Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Thou Shalt Not Crest ... (Tank Tactics)

Yes, the title of this entry was a bit overboard. There are no ten commandments for tank tactics. There are not even fixed rules in tactics. The tactical level of war is full of paradoxes and contradictions. You are told to advance and attack without pause but if you do it you expose your flanks. You protect your flanks but you divert forces from your main attack force, weakening your advance. C’est la guerre! As Robert Leonhard once wrote in “Fighting by Minutes”, waging war will require you to “sit and walk at the same time”.

One of the oldest adages in war is “always hold the high ground”. The high ground gives you a vantage point from which to see and shoot the enemy. This blog entry is a friendly reminder that carelessly stepping into the high ground also gives the enemy an opportunity to see and shoot you.

The simulation I’m using for this entry is Steel Beasts ProPE.

A US Cavalry M1 Abrams MBT/M3 Bradley CFV “hunter/killer” team is on the base of a hill. Enemy is likely to be on the other side.

Map showing the hunter/killer team (pink icon in the center) and the line of sight (red/white areas) from their position. At this point the team is in the base of the hill and the line of sight is good to the flanks and to the rear. Since no enemy forces are at the team’s flanks or rear, there is no danger so far.

The hunter/killer cresting the hill. Given the small size of the team and the unknown strength of enemy forces ahead, this wonderful view of the valley is quite dangerous. The reason for this is explained in the caption of the next figure.

Map showing the hunter/killer team (pink icon in the center) and the line of sight (red/white areas) from the crest of the hill. Note how the team can see more terrain than before (good), yet it can also be seen from more enemy-held territory (bad). If weak enemy forces are encountered, the team may survive by firing back. But if equal or superior enemy forces are encountered ... You get the idea.

The crest of hills sometimes make great battle positions. But moving through them while on the march/attack/etc, or stepping on them while on reconnaissance is most of the times not advisable.

In the next installment: what to do instead of cresting.



Alan Giasson said...

This is great, I love how you explain/illustrate your point in the article. Thanks for doing this, its an excellent teaching tool for me.

I've been away from SB for a while (though with the new update I might crank up my Leo2 and go for a virtual ride.) Anyways, I remember some advice given to me by an experienced SB player when I first started. It went something like... "Move as water, fire from on high". It has worked for me in the past tactically so maybe it will apply in your next article :-)

JC said...

Ey Alan,

Thanks for your comment.

"Move as water, fire from on high", spot on! Indeed, moving as the water flows is exactly what I want to write next entry.


Anonymous said...

You could have improved the situation 'on cresting' by moving up nearer the saddle near 216055.

You would have had protection initially from the higher ground of the main hill, and the smaller promontory linked by the ridge you are working around/over.

You would be limited to long range observation or fires, as moving onto the far side over the ridge is still inadvisable.

A dismounted or verrry cautious vehicular reconnaissance or support by fire position here could be an asset in securing the vehicles which subsequently move around the flank of the ridge.

JC said...


Thanks for your comment and for dropping by the blog.

You are spot on. Indeed, in the continuation of this entry Gary Owen commented about this too.

Your feedback is appreciated.