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Posted on Jan 9, 2008 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 023 – Defense of a Built Up Area

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

Mobility Corridors

Air Level. Analysis of airborne, air assault, and CAS mobility corridors. Need toconsider location of towers, power lines, signs and cables. Also, threat analysis ofman-portable air defense missiles and machine guns.

Building Level. Analysis of threat posed from units moving above ground level.

Rooftop Level. Buildings provide cover and concealment, limit or increase fields of fire and observation. They also canalize and restrict movement, especially for armored forces. Can forces move between buildings?

Street Level. Provide means of rapid advance and withdrawal, but are canalized and can be easily blocked.


Subterranean Level. Analysis of threat posed by moving through underground passageways. This avenue of approach is often overlooked.

Based on his objectives and avenues of approach we can begin to select our battle positions. We can have lots of them since we have the city. We can move underground or we can build dozens of strong points that can hold out for extended periods of time like Pavlov’s Platoon in Stalingrad. Every open area, no matter how small, is a potential engagement area. Every intersection is an engagement area. Every mass construction building is a potential citadel.

As in all defenses, we should establish a security zone forward where we conduct recon and surveillance. Emplace your scouts along major high speed avenues of approach. Augment them with snipers (especially effective in MOUT) and mortars (the preferred indirect fire system in cities). They can also use an extra dose of anti tank (AT) in order to wreak havoc and confusion with armor ambushes on lead enemy elements. The security zone denies enemy recon access to your battle positions while maintaining surveillance on ingress avenues of approach and cross-corridors. Given the complexity of movement in built up areas we can shift in depth given early warning while the enemy slugs his way through the streets.

In the main battle area we select a main effort and supporting efforts and designate a reserve. The reserve should sit astride an intersection that allows him access to multiple routes into the fight. He can either reinforce against a strong enemy push or can counter attack to break an enemy stuck on an obstacle or in a key engagement area.

We also need to spot a rear area. The city offers lots of hard stands and overhead cover for a rear area operation. Stadiums, parking lots, and underground garages serve this purpose well.

We also have to lay in the command post. A tall building with good visibility will work as long as you can place a few floors between your commander and the sky. Don’t park on rooftops or top floors…why…because you are vulnerable to enemy air and artillery. Either take the 9th floor of a 12 story building or go to ground in a basement with sensors and antennas up high. Wherever you put the command post, make sure it’s in a hardened location.

Battle position selection is based on where you can build engagement areas where you can break up the enemy attack. Intersections, graveyards, parks, and town squares make excellent engagement areas.

Artillery emplacement is tricky. You probably can’t mass your artillery, but you probably don’t need to. It is most effective in either direct fire or in high angle trajectory given the vertical nature of cities. Tow or three guns per spot will work. The artillery should be decentralized under local control versus centralized under battalion or brigade control.

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