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Posted on Mar 28, 2008 in Tactics101, War College

Tactics 101: 025. Urban Operations: Truisms and Nuggets

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

Aviation. Aviation has the advantage of getting above the fight, but has the disadvantage of not being able to discriminate the players on the field. Thus, aviation is most effective if guided by infantrymen on the ground. Helicopters play a key role in isolating objectives and interdicting the flow of supplies and reinforcements. It has been relatively ineffective when used autonomously. History shows that aerial bombing, by itself, does not erode the defender’s will to resist or significantly degrade the defender’s capabilities. Aviation, fixed wing or rotary wing, cannot win city fights alone. Once again, the machine falls subordinate to the men in muddy boots.

A Commander’s Thought Process. The commander task-organizes the battalion for rapid movement on two or more axes to allow flexibility in reacting to unexpected enemy contact. He plots out and plans for the exploitation of lateral corridors that allow him to shift forces to the axis that shows success. Lead and rear security is employed throughout. As lead units locate enemy positions, they fix them by fire, and quickly reduce or bypass them. They report contact so that follow-on forces can reduce the threat. Infantry remains mounted as it reaches the edge of the built-up area in order to not to slow the advance. All vehicle machine guns fire to flanks and into doors, windows, and alleys to provide suppressing fires. If heavy resistance is met and the column is halted, then the infantry dismounts and the enemy and his obstacles are cleared. Once resistance is cleared the attack resumes. When necessary, units are dropped off to assume blocking positions and await follow-on clearing forces. Once the objective is seized or linkup is accomplished, the battalion establishes a perimeter defense. The companies seize buildings around the objective and expand the size of the perimeter.


Task Organization at the Battalion and Company Level. As in any operation, you must task organize for success. Deciding to attach or detach elements on the fly is difficult and in many cases too late. You must plan your task organization early and if all possible give your subordinates roles they have trained for and are equipped for. When conducting an attack on an urban area, a battalion or company commander may task-organize his unit into the following elements: Assault Element, Support Element, Security Element, Breaching Element, and Reserve. The criteria for utilizing these elements is the task and purpose you were assigned, your mission analysis, and the assets and capabilities you possess. Let’s discuss each of these elements below.

Assault Element – This is normally the force you want to accomplish the purpose of your mission. This purpose could be enemy or terrain oriented. They may be asked to seize a particular building or destroy an enemy force. Thus, it will likely be your main effort and augmented with additional assets. You will want to ensure it possesses the combat power and capabilities to accomplish the purpose and task you assign it. At the battalion level, the assault force could be an infantry company with a platoon of tanks attached, for example. Again, the composition is whatever is needed to accomplish the purpose and task. At the company level, it could be an infantry platoon and a tank. Your assault element must be prepared and equipped to conduct any breaching operations that are required. However, if you have the assets available, you may designate a separate breaching element (we will discuss later).

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