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Thinking about the Infantry Attack

daftandbarmy

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B-GL-392-002/FP-001 INF SECT AND PL IN OPS

I am told that this is undergoing a rewrite and comments are being solicited. Has anyone got a copy handy? I'm not sure if it's available online or not. Hopefully we've reintroduced the drills for 'Form Square'... if not I've got some writing to do.

Cheers  :salute:
 

dangerboy

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My OC mentioned he received a draft copy but I don't know if he is making comments on it or not.
 

Haligonian

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I took a very quick look at the draft that was available on the Army Electronic Library and there did not appear to be a whole lot of changes.  I believe it did recognize the fact that there is (and has been for years) three positions in the sect tied to the vehicle but other than that I didn't see anything really different.  Still spoke of frontal section attacks and little recognition that the sect might operate independantly of the platoon despite a decade of operations with sects doing just that.  All the diagrams still had 8 man sects and what not.  My overall impression was that it was far from polished and I would hope that the one that I saw was still far from being publishing.
 

daftandbarmy

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Haligonian said:
I took a very quick look at the draft that was available on the Army Electronic Library and there did not appear to be a whole lot of changes.  I believe it did recognize the fact that there is (and has been for years) three positions in the sect tied to the vehicle but other than that I didn't see anything really different.  Still spoke of frontal section attacks and little recognition that the sect might operate independantly of the platoon despite a decade of operations with sects doing just that.  All the diagrams still had 8 man sects and what not.  My overall impression was that it was far from polished and I would hope that the one that I saw was still far from being publishing.

Hmm... sounds like 'form square' wouldn't look out of place then?
 

Haligonian

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daftandbarmy said:
Hmm... sounds like 'form square' wouldn't look out of place then?

Perhaps not.  But like I said, it was very quick.  Perhaps there is someone else here who is either closer to the development process or has given the document a closer read.
 

GnyHwy

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A formed square is exactly what is called for, when in a probable hostile environment; would you do anything else?

Doctrine is not TTPs or reaction to the enemy; doctrine is the answer to problems that will always exist; not necessarily the problems of the present. 
 

Haligonian

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Interesting read here that I think fits under this (rather old but classic) thread.  Bit of tease of some research to come but worth the short read.

https://wavellroom.com/2018/09/25/slaughter-manoeuvre-infantry-and-psychology/

Quantification of tactical actions is always difficult but, I think, a worthwhile process to figuring out how combat is actually supposed to work.  It interesting that according to his data a flanking attack seems to have diminishing returns as the size of the force gets larger than a coy or two, however, his methodology is far from clear in this article.

His point on closing with the enemy is interesting and probably something most of us agree with and understand intuitively.  It would be nice to see his research on this.  This shows why sitting back with standoff weapons is insufficient against a determined defender.  Until we can gain a perfect understanding of the enemy and hit them all with precision munitions then assaulting infantry (and likely tanks?) will be required.  He attributes this to the fear of close combat and death but I'd say shock is part of the process as well.


 

Infanteer

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Nice find Haligonian.

The nexus of assault-flanking surprise-enemy casualties is probably another poorly understood concept by the profession, because it's something we just simply can't train or simulate in training very well, if at all.  Victory isn't about killing the enemy, it's about convincing him he's beaten, and he'll run away or cower in his hole.  There are so many case studies out there that indicate that when a key position is taken down, or a key leader killed, the defender just throws in the towel.

On diminishing returns for flanking action, he's probably right with the idea of the "big hook" being easier to spot.  An enemy's flank can become his frontage fairly easy - he just needs to turn 90 degrees.  Easy (or easier) to do if he sees it coming.

Dermot Rooney is a smart guy - I corresponded with him a while back and he provided me with some research material on a few things.  I recommend reaching out to him and getting more on his research - it's probably worth digging into.
 

Haligonian

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Infanteer said:
Dermot Rooney is a smart guy - I corresponded with him a while back and he provided me with some research material on a few things.  I recommend reaching out to him and getting more on his research - it's probably worth digging into.

Roger.

As a bit of an aside I was struck by a bit of a dichotomy between the tactical and operational levels and the strategic.  At the lower levels we want to defeat the enemy's will as it's less costly to do, however, at the strategic level we may need to destroy the enemy's capabilities if we need to ultimately change the balance of power between us and the enemy.  I'm reading Martel's Victory in War right now and this has come up a few times.
 

daftandbarmy

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Infanteer said:
Nice find Haligonian.

The nexus of assault-flanking surprise-enemy casualties is probably another poorly understood concept by the profession, because it's something we just simply can't train or simulate in training very well, if at all.  Victory isn't about killing the enemy, it's about convincing him he's beaten, and he'll run away or cower in his hole.  There are so many case studies out there that indicate that when a key position is taken down, or a key leader killed, the defender just throws in the towel.

On diminishing returns for flanking action, he's probably right with the idea of the "big hook" being easier to spot.  An enemy's flank can become his frontage fairly easy - he just needs to turn 90 degrees.  Easy (or easier) to do if he sees it coming.

Dermot Rooney is a smart guy - I corresponded with him a while back and he provided me with some research material on a few things.  I recommend reaching out to him and getting more on his research - it's probably worth digging into.

Way back in the School of Infantry at Warminster in 1983, right after the Falklands War, they changed the attack portion of the course to reflect the lessons learned.

Before the war, there was a lot of emphasis on maneuvering and not much on the 'fight through'.

After the war? Well, the fight through at Goose Green lasted 11 hours. So we did about a 6 hour fight through during a Coy Gp deliberate attack, mostly on our bellies, and by the end we had taken over 50% casualties who were umpired out then fed back in later as battle cas replacements.

After doing that three more times we were getting the hang of it.... as well as p**sed off with crawling ;)
 

a_majoor

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Infanteer said:
Nice find Haligonian.

The nexus of assault-flanking surprise-enemy casualties is probably another poorly understood concept by the profession, because it's something we just simply can't train or simulate in training very well, if at all.  Victory isn't about killing the enemy, it's about convincing him he's beaten, and he'll run away or cower in his hole.  There are so many case studies out there that indicate that when a key position is taken down, or a key leader killed, the defender just throws in the towel.

There are all kinds of ways to skin that cat. An article in an old edition of the Canadian Army Journal, Morale in Battle: The Theories of Colonel Ardant du Picq spoke of crushing the enemy morale by advancing so quickly the troops in depth could see the collapse before they could react or contribute to the fight. Old Cold Warriors might remember the independent Tank Battalion actually trailed the Moror Rifle Regiment, it's role was to exploit any breach in the defence and attack the rear (this could be scaled down with a classic two up formation, the depth section or platoon moves into the breach to attack the depth and disorganize the enemy). I'm sure there are dozens of historical examples or modern TTPs by other armies which achieve the same ends.

The trick for us is to emphasize whatever parts of our training which can be used to "convince him he's beaten". I personally would suggest marksmanship, since being able to put down rapid and accurate fire with all weapons systems is applicable in every situation, and really doesn't require much change to anything else we do, except for a much more intensive training bit on the SAT, the known distance range and especially live fire section and platoon attack ranges.
 

Kirkhill

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"I have been shot at quite a few times and could tell the enemy was close. Gravel and dirt were flying up all around me from the bullets."

Caught in the killing zone and unable to advance into the hail of fire, the soldiers withdrew to the relative safety of the water-filled ditch to return fire but were trapped as the insurgents moved in to try to overwhelm their position.

"We had to react quickly," said Cpl Jones.

"There was something different about this. It was obviously a well-planned ambush and they overwhelmed us with fire from three points initially."

Firing a rocket at one of the insurgent positions, Cpl Jones ordered three of his men to fix bayonets before breaking cover and leading them across 80 metres of open ground raked by enemy fire.

"I asked them if they were happy. They were all quite young lads and the adrenalin was racing. I shouted follow me and we went for it. I got 'Commander's Legs' on and was going very quickly. I realised I'd left them behind a bit so had to slow down and was engaged again, so I organised my guys who started attacking the enemy firing points," he said.

As two of the soldiers provided fire support, Cpl Jones prepared a hand grenade for the final assault. He raced towards an alley and was about to throw the grenade but said he realised that the buildings were occupied so put the grenade away. But the speed, aggression and audacity of his response caused the insurgents to fall back in disarray.

Princess of Wales's Regiment, Afghanistan, 2012  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/9571522/Soldier-who-led-Afghanistan-bayonet-charge-into-hail-of-bullets-honoured.html

Same regiment Iraq, 2004

Wood and other troops from the 1st Battallion of the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment were on their way to aid Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were attacked by 100 militiamen from al-Sadr's Mahdi Army when their vehicle struck an IED. The surprise attack actually hit two vehicles carrying 20 troops on a highway south of Amarah. Mortars, rockets, and machine guns peppered the unarmored vehicles.

Rather than drive through the ambush, the vehicles took so much punishment they had to stop on the road. The troops inside dismounted, established a perimeter, and had to call in some help of their own. Ammunition soon ran low.

The decision was made: the British troops fixed bayonets.

They ran across 600 feet of open ground toward the entrenched enemy. Once on top of the Mahdi fighters, the British bayoneted 20 of the militia. Fierce hand-to-hand combat followed for five hours. The Queen's men suffered only three injuries.

"We were pumped up on adrenaline — proper angry," Pvt. Anthony Rushforth told The Sun, a London-based newspaper. "It'’s only afterwards you think, 'Jesus, I actually did that’.' ”"

What started as a surprise attack on a British convoy ended with 28 dead militiamen and three wounded U.K. troops.

Jihadi propaganda at the time told young fighters that Western armies would run from ambushes and never engage in close combat. They were wrong. Irregular, unexpected combat tactics overwhelmed a numerically superior enemy who had the advantage in surprise and firepower.

https://www.wearethemighty.com/articles/these-british-troops-launched-a-proper-angry-bayonet-charge-during-the-iraq-war

Some place between "sending bullets instead of men" and "l'attaque a l'outrance".  Or, as others might put it picking "horses for courses".

And, while I'm at it:  How does one statistically quantify "surprise"?  Surely "surprise" is "unpredictable" or else it wouldn't be a surprise.
 

Kirkhill

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Edited from a nicely detailed but rather histrionic account of the 2004 action:

It was an ungodly-hot afternoon on May 14, 2004, when a convoy of British FV-510 Warrior armored personnel carriers raced down the highway 150 miles north of Basrah, Iraq.

If it was a hundred ten degrees outside, it seemed double that inside the non-air-conditioned armored vehicles, where a squad of six British infantrymen from C Company, 1st Battalion, The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment sat anxiously, rifles at the ready.  On the radio came frantic calls from a platoon of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, pinned down by enemy forces in the city of Al-Amara not far away.  The Argylls had been ambushed by over 80 fighters loyal to the radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and it wasn’t going well.  Every radio transmission made the men in the back of the Warrior IFV even more desperate to get there and assist....

...Wood was triple-checking his standard-issue British Army L85A2 assault rifle when suddenly the vehicle was rocked by a powerful blast that sent everyone inside reeling like they'd just hit the emergency stop on a roller coaster mid-corkscrew.  Within seconds, the radio was alive – “RPG!” – and the Iraqi highway was quickly crowded by muffled screams and the unmistakable sounds of ripping automatic weapons fire ruining peoples' days....

...Outside the coffin-like confines of the Warrior, it was pretty goddamn clear that the British convoy had rolled straight into a well-prepared ambush.  Hardcore, dedicated, resilient Iraqi troops had staked out positions in front and to the right of the British convoy, taking cover behind roadside embankments and irrigation ditches, and the Brits had rolled into their trap like those cops in Con Air getting jacked by Cyrus the Virus.  Over 100 warriors loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr fired down on the disoriented British forces with everything they had – rocket-propelled grenade launches, heavy machine guns, AK-47s and mortars.  The lead Warrior had been rocked hard, setting it on fire and knocking out its primary gun and power systems, leaving it basically dead in the water in an exposed position where Iraqi RPG troops could rocket-hump it with high explosive warheads....

....Unload your squad see what you can do.

Lance Corporal Brian Wood of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, British Army kicked open the back hatch of the APC and gave the only order that could logically be given:...


....With bullets zipping past their heads and cracking by their ears, Wood and his Brits – who were, according to one of them, “proper angry”, (which is a very awesome and very British thing to say, particularly when referring to a 21st-century bayonet charge) – ran screaming towards the crapping-their-pants Iraqis, bayonets gleaming in the burning-hot Middle Eastern sun.  Moving up in short bursts, Wood and his guys would race up ten meters, drop to the ground, fire a few bursts, then get up and sprint another short burst towards them.  Covering almost two hundred yards in a little over a minute, Wood then ordered his men to “CHAAAARRRRRGE!!!!” (I assume) and ran 30 meters up a goddamn embankment while AK-47 bullets tore up the ground around him.

When they reached the top of the embankment, Wood and his five squadmates broke into three teams of two and leapt feet-first into the trench, bayonets at the ready, screaming with furious British blood rage.

They landed in a body-strewn trench with over a dozen Iraqi fighters, none of whom were really expecting to be goddamned involved in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy on the field of battle in the year 2004.

According to one of the guys who was there, “Basically it was short, sharp, and furious.”

"I wanted to put the fear of God into the enemy.
I could see some dead bodies and eight blokes, some scrambling for their weapons.
I’ve never seen such a look of fear in anyone’s eyes before.
I’m over six feet; I was covered in sweat, angry, red in the face,
charging in with a bayonet and screaming my head off.
You would be scared, too."....

...When the smoke cleared, three enemy were dead, four were wounded/captured, and the rest had run for it to take cover in another trench nearby.  Not one of Wood’s men were injured, except one guy who got a mild blister on a finger of his non-stabbing hand.

Of course this was just the beginning.  After leading a bayonet charge and having some up-close hand-to-hand with the enemy, Wood, jacked up out of his mind on enough adrenaline to power a Red Bull processing plant, then repositioned his men in the trench and directed fire on the main body of the Iraqi troops, who were taking cover behind another drainage ditch nearby.  Those guys had obviously shifted their fire to the half-dozen stab-happy Brits at this point, but before long the APCs got their 30mm cannons up and running, and those beasts laid down a pounding covering fire while Wood and his squad moved up onto the next position.

Firing with their own rifles as well as AK-47s they’d picked up off dead enemy troops, Brian Wood and his guys cleared two more trenches over the course of the next four hours of straight-up combat.  They took out over 30 enemy fighters, forced the surrender of nine more, called in a friggin' tank to blow the shit out of a concrete bunker full of explosives, and destroyed the Iraqis' well-prepared ambush without taking a single British casualty.  One of the British APC drivers describes Wood’s actions better than I ever could: 

“The Iraqis were hidden in little bends in these channels, and they kept jumping out with their rifles and every time Brian and Dave would put them down. Then another bunch of guys would stand up and the same thing would happen. And gradually, we got the upper hand and it all started to quieten down, until there was just sporadic fire.”

http://badassoftheweek.com/index.cgi?id=905475926435

Apologies for the histrionic vocabulary..... but there again, are bayonet charges possible without histrionics? 

"exaggerated dramatic behavior designed to attract attention."
 

Colin Parkinson

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So what we need is a company of underfed, underpaid squadies who are constantly pissed off and ready to put it to anyone that crosses their path?
 

SeaKingTacco

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Colin P said:
So what we need is a company of underfed, underpaid squadies who are constantly pissed off and ready to put it to anyone that crosses their path?

Historically speaking, there is a great deal of truth in that statement.
 

daftandbarmy

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Colin P said:
So what we need is a company of underfed, underpaid squadies who are constantly pissed off and ready to put it to anyone that crosses their path?

'Infantry duty meant one was always hungry.'

Lewis Higinbotham

https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/09/15/the-debate-continues-being-in-the-infantry-means-you-have-to-decide-which-of-your-close-comrades-might-die-today/
 

Kirkhill

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SeaKingTacco said:
Historically speaking, there is a great deal of truth in that statement.

Curious, thinking about that in terms of morale.  Which makes a more effective soldier?  Someone whipped into a frenzy?  Or someone completely fed up that knows the only way home is right over that hill over there and the only thing stopping him is the bugger on top?

Some folks break.  Some folks get angry.
 

daftandbarmy

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Chris Pook said:
Curious, thinking about that in terms of morale.  Which makes a more effective soldier?  Someone whipped into a frenzy?  Or someone completely fed up that knows the only way home is right over that hill over there and the only thing stopping him is the bugger on top?

Some folks break.  Some folks get angry.

I recall an occasion when we were involved in some longer term nastiness and my signaler looked at me, through the p&ssing down rain in the dark, and said 'Hey Boss, thank f&ck at least we had a good scoff before this all started.'  (I made  a mean mess tin curry back then).

I have never since then doubted that well fed fanatics are better than starving fanatics :)

 
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