Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 7 – Section IV – Platoon Attacks

Section IV — PLATOON Attacks

7-44.     Platoons and squads normally conduct an attack as part of the Infantry company. An attack requires detailed planning, synchronization, and rehearsals to be successful. The company commander designates platoon objectives with a specific mission for his assault, support, and breach elements. To ensure synchronization, all leaders must clearly understand the mission, with emphasis on the purpose, of peer and subordinate elements. Leaders must also know the location of their subordinates and adjacent units during the attack. In addition to having different forms based on their purposes (refer to Section VII), attacks are characterized as hasty, or deliberate. The primary difference between the hasty and deliberate attack is the planning and coordination time available to allow the full integration and synchronization of all available combined arms assets. Attacks may take the form of one of the following:

– Enemy-oriented attacks against a stationary force.

– Enemy-oriented attacks against a moving force.

– Terrain-oriented attacks.

7-45.     Additionally, some attacks may be significantly focused on executing a select task by a certain date/time group. Attacks will either be daylight attacks or limited visibility attacks. Limited visibility attacks are further divided into illuminated and nonilluminated attacks. Leaders must always plan on nonilluminated attacks becoming illuminated at some point, whether due to friendly or enemy efforts.


7-46.     A deliberate attack is a type of offensive action characterized by preplanned coordinated employment of firepower and maneuver to close with and destroy the enemy. The deliberate attack is a fully coordinated operation that is usually reserved for those situations in which the enemy defense cannot be overcome by a hasty attack. Commanders may order a deliberate attack when the deployment of the enemy shows no identifiable exposed flank or physical weakness, or when a delay will not significantly improve the enemy’s defenses. The deliberate attack is characterized by detailed intelligence concerning a situation that allows the leader to develop and coordinate detailed plans. The leader task-organizes his forces specifically for the operation to provide a fully synchronized combined arms team. Time taken to prepare a deliberate attack is also time in which the enemy can continue defensive improvements, disengage, or launch a spoiling attack. The phases of the deliberate attack are reconnaissance, move to the objective, isolate the objective, seize a foothold and exploit the penetration (actions on the objective), and consolidate and reorganize (Figure 7-7).

Figure 7-7. Company deliberate attack.


7-47.      Before a deliberate attack, the platoon and company should gain enemy, terrain, and friendly information from the reconnaissance conducted by the battalion reconnaissance platoon. However, this may not always occur. The platoon and company should be prepared to conduct their own reconnaissance of the objective to confirm, modify, or deny their tentative plan.

7-48.     Platoons should not conduct reconnaissance unless specifically tasked to do so in a consolidated reconnaissance plan. If possible, the company should determine the enemy’s size, location, disposition, most vulnerable point, and most probable course of action. At this point, and with permission from battalion, the company should direct the platoon to conduct a reconnaissance patrol. This element conducts a reconnaissance of the terrain along the axis of advance and on the objective. It determines where the enemy is most vulnerable to attack and where the support element can best place fires on the objective.

7-49.     The tentative plan may change as a result of the reconnaissance if the platoon or squad discovers that terrain or enemy dispositions are different than determined earlier in the TLP. The platoon or squad leader may modify control measures based on the results of the reconnaissance, and must send these adjustments to their leader as soon as possible. For example, the platoon may discover the weapons squad cannot suppress the enemy from the north side of the objective as originally planned because of terrain limitations. Therefore, the platoon leader moves the support-by-fire positions to the south side of the objective, adjusts the tentative plan’s control measures, and radios the control measures to his commander for approval. The graphics are subsequently disseminated throughout the company and to adjacent units as needed.

Advance to the Objective

7-50.     The attacking element advances to within assault distance of the enemy position under supporting fires using a combination of traveling, traveling overwatch, or bounding overwatch. Platoons advance to successive positions using available cover and concealment. The company commander may designate support-by-fire positions to protect friendly elements with suppressive direct fires. As the company maneuvers in zone, it employs fires to suppress, neutralize, and obscure the enemy positions. The support-by-fire elements may need to occasionally change locations to maintain the ability to support the advancing assault element.

Assembly Area to the Line of Departure

7-51.     The line of departure is normally a phase line where elements of the attacking element transition to secure movement techniques in preparation for contact with the enemy. Platoons may maneuver from the line of departure to designated support-by-fire positions, assault positions, and breach or bypass sites. Before leaving the assembly area, the platoon leader should receive an update of the location of forward and adjacent friendly elements. He should also receive updated enemy locations. The platoon leader then disseminates these reports to each squad leader.

7-52.     The platoon moves forward from the assembly area to the line of departure, usually as part of a company formation along a planned route. The platoon leader should have reconnoitered the route to the line of departure and specifically to the crossing point. During the planning stage, he plots a waypoint on the line of departure at the point he intends to cross. The platoon navigates to the waypoint during movement. The move from the assembly area is timed during the reconnaissance so the lead section crosses the line of departure at the time of attack without halting in the attack position. If the platoon must halt in the attack position, the squads establish security and take care of last minute coordination.

Line of Departure to Assault Position

7-53.     The platoon moves from the line of departure to the assault position. The platoon leader plots waypoints to coincide with checkpoints along the route. During movement, he ensures the platoon navigates from checkpoint to checkpoint or phase line by using basic land navigation skills supplemented by precision navigation.

Assault Position to the Objective

7-54.     The assault position is the last covered and concealed position before reaching the objective. Ideally, the platoon occupies the assault position without the enemy detecting any of the platoon’s elements. Preparations in the assault position may include preparing bangalores, other breaching equipment or demolitions, fixing bayonets, ceasing or shifting fires, or preparing smoke pots. The platoon may halt in the assault position if necessary to ensure it is synchronized with friendly forces. Once the assault element moves forward of the assault position, the assault must continue. If stopped or turned back, the assault element could sustain unnecessary casualties.

7-55.     Supporting fire from the weapons squad must continue to suppress the enemy and must be closely controlled to prevent fratricide. At times, the assault element may mark each Soldier or just the team on the flank nearest the support element. The key is to ensure the support-by-fire element knows the location of the assault element at all times. The assaulting Soldiers and the support element sustain a high rate of fire to suppress the enemy.

7-56.     When the assault element moves to the breach point, the base-of-fire leader verifies the assault element is at the right location. The base-of-fire leader is responsible for tracking the assault element as it assaults the objective. The company commander shifts or ceases indirect fire when it endangers the advancing Soldiers and coordinates this with the platoon’s assault. As the fire of the platoon’s support is masked, the platoon leader shifts or ceases it or displaces the weapons squad to a position where continuous fire can be maintained.

Isolate the Objective

7-57.     The goals of isolation are to prevent the enemy from reinforcing the objective and to prevent enemy forces on the objective from leaving. Infantry platoons will probably be an isolating element within a company.

Seize a Foothold and Exploit the Penetration (Actions on the Objective)

7-58.     The platoon leader often designates assault, support, and breach elements within his platoon to conduct a deliberate attack. One technique is to designate the weapons squad as the support element, an Infantry squad as the breach element, and the remainder of the platoon as the assault element.

7-59.     The supporting elements assist the breach element’s initial breach of the objective by placing suppressive fires on the most dangerous enemy positions. As the breach is being established, the weapons squad shifts fires (or local self-defense weapons) to allow the breach element to penetrate the objective and avoid fratricide. Visual observation and information provided through the radio are vital to maintain suppressive fires just forward of the breach and assault elements.

7-60.     The supporting elements monitor the forward progress of the assault element and keep shifting suppressive fire at a safe distance in front of them. The weapons squad positions itself to provide continual close-in suppressive fire to aid the actions of the assault squad(s) as it moves across the objective.

7-61.     Once the breach element has seized the initial foothold on the objective, the assault element may then move through the breach lane to assault the objective. As this occurs, the platoon leader closely observes the progress of the breach and assault elements to ensure there is no loss in momentum, and that assault and breach elements do not cross in front of the supporting elements.

7-62.     All communication from the support element to the breach, assault, and weapons support is by frequency modulated (FM) radio or signals. If the platoon sergeant or squad leader observes problems, they radio the platoon leader. The platoon leader uses this information and what he personally sees on the objective to control the assault.

Consolidate and Reorganize

7-63.     Once enemy resistance on the objective has ceased, the platoon quickly consolidates to defend against a possible counterattack and prepares for follow-on missions.

7-64.     Consolidation consists of actions taken to secure the objective and defend against an enemy counterattack.

7-65.     Reorganization, normally conducted concurrently with consolidation, consists of preparing for follow-on operations. As with consolidation, the platoon leader must plan and prepare for reorganization as he conducts his TLP.

Site Exploitation

7-66.     Once the sensitive site is secure, enemy resistance eliminated, and safe access established, exploitation of the site begins.  Subject matter experts and teams carefully enter and exploit every structure, facility, and vehicle on the site and determine its value and its hazard to the platoon.  The security force continues to secure the site.  Leaders may elect to rotate the assault, support, and security forces if the site exploitation lasts for a prolonged period of time. .


7-67.     The platoon normally participates in a hasty attack as part of a larger unit, during movement to contact, as part of a defense, or whenever the commander determines that the enemy is vulnerable. A hasty attack is used to—

– Exploit a tactical opportunity.

– Maintain the momentum.

– Regain the initiative.

– Prevent the enemy from regaining organization or balance.

– Gain a favorable position that may be lost with time.

7-68.     Because its primary purpose is to maintain momentum or take advantage of the enemy situation, the hasty attack is normally conducted with only the resources that are immediately available. Maintaining constant pressure through hasty attacks keeps the enemy off balance and makes it difficult for him to react effectively. Rapidly attacking before the enemy can act often results in success even when the combat power ratio is not as favorable as desired. With its emphasis on agility and surprise, however, this type of attack may cause the attacking element to lose a degree of synchronization. To minimize this risk, the commander should maximize use of standard formations, well-rehearsed, thoroughly-understood battle and crew drills, and SOPs. The hasty attack is often the preferred option during continuous operations. It allows the commander to maintain the momentum of friendly operations while denying the enemy the time needed to prepare his defenses and to recover from losses suffered during previous action. Hasty attacks normally result from a movement to contact, successful defense, or continuation of a previous attack.

Task Organization

7-69.     The hasty attack is conducted using the principles of fire and movement. The controlling headquarters normally designates a base-of-fire element and a maneuver element.

Conduct of the Hasty Attack

7-70.     By necessity, hasty attacks are simple and require a minimum of coordination with higher and adjacent leaders. Leaders, however, still take the necessary measures to assess the situation, decide on an appropriate course of action, and direct their subordinates in setting conditions and execution.

7-71.     Execution begins with establishment of a base of fire, which then suppresses the enemy force. The maneuver element uses a combination of techniques to maintain its security as it advances in contact to a position of advantage. These techniques include:

– Use of internal base-of-fire and bounding elements.

– Use of covered and concealed routes.

– Use of indirect fires and smoke grenades or pots to suppress or obscure the enemy or to screen friendly movement.

– Execution of bold maneuver that initially takes the maneuver element out of enemy direct fire range.

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