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Posted on Jun 1, 2007 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 016 – The Deliberate Attack

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland


The Battle Operating Systems are intelligence, maneuver, fire support, air defense, mobility / counter mobility / survivability, combat service support, and command and control.  These are the general systems employed in all combat operations at the tactical level.  They provide a planning framework for commanders and staffs.  Below we will briefly discuss each system and follow that with providing ways in which the system can assist you in executing a successful deliberate attack.

The intelligence system plans, directs, collects, analyzes, and disseminates information on enemy disposition, composition, and strength.  The deliberate attack requires a vigorous and well planned reconnaissance effort that will acquire enough data to facilitate deliberate attack planning.  The recon plan not only confirms or denies what the commander expects the enemy to do; it must define his obstacle plan and maintain surveillance on the objective in order to detect shifts in disposition.  Recon begins early in a deliberate attack since its results are the basis for the planning.


Intelligence in the Deliberate Attack:

• Before conducting an attack, a commander and his staff would like to know the following about his enemy: 1) Composition, disposition and strength of the enemy  2) Location of any weapons of mass destruction  3) Location of key fire support systems  4) Location of his reserve  5) Location of his key C2 nodes 6) His preparation of the defense  7) The options available to him  8) His obstacle plan.  9) Potential counterattack routes  Will you obtain all of this?  Probably not, but the more you do acquire the better you will be able to capitalize on your strengths and exploit his vulnerabilities.

• In order to achieve success in a deliberate attack, you must obtain intelligence that allows you to determine his vulnerabilities.  These vulnerabilities could be gaps in his defense, a weak flank, a unit left out on its own, a gap in his obstacle plan, etc. Once you discover a vulnerability – exploit it!

• During the execution of the attack your need for intelligence does not end.  Things you want to know include: 1) The commitment of his reserve  2) Movement of additional forces into the enemy’s defense which reinforces his combat power  3) Indicators that your enemy may be preparing to use chemical or biological agents  4) Movement that may indicate an enemy counterattack  and 5) Use of fixed or rotary wing air.

• Recon must be continuous.  Use redundant systems if the intelligence you seek is critical.

• Develop a complete plan to take his ‘eyes’ away or lead them to see what you want them to see.  The winner of the counter-recon battle has a huge advantage.

• Have a plan to reconstitute assets if you lose some systems.

Maneuver systems move to positions of advantage relative to the enemy defense.   Infantry, armor, cavalry, and aviation are organized to conduct supporting attacks and the main attack.  Supporting effort units are assigned shaping tasks that allow the main effort to close in on the point of penetration or decisive point.  The supporting efforts normally initiate the attack in order to create conditions favorable for the main attack.  The main attack is weighted in such a manner that it can create and exploit a penetration of the enemy defense.  The main effort needs enough support to win but not so much as to exceed the subordinate commander’s ability to effectively control.  Sometimes the main attack is the lightest force thus it is the most agile force.  The terrain, the time the enemy has had to prepare, the weather, and unit proficiency, combine to determine the organization and tasking.

• Always designate a reserve.  The size of the reserve is proportional to the degree of uncertainty.  In the offense, it should be used to accelerate the defenders culmination and preserve the attacker’s momentum.  The commander must have a unit to exploit success or provide him with that extra combat power he desperately needs to achieve success.

• All units must be conducting some type of operation that is contributing to your success.

• In attacking a well-prepared defense you must determine your enemy’s vulnerability.  This could be a poorly defended flank or avenue of approach.  It is difficult to match strength on strength.

• Develop a scheme of maneuver that enables you to mass your combat power at the right time and location.

• A well-prepared enemy defense usually means a well-prepared obstacle system.  In order to breach that obstacle, you must attack it as a combined arms team.  Breaching is not just an engineer function.

• As we have discussed in the past – it is fire and maneuver.  You can’t achieve success without both working in harmony.

• Do not maneuver along likely areas of approach if at all possible.  These are sure to be artillery magnets.

• Bypass is always an option when coming across an obstacle.  You must use your intuition to determine if the bypass leads directly into an enemy kill sack.

• Once an objective is seized, never occupy the same positions of the enemy.  These positions are certainly well known by your enemy and are artillery magnets.

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