Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 7 – Section VII – Offensive Tactical Tasks

Section VII — OFFENSIVE TACTICAL TASKS

7-145.  Tactical tasks are specific activities performed by units as they conduct tactical operations or maneuver. At the platoon level, these tasks are the warfighting actions the platoon may be called on to perform in battle. This section provides discussion and examples of some common actions and tasks the platoon may perform during a movement to contact, a hasty attack, or a deliberate attack. It is extremely important to fully understand the purpose behind a task (what) because the purpose (why) defines what the platoon must achieve as a result of executing its mission. A task can be fully accomplished, but if battlefield conditions change and the platoon is unable to achieve the purpose, the mission is a failure.

 

NOTE:  The situations used in this section to describe the platoon leader’s role in the conduct of tactical tasks are examples only. They are not applicable in every tactical operation, nor are they intended to prescribe any specific method or technique the platoon must use in achieving the purpose of the operation. Ultimately, it is up to the commander or leader on the ground to apply both the principles discussed here, and his knowledge of the situation. An understanding of his unit’s capabilities, the enemy he is fighting, and the ground on which the battle is taking place are critical when developing a successful tactical solution.

SEIZE

7-146.  Seizing involves gaining possession of a designated objective by overwhelming force. Seizing an objective is complex. It involves closure with the enemy, under fire of the enemy’s weapons to the point that the friendly assaulting element gains positional advantage over, destroys, or forces the withdrawal of the enemy.

7-147.  A platoon may seize prepared or unprepared enemy positions from either an offensive or defensive posture. Examples include the following:

– A platoon seizes the far side of an obstacle as part of a company breach or seizes a building to establish a foothold in an urban environment.

– A platoon seizes a portion of an enemy defense as part of a company deliberate attack.

– A platoon seizes key terrain to prevent its use by the enemy.

7-148.  There are many inherent dangers in seizing an objective. They include the requirement to execute an assault, prepared enemy fires, a rapidly changing tactical environment, and the possibility of fratricide when friendly elements converge. These factors require the platoon leader and subordinate leaders to understand the following planning considerations.

7-149.  Developing a clear and current picture of the enemy situation is very important. The platoon may seize an objective in a variety of situations, and the platoon leader will often face unique challenges in collecting and disseminating information on the situation. For example, if the platoon is the seizing element during a company deliberate attack, the platoon leader should be able to develop an accurate picture of the enemy situation during the planning and preparation for the operation. He must be prepared to issue modifications to the platoon as new intelligence comes in or as problems are identified in rehearsals.

7-150.  In another scenario, the platoon leader may have to develop his picture of the enemy situation during execution. He must rely more heavily on reports from units in contact with the enemy and on his own development of the situation. In this type of situation, such as when the platoon is seizing an enemy combat security outpost during a movement to contact, the platoon leader must plan on relaying information as it develops. He uses clear, concise FRAGOs to explain the enemy situation, and give clear directives to subordinates.

CLEAR

7-151.  Clearing requires the platoon to remove all enemy forces and eliminate organized resistance within an assigned area. The platoon may be tasked with clearing an objective area during an attack to facilitate the movement of the remainder of the company, or may be assigned clearance of a specific part of a larger objective area. Infantry platoons are normally best suited to conduct clearance operations, which in many cases will involve working in restrictive terrain. Situations in which the platoon may conduct the clearance tactical task include clearing a—

– Defile, including choke points in the defile and high ground surrounding it.

– Heavily wooded area.

– Built-up or strip area. Refer to FM 3-06, Urban Operations, and FM 3-06.11, Combined Operations in Urban Terrain, for a detailed discussion of urban combat.

– Road, trail, or other narrow corridor, which may include obstacles or other obstructions on the actual roadway and in surrounding wooded and built-up areas.

General Terrain Considerations

7-152.  The platoon leader must consider several important terrain factors when planning and executing the clearance task. Observation and fields of fire may favor the enemy. To be successful, the friendly attacking element must neutralize this advantage by identifying dead spaces where the enemy cannot see or engage friendly elements. It should also identify multiple friendly support-by-fire positions that are necessary to support a complex scheme of maneuver which cover the platoon’s approach, the actual clearance task, and friendly maneuver beyond the restrictive terrain.

7-153.  When clearing in support of tactical vehicles, cover and concealment are normally abundant for Infantry elements, but scarce for trail-bound vehicles. Lack of cover leaves vehicles vulnerable to enemy antiarmor fires. While clearing in support of mechanized vehicles, obstacles influence the maneuver of vehicles entering the objective area. The narrow corridors, trails, or roads associated with restrictive terrain can be easily obstructed with wire, mines, and log cribs.

7-154.  Key terrain may include areas dominating the objective area, approaches, or exits, and any terrain dominating the area inside the defile, wooded area, or built-up area. Avenues of approach will be limited. The platoon must consider the impact of canalization and estimate how much time will be required to clear the objective area.

Restrictive Terrain Considerations

7-155.  Conducting clearance in restrictive terrain is both time consuming and resource intensive. During the planning process, the platoon leader evaluates the tactical requirements, resources, and other considerations for each operation.

7-156.  During the approach, the platoon leader focuses on moving combat power into the restrictive terrain and posturing it to start clearing the terrain. The approach ends when the rifle squads complete their preparations to conduct an attack. The platoon leader—

– Establishes support-by-fire positions.

– Destroys or suppresses any known enemy positions to allow elements to approach the restrictive terrain.

– Provides more security by incorporating suppressive indirect fires and obscuring or screening smoke.

7-157.  The platoon leader provides support by fire for the rifle squads. He prepares to support the rifle squads where they enter the restrictive terrain by using—

– High ground on either side of a defile.

– Wooded areas on either side of a trail or road.

– Buildings on either side of a road in a built-up area.

– Movement of rifle squads along axes to provide cover and concealment.

7-158.  Clearance begins as the rifle squads begin their attack in and around the restrictive terrain. Examples of where this maneuver may take place include—

– Both sides of a defile, either along the ridgelines or high along the walls of the defile.

– Along the wood lines parallel to a road or trail.

– Around and between buildings on either side of the roadway in a built-up area.

7-159.  The following apply during clearance:

– The squads provide a base of fire to allow the weapons squad or support-by-fire element to bound to a new support-by-fire position. This cycle continues until the entire area is cleared.

– Direct-fire plans should cover responsibility for horizontal and vertical observation, and direct fire.

– Squads should clear a defile from the top down and should be oriented on objectives on the far side of the defile.

– Engineers with manual breaching capability should move with the rifle squads. Engineers may also be needed in the overwatching element to reduce obstacles.

7-160.  At times, the unit may encounter terrain that restricts or severely restricts movement. Movement through these areas is vulnerable to ambush and road blocks. Clearance techniques can also be loosely applied to other terrain features. Bridges, city streets, road bends, corridors, thickly wooded areas, and any other area where a narrow passage wall has severely restrictive terrain on both sides may need clearing when advancing in the fight.

7-161.  The platoon must secure the far side of the defile, built-up area, or wooded area until the company moves forward to pick up the fight beyond the restrictive terrain. If the restrictive area is large, the platoon may be directed to assist the passage of another element forward to continue the clearance operation. The platoon must be prepared to—

– Destroy enemy forces.

– Secure the far side of the restrictive terrain.

– Maneuver squads to establish support-by-fire positions on the far side of the restrictive terrain.

– Support by fire to protect the deployment of the follow-on force assuming the fight.

– Suppress any enemy elements that threaten the company while it exits the restrictive terrain.

– Disrupt enemy counterattacks.

– Protect the obstacle reduction effort.

– Maintain observation beyond the restrictive terrain.

– Integrate indirect fires as necessary.

Enemy Analysis

7-162.  Careful analysis of the enemy situation is necessary to ensure the success of clearing. The enemy evaluation should include the following:

– Enemy vehicle location, key weapons, and Infantry elements in the area of operations.

– Type and locations of enemy reserve forces.

– Type and locations of enemy OPs.

– The impact of the enemy’s CBRN and or artillery capabilities.

Belowground Operations

7-163.  Belowground operations involve clearing enemy trenches, tunnels, caves, basements, and bunker complexes. The platoon’s base-of-fire element and maneuvering squads must maintain close coordination. The weapons squad or support-by-fire element focuses on protecting the squads as they clear the trench line, or maneuver to destroy individual or vehicle positions. The base-of-fire element normally concentrates on destroying key surface structures (especially command posts and crew-served weapons bunkers) and the suppression and destruction of enemy vehicles.

7-164.  The platoon must establish a base of fire to allow the rifle squads to then maneuver or enter the trench line, tunnel, basement, or bunker. The direct-fire plan must be thoroughly developed and rehearsed to ensure it will facilitate effective protection for the Infantry while preventing fratricide.

7-165.  The platoon leader must also consider specific hazards associated with the platoon or supporting weapons systems. An example is the downrange hazard for the rifle squads created by the CCMS.

7-166.  The platoon should consider using restrictive fire measures to protect converging friendly elements.  It must also use other direct-fire control measures such as visual signals to trigger the requirement to lift, shift, or cease direct fires. Techniques for controlling direct fires during trench, tunnel, basement, and bunker clearance may include the following: attaching a flag to a pole carried by the Soldier who follows immediately behind the lead clearing team; using panels to mark cleared bunkers, tunnels, and basements; using visual signals to indicate when to lift, shift, or cease fires.

7-167.  Once the rifle squads enter the belowground area, the combined effects of the platoon’s assets place the enemy in a dilemma. Every action the enemy takes to avoid direct fire from the support-by-fire element, such as maintaining defilade positions or abandoning bunker complexes, leaves him vulnerable to attack from the rifle squads maneuvering down the trench. Every time the enemy moves his vehicles to avoid attacking squads, or when his Infantry elements stay in bunkers or command posts, he exposes himself to support fires.

7-168.  Consolidation consists of securing the objective and defending against an enemy counterattack.

7-169.  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. He ensures the platoon is prepared to—

– Provide essential medical treatment and evacuate casualties as necessary.

– Cross-level personnel and adjust task organization as required.

– Conduct resupply operations, including rearming and refueling.

– Redistribute ammunition.

– Conduct required maintenance.

SUPPRESS

7-170.  The platoon maneuvers to a position on the battlefield where it can observe the enemy and engage him with direct and indirect fires. The purpose of suppressing is to prevent the enemy from effectively engaging friendly elements with direct or indirect fires. To accomplish this, the platoon must maintain orientation both on the enemy force and on the friendly maneuver element it is supporting. During planning and preparation, the platoon leader should consider—

– Conducting a line-of-sight analysis during his terrain analysis to identify the most advantageous positions from which to suppress the enemy.

– Planning and integrating direct and indirect fires.

– Determining control measures (triggers) for lifting, shifting, or ceasing direct fires (see Chapter 2).

– Determining control measures for shifting or ceasing indirect fires.

– Planning and rehearsing actions on contact.

– Planning for large Class V expenditures. (The company commander and the platoon leader must consider a number of factors in assessing Class V requirements including the desired effects of the platoon direct fires; the composition, disposition, and strength of the enemy force; and the time required to suppress the enemy.)

– Determining when and how the platoon will reload ammunition during the fight while still maintaining suppression for the assaulting element.

SUPPORT BY FIRE

7-171.  The platoon maneuvers to a position on the battlefield from where it can observe the enemy and engage him with direct and indirect fires. The purpose of support by fire is to prevent the enemy from engaging friendly elements.

7-172.  To accomplish this task, the platoon must maintain orientation both on the enemy force and on the friendly maneuver element it is supporting. The platoon leader should plan and prepare by—

– Conducting line-of-sight analysis to identify the most advantageous support-by-fire positions.

– Conducting planning and integration for direct and indirect fires.

– Determining triggers for lifting, shifting, or ceasing direct and indirect fires.

– Planning and rehearsing actions on contact.

– Planning for large Class V expenditures, especially for the weapons squad and support elements, because they must calculate rounds per minute. (The platoon leader and weapons squad leader must consider a number of factors in assessing Class V requirements, including the desired effects of platoon fires; the time required for suppressing the enemy; and the composition, disposition, and strength of the enemy force.)

7-173.  A comprehensive understanding of the battlefield and enemy and friendly disposition is a crucial factor in all support-by-fire operations. The platoon leader uses all available intelligence and information resources to stay abreast of events on the battlefield. Additional considerations may apply. The platoon may have to execute an attack to secure the terrain from where it will conduct the support by fire. The initial support-by-fire position may not afford adequate security or may not allow the platoon to achieve its intended purpose. This could force the platoon to reposition to maintain the desired weapons effects on the enemy. The platoon leader must ensure the platoon adheres to these guidelines:

– Maintain communication with the moving element.

– Be prepared to support the moving element with both direct and indirect fires.

– Be ready to lift, shift, or cease fires when masked by the moving element.

– Scan the area of operations and prepare to acquire and destroy any enemy element that threatens the moving element.

– Maintain 360-degree security.

– Use Javelins to destroy any exposed enemy vehicles.

– Employ squads to lay a base of sustained fire to keep the enemy fixed or suppressed in his fighting positions.

– Prevent the enemy from employing accurate direct fires against the protected force.

ATTACK BY FIRE

7-174.  The platoon maneuvers to a position on the battlefield from where it can observe the enemy and engage him with direct and indirect fires at a distance to destroy or weaken his maneuvers. The platoon destroys the enemy or prevents him from repositioning. The platoon employs long-range fires from dominating terrain. It also uses flanking fires or takes advantage of the standoff range of the unit’s weapons systems. The company commander may designate an attack-by-fire position from where the platoon will fix the enemy. An attack-by-fire position is most commonly employed when the mission or tactical situation focuses on destruction or prevention of enemy movement. In the offense, it is usually executed by supporting elements. During defensive operations, it is often a counterattack option for the reserve element.

7-175.  When the platoon is assigned an attack-by-fire position, the platoon leader obtains the most current intelligence update on the enemy and applies his analysis to the information. During planning and preparation, the platoon leader should consider—

– Conducting a line-of-sight analysis during terrain analysis to identify the most favorable locations to destroy or fix the enemy.

– Conducting direct and indirect fire planning and integration.

– Determining control measures (triggers) for lifting, shifting, or ceasing direct fires.

– Determining control measures for shifting or ceasing indirect fires.

– Planning and rehearsing actions on contact.

7-176.  Several other considerations may affect the successful execution of an attack by fire. The platoon may be required to conduct an attack against enemy security forces to seize the ground from where it will establish the attack-by-fire position. The initial attack-by-fire position may afford inadequate security or may not allow the platoon to achieve its task or purpose. This could force the platoon to reposition to maintain the desired weapons effects on the enemy force. Because an attack by fire may be conducted well beyond the direct fire range of other platoons, it may not allow the platoon to destroy the targeted enemy force from its initial positions. The platoon may begin to fix the enemy at extended ranges. Additional maneuver would then be required to close with the enemy force and complete its destruction. Throughout an attack by fire, the platoon should reposition or maneuver to maintain flexibility, increase survivability, and maintain desired weapons effects on the enemy. Rifle squad support functions may include:

– Seizing the attack-by-fire position before occupation by mounted sections.

– Providing local security for the attack-by-fire position.

– Executing timely, decisive actions on contact.

– Using maneuver to move to and occupy attack-by-fire positions.

– Destroying enemy security elements protecting the targeted force.

– Employing effective direct and indirect fires to disrupt, fix, or destroy the enemy force.


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