Soldiers tactical movement across terrain

Basics of the Offense

Offensive actions are combat operations conducted to defeat and destroy enemy forces and seize terrain, resources, and population centers. They impose the commander’s will on the enemy. A commander may also conduct offensive actions to deprive the enemy of resources, seize decisive terrain, deceive or divert the enemy, develop intelligence, or hold an enemy in position. This article discusses the basics of the offense. The basics discussed in this article apply to the conduct of all offensive tasks.

1-1. The commander seizes, retains, and exploits the initiative when conducting offensive tasks. Specific operations may orient on a specific enemy force or terrain feature as a means of affecting the enemy. Even when conducting primarily defensive tasks, wresting the initiative from the enemy requires the conduct of offensive actions.


Characteristics of offensive tasks

  • Surprise
  • Concentration
  • Tempo
  • Audacity

Army offensive tasks

  • Movement to contact
  • Attack
  • Exploitation
  • Pursuit

1-2. Offensive tasks are characterized by surprise, concentration, tempo, and audacity. Effective offensive action capitalizes on accurate and timely intelligence and other relevant information regarding enemy forces, weather, and terrain. The commander maneuvers forces to advantageous positions before contact. Protection tasks, such as security operations, operations security, and information protection prevent or inhibit the enemy from acquiring accurate information about friendly forces. Contact with enemy forces before the decisive operation is deliberate, designed to shape the optimum situation for the decisive operation. The decisive operation is the operation that directly accomplishes the mission (ADRP 3-0). The decisive operation is a sudden, shattering action that capitalizes on subordinate initiative and a common operational picture (COP) to expand throughout the area of operations (AO). The commander executes violently without hesitation to break the enemy’s will or destroy the enemy. (See ADRP 3-90 for a discussion of these characteristics.)


1-3. An offensive task is a task conducted to defeat and destroy enemy forces and seize terrain, resources, and population centers (ADRP 3-0). The four primary offensive tasks are movement to contact, attack, exploitation, and pursuit.


1-4. Movement to contact is an offensive task designed to develop the situation and establish or regain contact (ADRP 3-90). It also creates favorable conditions for subsequent tactical actions. The commander conducts a movement to contact when the enemy situation is vague or not specific enough to conduct an attack. Forces executing this task seek to make contact with the smallest friendly force feasible. A movement to contact may result in a meeting engagement. Once contact is made with an enemy force, the commander has five options: attack, defend, bypass, delay, or withdraw. Search and attack and cordon and search are subordinate tasks of movement to contact.


Forms of the attack

  • Ambush
  • Counterattack
  • Demonstration
  • Feint
  • Raid
  • Spoiling attack

1-5. An attack is an offensive task that destroys or defeats enemy forces, seizes and secures terrain, or both (ADRP 3-90). Attacks incorporate coordinated movement supported by fires. They may be either decisive or shaping operations. Attacks may be characterized as hasty or deliberate, depending on the time available for assessing the situation, planning, and preparing. However, based on mission variable analysis, the commander may decide to conduct an attack using only fires. An attack differs from a movement to contact because, in an attack, the commander knows part of the enemy’s disposition. This knowledge enables the commander to better synchronize the attack and employ combat power more effectively in an attack than in a movement to contact.


1-6. Subordinate forms of the attack have special purposes and include the ambush, counterattack, demonstration, feint, raid, and spoiling attack. The commander’s intent and the mission variables of mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, and civil considerations (METT-TC) determine which of these forms of attack are employed. The commander can conduct each of these forms of attack, except for a raid, as either a hasty or a deliberate operation.


1-7. Exploitation is an offensive task that usually follows the conduct of a successful attack and is designed to disorganize the enemy in depth (ADRP 3-90). Exploitations seek to disintegrate enemy forces to the point where they have no alternative but surrender or take flight. Exploitations take advantage of tactical opportunities. Division and higher headquarters normally plan exploitations as branches or sequels to the current operation.


1-8. A pursuit is an offensive task designed to catch or cut off a hostile force attempting to escape, with the aim of destroying it (ADRP 3-90). A pursuit normally follows a successful exploitation. However, any offensive task can transition into a pursuit, if enemy resistance has broken down and the enemy is fleeing the battlefield. Pursuits entail rapid movement and decentralized control.


1-9. Appendix A discusses common control measures. Those control measures closely associated with a subordinate offensive task, form of maneuver, or form of attack are discussed as part of the discussion of those tasks or forms.


Forms of maneuver

  • Envelopment
  • Turning movement
  • Frontal attack
  • Penetration
  • Infiltration
  • Flank attack

1-10. Forms of maneuver are distinct tactical combinations of fire and movement with a unique set of doctrinal characteristics that differ primarily in the relationship between the maneuvering force and the enemy (ADRP 3-90). There are six forms of maneuver: envelopment, turning movement, frontal attack, penetration, infiltration, and flank attack. Combined arms organizations accomplish their mission by synchronizing the contributions of all warfighting functions to

execute these forms of maneuver. Combined arms is the synchronized and simultaneous application of arms to achieve an effect greater than if each arm was used separately or sequentially (ADRP 3-0).The commander generally chooses one form on which to build a course of action (COA). The higher commander rarely specifies the specific form of offensive maneuver. However, that higher commander’s guidance and intent, along with the mission and any implied tasks, may impose constraints such as time, security, and direction of attack that narrow the forms of offensive maneuver to one alternative. Additionally, the AO’s characteristics and the enemy’s dispositions also help the commander determine the form of maneuver. A single

operation may contain several forms of maneuver, such as a frontal attack to clear a security area followed by a penetration to create a gap in enemy defenses. Then, the commander might use an envelopment to destroy the enemy’s first line of defense.


1-11. Envelopment is a form of maneuver in which an attacking force seeks to avoid the principal enemy defenses by seizing objectives behind those defenses that allow the targeted enemy force to be destroyed in their current positions. At the tactical level, envelopments focus on seizing terrain, destroying specific enemy forces, and interdicting enemy withdrawal routes. The commander’s decisive operation focuses on attacking an assailable flank. It avoids the enemy’s strength—the enemy’s front— where the effects of enemy fires and obstacles are the greatest. Generally, a commander prefers to conduct envelopment instead of a penetration or a frontal attack because the attacking force tends to suffer fewer casualties while having the most opportunities to destroy the enemy. Envelopment also produces great psychological shock to the enemy. If no assailable flank is available, the attacking force creates one through the conduct of a penetration. The four varieties of envelopment are the single envelopment, double envelopment, encirclement, and vertical envelopment. (See figure 1-1 and 1-2 on page 1-4.) A single envelopment results from maneuvering around one assailable flank of a designated enemy force. A double envelopment results from simultaneous maneuvering around both flanks of a designated enemy force. Encirclement operations are operations where one force loses its freedom of maneuver because an opposing force is able to isolate it by controlling all ground lines of communication and reinforcement. Vertical envelopments are tactical maneuvers in which troops, either air-dropped or airlanded, attack the rear and flanks of a force, in effect cutting off or encircling the force. (JP 3-18). (For a discussion of encirclement operations, see FM 3-90-2.)


Figure 1-1. Single envelopment



Figure 1-2. Double envelopment

1-12. Single and double envelopments force the enemy to fight in two or more directions simultaneously to meet the converging efforts of the attack. A double envelopment generally requires a preponderance of force and can be difficult to control. A force seeking to execute a double envelopment must also have a substantial mobility advantage over the defender. A unit performs a double envelopment by conducting a frontal attack as a shaping operation in the center to fix the enemy in place while enveloping both hostile flanks. Because of the forces required, normally only divisions and larger organizations have the resources to execute a double envelopment.

Organization of Forces

1-13. The commander envisioning a single envelopment organizes the friendly force to perform two primary tasks: fixing the enemy force in its current location and conducting the envelopment. The commander also allocates forces to conduct necessary shaping operations, such as reconnaissance, security, reserve, and sustaining tasks. The force conducting the envelopment normally conducts the decisive operation by attacking an assailable enemy flank and avoiding the enemy’s main strength en route to the objective. The fixing force conducting the shaping operations normally conducts a frontal attack to fix enemy forces in their current positions to prevent their escape and reduce their capability to react against the enveloping force. A commander executing a double envelopment organizes the friendly forces to conduct two enveloping operations and allocates the minimum combat power to shaping operations required to conduct the fix tasks in addition to reconnaissance, security, reserve, and sustaining tasks. The commander typically designates the more important of the two enveloping forces as the main effort for resources. The main effort is a designated subordinate unit whose mission at a given point in time is most critical to overall mission success (ADRP 3-0).

Control Measures

1-14. The commander, at a minimum, designates AOs for each unit participating in the envelopment by using boundaries. The commander also designates phase lines (PLs), support by fire and attack by fire positions, contact points, and appropriate fire coordination measures, such as a restrictive fire line or boundary between converging forces, and any other control measures necessary to control the envelopment. Figure 1-3 is an example of control measures used when conducting a single envelopment.


Figure 1-3. Example envelopment control measures

Planning an Envelopment

1-15. Successful envelopment planning depends on knowing and understanding the enemy and its capabilities. The commander seeks to maneuver the enveloping force around or over the enemy’s main defenses to secure objectives on the enemy’s flank or rear. From those objectives the enveloping force can use its positional advantage to employ superior combat power against a defending enemy oriented in the wrong direction. The commander uses intelligence assets and personnel to determine the disposition and capabilities of enemy forces to detect and react to their operations.

1-16. The commander plans for the force conducting the envelopment to remain within supporting distance of the fixing force. (If the enveloping force is going outside of supporting distance, it is probably conducting a turning movement, not envelopment.)


1-17. Sustaining the enveloping force requires deliberate planning because only intermittent ground lines of communication (LOCs) between the echelon support area and the enveloping force may exist. A line of communications is a route, either land, water, and/or air, that connects an operating military force with a base of operations and along which supplies and military forces move (JP 2-01.3).

1-18. The commander plans how to exploit the envelopment’s success as the enemy is encircled or how to transition to a pursuit to complete the destruction of the enemy force. These plans are developed as branches and sequels to the envelopment operation.

Executing an Envelopment

1-19. A successful envelopment depends largely on the degree of surprise the commander achieves against the opponent or the presence of overwhelming combat power. The envelopment’s probability of success also increases when the commander’s forces have superior tactical mobility, possess air and information superiority, and shaping operations fix the bulk of the enemy’s forces in their current positions. The commander uses reconnaissance and surveillance assets to provide continuous intelligence and combat information to identify changes in enemy COAs throughout the execution of the envelopment.

1-20. Normally, a unit orients the majority of its combat power toward where it expects to engage enemy forces, while placing less combat power on its own flanks. Thus the flanks of most units are more vulnerable to attack. The attacking commander creates an assailable flank using whatever means necessary. The enveloping force then moves rapidly to exploit the situation before the enemy strengthens an assailable flank by preparing positions in depth and by holding mobile forces in reserve. When faced with the threat of envelopment, the enemy commander might move reserves to meet the enveloping force. Thus, rapid movement around the enemy’s flank is essential to prevent the enemy from occupying previously prepared positions. Ground and air assets conducting vigorous shaping operations attempt to prevent the enemy commander from reconstituting reserves from other portions of the enemy front.

1-21. The enemy may attempt to cut off the enveloping force and extend its flank beyond the area that the enveloping force is attempting to attack through. If the encircling force attempts to outflank such a hostile extension, it may become overextended by moving outside of supporting distance from the fixing force. Therefore, it is usually better for the encircling force to take advantage of the enemy’s extension and subsequent weakness by penetrating a thinly held area of the enemy’s front rather than overextending itself in an attempt to completely outflank the enemy’s position.

1-22. The enemy may attempt a frontal counterattack in response to an attempted envelopment. In this case, the fixing force defends itself or conducts a delay while the enveloping force continues the envelopment.

1-23. After the initial envelopment of one flank—which places the enemy at a disadvantage—the commander has many options. The commander may choose to establish favorable conditions for passing to a double envelopment by using reserves, or the commander may exploit success by generating additional combat power along the same axis. Alternatively, the commander can destroy or defeat the enveloped enemy force in place, or transition to another type of operation, such as an exploitation or pursuit.


1-24. A turning movement is a form of maneuver in which the attacking force seeks to avoid the enemy’s principle defensive positions by seizing objectives behind the enemy’s current positions thereby causing the enemy force to move out of their current positions or divert major forces to meet the threat. However, a commander can employ a vertical envelopment using airborne or air assault forces to effect a turning movement. An air assault is the movement of friendly assault forces (combat, combat support, and combat service support) by rotary wing aircraft to engage and destroy enemy forces or to seize and hold key terrain (JP 3-18). It can also be conducted using waterborne or amphibious means. (JP 3-02 discusses amphibious operations.) A commander uses this form of offensive maneuver to seize vital areas in the enemy’s support area before the main enemy force can withdraw or receive support or reinforcements. (See figure 1-4 for a graphic depiction of a turning movement.) Commanders frequently transition this form of offensive maneuver from the attack into an exploitation or pursuit. A turning movement differs from envelopment because the force conducting a turning movement seeks to make the enemy forces displace from their current locations, whereas an enveloping force seeks to engage the enemy forces in their current locations from an unexpected direction.

Organization of Forces

1-25. The commander directing a turning movement task organizes available resources to conduct three main tasks: conduct a turning movement, conduct shaping operations, and conduct reserve operations. Each of these task-organized forces conducts security and reconnaissance operations as part of its tactical enabling operations. Normally the force conducting the turning movement conducts the echelon’s decisive operation given the appropriate mission variables of METT-TC. A turning movement is particularly suited for division-sized or larger forces possessing a high degree of tactical mobility. It is not until a commander has access to the resources of these echelons that the commander normally has the combat power to resource a turning force that can operate outside supporting range of the main body to allow the turning force to force enemy units out of their current positions. The commander bases the task organization of these forces on the mission variables of METT-TC and the concept of operations for the turning movement.


Figure 1-4. Turning movement: turning force conducting the decisive operation

1-26. The maneuver of the turning force is what causes enemy forces to leave their positions. A turning force normally conducts the majority of its operations outside of the supporting range of the main body and possibly outside its supporting distance. Thus, the turning force must contain sufficient maneuver, functional, and multifunctional capabilities to operate independently of the main body for a specific period.

1-27. The commander task organizes the main body to ensure the success of the turning force. The main body conducts operations, such as attacks designed to divert the enemy’s attention away from the area where the turning force conducts its operations. The operations of the main body can be either the echelon’s decisive or shaping operations. The commander organizes the reserve to exploit success by either the turning force or the main body. The reserve also provides the commander insurance against unexpected enemy actions.

Control Measures

1-28. The commander designates the AOs for each unit participating in the turning movement by establishing boundaries. The commander also designates additional control measures as necessary to synchronize the subordinate force operations. These additional control measures include phase lines, contact points, objectives, limits of advance, and appropriate fire coordination measures. Figure 1-5 depicts these control measures used to synchronize a turning movement that employs an airborne division as the turning force.


Figure 1-5. Control measures for a turning movement

Planning a Turning Movement

1-29. Selecting the geographic objective of the turning movement is of major importance to the success of the operation. The commander’s scheme of maneuver in a turning movement may vary, depending on the specific situation and the mission variables of METT-TC. In addition to common offensive planning considerations addressed in paragraphs 1-96 to 1-204, the commander conducting a turning movement pays special attention to planning branches and sequels to the turning movement, including—

  • Defensive actions conducted by the turning force.
  • Link-up operations between the turning force and the main body.
  • Retrograde operations for the turning force.

Essential to the planning of the branches and sequels is the linkage between the branch or sequel and specific decision points supported by situation development.

1-30. After developing the tactical plan, the commander plans how the turning force maneuvers to its objective. The commander develops the turning force’s movement, loading, and staging plans if outside transportation assets are required. The commander can plan to occupy key terrain that will threaten the enemy’s survival or remain mobile and seek ways to exploit the turning force’s success. Before initiating the operation, the commander plans how the turning force can exploit success.

1-31. In a turning movement that envisions an early linkup with the main body, the turning force normally plans to defend only that terrain required to protect itself. Once reinforcement or linkup with the main body occurs, the commander plans how to use the turning force to continue the attack or relieve it so it can prepare for subsequent missions.

1-32. The distances between forces and the existence of intermittent LOCs magnify the problems inherent in providing sustainment to a maneuver force during a turning movement. Therefore, in the planning of a turning movement, the commander emphasizes resupply, equipment maintenance, casualty evacuation, graves registration, prisoner of war handling, and dealing with the indigenous civilian population to address these likely problems. Prepackaging company- and battalion-sized resupply sets can ease the execution of sustaining operations during periods when sustainment units must push supplies to the combat units. A sustaining operation is an operation at any echelon that enables the decisive operation or shaping operation by generating or maintaining combat power (ADRP 3-0).

1-33. Planners must consider the provision of all supplies and equipment required for mission accomplishment as an integral part of tactical planning. The commander plans and organizes unit sustainment operations to support a rapid tempo of highly mobile and widely dispersed operations. Traditional doctrinal supporting distances and responsibilities do not always apply to turning movements. Sustainment planners recognize this and adjust their plans using available resources. Subordinate units will carry into the operation only those supplies required to meet their immediate needs. Excess supplies and equipment can burden the turning force. Staffs establish and maintain required supply levels in the objective area by phasing supplies into the objective area on an accompanying, follow-up (automatic and on-call), and routine basis. Medical evacuation, resupply, and reinforcement airlifts may be necessary to sustain the force’s combat operations. Ammunition and petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) normally constitute the major tonnage items.

Executing a Turning Movement

1-34. The primary prerequisites of a successful turning movement are moving the turning force to the objective area without incurring unacceptable losses and providing the force with the required combat power and sustainment. A commander can reduce personnel and equipment losses by operating under conditions of friendly air and information superiority, suppressing enemy fires, and having a mobility advantage over the enemy.

1-35. Major sources of firepower to suppress enemy fires are fixed-wing aircraft, attack helicopters, jammers, and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRSs) that cover the entire route taken by the turning force. Other sources of firepower include accompanying artillery units and naval surface fire support.

1-36. When threatened with a turning movement, the enemy commander is in a dilemma. The enemy’s original defense is misplaced. The enemy commander must move forces from their original position in meeting the new threat. Often the commander must commit available reserves against the new threat. The enemy commander exposes those forces to friendly fires as the commander weakens the defense and moves those forces. The enemy commander must now engage friendly forces on ground that commander has not chosen or prepared. Whenever possible, the commander conducting a turning movement tries to reach the decisive location without encountering the enemy. Techniques to accomplish this include outflanking the enemy or using airborne, air assault, and amphibious means to avoid prepared enemy positions. Once friendly forces find a way deep into the enemy’s support areas, the turning force moves rapidly to exploit the situation. It seeks to achieve its mission before the enemy can reposition uncommitted forces to react. Rapid movement is essential to prevent the enemy from occupying previously prepared positions in the enemy’s support area. Vigorous shaping operations prevent the enemy from reconstituting reserves from other portions of the enemy front.

1-37. The enemy may counterattack in an attempt to cut off and destroy or block the turning force and prevent the successful completion of the turning movement. In this case, the turning force’s security elements conduct an area defense in depth or engage in delaying actions while the rest of the turning force continues its mission. Alternatively, the enemy may try to withdraw forces to a position where their LOCs are not threatened.


1-38. An infiltration is a form of maneuver in which an attacking force conducts undetected movement through or into an area occupied by enemy forces to occupy a position of advantage behind those enemy positions while exposing only small elements to enemy defensive fires. Historically, the scope of the mission for the infiltrating force has been limited. Infiltration is also a march technique used within friendly territory to move forces in small groups at extended or irregular intervals. (See FM 3-90-2 for a discussion of infiltration as a movement technique.)

1-39. Infiltration occurs by land, water, air, or a combination of means. Moving and assembling forces covertly through enemy positions takes a considerable amount of time. To successfully infiltrate, the force must avoid detection and engagement. Since this requirement limits the size and strength of the infiltrating force—and infiltrated forces alone can rarely defeat an enemy force—infiltration is normally used in conjunction with and in support of the other forms of offensive maneuver.

1-40. The commander orders an infiltration to move all or a portion of a unit through gaps in the enemy’s defenses to—

  • Reconnoiter known or templated enemy positions and conduct surveillance of named areas of interest and targeted areas of interest.
  • Attack enemy-held positions from an unexpected direction.
  • Occupy a support by fire position to support the decisive operation.
  • Secure key terrain.
  • Conduct ambushes and raids to destroy vital facilities and disrupt the enemy’s defensive structure by attacking enemy reserves, fire support and air defense systems, communication nodes, and sustainment.
  • Conduct a covert breach of an obstacle or obstacle complex.

1-41. Special operations forces and light infantry units up to brigade size are best suited to conduct an infiltration. In some circumstances, armored and Stryker-equipped forces operating in small units can conduct an infiltration. However, as the proliferation of technology leads to increased situational understanding, this should increase the ability of these forces to avoid enemy contact and move undetected through enemy positions. In the future a commander may conduct an infiltration with armored and Stryker-equipped forces in coordination with precision fires as a prelude to an attack.

Organization of Forces

1-42. Normally, to be successful, the infiltrating force must avoid detection at least until it reaches its objective rally point. Thus, the infiltrating force’s size, strength, and composition are usually limited. The infiltrating unit commander organizes the main body into one or more infiltrating elements. The largest-sized element possible, compatible with the requirement for stealth and ease of movement, conducts the infiltration. This increases the commander’s control, speeds the execution of the infiltration, and provides responsive combat power. The commander determines the exact size and number of infiltrating elements, based on the situation.

1-43. The commander considers the following factors when determining how to organize available forces. Smaller infiltrating elements are not as easy to detect as larger elements and can get through smaller defensive gaps. Even the detection of one or two small elements by the enemy may not prevent the unit from accomplishing its mission. Larger infiltrating elements are easier to detect, and their discovery is more apt to endanger the success of the mission. Also, they require larger gaps to move through. A unit with many smaller infiltrating elements requires more time to complete the infiltration and needs more linkup points than a similar sized unit with only a few infiltrating elements. Many, smaller infiltrating elements are also harder to control than fewer, larger elements.

1-44. If resources allow, the commander designates security forces that move ahead of, to the flanks of, and to the rear of each infiltrating element’s main body. These security forces can be given either a screen or a guard mission. (FM 3-90-2 discusses screen and guard missions.) The commander determines the sizes and orientations of security elements based on the situation. Each infiltrating element is responsible for its own reconnaissance effort.

1-45. Sustainment of an infiltrating force normally depends on the force’s basic load of supplies and those medical and maintenance assets accompanying the infiltrating force. After completing the mission, the commander reopens LOCs to conduct normal sustainment operations.

Control Measures

1-46. Control measures for an infiltration include, as a minimum—

  • An AO for the infiltrating unit.
  • One or more infiltration lanes.
  • A line of departure (LD) or point of departure (PD).
  • Movement routes with their associated start points (SPs) and release points (RPs), or a direction or axis of attack.
  • Linkup or rally points, including objective rally points.
  • Assault positions.
  • One or more objectives.
  • A limit of advance (LOA).

The commander can impose other measures to control the infiltration including checkpoints, PLs, and assault positions on the flank or rear of enemy positions. If it is not necessary for the entire infiltrating unit to reassemble to accomplish its mission, the objective may be broken into smaller objectives. Each infiltrating element would then move directly to its objective to conduct operations. The following paragraphs describe using an infiltration lane and a linkup point.


1-47. An infiltration lane is a control measure that coordinates forward and lateral movement of infiltrating units and fixes fire planning responsibilities. The commander selects infiltration lanes that avoid the enemy, provide cover and concealment, and facilitate navigation. Figure 1-6 depicts the graphic for an infiltration lane. Each unit assigned an infiltration lane picks its own routes within the lane and switches routes as necessary. The left and right limits of the infiltration lane act as lateral boundaries for the unit conducting the infiltration. Attacks by rotary- or fixed-wing aircraft, indirect fires, or munitions effects that impact the lane must be coordinated with the infiltrating unit. Units leaving their assigned lane run the risk of being hit by friendly fires. Company-sized units are normally assigned a single infiltration lane, although
they can use more than one lane. Larger organizations, battalion and above, are always assigned more than one infiltration lane.

1-48. A linkup point is where two infiltrating elements in the same or different infiltration lanes are scheduled to meet to consolidate before proceeding on with their missions. Figure 1-7 on page 1-12 depicts linkup point 8. A linkup point is normally positioned behind or along one flank of the enemy’s positions. It should be large enough for all infiltrating elements to assemble, and it should offer cover and concealment for these elements. It should be an easily identifiable point on the ground. The commander should position linkup points on defensible terrain located away from normal enemy troop movement routes.

Planning an Infiltration

1-49. The activities and functions associated with the process of planning an infiltration are the same as with any other offensive task. That planning takes advantage of that unit’s stealth capabilities to surprise the enemy. The planning process synchronizes the warfighting functions that support the infiltrating unit, especially precise, high-resolution intelligence. Without precise, detailed intelligence, infiltration maneuvers become high-risk probing operations that can be costly and time-consuming. Careful planning, full reconnaissance and surveillance integration, detailed analysis, and aggressive operations security can permit an infiltrating force to avoid an enemy force, minimize direct contact, and maximize surprise according to the commander’s intent.


Figure 1-7. Linkup

point 8

1-50. After identifying gaps or weaknesses in the enemy’s defensive positions, the commander assigns infiltration lanes, contact points, and objectives to subordinate units. These objectives afford the infiltrating force positions of greatest advantage over the enemy and are not required to be to the geographic rear of the targeted enemy force. Each subordinate unit commander picks one or more routes within the assigned lane and establishes additional contact points, rally points, assault points, and other control measures as required. The commander wants each of the routes within an infiltration lane to be far enough apart to prevent an infiltrating element on one route from seeing other infiltrating elements, but close enough so that an infiltrating element could switch quickly to another route if required by the situation. The commander wants each route to provide infiltrating elements cover and concealment while avoiding known enemy and civilian locations and movement routes to the maximum extent possible. If possible, the subordinate unit commander selects the exact routes during the preparation phase after reconnoitering each infiltration lane. That subordinate decides whether the unit will infiltrate as a whole, in smaller elements, or even as two-man buddy teams, depending on the enemy density and strength.

1-51. The commander may use single or multiple infiltration lanes depending on the infiltrating force’s size, the amount of detailed information on enemy dispositions and terrain accessible, time allowed, and number of lanes available. A single infiltration lane—

  • Facilitates navigation, control, and reassembly.
  • Requires the existence or creation of only one gap in the enemy’s position.
  • Reduces the area for which detailed intelligence is required.

1-52. Multiple infiltration lanes—

  • Require the existence or creation of more gaps in the enemy’s security area.
  • Reduce the possibility of compromising the entire force.
  • Increase difficulty with maintaining control.

1-53. The sizes and numbers of infiltrating elements are major considerations for the commander when deciding whether to use a single lane or multiple infiltration lanes. If the infiltration takes place using multiple elements, contingency plans must address the following situations:

  • A lead element, possibly the advance guard, makes contact, but the trail elements have not started infiltrating.
  • A lead element infiltrates successfully, but compromises one or more trailing elements.
  • A compromised linkup point.

1-54. The commander uses available technology to assist in planning the infiltration and avoiding unintended enemy and civilian contact during the infiltration. This can be as simple as all units using the same infiltrating lane being on the same frequency to facilitate the avoidance of enemy contact. An accurate depiction of enemy systems and locations, tied to rapid terrain analysis, can graphically depict dead spots in the enemy’s battlefield surveillance. The commander can then plan how to expand those existing dead spots into infiltration lanes through a precision attack on selected enemy elements and systems.

1-55. The plan also addresses the following considerations:

  • Availability of supporting fires, including rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft and non-lethal fires— especially electronic warfare, throughout the operation, during infiltration and the attack on the objective.
  • Linkup or extraction of the infiltrating unit after mission completion.
  • Sustainment of the infiltrating force during the operation, to include casualty evacuation.
  • Military deception operations, such as actions by other units designed to divert enemy attention from the area selected for the infiltration.
  • Linkup of the various infiltrating elements.
  • Mission command or control procedures, to include recognition signals.
  • Positioning of combat vehicles to support the infiltrating elements.
  • Using limited visibility and rough terrain to mask movement and reduce the chance of detection.
  • Infiltration of the largest elements possible to maintain control.
  • Rehearsals.
  • Specially required preparations, such as modifying the unit’s SOP regarding the Soldier’s combat load for the mission. When infiltrating on foot, units carry only required equipment. For example, in close terrain and in the absence of an armor threat, heavy anti-armor missile systems may be a liability.
  • Abort criteria.
  • Critical friendly zones.

1-56. Planned recognition signals and linkup procedures for the infiltration should be simple and quick. If there has not been any firing or any other noises, signals should not violate noise and light discipline. However, if there have already been assaults, artillery, and small-arms fire, signals, such as whistles and flares, can be used as linkup aids. A lack of time and the short distance involved in many infiltration operations may make conducting formal linkup procedures unnecessary.

Preparing an Infiltration

1-57. Once the commander selects the objective, infiltration lanes, and linkup or rally points, the commander directs reconnaissance and surveillance operations to update and confirm the details on which the plan is based. Friendly reconnaissance and surveillance assets identify enemy sensors and surveillance systems. The commander then revises the plan to reflect current conditions within the AO.

Executing an Infiltration

1-58. Moving undetected during an infiltration requires a considerable amount of time. The infiltrating unit moves from its assembly area (AA) or current position through the start point and then continues moving along the infiltration route to a release point. If buddy teams or small elements are conducting the infiltration, the unit uses a series of linkup points to reassemble into a coherent unit. Units can use a variety of navigation aids, such as a global positioning system (GPS), to remain within the planned infiltration lane, which minimizes their chances of detection by the enemy. At the same time, they report their progress and status using communications systems that provide this information automatically to all command nodes which require this information.

1-59. If the complete unit is conducting the infiltration, the forward security force begins its movement first, followed by the main body. The distance between the forward security force and the main body depends on the mission variables of METT-TC. The advance guard must be far enough ahead of the main body so that it can either deploy or move to another route if the forward security force discovers the enemy. The forward security force in an infiltration must have enough time to move in a stealthy and secure manner. Enemy units should not be able to move undetected in the gap between the forward security force and the main body.

1-60. As the infiltrating unit moves, the advance guard reports to the commander regarding the cover and concealment of each route, enemy activity, location of danger areas and linkup points, enemy activity on the objective, and other combat information. The unit attempts to avoid enemy and civilian contact;

however, contact does not always mean the mission is compromised. The infiltrating unit engages targets first with indirect fires to avoid revealing its presence and exact location. These fires include the conduct of inform and influence activities and cyber electromagnetic tasks designed to blind enemy reconnaissance and surveillance assets and prevent the enemy from coordinating an effective response to the infiltration.

1-61. If necessary, the forward security force conducts actions on contact while the main body moves to another route, reconstitutes a forward security force, and continues the mission. If the main body makes contact unexpectedly, it either overruns the enemy force, if the enemy has little combat power, or bypasses the encountered enemy force and continues the mission. During the infiltration, the unit ignores ineffective enemy fire and continues to move. The commander may use suppressive fires against the enemy to cover the sounds of the infiltration or to divert the enemy’s attention to areas other than where the infiltration lanes are located.

1-62. The infiltrating unit’s elements move to an AA or an objective rally point to consolidate their combat power, refine the plan, and conduct any last-minute coordination before to continuing the mission. The unit then conducts those tasks needed to accomplish its mission, which could be an attack, raid, ambush, seizing key terrain, capturing prisoners, or collecting specific combat information.

1-63. A commander may need to abort an infiltration operation if the mission variables of METT-TC change so drastically during the infiltration that the infiltrating force is no longer capable of accomplishing its mission. Examples of changes that might trigger such an action include—

Significant portions of the infiltrating force’s combat power are lost through navigation errors, enemy action, accidents, or maintenance failures.

  • Movement or significant reinforcement of a force-oriented objective.
  • Detection of the infiltration by the enemy.
  • Changes in the tactical situation that make the mission no longer appropriate, such as the initiation of an enemy attack.

The criteria for aborting the operation are developed in the planning process. The decision to abort the infiltration is transmitted to all appropriate headquarters for their action and information.


1-64. A penetration is a form of maneuver in which an attacking force seeks to rupture enemy defenses on a narrow front to disrupt the defensive system. Destroying the continuity of that defense allows the enemy’s subsequent isolation and defeat in detail by exploiting friendly forces. The penetration extends from the enemy’s security area through main defensive positions into the enemy support area. A commander employs a penetration when there is no assailable flank, enemy defenses are overextended and weak spots are detected in the enemy’s positions, or time pressures do not permit envelopment.

Organization of Forces

1-65. Penetrating a well-organized position requires overwhelming combat power in the area of penetration and combat superiority to continue the momentum of the attack. (See figure 1-8.) The commander designates a breach, support, and assault force. These elements should be designated for each defensive position the force is required to penetrate. The commander should not withhold combat power from the initial penetration to conduct additional penetration unless there is so much combat power available that the success of the initial penetration is ensured.


Figure 1-8. Penetration: relative combat power

1-66. The commander resources a reserve to address expected or unexpected contingencies, such as an enemy counterattack, to avoid diverting the assault element from attacking the final objective of the penetration. The commander designates additional units missions of follow-and-support or follow-and-assume to ensure rapid exploitation of initial success. The commander designates forces to fix enemy reserves in their current locations and isolate enemy forces within the area selected for penetration.

Control Measures

1-67. A commander assigns, as a minimum, an AO to every maneuver unit, a LD or line of contact (LC); time of the attack or time of assault; phase lines; objective; and a LOA to control and synchronize the attack. (A commander can use a battle handover line instead of a LOA if the commander knows where the likely commitment of a follow-and-assume force will occur.) The lateral boundaries of the unit making the decisive operation are narrowly drawn to help establish the overwhelming combat power necessary at the area of penetration. The commander locates the LOA beyond the enemy’s main defensive position to ensure completing the breach. If the operation results in opportunities to exploit success and pursue a beaten enemy, the commander adjusts existing boundaries to accommodate the new situation. (See figure 1-9 on page 1-16.)

1-68. A commander uses the graphics associated with breaching operations, such as points of breach and lanes, on the small-scale maps used to control the maneuver of subordinate forces at each point where they penetrate the enemy’s defenses.

1-69. Other control measures available to the commander include checkpoints, support by fire and attack by fire positions, probable line of deployment, fire support coordination measures, attack position, assault position, and time of assault. Within the unit’s AO, a commander can use either an axis of advance or a direction of attack to further control maneuver.


Figure 1-9. Penetration: minimum graphic control measures

Planning a Penetration

1-70. The success of the penetration depends primarily on a coordinated and synchronized plan—violently executed at a high tempo—against comparatively weak enemy defenses. However, the terrain behind the area selected to penetrate must allow the penetration to proceed from the breach to a decisive objective.

1-71. The depth of the enemy position and the relative strength of attacking echelons determine the width of the penetration. The availability of artillery, air support, and other combat multipliers for the attacking force helps the commander determine relative combat power. A wider gap allows friendly forces to drive deeper, making it more difficult for the enemy to close the gap. The deeper the penetration, the easier it is for a unit to seize its objective and roll up the enemy’s flanks exposed by the breach and the less likely it is that the enemy will be in a position to restore the enemy’s front by falling back.

1-72. Plans for penetrating a defensive position include isolating, suppressing, and destroying by fire enemy forces in the area selected for the penetration. These plans should also address how to isolate the area of penetration from support or reinforcement by enemy forces located outside the area. This consideration includes how to fix enemy reserves and long-range weapons in their current locations. Positioning friendly assets so that the commander can mass the effects of their combat power to accomplish these results without giving away the location of the penetration is also a critical part of the plan.

1-73. The commander plans to place the majority of forces and assets in positions where the effects of their combat power can be felt in the area selected for penetration. The commander’s plan for the penetration normally has three phases:

  • Breaching the enemy’s main defensive positions.
  • Widening the gap created to secure the penetration’s flanks.
  • Seizing the objective and subsequently exploiting the success of the penetration.

1-74. Planning the sequence of these phases depends on the specific situation. In some situations, if there are weaknesses or gaps in the enemy’s front, it is possible for armored forces to breach the enemy’s defenses and proceed straight to the objective. Simultaneously, light infantry units could conduct local envelopment and exploitation operations. In other situations, the commander uses light infantry forces to create the breach, holding armored or Stryker-equipped forces initially in reserve to exploit gaps in the enemy’s defenses created by those light forces.

1-75. The commander plans shaping operations outside the area of penetration to contain the enemy on the flanks of the penetration and fix enemy reserves in their current locations. Synchronizing the effects of rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft, artillery fires, and obscuration smoke to delay or disrupt repositioning forces is an example of such shaping operations. These shaping operations will involve the maintenance of operations security and the conduct of military deception operations. The commander usually attempts to penetrate the enemy’s defensive positions along enemy unit boundaries because defenses tend to be less effective along a boundary.

1-76. The commander’s plans should address penetrating through the enemy’s defensive positions in enough depth so the enemy is unable to reestablish a viable defense on more rearward positions. Until this event takes place, the commander does not want to divert the strength of attacking units to widening the gap to secure the flanks of the penetration. However, plans do address contingencies, such as hostile counterattacks against the penetration’s flanks. The plan should provide assistance to attacking elements as they close with the enemy and support the attack until the enemy’s power of resistance is broken.

Executing a Penetration

1-77. After the initial breach of the enemy’s main line of resistance, the sequence of the remaining two phases is determined by the situation. If the enemy is in a weak position, it may be possible for the lead attacking force to seize the penetration’s final objective while simultaneously widening the initial breach.

Breaching the Enemy’s Main Defensive Positions

1-78. The commander launches the actual penetration on a relatively narrow front. (See figure 1-10 on page 1-18.) The commander narrows the AO of the unit or units conducting the decisive operation—the penetration—by adjusting unit lateral boundaries to the exact point or points where the commander wants to penetrate the enemy’s defenses. This allows the force conducting the penetration to focus overwhelming combat power at that location. The commander assigns the assault force a close-in objective. The support force locates where it can support by fire both the breach and the assault forces. The reconnaissance squadron conducts a shaping operation by occupying support by fire position BOB. Local reserves, in this case the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion (CAB) given a follow and assume mission, are held in readiness to conduct a forward passage through or around units whose attacks have slowed or stopped.

1-79. Shaping operations focused on the remainder of the hostile front fix enemy forces in their current positions and prevent them from disengaging to reinforce enemy units opposing the decisive operation. The commander tracks the battle’s progress to ensure that subordinate forces penetrate entirely through the enemy’s main defensive positions and not just the enemy’s security area.

1-80. The enemy normally tries to slow down or stop the breach to gain time to react to the changing situation. Therefore, the attacking commander rapidly exploits and reinforces success. The attacker masses resources and additional units as necessary to ensure completing the penetration through the enemy’s defensive positions. The attacker also employs electronic warfare and military deception operations to desynchronize the enemy’s reaction to the friendly breach.


Figure 1-10. The penetration

Widening the Breach to Secure the Flanks

1-81. Once the attacking force penetrates the main defenses, it begins to widen the penetration of the enemy’s defensive positions by conducting a series of shallow envelopments or attacks by fire to roll back its shoulders. (See figure 1-11.) The task of widening the initial gap of the penetration is normally assigned to a follow-and-support force. In the example in figure 1-11, this is the 2nd CAB. That task can also be assigned to the reserve as a contingency mission. If the commander commits the reserve to accomplish that task, a reserve must be reconstituted from another part of the force. Alternatively, the commander may assume the risk of not having a reserve for the time necessary to accomplish this task. The commander makes plans to meet enemy counterattacks by shifting fires or committing reserves or follow-and-assume forces. Units can use obstacles on the flanks of the penetration as a combat multiplier to assist in defeating any local enemy counterattack and to provide additional security for the force.

Seizing the Objective and Subsequent Exploitation

1-82. The decisive operation after completing the penetration is the seizing of the objective, destroying the continuity of the enemy’s defensive position. This may entail the destruction of a specific enemy force. Frequently that objective is so far from the area of penetration that the unit or units initially conducting the penetration cannot seize it without a pause. In that case, the commander plans to pass the reserve or follow-and-assume forces through the initial attacking force early, leaving exploitation beyond the objective to higher echelons. While the exact force mix depends on the mission variables of METT-TC, armored, mechanized, and aviation forces are generally suited for subsequent exploitation. However, in the scenario depicted in figure 1-12 on page 1-20 the initially attacking 2nd CAB is able to secure the objective.


Figure 1-11. Widening the breach to secure the flanks

1-83. In large commands, forces may initiate an attack by simultaneously launching two or more convergent penetrations against weak localities on the hostile front. Often this method of attack helps isolate an extremely strong, hostile defense. The commander assigns shaping operations to initially contain any strong localities. When the multiple attacks have advanced sufficiently, the force reduces bypassed enemy forces and unites the penetrating attacks into a single decisive operation.


1-84. A frontal attack is a form of maneuver in which an attacking force seeks to destroy a weaker enemy force or fix a larger enemy force in place over a broad front. At the tactical level, an attacking force can use a frontal attack to rapidly overrun a weak enemy force. A commander commonly uses a frontal attack as a shaping operation in conjunction with other forms of maneuver. A commander normally employs a frontal attack to—

  • Clear enemy security forces.
  • Overwhelm a shattered enemy during an exploitation or pursuit.
  • Fix enemy forces in place as part of a shaping operation.
  • Conduct a reconnaissance in force.


Figure 1-12. Seizing the objective

Figure 1-13 depicts a frontal attack.


Figure 1-13. Frontal attack

1-85. It is also necessary to conduct a frontal attack when assailable flanks do not exist. Where a penetration is a sharp attack designed to rupture the enemy position, the commander designs a frontal attack to maintain continuous pressure along the entire front until either a breach occurs or the attacking forces succeed in pushing the enemy back. Frontal attacks conducted without overwhelming combat power are

seldom decisive. Consequently, the commander’s choice to conduct a frontal attack in situations where the commander does not have overwhelming combat power is rarely justified unless the time gained is vital to the operation’s success.

Organization of Forces

1-86. There is no unique organization of forces associated with this form of maneuver. A commander conducting a frontal attack organizes the unit into an element to conduct reconnaissance and security operations, a main body, and a reserve. The mission variables of METT-TC dictate the specific task organization of the unit.

Control Measures

1-87. A commander conducting a frontal attack may not require any additional control measures beyond those established to control the overall mission. This includes an AO, defined by unit boundaries, and an objective, at a minimum. The commander can also use any other control measure necessary to control the attack, including—

  • Attack positions.
  • Line of departure.
  • Phase lines.
  • Assault positions.
  • Limit of advance.
  • Direction of attack or axis of advance for every maneuver unit.

A unit conducting a frontal attack normally has a wider AO than a unit conducting a penetration.

Planning a Frontal Attack

1-88. It is seldom possible for a commander to exert sufficient pressure to overwhelm an enemy using a frontal attack, since it strikes the enemy along a significant portion of the enemy’s front. The attacking force’s primary objective is to maintain pressure and help fix the enemy force. The commander’s planning effort should reflect these two considerations. When considering employing a frontal attack in a shaping operation, the commander should also consider other means for holding the enemy in position, such as feints and demonstrations employing indirect fires to preclude excessive losses.

Executing a Frontal Attack

1-89. The unit conducting a frontal attack advances on a broad front, normally with its subordinate ground maneuver elements abreast (except for the reserve). This clears the enemy’s security area of enemy security forces and intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition assets while advancing the friendly force into the enemy’s main defenses. Once the unit makes enemy contact, the attacking force’s subordinate elements rapidly develop the situation and report enemy dispositions immediately to the commander, so the commander can direct the exploitation of enemy weaknesses. The attacking force fixes enemy forces in their current locations and seeks to gain positional advantage to destroy them using fire and movement.

1-90. If the attacking unit discovers a gap in the enemy’s defenses, the commander seeks to exploit that weakness and disrupt the integrity of the enemy’s defense. After assessing the situation to make sure that it is not a trap, the commander can employ the reserve to exploit the opportunity. The commander synchronizes the exploitation with the actions of other maneuver and functional and multifunctional support and sustainment units to prevent counterattacking enemy forces from isolating and destroying successful subordinate elements of the attacking friendly force.

1-91. When a unit conducting a frontal attack can no longer advance, it adopts a defensive posture. The commander may require it to assist the forward passage of lines of other units. It continues to perform reconnaissance of enemy positions to locate gaps or assailable flanks.


1-92. A flank attack is a form of offensive maneuver directed at the flank of an enemy. (See figure 1-14.) A flank is the right or left side of a military formation and is not oriented toward the enemy. It is usually not as strong in terms of forces or fires as is the front of a military formation. A flank may be created by the attacker through the use of fires or by a successful penetration. A flanking attack is similar to an envelopment but generally conducted on a shallower axis. It is designed to defeat the enemy force while minimizing the effect of the enemy’s frontally-oriented combat power. Flanking attacks are normally conducted with the main effort directed at the flank of the enemy. Usually, a


Figure 1-14. Flank attack

supporting effort engages the enemy’s front by fire and maneuver while the main effort maneuvers to attack the enemy’s flank. This supporting effort diverts the enemy’s attention from the threatened flank. It is often used for a hasty attack or meeting engagement where speed and simplicity are paramount to maintaining battle tempo and, ultimately, the initiative.

1-93. The primary difference between a flank attack and an envelopment is one of depth. A flank attack is an envelopment delivered squarely on the enemy’s flank. Conversely, an envelopment is an attack delivered beyond the enemy’s flank and into the enemy’s support areas, but short of the depth associated with a turning movement.

1-94. Just as there is a relationship between unit size and the ability of a friendly force to execute a turning movement instead of an envelopment, this relationship extends downward between an envelopment and a flank attack. Corps and divisions are the most likely echelons to conduct turning movements. Divisions and brigade combat teams (BCTs) are the echelons most likely to conduct envelopments—single or double. Smaller-sized tactical units, such as maneuver battalions, companies, and platoons, are more likely to conduct flank attacks than larger tactical units. This is largely a result of troop-to-space ratios and sustainment and mission command constraints.

1-95. For these reasons, the organization of forces, control measures, and conduct—planning, preparation, execution, and assessment—considerations associated with a flank attack are similar to those addressed in the envelopment discussion in paragraphs 1-11 to 1-23. The primary difference between these forms of maneuver is which portion of the enemy position is attacked.


1-96. Understanding, visualizing, describing, and directing are aspects of leadership common to all commanders. The tactical commander begins with a designated AO, identified mission, and available forces. The commander develops and issues planning guidance based on the commander’s visualization in terms of the physical means to accomplish the mission.

1-97. The offense is basic to combat operations. Only a resolute offense, conducted at a high tempo and to great depth, attains the enemy’s total destruction. The offense has a number of indisputable advantages. The attacker’s principal advantage is possession of the initiative. Having the initiative allows a commander to select the time, place, and specific tactics, techniques, and procedures used by the attacking force. The attacker has the time and opportunity to develop a plan and to concentrate the effects of subordinate forces and thoroughly prepare conditions for success when the commander has the initiative. The commander strikes the enemy in unexpected ways at unexpected times and places. The commander focuses on attacking the right combination of targets, not necessarily the biggest or the closest. These attacks are rapidly executed, violently executed, unpredictable in nature, and they disorient the enemy. They enhance the commander’s capability to impose the commander’s will on the enemy and thus to achieve decisive victory.

1-98. The commander maintains momentum by rapidly following up attacks to prevent enemy recovery. The attacking commander denies the enemy commander any opportunity to adjust to friendly actions in spite of the enemy’s desperate attempts to do so. The commander changes the attacking force’s means and methods before the enemy can adapt to those in current use. The tempo of friendly operations must be fast enough to prevent effective counteraction. The commander synchronizes unrelenting pressure by adjusting combinations to meet the offensive’s ever-changing demands. The attacking force maintains relentless pressure and exploits gains to make temporary battlefield success permanent.

1-99. Each battle or engagement, even those occurring simultaneously as a part of the same campaign, has its own unique peculiarities, determined by the actual conditions of the situation. The widespread application of highly accurate and lethal weapons, high degree of tactical mobility, dynamic nature, rapid situational changes, and the noncontiguous and large spatial scope of unit AOs all characterize contemporary combined arms warfare. The commander first able to see the battlefield, understand the implications of existing friendly and enemy dispositions, and take effective action to impose the commander’s will on the situation will enjoy tactical success. The planning considerations for the offense in paragraphs 1-101 through 1-204 below also apply to the defense with situationally appropriate modifications.

1-100. The following discussion uses those physical means—Soldiers, organizations, and equipment—that constitute the six warfighting functions defined in ADRP 3-0 as the framework for discussing planning considerations that apply to all primary and subordinate offensive tasks.


1-101. Commanders, assisted by their staffs, integrate numerous processes and activities within the headquarters and across the force as they exercise mission command. The commander’s mission and intent determine the scheme of maneuver and the allocation of available resources. Paragraphs 1-102 through 1-115 highlight the importance of the operations process and team development during the conduct of offensive tasks. The other mission command warfighting function tasks occur, but they do not require emphasis here. (See mission command doctrine for a discussion of the other mission command warfighting function tasks.)

Operations Process

1-102. Commanders drive the operations process through their activities of understanding, visualizing, describing, directing, leading, and assessing the conduct of the primary offensive task. If few resources are available, the commander reduces the scope of the initial mission. For example, a commander could tell subordinates to clear their AOs of all enemy platoon-sized and larger forces instead of clearing their areas of operations of all enemy forces, if those subordinates lack the time or forces needed to accomplish the latter task.

1-103. All offensive planning addresses the mission variables of METT-TC, with special emphasis on—

  • Missions and objectives, to include task and purpose, for each subordinate element.
  • Commander’s intent.
  • Enemy positions, obstacles, strengths, and capabilities.
  • AOs for the use of each subordinate element with associated control measures.
  • Time the operation is to begin.
  • Scheme of maneuver.
  • Targeting guidance and high-payoff targets.
  • Special tasks required to accomplish the mission.
  • Risk.
  • Options for accomplishing the mission.

Planning also addresses the prevention of unnecessary damage to property and disruption of the civilian population within the area of operations.

1-104. The commander and staff translate the unit’s mission into specific objectives for all subordinates, to include the reserve. These objectives can involve any type or form of operations. If the type of operation assigned has associated forms, the commander may specify which form to use, but should minimize restrictions on subordinate freedom of action. ADRP 5-0 addresses the military decisionmaking process.

1-105. Synchronizing the six warfighting functions through prior planning and preparation increases a unit’s effectiveness when executing operations. However, the fluid nature of combat requires the commander to guide the actions of subordinates during the execution phase. Commanders determine where they can best sense the flow of the operation to influence critical events through the redirecting the effects of committed forces, changing priorities or support, or employing echelon reserves. This normally means that the commander is well forward in the echelon’s combat formation, usually with the force designated to conduct the decisive operation. Once the unit conducting the decisive operations makes contact with the enemy, the commander quickly moves to the area of contact, assesses the situation, and directs appropriate aggressive actions to direct the continuation of offensive tasks.

1-106. The commander anticipates any requirements to shift the main effort during the offensive to press the battle and keep the enemy off balance. The commander develops decision points to support these changes using both human and technical means to validate decision points.

1-107. In addition to assigning objectives and identifying decision points, commanders at all echelons consider how to exploit advantages that arise during operations and the seizure of intermediate and final objectives. The commander exploits success by aggressively executing the plan, taking advantage of junior leader initiative, and employing trained units capable of rapidly executing standard drills. The echelon reserve also provides a flexible capability to exploit unforeseen advantages.

1-108. The commander always seeks to surprise opponents throughout the operation. Military deception and the choice of an unexpected direction or time for conducting offensive tasks can result in the enemy being surprised. Surprise delays enemy reactions, overloads and confuses enemy command and control (C2), induces psychological shock, and reduces the coherence of the enemy’s defenses. Tactical surprise is more difficult to achieve once hostilities begin, but it is still possible. The commander achieves tactical surprise by attacking in bad weather and over seemingly impassible terrain, conducting feints and demonstrations, making rapid changes in tempo, and employing sound operations security (OPSEC) measures.

1-109. The commander retains the capability to rapidly concentrate force effects, such as fires, throughout the extent of the AO during the conduct of offensive tasks. This capability is also critical to the commander when subordinate forces cross linear obstacles. Lanes and gaps resulting from combined arms breaching operations or occurring naturally typically are choke points. There is a tendency for each subordinate element to move out independently as it completes its passage through the choke point. This independent movement detracts from the ability of the whole force to rapidly concentrate combat power on the far side of an obstacle.

1-110. The commander briefs the plan and the plans of adjacent units and higher echelons to unit leaders and the unit’s Soldiers. This helps units and individual Soldiers moving into unexpected locations to direct their efforts toward accomplishing the mission. This exchange of information occurs in all operations.

1-111. The commander maintains communications and a free flow of information between all units throughout the offense. The commander plans how to position and reposition information systems to maintain a common operational picture throughout the operation. That common operational picture requires timely and frequent updates of relevant information from the lowest tactical echelons upwards, particularly information on the disposition and activities of friendly and enemy forces, if it is going to aid the commander in maintaining situational awareness. The commander plans how to expand the communications coverage to accommodate increased distances as the unit advances. Accordingly, the commander provides for redundant communication means—including wire, radio, visible and ultraviolet light, heat, smoke, audible sound, messengers, and event-oriented communications, such as the casualty-producing device that initiates an ambush.

1-112. A unit with advanced information systems and automated decision aids enjoys reduced engagement times and an enhanced planning process. This improves the unit commander’s ability to control the tempo of the battle and stay within the enemy’s decisionmaking cycle. Greatly improved knowledge of the enemy

and friendly situations facilitates the tactical employment of precision fires and decisive maneuver at extended ranges. These digital systems also enhance the commander’s freedom to move to those battlefield locations that best enable the commander’s ability to influence the battle or engagement at the critical time and place.

Team Development Between Commanders

1-113. Generally, commanders rely on others to follow and execute their intent. Turning their visualization of the offense into reality takes the combined efforts of many teams inside and outside the organization. Commanders build solid, effective teams by developing and training them. As part of the commander’s task of team development, the commander has the authority to organize assigned or attached forces to best accomplish the mission based on the commander’s concept of operations. The commander task organizes subordinate units as necessary, assigns responsibilities, establishes or delegates appropriate command and support relationships, and establishes coordinating instructions. Sound organization provides for unity of effort, centralized planning, and decentralized execution. Unity of effort is necessary for effectiveness and efficiency. Centralized planning is essential for controlling and coordinating the efforts of the forces. When organizing Army forces with multinational forces, simplicity and clarity are critical.

1-114. Subordinates work hard and fight tenaciously when they are well trained and sense that they are part of a first-rate team. Collective confidence comes from succeeding under challenging and stressful conditions, beginning in training before deployment. A sense of belonging derives from experiencing technical and tactical proficiency—first as individuals and later collectively. That proficiency expresses itself in the confidence team members have in their peers and their leaders. Many times that sense of belonging is enhanced by the conduct of social activities. Those social activities have to be tailored to the audience. What will motivate and inspire young Soldiers and junior noncommissioned officers may not have the same impact on field grade officers and senior noncommissioned officers. Ultimately, cohesive teams are the desired result. Effective organizations work as teams in synchronized ways to complete tasks and missions.

1-115. Successful delegation of authority involves convincing subordinates that they are empowered and have the freedom to act independently. This only comes from the subordinates’ experience with the commander. Empowered subordinates understand that they bear more than the responsibility to get the job done. They have the authority to operate as they see fit, within the limits of commander’s intent, missions, task organization, and available resources. This helps them lead their people with determination.


1-116. The commander maneuvers to avoid enemy strengths and to create opportunities to increase the effects of friendly fires. The commander secures surprise by making unexpected maneuvers, rapidly changing the tempo of ongoing operations, avoiding observation, and using deceptive techniques and procedures. The commander seeks to overwhelm the enemy with one or more unexpected blows before the enemy has time to react in an organized fashion. This occurs when the attacking force is able to engage the defending enemy force from positions that place the attacking force in a position of advantage with respect to the defending enemy force, such as engaging the enemy from a flanking position. Echelon security forces prevent the enemy from discovering friendly dispositions, capabilities, and intentions, or interfering with the preparations for the attack. Finally, the commander maneuvers to close with and destroy the enemy by close combat and shock effect. Close combat is warfare carried out on land in a direct-fire fight, supported by direct and indirect fires and other assets (ADRP 3-0). Close combat defeats or destroys enemy forces, or seizes and retains ground. Close combat encompasses all actions that place friendly forces in immediate contact with the enemy where the commander uses direct fire and movement in combination to defeat or destroy enemy forces or seize and retain ground.

1-117. A commander can overwhelm an enemy by the early seizing and retaining of key and decisive terrain that provides dominating observation, cover and concealment, and better fields of fire to facilitate the maneuver of friendly forces. Key terrain is any locality, or area, the seizure or retention of which affords a marked advantage to either combatant (JP 2-01.3). Decisive terrain, when present, is key terrain whose seizure and retention is mandatory for successful mission acomplishment. If decisive terrain is present, the commander designates it to communicate its importance in the commander’s concept of

operations, first to the echelon staff and later to subordinate commanders. The friendly force must control decisive terrain to successfully accomplish its mission.

Combat Formations

1-118. A combat formation is an ordered arrangement of forces for a specific purpose and describes the general configuration of a unit on the ground (ADRP 3-90). A commander can use seven different combat formations depending on the mission variables of METT-TC: column, line, echelon (left or right), box, diamond, wedge, and vee. Terrain characteristics and visibility determine the actual arrangement and location of the unit’s personnel and vehicles within a given formation.

1-119. Combat formations allow a unit to move on the battlefield in a posture suited to the senior commander’s intent and mission. A unit may employ a series of combat formations during the course of an attack; each has its advantages and disadvantages. Subordinate units within a combat formation can also employ their own combat formations, consistent with their particular situation. The commander considers the advantages and disadvantages of each formation in the areas of mission command, maintenance, firepower orientation, ability to mass fires, and flexibility when determining the appropriate formation for a given situation. All combat formations use one or more of the three movement techniques: traveling, traveling overwatch, and bounding overwatch. (FM 3-90-2 describes these three movement techniques.)

1-120. The commander’s use of standard formations allows the unit to rapidly shift from one formation to another, giving additional flexibility when adjusting to changes in the mission variables of METT-TC. (This results from a commander rehearsing subordinates so that they can change formations using standard responses to changing situations, such as actions on contact.) By designating the combat formation planned for use, the commander—

  • Establishes the geographic relationship between units.
  • Indicates probable reactions once the enemy makes contact with the formation.
  • Indicates the level of security desired.
  • Establishes the preponderant orientation of subordinate weapon systems.
  • Postures friendly forces for the attack.



The number of maneuver units available makes some formations, such as the box and the diamond, impractical for modular armored and infantry brigade combat teams, unless they are task organized with additional maneuver forces.


1-121. The column formation is a combat formation in which elements are placed one behind another. The unit moves in column formation when the commander does not anticipate early contact, the objective is distant, and speed and control are critical. (Figure 1-15 illustrates a armored brigade combat team [ABCT] in battalion column.) The location of fire support units within the column reflects the column’s length and the range fans of those fire support systems. Normally, the lead element uses a traveling overwatch technique while the following units are in traveling formation. Employing a column formation—

  • Provides the best formation to move
  • Makes enemy contact with a small part of the total force while facilitating control and allowing the commander to quickly mass forces.
  • Provides a base for easy transition to other formations.
  • Works in restricted terrain.


Figure 1-15. Armored brigade combat team in battalion column large forces quickly, especially with limited routes and limited visibility.

1-122. A disadvantage of using the column formation is that the majority of the column’s firepower can only be immediately applied on the column’s flanks. The length of the column impacts movement and terrain management. Additionally, there are the possibilities of inadvertently bypassing enemy units or positions and exposing the unit’s flanks or running head on into an enemy deployed perpendicular to the column’s direction of movement.


1-123. In a line formation, the unit’s subordinate ground maneuver elements move abreast of each other. (See figure 1-16.) A commander employs this formation when assaulting an objective because it concentrates firepower to the front in the direction of movement. A line formation also—

  • Facilitates speed and shock in closing with an enemy.
  • Allows the coverage of wide frontages.
  • Facilitates the occupation of attack by fire or support by fire positions.

1-124. There are also disadvantages of a line formation:

  • Provides less flexibility of maneuver than other formations since it does not distribute units in depth.
  • Linear deployment allows a unit deployed on line to bring only limited firepower to bear on either flank.
  • Provides limited or no reserve.
  • Limits overwatch forcesLimits control of a unit using a line formation in restricted terrain or under conditions of limited visibility.


1-125. An echelon formation is a unit formation with subordinate elements arranged on an angle to the left or to the right of the direction of attack (echelon left, echelon right). This formation provides for firepower forward and to the flank of the direction of the echelon. It facilitates control in open areas. It provides minimal security to the opposite flank of the direction of the echeloning. A commander who has knowledge of potential enemy locations can use an echelon formation to deploy subordinate ground maneuver units diagonally left or right. (See figure 1-17 and figure 1-18 on page 1-28.) Units operating on the flank of a larger formation commonly use this formation. An echelon formation—

  • Facilitates control in open terrain.
  • Allows the concentration of the unit’s firepower forward and to the flank in the direction of echelon.
  • Allows forces not in contact to maneuver against known enemy forces, because all elements will not simultaneously make contact.


Figure 1-17. Armored brigade combat team in echelon left formation


Figure 1-18. Armored brigade combat team in echelon right formation

1-126. There are two primary disadvantages of the echelon formation. First, it is more difficult to maintain control over the unit in restricted terrain than a column formation. Second, it lacks security or firepower on the opposite side of the echelon.


1-127. The box formation is a unit formation with subordinate elements arranged in a box or square, or two elements up and two elements back. It is a flexible formation that provides equal firepower in all directions. It is generally used when the enemy location is known. This formation can cause 50 percent of the force to be decisively engaged at the same time, therefore limiting the combat power available to maneuver against an enemy. The box formation arranges the unit with two forward and two trail maneuver elements. (See figure 1-19.) A unit with only three maneuver elements, such as an ABCT or an infantry brigade combat team (IBCT) cannot adopt the box formation unless it is reinforced. The subordinate elements of the box usually move in a column formation with flank security. It is often used when executing an approach march, exploitation, or pursuit when the commander has only general knowledge about the enemy. Employing a box formation—

  • Allows the unit to change quickly and easily to any other formation.
  • Facilitates rapid movement, yet still provides all-around security.
  • Provides firepower to the front and flanks.
  • Maintains control more easily than a line formation.


Figure 1-19. Box formation


1-128. The primary disadvantages of a box formation are that it requires sufficient maneuver space for dispersion and the availability of multiple routes. At the battalion and company level there also exists the possibility of enemy units massing on one element at a time as the other elements’ direct fires are masked by other friendly forces.

Diamond Formation

1-129. A diamond formation is a variation of the box combat formation with one maneuver unit leading, maneuver units positioned on each flank, and the remaining maneuver unit to the rear. (See figure 1-20.) The subordinate elements

Figure 1-20. Diamond formation

of the diamond usually move in a column formation with flank security. It is most effective during approach marches, exploitations, or pursuits when the commander has only general knowledge about the enemy. Employing a diamond formation—

  • Allows the commander to maneuver either left or right immediately, without first repositioning, regardless of which subordinate element makes contact with the enemy. (This is the chief advantage of and the difference between a diamond and a box formation.)
  • Facilitates making enemy contact with the smallest possible force, yet provides all-around security.
  • Provides firepower to the front and flanks.
  • Changes easily and quickly to another formation.
  • Facilitates speed of movement while remaining easy to control.
  • Provides an uncommitted force for use as a reserve.

1-130. The primary disadvantages of this formation are that it—

  • Requires sufficient space for dispersion laterally and in depth.
  • Requires four subordinate maneuver elements.
  • Requires the availability of multiple routes.


1-131. The wedge formation arranges forces to attack an enemy appearing to the front and flanks. (See figure 1-21.) A unit with only three subordinate maneuver elements can adopt the wedge formation. The commander uses the wedge when contact with the enemy is possible or expected, but the enemy’s location and dispositions are vague. It is the preferred formation for a movement to contact in an organization with three subordinate maneuver units because it initiates contact with one unit while retaining two other subordinate uncommitted units positioned to maneuver and further develop the situation. Within the wedge, subordinate units employ the formation best suited to the terrain, visibility, and likelihood of contact. Employing a wedge formation—

  • Provides maximum fire-power forward and allows a large portion of the unit’s firepower to be used on the flanks.
  • Allows rapid crossing of open terrain when enemy contact is not expected.
  • Facilitates control.
  • Allows for rapid changes in the orientation of the force.
  • Facilitates the rapid change to a line, vee, echelon, or column formation.



Figure 1-21. Wedge formation

1-132. The primary disadvantages to the wedge formation are that it—

  • Requires sufficient space for dispersion laterally and in depth.
  • Requires the availability of multiple routes.
  • Lacks ease of control in restricted terrain or poor visibility.


1-133. The vee formation disposes the unit with two maneuver elements abreast and one or more units trailing. (See figure 1-22 on page 1-30.) This arrangement is well suited for an advance against a known threat to the front. The commander may use this formation when expecting enemy contact and the enemy’s location and disposition is known. Employing a vee formation—

  • Provides maximum firepower forward and good firepower to the flanks, but the firepower on the flanks is less than that provided by the wedge.
  • Facilitates a continued maneuver after contact is made and a rapid transition to the assault.
  • Allows the unit to change quickly to a line, wedge, or column formation.

1-134. The primary disadvantages to this formation are that it—

  • Makes reorientation of the direction of movement, such as a 90-degree turn, more difficult than using a wedge.
  • Makes control in restricted terrain and under limited-visibility conditions difficult.
  • Requires sufficient space for dispersion laterally and in depth.


Figure 1-22. Armored brigade combat team in vee formation

Limited-Visibility Conditions

1-135. The capability to fight at night and under limited-visibility conditions is an important aspect of conducting maneuver. The conduct of operations during conditions of limited visibility operations should be actively considered given the U.S. military’s current advantage in night vision devices. The commander conducts field training exercises under limited-visibility conditions to ensure that the unit has this capability. A commander conducts offensive actions at night or under limited-visibility conditions when a daylight operation continues into the night. Offensive actions conducted in these conditions can achieve surprise, gain terrain required for further operations, and negate enemy visual target acquisition capabilities while taking advantage of the friendly force’s night-fighting capabilities.

1-136. All operations conducted in limited visibility or adverse weather require more planning and preparation time than normal. They require designating reference points and establishing navigation aids, such as GPS waypoints. The commander ensures that the night-vision and navigation systems required to maneuver under these conditions are available and functional. The commander rehearses these operations before execution to ensure complete integration and synchronization of the plan. Rehearsals also ensure that the Soldiers in subordinate units have the necessary skills to accomplish the mission. Any problem areas require resolution before beginning the operation.

1-137. Night operations degrade the capabilities of Soldiers and units. Cognitive abilities degrade more rapidly than physical strength and endurance. Night-vision devices degrade the user’s depth perception. This degradation in performance occurs after as little as 18 hours of sustained work. (Additional information concerning the impact of extended operations on Soldiers and units can be found in FM 6-22.5.) The plan should allow time for both Soldiers and units to recuperate after conducting a night attack before being committed to other operations. The weight that Soldiers must carry also directly affects their endurance. The commander carefully determines the fighting load of the Soldiers in subordinate units, taking into account the mission variables of METT-TC. The fighting load of Soldiers conducting night operations should be limited. The equipment carried by Soldiers for extended periods should never exceed one-third of their body weight.

Soldiers’ Load

1-138. The load that Soldiers carry is an important planning consideration. How much Soldiers carry, how far, and in what configuration are critical mission considerations requiring command emphasis and inspection. Historical experience and research shows that Soldiers can carry 30 percent of their body weight and retain much of their agility, stamina, alertness, and mobility. For the average Soldier, who

weighs 160 pounds, this means carrying 48 pounds. Success and survival in the offense demand that Soldiers retain these capabilities. If an attacking unit’s Soldiers cannot move with stealth, agility, and alertness, the success of the mission is at risk. For each pound over 30 percent of body weight, the Soldier loses function. When the load exceeds 45 percent of body weight, or 72 pounds for the average Soldier, that individual’s functional ability drops rapidly, and chances of becoming a casualty increase. Commanders must ensure that Soldiers carry no more than 30 percent of their body weight when in contact, or when contact is expected. At other times, the Soldier’s load should not exceed 72 pounds. Sometimes, conditions dictate that the Soldier’s load must exceed this recommended weight. However, the commander and subordinate leaders must realize how that excess weight impacts unit effectiveness.

Assured Mobility

1-139. Assured mobility is a framework of processes, actions, and capabilities that assure the ability of a force to deploy, move, and maneuver where and when desired, without interruption or delay, to achieve the mission. The assured mobility fundamentals predict, detect, prevent, avoid, neutralize, and protect support the assured mobility framework. This framework is one means of enabling a force to achieve the commander’s intent. Assured mobility emphasizes the conduct of proactive mobility, countermobility, and protection tasks in an integrated manner so as to increase the probability of mission accomplishment. While focused primarily on the movement and maneuver warfighting function, the assured mobility concept links to each warfighting function and both enables and is enabled by those functions. (See ATTP 3-90.4.)


1-140. Commanders and staffs must accurately predict potential obstacles to force mobility by analyzing the enemy’s capabilities and tactics, techniques, and procedures. This involves understanding how the enemy will evolve in reaction to friendly force countermeasures. It also involves understanding how the effects of terrain and the effects of the population, such as vehicular traffic and dislocated civilians, will impact force mobility. This helps build the mobility portion of the common operational picture and facilitates decisionmaking.


1-141. Commanders and staffs use intelligence products and information collection assets to identify the location of natural and man-made obstacles and potential means the enemy can use to create obstacles. Commanders employ available information collection assets to detect enemy obstacle preparations and also identify areas where there are no or only limited obstacles to ground movement and maneuver. This knowledge can be obtained through sustained surveillance of an area. Commanders identify both actual and potential obstacles and propose solutions and alternate COAs to minimize or eliminate their potential impact.


1-142. Commanders and staffs apply this fundamental by preventing civilian interference with operations and denying the enemy’s ability to influence friendly mobility. This is accomplished by forces acting proactively to elicit local populace support, or at least non-interference, and to eliminate enemy countermobility capabilities before those capabilities can emplace or activate obstacles, and by mitigating the factors that result in natural obstacles to friendly force movement and maneuver. This may include the employment of information-related capabilities to decrease uncertainty among the population to build support for or acceptance of operations.

1-143. Prevention may also consist of aggressive action to destroy enemy assets and capabilities before they can be used to create obstacles. For example, this involved assigning high target priorities to Soviet UMZ (universal mine-layer) truck-mounted scatterable mine systems when planning for major combat operations during the Cold War. In recent operations this includes disrupting terrorist bomb-making cells by all available means, such as cutting off their funding, eliminating safe house where the bombs can be constructed, jamming frequencies to prevent remote detonators from being triggered, and either capturing or killing members of these cells. Forces also apply this fundamental by conducting countermobility operations to shape enemy movement and maneuver that may affect friendly movement and maneuver.

This includes denying the enemy the ability and opportunity to attack critical infrastructure that supports mobility, such as airfields, roads, and bridges; or that could result in an obstacle; or have an obstacle effect if destroyed, such as dams and industrial chemical production and storage facilities.


1-144. If prevention fails, the commander will move or maneuver forces to avoid impediments to mobility, if this is viable within the scheme of maneuver. If friendly information collection efforts and intelligence analysis can tell the commander where the enemy has not been, this frees up the unit to maneuver rapidly through those areas, even if they are not the most favorable movement routes.


1-145. Commanders and staffs plan to neutralize, reduce, or overcome obstacles and impediments as soon as possible to allow unrestricted movement of forces. The specific tactics, techniques, and procedures employed will depend of the mission variables of METT-TC, rules of engagement, and where along the joint range of military operations the unit finds itself. For example, a small unit involved in major operations encountering surface-laid mines on a road in an urban area might attempt to destroy the mines in place using organic methods, such as aimed rifle or machinegun fire, after only minimal checks to reduce the danger to local civilians and accepting collateral damage to civilian buildings before proceeding on with its mission. That same unit encountering the same situation during the conduct of a peace keeping operation would more likely secure the site, evacuate civilians from the area, and call for an explosive ordnance disposal tem to disarm the mines in place to preclude any collateral damage.


1-146. Commanders and staffs plan and implement survivability and other protection measures that will prevent observation of the maneuvering force and thereby reduce the enemy’s ability to engage or otherwise interfere with that force. This includes the use of combat formations and movement techniques. It may involve the use of electronic warfare systems—such as counter-radio controlled improvised explosive device electronic warfare (CREW) systems, mine plows and rollers, and modifications to the rules of engagements. This may also include the conduct of countermobility missions to deny the enemy the capability to maneuver in certain directions and thereby provide additional protection to friendly maneuvering forces. It can also be as simple as altering patrol routes.

1-147. While engineers are the principal staff integrators for assured mobility, other staff sections play critical roles in ensuring the effective application and integration of mobility, countermobility, and protection tasks. In the case of amphibious operations, this would include naval forces that are responsible for assured mobility from amphibious shipping to beach and landing zone exits. These critical roles include providing information on threats to the routes. The senior engineer staff officer’s role within assured mobility is similar to the role of the assistant chief of staff, intelligence (G-2) or the intelligence staff officer’s (S-2) integrating role in the intelligence preparation of the battlefield process. Ultimately, assured mobility is the commander’s responsibility. (See engineer doctrine on assured mobility for more information.)


1-148. Mobility is a quality or capability of military forces which permits them to move from place to place while retaining the ability to fulfill their primary mission (JP 3-17). Mobility operations are those combined arms activities that mitigate the effects of natural and man-made obstacles to enable freedom of movement and maneuver (ATTP 3-90.4). They include obstacle reduction by maneuver and engineer units to reduce or negate the effects of existing or reinforcing obstacles. The objective is to maintain freedom of movement for maneuver units, weapon systems, and critical supplies. Mobility operations include these six primary tasks:

  • Breaching operations.
  • Clearing operations (areas and routes).
  • Gap-crossing operations.
  • Combat roads and trails.
  • Forward airfields and landing zones.
  • Traffic operations.

1-149. Mobility is necessary for the conduct of successful offensive tasks. Its major focus is to enable friendly forces to move and maneuver freely on the battlefield. The commander seeks the capability to move, exploit, and pursue the enemy across a wide front. When attacking, the commander concentrates the effects of combat power at selected locations. This may require the unit to improve or construct combat trails through areas where routes do not exist. The surprise achieved by attacking through an area believed to be impassable may justify the effort and time expended in constructing these trails. The force bypasses existing obstacles and minefields identified before starting the offensive task instead of breaching them whenever possible. Units mark bypassed minefields whenever the mission variables of METT-TC allow.

1-150. Maintaining the momentum of the offense requires the attacking force to quickly pass through obstacles as it encounters them. There is a deliberate effort to capture bridges, beach and port exits, and other enemy reserved obstacles intact. The use of amphibious, air assault, and airborne forces is an effective technique to accomplish this goal. The preferred method of fighting through a defended obstacle is employing a hasty (in-stride) breach, because it avoids the loss of time and momentum associated with conducting a deliberate breach. The commander plans how and where subordinate forces conduct breaching operations. Commanders plan breaching operations using a reverse planning sequence from the objective back to the assembly area.

1-151. Rivers and other gaps remain major obstacles despite advances in high-mobility weapon systems and extensive aviation support. Wet gap crossings are among the most critical, complex, and vulnerable combined arms operations. A crossing is conducted as a hasty crossing and as a continuation of the attack whenever possible because the time needed to prepare for a gap crossing allows the enemy more time to strengthen the defense. The size of the gap, as well as the enemy and friendly situations, will dictate the specific tactics, techniques, and procedures used in conducting the crossing. Functional engineer brigades contain the majority of tactical bridging assets. Military police and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) assets may also be required.

1-152. Clearing operations are conducted to eliminate the enemy‘s obstacle effort or residual obstacles within an assigned area or along a specified route. A clearing operation is a mobility operation, and, as with most mobility operations, it is typically performed by a combined arms force built around an engineer-based clearing force. A clearing operation could be conducted as a single mission to open or reopen a route or area, or it may be conducted on a recurring basis in support of efforts to defeat a sustained threat to a critical route. (See Maneuver Support Center of Excellence doctrine, tactics, and procedures for more information on clearing operations. This includes discussions of route clearance and its role within the improvised explosive device [IED] defeat framework.)


1-153. Countermobility operations are those combined arms activities that use or enhance the effects of natural and man-made obstacles to deny an adversary freedom of movement and maneuver (FM 3-34). Countermobility operations help isolate the battlefield and protect the attacking force from enemy counterattack, even though force mobility in offensive actions normally has first priority. Obstacles provide security for friendly forces as the fight progresses into the depth of the enemy’s defenses. They provide flank protection and deny the enemy counterattack routes. They assist friendly forces in defeating the enemy in detail and can be vital in reducing the amount of forces required to secure a given area. Further, they can permit the concentration of forces by allowing a relatively small force to defend a large AO. The commander ensures the use of obstacles is integrated with fires and fully synchronized with the concept of operations to avoid hindering the attacking force’s mobility.

1-154. During visualization, the commander identifies avenues of approach that offer natural flank protection to an attacking force, such as rivers or ridgelines. Staff running estimates support this process. Flanks are protected by destroying bridges, emplacing minefields, and by using scatterable mines to interdict roads and trails. Swamps, canals, lakes, forests, and escarpments are natural terrain features that can be quickly reinforced for flank security.

1-155. Countermobility operations during the offense must stress rapid emplacement and flexibility. Engineer support must keep pace with advancing maneuver forces and be prepared to emplace obstacles alongside them. Obstacles are employed to maximize the effects of restrictive terrain, such as choke points, or deny the usefulness of key terrain, since time and resources will not permit developing the terrain’s full defensive potential. The commander first considers likely enemy reactions and then plans how to block enemy avenues of approach or withdrawal with obstacles. The commander also plans the use of obstacles to contain bypassed enemy elements and prevent the enemy from withdrawing. The plan includes obstacles to use on identification of the enemy’s counterattack. Speed and interdiction capabilities are vital characteristics of the obstacles employed. The commander directs the planning for air- and artillery-delivered munitions on enemy counterattack routes. The fire support system delivers these munitions in front of or on top of enemy lead elements once they commit to one of the routes. Rapid cratering devices and surface minefields provide other excellent capabilities.

1-156. Control of mines and obstacles and accurate reporting to all units are vital. Obstacles will hinder both friendly and enemy maneuver. Control of obstacle initiation is necessary to prevent the premature activation of minefields and obstacles. (See Maneuver Support Center of Excellence doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures for information on obstacle integration and mine warfare.)


1-157. The task generate intelligence knowledge is a continuous, user-defined task driven by the commander. It begins before mission receipt and provides the relevant knowledge required regarding the operational environment for the conduct of operations. The information and intelligence obtained are refined into knowledge for use in intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) and mission analysis. Information is obtained through intelligence reach, research, data mining, database access, academic studies, products, or materials, intelligence archives, open-source intelligence (OSINT), and other information sources.

1-158. A commander uses the products of the IPB process to identify any aspect within the AO or area of interest that will affect how the friendly force accomplishes the mission. An area of interest is that area of concern to the commander, including the area of influence, areas adjacent thereto, and extending into enemy territory. This area also includes areas occupied by enemy forces who could jeopardize the accomplishment of the mission (JP 3-0).

1-159. The entire staff, led by the echelon intelligence staff, uses the IPB process to identify any aspects of the area of operations or area of interest that will affect enemy, friendly, and third party operations. The IPB process is collaborative in nature and requires information from all staff elements and some subordinate units. All staff and subordinate elements use the results and products of the IPB process for planning. FM 2-01.3 describes the IPB process.

1-160. The commander uses available reconnaissance and surveillance assets to study the terrain and confirm or deny the enemy’s strengths, dispositions, and likely intentions, especially where and in what strength the enemy will defend. Indications of the location and composition of obstacles and the positioning of engineer assets may be key in determining where and when the enemy will defend. These assets also gather information concerning the civilian population within the AO to confirm or deny their numbers, locations, and likely intentions, especially with regard to staying in shelters or fleeing from combat operations.

1-161. By studying the terrain, the commander tries to determine the principal heavy and light avenues of approach to the objective. The commander also tries to determine the most advantageous area for the enemy’s main defense, routes that the enemy may use to conduct counterattacks, and other factors, such as observation and fields of fire, avenues of approach, key terrain, obstacles, and cover and concealment (OAKOC). The attacking unit must continuously conduct reconnaissance and surveillance for intelligence collection during the battle because it is unlikely that the commander has complete knowledge of the enemy’s intentions and actions.

1-162. The echelon intelligence and operations officers, in coordination with the rest of the staff, develop a synchronized and integrated reconnaissance and surveillance plan that satisfies the commander’s maneuver,

targeting, and information requirements. A commander’s information requirements are dictated by the mission variables of METT-TC, but commonly include—

  • Locations, composition, equipment, strengths, and weaknesses of the enemy force, to include high-priority targets and enemy reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities.
  • Locations of obstacles, prepared fighting positions, enemy engineer units, earth moving equipment, breaching assets, and barrier material.
  • Probable locations of enemy reconnaissance objectives.
  • Locations of possible enemy assembly areas.
  • Locations of enemy indirect-fire weapon systems and units.
  • Locations of gaps, assailable flanks, and other enemy weaknesses.
  • Locations of areas for friendly and enemy air assault and parachute assault operations.
  • Locations of enemy air defense gun and missile units and air defense radars.
  • Locations of enemy electronic warfare units.
  • Effects of weather and terrain on current and projected operations.
  • Areas, structures, capabilities, organizations, people, and events (ASCOPE) related information about civilians located within the unit’s area of operations.
  • Likely withdrawal routes for enemy forces.
  • Anticipated timetable schedules for the enemy’s most likely COA and other probable COAs.
  • Locations of enemy command and control and intelligence nodes and reconnaissance and surveillance systems and the frequencies used by the information systems linking these systems.
  • Locations of enemy sustainment assets.

If friendly reconnaissance and surveillance assets cannot answer the commander’s information requirements, the echelon intelligence staff can send a request for information to higher and adjacent units, the commander can commit additional resources, or the commander can decide to execute the offense with the current information.

1-163. The IPB process contributes to the protection warfighting function by developing products that help the commander protect subordinate forces, including identification of key terrain features, man-made and natural obstacles, trafficability and cross-country mobility analysis, line of sight overlays, and situation templates. Line of sight overlays help protect the force. If an enemy cannot observe the friendly force, the enemy cannot engage the friendly force with direct-fire weapons. Situation templates also help protect the force. If a commander knows how fast an enemy force can respond to the unit’s offensive actions, unit operations can be sequenced, so they occur at times and places where the enemy cannot respond effectively. This occurs through determining enemy artillery range fans, movement times between enemy reserve assembly area locations and advancing friendly forces, and other related intelligence items.


1-164. The targeting process ensures the coordinated use of indirect fires, air and missile defense, and joint fires to gain and maintain fire superiority throughout all offensive actions. (The joint community regards air and missile defense as a protection function.) The commander uses a variety of methods and assets to achieve the desired effects on targeted enemy forces and thereby to enable friendly maneuver.

Army Indirect Fires and Joint Fires

1-165. Using preparation fires, counterfire, suppression fires, and electronic warfare assets provides the commander with numerous options for gaining and maintaining fire superiority. The commander uses long-range artillery systems (cannon and rocket, naval surface fire support, and air support—rotary and fixed wing) to engage the enemy throughout the depth of the enemy’s defensive positions.

1-166. A U.S. Air Force (USAF) tactical air control party (TACP) is co-located with the fires cell at the BCT and fires brigade main command posts. The USAF air liaison officer (ALO) leading the TACP is the BCT and fires brigade commanders’ principal advisor on air support. The ALO leverages the expertise of the TACP with linkages to higher echelon TACPs to plan, prepare, execute, and assess air support for

brigade operations. The ALO also maintains situational understanding of the total air support picture. The brigade’s aligned TACP is resourced to support brigade operations from that unit’s tactical command post as well as the main command post. The TACP’s joint terminal attack controllers may be assisted by joint fires observers. Joint fires observers may assist joint terminal attack controllers in the conduct of type 2 or 3 close air support (CAS).

1-167. Fire support planning is the continuing process of analyzing, allocating, and scheduling fires. It determines how fires are used, what types of targets to attack, what collection assets are used to acquire and track those targets, what assets are used to attack the target, and what assets verify effects on the target. This planning does not stop at the objective or LOA. The commander gives attention to flanks and potential enemy hide positions. Coordination among echelon fire cells and the proper use of fire support coordination measures are critical to prevent fratricide. A commander plans to employ available fires to delay or neutralize repositioning enemy forces to include enemy reserves. Fires are planned to support the unit’s reconnaissance and breaching or penetration efforts. They are also used to suppress, neutralize, or destroy those enemy forces and systems that can most affect the unit’s closure on the objective. Triggers for the initiation, shifting, and lifting of preparatory fires are established that reflect the mission variables of METT-TC.

1-168. The fire support coordinator (FSCOORD) or chief of fires (depending on the echelon) integrates fires into the unit’s scheme of maneuver for the commander. The FSCOORD or chief of fires supports the unit’s maneuver by planning preparation fires, harassing fires, interdiction fires, suppressive fires, and destruction fires, and deception fires. These fires can be time- or event-driven. The FSCOORD or chief of fires plans fires on known and likely enemy positions, which may include templated enemy positions. Successful massing of indirect fires and fixed-wing attacks requires a fire cell that is proficient in the tracking of friendly indirect fire asset positions and movements and knows the maximum ordinate requirements. It also requires a TACP proficient in the timely execution of close air support. Fire planning reconciles top-down planning and bottom-up refinement.

1-169. As the attacking force moves forward, preparatory fires sequentially neutralize, suppress, or destroy enemy positions. However, the commander must weigh the probable effects of preparation fires against achieving a greater degree of surprise against the enemy, especially under conditions of limited visibility, in determining whether to fire an artillery preparation. The commander may decide to employ terminally guided munitions to destroy select high-payoff targets or use these munitions in mass against part of the enemy defense to facilitate a breach and negate the requirement for long-duration preparation fires using area fire munitions.

1-170. The commander may choose to make the initial assault without using preparation fires to achieve tactical surprise. However, fires are always planned to support each unit’s operations, so that they are available if needed. Preparation fires are normally high-volume fires delivered over a short period of time to maximize surprise and shock effect. These preparatory fires also include the conduct of electronic warfare operations. They can continue while ground maneuver elements are moving. This consideration applies to the conduct of all offensive tasks.

1-171. Artillery and mortars must occupy positions that are well forward and still within supporting range of the flanks of maneuver forces to provide responsive indirect fires. The commander considers the effect that movement by echelon or battery has on the amount of fire support provided. The commander should support the unit’s decisive operation with priority of fires. The main effort before the initiation of the decisive operation will have priority of fires, if the operation contains phases. The commander places coordinated fire lines (CFLs) as close as possible to friendly maneuver forces and plans on-order CFLs on phase lines so that they can be quickly shifted as the force moves. This allows the expeditious engagement of targets beyond the CFL by the maximum number of available systems. Critical friendly zones (CFZs) are established to protect critical actions, such as support-by-fire positions and breaching efforts.

1-172. The effective assignment of Army forward observers, joint forward observers, and target acquisition assets to quick-fire or exclusive nets also provides responsive fires. Quick-fire nets allow the lead observers to associate directly with specific field artillery or mortar fire units. These kinds of communication arrangements enhance responsiveness through streamlined net structures and focused priorities. Communications planning should also include the need for communication nets for the clearing of targets for rotary- and fixed-wing attacks.

1-173. The commander employs information capabilities to support the offense. As the friendly force moves through the enemy’s security area and closes into the enemy’s main defensive positions, electronic warfare jamming resources concentrate on neutralizing enemy fire control, target acquisition, and intelligence-gathering systems. The commander uses military deception to prevent the enemy from determining the location and objective of the friendly decisive operation. In addition, intelligence sensors continue to provide intelligence and guidance to both friendly jammers and lethal indirect fire weapon systems, so attacking units can destroy enemy command and control nodes, reconnaissance and surveillance assets, artillery, and other high-value targets. The commander synchronizes the timing and conduct of these offensive actions so they achieve maximum effectiveness.

Air and Missile Defense

1-174. A ground force’s primary air defense systems are joint fighter aircraft, such as today’s F-22 and F-18s, conducting offensive counter-air operations operated by the joint force air component commander (JFACC). During offensive actions, the commander directs the positioning of available organic or supporting radars in those locations where they can best initially support the unit’s attack. The selection of those positions reflects a risk assessment designed to preclude their early loss to enemy action. The air defense airspace management (ADAM) element in the unit staff ensures that it has communications with the appropriate air and missile defense (AMD) organization’s command post. That AMD command post will provide additional information to the supported unit to expand the fidelity of the air picture, to include information on the engagement of air threats by JFACC and Army Patriot air defense systems and short range air defense. The attacking unit concentrates on conducting passive air defense measures during its offensive actions. If attacked by enemy aerial systems in assembly areas, attack positions, or while moving, the unit disperses and conducts small arms air defense. The commander at each echelon establishes air defense priorities based on the concept of operations, scheme of maneuver, air situation, and the air defense priorities established by higher headquarters. If the commander has Army air defense systems in direct support of the attack, their coverage is generally weighted toward the unit’s decisive operation or main effort and establishes a protective corridor over the terrain traversed by the subordinate unit or units conducting that operation. Command of all air defense assets requires complete and timely communications to ensure proper weapon status for the protection of friendly air support assets.

1-175. Passive air defense measures are an essential part of air and missile defense planning at all levels. All units conduct passive actions in conjunction with their missions. Passive actions reduce the effectiveness of the enemy air threat.

1-176. Targets selected to support echelon tactical air defense efforts include the following—

  • Enemy unmanned aircraft systems.
  • Enemy rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft.
  • Facilities supporting enemy air operations, such as airfields, launch sites, logistics support facilities, technical support facilities, forward arming and refueling points, navigation aids, and aerial command and control sites or communications nodes.

These facilities are normally engaged by maneuver and fire support elements and not air defense artillery units. (See FM 3-01 for additional information on the use of active and passive air defense measures.)


1-177. The objective of sustainment in offensive actions is to assist the tactical commander in maintaining the momentum. The commander wants to take advantage of windows of opportunity and execute offensive tasks with minimum advance warning time. Therefore, sustainment—logistics, personnel, and health service support—planners and operators must anticipate these events and maintain the flexibility to support the offensive plan accordingly. A key to success in the offense is the ability to anticipate the requirement to push support forward, specifically in regard to ammunition, fuel, replacements, and water. Sustainment commanders must act, rather than react, to support requirements. The existence of habitual support relationships facilitates this ability to anticipate.


1-178. Logistics maintains momentum of the attack by delivering supplies as far forward as possible. The commander can use throughput distribution and preplanned and preconfigured packages of essential items to help maintain offensive momentum and tempo. The commander examines the unit’s basic load to determine its adequacy to support the operation. The commander determines the combat load, the supplies carried by individual Soldiers and combat vehicles. The unit’s logistics load consists of what remains of the unit’s basic load once the combat load is subtracted. Unit tactical vehicles carry the logistics load. The commander also determines the supplies required for likely contingencies. The commander determines the amount of cross-loading of supplies required by the situation to prevent all of one type of supply from being destroyed by the loss of a single system.

1-179. Logistics units and material remain close to the maneuver force to ensure short turnaround time for supplies and services. This includes uploading as much critical materiel—such as POL and ammunition— as possible and coordinating to preclude attempted occupation of a piece of terrain by more than one unit. The commander makes decisions regarding the risk that logistics preparations for the attack will be detected by enemy forces and give indications of the unit’s tactical plans.

1-180. The availability of adequate supplies and transportation to sustain the operation becomes more critical as it progresses. Supply LOCs are strained, and requirements for repair and replacement of weapon systems increase. Requirements for POL increase because of the distance the combat vehicles of the maneuver force are likely to travel. Sustainment units in direct support of maneuver units must be as mobile as the forces they support. One way to provide continuous support is to task organize elements of sustainment units or complete sustainment units with their supported maneuver formations as required by the mission variables of METT-TC. ABCTs and IBCTs contain organic brigade support battalions and forward support companies for this reason.

1-181. The variety and complexity of offensive actions requires the commander to establish a flexible and tailorable transportation system. There may be a wide dispersion of forces and lengthening of LOCs. Required capabilities include movement control, in-transit visibility of supplies being carried, terminal operations, and mode operations.

1-182. Field maintenance assets move as far forward as consistent with the tactical situation to repair inoperable and damaged equipment and to return it to battle as quickly as possible. Crews continue to perform their preventive maintenance checks and services as modified for the climate and terrain in which they find themselves. Battle damage assessment and repair may be critical to sustaining offensive actions. Crews as well as maintenance and recovery teams conduct battle damage assessment and repair to rapidly return disabled equipment for battlefield service by expediently fixing, bypassing, or using field expedient components. Battle damage assessment and repair restores the minimum essential combat capabilities necessary to support a specific combat mission or to enable the equipment to self-recover.

1-183. Establishing aerial resupply and forward logistics bases may be necessary to sustain maneuver operations such as exploitation and pursuit conducted at great distances from the unit’s sustaining base. The unit or support activity at the airlift’s point of origin is responsible for obtaining the required packing, shipping, and sling-load equipment. It prepares the load for aerial transport, prepares the pickup zone, and conducts air-loading operations. The unit located at the airlift destination is responsible for preparing the landing zone to accommodate aerial resupply and for receiving the load.

1-184. Raids conducted by ground maneuver forces within the depths of the enemy’s support areas tend to be audacious, rapid, and of short duration. Logistics support is minimal; units carry as much POL and ammunition as possible, taking advantage of any captured enemy supplies. Once the raiding force crosses its LD, only limited, emergency aerial resupply of critical supplies and medical evacuation are feasible because of the absence of a secure LOC. The commander must thoroughly plan for aerial resupply of the raiding force since it entails greater risk than normal operations. Under these conditions, units destroy damaged equipment that is unable to maintain the pace of the operation.

Health Service Support

1-185. The burden on medical resources increases due to the intensity of offensive actions and the increased distances over which support is required as the force advances. The commander reallocates medical resources as the tactical situation changes. Medical units can anticipate large numbers of casualties in a short period of time due to the capabilities of modern conventional weapons and the employment of weapons of mass destruction. These mass casualty situations can exceed the capabilities of organic and direct support medical assets to effectively treat the numbers of casualties being sustained. To prevent this from occurring, planners should anticipate this possibility and coordinate with area support medical units to help absorb the acute rise in battlefield injuries. Careful planning and coordination will ensure that the standard of medical care for injured Soldiers is not compromised. Effective management of mass casualty situations is dependent on established and rehearsed mass casualty plans and detailed medical planning. There are a number of other variables which can ensure the success of a unit’s mass casualty response plan. These include, but are not limited to—

Coordination and synchronization of additional medical support and or augmentation, such as medical evacuation support, forward resuscitative surgical intervention provided by forward surgical teams, and established Class VIII resupply.

Quickly locating the injured and clearing them from the battlefield.

Providing effective emergency medical treatment for the injured.

Accurate triage and rapid medical evacuation of the injured to medical treatment facilities at the next higher role of care.


1-186. The fluidity and rapid tempo of the offense pose challenges in the protection of friendly assets. The forward movement of subordinate units is critical to the commander’s maintaining the initiative necessary for successful offensive actions. The commander denies the enemy a chance to plan, prepare, and execute an effective response to friendly offensive actions through maintaining a high tempo. This is a key way to ensure the survivability of the force. Techniques for maintaining a high offensive tempo include using multiple routes, dispersion, highly mobile forces, piecemeal destruction of isolated enemy forces, scheduled rotation and relief of forces before they culminate, and the wise use of terrain. The exact techniques employed in a specific situation must reflect the mission variables of METT-TC.

1-187. The commander protects subordinate forces to deny the enemy the capability to interfere with their ongoing operations. That protection also meets the commander’s legal and moral obligations to the organization’s Soldiers. To help protect the force, the commander ensures that all protection tasks are addressed during the unit’s planning, preparation, and execution, while also constantly assessing the effectiveness of those protection tasks. Paragraphs 1-188 through 1-206 highlight areas of special emphasis within the protection warfighting function during the conduct of offensive tasks. (See ADRP 3-37 and medical doctrine for a complete discussion of all protection tasks.)

Personnel Recovery

1-188. Unit commanders and staff, subordinate leaders, and individual Soldiers are trained how to react to an isolating incident. This training includes the Code of Conduct and survival, evasion, resistance, and escape training. It stresses the five personnel recovery execution tasks: report, locate, support, recover, and reintegrate. Unit commanders ensure that assigned and attached personnel are familiar with the command’s personnel recovery guidance and the isolated Soldier guidance for each mission. Unit commanders also should ensure that assigned and attached personnel are familiar with the key personnel recovery questions: “How do I know when I am isolated?” “What do I do about that isolation?” and “How can I assist in my own recovery?”

1-189. A quick response to an isolating incident is important in the successful resolution of a personnel recovery incident for four reasons. First, isolated personnel are less likely to move or be moved very far from their last known location, thus reducing the size of the search area. Second, prompt medical attention reduces the probability that injuries suffered by isolated personnel will result in the loss of life or limb. Third, a quick response keeps the enemy from reacting in a coordinated manner. Finally, by responding

quickly, the impacts of hunger or thirst, environmental factors, such as cold and wet weather, endemic diseases, and dangerous animals and insects on isolated personnel will be reduced.

Information Protection

1-190. The unit assistant chief of staff, signal (G-6) or signal staff officer (S-6) continues to refine the unit’s information protection plan during the offense. The unit mission command cell works with the protection cell to provide staff supervision of the implementation of information system intrusion and attack detection devices. This is accomplished by monitoring perimeter protection tools and devices to identify activities that constitute violations of the information protection plan and security policy. Selected events are monitored to detect unauthorized access and inadvertent modification or destruction of data.

1-191. Network managers react to counter the effects of an incident on the network. Reaction to a network or information system intrusion incorporates restoring essential information services, as well as initiating attack response processes. Disaster recovery requires stopping the breach and restoring the network. (See Signal Center of Excellence doctrine, tactics, and procedures for additional information.)

Friendly Fire Incident Avoidance

1-192. Confirmation briefs and rehearsals are primary tools for identifying and reducing fratricide risk during the preparation phase of offensive actions. The following are considerations for their use:

  • Confirmation briefs and rehearsals ensure subordinates know where fratricide risks exist and how to reduce or eliminate them.
  • Brief backs ensure subordinates understand the commander’s intent. (They often reveal areas of confusion, complexity, or planning errors.)
  • The types of risks identified depend on the type of rehearsal conducted.
  • Rehearsals should extend to all levels of command and involve all key players.

1-193. The following factors may reveal friendly fire incident risks during rehearsals:

  • Number and type of rehearsals.
  • Training and proficiency levels of units and individuals.
  • The habitual relationships between units conducting the operation.
  • The physical readiness (endurance) of the troops conducting the operation.

1-194. During execution, in stride risk assessment and reaction can overcome unforeseen fratricide risk situations. The following are factors to consider when assessing fratricide risks—

  • Intervisibility between adjacent units.
  • Amount of battlefield obscuration.
  • Ability to positively identify targets.
  • Similarities and differences in equipment and uniforms between friendly and enemy forces.
  • Vehicle density on the battlefield.
  • The tempo of the battle.

1-195. Maintaining an awareness of the COP at all levels and at all times as an operation progresses is another key to fratricide reduction. To aid leaders and Soldiers in this process, units develop and employ effective techniques and standard operating procedures (SOPs) including—

  • Monitoring the next higher echelon’s radio net.
  • Radio cross-talk between units.
  • COP updates.
  • Accurate position reporting and navigation.
  • Training, use, and exchange of liaison officers.

Operational Area Security and Antiterrorism

1-196. The operational area security and antiterrorism activities of the unit are discussed in ADRP 3-37. The staff of the unit’s protection cell provides staff oversight of area security and antiterrorism activities in the unit’s support area and prepares subordinate units located within that area to conduct these activities. Subordinate forces conduct local security activities in their defensive positions, assembly areas, and attack positions that provide security and antiterrorism protection to those forces.

1-197. Engineer units operating in the echelon support area (usually conducting general engineering or survivability tasks) also have the potential to serve as a response force to level II threats within that support area. These engineer units require time to assemble because they are normally dispersed when conducting engineer missions on an area basis. They require augmentation in the areas of fire support and antitank capabilities before commitment.


1-198. Survivability includes all aspects of protecting personnel, weapons, and supplies while simultaneously deceiving the enemy (JP 3-34). The commander normally considers the impact of constructing protective emplacements for artillery and sustainment concentrations as part of the planning process. Units do not employ protective positions in the offense as extensively as they do in the defense. However, the commander may require the hardening of key mission command facilities, especially those with detectable electronic signatures. Maneuver units construct as many fighting positions as possible whenever they halt or pause during the conduct of offensive tasks. They improve existing terrain by cutting reverse-slope firing shelves or slots when possible. (See Maneuver Support Center of Excellence tactics, techniques, and procedures publications for more information on constructing protective positions.) Forces conducting offensive actions will continue to use camouflage, cover, and concealment. (See ATTP 3-34.39 for additional information on those topics.)

1-199. While survivability is an important engineer task, all units have an inherent responsibility to improve their positions, whether they are located in fighting positions or a base. Survivability consists of four areas designed to focus efforts in mitigating friendly losses to hostile actions or environments: mobility; situational understanding; hardening; and camouflage, concealment, and military deception.

Force Health Protection

1-200. The unit surgeon continues to refine the unit’s medical support plan throughout all phases of offensive actions. The surgeon staff section works with the protection cell to provide staff supervision of the implementation of force health protection actions by subordinate units. Medical personnel actively monitor the unit’s AO for disease; they conduct preventive services—such as immunizations and prophylaxes; and they help when Soldiers get exposed to hazards. Medical personnel provide assistance and subject matter expertise to control excessive occupational and environmental health exposure to hazards such as noise, toxic industrial materials, waste streams, and climate extremes. They establish medical, occupational, and environmental health screening as required. Through field sanitation team training and water assessments, medical personnel educate Soldiers and noncombatants on disease and non-battle injury prevention.

Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense Operations

1-201. CBRN defense consists of active and passive measures which contribute to the overall success of CBRN defense. CBRN active defense consists of measures taken to stop a CBRN attack. CBRN passive defense minimizes the vulnerability to the effects of CBRN attacks. The commander integrates CBRN defensive considerations into all types of mission planning. Implementing many CBRN passive defensive measures may slow the tempo, degrade combat power, and may also increase logistics requirements. CBRN reconnaissance and surveillance consumes resources, especially time. Personnel in protective equipment find it more difficult to work or fight. The principles of all CBRN defense activities are contamination avoidance, protection, and decontamination. (See FM 3-11 for additional information on CBRN defensive considerations.)


1-202. Units implement their safety plans during offensive actions. The unit safety officer observes safety-related issues and ensures units translate the plan into action by traveling throughout the unit AO. Commanders emphasize safety during hazardous operations, such as aviation and wet gap crossing operations, ensuring that units do not take unnecessary risks.

Operations Security

1-203. The echelon’s OPSEC program and any military deception or survivability efforts should conceal the location of the friendly objective, the decisive operation, the disposition of forces, and the timing of the offense task from the enemy or mislead the enemy regarding this information. These measures prevent the enemy from launching effective spoiling attacks. (See JP 3-13 for additional information on OPSEC, military deception, and information protection.)

Explosive Ordnance Disposal

1-204. Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) elements supporting the unit provide the capability to neutralize hazards from conventional unexploded ordnance (UXO), high-yield explosives and associated materials, and IEDs and booby traps containing both conventional explosives and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosives (CBRNE) that present a threat to the unit’s offensive actions. These elements may dispose of hazardous foreign or U.S. ammunition, UXO, individual mines, booby-trapped mines, and chemical mines. Breaching and clearance of minefields is primarily an engineer responsibility. The EOD force serves as a combat multiplier by neutralizing UXO and booby traps that restrict unit freedom of movement and deny access to or threaten supplies, facilities, and other critical assets within the unit AO. (See FM 4-30.51 for additional information on UXO procedures.)

Internment and Resettlement Operations

1-205. During the conduct of all offensive tasks the unit can expect to accumulate a sizeable number of detainees. Their classification will vary according to the operational environment. The unit protection cell must work with the sustainment cell so that the necessary resources are made available to construct and operate internment facilities for the number of detainees projected to be acquired during the conduct of the mission. The actual number of detainees has to be monitored closely to avoid devoting too many or too few resources to the performance of internment operations.

1-206. Individual Soldiers have to be reminded of the proper handling of detainees during their initial capture by small units. It is at these dispersed locations where Soldiers are under extreme stress that detainee abuse is most likely to occur. Military police Soldiers trained in internment and resettlement will probably not be at these capture sites. (See military police doctrine for additional information on internment and resettlement.)


1-207. A transition occurs when the commander makes the assessment that the unit must change its focus from one element of military operations to another. The following paragraphs explain why a commander primarily conducting offensive tasks operations would transition to a focus on the conduct of defensive tasks and describe techniques that a commander can use to ease the transition.

1-208. A commander halts an offense only when it results in complete victory and the end of hostilities, reaches a culminating point, or the commander receives a change in mission from a higher commander. This change in mission may be a result of the interrelationship of the other instruments of national power, such as a political decision.

1-209. All offensive actions that do not achieve complete victory reach a culminating point when the balance of strength shifts from the attacking force to its opponent. Usually, offensive actions lose momentum when friendly forces encounter heavily defended areas that cannot be bypassed. They also reach a culminating point when the resupply of fuel, ammunition, and other supplies fails to keep up with expenditures, Soldiers become physically exhausted, casualties and equipment losses mount, and repairs

and replacements do not keep pace with damage and losses. Because of enemy surprise movements, offensive actions also stall when reserves are not available to continue the advance; the defender receives reinforcements, or the defender counterattacks with fresh troops. Several of these causes may combine to halt an offense. In some cases, the unit can regain its momentum, but this only happens after difficult fighting or an operational pause.

1-210. The commander plans a pause to replenish combat power and phases the operation accordingly, if the attacker cannot anticipate securing decisive objectives before subordinate forces reach their culminating points. Simultaneously, the commander attempts to prevent the enemy from knowing when the friendly forces become overextended.


1-211. Once offensive actions begin, the attacking commander tries to sense when subordinates reach, or are about to reach, their respective culminating points. Before they reach this point, the commander must transition to a focus on the defensive element of decisive action. The commander has more freedom to choose where and when to halt the attack, if the commander can sense that subordinate forces are approaching culmination. The commander can plan future activities to aid the defense, minimize vulnerability to attack, and facilitate renewal of the offense as the force transitions to branches or sequels of the ongoing operation. For example, to prevent overburdening the extended LOCs resulting from the advances beyond eight hours of travel from the echelon support area, some of the commander’s subordinate units may move into battle positions before the entire unit terminates its offensive actions to start preparing for the ensuing defensive-centric operation.

1-212. A lull in combat operations often accompanies a transition. The commander cannot forget about the stability component of decisive action because the civilian populations of the unit’s AO tend to come out of their hiding positions and request assistance from friendly forces during these lulls. The commander must consider how to minimize the interference of these civilians with the force’s military operations while protecting these civilians from future hostile actions in accordance with international law. The commander must also consider the threat they pose to the force and its operations, if enemy intelligence agents or saboteurs are part of the civilian population.

1-213. A commander anticipating the termination of unit offensive actions prepares orders that include the time or circumstances under which the current offense transitions to a defensive-centric operation, the missions and locations of subordinate units, and control measures. As the unit transitions from an offensive focus to a defensive focus, the commander–

  • Maintains contact and surveillance of the enemy, using a combination of reconnaissance units and surveillance assets to develop the information required to plan future actions.
  • Establishes a security area and local security measures.
  • Redeploys artillery assets to ensure the support of security forces.
  • Redeploys forces on probable future employment.
  • Maintains or regains contact with adjacent units in a contiguous AO and ensures that units remain capable of mutual support in a noncontiguous AO.
  • Transitions the engineer effort by shifting the emphasis from mobility to countermobility and survivability.
  • Consolidates and reorganizes.
  • Explains the rationale for transitioning from the offense to the unit’s Soldiers.

1-214. The commander conducts any required reorganization and resupply concurrently with other transition activities. This requires a transition in the sustainment effort with a shift in emphasis from ensuring the force’s ability to move forward (POL and forward repair of maintenance and combat losses) to ensuring the force’s ability to defend on its chosen location (forward stockage of construction, barrier, and obstacle material, and ammunition). A transition is often a time when units can perform equipment maintenance. Additional assets may also be available for casualty evacuation and medical treatment because of a reduction in the tempo.

1-215. The commander should not wait too long to transition from the offense to the defense as subordinate forces approach their culminating points. Without prior planning, transitioning to defensive actions after reaching a culminating point is extremely difficult for several reasons. Defensive preparations are hasty, and forces are not adequately disposed for defense. Defensive reorganization requires more time than the enemy will probably allow. Usually, attacking forces are dispersed, extended in depth, and in a weakened condition. Moreover, the shift to defense requires a psychological adjustment. Soldiers who have become accustomed to advancing must now halt and fight defensively—sometimes desperately—on new and often unfavorable terms.

1-216. A commander can use two techniques when transitioning to a defensive-centric operation. The first technique is for the leading elements to commit forces and push forward to claim enough ground to establish a security area anchored on defensible terrain. The main force moves forward or rearward as necessary to occupy key terrain and institutes a hasty defense that progresses into a deliberate defense as time and resources allow. The second technique is to establish a security area generally along the unit’s final positions, moving the main body rearward to defensible terrain. The security force thins out and the remaining force deploys to organize the defense. In both methods, the security area should be deep enough to keep the main force out of the range of enemy medium artillery and rocket systems.

1-217. In the first technique, the security area often lacks depth because the force lacks sufficient combat power to seize required terrain. In the second technique, enemy forces will probably accurately template the forward trace of friendly units and engage with artillery and other fire support systems. These actions often result in the loss of additional friendly Soldiers and equipment and the expenditure of more resources.

1-218. If a commander determines that it is necessary to terminate an offensive task and conduct a retrograde, subordinate units typically conduct an area defense from their current locations until their activities can be synchronized to conduct the retrograde operation. The amount of effort expended in establishing the area defense depends on the specific mission variables of METT-TC.


1-219. At some point in time the unit will probably transition from one phase of the major operations or campaign plan to another and begin executing a sequel to its previous offensive order. The end of offensive tasks may not be the decisive act. The conduct of stability tasks may be the decisive operation in the major operation or campaign. The transition to a focus on the conduct of stability tasks from the conduct of offensive tasks cannot be an afterthought. Setting the conditions for the conduct of stability tasks may have significant impact on the planning and execution of offensive-centric actions.

1-220. It is likely that a significant reorganization of the unit will occur to introduce those capabilities required by the changes in the mission variables of METT-TC. Depending on the specific operational environment the unit finds itself in, the appropriate official departmental publications dealing with other operations and tasks should be referenced to refresh previous training and education in those subjects. The mission command and protection functions remain important because it is likely that some Soldiers will want to relax discipline and safety standards as the stress of active offensive actions disappears.

1-221. During major combat operations, the commander transitions to a stability-centric element of decisive action, if the unit’s offensive actions are successful in destroying or defeating the enemy and the situation makes a focus on the conduct of defensive tasks inappropriate. As in other operations, the commander’s concept of operations and intent drive the design of and planning for stability tasks. Generally, a tactical commander will focus on meeting the immediate essential service and civil security needs of the civilian inhabitants of the area of operations in coordination with any existing host nation government and non-governmental organizations before addressing the other three primary stability tasks. Also, the commander will probably change the rules of engagement, and these rules must be transmitted down to the squad and individual Soldier level.

1-222. When involved in other operations, such as peace operations, irregular warfare, and military engagement, unit offensive actions normally are closely related to the movement to contact tasks of search and attack (see paragraphs 2-66 to 2-80) or cordon and search (see paragraph 2-81). The conduct of offensive tasks in these other operations will normally employ restrictive rules of engagement throughout the mission regardless of the element of decisive action dominant at any specific moment. In the conduct of these operations, the emphasis on the stability element is much more dominant than the defensive element.