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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

Fire support consists of fires that directly support operations by engaging enemy forces and facilities in support of tactical objectives. Fires are more controlled in a deliberate attack.  Fires are sequenced to disrupt enemy early warning and counter-reconnaissance units, to suppress and obscure the enemy main defense, to neutralize or destroy enemy units at the decisive point, to disrupt reserves and reinforcements, and to displace enemy artillery.  The priority of fire support normally begins with the critical supporting effort but quickly shifts to the main attack once it is committed.

• Use fire support to weight your decisive operation and main effort.

• Use fire support to isolate the enemy at a critical time or location.


• Destroy his fire support systems before they can affect you.

• During your approach to the objective, you must ensure you plan for the movement and security of counterfire radars.

• Plan fires beyond your objective to support follow-on operations.

• Ensure you develop targets and triggers to engage enemy counterattack forces or his reserve once found.

• Remember that when conducting your approach to the objective, your artillery assets must move as well.  You must have a plan to bound your assets to ensure you have artillery when you need it.

• Certainly, close air support can be extremely beneficial during a deliberate attack.  However, many will overestimate the damage they will inflict.  Destroying dug-in vehicles in the defense is difficult business.  Additionally, collecting battle damage assessment is tough as well.

• Analyze the plusses and minuses to conducting an early artillery prep of your objective.

•  The lifting and shifting of indirect fires as the assault of the objective begins is critical and must be well-planned and executed.

The air defense system protects the attacking force from air attack, missile attack, and aerial surveillance.  It prevents enemy air from interdicting friendly forces thus providing freedom of maneuver. All members of the attacking force perform air defense tasks but the ground based air defense artillery executes the lions share air defense.  ADA units are carefully distributed throughout the attacking force to protect the attacking forces and their critical assets such as command posts and supply lines.

• Place assets on enemy air avenues of approach.

• Always provide your main effort with air defense assets.

• Determine possible enemy landing zones and drop zones.

• As the operation unfolds, be prepared to shift air defense assets around the battlefield.

• Ensure your reserve has air defense coverage.

• Just as with other combat support and service support units, you must plan the movement of your air defense assets.  This includes incorporating them in your formations and providing security.

The mobility / counter-mobility / survivability system is mostly about engineers, movement, and protection.  The deliberate attack typically favors the mobility aspect by ensuring freedom of maneuver.  Mobility missions include breaching obstacles (we will spend next month’s article on this subject), increasing battlefield circulation, improving or building roads, bridging, and identifying routes around contaminated areas.  The idea is to facilitate movement to the objective then breaching in support of the creation of a point of penetration and the seizure of the decisive point.  Once the breach is made, the mobility effort continues by widening breach lanes for follow on forces.  Once the main effort has broken into the defense the effort often shifts to counter-mobility which is the denial of enemy mobility.  Counter-mobility missions include obstacle building and smoke generation.  The counter-mobility effort is designed to cut off counterattack and reinforcement avenues of approach.  Finally, when the enemy is defeated, the effort shifts to survivability.  The purpose of the survivability effort is to protect friendly forces from counterattack.  OPSEC, and dispersion can also increase survivability as is NBC defense.  The shifting efforts in this system require a thoughtful arrangement of assets that allows them to be employed at the right time and in concert with the tempo of the operation.

• Determine what breaching assets are required to breach the enemy obstacles you will encounter based on your intelligence.  Then resource these numbers with at least 50% redundancy to cover losses and maintenance problems.  While at the breach is not the time to discover you are short breaching assets.

• Mobility support must be forward during your approach to the objective.

• Move your own obstacle materials (mines, wire, etc.) to place friendly obstacles on your flanks or after seizing the objective.
• Have redundant means of emplacing smoke.  Poorly utilized smoke will hurt you far more than the enemy.

• If you are only going to use smoke to obscure your line of departure – why even use it.

• Be prepared to utilize engineer quickly once the objective is seized to dig survivability positions if a hasty defense is required.

Combat Service Support provides the physical means for forces to operate.  CSS planning in the deliberate attack accounts for casualty evacuation, emergency repair, refueling, ammunition re-supply, and push packages of barrier material for hasty defense preparation and more.

CSS units are thin skinned and vulnerable.  Their employment is carefully orchestrated and they are protected while forward.  Loss of CSS support equals loss of freedom of action.  Failure to use them in support of the attack also equals loss of freedom of action.  CSS units must be pre-stocked in accordance with the type of operations and are postured to support key units at key locations.

• You must anticipate requirements in all area of supply.  An example is fuel consumption.  You do not want to begin the assault of an objective with gas tanks not healthy.

• The movement of CSS assets must be integrated in the maneuver plan.  Do not let these vulnerable assets fend for themselves.

• You make your money by having CSS assets immediately available upon consolidation and reorganization.

• As the attack continues, the longer the supply route will become.  Again, these units are susceptible to ambushes in the rear area.

The command and control system includes the commander and the control system that supports him.  The latter includes the communications and computer networks that allow commanders to lead from any point on the battlefield.  Placement and movement of command posts (the main command post, the rear command post, and the tactical command post) and radio relays are critical to the success of the deliberate attack.  The commander cannot physically be everywhere all the time.  He relies on his C2 system to keep him connected with his subordinate commanders.

• As a commander, you have a couple of critical decisions to make during a deliberate attack.  First, is when and where to commit your reserve.  Second, is when to recognize you have the opportunity to exploit success.  Third, to culminate the attack, before taking significant casualties if success is not achievable.

• The key to making these decisions in a timely manner is crafting Commander’s Critical Information Requirements (CCIR) that enables you to make these decisions.

• The deliberate attack is characterized by a rapid, extremely fluid environment.  A necessity to operating in this environment is ensuring initiative exists at the lowest levels.  If subordinate units are waiting on orders during actions on the objective, the results are most surely not to be positive.

•  One of the features of conducting a deliberate attack is the increased preparation time.  Within this time, a commander must ensure a comprehensive rehearsal is conducted.

• A good commander will contemplate the ‘What ifs’ that relate to the deliberate attack.

Speaking of ‘What Ifs’, let’s discuss branches.

[continued on next page]

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