Urban Warfare Essay Research Paper
It s a dirty business but somebody has to do it.
Since the Middle Ages urban combat has been a dirty business. The effect on the populace has always been traumatic whether the people were participants or simply bystanders caught in the misery of it all. In earlier times laying siege to a city and then taking it was the objective. Since World War II and the refinement of maneuver warfare cities have become a restricted area that are more easily bypassed or reduced than taken. Part of the reason for this gradual change in strategy has been the cost associated with military operations on urbanized terrain (MOUT). The cost though difficult to calculate has been excessive and prohibitive.
Recent examples of urban combat like the Russian attempt and eventual success in Grozny (the capital of the Republic of Chechnya) demonstrate the current price of fighting under these conditions. This Russian operation was conducted unconstrained by some of the modern day concerns such as civilian casualties or collateral damage. Yet the operation demonstrated that urban combat is demoralizing resource draining politically costly and represents the least favorable option of driving the enemy out. More favorable strategies in taking a city include: cutting off the city from enemy reinforcement and supply thereby letting the defenders collapse; reducing the city by armed force; or bypassing the city altogether and winning the war by other means. Some disadvantages in conducting urban combat are the loss of maneuver space and communications and the loss of any technological edge that U.S. forces possess. Although technology can be put to good use in this type of warfare the loss in overall advantage seems to outweigh the gain.
The purpose of this article is to discuss the dangers of entering into urban combat operations unprepared. The Russians experienced a hard lesson at Grozny a lesson the United States had experienced in earlier times on a large scale at Aachen Manila Hue and Panama and recently on a smaller scale in Mogadishu: that urban combat operations are not and cannot be clinical operations.
This article also attempts to form a baseline of knowledge gathered through years of studying military history from someone who is not an expert in urban combat operations. The thoughts discussed here are the result of reading historical literature reviewing recent events in the world and monitoring trends gathered from the various U.S. Army training centers. The Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) is attempting to observe lessons learned from MOUT that may help our soldiers in a future urban combat contingency. There are concerns by some junior leaders voiced at the JRTC that our soldiers are not being properly trained equipped supplied and led to meet the challenges of urban combat operations.
Fact: U.S. doctrine on combat operations in urban areas is outdated.
DISCUSSION: The primary U.S. Army doctrinal publication on this subject FM 90-10 Military Operations on Urban Terrain (a prescription on how the Army plans to fight in the urban environment) was published 15 August 1979. Its focus was on the fast-moving European battlefield of the 1960 s and 1970 s. An update specifically designed to provide the “how-to pieces of urban combat” was addressed in FM 90-10-1 An Infantryman s Guide to Combat in Built-up Areas published in May 1993 and the subsequent Change 1 to that FM dated 3 October 1995. Change 1 of FM 90-10-1 provided some lessons learned from the Army s Panama Haitian and Somalia experience. The potential threats described in both these publications have changed the weapons and munitions in our own inventory and tactics techniques and procedures. In addition the technology present on the battlefields of the world has dramatically changed. The types and locales of cities as well as the political and environmental limitations city sizes population densities and changes in demographics in areas where the Army may be committed need review. The equipment available to the regular infantry for executing doctrine is outdated. Moreover the training we are using to prepare our soldiers for urban combat is not realistic enough to present the full spectrum of command and control along with the psychological impact close combat and logistical problems associated with this kind of combat.
RECOMMENDATION: Tactics techniques and procedures (TTP) need to be developed as an interim measure until doctrine can be written that supports urban combat. A new publication MCWP 3-35.3 Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain published 16 April 1998 by the United States Marine Corps and the Marine Corps current “Urban Warrior ” experiment are positive steps which offer a different approach and fresh review of many of the questions the Army needs to address. The Marines are conducting “Urban Warrior” over a two-year period to develop TTP and long range over-the-horizon command and control capabilities. An Army experiment called the MOUT TF originated at the Department of the Army and was tasked to TRADOC. This effort was then tasked by TRADOC to the Infantry School at Fort Benning Georgia. Its mission is to determine what should be done about the outdated FM 90-10/90-10-1 and to develop a training strategy for urban combat in the Army. Another interesting project at Fort Benning is the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD). This project is a joint venture with the Marine Corps and is providing some encouraging work focused on what technology can bring to the urban fight.
OBSERVATION: The political realities of urban combat have created a terminology that tends to place limitations on how to conduct these operations. Terms like surgical MOUT precision MOUT and high-intensity MOUT are attempts at making urban combat something that it is not.
DISCUSSION: These terms tend to bring civility to urban combat operations. Based again on historical research and examples of how urban combat is fought there is no method for this type of operation. The distinctions between one phase of urban combat and the others are not precise. The different types of urban combat descriptions give our soldiers and leaders a false sense of security that the operation they are conducting will not escalate; they do not plan thoroughly for such contingencies.
RECOMMENDATION: It is important that doctrine writers and soldiers who develop TTP currently being practiced use the correct terminology in describing the details and actions necessary in urban combat. The sugarcoated version of urban combat will not reflect the truth. Battles in a city are savage and many times do not allow for the precautions normally taken in the field concerning refugees civilian casualties evacuation of friendly and enemy wounded and dead and prisoners-of-war (POWs). The intent here is not to desensitize our soldiers to the plight of civilians or friendly and enemy soldiers but to caution everyone that conventional concerns on the open battlefield may not apply in urban combat. Does this mean the Army cannot hold itself to a high moral code? NO. However it does mean there is a need to be prepared for a situation where beliefs moral code and practices are tested beyond the bounds of current training and to be prepared to face those challenges on a case-by-case basis.
OBSERVATION: The manpower resources needed to conduct urban combat is a problem for the U.S. Army. Under the current downsizing agenda the Army does not have the soldiers to do the job. Any urban operation requires the infantryman and many of them not only to clear buildings and fight the fight one room at a time but to secure buildings already taken and to guard precarious lines of communication that can be cut by a determined enemy squad. In an urban battle today the battle for a building may take U.S. forces 24 stories straight up. Battle space cannot be considered in ground area in urban combat.
DISCUSSION: A battle fought under these conditions lessens all the advantages the U.S. military possesses on the open battlefield and requires that soldiers not machines fight and die for every corner set of stairs soda machine and hallway. The grim reaper will collect his due no matter what devices can be developed to improve our advantage. There are just too many corners stairs vending machines and hallways along the way. To anticipate few casualties in this type of operation would not be an honest appraisal.
RECOMMENDATION: The Army needs soldiers in sufficient numbers to fight and support the urban battle and provide service support to those soldiers committed to the urban battle. A streamlined combat organization is needed that allows for easier task organization. A standard organization in combat arms units will help. Infantry units should be organized the same whether they are light infantry airborne infantry air assault infantry ranger infantry or mechanized infantry. Specialty in organization creates unnecessary problems in equipment weapons ammunition and support. The Army in its currently reduced state does not need organizational problems complicated by one-of-a-kind and uniquely organized subordinate organizations. The “keep it simple stupid” (KISS) principle applies here where “one organization fits all” is the best approach then organize for combat.
Recently the Chief of Infantry addressed this last problem. He recognized the problem in the field and reacted to “quick-fix” the organizational problem. The doctrinal development in organization will follow and unit training will adjust to the changes over time. The changes will define the basic unit of infantry and lead to its development in the task organization for combat whether in the urban environment in the jungle or desert.
OBSERVATION: Training in villages will not prepare the Army for combat in the large metropolitan areas. The Army has invested a tremendous amount of money and assets in developing a series of first-class MOUT sites at various training centers to help train soldiers to operate in the urban combat environment.
DISCUSSION: These sites can help a soldier polish the skills he needs to clear a room isolate a threat or move up a stairwell but the present training sites are unrealistic. They suggest the urban terrain can be isolated and cut off. Only in the best of circumstances would this be the case. Cities are too large and too segmented to allow for complete encirclement and forces are not available to accomplish this task. As in Grosny the enemy will be reinforced and supplied with open-ended support. Gone are the days when an army can prevent these enemy activities in an urban battle. Even the best weapons in the world cannot isolate the enemy; the example of the Ho Chi Minh trail should tell all military practitioners something. If the enemy is dedicated to his cause re-arming re-supply and reinforcement will be something our forces must contend with and be prepared for.
RECOMMENDATION: The U.S. Army needs to work with city governments to train under as realistic conditions as acceptable to those cities. Offers of cooperation funding and sharing of experiences that could otherwise never be gained with local law enforcement agencies and other emergency services can create an exercise that will benefit all concerned.
OBSERVATION: U.S. forces currently do not have the special weapons needed and lack the quantities necessary for urban operations. The weapons historically needed to do the job are in many cases either not in the inventory or soldiers are not available for training in the urban environment.
DISCUSSION: In our world today the concern of what weapon is appropriate for the incident may affect our ability to fight successfully in urban combat. The enemy can use whatever ruthless means he has at his fingertips to engage our forces yet due to the prevailing attitude with our image the press and concern for the local population the Army may be prevented from using the most effective weapons. In an historical example (Aachen) the use of 155-mm artillery in direct fire mode offered a tremendous equalizer yet today it would create unacceptable collateral damage. Another weapon consistently used in city combat is the flame-thrower. When faced with a bunker or basement where all the firepower in the world is available yet not effective it has historically been the flame-thrower that got the job done. This weapon like no other produces a tremendous amount of psychological effect on a trapped enemy yet this weapon is not considered an acceptable substitute for firepower. The M202 Flash is the latest generation of flame weapon; however few infantrymen have trained with this weapon. At present we are not sure the system is available to regular infantry. This weapon is much safer than the previous flame-thrower apparatus and easier to train with and store. Why is this weapon better described as a round (actually 4 tubes) not used in training or available in quantities necessary for urban combat? If safety is still an issue technological improvements in binary weapon my help in the development of an advanced flame-thrower.
RECOMMENDATION: Develop weapons based on the need to defeat the threat not on political considerations concerning whether such a weapon would be used in a given situation. The concerns for weapons “use” should be: 1.) Will it be effective? 2.) Is it safe for our troops to use? 3.) Will it have the desired effect? Finally the weapon must be available in sufficient quantities for use in realistic training and for combat.
OBSERVATION: Quantity of supplies is another issue that the Army must be prepared to address in a urban combat situation. Previous evidence shows that urban combat uses an inordinate amount of supplies from ammunition to bandages. This usage is in conventional supplies only. It does not account for specialty equipment such as grappling hooks and rope (described as essential for every soldier) nor for the high use of fragmentation white phosphorus thermal and smoke grenades necessary for every move.
DISCUSSION: A lack of sufficient supplies and specialty equipment will force our troops to use alternatives and “work-a-rounds” to clear the enemy from certain positions. These work-a-rounds will be applied with the loss of certain weapons from our inventory that may be considered unnecessary. Because these work-a-round weapons are not supported they are not in the inventory and will not be available for training or available when needed for urban operations.
RECOMMENDATION: Screen weapons for use in the urban environment and make weapons effectiveness easy use and safety (rather than political acceptability) priorities in determining needs.
OBSERVATION: Munitions now in the inventory are not suitable for urban combat. In past wars the types of ammunition in the inventory worked for all possibilities. Today this is not the case. Due to the cost of maintaining ammunition stores and the doctrine that U.S.