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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

All positions should be hard wired for communications. Buildings play havoc with FM communications. The high probability of fires and collapsing buildings means the wires should be buried. Along those lines, we need to dig communication trenches between buildings to allow troops to run back and forth between units unless subterranean routes like sewers are available.

There is an abundance of barrier options available in the city. We can steer attackers into engagement areas and hold them in them. Overpasses can be blown, car crib obstacles can be built in roads, rail cars can be flipped over, and buildings can be rubbled.

Within buildings, remove stairs and move through walls by using mouse holes and between floors using ropes and ladders. Doors and windows are internal engagement areas. Use rooftop and upper floors are for snipers and mortars. It’s best to be on the top floor rather than the roof since airburst artillery, close air support, and attack helicopters can attack roofs. A technique for mortars is to put them a floor below the roof and collapse part of the roof so they have open sky to rein down high angle fires.


Anti tank systems should be placed on midlevel floors. From there they can get turret top shots while being too high for an enemy tank main gun to elevate to clear them out. Machine guns should go at ground level, in sewers, and basement windows where they can get grazing fire against enemy infantry.

Construction of dummy strong-points and false positions will throw the attacker off track. You should also make heavy use of smoke realizing that it will act differently under the urban tunneling effect.

Troops should fire from within rooms. Don’t hang your barrel out the window like they do in Hollywood. An exposed barrel and muzzle flash will give away your position. A shot from a few feet inside is undetectable in the mass of urban sprawl. Anti tank/tank ambushes are emplaced throughout and are reinforced with sniper fire. If you have tanks of your own, give them multiple positions and employ them in ones and twos not as platoons. It is rare that you can find a place where an entire platoon can mass.

Special Considerations

Subterranean Avenues of Approach. Remember to exploit sewers, utility tunnels, underground transit, underground water systems, and access corridors.

Terrain Around Built Up Areas. The hills around Sarajevo allowed attackers to dominate the city with artillery and air defense. George Washington took Boston by emplacing artillery on the heights outside the city. Cites are strong but their placement can make them vulnerable.

Key & Decisive Terrain. There are many places that might be key or even potentially decisive. In Stalingrad, a grain elevator and a tractor factory became back breakers. Any hard top shelter could be key. Stadiums often house artillery pieces, motor parks, enemy prisoners of war, and casualty collection points. Parking garages are excellent positions.

Collateral Damage and Weapons Effects. Given the presence of the media, collateral damage can cause serious strategic issues. The IDF responded to legitimate Hizballah targets in Beirut, but paid a heavy price in the press. Now-a-days, the media can convert victory into defeat.

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