by CPT Frederick J. Erst
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Both maneuver units and engineer units have difficulty achieving obstacle integration during engagement area development at the National Training Center. Many factors contribute to this frequently observed deficiency -- soldier and leader inexperience, poor time management, or lack of Home Station combined arms training, to name a few. In most cases, units do not employ the doctrinal standards given in FM 90-7, Combined Arms Obstacle Integration. For example, obstacle groups often lack sufficient density, are not placed throughout the depth of an engagement area, and are not integrated with effective direct and indirect fires. As a result, they are rapidly bypassed or reduced by enemy engineers.
This article provides techniques to successfully achieve obstacle integration through obstacle group design, combined arms participation in the countermobility effort, and synchronization of fires. By employing these techniques, units can achieve the intended obstacle effect of DISRUPT, TURN, FIX, or BLOCK on the enemy's formation.
Individual obstacles are designed based on standard obstacles and modified based on METT-T. They are then arrayed in groups based on friendly weapons systems and terrain to achieve a specific effect. The terrain ultimately dictates the composition of the obstacle group. During task force defensive planning, the engineer commander, as the task force engineer, designs and arrays each obstacle group using the task force commander's intent, the resource planning factor (RF), and the total width of the avenue of approach (AA). The engineer commander determines the total quantity of standard obstacles required to achieve the intended effect using the obstacle group design calculation found in FM 90-7, and also shown in Figure 1.
Plan situational obstacles, such as Volcano, MOPMS, or ADAM-RAAM, as part of the group or to reinforce an AA based on a new threat. The key is to array the obstacle group with both sufficient depth and density to manipulate the enemy's maneuver into the desired direction.
During the defense, the Engineer Battlefield Assessment (EBA) often focuses on friendly engineer capabilities but does not address the impact of terrain or the enemy engineer's breaching capability. Using the EBA, engineer platoons can design obstacles to defeat enemy breaching assets or use a combination of "more-visible" and "unseen" obstacles in each obstacle group to manipulate the enemy's maneuver in the desired direction. Use the countermobility timeline to emplace specific obstacles during the day, rather than at night, based on expected enemy reconnaissance in sector.
Effective obstacle integration begins with the task force commander's obstacle intent. Obstacle intent addresses the target, the desired obstacle effect, and the relative location.
The engineer must answer the following four questions during engagement area (EA) development:
Figure 2 depicts weapons ranges from a company/team battle position to each type of obstacle group. All four groups are shown only for comparison. Normally, one company/team covers one or two obstacle groups.
INTEGRATING OBSTACLE GROUPS AND DIRECT FIRES
How do effective units integrate obstacle group design with fires?
- Combined Arms Participation in Obstacle Siting
- Assigning Obstacle Ownership
- Fire Control Plan (Direct and Indirect) -- Synchronizing Obstacles with Fires
Combined Arms Participation in Obstacle Siting
Obstacle integration begins during obstacle siting. It is important that the company/team overwatching a particular obstacle understands the obstacle intent and the direct and indirect fires required. The company/team and the engineer platoon must work together to position each obstacle in the group using the direct fire plan and the initial obstacle group design. Based on the terrain, the company/team commander and the engineer adjust the obstacle locations to ensure that the group is covered by direct fire and are consistent with the task force commander's intent. Use the obstacle siting procedure found in FM 90-7 and also shown here.
Siting Technique #1|
Obstacle Siting Technique #2
The "ownership" of the obstacle group by the company/team begins with obstacle siting and continues through obstacle turnover. While the obstacle group is emplaced by the engineer platoon, the actual "owner" is the company/team overwatching the obstacles. The company/team provides security and can provide manpower for fratricide fence construction or mine dump operations for the obstacle group. This ownership allows the engineer platoon to focus on the primary mission of emplacing minefields, and allows the company/team to account for, equip, transport, and supervise their own personnel. The company/team is thus better prepared for obstacle turnover and lane closure during the battle and obstacle recovery after the fight. "Ownership" ensures that the company/team remains integrated throughout the entire process and results in better integration of the obstacle group with fires.
Fire Control Plan
Engineers should know weapons ranges and capabilities, and they should understand and use the same fire-control terminology as their maneuver counterparts. Ask any engineer platoon leader where an obstacle should be positioned and the typical answer is, "2/3 of the maximum effective weapons range." Fine, but the engineer should also understand the task and purpose of direct and indirect fires for each obstacle group design. This knowledge will help the maneuver unit achieve the desired obstacle effect on the enemy's formation. An engineer platoon leader who can confidently talk about direct fires such as TOW MELS (maximum engagement lines), or discuss the type of indirect fires on an obstacle group, can best assist the company/team commander in developing his fire control plan.
Each of the four types of obstacle effects (Disrupt, Turn, Fix, and Block) requires a different combination of direct and indirect fires to achieve the commander's obstacle intent. Both the engineer and the company/team must understand where fires must be massed, distributed, and shifted within the obstacle group. Both must also understand how the obstacle group is designed to manipulate the enemy's maneuver into the desired direction. The figures below combine obstacle group design with the fire control measures shown in FM 90-7, Combined Arms Obstacle Integration.
This article made the following points for ensuring mission success:
- Units must achieve obstacle integration during engagement area development.
- The engineer must understand fire control planning.
- The maneuver commander must understand obstacle group design.
The engineer and the maneuver unit need to work together throughout the engagement area development process. By understanding the task and purpose of fires for each obstacle group design, maneuver units can achieve the intended obstacle effect of DISRUPT, TURN, FIX, or BLOCK on the enemy's formation.
MOPMS: It Isn't Just for Light Engineers
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