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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

Fire. Fires break out in cities. Residential areas, heavily reliant on wood based construction, can do more to defeat your defense than enemy lethal fire. Richtofen the Younger’s Air Forces used this technique to burn out the residential areas of Stalingrad prior to the 6th Army’s entry into the fortified city.

Logistics. All ammo expenditures will go up! Water consumption will be high. Communications will be problematic and casualty evacuation will be difficult. All supply and support activities will be difficult. Pre-stocked caches are key to success.

Snipers. Snipers are extremely effective and disruptive in MOUT operations. The defender can preposition them and can blanket avenues of approach. They may well be one of your most lethal and effective combat multipliers. Emplace them carefully and never put them on rooftops! The Soviets even went so far as to initiate sniper competitions during the battle for Stalingrad.


Obstacles. There are a multitude of obstacle options and all MOUT fighters must remember that the terrain changes during the fight. An avenue of approach can close without any intent to close it. A battle position can literally collapse. A non-consequential position can become a strong point that consumes a disproportionate capability to reduce. History is full of examples of battalions taking weeks to root out a squad in a particularly strong urban position.

Closing tips for Fighting in Built Up Areas

– Ballistics effects…bullets don’t bounce off walls…they tend to strike and follow walls.
– Small engagement areas and confined fighting areas…shorter ranges…train and use instinctive fire.
– Exaggerated battlefield effects from smoke etc…rubble actually enhance protection.
– Fighting is decentralized, command and control should empower rather than inhibit this trend.
– The attacker will make extensive use of hand grenades
– Fratricide is a constant danger…situational awareness is critical.
– Grenade launchers are effective in MOUT…they clear upper windows and rooftops.
– M60 / M240G / SAW are good for suppression…ground level emplacement…sewer emplacement…hard to move in clearing rooms.
– Mortars…high angle advantage over arty…more precise in close confines.
– Flame Weapons…avoid rubbling but could exasperate large scale fire.
– Field Artillery…difficult to use as indirect fire…collateral damage problems…good in direct fire…often requires Brigade or Div release for use.
– Tanks…use machine guns for suppression…120mm can create mouse holes…need to integrate action with dismounted Infantry…vulnerable to top down Anti-tank.
– Bradley Fighting Vehicles…good for high angle gun placement.
– The AC130 is an excellent support weapon in a low air defense artillery threat environment…good roof ‘sweeper’…
– Close Air Support is best employed versus dispersed targets.
– Army Aviation…good for top down building entry…good as a command and control platform…highly vulnerable to ground fire and aerial ambush. Use AH64 as a standoff anti-tank and close support weapon.
– Logistics – Ammunition, water, demolitions, and battery requirements go way up…fuel requirements go down. Casualty Evacuations difficult…combat lifesavers are critical…More medical supplies forward…stretchers hall ammo forward and casualties back.
– AT4 is better than the TOW, Javelin, or Dragon due to shorter ranges and no tracking time.
– Snipers are highly effective and disruptive…good for elimination of key leaders and for information gathering.
– Civilians – Tight rules of engagement and precision MOUT techniques. They will hinder mobility, security, OPSEC, obstacle use, and application of firepower. Disruption of basic services increases disease and suffering. No forced labor and judicious use of seized property.
– Special equipment – hooks, rope, fire fighting equip, toggle ropes, ladders, communications wire, flashlights, body armor, axes, saws, crowbars, sledge hammers, wire cutters…marking materials are needed (all can be found in the city).
– Night operations – IR chemical lights…Budd lights…strobe lights…road flares…hand held illumination…. Light bundles.
– Day operations – VS17, colored smoke, pen flares, engineer tape, chalk, spray paint…
– Command and Control – alphanumeric block and building marking scheme…mark clear rooms and buildings internal and external from the intersection out to build a comprehensive and understandable pattern.
– Phase lines should not run down the middle of roads. They should be on the friendly side of a road; therefore crossing the road equals crossing the PL and terrain on the near side is under the control of those on the near side.
– Boundaries are also generally on the friendly/near side to clarify control of the buildings and the road.

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