September 03, 2015

The Deep Attack

Attacking deep in the Combat Mission games potentially can have a huge impact on the tempo of operations, the psyche of your opponent and can dramatically change the outlook of a battle and the fortunes of both players.

This movement will include both a change in tactical tempo and hopefully, an increase in violent execution.  

You are hitting the accelerator in order to hopefully catch your opponent off guard and cause him to react and perhaps make a mistake.  You want your opponent to be saying something like, “OH $HIT!!” and start to scramble to deal with the threat.  Breaking the linear battle line by attacking into the depth of the enemy zone can change the battle from a close run thing to a run away.

The intent, from my perspective, is to make a sudden deep movement that could have the potential to unhinge your opponent’s defense, or if he is on the attack, disrupt his attack and force him to siphon off some combat power to deal with the sudden movement. 

This movement does not need to be a penetrating attack, nor does it need to be especially deep, it just needs to be deep and effective enough to make a positive impact (or a negative impact for your opponent).  You need to think beyond the linear battle line and try to envision where potential holes in the enemy lines might exist that could be ripe for exploitation, identify potential objectives deep in the battle zone that it’s probable the enemy thinks should be secure.

For the Soviet Army, the intent of Tactical Deep Battle was to create an opening in the enemy line for Operational maneuver.  They used deep attacks to enable envelopment and ensure destruction of the enemy.  This does not describe how I use the Deep Attack in my fights.

For the American Army, Tactical Deep Operations are described as:
... At the tactical level, deep operations are designed to shape the battlefield to assure advantage in subsequent engagements.
     FM 100-5 Operations 1986     
This is a much closer definition of how I apply Deep Attack in Combat Mission.  I am always looking for an opportunity to unleash a deep attack that my opponent may not expect. 

Desired outcomes for the Deep Attack could be:
  •  to unhinge a defensive line, forcing your opponent to redeploy or withdraw
  •  to cause an attacking opponent to slow, or better, to cancel an attack
  • to force your opponent to redeploy combat power to support the area impacted by the Deep Attack, thus weakening other sectors or the impact of his main effort. 

A properly conducted Deep Attack could open up opportunities elsewhere in the AO for exploitation.

For me, a Deep Attack must consist of the following components:
  1. A sudden fast movement into an unexpected area of the enemy position. 
  2.  An increase in tactical tempo, that equates to: increased ground speed and if possible, increased outgoing fire (for amplified psychological impact and shock effect).
  3.  An attack force with enough combat power to make a difference; there is a huge difference between a squad, or single tank sized deep attack and a platoon strength Deep Attack.

The conditions for conducting such an attack are important.  I look for the following:
  1. A spot or area that has recently been abandoned by my opponent, 
  2. or, an unoccupied or weakly held area of the enemy line
  3.  an attack area that is relatively deep, preferably past the enemy line, but at least on the same line.  This will cause your opponent to start to worry about a flank or rear attack and he will be forced to redeploy assets to deal with it, or maybe even abandon his line. 
  4. a masked approach to the area or point being attacked.  This is very important, if the enemy can cover the approach to your targeted area of attack with fire, then the impact of your Deep Attack will be lessened or nullified, and could have a negative impact for your battle.

Any Deep Attack needs to be supported.  I don’t mean that you need to have follow-on units ready to enlarge the toe-hold, though this of course could be the case… no, I mean that while the Deep Attack is going in the rest of your force needs to step up its momentum, or at least continue to keep your opponent’s attention in the areas away from your Deep Attack approach and the intended area of attack.  This should give your Deep Attack a better chance of success.

Deep Attack Force Size

Always conduct a Deep Attack with strength, that means at least a full platoon, or a platoon plus for most engagements.  For very large battles with more than one Battalion per side, a company sized force will be required.  A mixed infantry and armor force is ideal.

It isn’t always possible, and is dependent on the scenario, but I will try to keep at least one platoon mounted and ready for any opportunity for a Deep Attack, best case is to have a platoon of mounted tank riders for this role. 

Alternately, if I see an opportunity during a battle I will pull a unit from my reserve and send it on the Deep Attack mission.  This is opportunistic rather than planned, when conducting an unplanned Deep Attack with an ad hoc force, you have to be very sure that you are not weakening your position and leaving yourself open for disaster.

The Deep Attack in Action

This game fought against a fellow BETA tester (GreenAsJade) was for the most part a closely fought game that really was a very tough task for my opponent… he was outclassed in armor quality, and I had more of it than him.  He also had a lot of ground to defend, and the old Frederick the Great maxim, “he who defends everything, defends nothing” held true here as well. 

From the start I held my Pioneer platoon mounted on trucks in reserve awaiting an opportunity to exploit an opening.  If I had thrown this platoon into the general advance I would not have had the combat power to make a Deep Attack. 

Always maintain a reserve.

“I am thinking about mixing it up some and pushing HARD in two or three different zones and sending a strong mounted/armored reserve at whatever turns out to be the weakest point.”
Approximately Turn 5
Later in the game as things developed I saw an opportunity:
“Back on the Spur my Pioneer Platoon is finally getting sent into action. I believe GaJ has shifted A LOT of his firepower to my left to deal with my armor and infantry assaulting the S-Ridge. So I plan on assaulting around the Spur with my Pioneer Platoon, a mortar in support and the JPz-IV which is re positioning.”
                                                                                                              Approximately Turn 40 

Seeing as my attacking force was mounted on trucks I was a little more careful than normal by reconnoitering the route with a kubelwagen to ensure it was clear of enemy units.  I don’t normally like doing this as it gives your opponent warning that something is up in that area.  

While this was going on I had made a decision to move my Pioneer platoon from the trucks to halftracks, this would give the Pioneers some inherent support and better protection.  This process occurred while the kubelwagen was en route to the objective.  

Phase 2 in the following image indicates my planned dismounted attack on this objective.

While the Pioneer platoon, now mounted on halftracks, made their way to their attack position, the route and objective was overwatched by a Brummbar and a JPz IV (area marked Support in the above image).

Note in the following image that the rest of my force kept up the pressure on the entire enemy line as the Deep Attack was going in.  This kept my opponent from reinforcing the area.

This image shows the masked route used by the Pioneer Platoon:

RESULT: This Deep Attack eventually forced my opponent to abandon the entire center of his line (from NAI 1 and NAI 2) and provided an important contribution to a major victory over the American forces I was facing.

For this game I had a platoon of Russian Tankodesantniki on T-34/85s… my intent from the beginning of the game was that I would wait for an opening and conduct a Deep Attack:

“Axis Yellow-3 this approach would be a deep attack bypassing the town and attempting to seize Objective Yellow in the north. I like this route, as if I can achieve a breakthrough the payoff could be dramatic.”

“My normal plan of attack entails spreading my attack as wide as possible to make the defender have to stretch and thus thin out his line, making a penetration more likely in the spot I intend to concentrate.”
My AAR – pre-planning

“My Tank riders with 5 of my 6 tanks will take a central position so they can react in case of emergency, but the intent is for them to be the spearhead for any breakthrough opportunity

…I want to make a demonstration down Blue-1 and Blue-2. Then I intend on pushing with as much as I can muster through KT5 and then through KT6 towards Obj. Yellow (Gelb).”
My AAR – approximately turn 2

From the above quotes you can see that this was a move that I had been planning very early, before the game even began in fact... all that remained was to choose the best route and wait for the ideal conditions.  Prior to making the decision and turning the tanks and tank riders loose on Objective Gelb I had run into an enemy infantry platoon on my right.  

This platoon had slowed my advance, but after I had inflicted serious losses on it I decided the time was right to start thinking about my Deep Attack.  I concluded that my enemy to this point had concentrated his defenses upon mostly covered routes, and he seemed to be really concentrating against my assault on Objective Blau. 

All enemy contact previously along the road I intended to use had been infantry moving into what was now a killing ground (enemy platoon location on the above map).  I had scouts moving north along the road and I had seen no further enemy movement. 

I did not believe that my opponent had defended the road; I think I would have gotten a sound contact or seen something by this time.  I hoped he had not mined the road.  If he had I would have lost my most powerful asset (the T-34s) and my movement would have failed.  I had not run into any mines to this point in the game (in fact I never did) so really mines were not something I was very worried about. 

I was more worried about what he could have in the large woods to the right of the road, the little strip along the left is so thin that it never even crossed my mind that he could have something hidden in them (and I did have scouts in that strip of woods), so I concentrated all planned area fire during the move on the right, and on Gelb itself, targeting wherever the targeting line would allow, trying to cover the entire objective.  This was such a small objective that I thought if my rounds could hit it, whatever was there would take a beating or at least be suppressed.  My big fear was AT guns.

As the tanks and riders approached Objective Gelb only one enemy contact was spotted.  It was not a firm contact but it gave me a spot to focus my fire on.  Turns out he only had one HMG team on the objective.

“In a fast fluid fight, like what I am trying to do with the T34s and SMG platoon towards Objective Gelb, flanks are secondary, speed is the most important thing. I want to get there before he can react, if it is unexpected I doubt my flanks are in much danger.”
My AAR – during execution of the Deep Attack

“It looks like he is driving into my I am getting multiple vehicle sound contacts racing down the road to my back VL. And the troop sound contacts all seem to be headed that way now.”
Elvis’ AAR

In the following image you can see several round impacts from my moving tanks.  Two in the field to the right of the road which were wild short rounds caused by the movement of the tanks, but on the objective itself you can see a couple impacts on the left side of the objective and one in the center. 

Once on the objective all that was left was to ensure it was clear and then to take up defensive positions for the inevitable German counterattack.

RESULT: This Deep Attack forced my opponent to abandon the defense of Objective Blau (which he eventually pulled out of).  He was forced to react to my penetration and redeploy his armor from Blau to the Objective Gelb area leaving Objective Blau to his infantry alone to defend.

This ended up being a game winning move as eventually all of his armor would fall to my T-34s, his infantry around Objective Blau and Rot would start to take horrendous casualties from my ISU-122s and infantry.  He threw in the towel with the loss of his last tank.

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