(Finally, after about ten weeks, a new military theory text on the blog:)
A "wandernder Kessel" (moving pocket) was created several times by German forces after the turn of World War Two.: A force of size division up to army was encircled, but did not break or stay in place. Instead, it slowly fought its way back to friendly troops.
These involved forces were usually of minimal remaining combat power once they reached safety, but they were still capable of being refitted with replacements and new equipment in a few months.
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Let's think about it; they were encircled, but obviously the encirclers were not strong enough to eliminate or at least fixate the pocket.
This points at a -in relative terms- low strength of the encirclers.
Voilà, we're at my favourite topic; how to do end/win in continental warfare with a low force to area ratio (quickly).
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The encirclers were not capable of laying a defensible (robust, stiff) defensive line/zone around the pocket. In principle, this situation (an army encircled by another army, but still able to move) is comparable to the hypothetical situation of a brigade being de facto encircled by armoured recce units which cut off supply by land but cannot stall movements entirely.
The historical moving pockets were neither axis nor allied decisive successes; they were rather a kind of draw, in which the encircled troops suffered more badly than usual while the encirclers failed to achieve a full success.
There is something in the historical scenario that should be of great interest, though: Those moving pockets all moved towards friendly forces; none of them dared to attack even deeper. That would have been outright idiotic, after all.
I guess I mentioned in some other blog post before that modern conventional land warfare would tend to have no front lines as seen in 1914-1951. The German army was 85% foot-mobile with horse-drawn carts and 15% motorised or armoured. We never rebuilt the cheap quantity component of the non-motorised infantry divisions; nobody did in Europe.
The Cold War and post-Cold War army is fully motorised. There being no quantity component, who should establish and defend a front line?
So there will likely be no front line, but military theory and doctrine does not seem to have caught up with this fully. I found little if any evidence for an active substitution for front line functions, at least. Front lines had many functions; most importantly they kept the opposing force from advancing broadly and forced them to concentrate for a breakthrough.
Modern conventional and highly mobile land warfare could see dozens of brigades facing each other, and it would be terribly unstable because the cruise speed of such formations suffices for crossing an entire continent in a week.
It would be certainly interesting to have something in the repertoire that stabilises the situation and keeps OPFOR from doing so. There are some options involving a similar (instead of dissimilar) response (brigade manoeuvring against brigade), but to be honest; I don't trust them. I don't trust air forces either, for they would surely relocate their squadrons if OPFOR is just a few hours away with no easily defensible geographical obstacle (river, mountains) in between.
What if we turned OPFOR formations into moving pockets? What if our skirmishers / armoured recce units would even infiltrate deep (remember, there's no front line holding them back) and turn even OPFOR brigades ahead of ours into moving pockets?
They would probably not only give up any short-term offensive plans - they might actually run for safety, and attempt to create a front-line-esque safety cordon along a geographically suitable line.
They might as well go hunting and split up in the process (into spaced battalion groups) - but that would make them vulnerable to 'blue' brigade attacks.
The most crucial part would be to convince the encircled leaders that they are indeed encircled. On the other hand, they might make terrible decisions if they ignore the situation.
And there we are at my almost two years-old text "The square trick", where I laid out quite the same, just with a few thoughts less advanced. My rate of progress may sound kinda slow (which it probably is), but then again I don't publish everything...
P.S.: This may be of interest in the context of moving pockets: Crisis in battle