(In UW operations, ambushes may be directed against foot-mobile infantry elements or vehicle-mounted elements, in rural or built-up areas. Ambushes may be used against a specific enemy element, based on intelligence information that indicates when they will be in a specific location, against aggressor forces discovered in the infiltration phase by reconnaissance security patrols, or as a route interdiction method along probably or likely movement routes. Knowledge of how to plan, initiate, and execute a proper, effective ambush is a basic critical skill for any UW element (and no, it's really not as simple as, "let's hide in the bushes in a line, and shoot the fuck out of anyone who goes past!"). It will, in all likelihood, be the single most used combat patrol operation used by local defense forces in the coming troubles. --J.M.)
Next to the fundamental use of reconnaissance patrols for local area security, one of the most common applications of the patrol for UW elements is, and will be, the use of the ambush. An ambush can specifically be defined as a "surprise attack from a concealed position on a moving or temporarily halted target."
Ambushes are one of two primary reasons for a small-unit element to conduct a combat patrol. While raids, contrary to the theorization of many "experts" will have limited application in a true grid-down, TSHTF scenario (note I said limited application, not NO application. That's the subject of another article), the ambush, an action conducted as a surprise attack from a concealed position on a moving or temporarily halted target, has numerous applications. Ambushes are conventionally classified by category (hasty or deliberate), type (point or area), and formation (conventionally, these are limited to linear and l-shaped ambushes. Unconventionally, there are a LOT of different variations). UW leaders should use a combination of these three classifications to shape his planning. Fundamental considerations include:
- the entire kill zone MUST be covered by effective, aimed fire.
- the use of existing or reinforcing obstacles, including IEDs, should be maximized to keep the enemy in the kill zone of the ambush.
- Security elements MUST be utilized to prevent the assault element from being surprised, as well as to isolate the kill zone.
- Assault through the kill zone, when applicable.
- Time the actions of all elements of the patrol to preclude the loss of surprise. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
Categories of Ambushes
- The Hasty Ambush. This is probably the most likely type of ambush to be utilized by future UW direct-action elements. Hasty ambushes are are conducted when the element makes visual contact with hostiles, and has time and space to establish the ambush without being compromised. The actions for a hasty ambush MUST be rehearsed so that shooters know what to do on the PL's signal. They must also know how to react to being compromised while getting into their ambush positions (it becomes a react-to-contact battle drill). Effectively, the hasty ambush should become a well-developed battle drill in itself.Task Standards: The patrol moves quickly to concealed positions. The ambush must not be initiated until the majority of the hostile force is in the kill zone. The patrol MUST surprise the hostiles through effective application of camouflage and concealment, and must avoid becoming decisively engaged by overwhelming the enemy with extreme violence of action and superior marksmanship. The patrol should focus on killing, or capturing the enemy, with forcing their withdrawal as a secondary, acceptable result (killing or capturing the enemy force will, or course, greatly facilitate the irregular force necessity of battlefield recovery of weapons, equipment, and other classes of resupply). On command from the PL, the patrol withdraws from the ambush position, with all personnel and equipment, until they are no longer subject to enemy observation or fires. The patrol must utilize the principle that "speed and stealth are security" to move quickly away from the ambush site, to avoid becoming decisively engaged by enemy QRF.Actions on the Objective for the Hasty Ambush:a) Using visual signaling methods (hand and arm signals), and patrol member alerts the patrol that hostile forces are in sight. The patrol member continues to monitor the location and activity of the hostile element until the PL relieves him and directs him to move to his position within the ambush.b) The patrol halts instantly on the appropriate hand and arm signal from the patrol member (clenched fist held up is the signal for "freeze"). The patrol remains absolutely motionless until directed otherwise by the PL.c) the PL moves to the initiating patrol member and receives guidance on the location of the enemy from the reporting patrol member, until he has identified them visually. The PL gives the signal for "hasty ambush," either visually or through radio contact with the rest of the patrol.d) the PL determines the best nearby location for the hasty ambush. The PL directs subordinate leaders and/or the rest of the patrol to move into covered/concealed positions, in accordance with the unit SOP/battle drill.e) the PL designates the location and limits of the kill zone (KZ).f) subordinate elements of the patrol move silently and quickly to covered and concealed positions, ensuring that said positions are not detected from the KZ, and have adequate fields of observation and fields of fire into the KZ.g) assigned security elements move out to the flanks and rear of the patrol's ambush position (third principle of patrolling). The PL, or unit SOP direct the security elements to move out a prescribed distance, set-up, and return to the main element either on command, or when the firing ceases, IAW unit SOP. At small-unit levels, the security elements may be as small as a buddy team. At larger unit levels, these may be as large as fire team or rifle squad-sized elements.h) the PL assigns sectors of fire and issues any other commands necessary as control (fourth principle of patrolling) measures.i) the PL initiates the ambush, IAW unit SOP (doctrinally, this is accomplished with the most casualty-producing weapon, such as a M249SAW or M240. For irregular force elements, this may simply be rapid-fire, aimed semi-automatic rifle fire, or the use of expedient hand grenade devices), when the largest percentage of the hostile force is in the KZ. Through training and direct control, the PL controls the rate and distribution of fires, IAW unit SOP, utilizes any indirect-fire weapons available and appropriate (knee mortars, grenade launchers, hand grenades, etc...), orders the cease-fire when appropriate, orders the assault element to assault through the KZ.j) the PL directs the assigned personnel to conduct a hasty search of enemy casualties and to process any EPWs, IAW unit SOP (don't bother posting any nonsense stupid shit in the comments about, "We're not taking prisoners; we can't deal with them," or any other remotely fucking stupid, war crime bullshit. I don't give two shits. I teach shit the way I KNOW is right, tactically and morally. If you don't like it, quit reading and go give your 1911 a blowjob--J.M.).k) the PL directs subordinate leaders to conduct consolidation procedures within the patrol, including LACE reports (liquids, ammunition, casualties, and equipment) and re-organization, care of casualties, etc.l) the PL directs the patrol to withdraw from the ambush site along a covered and concealed routem) once at least one major terrain feature away from the ambush site, in a suitably covered and concealed position (or a suitable distance to preclude compromise from enemy QRF and/or air support elements), the PL halts the patrol to further consolidate and reorganize, including the tactical field-care phase of casualty care, dispersion of captured enemy equipment across the patrol, and reports the situation to higher, as is appropriate to the situation.
- The Deliberate Ambush. A deliberate ambush is a planned, intentional combat operation against an expected hostile element. A deliberate ambush may behe conducted based on intelligence information that indicates the presence of a specific hostile element, or it may be utilized as a route interdiction method. In order to effectively plan a deliberate ambush, a PL should receive intelligence regarding the size and composition of the enemy force, as well as the arms and equipment of the enemy patrol (a far ambush will be far more effective against a squad-sized element that is not augmented with mortars or other indirect-fire weapons, whereas, an ambush of an element reinforced with a sniper element and 60mm mortars will be most effective as a close-ambush).Task Standards: The ambush should be emplaced no later than (NLT) the time specified in the operations order, developed during the planning stages. The patrol leverages surprise and violence of action to overwhelm the hostile element's main body. The patrol kills or captures all hostile personnel and destroys or recovers all enemy equipment, IAW the commander's intent, or mission purpose. The patrol obtains all PIR (Priority Intelligence Requirements) from the ambush and continues directed follow-on operations.Actions on the Objective for the Deliberate Ambush: The PL conducts final planning considerations, IAW doctrinal TLPs (troop-leading procedures), utilizing planning information derived from his leader's reconnaissance of the objective, from the ORP (Objective Rally Point), located one terrain feature away from the objective (this covers the first and second principles of patrolling). Every great military leader has recognized that reconnaissance conducted from afar is not reconnaissance. You MUST put eyes on the objective in order to fully complete effective planning. In order to conduct an appropriate leader's reconnaissance, the PL must designate the members of the recon element (typically must include himself, the assault team leader, security element leader, and a surveillance element that will be left in a hide site, with eyes on the objective until the patrol moves forward into the ambush position), issues a five-point contingency plan to the APL (assistant PL) or whomever will be left in command of the ORP during the leader's reconnaissance.a) the PL conducts his leader's reconnaissance. In doing so, he:- ensures the reconnaissance party moves undetected, using stealth as security.- confirms the objective location and suitability for the ambush.- selects and identifies the KZ.- posts the surveillance team at the objective, in a covered, concealed observation position, and issues a five-point contingency plan.- confirms the suitability of assault and support positions, and identifies movement routes from the ORP to them, including secondary egress routes.- Identifies all offensive control measures to be used.b) Upon return to the ORP, the PL adjusts his original plan based on information gathered during his leader's reconnaissance. He assigns positions within the ambush position, and designates the patrol's withdrawal routes from the objective.c) the PL confirms the ambush formation (linear, L-shaped, circular, parallel, etc), based on the specific terrain of the objective.d) the PL disseminates the revised plan of action to the rest of the patrol, ensuring that every member of the patrol understands the overall plan, as well as his specific role and the role of his immediate leader.e) the security elements for the ambush occupy their positions first, securing the flanks of the ambush objective and providing early warning of approaching hostile forces. The security element can also be trusted with the responsibility of canceling the ambush before the hostiles are in the KZ, if they are able to determine that the actual hostile element is too large for the ambush patrol to effectively destroy. The security elements must be in position before the assault element of the ambush moves forward. A security element should also be left in the ORP to secure the patrol's third-line gear (and the rear). In the event of a successful react-to-ambush by the hostile element, the ORP becomes the emergency rally point for escaping/evading patrol members.f) the assault element moves to the objective. The PL and/or subordinate leaders guide patrol members into their assigned sectors, leaving the specific positioning of individuals to the individual or team leaders, based on their personal analysis of micro-terrain, IAW training and unit SOP.- the SBF leader assigns sectors of fire to the SBF element. He emplaces any obstacles and/or IED devices. He identifies specific sectors of fire to individuals within the SBF element, and oversees the placement of sector stakes to prevent fratricide. Overwatches the movement of the assault element into position (for UW elements, most SBF support will, at least initially, be in the form of precision rifle fire from designated marksmen, armed with magazine-fed, semi-automatic weapons using deliberate, aimed-fire methods. Firing battlefield recovery of heavier weapons, this MAY be reinforced--but never REPLACED--with belt-fed automatic weapons in the form of individual and crew-served machine guns).- Once the SBF element is in place, the assault element moves forward and into position. The assault element leader positions his personnel and assigns sectors of fire, including the emplacing of sector stakes to prevent fratricide on the objective. The individual patrol members that comprise the assault element camouflage their personal temporary fighting positions to prevent premature compromise of the ambush.g) the security element identifies the approaching hostile element and communicates a SALUTE report to the PL, using radio, visual, or verbal communications methods (if a buddy-team sized element is the security element, verbal communications are precluded by the necessity of maintaining buddy-team integrity. If radio communications are used, the use of low-power FRS/GMRS-type radios may help reduce or prevent the risk of signals intercept, due to their low power and extremely limited transmission power. Visual signaling methods, from semaphore-type methods, and hand-and-arm signals, to signal mirror flashes, MUST be developed into an unit SOP prior to needing them on any particular mission. They MUST be practiced and rehearsed!)The PL alerts the assault and SBF elements, as necessary, of the information from the security elements.h) the PL initiates the ambush.i) the PL utilizes his control measures to ensure that the assault element and the SBF element deliver fire onto the KZ with the heaviest, ACCURATE volume of fire possible. In limited visibility, key leaders may (MUST!) use IR lasers and/or tracer fire to direct subordinate fire into appropriate targets, based on the availability and use of NVGs by the patrol. All patrol members MUST be trained to aim lower than perceived necessary at night. Studies throughout the last century, including ample anecdotal evidence, indicate that war-fighter not specifically trained in night-firing methods tend to shoot high at night, limiting the effectiveness of fires.j) Before releasing the assault element, the PL signals the SBF element to lift fires. In UW environments, this may means simply reducing the SBF element to one or two firing riflemen, specifically targeting hostile personnel only if they present a threat to the assault element AS THEY APPROACH THE KZ (shooting at bad guys on the objective, while friendlies are on the objective, is a great way to end up with blue-on-blue, regardless of how well-trained your designated marksmen are, and how many cool-guy sniper movies you've watched). Once the assault element is ON the objective, the SBF element may only engage hostiles NOT in the KZ.k) the assault element assaults through the objective before any surviving hostile personnel can recover their OODA loop enough to respond effectively. Kills or captures (METT-TC dependent....Is the mission to capture a HVT for intelligence exploitation?) surviving hostile personnel on the objective (never, NEVER, NEVER turn back to put "one more, just in case" into a dead or wounded enemy personnel you have already passed on the objective. If you passed him by, that means he was/is not a threat. Shooting him is murder. If you feel the need to "make sure"--which I heartily suggest--tap him with a few rounds as you initially approach his body on the objective). Uses individual movement techniques, buddy-team bounds, and bounds by fire team, to move across the objective. Upon reaching the LOA (limit of advance), stops and establishes a security position, as necessary. All patrol members should reload, by buddy teams, and key leaders perform LACE reports to provide the patrol leader during re-consolidation. Wounded patrol members will perform self-aid, or buddy-aid, if necessary, upon direction of key leaders, and include their status in their LACE report to the key leader.l) the PL directs special teams (aid and litter teams, EPW search teams, and equipment recovery teams/demolitions, etc) to perform their assigned tasks, once the assault element reaches it's LOA.-Once the KZ has been cleared, collect and secure all EPWs IAW unit SOP, and move them out of the KZ before searching bodies. Search from one side or the other of the KZ, IAW pre-established SOPs, and mark bodies that have already been searched, to ensure that the entire objective is thoroughly searched. Key leaders should firmly prevent "trophy collection" by search teams, instead focusing them on their duties. As bodies are searched, and equipment and PIR requirements are collected, they should be deposited in a central location for the collection teams to bag for transport.- search teams should be trained and rehearse the two-man search method. As the search team approaches a dead body, one man guards while the other searches. First, he kicks the enemy weapon away (don't bend over to grab it. Keep your muzzle in his face, and KICK the weapon away. If you need to, you can shoot the motherfucker in the face if he tries to use the weapon). Second, he rolls the body over (if lying on its stomach), by laying on top of it, and when given the okay by the security partner, rolling the body over on top of himself (this is done in case the enemy pulled the pin on a grenade and pinned it under his body before he died). The searchers then conduct a systematic search of the dead hostile from head to toe, removing all papers, weapons, load-bearing equipment, technological equipment, such as NODs and thermal imaging devices, etc. If necessary for re-supply or tactical exploitation, the uniform of the enemy soldier may be removed and secured (if this is done, the bodies should be covered before withdrawing from the objective). Every body on the objective should be searched, rapidly but thoroughly, using this method.- identify, collect, and prepare all movement to be carried, or to be destroyed on the objective.- Evacuate all friendly wounded first, return them to the ORP for the tactical field-care phase of treatment. If enemy wounded are remain in custody, or are to be left on the objective for recovery by enemy forces, treat their wounds to the TFC level, as time and tactical considerations permit (again, don't bother with dumbshit statements about how you are so bad-ass you won't bother providing aid to the enemy. It's the right thing to do, once they are no longer a threat). Use only the wounded individual's personal aid gear to provide aid.
- If the decision is made to destroy any collected equipment on the objective, the demo team should consolidate and pile the equipment, and use thermite or other appropriate incendiary devices to destroy it. This should be the absolute last action taken as the assault element withdraws from the objective, and can be used as a signal to the security elements to withdraw to the ORP.
- If an enemy QRF attempts to close with the ambush force, the security elements must engage with precision rifle fire to halt the QRF advance and prevent compromise of the assault element. In this case, whatever remaining actions on the objective remain for the assault element must be abandoned, in the interest of immediate withdrawal, to prevent decisive engagement by the QRF.
- The PL directs the withdrawal of all elements from the ambush site, in reverse order of the establishment of emplacement. Elements should return directly to the ORP, and immediately begin actions to abandon the ORP.
- The security element must remain alert and assist the returning elements to quickly return to the ORP, counting personnel from each element in, with the key leader of that element. The security element maintains security while the returning elements consolidate and prepare to abandon the ORP.
- The PL and APL direct actions in the ORP, to include accountability of all personnel and equipment and recovery of third-line gear and equipment that were left in the ORP during the ambush.
- The PL moves the patrol to a safe location, at least one key terrain feature or a suitable distance, before disseminating information to the patrol. The APL counts all personnel out of the ORP, and performs a final search of the ORP to ensure that no equipment or other items were left behind. The UW element must ALWAYS consider the counter-tracking implications of their actions.
Types of Ambushes
- The Point Ambush. Shooters deploy to attack a hostile force in a single kill zone.
- The Area Ambush. Shooters deploy to attack hostile forces in two or more related point ambushes.
Formations of Ambushes
Conventionally, the only two types of ambushes acceptable by doctrinal standards are the linear ambush and the L-Shaped ambush. This is due, in large part, to piss-poor training on the part of conventional-force infantry elements. For irregular, civic defense groups, these may be the most efficient methods to use, due to limited training opportunities. These formations reduce the chance of fratricide, and are idiot simple to implement. With better, more expert training, and in close terrain, such as urban environments and alpine terrain, other formations may be viable, such as firing positions on both sides of the kill zone using plunging fire downward, circular ambushes, and more. Both the linear ambush and the L-shaped ambush are more than adequately covered in doctrinal publications that I have already emphasized the importance of for small-unit combatants, including SH21-75 The Ranger Handbook, and FM7-8 The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad, 1992. Other ambush formations may be determined by specific environmental, terrain, and training standards factors.
Planning Considerations for Deliberate Ambush Missions
While hasty ambushes are, in essence, a "battle drill" type of training priority, deliberate ambushes are conducted based on specific intelligence. For irregular forces, the following considerations should be considered when planning deliberate ambushes.
- Location:- Determine what roads, trails, and routes, enemy personnel are likely to follow, based on their doctrine and witnessed habits in local areas. Do they stop in the same RON/laager positions? Do they tend to patrol the same routes? Especially in urban/built-up areas, are they channelized into certain routes by the daily activities of the local civilian populace?- A suitable covered and concealed route of egress must be present to facilitate rapid withdrawal from the ambush site as well as the immediate area.Firing positions must allow instant, lethal fire to be brought to bear on the enemy. - If prior enemy compromise can be prevented, it is worthwhile for the patrol to reinforce and further conceal their firing positions to provide adequate protection from return fire, as they enemy performs a react-to-ambush drill.- The SBF element should be in a separate position than the assault element, and it should provide adequate firing lanes to allow the SBF element to provide suppressive fire as they assault element moves forward towards the KZ.
- Enemy Information- Do enemy patrols move on foot, or are they vehicle-borne?- What are the typical size of these patrols? How many vehicles? Do they fight mounted in their vehicles, or as dismounts? How are they typically armed? Small arms only, or do they have supporting arms? Do they have counter-IED technology available? How commonly is it deployed?- At what time of day/night do they typically patrol your sector of responsibility? Will you need to utilize NVGs, or will star cluster flares be more effective?- How refined are their patrolling techniques? Do they tortoise up in en bloc, or do they utilize security elements forward, behind, and on the flanks?- How do they summon QRF? Where is the nearest QRF located, and how long is their response time?- What typical equipment do these patrols carry that your forces can utilize? If you cannot utilize them, for whatever reason (lack of training/familiarity, inaccessible munitions, too large a signature, etc), how difficult are they to destroy, removing the enemy's ability to recover/repair them?-Are they main force security force troops, or local force? How well-trained are they? How disciplined? Will they stand and fight, when confronted, or will they attempt to escape?
Some Additional Notes:
- Anti-vehicle ambushes will HAVE to be initiated with something more decisive than small-arms rifle fire. Whether that is anti-material rifle, "requisitioned," command-detonated Claymores, IEDs, or simply impassible obstacles, is irrelevant. Some considerations: a round penetrating an engine block, even a .50BMG API round, may not immediately stop a vehicle, allowing it to escape the KZ. Shoot the driver first, or simultaneous to the engine block. Contrary to some "expert" opinions, a .308 round will NOT instantly disable a vehicle, through penetration of the engine block.
- If you use emplaced obstacles to initiate an anti-vehicle ambush, don't use the same ones, and use "dummy" obstacle emplacements without concurrent ambushes to confuse the enemy. If you utilize an ambush with every obstacle placed, pretty soon, that will become a cue for a "react-to-ambush" drill, greatly reducing your element of surprise.
- Common historical reasons for ambushes being compromised include:- the sound of safety selector switches being moved from safe to fire. This can be done silently, even with the God-awful 'klacking" safety selector on AK-variants, if it is practiced and rehearsed. It should go without saying that chambering a round while on the objective is beyond fucking stupid. Prepare your weapons to fight BEFORE you get into position, and switch the safety selector as you target the enemy to shoot his ass.- the tendency to shoot too high, especially at night. Train to shoot low. It's far better to shoot a foot in front of the enemy than a foot over his head; even ricochets can kill.- poor counter-tracking practices moving into ambush positions can leave footprints and other indicators that signal your presence before the main body is in the KZ.- initiating the ambush when forward security elements are in the kill zone, rather than the main body. This is a really stupid mistake, and a result of poor communication with the security elements. PLs who lose their patrols due to counterattack by the main body of an enemy element they were trying to ambush, should be thoroughly embarrassed at their stupidity, assuming they survive.- lack of fire discipline and fire control. Individual fighters MUST be expert marksmen, and must understand how to properly control their rate-of-fire. Further, key leaders MUST guide the rate-of-fire of their subordinates to prevent loss of control due to excitement and/or fear.- Leaders must be centrally located where they can provide guidance and control to all elements under their control.- Lack of all-around security and observation, including overhead.- Lack of a clearly defined drill for withdrawal from the objective can lead to compromise by hostile QRF, leaving critical equipment behind, or worst of all, leaving behind personnel on the objective. Determine your SOPs, practice and master them, then live by them.
- Locate ambushes at natural constriction points whenever feasible, that force the enemy to slow his rate of advance. On the other hand, these are likely positions, so don't be afraid to set ambushes in other places, such as open, flat stretches of road, as long as you have a way to STOP the enemy's movement, and reduce his opportunity to escape the KZ (i.e. IEDs to stop lead and rear vehicle, leaving the rest in the KZ).
Somewhere in the Mountains