The Engineer Modular Pack Mine System (MOPMS) Team
by MAJ Scott C. Johnson, O/C, Maneuver Team, CMTC
This article highlights possible new MOPMS employment techniques developed through lessons learned at the Combat Maneuver Training Center (CMTC).
One of the major concerns in most engineer companies during the defense is what to do after the enemy attack is imminent. At this time, the two most popular options are: 1) Pull back and hide OR 2) Occupy an engineer company battle position. Neither option capitalizes on the capabilities of the engineer company. Hiding provides no significant contribution to the current fight. Engineer company battle positions are routinely "speed bumps" and target practice for threat weapon systems. But there is another option that can be a valuable combat multiplier for a task force scheme of maneuver.
Well-trained engineer MOPMS emplacement teams can contribute significantly at critical points on the battlefield. MOPMS teams have proven to be highly effective in emplacing situational obstacles capable of shutting down (disrupt, fix, turn, or block) choke points and narrow avenues of approach. Other than the MOPMS itself, the team needs a radio, a well-rehearsed plan of execution and a synchronized indirect or direct fire plan. The primary mission of the MOPMS team is to engage the enemy with indirect fires. But direct fires can also be incorporated if the team is augmented with anti-armor weapons systems.
Ad hoc MOPMS teams (usually an engineer squad), using various emplacement techniques, have been successful in denying the close terrain of the European battlefield. For example, in the opening days of the Battle of the Bulge, the 291st Engineer Battalion, under Colonel Pergrin, disrupted and delayed the forces of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment, thus providing valuable reaction time to Allied forces (The Damned Engineers, Janice Holt Giles, 1970).
Success on today's complex battlefield correlates directly to the level of planning and preparation the task force places on the mission. MOPMS Team planning and preparation begin at Home Station. Soldiers must know how to safely use MOPMS and understand the MOPMS Team mission. Leaders must know how to plan, integrate, and execute MOPMS targets to support the overall scheme of maneuver.
The MOPMS mine-dispensing system footprint is a 180-degree semi-circle with a 35-meter radius. It is easy to use. It provides maneuver task forces with an excellent tool to support their operations. In the defense, MOPMS teams can be used to:
- support the counter-reconnaissance battle,
- disrupt enemy formations,
- protect the flanks of the task force,
- seal seams and enemy cross mobility corridors between units, and
- reseed or reinforce breached obstacles.
The MOPMS team's ability to affect the battle relies on detailed planning, full-scale rehearsals, synchronized indirect fires and the ability to call for them. The team must understand its role in the overall scheme of maneuver, contingency missions, and engagement criteria. Effective combined arms rehearsals are the key to success.
The actual emplacement of a MOPMS minefield occurs very quickly. Once at the designated location, the system can deploy the mines on command by either the Remote Control Unit (RCU) or electric (direct wire) detonation. The MOPMS minefield arms itself within two minutes of being fired.
CAUTION: Overwatching and security elements must be aware of the danger. Select positions that do not require movement through the site after the MOPMS is emplaced.
The RCU can be used up to three additional times for a total of approximately 16 hours. But when the direct wire method is used, the MOPMS mines cannot be recycled or command detonated.
The same basics used to emplace conventional obstacles apply to a successful MOPMS employment. They include:
- obstacle sighting,
- targeting and marking, and
- site security.
The task force can establish multiple MOPMS team ambushes at choke points along the flanks and in the seams between units. Execution of these MOPMS ambushes requires detailed planning that supports the task force scheme of maneuver.
TECHNIQUES to enhance chances for success:
- Coordinate decision points and triggers.
- Register targets.
- Rehearse execution.
- Make sure friendly units are aware of the execution plan and actual emplacement of the MOPMS.
Since engineers are generally in short supply on the battlefield, maneuver units can assume responsibility for MOPMS targets near their battle positions. This frees up engineer assets to emplace conventional obstacles that support task force engagement areas. It also allows them to plan and prepare for their own MOPMS team missions to support the task force or brigade scheme of maneuver.
Use Scout and Infantry MOPMS teams to support the deception plan or the counter-reconnaissance battle forward in sector. Conduct a thorough terrain analysis. Position teams at choke points to: 1) deny enemy reconnaissance movement along likely avenues of approach, or 2) close the avenues of approach after the enemy reconnaissance elements move through the area. The MOPMS has a self-destruct feature that can reopen choke points for counterattacks and the movement of screening forces.
In the offense, MOPMS teams can protect the flanks of a task force as it advances, deny enemy ability to maneuver, establish hasty engagement areas, or disrupt enemy formations.
Well-trained MOPMS teams can provide responsive and timely support across the TF sector. Teams can use pre-planned and targeted locations to support various contingencies across the battlefield. Rehearsal and verification of decision points and timing of the movement from primary locations to secondary locations are mandatory to ensure success.
Use MOPMs to fix enemy elements at the ground of your choosing. For example, detailed and imaginative planning can enable you to execute a MOPMS minefield between the echelons of a motorized rifle regiment in the Defense or between the forward security element (FSE) and the advance guard main body (AGMB) during a Movement to Contact .
CAUTION: Execution, synchronization, and security requirements increase as the battle develops and the situation becomes unclear.
Planners must remember employing any family of scatterable mines (FASCAM) obstacle requires a decision point. Whether the decision is time driven (e.g., based on the defend not later than time) or event driven (the enemy's activities), the fundamental MOPMS planning requirements remain the same:
- A pre-planned and coordinated MOPMS execution plan that is responsive and flexible.
- Determine the number of MOPMS teams using METT-T and the number of MOPMSs available.
Engineer companies can realistically field one MOPMS team per engineer squad for a total of six teams. The number of teams is limited by the number of radios and RCUs available. Both armor and infantry forces can augment and conduct MOPMS team missions. A typical mechanized or armored battalion has a unit basic load (UBL) of 16 MOPMS. The engineer battalion supporting the brigade has a UBL of 40 MOPMS. Ten are usually allocated to the engineer company supporting a task force.
- The number of RCUs available to a task force depends on the task organization. For example, combat engineer companies have four, and infantry or armor battalions have eight RCUs.
- One RCU can control up to 15 MOPMS containers out to 300 - 1,000 meters. The RCU uses a special code to initiate each MOPMS minefield. This code is also used to recycle and command-detonate the minefield. Codes should be disseminated to all the MOPMS teams in case one or more teams are disabled or a backup team is required to recycle or command-detonate the minefield.
Plan indirect fire missions so that they can be seen from the MOPMS team observation points (OPs) or OPs belonging to other overwatching units (engineer, COLTs, scouts, or maneuver team). Indirect fire targets should support the obstacle location and intent.
The task force can also plan for the MOPMS teams to engage the enemy with direct fires. Engineer companies do not have the capability to effectively engage enemy armor forces with their organic direct fire weapons systems. Use METT-T to augment the MOPMS team with infantry or armor support. They can provide effective anti-armor direct fires and security for the team.
Redundancy in capability during MOPMS operations increases the chances of success. If one of the MOPMS Teams is destroyed, there should be a backup plan for shifting the assets to observe and cover the priority obstacles. There are several ways to accomplish this:
- Use one team as the primary emplacer, and the second team as a backup. Rehearse both. Give the second team an alternate mission in case the first team is successful.
- Time-phased emplacement. Stage the second team to emplace minefields at subsequent locations. It executes the subsequent obstacles if the first team is successful. If the first team is unsuccessful, the second team can flex. It can either emplace the first or other situational obstacles that support the task force mission.
NOTE: The second team can be other task force assets such as COLTs, scouts, or maneuver units.
Protect the task force from the effects of minefields. Minimize fratricide by:
- Widely disseminating the plan.
- Conducting a MOPMS fratricide risk assesment while developing the MOPMS locations during the planning phase.
- Remembering that brigade assets operating in sector, and task force combat service support (CSS) vehicles normally take the brunt of the fratricide incidents.
- Ensuring that both the intent to emplace, and the actual execution of the obstacle reaches all levels of the command including the brigade slice elements and CSS units operating in the task force sector.
- Writing the time of emplacement on the obstacle overlay next to the proposed location if the minefield emplacement is time driven.
- Broadcasting warnings on the task force and company or team command nets every 10 minutes starting 30 minutes prior to emplacement.
- Using Military Police (MP) units as traffic control teams near the emplacement site.
- Integrating MPs into the MOPMS team execution to assist in the prevention of fratricide.
It takes more than the normal pre-combat inspections for a successful MOPMS team operation. Detailed full-scale rehearsals are also necessary.
- Commanders must consider engineer MOPMS team planning and preparation time in the defense.
- Plan to provide the teams with the time required to emplace conventional obstacles, PLUS reconnoiter and rehearse the MOPMS mission.
- In the offense, engineers should focus on either the mobility or countermobility mission.
- Avoid assigning engineer squads the dual mission of breaching obstacles and emplacing MOPMS.
The entire team must know and understand the mission and possible contingency missions.
- The MOPMS team should conduct detailed ground reconnaissance of each proposed site.
- Incorporate MOPMS into a full-scale task force rehearsal so that the task force leadership can see the timing, synchronization, and employment of the MOPMS team.
- Include activation of contingency plans.
The first step in the execution phase is obtaining permission to emplace a FASCAM mine field. The approval authority for MOPMS can be delegated to the task force commander.
Once approval is obtained the team can initiate its plan. Report MOPMS minefields to brigade as they are emplaced. This allows the brigade to plan or execute follow-on operations which depend on the minefield location. And it notifies brigade of the expenditure of the asset.
The planning considerations, fundamentals, and employment techniques outlined in this article are based on the lessons learned at CMTC. Units across the Army should use them to develop standing operating procedures that maximize the effectiveness of the engineer MOPMS team.
The requirement for successful execution of MOPMS minefields in this central European scenario becomes increasingly important and more common during every brigade deployment. MOPMS teams that are incorporated into the task force plan, rehearsed, and drilled are the keys to successful execution. The tactics, techniques, and procedures illustrated here are not yet standardized. But they are becoming more and more refined and successful.
Engineer and maneuver units alike need hands-on training at Home Station. It should include basic MOPMS operations, integrated situational training exercises, and computer simulations to effectively plan and execute MOPMS on the battlefield.
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