intercept and direction finder, TLQ-17 "Trafficjam" radio intercept and jammer, and TSQ-114 "Trailblazer" radio intercept and direction finder.

Division Intelligence Assets

Tracking takes on special importance when focusing on the short dwell, high payoff targets which must be attacked rapidly. It is during this subfunction that fire support officers, division fire support coordinators, field artillery intelligence officers, S2s, G2s, and Field Artillery brigade, DIVARTY and battalion S3s must ensure they clearly understand the commander's intent for fires relative to the deep fight. Many times we see divisions doing the detect function very well. Time passes, and the enemy pops up where he is not expected. The G2 loses the HPT until it is too late. The importance of the tracking subfunction cannot be overemphasized.

The deliver function, with the critical subfunction assess, executes the target attack guidance as developed and refined above, and provides the feedback necessary to continue the targeting process. It has three key elements: target attack, selection and protection of the attack force, and target damage assessment (TDA). Regardless of the means selected, attack of the target must satisfy the attack guidance. Selection and detection of the attack force is METT-T dependent and is derived from mission analysis and planning. If indirect fire is the force of choice, then force protection considerations may include survivability moves, artillery raids, or position improvement through the use of dedicated engineer assets. If aviation is the force of choice, then availability of SEAD, both EW and indirect fire, route planning, and time of day (or night) are critical considerations. TDA can be active, through the use of organic sensors or "eyes on target," or passive, such as the cessation of fires from an attacked area. In any case, the importance of TDA cannot be overstated. Not meeting the target damage criteria could cause the division battle plan to change. If target damage is important to the commander for decisionmaking, then make it a priority intelligence requirement (PIR).

Arguably, the greatest challenge of the deep operations is synchronization of assets concentrated at the decisive time and place, while protecting the combat power of the division for future operations. To improve the synchronization of the attack, many units use a deep battle cell. Although not fully resourced in personnel and equipment, if properly equipped with TACFIRE and secure communications equipment, this cell facilitates the control a commander has over his deep operations and allows him to more efficiently employ a major part of his division's combat power. Key players in the cell are a fire support element representative, intelligence analyst, G2, G3 and an aviation unit representative. At corps level, the corps artillery commander is the deep battle coordinator. At division, usually the chief of staff is the deep battle coordinator, although other options are the aviation brigade commander or the division artillery commander.




C/S roll call
C/S commander's guidance/intent
G2 current enemy situation
TDA received/assesment
future enemy situation
most probable enemy COAs/responses
G3 current operations
future operations
delineation of battlefield
DFSCOORD validate/update collection priorities
validate/update collection priorities
task division collectors
monimations to corps for collection
review/assign attack assets against HPTs
nominate targets to corps

-engagement areas
-following HPTs until engagement
-SEAD/JSEAD requirements/taskings
-fire support coordination measure changes
-air corridors

TDA requirements/taskings
final product checklist
-update HPT list and attack guidance matrix
-BAI nominations
-taskings to DIV assets (ACD, ATK, TDA)
-updated PIR and collection plan
-requests for support from corps (ACO, ATK,
C/S adjourn/commander's aproval




A recurring point of contention in dealing with deep operations is delineation of the battlefield. Is the battlefield marked in relation to one commander's area of operations? Or is this dependent on mission or lack of mission of the enemy force? Or can the battlefield be defined in relation to a subordinate commander's capability to find and engage the enemy? In the context of the linear battlefield, this discussion usually focuses on the fire support coordination line (FSCL) as a boundary between corps close and deep, further identified as the limit of the division deep fight. Doctrinally a permissive fire support coordination measure, the FSCL is usually characterized as a restrictive measure limiting corps and division commanders in the type of attacks they can conduct and dividing the battlefield responsibilities for the close and deep fight. The FSCL, as described in FM 101-5-1, is "a permissive measure established by the appropriate ground commander, coordinated with the appropriate air component commander and other supporting commanders, to facilitate the attack of targets beyond the line while ensuring proper coordination of fires not under the ground commander's control inside the line." It is not intended to be restrictive in nature or a boundary between the ground campaign and the air campaign, or the extent in depth of the corps boundary. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the establishment of the FSCL by the land component commander beyond the battle space of the division commander and possibly, the corps commander, units design their own control measures to divide battlefield responsibilities for deep and close. Some examples external to the corps are the Reconnaissance and Interdiction Planning Line (RIPL) in Europe, and the Deep Battle Synchronization Line (DBSL) in Korea. Neither term is doctrinal in its origin, yet both theaters have a clear understanding of what they mean in their respective theaters. Doctrinal control measures (phase lines) with a locally defined purpose within the corps can further divide the close and deep responsibilities. One corps uses a Battlefield Coordination Line (BCL) to delineate the corps and major subordinate commands areas of responsibilities relative to deep operations, intelligence collection, and fires. This line requires divisions (MSCs) to coordinate with the corps prior to conducting deep operations beyond the BCL. Conversely, the corps is required to coordinate with the major subordinate command before conducting operations within the BCL. The BCL is a measure which has been used successfully in several Warfighter exercises.


BCTP's experience indicates that the successfully executed deep fight, planned using the decide-detect-track-deliver-assess methodology, considering all division assets which are organized for combat with the deep fight in mind: with execution controlled in the main command post, or at a location with the key players and communications links in place; followed up by aggressive target damage assessment which serves as the input for another iteration of the targeting process, is the first step in synchronizing the battlefield and sets the conditions for success in the overall battle.

This has been a brief synopsis of a difficult and complex operation. Our goal has been to give the reader some areas to think about, consider for reinforcement training, or just to gauge his own operation, for future needs.

32 Steps of How to Do It

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