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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

Logistics. Timely combat service support, particularly ammunition resupply and casualty treatment and casualty evacuation is a critical element in MOUT. Urban combat consumes dramatic amounts of Class IV (shoring, sandbags, concertina wire), Class V (ammunition), and Class VIII (medical material). Unique items, such as rope, grappling hooks, and ladders are useful. The intensity of close-quarter combat requires a continuous flow of small-arms ammunition, grenades, antitank rounds, mortar, and artillery ammunition. Mines and demolitions are also employed in higher numbers than normal. MOUT requires flexible, push-oriented logistics in order to support the intensity of close-quarter combat. The “push system” essentially pushes supplies to fighting units without their having to request them. The “push system” negates the delays found in the “pull system,” which requires units to request the supplies they want, then await their arrival. A balanced approach must be taken to sustain engaged forces. Combat service support, in terms of timeliness and anticipation of the needs of the combat units should sustain the tempo of operations. Logisticians should avoid the delivery of unwanted supplies. To achieve the balanced approach logisticians prepare flexible support plans that adapt to the ebb and flow of urban combat.


Route Security. In MOUT, a battalion may be tasked to provide route security. Securing a route may be executed in a series of small-unit actions to clear buildings along the route. Fires are planned to isolate the route. Clearance requires the reduction of obstacles and the emplacement of flank security along the entire route. In an outlying area, the forward units may proceed by bounds from road junction to road junction. Other units augment flank security by moving down parallel streets probing the flanks. The speed of movement required and the enemy situation determine whether the unit should be mounted or dismounted. For mechanized forces, narrow streets should be avoided if possible to prevent entrapment. Designated armored vehicles over-watch infantry on the ground. Armored vehicle movement and positioning provides mutual support to dismounted infantry who in turn protect armored vehicles from attack generated at street level. When contact is made with the enemy, armored vehicles seek covered positions and provide direct-fire support. Supporting fires fix and isolate enemy positions. Infantry maneuvers to attack.

Caution. Any commitment to urban battle must be carefully weighed. Remember, your first best choice is to bypass cities. Only attack them if you must; they are critical objectives (Fallujah), they cannot be bypassed (Bagdad), or they are critical to the enemy (Grozny). Defend them if you are weak and you seek to cause the enemy a serious loss of momentum (Stalingrad). Whatever your reasons, go into MOUT with your eyes wide open. Cities contain a high number of "soft" targets such as power plants, water supplies, sewage, telecoms, radio, businesses, and government offices. Third world cities are often wrapped in an urban slum sprawl that adds to the complexity of the landscape. The potential for collateral damage and civilian casualties is extreme and all incidents are sure to be amplified by the omnipresent global press. Just look at the press and effect of Mogadishu and southern Lebanon. Close-range combat in buildings, on rooftops, and in sewers inherently negates the advantages of technology and standoff weapons systems. The RPG and the Molotov cocktail achieve disproportionate results against vastly more expensive weapons systems. The 3,000-meter TOW is all but useless. Wireless communications is unreliable while ‘hard wire’ is safer, more reliable, and secure. Lastly, MOUT is all about savage intimacy. Soldiers and Marines with "boots on the ground" and cordite in their nostrils must close with and kill urban defenders who, in today’s world, are probably insurgent guerillas. Casualties will rise. While studies show that the American people are not as casualty averse as some may think, the press is not. Every loss will be reported and its effects will be amplified.

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