The modern model for military aggression and defensive strategies on the squad or platoon levels stem from the thoughts and ideas of General George S. Patton, Jr, of the Third Army during the Second World War. Simply put, soldiers were instructed to “punch him (the enemy) in the nose, then kick him in the ass”, a rather Patton-esque way of referring to a basic flanking maneuver.
Flanking, you see, is good. Taking an enemy’s flank expose the enemy to very basic principles of combat that, when employed, alter circumstances in your favor REGARDLESS for the most part of technology, numbers, or any other aspect of what could wrongly be called conventional military wisdom. Here, we will examine these principles of warfare (all-capitalized) that are able to trump other elements, why they are able to do so, and how the may be applied specifically. As we discuss elements of combat, I will also introduce different strategies related to said elements (noted by red)
Fire superiority at its base involves nothing more than sending more bullets towards the enemy than they are sending at you. If you are being fired upon more frequently than you are able to return, it becomes harder and harder to muster the courage to attempt to return fire. This is for the simple reason that in order to attack you must expose at least part of your body from cover long enough to fire a weapon, and if you are being consistently fired upon, the will to risk such exposure dwindles according to the enemies rate of fire. Achieving this power over your enemy is called gaining “Fire Superiority”. Fire superiority is so effective because it allows for other elements to unfold without a change in enemy position, motion, etc. Enemies cannot adapt or develop a plan if they cannot even muster the courage to return fire or even glance at the situation. Establishing fire superiority allows you to develop and execute a plan of action while your enemy remains fixed by the factors explained above.
Applying Fire Superiority
Moving forward, it now becomes useful to examine exactly WHAT a team, squad, or platoon should do with the time and advantage gained by achieving Fire Superiority.
We will use a squad for reference, though the same principles can be applied on the platoon or even company levels, depending on the magnitude of a given conflict.
A squad consists of a Squad leader, two team leaders, and two teams consisting of one rifleman, grenadier, and automatic rifleman in each.
When contact is made, the objective is to achieve fire superiority with one team, while another team (separated by necessity of formation) waits on orders from the leader in command. Once the Squad Leader assesses the situation in terms of fire superiority, he will make a decision determining the evolution of the engagement. If he determines by a rule of thumb (demanding 3 to one superiority of numbers) to engage, then he will conduct the squad awaiting orders on an assault of the objective, the enemy’s position.
The squad maintaining fire superiority is referred to as the support element, and keeps the enemy engaged and suppressed throughout the assault. The team accompanied by the Squad leader is known as the assault element, and is tasked with assaulting the enemy’s defensive position using a route determined by terrain. In deciding upon such an attack route, the squad leader is to emphasize the factors of COVER and CONCEALMENT when making a planned path of attack. At the furthest point of cover and concealment, the assault element signals the support element with a previously decided way of communication, then initiates contact from the flank of the enemy, which is advantageous due to other elements of engagement.
This method of eliminating an enemy relies heavily if not completely on the ability to suppress the enemy by attaining fire superiority. Without consistency of this combative element the assault team would be put in danger of an enemy without a clearly fixed position. By engaging the enemy constantly and keeping them defensive by fire superiority, you allow for the evolution of a plan and provide for the safety of assaulting soldiers, very similar to the principal of “cover fire”.
The model to the left illustrates the basic military flanking procedure that forms the heart of almost every Army battle drill in existence. With the strength of an entire military resting on the value of fire superiority, it is important to understand the relevance of this combative element. The US military has implemented into every firing team one automatic rifleman, equipped with a SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) gun capable of some very impressive statistics. Without a gunner such as the automatic riflemen, fire superiority is determined by factors other than equipment and technology, such as morale, numbers, etc. But so long as a firing team has a SAW-gunner, one man can account for the same fire power as many more. Necessarily, it is extremely important for our military to make sure they are able to employ the use of their SAW, while it is advantageous to enemies of the military to make sure that they cannot. Disable fire capabilities, and every battle drill seared into the mind of a soldier becomes incompatible with the situation, so long as an enemy attains fire superiority first.
Picture of the SAW, along with some impressive statistics
It has a regulator for selecting either normal (750 rounds per minute [rpm)) or maximum (1,000 rpm) rate of fire
Primary function: Hand-held combat machine gun
Manufacturer: Fabrique Nationale Manufacturing, Inc.
Length: 40.87 inches (103.81 centimeters)
With bipod and tools: 15.16 pounds (6.88 kilograms)
200-round box magazine: 6.92 pounds (3.14 kilograms)
30-round magazine: 1.07 pounds (.49 kilograms)
Bore diameter: 5.56mm (.233 inches)
Maximum effective range: 3281 feet (1000 meters) for an area target
Maximum range: 2.23 miles (3.6 kilometers)
Rates of fire:
Cyclic: 725 rounds per minute
Sustained: 85 rounds per minute
Unit Replacement Cost: $4,087
The SAW is a squad leader’s weapon, as well as the automatic rifleman, and is an easy way to fire with the power of ten to twenty riflemen without acquiring the additional men to the force.