July 04, 2017

Rifle Platoon Leader – PLATOON DEFENSE Part 2 - Fundamentals

Make initial contact with the smallest force possible.
FM 3-90 Tactics
A defensive operation can occur in any battle, whether you are on the offense or not. A local counterattack by a defender when you are advancing could force you to go defensive with at least a part of your force. Or you could be the defender in a scenario, in this case you might have offensive or defensive operations occurring simultaneously.

There are three main types of defensive operations:
  • Hasty Defense 
  • Deliberate Defense 
  • Delay/Withdrawal
Defensive operations may be necessary in order to:
  • Deny the enemy the use of a piece of terrain or an area (i.e. a hilltop, a woodline, or a village) 
  • Buy time to organize for other operations 
  • Hold an area (flank or key terrain) with a small element to allow more important operations to occur in other parts of the battlefield 
  • Force the enemy to concentrate against you, thus weakening him elsewhere 
  • Counter an unexpected move or action from your opponent 
  • Attrit or fix the enemy in preparation for moving to offensive operations 
  • Assemble and prepare to start offensive operations 
  • Regain your breath - especially useful when the battle seems to be getting away from you and you need to buy time to think

Fundamentals of the Defense

As a defender you must perform a thorough METT-T analysis.  Ensure you read my post on that topic fully and understand the basics.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of knowing the terrain, understanding your force, and having a good idea of the enemy’s capabilities and goals  in being successful in Combat Mission, this is especially true when on the defensive.

Defensive Operations

Hasty Defense - most of the time in Combat Mission we are conducting a hasty defense.  If you have to seize and hold a piece of key terrain, then that is an example of a hasty defense.  Anytime you are dropping a formation into a temporary defensive posture (after a movement, or in reaction to enemy activity) during a battle, you are conducting a hasty defense.  

Deliberate Defense - if you are playing a defense scenario, then you are usually conducting a deliberate defense.  The deliberate defense normally has engineer works (foxholes, bunkers, mines, etc.) and mutually supporting positions.  Personally I find this type of action to be very limiting and it is the easiest to be successful against for an attacker as he can identify strong points and take them down one at a time.  For this type of defense to work the commander MUST maintain a mobile reserve to enable him to surprise the attacker with local counter-attacks or maybe even a spoiling attack.

Delay - The delay usually is made up of subsequent hasty or deliberate defensive positions and is used to slow or attrit an enemy to the point where he cannot continue offensive operations.  This is actually my preferred method of defending, and it can be devastating to an attacker, but it must be well thought out with pre-identified fall back positions, and subsequent lines of defense pre-positioned along the withdrawal routes.

Depth on the Defense - NEVER put the majority of your combat power in the forward positions or on the first line of defense.  

Plan a defense with successive defensive lines that you can fall back to and provide each line of defense with enough combat power to make it viable.

Example showing successive lines of defense

Intelligence - Whether on the offense or the defense it is paramount that you identify the enemy units, formations, and axes of movement. This information will be a combat multiplier that you can use to good effect as you plan on how best to meet your opponent with fire and maneuver.

Mobility - At times it will be necessary to stand at all costs in a position, but an efficient, effective defense is identified by mobility, both laterally and in depth to move forces as the situation dictates.

- In my opinion the single most important tenant when on the defense is flexibility, As the defender you will have no idea (in most cases) where the attacker will be coming from, as such you need to identify his avenues of approach (AAs) and his force composition as quickly as possible. Once you have a good idea as to where and in what strength he is attacking, you can shift forces accordingly.

Offensive Action - Even on the defense you should be looking for times to counter-attack or conduct a spoiling attack. This can be a tricky affair, and you have to weigh your available combat power against the enemy strength, ensuring you do not end up biting off more than you can chew.

Mutual Support
- Best case is to position your units so they can provide overlapping areas of fire and quick support for each other. In close terrain (like hedgerow country) this will be near impossible to achieve, yet this should be something you always try to achieve.

Mobile/Active Defensive Operations

I highly recommend a mobile/active or maneuver based defense, however:

    • Get so excited that you go over to the offensive before you are really ready
    • Waste your main combat power in counter-attacks in areas where little information has been received
    • Overextend your forces and risk getting portions cut off from any help 
    • Use fast moving scouts to gather information on the enemy’s dispositions and movements
    • Use your main counter-attack force to break up over-extended enemy formations or to eliminate smaller enemy units or formations that cannot be quickly reinforced by your opponent
    • Conduct spoiling attacks if possible
    • Withdraw through the next line of defense if the pressure gets too great

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