Deploying for attack and speed of advance

The point of delaying actions is to threaten the advancing hostile force enough to force it from a marching stance into a combat stance. The vehicles leave the road, deploy into combat formations, probe, use otherwise ignored routes to flank the defender and so on. All this takes a lot more time than to keep advancing along a road. The delaying force then retires before it gets involved in too much combat and ideally the next delaying force repeats the trick so the original one can prepare another such delay in its back.

source U.S. Army FM 3-90.2
(It's a too linear thinking version of a delaying action.)
The training (and technical communication & navigation capabilities) of the attacking force is hugely influential for how quickly it can deploy for battle (and revert to marching order). 

Another hugely important factor is whether the attacking force is armour-centric or infantry-centric. 
Armour can be very quick in such actions. Infantry-centric forces have a much greater difference between road march speed and battle movement speed. Infantry-centric forces may use their line of sight firepower (including from wheeled IFVs and missiles) together with direct fires to defeat defenders, but it should under most circumstances take much longer than for a competent armoured force.

An important difference between infantry-centric and tank-centric forces is how selective infantry has to be in regard to choice of routes. It has to exploit the microterrain for cover and concealment,  and any of their lightly protected armoured vehicles would have to do so (if capable) to a greater degree than tanks, too. The greater stealthiness requirement slows down infantry even more in addition to its lower nominal speed limit.

A delaying action should thus be much more effective against infantry-centric forces than against tank-centric forces. A tank force might be delayed for minutes when the very same delaying effort could delay an infantry-centric force by an hour. Moreover, the road march speed of an infantry-centric force (which typically lacks tracked vehicles) is usually higher than that of a tank-centric force.

A slowed (and more or less slowly weakened) brigade or battlegroup would often be a good target for indirect fires, a flank attack or even a pincer attack. Slowness is self-defeating in mobile warfare.

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I've seen people trying to justify brigade designs that lack main battle tanks or powerful infantry fighting vehicles by pointing out their (notional) ability to defeat tank brigades with missile firepower.
Well, that's nice to have.*
I still cannot see how an infantry-centric force could possibly advance quickly against a competent and intact hostile force of half its manpower size. Both infantry-centric and armour-centric brigades should be able to slow down an advancing infantry-centric brigade or two in most Eastern European terrains.

I don't trust in-service ATGMs. Formations without tanks would still be tactically slower and more vulnerable than formations without tanks even if ATGMs work as advertised. It's this slowness of infantry-centric land battle designs that disqualifies the fashionable no-tracks brigade types for mobile land warfare under many if not most conditions.**


*: Well, it's nice if you really think your enemy doesn't have the means to defeat your ATGM guidance after its operating principle has been public knowledge for 30+ years. And then you also need to trust the ATGM warhead.
**: There may be situations in which an all-wheeled battlegroup successfully executes a deep raid in modern chevauchée fashion. It would be essential to not face a powerful aerial threat and to avoid getting caught up in battle with strong hostile forces. Essentially, their reaction to a threat would need to be evasion, not deployment for battle. This would be an available course of action in some circumstances (only).


  1. I don't see infantry focused concept of war even even seriously consider tactical offensives. The joke of infantry humping big missiles to attack a reverse slope comes to mind.

    I do see the concept of indirect fire warfare with lightly armored vehicles though. Offensive will require sustaining flying ISR assets over the enemy, and in this scenario it would ideally not require deployment into battle formation at all.

    Such a concept would fail if communication/battle management systems fail (as it failed FCS), and it would also fail if air defenses could stop aerial observation despite all supporting fires attempting SEAD. On the other hand, it could also succeed.
    Another thing to look it is that if the defending forces depends mostly on heavy missiles for anti-vehicle fires, then soft and hard kill capability is more important than armor thickness. In this case a medium weight formation can do almost just as well as a heavy one. It is only when such a formation is forced into a direct fire contest with tanks that it really suffers.

    1. The 8x8 mobile infantry is no better. It cannot manoeuvre against a capable opposing force in line of sight with those vehicles. It's just the same as an infantry-centric force once it dismounts, save for the expenses for the 8x8s.

      The wheeled AFVs in service are unfit to work in an environment with a severe 122...155 mm HE threat. Their mobility limits their choice of routes, which means it's much easier to observe and to put up effective obstacles against them in most European terrains.

      I suppose wheeled AFVs may be fine in some roles, but they are poorly suited for pitched, sustained battle. Hit and run, evasion instead of decisive engagement with combat troops, that's what they may be good for (aside from support functions).

    2. Wheeled AFVs are the modern equivalent of skirmishing troops.

  2. That is also the way the brits will use their strike brigades. All buzzwords away they will simply use them as skirmishers for other tank heavy / armoured formations.

    As EU Armies have and will have fewer and fewer MBT and also not enough, not modern enough IFV and also this european formations are not under one controll and widely divided and scattered over the continent with many different systems, many different kinds of equipment, nothing compatible, different language, doctrine, tactic etc etc this leads to the question, how EU Armies can at all do an serious offensive and if they are not capable of doing an serious offensive (which i assume) what their worth is, as the EU cannot stand an protracted war as the EU Societies are to vulnerable for such an protracted war.

  3. Quite. The mobility of tracked IFVs and Tanks and their ability to conduct decisive manoeuvre is one of the reasons why US Infantry or Stryker brigades are not comparable to Russian MR Brigades which have tanks and mix wheeled and tracked IFVs. US ABCTs are a different matter, but they are logistical nightmares and would need to be shipped in anyway. Reported Russian experimentation of MR Brigades with 2 attached Tank Bns while most likely unrelated could also reduce relative greater strength of the ABCTs - not to speak of divisional formations under 1st Guards and 20th Combined Arms Armies. European armies don't even rate btw, except for the Poles, who also kept the Soviet 122mm organic fire support to their manoeuvre units.

    Strike brigades are a poor idea born of the meeting of British yearning for expeditionary forces in imperial fashion with British budgetary realities - an impressive name for an unimpressive concept.

    As regards hit and run: this relies on one's abilities to run - to escape contact and hide, the first of which necessitates expensive technical and organisational enablers such as organic SHORAD and EW, plenty of artillery, and the second may not be possible at all - you may disperse and lower the attrition, but the enemy should know the rough position of your of your formation at all times.

    1. By the way: the brits strike brigades will also be mixed wheel and tracked vehicles (for example Boxer and Ajax) which is also discussed very much in the british military scene (wether this is an advantage or disadvantage or if the whole strike brigade should be only wheel or only tracks etc)

      IMO the strike brigade idea is not so bad as you assume. Expeditionary Forces can be necessary and this are very good formations for such neo-colonial skirmishes (!) and also the same formation is very usable as skirmishers in peer warfare. So you can do both with the same formation and equipment within the budget borderies. Sounds not so bad for me. The main ! error is imo the lack of organic artillery in the strike brigades and the lack of other NLOS weapons. Such NLOS Assets would be in the same way enormous useful in colonial expeditionary warfare as in peer warfare.

      As far is i am informed the actual plan of the brits is to have 2 armoured brigades and 2 strike brigades. This would deliver 1 such strike brigade as skirmish force for the own armoured forces and 1 such formation for allied armoured brigades of other european countries. Within the strikt borders of the small british budget this is an interesting addition, especially in regard to polish armoured formations.

      The last important question in regard to strike brigades and the topic of this post (deploying, attack and speed of advance) is the question of the own organic mobility of such strike brigades especially in eastern europe in regard to the bad infrastructure there, the many rivers, wetlands, swamps and the lack of bridges etc.

      IMO the vehicles the brits have selected for the strike brigades are not the optimal ones for this kind of battlefield, to say at least. Better mobility could have been achieved much cheaper, but armarment is not an request concert.

      And better crosscountry mobility in an greatest possible part of the terrain is not also very important for the question of fast deployment, but also even more important for escaping contact, hiding and dispersion. The battle against earth, against the ground and the terrain is one of the most important battles for such an brigade. For that reason the GTK Boxer is imo a wrong decision from the brits and tracked (amphibious ?!) APCs would have been better.

      The strategic layability would have suffered for sure, but for such an force imo the tactical mobility much more important. Therefore an all tracked formation would be better imo as an skirmishing force.

      A mix of ASCOD 2 based vehicles, including for example the DONAR SPG (Artillery) and Hägglunds based vehicles would have been better for the strike concept, moreover as the brits have much experience with the Hägglunds and a new variant in form of the BvS10 Beowulf is available.

    2. "Expeditionary Forces can be necessary"

      This is incorrect if you think of "expeditions" beyond alliance defence.

    3. Lets agree that we disagree here. But by the way: the strike brigades are imo also an good example for the question which you discuss in your other post about specialised forces and generalist forces not long ago. Such an strike brigade is imo an example for an generalist force which can deliver a wide ranch of very different missions because of its infantry part, mobility, recce assets etc it could be used in very different kinds of scenarios and with different kind of tasks with the same structure, toe, equipment etc

      To have fighting units on such level (brigade and above) which you can use in different kinds of warfare from peer warfare to neo-colonial conflicts, expeditionary warfare, hybrid-warfare etc is imo advantageous because you cannot afford specialised troops for different kinds of wars within the budget borderies.

  4. I hope I didn't wander too far off topic, I found your short exposition very interesting :)