Author Topic: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense  (Read 11202 times)

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Offline Humphrey Bogart

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #25 on: April 02, 2018, 07:22:54 »
A Canadian Brigade with minimal antitank weapons, no tactical air defence, no mortars, and towed artillery against a US Armored Brigade Combat Team? The Canadian brigade would be fixed in place and cut to pieces faster than you can say Republican Guard.

You can list a lot of the lessons of modern mechanized warfare without having an expensive exercise. But those lessons aren't popular, because they imply that we need to buy more modern equipment, spend money to train with it, and that previous decisions to divist entire categories of kit were serious errors.

These threads have been very interesting to read if only to reinforce my view that the Canadian Army of 2018 is much like the British Army of 1890, very good at defeating enemies armed with "sharpened bits of fruit and sticks" but not much else.

As well, we seem to have used latest engagements/wars as a form of confirmation bias. 

Offline Ostrozac

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #26 on: April 02, 2018, 09:59:11 »
These threads have been very interesting to read if only to reinforce my view that the Canadian Army of 2018 is much like the British Army of 1890, very good at defeating enemies armed with "sharpened bits of fruit and sticks" but not much else.

As well, we seem to have used latest engagements/wars as a form of confirmation bias.

I agree. If we intended to build a pure Counter-Insurgency army optimized for fighting poorly equipped people over extended campaigns in the world's hinterlands, we'd actually be pretty well equipped. We have leadership with Afghanistan experience, logistics and C4I systems optimized for FOBs and firebases, and plenty of overmatch for fighting an enemy using 1960's technology. In that kind of a war, self-propelled artillery, surface to air missiles, and modern anti tank missiles would indeed be expensive overkill. I think that a Canadian brigade would be comfortable conducting an operation similar to the ongoing French operation in Mali.

But instead, we have declared a national interest in conventional operations in Europe on the forward edge of NATO facing Russia. And for that task we are shockingly ill-equipped.

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #27 on: April 02, 2018, 10:30:18 »
You might want to leave the BMPs out of it.  Even Soviet dogma didn't call for "dismount on the objective".   IIRC the expectation was that we would be huddled under our SKOP kits enjoying the attentions of the Div Arty Group and every other gun and rocket in range while the Tanks and BMPs advanced on our positions behind a screen of dismounted infantry.
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Offline Humphrey Bogart

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #28 on: April 02, 2018, 10:39:30 »
I agree. If we intended to build a pure Counter-Insurgency army optimized for fighting poorly equipped people over extended campaigns in the world's hinterlands, we'd actually be pretty well equipped. We have leadership with Afghanistan experience, logistics and C4I systems optimized for FOBs and firebases, and plenty of overmatch for fighting an enemy using 1960's technology. In that kind of a war, self-propelled artillery, surface to air missiles, and modern anti tank missiles would indeed be expensive overkill. I think that a Canadian brigade would be comfortable conducting an operation similar to the ongoing French operation in Mali.

But instead, we have declared a national interest in conventional operations in Europe on the forward edge of NATO facing Russia. And for that task we are shockingly ill-equipped.

You and I are pretty much of the same mind.  Look at what we are making huge investments in:  SOF, C4ISR, Int Collection Capability.  Our kit: TAPV, LAV 6.0, towed howitzers, Utility Helicopters, etc.  All great for chasing down Brigands and Bandits, not so great for fighting Armoured Divisions or even other Mechanized Infantry Divisions.

I would even say calling our Brigades Mechanized could almost be considered a stretch.

We've got a great little colonial army without any colonies to fight wars in.

Offline Haligonian

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #29 on: April 02, 2018, 11:34:58 »
Milch is simply giving a description of the system Lossberg "created" and the General Staff codified in the First World War.  Wynne, a British official historian, figured it out after the war and his book should be on every professional's shelf.

Perhaps unsurprisingly I had a hard time finding that for a reasonable price on Amazon.de!  I got it on Amazon.ca and it'll be waiting for me on HLTA.

Words have meaning, and I think clarity is important.

A reserve is an uncommitted force that allows the commander to retain some freedom of action.  A commander without a reserve is limited to coordinating the fights of his/her subordinates, but has little to actually influence them.

Depth, as I conceive it, is rearward position that allows for some sort of mutual support of forward positions or elements.  The element in depth, in being able to provide mutual support, is somewhat vulnerable to enemy actions. A depth position may be suitable for a reserve, but the commander risks having his reserve unexpectedly committed through enemy actions (to include fires).  A key tenet of the defence in depth is that formation reserves are out of the range of enemy artillery, so as to prevent interference with the commitment of the reserve.  With modern rocket artillery systems featuring greatly extended range, this is harder to do in the modern battlefield, but there are still ways to achieve this.

This makes sense to me as well and how I've envisioned it for most of my time.  Interestingly, it doesn't exactly jive with BG in Ops.  BG in Ops puts a lot of emphasis on depth elements conducting blocking and reinforcing tasks.  A depth element who is able to provide mutual support to forward posns is significantly less likely to be well positioned to reinforce or block a penetration that isn't along its currently sited BP. 

As I think this through it seems to me that block is the actual task of a depth BP and they need to be sited along the avenue approach that the enemy is expected to take after having bypassed or penetrated lead BPs.  The lowest level at which this could happen would be Bn/BG as Coys and platoons are too small and their depth should be focussed on providing mutual sp to forward posns.

I would say no.  A properly constituted reserve probably isn't siting on the point of the main effort.  If it was, I'd question the defensive layout.  Example:

The Brigade is defending the crossing site, and for various reasons has to defend forward (there are three ways to defend a crossing site - forward, on, or behind).  The main effort is on the hills that overlooking the bridgehead area called the "O1 line" in some doctrine, the line of features from which a position can be hit with direct fire.  The Brigade Commander states that the main effort is on the ABC hill features, and that the 1st Battalion is on his main effort.  He has an Armour heavy Combat Team maintained as his reserve.  As the battle progresses, the mission has not changed, but the 1st Battalion takes a beating.  The reserve is committed to the ABC hill features to reinforce.  The sound choice is for the reserve to now fall under the 1st Battalion Commander (as the man on the spot).  While the reserve element is now on the point of main effort, neither the unit or its initial location were part of that main effort.

...or another version, the 1st Battalion's defence at the ABC hill features goes well, and the enemy Division's attack culminates.  The Brigade Commander decides to commit his reserve to counterattack and regain the initiative.  The counterattack goes in at Junction XYZ to the east of the hill features.  The Brigade Commander shifts his main effort to the Armoured Combat Team on Junction XYZ, so everyone in the Brigade knows where support needs to go.  At this point, I'd argue that the Armoured Combat Team is no longer a reserve, as it has been committed.  The Brigade Commander reforms his reserve out of two companies of the 2nd Battalion, which had been providing depth from the near side of the crossing site.

To wit, if the reserve element approaches the geographic point of main effort and assumes the role, it no longer has reserve status.

Agreed.  Seems reasonable.

Offline Tango2Bravo

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #30 on: April 02, 2018, 12:05:18 »
It would odd to designate your reserve as the main effort from the outset, but it might become your main effort or be put on your main effort once committed.

Returning to terminology for a minute, the terms countermoves and reserve can be confusing. I think that we can confuse ourselves from time to time by calling a sub-unit "the countermoves force" or giving it the task of "countermoves." Lets look at a Battle Group executing a Block task with two companies up, one in depth (maybe a company minus) and a tank squadron combat team in reserve (I didn't say it was going to be imaginative...) The CO is indeed treating his tank squadron combat team as a reserve. He might use it to reinforce a threated sub-unit. He might use it block the decisive enemy penetration to meet his mission. His plan, though, does not hinge on any one task. The main effort here is likely the company on what the CO determines to be the VG for the block task.

Lets consider the same force now has the task of Destroying an enemy brigade in a given KZ ( the CO deduces that he needs to destroy two battalions).  The CO might give three companies Contain or Block tasks to keep the enemy in the KZ perhaps with some BPT Fix or Support by Fire tasks against certain enemy battalions. He then gives his tank squadron the task to Destroy two battalions in KZ PANTERA. He calls them his Countermoves force and his BG SoM calls for the tank squadron to destroy the enemy brigade with a counterattack (perhaps with several options) once it has two battalions contained in the KZ and they are fixed by indirect fire and his TUA platoon. This tank squadron, to me, is not a reserve even when it has not yet been committed because the CO's plan hinges on it executing that Destroy task. Any unforeseen enemy activity will result in the CO having to juggle on the fly, maybe with everything in contact. In this case, I think that the CO needs a reserve in addition to his Countermoves force. Maybe that reserve is the third company, giving more work to the other two but giving the CO some flexibility. Maybe its just a platoon? Maybe its a Sqn of Sappers? I would also offer in this example that the tank squadron is the main effort throughout, or at least it is on the main effort.

Regarding Bir Hacheim and Jock Columns, at the Battle of Gazala in 1942 the British 8th Army was trying to find a way to cope with superior Axis combined arms forces (even the Italians had better combined arms doctrine and organization at this point). Jock Columns were used by the Motor Companies in the Armoured Divisions, which were different than the infantry divisions. British divisions were not well organized in 1942, with combined arms really happening at Corps level instead of Division or lower. At Gazala the British (with their Commonwealth and French allies) tried to use Boxes and minefields. Each Box had an infantry brigade in them, usually with some artillery. The frontages of the desert war meant that the Boxes did not have mutual support. British armoured divisions were intended to be used to destroy axis forces that would have been fixed by the boxes. The British armour, though was tied to the Boxes but held at higher command - an unhappy compromise.

At Gazala, two of the Boxes did well. The French (in an old fort) on the far south astride a supply route held out for days. Another Box held by a British brigade also astride a supply route almost caused the defeat of Rommel. Rommel's tanks and infantry could crash through the open desert but his supplies needed some routes. British armour counterattacks were late and uncoordinated. This gave Rommel time and space to destroy the stubborn British Box (150th Brigade) and open a supply route. The rest of the British 8th Army were distant spectators in their Boxes. The rout at Gazala led to the the fall of Tobruk and another disaster at Mersa Matruh. Mutual support is not just a laundry list exam item. It actually matters!

Aukinlek at 1st Alamein tried to remedy the defects of the British organization by pushing the artillery down to give British infantry some hitting power (they really had nothing to offer in the Desert at this stage). They held on by the skin of their teeth, but this was also not a happy solution. Tank infantry cooperation was practically non-existant at this stage of the war, and perhaps hit its low point at Ruseiwat Ridge when an entire NZ brigade was captured by fairly light German armoured forces in a counterattack as a British tank brigade lay in harbour nearby.

I guess the point is that strongpoints or boxes can sometimes work if they dominate routes and you actually have a viable countermoves plan. St Vith and Bastogne at the Battle of the Bulge come to mind. Otherwise they can simply be potted plants that can be isolated and dealth with at the leisure of the attacker.
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Offline Infanteer

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #31 on: April 02, 2018, 15:44:33 »
Returning to terminology for a minute, the terms countermoves and reserve can be confusing.

Your two examples are illustrative.  If the original plan hinges on it, its probably not a reserve, as the reserve gives you something to deal with a change to the plan!
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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #32 on: April 02, 2018, 16:11:31 »
Your two examples are illustrative.  If the original plan hinges on it, its probably not a reserve, as the reserve gives you something to deal with a change to the plan!

This is exactly what I mean when I say I can't reconcile what is stated in our doctrine with the terminology it uses.

IMO, the countermoves is going to be the most lethal part of the defensive. More importantly, it's going to be absolutely vital to ensure the enemy doesn't just bypass you or your KZ's. Without it, you're just a bunch of people sitting in a hole waiting to die, with no influence into how  the enemy attacks you and no ability to get a step ahead of them and attack them when vulnerable.

Yet our BG in Ops states that the reserves conduct countermoves, and actually refers to it as a "stage" of the MDB, implying that it is the latter part of the battle... in my opinion, this is just plain wrong. If you've got a good countermoves plan, they are likely performing a block task, perhaps multiple times, before the static position is even in direct contact.
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Offline Tango2Bravo

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #33 on: April 02, 2018, 16:46:31 »
This is exactly what I mean when I say I can't reconcile what is stated in our doctrine with the terminology it uses.

IMO, the countermoves is going to be the most lethal part of the defensive. More importantly, it's going to be absolutely vital to ensure the enemy doesn't just bypass you or your KZ's. Without it, you're just a bunch of people sitting in a hole waiting to die, with no influence into how  the enemy attacks you and no ability to get a step ahead of them and attack them when vulnerable.

Yet our BG in Ops states that the reserves conduct countermoves, and actually refers to it as a "stage" of the MDB, implying that it is the latter part of the battle... in my opinion, this is just plain wrong. If you've got a good countermoves plan, they are likely performing a block task, perhaps multiple times, before the static position is even in direct contact.

The countermoves might be the most lethal part of the defensive, or it might not. The defence might not even be all that lethal and still be successful. If you are tasked to Block and you are using a true Area Defence you might not even have any tanks attached to you. Maybe all you have is a reserve that could block or reinforce.

BG in Ops states that there is a covering force battle and then a main defensive battle including countermoves. The countermoves are part of the main defensive battle - they could occur near the start of the MDB (unlikely but possible), the middle or at the conclusion. BG in Ops is not prescriptive on that. You don't tend to conduct your decisive counterattack until the enemy is culminated, though, so its natural to see most countermoves actions towards the end of the MDB.

The covering force battle is defining the enemy, maybe shaping him and shielding the main defence from premature disclosure. It might also be buying time for preparations. The reserve might be used during the covering force battle, but that means something went really sideways for you or the enemy!

A covering force combat team fighting a delay or guard battle is probably in constant motion, but they are not the countermoves. Now, you might decide to fight your main defensive battle as a mobile defence (or have no choice). Then you will likely have two or three mobile elements fixing the enemy to allow the "countermoves" to strike.

I don't like being static as a tanker, but don't throw away the area defence as an infantryman. If you are conducting a Block (because the higher scheme is depending on it) and have some good terrain then perhaps its the best bet. A mobile defence against an enemy with superior mobility might be a disaster! A mobile defence can also turn into a meeting engagement.
Well-trained, older Panzer crews are the decisive factor for success...It is preferable to start off with fewer Panzers than to set out with young crews who lack combat experience.

 - Verbal report of Gen Balck 1943

Offline Infanteer

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #34 on: April 02, 2018, 17:05:56 »
Yet our BG in Ops states that the reserves conduct countermoves, and actually refers to it as a "stage" of the MDB, implying that it is the latter part of the battle... in my opinion, this is just plain wrong. If you've got a good countermoves plan, they are likely performing a block task, perhaps multiple times, before the static position is even in direct contact.

As T2B alluded to, you are confusing the covering force fight with the countermoves fight.  A covering force - as a security element - won't seek decision, nor will it force the enemy to culminate (Theoretically, it could, if you had an enemy tripping over its own feet).  Go to 7-109 - 7-110 of Land Ops for the definition of screen, guard, cover as different degrees of a security element.
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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #35 on: April 02, 2018, 20:08:22 »
As T2B alluded to, you are confusing the covering force fight with the countermoves fight.

With all due respect, I'm not. I know the difference between the covering force battle and the countermoves doing their thing within the main defensive stage.

Let me be more clear... BG in Ops states there are 2 stages of the defence... (Page 7- 6)
1) Covering force stage
2) Main defensive stage including the countermoves

Within "Conduct of the main defensive stage," (Page 7-13) it refers to the "countermoves stage," (7-15) and it discusses in a manner that implies that it's the last stage as opposed to occurring congruent to the fight occurring in the static, occupied BPs. It also explicitly states that the primary task of reserves is to CATK along with a whole host of other things I don't agree with (or don't understand at least), but I digress.

The countermoves are part of the main defensive battle - they could occur near the start of the MDB (unlikely but possible), the middle or at the conclusion.

I disagree that it is unlikely you would use countermoves near the start of the MDB. After the covering force crosses the battle handover line, the enemy is still going to be trying to find the path of least resistance, the weak spot, to exploit. If you aren't employing countermoves to preemptively reinforce against or block the enemy based on your sense assets, you're going to be too late. I feel like the countermoves have to be occurring, or at least prepared to occur based on what choices the enemy makes, from beginning to end, completely congruent (and not subsequent) to the fight in the occupied BPs. Hence why it's better described as a supporting plan than as a stage.

BG in Ops is not prescriptive on that. You don't tend to conduct your decisive counterattack until the enemy is culminated, though, so its natural to see most countermoves actions towards the end of the MDB.

When I read it, it seems pretty prescriptive, albeit it is referring to the formation countermove plan. It describes having depth elements providing blocks/reinforces, committing the entire reserve at once to conduct a big final CATK, etc. I just don't see it as correct to describe the countermoves as a stage like the publication does. We wouldn't describe any of the other supporting plans as a stage, would we? Because they are all happening simultaneously.

I also question if CATKs 1. have to be decisive. and 2. have to be "sweeping through and resuming the offense." If I identify 6 likely FB positions, and 6 likely attack positions, that's 12x CATK tasks I'm going to put on my countermoves matrix. I may repel numerous attempts at attacks simply by deploying a small force to CATK by fire when and where the EN is particularly vulnerable and where it will disrupt him the most. This is an offensive mindset, using offensive action in the defensive. In this case, the number of countermoves occurring before a big decisive counterattack far outnumbers the amount of countermoves occuring towards the end.


« Last Edit: April 02, 2018, 20:26:50 by ballz »
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Offline Infanteer

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #36 on: April 02, 2018, 23:14:41 »
I'll offer the following carrots to munch on:

1.  If you need to "preemptively employ countermoves, after the covering force crosses the battle handover line, to reinforce against or block the enemy and prevent him from finding the path of least resistance," (to paraphrase your first statement) then you've probably set your battle handover line in the wrong place.  If I was planning a defensive fight, I would not want a "break" in contact between the covering force and the main defensive force during the defensive battle.

2.  If you have "12 different counterattack tasks on your countermoves matrix," (to paraphrase your next statement) then you're probably mishandling your reserve.  The last thing you want to do is fritter it away piece meal reacting to every enemy action considered a threat.  "Firebase positions and attack positions" are things you deal with through your direct and indirect fire plans, not by committing your reserve.

3.  The way you frame your argument seems to argue that an area defence (as portrayed in Land Ops) is too reactive in blocking/reinforcing and waiting for the big counterattack at the end.  If I read it right, you are arguing for "using offensive action in the defence" and that constant counter-movement (for lack of a better term) would be implicit in an "offensive defence."  Are you just indicating a preference for mobile defence over area defence?  While preference is fine, means and circumstances may not give you the choice.  However, the scenario you appear to describe is common, especially in theatres with a low density of forces - just look up some German defensive battles on the Eastern Front.  However, in these cases both tactical and operational reserves are still maintained as the defender conducts his mobile defence.

4.  The primary reason I would argue that you wish to avoid committing your reserve early (in either a mobile or an area defence) is that you tip your hand.  This goes back to Old Dead Carl and the very reason we find ourselves on the defence in the first place.  We are on the defence because something is preventing us from going to the offence.  That something is probably a correlation of forces, or we'd probably just take to the offence ourselves.  The defensive concept is parrying a blow, the characteristic, awaiting the blow, the object, preservation.  I need the enemy to wear himself down, commit his reserve, limit his freedom of action, and in doing so culminate so I can then act to take the initiative.  This is when I introduce my reserve, for if I introduce it earlier, I'm probably doing what the enemy is looking for - he'll then commit his reserve to run my committed forces over and achieve breakthrough/breakout.  In all higher level exercises I've been exposed to, we try to get the defending enemy to commit his reserves so we can destroy them and take advantage of the loss of freedom of action he now faces.  If he commits them early, so much the better.

In the end, I'll again offer my opinion that the Canadian doctrine is a bit simplistic due to our institutional unfamiliarity with sustained defensive operations and the relatively low level that it concerns itself with.  It's not in our heritage or collective memory.  If you want a good synopsis of the state of the art with all the nuances of different defensive approaches, here's a good read.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2018, 23:17:24 by Infanteer »
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Offline Colin P

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #37 on: April 03, 2018, 11:04:40 »
Wasn't the Cold War plans, all about defense and being able to defend, retreat, defend and slowly reduce and absorb the Soviet assault?

Offline Tango2Bravo

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #38 on: April 03, 2018, 12:47:46 »
BG in Ops and Land Ops both have the defence in two stages: covering force and main defensive including countermoves. It also goes to say that the transition from one stage to another is seldom distinct. Countermoves are part of the main defensive stage. They are also a supporting plan. BG in Ops elaborates how the BG might participate in the formation countermoves stage, either as the formation countermoves force or supporting the formation countermoves. The BG will have its own countermoves as part of its main defensive stage. The formation will have its own countermoves, which would usually happen after any BG level actions. The Brigade commander, for instance, would most likely hold his own countermoves force (perhaps an Armoured Battle Group) until he deems the enemy that he is concerned with is culminated. 

A BG countermoves plan may focus on reinforcement and blocking. It might focus on counterattacking. It might have the possibility of all three. The timing will always be variable. Reinforcing may happen early in the main defensive stage, or it may not. The CO will read the battle and decide accordingly. There is, of course, tension between going too early and going too late. That is why we have wargames and Decision Support Templates. I suppose I might err on the side of early with reinforcement, but you could be playing into the enemy's hands by jumping at the first attack and throwing everything in.

Regarding counterattacks, BG in Ops offers some advice regarding the timing of such attacks. Going too early, as Infanteer noted, can mean a meeting engagement or worse. You might "bite" on the enemy feint and be completely off-balance. Go in too late and you hit the enemy when he is already consolidated and ready for you. Its probably the most important decision that the BG CO (or Bde Comd with his countermoves/reserve) will make. You do want the enemy "off-balance" and fully engaged with something other than the counterattack. This might mean that the original infantry positions and any countermoves blocking forces are themselves decisively engaged.

Well-trained, older Panzer crews are the decisive factor for success...It is preferable to start off with fewer Panzers than to set out with young crews who lack combat experience.

 - Verbal report of Gen Balck 1943

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #39 on: April 03, 2018, 20:19:48 »

1.  If you need to "preemptively employ countermoves, after the covering force crosses the battle handover line, to reinforce against or block the enemy and prevent him from finding the path of least resistance," (to paraphrase your first statement) then you've probably set your battle handover line in the wrong place.  If I was planning a defensive fight, I would not want a "break" in contact between the covering force and the main defensive force during the defensive battle.

I have seen this occur a number of times now on large CAXs / TEWTs including once with the USMC. Either the battle handover line was in the wrong place, there was confusion over where the battle handover line was or the commander launched the countermove too fast. All three situations result in a goat rodeo. 

Although we seldom practice how to gracefully recover from a tactical fumble, this would be one scenario that I would talk though with your team. What happens if the countermoves force is committed too early? How will I know they were committed too early? How will I recover? What are the options to prevent the rodeo?

Good discussion.  Enjoy following.

MC

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #40 on: April 03, 2018, 22:05:05 »
I have seen this occur a number of times now on large CAXs / TEWTs including once with the USMC. Either the battle handover line was in the wrong place, there was confusion over where the battle handover line was or the commander launched the countermove too fast. All three situations result in a goat rodeo. 

Although we seldom practice how to gracefully recover from a tactical fumble, this would be one scenario that I would talk though with your team. What happens if the countermoves force is committed too early? How will I know they were committed too early? How will I recover? What are the options to prevent the rodeo?

Good discussion.  Enjoy following.

MC

I was lucky to have two weeks in Fort Knox with my squadron on the Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT). Its a system of linked tanked simulators. We did a Mobile Defence four times before I got it close to being right (plenty of fumbles on my part). A US Army Colonel was watching us with my Sqn 2IC from the control room. As we trudged into the AAR room yet again he said supportively "The Mobile D - its a tough one! You got this!" The ability to watch your failure on the replay, talk about it, come up with a fix and then try it out was outstanding. We did finally get it.

Timing is everything with countermoves. And good gunnery.

The covering force battle can be fairly low-key with just observation forward (unlikely but possible) or be an involved battle with significant combat power withdrawing under pressure/in contact. The battle handover is when everything can come apart.
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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #41 on: April 04, 2018, 00:05:43 »
I'll offer the following carrots to munch on:

1.  If you need to "preemptively employ countermoves, after the covering force crosses the battle handover line, to reinforce against or block the enemy and prevent him from finding the path of least resistance," (to paraphrase your first statement) then you've probably set your battle handover line in the wrong place.  If I was planning a defensive fight, I would not want a "break" in contact between the covering force and the main defensive force during the defensive battle.

I agree to an extent, and in saying so I don't think I've ever seen a well-coordinated handover occur in the few opportunities I've had to do this on exercise against a real enemy force, but even if the covering force hands over perfectly to the main defensive area... my understanding of the battle unfolding is that the enemy isn't sending in all of his elements head-first at once to slam into the area defensive. It's coming in waves, probing and defining the position, over the course of days, maybe even weeks, one "failed" attempt after another, before it finally launches into decisive action. So the covering force has been relieved but the enemy is still defining/probing... it's wishful thinking to think we've got enough resources to cover all avenues of approach / bypass routes... therefore, we've got to have something to convince him away from certain routes... this is where I think blocking countermoves come in pre-emptively.

This whole conversation makes me wish we were standing at a whiteboard with a map of Wx and some staedlers!

2.  If you have "12 different counterattack tasks on your countermoves matrix," (to paraphrase your next statement) then you're probably mishandling your reserve.  The last thing you want to do is fritter it away piece meal reacting to every enemy action considered a threat.  "Firebase positions and attack positions" are things you deal with through your direct and indirect fire plans, not by committing your reserve.

This, I guess, is where I'm saying I don't think of my countermoves as a reserve, and I really don't like the idea of your "reserve" being tasked with your primary countermoves that you know are vital to your plan. This is where my article speaks about a "manouevre force" as opposed to grouping LAVs into direct fire and countermoves. I had 13x LAVs. I didn't need them all for direct fire, in fact with the piece of ground a company has I couldn't possibly use them all (we only had 6x positions to fire from). I had the resources to do both and thinking of the entire fleet as a "manouevre force" would give me the flexibility. I think this could be achieved at higher levels, with more resources like tanks, and would be effective. I mean, there is nothing good for the enemy in being formed up in the attack position, waiting for the obstacle breach to open up, and getting flanked by a troop of tanks... even if it just takes out 4x vehicles in the AP... a small force could really disrupt at a key moment.

3.  The way you frame your argument seems to argue that an area defence (as portrayed in Land Ops) is too reactive in blocking/reinforcing and waiting for the big counterattack at the end.  If I read it right, you are arguing for "using offensive action in the defence" and that constant counter-movement (for lack of a better term) would be implicit in an "offensive defence."  Are you just indicating a preference for mobile defence over area defence?

No... I mean I probably would prefer the former if I got to choose the terrain as you indicate, that rarely happens. I'm talking about all those things in context of using them in an area defence.

4.  The primary reason I would argue that you wish to avoid committing your reserve early (in either a mobile or an area defence) is that you tip your hand.  This goes back to Old Dead Carl and the very reason we find ourselves on the defence in the first place.  We are on the defence because something is preventing us from going to the offence.  That something is probably a correlation of forces, or we'd probably just take to the offence ourselves.  The defensive concept is parrying a blow, the characteristic, awaiting the blow, the object, preservation.  I need the enemy to wear himself down, commit his reserve, limit his freedom of action, and in doing so culminate so I can then act to take the initiative.  This is when I introduce my reserve, for if I introduce it earlier, I'm probably doing what the enemy is looking for - he'll then commit his reserve to run my committed forces over and achieve breakthrough/breakout.  In all higher level exercises I've been exposed to, we try to get the defending enemy to commit his reserves so we can destroy them and take advantage of the loss of freedom of action he now faces.  If he commits them early, so much the better.

I completely agree with all this. I guess this is where I'm getting at with not agreeing with doctrine that I should be relying on my reserve to conduct countermoves. For me, in my planning, countermoves is vital, it's my main effort. I'll take troops out trenches, I'll take vehicles off of positions, I'll dedicate more resources to sensors, etc... to ensure I can fulfill all of my countermoves plan. To me, that is not my reserve, or as you say, I'm already committed to committing my reserve before I even start.

In the end, I'll again offer my opinion that the Canadian doctrine is a bit simplistic due to our institutional unfamiliarity with sustained defensive operations and the relatively low level that it concerns itself with.  It's not in our heritage or collective memory.  If you want a good synopsis of the state of the art with all the nuances of different defensive approaches, here's a good read.

Definitely lots of reading to be done on this, and hopefully more discussions stirred up. I can't say enough how much this conversation requires a beer, a map, and a whiteboard (or maybe cider and cigars to drive home the "nerdy officer" stereotype).
« Last Edit: April 04, 2018, 01:48:48 by ballz »
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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #42 on: April 04, 2018, 00:06:53 »
I was lucky to have two weeks in Fort Knox with my squadron on the Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT). Its a system of linked tanked simulators. We did a Mobile Defence four times before I got it close to being right (plenty of fumbles on my part). A US Army Colonel was watching us with my Sqn 2IC from the control room. As we trudged into the AAR room yet again he said supportively "The Mobile D - its a tough one! You got this!" The ability to watch your failure on the replay, talk about it, come up with a fix and then try it out was outstanding. We did finally get it.

It's a crime against the Queen that we don't use JCATs more for that kind of stuff. All because of "costs" while we're turning in money left right and centre, unable to spend it.
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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #43 on: April 30, 2018, 15:01:04 »
I had the opportunity the other day to get out to a Second World War Nazi-Soviet battlefield around the small hamlet of More here in Latvia.  It gave me the opportunity to think on a few of the issues we've discussed here.  The position had very little depth but it did have a small reserve which counter attacked on numerous occasions to regain lost positions

The defence has a few common tasks that are related: depth, c-movs (block, reinforce, c-atk), reserves, and c-penetration.  Over this year this raised a few questions for me.  What does depth actually do?  What do reserves do?  Does the reserve do c-movs or do they need to be separate tasks?  How are all these concepts related?

Doctrinally the reserve does c-movs which makes sense at the Coy lvl and below where your reserve is likely to be reactive.  Above that where you might have a deliberate c-atk planned this makes less sense as your reserve shouldn't have a planned task and in many cases the c-atk will be the decisive act so the reserve would end up being your main effort even before commitment.  If you have to use that reserve to restore a situation in a blocking or reinforcing task that means you lose your main effort in trying to salvage a situation.  This tells me that any echelon that plans to launch a decisive c-atk probably needs a reserve separate from the c-movs force.  So, coys and below most of the time will only need a reserve.  Having said that, if you're a BG or higher and achieving your mission doesn't revolve around launching a decisive c-atk then you probably just need a reserve to block and reinforce as well.  This was noted earlier by Tango2Bravo.

I think depth posns as they are conventionally understood in Canadian doctrine and in practice take part in the direct fire fight.  At least depth sections, platoons, and Coys.  They service KZ's.  They fire between or around forward posns but they also offer a base of fire for local c-atks.  This may in fact be their more important function.  At the Coy level it seems to me that a small reserve that can move rapidly to a penetration, in conjunction with a depth BP that can immediately bring effective fires on to the enemy that has broken into one of the lead platoons would be a good combination.  That depth BP could then be prepared to follow and sp the reserve as required to complete the ejection of the enemy from the lead position.

In writing this it occurred to me that depth may actually be your best sub unit.  As the organisation likely to be least engaged they are the most likely to be thrown around the battlefield on blocking and reinforcing tasks.  If they draw the bulk of the patrols then they will likely find themselves with a multitude of conflicting tasks as they patrol while trying to complete defensive preparations.

Often you'll hear about a counter penetration plan.  I'd suggest this is just a counter moves task as it's a mix of blocking, reinforcing, and local counter atk to retake a lost posn.  As discussed above this could be a combination of both depth and a reserve/c-movs force.  The depth provides support while the reserve/c-movs blocks, reinforces, or c-atks.

At levels where there is a planned c-atk then as part of the c-movs plan both the reserve and the c-atk force need to be included, with the reserve conducting primarily blocking and reinforcing and c-movs conducting the decisive c-atk.

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #44 on: April 30, 2018, 17:50:30 »
I had the opportunity the other day to get out to a Second World War Nazi-Soviet battlefield around the small hamlet of More here in Latvia.  It gave me the opportunity to think on a few of the issues we've discussed here.  The position had very little depth but it did have a small reserve which counter attacked on numerous occasions to regain lost positions

The defence has a few common tasks that are related: depth, c-movs (block, reinforce, c-atk), reserves, and c-penetration.  Over this year this raised a few questions for me.  What does depth actually do?  What do reserves do?  Does the reserve do c-movs or do they need to be separate tasks?  How are all these concepts related?

Doctrinally the reserve does c-movs which makes sense at the Coy lvl and below where your reserve is likely to be reactive.  Above that where you might have a deliberate c-atk planned this makes less sense as your reserve shouldn't have a planned task and in many cases the c-atk will be the decisive act so the reserve would end up being your main effort even before commitment.  If you have to use that reserve to restore a situation in a blocking or reinforcing task that means you lose your main effort in trying to salvage a situation.  This tells me that any echelon that plans to launch a decisive c-atk probably needs a reserve separate from the c-movs force.  So, coys and below most of the time will only need a reserve.  Having said that, if you're a BG or higher and achieving your mission doesn't revolve around launching a decisive c-atk then you probably just need a reserve to block and reinforce as well.  This was noted earlier by Tango2Bravo.

I think depth posns as they are conventionally understood in Canadian doctrine and in practice take part in the direct fire fight.  At least depth sections, platoons, and Coys.  They service KZ's.  They fire between or around forward posns but they also offer a base of fire for local c-atks.  This may in fact be their more important function.  At the Coy level it seems to me that a small reserve that can move rapidly to a penetration, in conjunction with a depth BP that can immediately bring effective fires on to the enemy that has broken into one of the lead platoons would be a good combination.  That depth BP could then be prepared to follow and sp the reserve as required to complete the ejection of the enemy from the lead position.

In writing this it occurred to me that depth may actually be your best sub unit.  As the organisation likely to be least engaged they are the most likely to be thrown around the battlefield on blocking and reinforcing tasks.  If they draw the bulk of the patrols then they will likely find themselves with a multitude of conflicting tasks as they patrol while trying to complete defensive preparations.

Often you'll hear about a counter penetration plan.  I'd suggest this is just a counter moves task as it's a mix of blocking, reinforcing, and local counter atk to retake a lost posn.  As discussed above this could be a combination of both depth and a reserve/c-movs force.  The depth provides support while the reserve/c-movs blocks, reinforces, or c-atks.

At levels where there is a planned c-atk then as part of the c-movs plan both the reserve and the c-atk force need to be included, with the reserve conducting primarily blocking and reinforcing and c-movs conducting the decisive c-atk.

A wise Gunner (yes, there are a few) once explained to me that if you can't move because of the enemy's artillery fire on our MLD, you are depth. If you can, you are counter-move/attack.

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #45 on: January 20, 2019, 12:06:43 »
This Cbt Tm in Ops Pam I'm reviewing explicitly states that depth should be included in the counter moves plan.  I'm pretty sure that's the only place I've seen that.

I think a depth sub unit as part of a BG could quickly find themselves overwhelmed with the number of tasks given if the expectation that they do everything that a c-movs force has to do along with preparing a BP and conducting patrolling.  It'd be great to find a good historical vignette on this....

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #46 on: January 20, 2019, 13:56:54 »
I remember attending a 3 CIBG officers study group on the counterattack in Gagetown circa 1963-1964. The brigadier made the point that a forward battalion would be unable to counterattack within its own area, but might be able to block an advance. Even the brigade group could only mount a viable counterattack with a battle group and only then if the mission had been previously detailed in orders and the unit had time to plan and practice it. Anything else could require the commitment of troops from a formation not yet in contact.

This seems to fly in the face of the lessons of history, but he was trying to make a point about the limitations of a brigade group.

There is an example in my history of The Royal Winnipeg Rifles. Shortly after D Day in Normandy the battalion had advanced and occupied its final objective of Putot on 7 June. Incidentally, it was the first Allied unit to capture its final objective. Now the division had been training for the invasion and move forward to its objectives for several months, but had not spent much, if any, time practicing the defence. Things went amiss when it was attacked by 2nd Battalion, 26 SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment and things went all to crap. The situation was only restored by a counterattack by the Canadian Scottish supported by the 1st Hussars and concentrated artillery fire.   

We tend to downplay this battle, preferring to follow the successful advance and defence of the Regina Rifles a few klicks away, when they defeated a counterattack by a battalion of 25 SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment supported by 12 SS Panzer Regiment.

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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #47 on: January 20, 2019, 15:15:09 »
It seems to me that the only secure position is one in which the flanks are secure.  Which, unless you are dealing with WW1 conditions and have millions of men available to cover a linear front of hundreds of miles (and an enemy willing to recognize neutral territory as off limits), means the only viable formation is a circular one.

The consequence of a circular formation is that it circumscribes, contains and limits the force to the manpower within the perimeter.  The force can be outflanked and reduced.  So it always seems to come down to: "When do you choose to fight?"   and "How".

Sooner or later you are going to be in the position of deciding what to do with the last man at your disposal (your reserve).  Will you order him to die in place (depth)? To charge (counter-attack)? Or to surrender? Or to hang on hoping for things to improve?

World War 1 had lots of support in depth.  It took four years to thin out the lines.
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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #48 on: January 20, 2019, 17:26:03 »
This Cbt Tm in Ops Pam I'm reviewing explicitly states that depth should be included in the counter moves plan.  I'm pretty sure that's the only place I've seen that.

I think a depth sub unit as part of a BG could quickly find themselves overwhelmed with the number of tasks given if the expectation that they do everything that a c-movs force has to do along with preparing a BP and conducting patrolling.  It'd be great to find a good historical vignette on this....

Is depth out of enemy artillery range, or is it just behind the guys on the FEBA?

If its the former (which I think is probably a better use of the term) than a combat team as part of a battle group will never be in depth.  Just look at the range of common artillery systems.  Depth is a Battalion or Brigade task within a Brigade or Divisional context.

If depth is just "behind the guys in front," then I guess a Combat Team could be in depth.
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Re: Lessons Learned by a LAV Captain - Defense
« Reply #49 on: January 20, 2019, 21:19:58 »
Is depth out of enemy artillery range, or is it just behind the guys on the FEBA?

If its the former (which I think is probably a better use of the term) than a combat team as part of a battle group will never be in depth.  Just look at the range of common artillery systems.  Depth is a Battalion or Brigade task within a Brigade or Divisional context.

If depth is just "behind the guys in front," then I guess a Combat Team could be in depth.

As per our doctrine and practice we try to have depth at every level.  Depth trenches, sects, platoons, coys, and on.  So some depth is out of artillery range but a lot of it isn't.  The depth BG might be out tube artillery range but almost defiantly not out of rocket range.  The depth Bde might be out of range of both, but all of this depends on the frontage and depth of the defensive sector. 

All our doctrine talks about our concept of depth being about absorbing the momentum of the enemy's attack, and I don't necessarily see anything wrong with this concept.  Infantry Battalion in Battle had a more holistic approach which described depth as the cumulative effect of all defensive measures in the battalion area (pg 11-3-2).  This means it would include positional depth (the elements behind the ones expected to first make contact), use of covering forces, enganging the enemy with fires early, direct fires out to max effective range, and reserves.  I don't see the concept linked to the enemy's indirect fire, however, at some level (probably Bde and beyond, maybe BG) a Comd is looking to position his reserve, and maybe his depth element outside arty range, but most commanders will not have this luxury.