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Land Power

For war to be decisive, its outcome must be conclusive. The threat or use of Army forces is the ultimate means of imposing the nation's will and achieving a lasting outcome. Land operations seize the enemy's territory and resources, destroy his armed forces, and eliminate his means of controlling his population. Only land forces can exercise direct, continuing, discriminate, and comprehensive control over land, people, and resources.

Land combat continues to be the salient feature of conflict. It usually involves destroying or defeating enemy forces or taking land objectives that reduce the enemy's effectiveness or will to fight. Four characteristics distinguish land combat:

  • Scope. Land combat involves contact with an enemy throughout the depth of an operational area. Forces conduct simultaneous and sequential operations in contiguous and noncontiguous AOs. Commanders maneuver forces to seize and retain key and decisive terrain. They use maneuver, fires, and other elements of combat power to defeat or destroy enemy forces. Land combat normally entails close and continuous contact with noncombatants. Rules of engagement reflect this.

  • Duration. Land combat is repetitive and continuous. It involves rendering an enemy incapable or unwilling to conduct further action. It may require destroying him.

  • Terrain. Land combat takes place among a complex variety of natural and manmade features. The complexity of the ground environment contrasts significantly with the relative transparency of air, sea, and space. Plans for land combat must account for the visibility and clutter of the terrain and the effects of weather and climate.

  • Permanence. Land combat frequently requires seizing or securing ground. With control of the ground comes control of populations and productive capacity. Thus, land combat makes permanent the temporary effects of other operations.

Ultimately, it is the ability of Army forces to close with and destroy the enemy that allows the Army to dominate land operations. Army forces close with and destroy enemy forces through maneuver and precision direct and indirect fires. An adaptive enemy attempts to lessen the effects of operational fires. However, with their inherent qualities of on-the-ground presence and situational understanding, Army forces make permanent the otherwise temporary effects of fires alone. Domination extends from the certainty in the minds of enemy commanders that close combat with Army forces, backed by superlative US air and naval forces, will have two outcomes-destruction or surrender.

The Army contributes forces to combatant commands to conduct prompt and sustained combat operations on land. The objective of Army forces is land force dominance-defeating adversary land forces, seizing and controlling terrain, and destroying the adversary will to resist. The Army, supported by the Air Force and Navy, has a forcible entry capability that allows it to conduct land operations anywhere in the world. The Army also can achieve prompt and sustained land dominance across the spectrum of conflict. It concludes conflict decisively to achieve national political and military objectives.

The Army conducts four types of operations -- offensive, defensive, stability, and support -- to accomplish missions in support of the joint force commander's objectives. Offensive operations aim at destroying or defeating an enemy. Their purpose is to impose the commander's will on the enemy and achieve decisive victory. Defensive operations defeat an enemy attack, buy time, economize forces, or develop conditions favorable for offensive operations. Defensive operations alone normally cannot achieve a decision. Stability operations promote and protect U.S. national interests through a combination of peacetime developmental, cooperative activities and coercive actions in response to crises. Support operations em-ploy Army forces to assist civil authorities, foreign or domestic, as they prepare for and respond to crises and relieve suffering. Commanders synchronize offensive, defensive, stability, and support operations to defeat any enemy or dominate any environment anywhere, anytime.

Combat power is the ability to fight. It is the total means of destructive or disruptive force, or both, that a military unit or formation can apply against the adversary at a given time. Commanders combine the elements of combat power- maneuver, firepower, leadership, protection, and information- to meet constantly changing requirements and defeat an enemy. Defeating an enemy requires increasing the disparity between friendly and enemy forces by reducing enemy combat power. Commanders do this by synchronizing the elements of friendly force combat power to create overwhelming effects at the decisive time and place. Focused combat power ensures success and denies an enemy any chance to maintain coherent resistance. Massed effects created by synchronizing the elements of combat power are the surest means of limiting friendly casualties and swiftly ending a campaign or operation.

Maneuver is the employment of forces, through movement combined with fire or fire potential, to achieve a position of advantage with respect to the enemy to accomplish the mission. Maneuver is the means by which commanders concentrate combat power to achieve surprise, shock, momentum, and dominance. Operational maneuver involves placing Army forces and resources at the critical place in time to achieve an operational advantage. It is complex and often requires joint and multinational support. Deployment and intratheater movements are operational maneuver if they achieve a positional advantage and influence the outcome of a campaign or battle. Tactical maneuver wins battles and engagements. By keeping the enemy off balance, it also protects the force. In both the offense and defense, it positions forces to close with and destroy the enemy. Effective tactical maneuver continually poses new problems for the enemy. It renders his reactions ineffective and eventually drives him to defeat.

Close combat is inherent in maneuver and has one purpose-to decide the outcome of battles and engagements. Close combat is combat carried out with direct fire weapons, supported by indirect fire, air-delivered fires, and nonlethal engagement means. Close combat defeats or destroys enemy forces, or seizes and retains ground. The range between combatants may vary from several thousand meters to hand-to-hand combat. All tactical actions inevitably require seizing or securing terrain as a means to an end or an end in itself. Close combat is necessary if the enemy is skilled and resolute; fires alone will neither drive him from his position nor convince him to abandon his cause. Ultimately, the outcome of battles, major operations, and campaigns depends on the ability of Army forces to close with and destroy the enemy. During offensive and defensive operations, the certainty of destruction may persuade the enemy to yield.

Firepower provides the destructive force essential to overcoming the enemy's ability and will to fight. Firepower and maneuver complement each other. Firepower magnifies the effects of maneuver by destroying enemy forces and restricting his ability to counter friendly actions; maneuver creates the conditions for the effective use of firepower. Although one element might dominate a phase of an action, the synchronized effects of both are present in all operations. The threat of one in the presence of the other magnifies the impact of both. One without the other makes neither decisive. Combined, they make destroying larger enemy forces feasible and enhance protection of friendly forces.

Because it deals directly with soldiers, leadership is the most dynamic element of combat power. Confident, audacious, and competent leadership focuses the other elements of combat power and serves as the catalyst that creates conditions for success. Leaders who embody the warrior ethos inspire soldiers to succeed. They provide purpose, direction, and motivation in all operations. Leadership is key, and the actions of leaders often make the difference between success and failure, particularly in small units.

Doctrine is the concise expression of how Army forces contribute to unified action in campaigns, major operations, battles, and engagements. While it complements joint doctrine, Army doctrine also describes the Army's approach and contributions to full spectrum operations on land. Army doctrine is authoritative but not prescriptive. Where conflicts between Army and joint doctrine arise, joint doctrine takes precedence.

Doctrine touches all aspects of the Army. It facilitates communication among soldiers no matter where they serve, contributes to a shared professional culture, and serves as the basis for curricula in the Army Education System. Army doctrine provides a common language and a common understanding of how Army forces conduct operations. It is rooted in time-tested principles but is forward-looking and adaptable to changing technologies, threats, and missions. Army doctrine is detailed enough to guide operations, yet flexible enough to allow commanders to exercise initiative when dealing with specific tactical and operational situations. To be useful, doctrine must be well known and commonly understood.

Multidimensional Army forces provide a forcible entry capability to access contested areas worldwide. They can be ready to fight immediately and prepare for the arrival of follow-on forces. This capability is essential to reduce predictability, dominate a situation, deny an adversary his objectives, contain a conflict, conduct decisive operations, deter protracted conflict, and terminate conflict on our terms.

Army forces are uniquely capable of decisive land warfare. The ability to close with and destroy enemy forces, occupy territory, and control populations achieves moral dominance over enemy will and destroys means to resist. Army forces close with and destroy the enemy to terminate conflict on our terms. Ultimately, this capability, coupled with strategic responsiveness, provides the foundation of conventional deterrence.

The Army is capable of attacking an enemy, directly or indirectly, with lethal and nonlethal means, through the synergistic application of precision fires and maneuver. The Army is organized and equipped to conduct combined arms operations, which include integrating joint capabilities and operations. Precision maneuver coupled with precision Army and joint fires, give the joint force commander operationally decisive land power capabilities.

Conflict normally requires control of people and land to establish the conditions for self-sustaining peace. The Army has a unique capability to dominate a situation and set those conditions, especially when this control requires a sustained commitment.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:30:41 Zulu