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Posted on Sep 2, 2006 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 007. Combat Multipliers

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

“It is not much the mode of formation as the proper combined use of the different arms which will ensure victory.” Jomini

Combat Multipliers

When you study military history, you find that the winner of many battles was not the side that had the most tanks or fighting on the ground. In many cases, it was the commander who was better able to utilize the other “toys” he had to play this. In the end it was these other toys that shifted the balance between losing and winning.

In doctrine, another name for these “toys” is combat multipliers. If you want a doctrinal definition, here it is… “Supporting and subsidiary means that significantly increase the relative combat strength (power) of a force while actual force ratios remain constant.” To put it another way, it is those things a commander can use that make his force more lethal and consequently, increases his ability to accomplish his mission. Some examples of combat multipliers include leadership, morale within a unit, surprising or deceiving the enemy, camouflage, electronic warfare, psychological operations, utilizing terrain, smoke, and indirect fire.


Combat support and combat service support are those military branches and functions that rarely, if ever, participate in combat directly or alone but whose presence enhances the ability of the traditional combat units — thus, the name; combat multipliers. It would be hard to imagine Grants advance on Vicksburg without engineer constructed corduroy roads, D-Day without naval gunfire, or Patton’s breakout at St Lo without close air support and artillery preparation. Any of these operations may have succeeded without combat multipliers, but their success was greatly enhanced by their use. It takes engineers to emplace bridges over rivers; it requires artillerymen to reduce enemy strength and get them to keep their heads down; it takes signalers to allow commanders to talk; it takes air defense to prevent enemy air from decimating forces not in contact and so on… War fighting is a team sport and combat multipliers are much like the linemen who clear the way for the running back.

A key concept to understand is that you can acquire combat multipliers or receive the effects of the combat multiplier in a number of ways. First, and obviously the most responsive is to have the multiplier already assigned to your unit. Second, as you go through mission analysis you may determine that you require additional assets to accomplish your mission. Once you have made that determination, you should immediately ask your higher headquarters for use of that asset if they have it available. The key element in this is to request the asset early. As we discussed in earlier articles, resources are scarce and the chances are other units may want the same asset. In that case (in the real world), you must be persuasive with your argument on why you need it and always remember the adage, “the early bird gets the worm!” Finally, on special assets ask your higher headquarters to create the effect of the combat multiplier for you. Of course, the only downfall is that you are depending upon someone other than yourself. Unfortunately, you may get the effect you desire, but not at the time you wanted it.

In this article, we will focus on the use of combat multipliers in a conventional fight. (In future lessons, we will key on how to exploit combat multipliers in urban operations). As you can see from the examples above, things such as leadership and morale are difficult to quantify. This is especially true for those of you who are fighting in a simulation or board game. As realistic as many games are today, it is just impossible to replicate some of these intangibles. Consequently, in this article we will focus on those combat multipliers that are more tangible. Specifically, we will concentrate on the use of 4 critical combat multipliers: lethal indirect fires, smoke, countermobility, and mobility. (Do not fret we will touch upon the other combat multipliers and logistics during the series).

We have broken the article into two parts. In part one, we will look generically at the specified combat multipliers and give recommendations on how you may better employ these in offensive and defensive operations. This is not an exhaustive list, but should be used to jog your brain when finalizing a course of action. In the second part of the article, we will go back to our scenario and ask you to think of ways combat multipliers can assist you in accomplishing your mission.

Employment Considerations

When planning for the employment of combat multipliers you ought to consider PPAR; purpose, priority, allocation, and restrictions.

• Purpose – Describe the effect you desire the system to generate. For example you may want smoke to obscure a specific avenue of approach for a specific amount of time.

• Priority – Priority defines the priority of effort and / or the priority of support. The best example here is to talk about engineers. They can work on survivability (fighting positions) or counter mobility (obstacles) or mobility (breaches). They may have to divide their efforts among all three with weight given to the most critical effect. Priority also addresses what unit will receive support, when they’ll get it, and when they hand it off to another unit.

• Allocation – Combat multipliers are more limited in quantity than are combat assets. There are fewer engineers than infantrymen therefore the commander has to decide who gets them. Each unit might “get a slice” of the capability or the element might work from area to area until they create the desired effect. Close air support is normally allocated in numbers of sorties that will be available to each subunit.

• Restrictions – This is where the commander limits how a combat multiplier is to be used. The commander may specify when smoke can be used, when jamming is to be employed, who can call for a scatterable minefield and how long its’ duration can be, or what bridges can and cannot be blown. Restrictions ensure that the current operation does not render the follow on operation impossible to execute.

Before we start, our intention here is to give you some general employment considerations for use of these combat multipliers and some things to ponder. Truly, we could devote countless pages on the art and science of employing each multiplier. We will discuss this art and science in later articles. Hopefully, we will provide some nuggets that will assist you on your “battlefield.”

“If there is one thing a dogface loves, it is artillery – his own.” Audie Murphy

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  1. Good ole Ft. Irwin right there. Even the blueforces know the name Tiefort Mountain.

    Served as OPFOR and a deployment with the 11th ACR in 2005-2006. Good Times.

    Also im loving these articles. Decided to start from the beginning and going strong!

  2. This is a question that I have with regard to Articles 1-7. For all the subsequent articles I have a rough estimation of the relevant Field Manual that provides more in depth consideration of the topics. However with regard to the topics dealt with by Articles 1-7 is there any FM or related document that one can refer to?

    • Depending on your needs, I would humbly suggest a dated reference:


      While of a different era, I find the planning portion that I have read so far to be very helpful for my sim purposes (SB Pro PE).

      • Thanks for the same.