Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rhodesian Cover Shooting - Bullet-Storming the Bushes

Do you read the Small Wars Journal? It's in the blog roll down there. Make sure to check it out some time.

The topic I want to bring up with this blog entry is something I read from the Small Wars Journal, the so-called Rhodesian Cover Shooting (also known as Drake Shooting).

A full pdf version of paper distributed by the Small Wars Journal can be downloaded here.

The Rhodesian Cover Shooting is a fire tactic used with the objective of "killing the enemy without seeing him or locating his exact position first." Not suppressive fire, not "spray and pray" but rather a fire oriented at likely enemy positions which are chosen by the shooter based in his knowledge of the tactics, procedures and shortcomings of the adversary. This type of fire is widely known after its use by the Rhodesian Light Infantry to fight terrorists in the bushes during the Rhodesian War.

I'm going to leave the details to you fellows, so I encourage you to read the paper (fantastic read, BTW). The key points to keep in mind are:

  1. Plenty of ammunition needed, yet it was effectively used by light troops with very well thought battle kits
  2. Fire superiority achieved through good firing technique rather than the number of rifle muzzles. The Rhodesian Light Infantry men always assumed they were to be outnumbered
  3. Ammunition levels closely monitored through friendly troops. Magazine changes at untimely moments of the firefight not welcome!
  4. No waiting to find out the enemy exact position. Right after contact, there is to a be an overwhelming fire response. 
  5. Delivering the cover shots:
    • Zeroing of the weapons at 100 meters (this is close combat and the enemy is likely to be prone, so fires are to be aimed low)
    • Every soldier given an arc of fire. Soldiers were to shoot at the nearest enemy cover (either with or without visual contact with the enemy).
    • "Kill the concealment, kill the terrorist"
    • Not all the bushes within a soldier's cover are targets, the soldier is supposed to choose smartly among all the target options (some bushes are too small, or just can be seen as empty by visual cues)
    • Take advantage of the enemy's custom of bunching up or buddy-teaming. Fires are delivered to kill more than one man.

I edited an ArmA 2 Operation Arrowhead scenario to try out this. I can't rely on the friendly AI to deliver fire when it doesn't "see" the enemy (or anything else for that matter), so I did put myself alone as a Takistani special forces guy. To compensate for the lack of companions, I treated myself to some hefty firepower (a PKM machine gun). I arranged a group of insurgents armed with AKs only (don't want any rockets or MG fire coming my way). I used the Zeus mod to give the insurgents some smarties in the use of cover.

The setup: myself in the forefront, plenty of concealment across the field. Waiting for the enemy coming from the background.
Since I am to be shooting blind (smartly blind, lol), I added a series of triggers that tell me when I killed somebody.

I suspect that the Rhodesian Cover Shoot could be used best (if at all) in ArmA 2 when the targets are not bots but played by humans. It is important to keep in mind that your aiming relies on smart use of cover and concealment by the enemy. In this single player scenario, I kind of abused the AI because I know it will keep formation above all. It is a matter of eye balling where the next guy would be lying prone ...

The enemy group (10 men) is approaching. Now I can see only two of them (yellow arrows), but is reasonable to assume where the non-visible ones are. I quickly dispatch one of these to encourage the enemy to engage me.
As soon as I killed one enemy, the other guys in the group hit the dirt. This is a premium moment: I know they have dropped keeping their formation, so I start my Rhodesian Cover Shoot.

After killing unit "Nine" (numbering is a bit random and does not correspond to the internal numbering that ArmA 2 gives to each member of the enemy group) a bit to the left of my current aiming, I am eyeballing the position of the next enemy. Note the zeroing of my gun (100 meters, in the top right of the screen).

After delivering some twenty rounds in the direction where I suspected the enemy was located, he is hit.
I could kill 7 out of 10 enemies before I had to pull out under pressure. Of the 7, only two I could see. All the others were hiding. I used one and half magazines to achieve this. In another try, I just walked my fire from left to right at floor level but could only hit one enemy.

What's your take on this? Ammo waste?



James said...

A standard infantry procedure when reacting to contact: immediately "engage known or SUSPECTED enemy positions". It appears this is exactly what you did with the ten man squad maneuvering against you. Of course the "left to right" pray and spray test you did fails to focus on the "suspected positions" point and obviously yields less encouraging results.
Great stuff as always, now I'm off to read that paper, Cheers

Johan said...

Very interresting read (both the Blog post and the PDF). Thanks! My interpretation is somewhat similar to James, this is just a more deliberate form of a standard military procedure (recon by fire).

I think that the deliberation was just forced upon the Rhodesians, because of limited ammunition supply and numbers. Had they had the numbers and logistics of, for instance, the Americans in Vietnam, they would probably have also sprayed all possible enemy cover positions with lots more firepower. So, IMHO, "Drake shooting" is just a fancy name for a bit more deliberate and less ammo wasting "recon by fire".

Anonymous said...

Nice Article, always enjoy reading your blog, I found this website a interesting read

about the Selous Scouts & their counter insurgency war.

Robin said...

Personally I find the differences in training regarding shooting both between and in different armed forces interesting, and both the pdf and your post were extremely interesting.

Having served a year as a conscript in the Finnish Defense Forces, our forces take on shooting was that everybody was to be able to consistently hit targets at ranges out to 100-150 m, and to be able to lay effective fire out to 300 m with the standard firearm being a Sako built AK-47 clone in 7,62x39. The presumption is that the Finnish forces will always be fighting outnumbered (and often against a better equipped enemy), so preserving ammo is always a must. It is not the “one shot, one kill” of the snipers, but rather always firing single shot (except when clearing trenches, buildings, and so forth) and firing on individual targets, not in the general direction of the targets. The Rhodesian Cover Shooting would fit perfectly in this scheme, but I don’t think there was much discussion on firing to kill covers during my time. However, I served as a driver on a landing craft, so it might be that the infantry had it in their curriculum.

Olav said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Olav said...

Nice JC! Smallwarsjournal ftw. Maybe you can continue this trend by covering swarming on a small tactical level;

JC said...

Thanks everyboby for your comments. This is exactly the discussion I wanted to encourage.

I will check out the links that you guys provided. Keep the comments coming!


Brant said...

excellent article. I wish more people wrote intelligent stuff like this.

JC said...

Thanks, Brant.

Anonymous said...

Surely there's a significant shortcoming to this strategy if you do not have an overwhelming firepower advantage. If you've wasted your element of surprise shooting at an empty bush, then you've given away your location, and so are immensely vulnerable to attack yourself.

German Research Project said...

The PDF article makes the point of using the FALs advantages against the AK47, that being greater penetration of foliage and tree trunks. This concept of exploiting your enemies firearm limitation is important. During the Vietnam War the AK47 was purposefully used at very close quarters against the M16 whenever possible which is another example of this.

JC said...

That's a very important point. Thanks for reading.