July 29, 2015

Rifle Platoon Leader – PLATOON ATTACK - Part the Second

Without a plan, there's no attack. Without attack, no victory.
                                                                      Curtis Armstrong


The enemy force has been determined to be a larger force than the unit in contact can handle on its own but small enough that your platoon should be able to eliminate it without additional support.            

The stage is set, your platoon is in contact with an enemy unit or units that will require your entire rifle platoon to either eliminate or force from its position so you can continue the advance. 

When attacking you need to guarantee:
  • Suppression of the enemy unit(s) in contact
  •  Freedom of maneuver for a part of your force
  • Flank protection.  You must post a team (or more if required) to ensure that any open flank your platoon has is watched and protected from enemy counterattack.  If you have a support team (especially an MG team) with your platoon then this is the ideal role for them.
If even one of those cannot be guaranteed then the success of your attack will be compromised.  If that is the case then you need to either withdraw your platoon or escalate the attack into a Company level Attack.

Any attack against a defender or a stationary enemy position is best done over a wide front; this is done to make the enemy spread his defenses and thus water it down.  In this way you can then concentrate on one enemy unit or position at a time eliminating the enemy force piece by piece and create the conditions favorable for a breakthrough into the enemy rear area.  If you concentrate on one area at a time in your advance your enemy will be able to concentrate his defense.

… that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend....
  Sun Tzu             
Plan your attack carefully; do not just rush into an attack without confirming that you can indeed carry out a successful attack on the enemy position(s) with little or no risk to your platoon. 

Methods of Attack
  •  Frontal Attack:  when the entire platoon’s firepower is required to suppress the enemy unit (suppression is required in order to allow maneuver) you can attack frontally using Fire & Movement.  That technique can be used by the platoon as easily as it can by the squad.
    • This method of attack is favored when you cannot guarantee that a flank attack by a portion of your platoon can be performed with low risk or when the ground does not allow for a masked approach on the enemy’s flank.

o   Method:
§  Fire on the enemy unit(s) with as much firepower (and hopefully no more) than is required for suppression.
§  When the enemy unit(s) has been suppressed (IOW you are not receiving return fire or can physically see that they are taking cover), you can rush one of your teams forward a few action spots.  Use maskedmovement whenever possible.
§  Repeat the above procedure (Fire & Movement) until you are close enough to Assault the enemy unit(s).
§  Assault through the enemy… preferably one unit or position at a time (see Fire & Movement and Squad Attack Drill for the procedure).

  • Flanking Attack: this is performed by the platoon in a modified Squad Attack procedure.
o   This method is favored when a secure route to the enemy’s flank is present, including: secure from enemy interference and secure from enemy discovery (IOW a masked route is available).
o   Method:
§  Support Element provides fire support for the Maneuver Element.
·         It is not necessary to fully suppress the entire enemy position
·         Spread fire around in order to keep the enemy from guessing where the assault will occur
§  Maneuver Element moves on the enemy flank.
·         Uses masked movement
·         Stops outside the range necessary to carry out the assault
§  Assault through the enemy.
·         Maneuver Element takes up position outside the assault range (>30 m) from the enemy unit.
·         The Support Element shifts fire to fully suppress the unit or position that is being assaulted.
·         Once the enemy position is suitably suppressed The Maneuver Element starts it’s assault (see Fire& Movement and Squad Attack Drill for the procedure).

I think any student of military strategy would tell you that in order to attack a position; you should have a ratio of approximately 3 to 1 in favor of the attacker.
        Norman Schwarzkopf

When General Schwarzkopf says you need a 3:1 advantage in the attack he does not mean you need a 3:1 advantage in manpower across the entire zone, rather you need to have a superior firepower advantage only in the small zone you are actually attacking.  

What that means to us in a Platoon Attack is that you need enough firepower to suppress the enemy positions one at a time in order to successively assault and eliminate them.  You might be equal in manpower or even firepower across the entire zone, but you should be attacking the enemy one position at a time to create those zones where your fire is superior to the enemy’s.  Often I will stop a platoon advance and concentrate all fire on one enemy unit to overwhelm it with fire and prepare it for assault.

If you walk away from this lesson with only one thing, that should be it. 

Key Points:

  • Support your maneuver with support fire
  • Attack across a wide front (to spread the enemy defense)
  • Concentrate your support fire on each enemy position in succession to “eat the elephant one bite at a time” especially when the maneuver element is in position to assault
  • Assault enemy positions one at a time
  • After all enemy positions or units (in the platoon zone that have interrupted movement) have either been eliminated or forced to withdraw immediately move to continue the movement and the mission

From the Battlefront Forum:
Bulletpoint, on 31 Jul 2015 - 08:39 AM, said:
Good point about attacking on a broad front. When I started playing, I would try to find a place to smash through the front line and go straight for the victory location.

By doing that, I maximised the enemy fire on my flanks and minimised the amount of fire I could return. By going wide front, you can use gains made in one area to support troops having a harder time, and then later vice versa.

My response (thought it would be an interesting addition to this post:
Bulletpoint, yes you've got the idea. When you spread the enemy defense and probe from many directions you also eventually discover where he is weak and can then concentrate your reserve against that spot. During this process the other probes must keep the pressure on so the enemy cannot easily pull units off the line to reinforce the threatened zone. Once you start your push its going to become bloody obvious where you are striking. The hope is that you can overwhelm the enemy at that point before the opportunity is gone. You have to be prepared to make the decision quickly, as any delay will allow your opponent to react. 
Point is that you cannot make the decision on where to strike without some knowledge of where the enemy is, well you can, but your chances of success are much lower if you plan an attack without reconnoitering the area first.

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