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Posted on Aug 11, 2007 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 018 – River Crossing Operations

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

PHASE 5 Continue the Attack – Ultimately, the purpose of any river crossing is to execute the crossing without severely hindering your ability to continue the attack to your objective. In order to prepare for the continuation of the attack, a unit must conduct extensive reverse planning and set the conditions for the attack.



• Continue to collect intelligence on final objective
• Focus eyes on flanks and on enemy counterattack forces


• Breakout Forces attack from Bridgehead objectives to final objective


Fire Support

• Focus efforts on destroying enemy artillery capable of ranging bridgehead objectives
• Continue obscuration and counterfire operations
• Utilize indirect fires to attrite any enemy counterattack forces


• Maintain bridging operations at crossing sites
• Continue route maintenance
• Emplace flank obstacles to protect units. Ensure friendly forces know location of obstacles

Air Defense

• Continue to expand Air Defense umbrella
• Ensure breakout units possess sufficient air defense coverage

Combat Service Support

• Ensure breakout units are prepared logistically to continue the attack
• Conduct maintenance and evacuation operations as required

Command and Control

• Control attack out of bridgehead

In summary, the phases of a deliberate river crossing are:

Phase 1Advance to the River. The first phase is the attack to seize the nearshore objective.

Phase 2Assault across the River. The second phase involves units assaulting across the river to seize the far-shore objective, eliminating direct fire on the crossing sites.

Phase 3Advance from the Exit Bank. The third phase is the attack to secure exit-bank and intermediate objectives that eliminate direct and observed indirect fires into the crossing area.

Phase 4Secure the Bridgehead Line. The fourth phase involves units that secure bridgehead objectives to protect the bridgehead against a counterattack. This gains additional time and space for the buildup of forces for the attack out of the bridgehead.

Phase 5 – Continue the Attack. The final phase is for the breakout forces to continue the attack to the final objective.


1. A mechanized brigade requires two crossing sites during a deliberate river crossing.
2. It takes roughly one hour to construct 200 meters of bridge in daylight.
3. It takes roughly one hour to construct 133 meters of bridge in limited visibility.
4. Within an hour, 200 vehicles can pass through the crossing site (30 meters spacing between vehicles – moving at 16 kilometers an hour).
5. It will take a mechanized brigade about 4 hours to cross using 2 crossing sites.


In summary, a river crossing operation is an extremely difficult operation. However, you must always remember it is not an end point. It is simply an operation that must get accomplished in order to get to the end point. Units who can not effectively conduct a river crossing will culminate before they ever get to Phase 5 – Continue the Attack. Synchronize your assets and execute proper command and control and you can get to the other side and well beyond!

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