Sunday, March 29, 2009

Praxis: Lessons of Urban Combat (Re-learned)

Marines fighting in Seoul, 1950.

From Strategy Page we have this article about urban fighting lessons re-learned. another article of interest can be found here.

The Lessons Of Gaza And Iraq

March 29, 2009: Israel in Gaza, and the United States in Iraq, have both learned, or re-learned, the same tried and true combat rules for urban fighting. These include;

Tanks are a necessity, unless you want to take very high infantry losses (5-7 of your troops for every enemy soldier). The ratio of infantry to armor vehicles should vary from 30 to 100 infantrymen per tank.

The most useful armored vehicle is the D-9 armored bulldozer. This beast is large enough, and powerful enough, to plow through buildings, or to shake buildings to set off booby traps or force civilians (and sometimes fighters) to clear out. You've got to protect the D-9 with infantry, as it is not invulnerable to anti-tank weapons.

It's better to fight at night, as U.S. and Israeli forces have better night fighting equipment and train to use it. This includes the night vision gear on your tanks and armored vehicles. By cutting off the electricity in the enemy held city, you have a significant advantage that should be used.

Grab the high ground, meaning the roofs and top floors of buildings. About all helicopters are good for is to use their guns to clear the enemy off roofs, and to land your troops up there.

Deal with the underground. The sewers will be used by the enemy to move around. You will have to blow up portions of the sewer system. It's not worth the casualties to go down and fight in the sewers.

Snipers are the biggest problem, followed by machine-guns and booby traps. The troops have to learn to stay under cover at all times. And if they smoke at night, don't do it anywhere that an enemy sniper can get a shot at you. Most snipers will be in the upper stories of buildings (but not the roofs where your helicopters can get at them.) A smart foe will booby trap the ground floor entrance and arrange for another escape route, so that if you send troops into the building, the sniper will escape and your guys will run into the trip wires and explosives. The antidote for this is to take the high ground first and use your own snipers to take out the enemy snipers. This is where night operations are essential. The sniper cannot hit what he can't see, and enemy snipers will have a lot fewer clear shots at night. When you do encounter a sniper, take him out with your own snipers, or tank fire, or take the building he's in down with a smart bomb.

Obstacles can work for you. The enemy will try and set up barricades and other obstacles that will lead your troops into a trap. Follow your own plan and plow right through obstacles. You can also use obstacles, especially trenches, to contain the enemy and prevent them from using vehicles to move troops around.

One Israeli experience contradicted American doctrine, which urges troops to advance in the middle of streets to avoid ricochets from walls. The Israelis found that getting shot in the center of the street was more of a danger than ricochets. The U.S. has largely switched to the Israeli method.

Helicopters are very vulnerable unless they keep moving. Even then, they will get hit. You must be careful using helicopters, and use them only at night when possible. Helicopter weapons aren't as useful as you might think. Their machine-guns can't penetrate most walls, and they rarely get off a good shot with their missiles. Choppers are good at keeping the enemy off roof tops.

Intelligence is very important. UAVs are particularly useful because they can observe an area constantly and stay out of range of enemy weapons. SIGINT (listening in on enemy cell phone and radio conversations) is another valuable source of info, but you have to have enough translators familiar with the local dialect. The enemy may also use a lot of code words, which your intel people will have to try and quickly decode, or have the code in advance. It's also possible to get a lot of valuable information from the local civilians. If they are hostile to you (as the Palestinians were to the Israelis), this is difficult, but not impossible. If many of the locals are friendly, you are going to get a lot of life saving information. Use this source of info as much as possible. If the locals are friendly, try and recruit line crossers (people who will go into hostile areas for info.) The enemy will use this ploy, and will make use of kids (usually 10-12 years old, as these are old enough to know what they are doing, and young enough to qualify as children.) The kiddie spies, although usually unarmed, can be particularly deadly, as they are good at what they do and tend to be fearless.

Flashlights are more valuable than you think. Make sure all the troops have them, and a good supply of fresh batteries.

If the battle goes on for more than a few days, sleep becomes a weapon. Trained and disciplined troops are better able to get sufficient sleep to keep the battle going. These troops take turns fighting, and then sleeping. The undisciplined and poorly led enemy does not, or cannot, do this, and the enemy fighters become slower and sloppier because of the fatigue. This is an ancient technique. The Romans, two thousand years ago, trained their troops to engage in close combat for 10-15 minutes, then to fall back and rest, while another line of swordsmen advanced and went at the enemy (who got worn down quickly because they fought until killed, without being relieved by fresh fighters.)


rexxhead said...

Stop screwing with the blog. You've got other, more urgent key-pounding to do.

Anonymous said...

However, in the case of the citizen or irregular army, we may be the one who is holed up inside an urban area with limited equipment while facing an enemy with everything at it's disposal. While the article here is excellent for tactical weapons and strategies training, we may need more emphasis on the irregular force.

When an irregular army with limited technological weaponry and firepower is being besieged inside an urban area, there are perhaps TWO most important weapons, that when fielded correctly, can inflict grievious casualties on an attacking enemy, lower their morale to almost nothing, and literally force them to retreat.

The two are 1: THE SNIPER, and 2: THE GRENADIER.

One may look at a mighty industrial area that had been abandoned and overrun with vines, and other vegetation, and slowly crumbling away, and say "Wow, how could such little plants, little gifts of Nature take down such an immense man-made structure?" The answer lies in time and effort itself. The plants don't just tear down the abandoned structure overnight, it is done gradually, until the foundations are literally reduced to soil and compost. This is EXACTLY how these two types of fighting men, the SNIPER, and GRENADIER* operates. Note that I stress the most importance on the grenadier because of the potential accuracy of his weapons and the sheer demoralizing effect of it's use.

Grenades have been with us for many years, dating back to the first: the petards which the Byzantine Greeks used to hurl napalm at Turkish ships attempting to destroy Constantinople. Both hand grenades and rifle grenades have been covered by tactical manuals which stress the importance of these weapons to the infantryman. However, the most effective of all of thse grenade-type weaponry is probably the Panzerfaust. Literally a hell dispenser in a can, it is accurate, powerful, and extremely effective.

What is even more impressive about such a weapon is not just the ease which it can be assembled, but it's accuracy in the hands of someone whose life revolves around accuracy and lightning-precision strikes: the sniper. A panzerfaust equipped with an EFP anti-tank load are accurate up to only 100 yards because of the poor aerodynamics from the cavity-shaped warhead. However, the second rocket type for the Panzerfaust, which is the antipersonnel rocket, is extremely lethal at ranges up to 300 yards when used properly.

In the case of a gritty and desperate urban siege scenario, the grenadier is perhaps the soldier who can carry the day for the squad. While the sniper's deadly precision accuracy obviously spell doom for enemy personnel and officers and terrify the opponent, the rocket-propelled grenadier's weapons combine accuracy with efficiency. Unlike "smart" weapons, rocket propelled grenades are optical ranging weapons, which means that they are employed on targets within optical range and target acquisition. Therefore, they are far more efficient in minimizing innocent casualties than "smart" weapons, which are, in reality, not "smart" at all.

Being an invader in an urban battlefield filled with determined defenders is lethal enough. Like Stalingrad, one can be anywhere, anytime, and he won't know when the next marksman's bullet will put him to sleep permanently. Now imagine a scenario where it is not just a single sniper's bullet an invading army has to worry about. Now entire squads of warfighters can be wiped out, tens at a time, by a single lethal, precision-placed fragmentation blast from a rocket propelled grenade.

While the original German designed anti-tank cavity projectile is far less accurate than the streamlined antipersonnel round, they inflict catastrophic damage, especially on large, slow moving targets like bulldozers and armor. In such a defensive situation, the invading enemy's heavy machinery will be either wiped out or irrepairably crippled by the effects of the antitank grenades and mines, or bogged down, as their crews would not take them anywhere out of fear of being hit. Meanwhile, marksmen armed with rocket propelled antipersonnel grenades whittle away at entire squads and hole-ups, sending hell into any and every crevice, ravine, windowhole, doorway, and alley. Any visible enemy movement in any area will be immediately followed by a searing, withering fragmentation blast. At the same time, regular sniper/spotter fire teams equipped with rifles pound away relentlessly at other targets with merciless accuracy.

Such a scenario will quickly turn into a stalemate. For the defenders, it may mean prolonged fighting, and running out of food and water and medical supplies can be a serious risk, unless friendly locals and supply routes can help the defenders. For the invading enemy, however, it will be a literal hellhole. Casuality rates will become ridiculously high, since the defenders' motives are not to secure land, but to launch sustained and devastating attacks on enemy resources only. The sheer amount of casualties will undoubtedly cause morale to drop like rock falling from a cliff. As the invader probably are not motivated to defend their homeland or families, as opposed to the defenders, whatever bravado and toughness the invader possessed at the beginning of the campaign will turn to fear, desperation, and hopelessness. Self interest will prevail, sapping the invaders' collective strength. Like the seemingly mighty concrete foundations of an abandoned buolding being attacked and crumbled by vines, dandelions, and moss, the invader will eventually crumble and fall to it's death, from being bled profusely and relentlessly.

ParaPacem said...

Great article for giving us the insight as to how occupying forces might behave, in a theoretical occupation of theoretical cities.
Very useful!
And Qi Ji Guang's comments are also extremely good; the North Vietnamese operating almost exclusively in ground / infantry based warfare, were able to wear down and ultimately outlast the armies of several other nations.
Our own firepower and resources were far greater than theirs ( although our politicians were a weapon used against us! ) yet their persistence and savagery demonstrated that constant guerilla warfare can more than balance the logistical advantages of more powerful adversaries.

Brass said...

Qi Ji Guang,

Not "invaders," Qi Ji, "liberators." :)

straightarrow said...

Qi, there is a lot in what you say,but I would not count too much on the fear of the invaders. They will not necessarily give way to fear, even though they may be fearful.

We aren't the only people with courage.

tom said...

Found this through following your links and then some, on city fighting. Might be of interest.

Anonymous said...

Re: Brass

No, by "invaders", I mean the enemy. LOL! I called the liberators "defenders" in my post, as we will be the ones defending our home country. The defenders are the ones using the rocket propelled grenades and snipers to wear down the invaders.

Re: Straightarrow: If they are determined and brainwashed enough, it will take a lot of effort for the defenders to defeat the invader. That is why in a defensive campaign, securing land is not essential. What is essential is 1, destroy enemy personnel and resources, 2, Secure valuable supplies and accoutrements, food, water, medical supplies, etc... 3, Keeping the non-combatant population safe, and evacuate them if necessary, and 4, always maintain a plentiful number of "Plan Bs", escape routes, supply routes, etc... The sheer bravado demonstrated by the indoctrinated Japanese troops at Iwo Jima and elsewhere shows what brainwashing can do to people and convince them to oppress another population.

Anonymous said...

Excellent comments by all. The
most serious issue as I see it for
USA cities is the question of
"minority" recruitment by Islamic
radicals. A relatively small
number of these could give the
JBTs many rationales for general
searches, disarmament, etc.