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Military

CHAPTER ONE

ENGINEER OPERATIONS


OBSTACLE INTEGRATION
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.

DESIGN

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.

Figure 1

INTEGRATION

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.

Planning suggestions and techniques for the task force commander:
  • Prioritize the countermobility effort. Direct the engineers to work where the countermobility effort is most critical to the maneuver plan.
  • Recognize the trade-offs between Block/Turn obstacle groups and Fix/Disrupt obstacle groups. Over a 48-hour preparation period, an engineer company might complete one or two Block/Turn obstacle groups. That same company, given the same amount of time, could emplace five to six Fix/Disrupt obstacle groups, addign depth to the engagement area.
  • Obstacles in depth along one or two enemy avenues of approach often succeed, whereas a single line or "crust" of obstacles across the task force front is useless once the enemy breaches.
  • In Paragraph 3 of the OPORD, task the line companies to execute specific, countermobility support missions such as: emplacing obstacle groups, providing soldiers to run the class IV/V point, conducting obstacle turnover with the engineers for specific obstacle groups, and emplacing protective obstacles.

The engineer must answer the following four questions during engagement area (EA) development:

1. Where does the enemy want to go?
2. Where does the commander want to kill the enemy?
3. Where does the commander want the enemy to go?
4. Where don't we want the enemy to go?

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.

Figure 2

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.

Obstacle Siting Technique #1
  • Company Team Commander, FO, and Engineer Platoon Leader on BP
  • Maneuver and Engineer vehicles attack as the enemy
  • Plan where to mass fires
  • Place direct and indirect fire control measures on the ground
  • Locate key weapons in the platoon positions
  • Site each obstacle in the group and place flags
  • Locate remaining weapons in the platoon positions

Obstacle Siting Technique #2

  • Company Team Commander, FO, and Engineer Platoon Leader drive the EA
  • Maneuver and Engineer vehicles attack as the enemy
  • Communicate with maneuver platoon leaders on the BP
  • Plan where to mass fires
  • Place direct and indirect fire control measures on the ground
  • Site each obstacle in the group and place flags
  • Locate combat vehicles in the BP

How so successfully site an obstacle -- the combined arms effort
  • Drive a vehicle through the engagement area along the routes you expect the enemy to follow. Include the Forward Observer (FO) in this drill.
  • Maintain FM communication with the combat vehicles that are on the battle position overwatching the obstacle group.
  • When a gunner is able to engage your vehicle with his primary weapon system, he notifies you on the radio. Mark the site. This site is a target reference point (TRP) for the FO.
  • Drive from the marked site toward the battle position approximately 100-200 meters (terrain dependent). Mark the location as the start point for the first minefield in the obstacle group. This technique allows the enemy to move into the engagement area before encountering the first minefield.

Obstacle Ownership

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.

SUMMARY

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.


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