Thursday, July 2, 2009

Praxis: Principles of Tactical Defense

"Got Ammo?"

From the Trainer:


This is something I wrote up a couple years ago that outlines the use of the RT in defense up to and including company and even batallion sized defensive positions.

It's also very much in line with Poole's treatise on what US troops have run into before and also face now with Eastern opponents.


Principles of Tactical Defense

Any place your fire team, squad, patrol, platoon, or larger unit stops for any reason, or is placed with an objective to hold their position, is comprised of and surrounded by something called “Vital Ground”. It’s vital because of several reasons, the first two of which are: A: You are on it and you are vital to the mission, and B: The area is vital to the overall mission of your command and control structure.

Before we get to the principles of tactical defense, it must be understood that ground vital to the defense of your position includes any position from which your enemy can overlook, bring fire to bear, or mount an attack from upon the area which you are defending. Land features that are considered vital ground include, but are not limited to:

• Hills
• Densely wood areas
• Prominent features such as water towers, sky scrapers, multi-story homes in open country, etc.

Vital ground located outside of your assigned Area of Operations (AO) may require constant observation by one or more Observation Posts (OP’s) or physical occupation or other area denial methods at your disposal. Militia or Civilian Indigenous Defense units usually do not have enough members to occupy and hold all vital ground, and must, therefore, have plans to re-occupy or re-take vital ground if lost to the enemy and an opportunity presents itself and such action lends itself to the success of the overall mission. This being said, this discussion on tactical defense will limit itself to the principals of a militia platoon, patrol, squad, or fire team operating in the field and requiring a secure location for a defined period of time. It should also be noted that these principles should be tightly woven into your group’s battle drills so that anytime you are training or operating, the employment of these principles become second nature. Doing so increases the probability of your staying alive should the time ever come when you must apply what you’ve learned.

Tactical defense includes the following principles:

• Defense in Depth – This principle is achieved by siting all defensive positions so they do not form a continuous line that, if penetrated by the enemy, would allow him to enter the defended area without opposition and successfully exploit the breach created. The defense mounted should prevent the enemy from gaining initial observation of the whole tactical defense; break up the attack; and give the defending unit command element room to maneuver any back up, or in lieu of back up, successfully disengage and withdraw.

• All Around Defense – For the survival of the group, the possibility of attack from any direction must not be overlooked. It should be noted that all defended localities may not need to be covered by fire in all directions by a individual, group, or unit. An area not covered by “A” may be covered by “F” in such a manner that when “A” is attacked, the enemy may feel they have caught the defending force unawares until “F” brings devastating fire to bear upon them. When planning for all around defense, each unit leader from fire team upwards must require his team members to select and prepare alternate firing positions so that fire concentration may be switched to meet an attack from any direction. Additionally, alternate positions permit a wider dispersal of assigned forces and reduce casualty probabilities from air or stand-off weapons attack.

• Mutual Support – Positions within your defended locality must be able to support each other by fire. Mutual support between individual fire team, squad, patrol, and platoon positions (as well as tying in platoon to platoon support in company sized operations and so forth), is essential to successful defense operations. You must train your unit, no matter the size, that penetration by an enemy into your defended locality is unacceptable and means certain death for the group, so that each member will support the other by fire and ensure the enemy will be vulnerable to fire from at least two positions and to a counter-attack by others acting as a reserve or maneuver element.

• Defense Against Air Attack – When planning for actions on the ground from the fire team sized operation up, it is essential to plan for the possibility of an air attack either by fixed wing (strafing or bombing) or rotary wing (heli-borne troops and strafing attacks) aircraft. Plans should included training for engaging aircraft with small weapons fire, immediate disengagement and dispersion, and preparing temporary positions to shelter in place.

Examples of Tactical Defense: The following examples of Defense in Depth demonstrate simple fire plans of a fire team operating on its own, a squad on line as part of a platoon or company perimeter, and a platoon operating on its own mounting a perimeter defense to be used as a large patrol base.

• Fire Team Patrol Base (Reinforced Triangle) – This formation allows the fire team to employ all the principles previously explained. The fire team leader’s ingenuity and ability to select positions that will allow the team to set up a minimum of 10 to 15 meters apart, have concealment from any avenue of approach or aircraft is the only limiting factor in using this formation. Further, should the fire team come under attack, the squad leader can easily reinforce any point of the triangle under attack and, should one of the points become a casualty and disengagement is not feasible, take the casualties place on the perimeter. It should be further noted that this formation can be modified to take up to six team members if operating as a reinforced fire team. The Fire Team leader, the RTO and the team DSM can make up an internal triangle, and the two rifleman and the DSM’s spotter comprise the exterior, as an example. The make up is only limited by the Team Leader’s ingenuity, experience, and intellect.

Figure 1 – Fire Team Patrol Base

• Squad Line Defense in Depth (Partial Perimeter) – This example shows a squad positioning its fire teams in-depth while providing mutual support to each other. When the squad is on its own, the fire teams simply shift their fields of fire to provide 360 degree cover by fire. Remember that within each fire team position, another reinforced triangle is constructed with individual fields of fire for each team member that interlocks with not only his own fire team, but with the others. Figure 3 provides an illustration for both a squad in a 360 defense position as well as a platoon. The only difference is that in a squad, the Squad Leader and the RTO would comprise the center position (appropriate when the squad is ‘reinforced’, meaning having more than 13 members total.

Figure 2 – Squad Defense in Depth On-Line (as part of a Platoon or Company Defense)

• Company Defense in Depth (360 Degree Perimeter) – This example shows a company positioning its platoons in 360 degree in-depth perimeters while providing mutual support to each other forming a veritably impenetrable web of prepared defensive positions. Of course, it should be obvious that fields of fire, final protective lines, and egress/fall back routes and positions should be carefully and deliberately planned.

Figure 3 – Platoon/Squad Defense in Depth (360 perimeter)

Figure 4 – Example of Company Defense in Depth (360 Degree Security)


Sean said...

If that guy in the picture was in my squad, I'd smack him on top of his helmet, and tell him to get that ammo off the log, and to re-position his gun to fire around one side of the log or other, and build up some cover with earth on the other side of his MG position. The ammo should remain in the boxes till needed, and made available by the asst.gunner. I was in three day shootout in Cambodia with an M-60, and never had to worry about how much time it took to uncase and load the ammo.Also, you could fortify the fighting position with logs and earth, sandbags if you got em, 360 degrees, in the event you were flanked or overun. Firing that gun over the TOP of that log outlines you perfectly, and the gun firing makes you easy to find by sound. If the ammo is out, it can get dirt on it, rained on, and be hit by return fire, or FALL over the far side of the log, making it fun to retrieve. Such bullshit is one reason a lot of good men died in Viet-Nam, when the damned officers didn't do their job and inspect the perimeter, constantly.

Doc Enigma said...

Ummm...the photo was taken in SE Asia, if memory serves....probably a 'hollywood' type to send home to the family or for a Stars & Stripes type pub....

I think Vanderboegh just put it at the top of the Principles piece for artistic reasons....I could be wrong, but that photo anything even close to the intent of the article....

Just a thought...

Jesse M. said...

Honestly, I would say dont get yourself stuck in one position. Defend what is yours and understand the layers and levels, however, DO NOT think that your spot is absolutely defensible. Everything can be taken.

The Trainer said...

For Jesse - The article in question is for various group sizes to set up an VERY defensible perimeter while enroute for whatever mission.

The principles of tactical defense dictate that for an enemy to penetrate a prepared defensive position, it must be able to bypass interlocking fields of fire, mutually supported positions, and positions defended in depth, ie, if one position is overtaken, other positions further into the enemy direction of travel can bring fire to bear upon the aggressor.

Yes, everything can be taken, but sometimes, when using sound tactical methods, the price for taking that particular object can be made too high for the enemy.

The beautiful thing about these prepared positions is that they can be exfiltrated from as easily as they are sited; it just takes practice by the particular unit involved.

Such is the idea behind this article.