Definitions

Fighting positions

List of military tactics

This page contains a list of military tactics:

Principles

  • Identification of objectives: Also referred to as 'Selection and Maintenance of the Aim'; Tactics should be directed to achieve a particular outcome such as the capture of a hill, a successful disengagement from an advancing enemy, or merely causing a greater proportional loss to the enemy than to your own force (attrition). Once an aim is identified, time, resources and effort are expended to achieve it; therefore, these are wasted if the aim is frequently changed. By way of an operational/strategic level of example, consider Hitler's frequent shift of focus in 1941 in the invasion of the Soviet Union; constantly shifting resources from one operation to another; when he might have done better to remain focused on the capture of Moscow first.
  • Force concentration A blade is edged so that it lands with more energy per square centimeter than an equal width blunt object. Concentration of effort is a fighting force's edge. Once an aim is identified, earmark enough resources to achieve it and focus them on the task.
  • Exploiting prevailing weather. This is not one of the stated principles of war, but is a good habit. Most of the most successful attacks in the First World War: Vimy Ridge, Amiens or the opening of the German March offensive of 1918 began - mostly coincidentally - in fog or a snow storm. The Japanese carrier groups sent to attack Pearl Harbor and Midway advanced whenever possible behind a storm front, as the bad weather cut down on the chance of detection.
  • Exploiting night: Again, this is not a principle of war, but a temporary advantage of technology in the last 40 years. Western troops, in particular, have been well-equipped with night vision equipment.



  • Maintenance of reserves: Again, in many national armies’ "Principles of War", this is not listed, except perhaps generally under the heading of 'Flexibility'. The maintenance of a reserve force allows a tactician to exploit new opportunities, or react quickly to reverses and unexpected developments. Typically, most commanders keep about a quarter of the forces back in reserve for this function - a battalion might keep a company back, the brigade might keep a battalion back, etc.
  • Economy of force: A common principle of war; the attentive commander knows that his troops, equipment and supplies must be husbanded and used carefully, only if there is a good chance of success.
  • Force protection: Another component is the principle of security. A military unit or formation must always have sentries or reconnaissance deployed, specialized weapons against specific attacks - such as anti-aircraft defences today - must always be carefully sited and available, even if halted for only a short period, defensive measures should be taken.
    • Force dispersal: This is not a principle of war, but is a very necessary practice in modern circumstances where contemporary firepower is so overwhelming. It is interesting to consider that in a kilometre wide battlefield, the Classic Greeks or Romans might have stuffed over 8,000 men in a front line formation, Wellington would consider half that number crowded; a World War One Army would deploy 1,000 men, and today's forces might use less than a 100.
    • Military camouflage: Camouflage is an ancient measure designed to deceive opponents and protect one's forces. Outlines have to be broken up, textures disguised, and reflective surfaces dulled. An example of this is the ghillie suit. Camouflage techniques also extend beyond the visible spectra that the human eye normally uses, as the same principles now need to work in infrared light, against starlight scopes and radar frequencies.
    • Deception: Sun Tzu said that all war is based on deception back in the 4th century BC; a wise commander takes measures to let his opponent only react to the wrong circumstances. Diversionary attacks, feints, decoys; there are thousands of tricks that have successfully used, and still have a role in the future.
      • Perfidy: Soldiers tend to have assumptions and ideas of rules and fair practices in combat, but those combatants who raise surrender flags to lure their attackers in the open, or who act as stretcher bearers to deceive their targets tend to be especially disliked.
      • False flag: An ancient ruse de guerre - in the days of sail, it was permissible for a warship to fly the flag of an enemy, so long as it properly hoisted its true colors before attacking. Wearing enemy uniforms and using enemy equipment to infiltrate or achieve surprise is possible.
    • Electronic countermeasures
  • Fortification
  • Use and improvement of terrain
  • Multiple Axis of Movement
  • Reconnaissance
  • Fire Attacks: Reconnaissance by fire is used by apprehensive soldiers when they suspect the enemy is lurking nearby. Basically, fire into likely enemy positions and see if anyone returns fire.

Small unit tactics

Offensive tactics

Defensive tactics

Deception

See also

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