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THE TACTICAL FACTORS AND THE MILITARY SURPRISE.

THE TACTICAL FACTORS METT-TC OF THE RECEIVED MISSION FROM THE DIRECT COMMAND.

The Mission (M) determines the employ of the surprise, because it defines the “tactical environment“, over the merely spatial component, in which this one can apply and where it will be developed. The fulfillment of the received mission will determine decisively the possibilities of conception and application of the surprise. On having defined and express that one, the goal of the multiple and convergent actions of the efforts and means assigned by the superior command to a tactical chief. The detection by the exploration or the advanced “units of action” of a possible “interface of action” favorable over the enemy, does not authorize “per se” to a command to separate from the fulfillment of the mission of the top command.

The Enemy (E) is the essential and principal aim of a command. And the surprise is a multiplier essential factor of his potentials and means, to fulfill the received mission and to contribute to it. Surprise must then to look for: the spatial or functional dislocation of the enemy; or the economic wastage of his capacities; or a more rapid and effective fulfillment of the entrusted mission; or a positional advantage for the own deployment, for own immediate maneuvers; or the decisive assault or the counterattack to the critical or secondary vulnerabilities of the enemy, according to the plan of the top command.

The Terrain (T) and, for extension, the space is the essential support of the “tactical area” of the military action. This must use it always in its own profit, both in the assault and in the defense. In the rapid maneuvers, typical of the surprises, one will prefer using the favorable area for the employed weapon, in order that it favors the pace or tempo and the impulse or moment of them.

This way, the tanks (which fighting way is the attack) will use favorably in lightly wavy grounds and with great domain by the sights, without perpendicular cuts or water currents or rocky important outcrops. Nevertheless, the complete surprise can need the employment of tanks in difficult, not impossible ground, for them, so they are not waited by the enemy. Even, using in the spear of advance fewer armored units than the usual ones, which, with the surprise, would make feel with his presence equal fire power and shock.

The grounds provided with covers and/or concealments and the night and the atmospheric phenomena or meteors (rain, snow, hail), that reduce visibility and combative disposition in the defenders, favor the movement to the combat of the units and means of the surprise. Also, they allow their temporal concealment in the decided rest and departure zones. The inconvinient and/or disagreeable grounds facilitate the final approximation of the means of the surprise: gutters, edges of the streets close to the sidewalks, vertical walls that are practicable, cultivated fields, bushes, wetlands. In exchange for inconveniences and of time in the advance, we will win in the effective employ of the surprise.

In the defense, we will use the broken ground, with concealment relative heights (CRH) and covers for the small units (urban and industrial zones); partly resting on the rear slope and in natural obstacles (rivers, trees spots, etc.) that run parallel to the tracing of the defensive position; that impede or reveal the enemy movements, breaking his impulse, and facilitate the rejection from our own favorable positions. The counterattack from the depth of our tactical zone on the reverse or the flank of the enemy spears of advance, preferably after his determination, will be a very effective employ of the surprise. The fire traps (fire bags), the dispersed and small minefields, the fire blows from the defense points and resistance nests, retained up to the close distances with the enemy, are defensive surprises, but more waited by the enemy.

Being based on the ground characteristics and paying attention to the particularities of some part of the tactical area (enemy, mission, area, opportunity) the surprise will be planned and decided. And it will implement his assembly, deployment, support and unfolding, following a sufficient, protected and constant flow.

The Troops (T) necessary to execute and fulfill the conceived and decided surprise, must be adapted for the mission by his characteristics. The surprise is an offensive action over the enemy, developed unexpected, rapid and thougtlessly, in general. The equipment of the men and the air and artillery support must be the necessary and sufficient, in conformity with the determined plan. Besides his general training, the men must receive the specific training, depending on the characteristics of the mission and the actions to develop. The characteristics of obedience and initiative, patience, resistance and sobriety, physical qualities, enthusiasm and spirit of group, commitment with the mission, must be the best in the men. As they will be an important part of the actions. And they will act as chiefs and persons in charge of themselves and of his mission companions, in certain moments.

It is important a complete real time training of the mission. There are devices that fail at the X hours of use. The tension on the men and his sustained efforts affect their comfort and their efficiency and rapidity of action. With repercussions in his combative disposition, his alert and the precision of answers.

Often the heavy fire will be used to conceal the enemy from our surprise. The coordination of different weapon in the same mission or sector, is a critical point of it. For example, units of infantry, reinforced by some squads of engineers and supported by a few tanks sections, crossing a thick forest to surprisingly reach an enemy important position in the depth of his deployment. Acting in the same sector of advance or assault, the coordination between the small units must be tested and confirmed.

The Time (T) of the mission is a decisive factor of his success. On one hand, it must be the opportune one. For other part, the time must be enough and accelerated uniformly in the “successive cycles of action” of the development of the mission. In order that the concentration, the sequence or the simultaneity of employs and the forcefulness of our actions demolish the enemy human aim at which they are applied, once gotten the surprise.

It is necessary to consider always that all the actions need to happen an estimated planned time plus a complementary corrector time. This will depend on the degree of complexity of the mission: units, logistic support, demonstrative helping actions, crossing distances, passage difficulties, presence and intention of the enemy, simultaneity or sequence of employs, coordination. And it originates in the failures that arise in all the human activities and in the small and medium mistakes that are committed by the commands and men. Some call these the tactical friction of war. A serious mistake would suppose that the surprise was badly calculated or executed and it is an operational serious mistake.

The civilians (C) must not be damaged in a surprising mission. Even when the enemy mixes and protects in a civil area, it is possible to define and to make concrete a purely military aim. To isolate, attack and extirpate it with military accurate and mopping-up. Here is necessary the employ of the organic weapon of the ground attacking unit, which limit the not wished hurts and make concrete his effects in the selected targets.

The heavy indiscriminate air and artillery fire is a weapon of merciless and spread results for the employ in urban areas. His aim is not to blind, to disturb or to neutralize the enemy. The excessive and insistent heavy fire seek to destroy it. That is the more uncertain and less economic goal of all. Both the Soviets and the western allieds have used it with profusion in the civil wars of the Southwest of Asia. His use has as goal to destroy from far off and before to the assault, the enemy positions in the villages. Avoiding as much as possible that the own ground forces fight at close distances with the islamist rebels.


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Enrique Alonso nació en La Habana. Tras el establecimiento del régimen comunista se trasladó a España, licenciándose en Ciencias Químicas en la Universidad de Oviedo.

Es titulado por la Universidad Complutense en Química y Tecnología del Petroleo (dos cursos) y en Logística por la Cámara de Comercio de Madrid (un curso). Ha realizado su labor profesional durante más de 30 años en REPSOL y empresas anteriores, absorbidas posteriormente. Su trabajo se centró en la investigación de lubricantes (Centro de Investigación de la calle Embajadores), el área comercial y la logística de lubricantes (unas 100 mil Tm. al año de productos a granel y envasados, con un presupuesto total de unos 1000 millones de ptas).

Ha sido colaborador en la década de los 80, del diario Pueblo y, a través de la agencia EFE, de diversos diarios españoles e hispanoamericanos en temas de política internacional y militares.

Es autor de la novela “Operación Elefante”, publicada en 1982, que trata minuciosa y extensamente de las operaciones y tácticas de las guerrillas y contraguerrillas en la Angola socialista prosoviética de Agostinho Neto, apoyada desde 1975 por tropas cubanas. 

En 2005 publicó en inglés el ensayo “On the Nature of War”, que es una teoría de la guerra basada en el desarrollo y la aplicación práctica de 10 “sistemas operativos”.

Actualmente es colaborador permanente de la revista española War Heat International.

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