Infantry Drills

FM 7-8 – Chapter 6 – Urban Operations – Section II – Defense


In urban areas, buildings provide cover and concealment, limit fields of observation and fire, and block movement of troops, especially mechanized troops. This section covers the key planning considerations, weapons selection, preparations, and the construction of a platoon defensive position on urbanized terrain.


Planning the defense begins when the leader receives a mission or determines a requirement to defend such as during consolidation and reorganization after an assault. The leader must use terrain wisely and designate a point of main effort. He chooses defensive positions that force the enemy to make costly attacks or conduct time-consuming maneuvers to avoid them. A position that the enemy can readily avoid has no defensive value unless the enemy can be induced to attack it. The defense, no less than the offense, should achieve surprise. As platoon leaders conduct their troop-leading procedures, they also have to consider civilians, ROE, limited collateral damage, and coordination with adjacent units to eliminate the probability of fratricide. Maneuver, methods, and courses of action in establishing defensive positions in and around urbanized terrain are METT-TC intensive.

a.     The squad’s and platoon’s focus for defending in an urban area is the retention of terrain. As with most defensive scenarios, the squad and platoon will defend as part of the company. The platoon will either be given a sector to defend or a battle position to occupy and the platoon leader must construct his defense within the constraints given to him. In an urban area, the defender must take advantage of the abundant cover and concealment. He must also consider restrictions to the attacker’s ability to maneuver and observe. By using the terrain and fighting from well-prepared and mutually supporting positions, a defending force can delay, block, fix, or inflict heavy losses on a much larger attacking force.

b.     One of the most common defensive tasks a platoon will be given during urban operations is to conduct a strongpoint defense of a building, part of a building, or a group of small buildings (Figure 6-9) . The platoon’s defense is normally integrated into the company’s mission. The platoon leader organizes the strongpoint defense by positioning personnel and their weapons systems to maximize their capabilities. Supporting fires are incorporated into the overall defensive plan to provide depth to the engagement area

(1)     The platoon leader organizes the defense into a series of individual, team, and squad fighting positions located to cover avenues of approach and obstacles, and to provide mutual support in order to repel the enemy advance. Snipers should be positioned to support the commander’s intent and to allow for the opportunity to engage C2 and key targets.


Figure 6-9. Defensive strongpoint.

     (2)     Depending on the length of the mission, the platoon should stockpile munitions (especially grenades) , food and water, medical supplies, and fire-fighting equipment.


While operating in an urban area, it is highly possible that the infantry platoon will be called upon to conduct a hasty defensive mission. Unlike the deliberate defense, the hasty defense is characterized by the lack of information about enemy forces and the lack of time to prepare the defense. All of the troop-leading procedures are the same, and many of the priorities of work of the deliberate defense will be the same but may take place concurrently. Units are deployed, weapons emplaced, and fighting positions prepared in accordance with the amount of time available to the unit.

a.   The extent of preparation the platoon is able to accomplish will depend on the amount of time available. Normally, when occupying hasty defensive positions, the platoon takes advantage of the cover and concealment already present. Given time and materials, the platoon will continue to make improvements to the positions.

(1)     In a hasty defense, the platoon will first establish security and position crew-served weapons. The priorities of improvements may be directed by the priority of work contained in the unit TACSOP. As a minimum, these improvements should include fields of fire, overhead cover as well as additional direct fire protection, and camouflaging of individual positions. Fighting positions in buildings are constructed away from windows and other openings in the shadows of the room using appliances, furniture, and other convenient items and materials. Some of the more common hasty fighting positions in an urban area are corners of buildings, behind walls, windows, unprepared loopholes, and the peak of a roof (Figure 6-10) .


Figure 6-10. Hasty firing positions.

     (2)     Throughout the defense, the platoon continues to improve its hasty defensive positions. Over time, the hasty defense can become a deliberate defense. The platoon leader and his squad leaders make continuous adjustments to the defense to reduce weaknesses that could result in the failure of the overall defense. The priority of work will serve as the guide for improving the defense, and the leaders will supervise the accomplishment of the following tasks:

  • Position crew-served and special weapons.
  • Construct barriers and emplace obstacles.
  • Prepare individual, alternate, and supplementary fighting positions.
  • Rehearse the counterattack force, engagement sequences, and repositioning.
  • Enhance mobility.

b.   As time permits, the leaders ensure the following improvements are accomplished:

  • Barrier and obstacle improvement.
  • Improvement of primary and alternate positions.
  • Preparation of supplementary positions.
  • Additional movement enhancement efforts.
  • Initiation of patrols.
  • Improvement of camouflage.
  • Continued rehearsals for counterattack and withdrawal.
  • Sleep plan.


A critical platoon- and squad-level defensive task during defensive urban operations is the preparation of fighting positions. General defensive considerations in urban terrain are similar to any other defensive operations. Fighting positions in urban areas are usually constructed inside buildings and are selected based on an analysis of the area in which the building is located, the individual characteristics of the building, and the characteristics of the weapons system.

a.   The priorities of work are the same as those listed in Chapter 2, Section V, of this manual. However, because of the unique qualities of the urban environment, special attention should be given to the following:

(1)     Select key weapons and crew-served weapon positions to cover likely mounted and dismounted avenues of approach. To cover armored avenues of approach, position antiarmor weapons inside buildings with adequate space and ventilation for backblast (on upper floors, if possible, for long-range shots) . Position MGs/SAWs to cover dismounted avenues of approach. Place them near ground level to increase grazing fires. If ground rubble obstructs grazing fires, place MGs/SAWs in the upper stories of the building. Ensure weapons are mutually supporting and are tied in with adjacent units.

(2)     Ensure the position is free of noncombatants. Remove them from the area of operations before occupying the position.

(3)     Clear fields of fire. Prepare loopholes, aiming stakes, sector stakes, and TRP markings. Construct positions with overhead cover and camouflage (inside and outside) .

(4)     Identify and secure subsurface avenues of approach (sewers, basements, stairwells, and rooftops) .

(5)     Stockpile ammunition, food, fire-fighting equip-ment, and drinking water.

(6)     Construct barriers and emplace obstacles to deny the enemy access to streets, underground passages, and buildings, and to slow his movement (Figure 6-11) . Integrate barriers and or obstacles with key weapons. Cover all barriers and obstacles by fire (both direct and indirect) and or observation. Conceal the obstacle from enemy observation as much as possible. Erect the obstacle in an irregular pattern to hinder enemy movement. Employ the obstacle in depth (if possible) . Tie the obstacle in with existing obstacles.


Figure 6-11. Obstacles blocking street.

     (7)     Improve and mark movement routes between positions as well as to alternate and supplementary positions. Improve routes by digging trenches, using sewers and tunnels, creating entry holes, and emplacing ropes for climbing and rappelling and ladders for ascending and descending.

b.   The following must be considered when establishing a defensive position.

(1)   The first priority is establishing all-around security. Each position should have at least one soldier providing security during all preparations.

(2)   Select buildings that provide protection from direct and indirect fires. Reinforced concrete buildings with three or more floors provide suitable protection while buildings constructed of wood, paneling, or other light material must be reinforced to provide sufficient protection. One- and two-story buildings without a strongly constructed cellar are vulnerable to indirect fires and require construction of overhead protection for each fighting position. If possible, use materials gathered from the immediate area to build the overhead cover.

(3)   A platoon position should not be established in a single building when it is possible to occupy two or more buildings that permit mutually supporting fires. A position without mutual support in one building is vulnerable to bypass, isolation, and subsequent destruction from any direction.

(4)   Do not select buildings that are obvious defensive positions (easily targeted by the enemy) . If the requirements for security and fields of fire dictate the occupation of exposed buildings, the platoon will be required to add reinforcement materials to the building to provide suitable protection to the troops inside.

(5)   To prevent isolation, individual and crew-served weapons positions should be mutually supporting and have fields of fire in all directions. When clearing fields of fire, try to maintain the natural appearance of the surrounding area if possible. Removing objects that interfere with the gunner’s field of vision may be necessary.

(6)   Defensive positions should have at least one covered and concealed route that allows resupply, medical evacuation, reinforcement, or withdrawal from the building without being detected, or at least provides protection from direct fire weapons. The route can be established using underground systems, communications trenches, or walls and buildings that allow covered movement.

(7)   Positions in buildings should permit observation of enemy avenues of approach and adjacent defensive sectors. Upper stories offer the best observation but also attract enemy fire.

(8)   If possible, avoid selecting positions in buildings that are obvious fire hazards. If these flammable structures must be occupied, reduce the danger of fire by wetting down the immediate area, laying an inch of sand on the floors, and providing fire extinguishers and fire fighting equipment. Ensure that each defender is familiar with the withdrawal routes and that they have the opportunity to rehearse their withdrawal using these planned routes in the event of fire.

(9)   Time is the one element in METT-TC that the platoon and its leaders have no control over. The most important factor to consider when planning the use of time is to provide subordinate leaders with two-thirds of all available time. The unit TACSOP provides the leaders with their priorities when time does not allow for detailed planning. The platoon will complete defensive preparation IAW the TACSOP and the commander’s operational priorities.

c.   Preparation of the platoon’s individual fighting positions will normally be conducted inside the buildings the platoon has been assigned to defend. As with all defensive positions, the leader’s first task is to establish security. This will normally be in the form of an observation post located within the protection of the platoon’s direct fire weapons. The OP should be manned with at least two personnel. Leaders then assign individual or two-man positions to adequately cover his sector. The squad leader will position himself to best control his squad. The platoon leader will designate the level of security to be maintained. The remaining personnel will continue to work preparing the defense. The leaders will continue to make improvements to the defense as time permits. (The preparation of fighting positions is discussed in detail in FM 90-10-1.)

d.   Additional defensive preparation tasks may be required in basements, on ground floors, and on upper floors.

(1)   Basements require preparation similar to that of the ground floor. Any underground system not used by the defender that could provide enemy access to the position must be blocked.

(a)     Doors. Unused doors should be locked or nailed shut, as well as blocked and reinforced with furniture, sandbags, or other field expedients (Figure 6-12) .

(b)     Hallways. If not required for the defender’s movement, hallways should be blocked with furniture and tactical wire.

(c)     Stairs. Unused stairs should be blocked with furniture and tactical wire, or removed (Figure 6-12) . If possible, all stairs should be blocked, and ladders should be used to move from floor to floor and then removed.


Figure 6-12. Blocking stairs and doorways.

     (d)     Windows. Remove all glass. Block unused windows with boards or sandbags to prevent observation and access.

(e)     Floors. Make fighting positions in the floors. If there is no basement, fighting positions can give additional protection from heavy direct-fire weapons.

(f)     Ceilings. Erect support for ceilings that otherwise would not withstand the weight of rubble from upper floors.

(g)     Unoccupied Rooms. Block rooms not required for defense with tactical wire.

(2)   Upper floors require the same preparation as ground floors. Windows need not be blocked, but should be covered with wire mesh, canvas, ponchos, or other heavy material, to prevent grenades from being thrown in from the outside. The covering should be loose at the bottom to permit the defender to drop grenades.

(3)   Routes are required that permit defending forces to move within the building to engage enemy forces from any direction. Plan and construct escape routes to permit rapid evacuation of a room or a building. Mouseholes should be made through interior walls to permit movement between rooms. Such holes should be marked to enable defenders to easily locate them during day and night conditions. Brief all personnel as to where the various routes are located. Conduct rehearsals so that everyone becomes familiar with the routes.

(4)   Buildings that have wooden floors and rafter ceilings require extensive fire prevention measures. Cover the attic and other wooden floors with about one to two inches of sand or dirt, and position buckets of water for immediate use. Place fire-fighting materials (dirt, sand, fire extinguishers, and blankets) on each floor for immediate use. Fill water basins and bathtubs as a reserve for fire fighting. Turn off all electricity and gas. If available, use any existing fire extinguishers found in buildings.

(5)   Conceal radio antennas by placing them among civilian television antennas, along the sides of chimneys and steeples, or out of windows that would direct FM communications away from enemy early-warning sources and ground observation. Lay wire lines through adjacent buildings or underground systems or bury them in shallow trenches. Lay wire communications within the building through walls and floors.

(6)   Rubbling parts of the building may provide additional cover and concealment for weapons emplacements or serve as an obstacle against the enemy. Because of the inherent danger associated with rubbling a building, engineers should perform this task. Units should limit rubbling so as not to impede their own movement within the urban area. If not designated by higher, the platoon must receive permission from higher before rubbling a building within its sector.

(7)   Platoons must position obstacles on the roofs of flat-topped buildings to prevent helicopters from landing and to deny troops from gaining access to the building from the roof. Cover rooftops that are accessible from adjacent structures with tactical wire or other expedients and guard them. Block entrances to buildings from rooftops if compatible with the overall defensive plan. Remove or block any structure on the outside of a building that could aid the attacker in scaling the building to gain access to upper floors or to the rooftop.

(8)   Position obstacles adjacent to buildings to stop or delay vehicles and infantry. To save time and resources in preparing the defense, platoon leaders must allow the use of all available materials, such as automobiles, railcars, and rubble, to create obstacles. Vehicles can be tied together by running poles through their windows. Leaders must supervise the construction of obstacles to ensure they are tied to buildings and rubble areas to increase effectiveness, and to canalize the enemy into engagement areas selected by the leader. Direct support engineers can provide advice and resources as to the employment of obstacles and mines.

(a)     The principles for employing mines and obstacles do not change in the defense of an urban area; however, techniques do change. For example, burying and concealing mines in streets is difficult due to concrete and asphalt. Mines may be placed in sandbags as a technique of camouflage.

(b)     Civilian construction equipment and materials must be located and inventoried. This equipment can be used with engineer assets or in place of damaged equipment. In host nation countries, coordination must be made with proper civilian officials before use.

(9)   The field of fire is the area a weapon or group of weapons may cover effectively with fire from a given position. After the defensive positions are selected and the individuals have occupied their assigned positions, they will determine what clearance is necessary to maximize their field of fire. Leaders and individuals must view fields of fire from the fighting position and from the view of the enemy. Only selective clearing will be done to improve the field of fire. If necessary, the position will be relocated to attain the desired field of fire. Within the field of fire leaders will designate for each weapons system a primary and an alternate sector of fire. Each weapons system has unique requirements for its field of fire, and the platoon and squad leaders must ensure these requirements are met. Each position is checked to ensure that the fields of fire provide the maximum opportunity for target engagement and to determine any dead space within the sector of fire.

e.   Employ antitank weapons in areas that maximize their capabilities in the urban area. The lack of a protective transport could require the weapon to be fired from inside a building, from behind the cover of a building, or from behind the cover of protective terrain. Leaders should make every effort to employ antitank weapons in pairs so that the same target can be engaged from different positions. Another consideration is security for the crew and system. This is necessary to allow the gunner to concentrate on locating and engaging enemy armor.

f.   Snipers give the platoon a force multiplier by providing an overwatch capability and by engaging enemy C2 targets. Snipers normally operate in two-man teams, which provides the shooter with security and another set of eyes for observation and to locate and identify targets. Leaders should allow the snipers to select their own positions for supporting the defense. An effective sniper organization can trouble the enemy far more than its cost in the number of friendly soldiers employed. Snipers deploy in positions where they are not easily detected (Figure 6-13) , and where they can provide the most benefit. (See FM 23-10 and FM 90-10-1 for more information on the employment of snipers.)


Figure 6-13. Sniper position (cut away) .


The conduct of the defense in an urban area is similar to the conduct of the defense in any other area. The current standard sequence of actions is listed in Chapter 2, Section V of this manual.


The process of consolidation and reorganization in an urban area is similar to the process in any other area. The current standard sequence of actions is listed in Chapter 2, Section V of this manual.


A platoon may be given the mission to counterattack in order to retake a defensive position or key point, to destroy or eject an enemy foothold, or to stop an enemy attack by hitting his flank and forcing him to stop his movement and establish a hasty defense.

a.     A platoon counterattack is planned at company level to meet each probable enemy penetration. They must be well coordinated and violently executed. Counterattacks should be directed at the enemy’s flank and supported with direct and indirect fires.

b.     If tank support is available, t should be used to spearhead the counterattack. Tanks have the mobility, firepower, and survivability to quickly execute the counterattack mission. Tanks are ideally suited for destroying enemy armor, heavy weapons, and fortifications with their main gun and engaging enemy infantry with their coaxial machine gun. This capability will assist the infantry in executing their part of the mission.

c.     The counterattack mission is planned and coordinated as part of the defensive operation.

(1)     Considerations for counterattack planning may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Location of friendly units.
  • Location of noncombatants.
  • Critical location in the defense that, if threatened, could collapse.
  • Size and type of force required to defeat and eject the enemy.
  • Where in the defense do we want the enemy to think he is successful?
  • Who determines and initiates the execution of the counterattack?

(2)     Control measures needed for the conduct of the counterattack include:

  • Assembly area or blocking position.
  • Start point, route, and release point, if necessary.
  • Attack position.
  • Line of departure or line of contact.
  • Zone of action, direction of attack, and or axis of advance.
  • Objective.
  • Limit of advance.

Leave a Reply


Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Other Military Sites