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Urban warfare is combat conducted in urban areas such as towns and cities. Urban combat is very different from combat in the open at both the operational and tactical level. Complicating factors in urban warfare include the presence of civilians and the complexity of the urban terrain. Urban combat operations may be conducted in order to capitalize on the strategic or tactical advantages with which possession or control of a particular urban area gives or to deny these advantages to the enemy.
Combat is a purposeful violent conflict meant to weaken, establish dominance over, or kill the opposition, or to drive the opposition away from a location where it is not wanted or needed.
An urban area or urban agglomeration is a human settlement with high population density and infrastructure of built environment. Urban areas are created through urbanization and are categorized by urban morphology as cities, towns, conurbations or suburbs. In urbanism, the term contrasts to rural areas such as villages and hamlets and in urban sociology or urban anthropology it contrasts with natural environment. The creation of early predecessors of urban areas during the urban revolution led to the creation of human civilization with modern urban planning, which along with other human activities such as exploitation of natural resources leads to human impact on the environment.
A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages but smaller than cities, though the criteria to distinguish them vary considerably between different parts of the world.
Fighting in urban areas negates the advantages that one side may have over the other in armour, heavy artillery, or air support. Ambushes laid down by small groups of soldiers with handheld anti-tank weapons can effectively destroy entire columns of modern armour (as in the First Battle of Grozny), while artillery and air support can be severely reduced if the 'superior' party wants to limit civilian casualties as much as possible, but the defending party does not (or even uses civilians as human shields).
The First Battle of Grozny was the Russian Army's invasion and subsequent conquest of the Chechen capital, Grozny, during the early months of the First Chechen War. The attack lasted from December 1994 to March 1995, resulted in the military occupation of the city by the Russian Army and rallied most of the Chechen nation around the separatist government of Dzhokhar Dudayev.
Human shield is a military and political term describing the deliberate placement of non-combatants in or around combat targets to deter the enemy from attacking these combat targets. It may also refer to the use of persons to literally shield combatants during attacks, by forcing them to march in front of the combatants.
Some civilians may be difficult to distinguish from combatants such as armed militias and gangs, and particularly individuals who are simply trying to protect their homes from attackers. Tactics are complicated by a three-dimensional environment, limited fields of view and fire because of buildings, enhanced concealment and cover for defenders, below-ground infrastructure, and the ease of placement of booby traps and snipers.[ citation needed ]
Combatant is the legal status of an individual who has the right to engage in hostilities during an international armed conflict. The legal definition of "combatant" is found at article 43 of Additional Protocol One to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 [AP1]. It states that "Members of the armed forces of a Party to a conflict are combatants, that is to say, they have the right to participate directly in hostilities."
A militia is generally an army or some other fighting organization of non-professional soldiers, citizens of a nation, or subjects of a state, who can be called upon for military service during a time of need, as opposed to a professional force of regular, full-time military personnel, or historically, members of a warrior nobility class. Generally unable to hold ground against regular forces, it is common for militias to be used for aiding regular troops by skirmishing, holding fortifications, or irregular warfare, instead of being used in offensive campaigns by themselves. Militia are often limited by local civilian laws to serve only in their home region, and to serve only for a limited time; this further reduces their use in long military campaigns.
A gang is a group of associates, friends or members of a family with a defined leadership and internal organization that identifies with or claims control over territory in a community and engages, either individually or collectively, in illegal, and possibly violent, behavior. Some criminal gang members are "jumped in", or they have to prove their loyalty and right to belong by committing certain acts, usually theft or violence. A member of a gang may be called a gangster, a gang banger, or, less specifically, a thug.
The United States Armed Forces term for urban warfare is UO, an abbreviation for urban operations. The previously used U.S. military term MOUT, an abbreviation for military operations in urban terrain, has been replaced by UO, although the term MOUT Site is still in use.
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States of America. It consists of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and forms military policy with the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), both federal executive departments, acting as the principal organs by which military policy is carried out. All five armed services are among the seven uniformed services of the United States.
The British armed forces terms are OBUA (operations in built-up areas), FIBUA (fighting in built-up areas), or sometimes (colloquially) FISH (fighting in someone's house),or FISH and CHIPS (fighting in someone's house and causing havoc in people's streets).
The term FOFO (fighting in fortified objectives) refers to clearing enemy personnel from narrow and entrenched places like bunkers, trenches and strongholds; the dismantling of mines and wires; and the securing of footholds in enemy areas.
Israel Defense Forces calls urban warfare לש"ב (pronounced LASHAB), a Hebrew acronym for warfare on urban terrain. LASHAB in the IDF includes large-scale tactics (such as utilization of heavy armoured personnel carriers, armoured bulldozers, UAVs for intelligence, etc.), CQB training for fighting forces (how a small team of infantry soldiers should fight in close and built spaces). IDF's LASHAB was developed mainly in recent decades, after the 1982 Lebanon War included urban warfare in Beirut and Lebanese villages, and was further developed during the Second Intifada (2000–2005) in which IDF soldiers entered and fought in Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps. The IDF has a special large and advanced facility for training soldiers and units in urban warfare. [ citation needed ]
Urban military operations in World War II often relied on large quantities of artillery bombardment and air support varying from ground attack fighters to heavy bombers. In some particularly vicious urban warfare operations such as Stalingrad and Warsaw, all weapons were used irrespective of their consequences. [ citation needed ]
However, when liberating occupied territory some restraint was often applied, particularly in urban settings. For example, Canadian operations in both Ortona and Groningen avoided the use of artillery altogether to spare civilians and buildings,and during the Battle of Manila in 1945, General MacArthur initially placed a ban on artillery and air strikes to save civilian lives.
Military forces are bound by the laws of war governing military necessity to the amount of force which can be applied when attacking an area where there are known to be civilians. Until the 1970s, this was covered by the 1907 Hague Convention IV – The Laws and Customs of War on Land which specifically includes articles 25–27. This has since been supplemented by the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International and Non-International Armed Conflicts.
Sometimes distinction and proportionality, as in the case of the Canadians in Ortona, causes the attacking force to restrain from using all the force they could when attacking a city. In other cases, such as the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Berlin, both military forces considered evacuating civilians only to find it impractical.
When Russian forces attacked Grozny in 1999, large amounts of artillery fire were used. The Russian Army handled the issue of civilian casualties by warning the inhabitants that they were going to launch an all-out assault on Grozny and requested that all civilians leave the city before the start of the artillery bombardment.
Fighting in an urban environment can offer some advantages to a weaker defending force or to guerrilla fighters through ambush-induced attrition losses. The attacking army must account for three dimensions more often,and consequently expend greater amounts of manpower in order to secure a myriad of structures, and mountains of rubble.
Ferroconcrete structures will be ruined by heavy bombardment, but it is very difficult to demolish such a building totally when it is well defended. Soviet forces had to fight room by room; while defending the Red October Steel Factory during the Battle of Stalingrad, and in 1945, during the race to capture the Reichstag; despite heavy bombardment with artillery at point blank range (including 203 mm howitzers).
It is also difficult to destroy underground or heavily fortified structures such as bunkers and utility tunnels; during the Battle of Budapest in 1944 fighting broke out in the sewers, as both Axis and Soviet troops used them for troop movements.[ citation needed ]
The characteristics of an average city include tall buildings, narrow alleys, sewage tunnels and possibly a subway system. Defenders may have the advantage of detailed local knowledge of the area, right down to the layout inside of buildings and means of travel not shown on maps. [ citation needed ]
The buildings can provide excellent sniping posts while alleys and rubble-filled streets are ideal for planting booby traps. Defenders can move from one part of the city to another undetected using underground tunnels and spring ambushes. [ citation needed ]
Meanwhile, the attackers tend to become more exposed than the defender as they must use the open streets more often, unfamiliar with the defenders' secret and hidden routes. During a house to house search the attacker is often also exposed on the streets.[ citation needed ]
The Battle of Monterrey was the US Army's first major encounter with urban warfare. It occurred in September 1846 when the US Army under Zachary Taylor invaded the town. The US Army had no prior training in urban warfare and the Mexican defenders hid on rooftops, shot through loopholes, and stationed cannons in the middle of the city's streets. The houses at Monterrey were made of thick adobe, with strong double doors and few windows. The rooftops were lined with a two-foot-tall wall that acted as a parapet for the defending soldiers. Each home was a fort unto itself. [ citation needed ]
On September 21, 1846, the US Army which included some of its best soldiers, recent West Point graduates, marched down the city's streets and were cut down by the Mexican defenders. They could not see the men hidden behind walls, loopholes, or rooftops. They tried to march straight down the street until the intense fire drove them to hide in adjacent buildings. Taylor tried to move artillery into the city but it could not hit the well-hidden defenders any better than the US soldiers could. Two days later the US again assaulted the city from two sides and this time they fought differently.
Not wanting to repeat the mistakes of the 21st, General William Jenkins Worth listened to his Texan advisers. These men had fought in Mexican cities before at the Battle of Mier in 1842 and the Battle of Bexar in 1835. They understood that the army needed to "mouse hole" through each house and root out the defenders in close combat.
Worth's men used pick axes to chip holes in the adobe walls of the homes, in the roof of the house from where the soldiers could drop in, or used ladders to climb to the top of a rooftop and assault the Mexican defenders in hand-to-hand combat. The typical assault on a home would include one man who would run to the door of the house and chip the door away with a pick axe under covering fire. Once the door showed signs of weakening, 3-4 other soldiers would run to the door and barge in with revolvers blazing. Worth lost few men on the 23rd using these new urban warfare techniques.
A Soviet combat group was a mixed arms unit of about eighty men, divided into assault groups of six to eight men, closely supported by field artillery. These were tactical units which were able to apply the tactics of house to house fighting that the Soviets had been forced to develop and refine at each Festungsstadt (fortress city) they had encountered from Stalingrad to Berlin.
The German tactics in the battle of Berlin were dictated by three considerations: the experience that the Germans had gained during five years of war; the physical characteristics of Berlin; and the tactics used by the Soviets.
Most of the central districts of Berlin consisted of city blocks with straight wide roads, intersected by several waterways, parks and large railway marshalling yards. The terrain was predominantly flat but there were some low hills like that of Kreuzberg that is 66 metres (217 ft) above sea level.
Much of the housing stock consisted of apartment blocks built in the second half of the 19th century. Most of those, thanks to housing regulations and few elevators, were five stories high, built around a courtyard which could be reached from the street through a corridor large enough to take a horse and cart or small trucks used to deliver coal. In many places these apartment blocks were built around several courtyards, one behind the other, each one reached through the outer courtyards by a ground-level tunnel similar to that between the first courtyard and the road. The larger, more expensive flats faced the street and the smaller, less expensive ones were found around the inner courtyards.
Just as the Soviets had learned a lot about urban warfare, so had the Germans. The Waffen-SS did not use the makeshift barricades erected close to street corners, because these could be raked by artillery fire from guns firing over open sights further along the straight streets.Instead, they put snipers and machine guns on the upper floors and the roofs - a safer deployment as the Soviet tanks could not elevate their guns that high. They also put men armed with panzerfausts in cellar windows to ambush tanks as they moved down the streets. These tactics were quickly adopted by the Hitler Youth and the First World War Volkssturm veterans.
To counter these tactics, Soviet sub-machine gunners rode the tanks and sprayed every doorway and window, but this meant the tank could not traverse its turret quickly. The other solution was to rely on heavy howitzers (152 mm and 203 mm) firing over open sights to blast defended buildings and to use anti-aircraft guns against defenders posted on the higher floors.
Soviet combat groups started to move from house to house instead of directly down the streets. They moved through the apartments and cellars blasting holes through the walls of adjacent buildings (for which the Soviets found abandoned German panzerfausts were very effective), while others fought across the roof tops and through the attics.
These tactics took the Germans lying in ambush for tanks in the flanks. Flamethrowers and grenades were very effective, but as the Berlin civilian population had not been evacuated these tactics inevitably killed many civilians.
During the First Chechen War most of the Chechen fighters had been trained in the Soviet armed forces. They were divided into combat groups consisting of 15 to 20 personnel, subdivided into three or four-man fire teams. A fire team consisted of an antitank gunner, usually armed with a Russian made RPG-7s or RPG-18s, a machine gunner and a sniper. The team would be supported by ammunition runners and assistant gunners. To destroy Russian armoured vehicles in Grozny, five or six hunter-killer fire teams deployed at ground level, in second and third stories, and in basements. The snipers and machine gunners would pin down the supporting infantry while the antitank gunners would engage the armoured vehicle aiming at the top, rear and sides of vehicles.
Initially, the Russians were taken by surprise. Their armoured columns that were supposed to take the city without difficulty as Soviet forces had taken Budapest in 1956 were decimated in fighting more reminiscent of the Battle of Budapest in late 1944. As in the Soviet assault on Berlin, as a short term measure, they deployed self-propelled anti-aircraft guns (ZSU-23-4 and 2K22M) to engage the Chechen combat groups, as their tank's main gun did not have the elevation and depression to engage the fire teams and an armoured vehicle's machine gun could not suppress the fire of half a dozen different fire teams simultaneously.
In the long term, the Russians brought in more infantry and began a systematic advance through the city, house by house and block by block, with dismounted Russian infantry moving in support of armour. In proactive moves, the Russians started to set up ambush points of their own and then move armour towards them to lure the Chechen combat groups into ambushes.
As with the Soviets tank crews in Berlin in 1945, who attached bedsprings to the outside of their turrets to reduce the damage done by German panzerfausts, some of the Russian armour was fitted quickly with a cage of wire mesh mounted some 25–30 centimetres away from the hull armour to defeat the shaped charges of the Chechen RPGs.
Operation Defensive Shield was a counter-terrorism military operation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces in April 2002 as a response to a wave of suicide bombings by Palestinian factions which claimed the lives of hundreds of Israeli civilians.
The two major battles were held in Nablus and Jenin.
In Nablus, the Paratroopers Brigade and the Golani Brigade, backed by reservist armour force and combat engineers with armoured Caterpillar D9 bulldozers, entered to Nablus, killing 70 militants and arresting hundreds, while sustaining only one fatality. The forces deployed many small teams, advancing in non-linear manner from many directions, utilising snipers and air support. The battle ended quickly with a decisive Israeli victory.[ citation needed ]
In Jenin the battle was much harder and fierce. Unlike in Nablus, the forces who fought in Jenin were mainly reserve forces. The Palestinian militants booby-trapped the city and the refugee camp with thousands of explosive charges, some were very large and most were concealed in houses and on the streets.[ citation needed ] After 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush combined with booby traps, snipers and suicide bombers, the IDF changed its tactics from slow advancing infantry soldiers backed by attack helicopters to a heavy use of armoured bulldozers. The heavily armoured bulldozers began by clearing booby traps and ended with razing many houses, mainly in the center of the refugee camp. The armoured bulldozers were unstoppable and impervious to Palestinian attacks and by razing booby-trapped houses and buildings which used as gun posts they forced the militants in Jenin to surrender. In total, 56 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed in the battle of Jenin.[ citation needed ]
In total, Operation Defensive Shield was considered an Israeli victory and a turning-point in the Second Intifada. Although the suicide bombings did not stop completely, their number decreased sharply. Israel continued in daily military raids onto Palestinian cities and towns to arrest militants and destroy terror facilities.[ citation needed ]
The term close-quarter battle refers to fighting methods within buildings, streets, narrow alleys and other places where visibility and manoeuvrability are limited.
Both close-quarters-battle (CQB) and urban operations (UO) are related to urban warfare, but while UO refers mainly to the macromanagement factor (i.e. sending troops, using of heavy armoured fighting vehicles, battle management), CQB refers to the micromanagement factor—namely: how a small squad of infantry troops should fight in urban environments and/or inside buildings in order to achieve its goals with minimal casualties.[ citation needed ]
As a doctrine, CQB concerns topics such as:
Military CQB doctrine is different from police CQB doctrine, mainly because the military usually operates in hostile areas while the police operates within docile populations.[ citation needed ]
Armies that often engage in urban warfare operations may train most of their infantry in CQB doctrine. While training will vary, it generally will focus on what proficiencies each unit possess. This is in opposition to what units may lack in either strength or weapons capabilities. The fundamentals of muzzle awareness and weapons safety are of the utmost importance given the propensity for fratricide due to the confined spaces, as well as the limited avenues of approach.
Armed forces seek to train their units for those circumstances in which they are to fight: built up, urban areas are no exception. Several countries have created simulated urban training zones. The British Army has established an "Afghan village" within its Stanford Battle Area and the French Army has built several urban training areas in its CENZUB facility.
During World War II, as preparation for the Allied invasion of Normandy, the population of the English village of Imber was evacuated compulsorily to provide an urban training area for United States forces. The facility has been retained, despite efforts by the displaced people to recover their homes, and was used for British Army training for counter-insurgency operations in Northern Ireland. A newer purpose-built training area has been created at Copehill Down, some 3 miles from Imber.
An armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) is an armed combat vehicle protected by armour, generally combining operational mobility with offensive and defensive capabilities. AFVs can be wheeled or tracked. Main battle tanks, armoured cars, armoured self-propelled guns, and armoured personnel carriers are all examples of AFVs.
Infantry is the branch of an army that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers, infantry traditionally relies on moving by foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry make up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bear the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.
Military tactics encompasses the art of organising and employing fighting forces on or near the battlefield. They involve the application of four battlefield functions which are closely related – kinetic or firepower, mobility, protection or security, and shock action. Tactics are a separate function from command and control and logistics. In contemporary military science, tactics are the lowest of three levels of warfighting, the higher levels being the strategic and operational levels. Throughout history, there has been a shifting balance between the four tactical functions, generally based on the application of military technology, which has led to one or more of the tactical functions being dominant for a period of time, usually accompanied by the dominance of an associated fighting arm deployed on the battlefield, such as infantry, artillery, cavalry or tanks.
Combined arms is an approach to warfare which seeks to integrate different combat arms of a military to achieve mutually complementary effects. According to strategist William S. Lind, combined arms can be distinguished from the concept of "supporting arms" as follows:
Combined arms hits the enemy with two or more arms simultaneously in such a manner that the actions he must take to defend himself from one make him more vulnerable to another. In contrast, supporting arms is hitting the enemy with two or more arms in sequence, or if simultaneously, then in such combination that the actions the enemy must take to defend himself from one also defends himself from the other(s).
Trench warfare is a type of land warfare using occupied fighting lines consisting largely of military trenches, in which troops are well-protected from the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery. The most famous use of trench warfare is the Western Front in World War I. It has become a byword for stalemate, attrition, sieges, and futility in conflict.
The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, and also known as the Fall of Berlin, was one of the last major offensives of the European theatre of World War II.
Close quarters combat (CQC) is a tactical concept that involves a physical confrontation between several combatants. It can take place between military units, police/corrections and criminals, and other similar scenarios. In warfare, it usually consists of small units or teams engaging the enemy with personal weapons at very short range, up to 100 meters, from proximity hand-to-hand combat to close-quarter target negotiation with short-range firearms. In the typical close quarters combat scenario, the attackers try a very fast, violent takeover of a vehicle or structure controlled by the defenders, who usually have no easy way to withdraw. Because enemies, hostages/civilians, and fellow operators can be closely intermingled, close quarters combat demands a rapid assault and a precise application of lethal force. The operators need great proficiency with their weapons, and the ability to make split-second decisions in order to minimize accidental casualties.
Operation Urban Warrior was a United States Marine Corps program created as an exercise meant to plan and test Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT) and urban warfare in general. It was developed in the mid 1990s by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory partly in response to growing problem on inner-city fighting, and especially made urgent following the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.
The Singapore Army is the service of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) tasked with land operations. It is the largest of the three Services. The Singaporean army is primarily a conscript army that, in the event of national exigencies or war, morphs itself from peacetime to wartime by mobilising almost all of its combined combat power by calling up operationally-ready military reservists.
Helmuth Weidling was a German general during World War II. He was the last commander of the Berlin Defence Area during the Battle of Berlin, and led the defence of the city against Soviet forces, finally surrendering just before the end of World War II in Europe.
Shock troops or assault troops are formations created to lead an attack. They are often better trained and equipped than other infantry, and expected to take heavy casualties even in successful operations.
Hand-to-hand combat is a physical confrontation between two or more persons at very short range that does not involve the use of ranged weapons. While the phrase "hand-to-hand" appears to refer to unarmed combat, the term is generic and may include use of melee weapons such as knives, sticks, batons, spears, or improvised weapons such as entrenching tools. While the term hand-to-hand combat originally referred principally to engagements by combatants on the battlefield, it can also refer to any personal physical engagement by two or more people, including law enforcement officers, civilians, and criminals.
The 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland was a Waffen-SS division recruited from foreign volunteers and conscripts. It saw action, as part of Army Group North, in the Independent State of Croatia and on the Eastern Front during World War II.
Armoured warfare, mechanised warfare or tank warfare is the use of armoured fighting vehicles in modern warfare. It is a major component of modern methods of war.
Tank desant is a military combined arms tactic, where infantry soldiers ride into an attack on tanks, then dismount to fight on foot in the final phase of the assault. Desant is a Russian general term for airborne or parachute drops and naval infantry amphibious landing operations.
The Battle of Königsberg, also known as the Königsberg Offensive, was one of the last operations of the East Prussian Offensive during World War II. In four days of violent urban warfare, Soviet forces of the 1st Baltic Front and the 3rd Belorussian Front captured the city of Königsberg – now Kaliningrad, Russia. The siege started in late January 1945 when the Soviets initially surrounded the city. There was heavy fighting for the overland connection between Königsberg and the port of Pillau, but by March 1945 Königsberg was hundreds of kilometres behind the main front line. The battle finished when the German garrison surrendered to the Soviets on 9 April after a three-day assault made their position untenable.
Close combat means a violent physical confrontation between two or more opponents at short range.
The battle in Berlin was an end phase of the Battle of Berlin. While the Battle of Berlin encompassed the attack by three Soviet Army Groups to capture not only Berlin but the territory of Germany east of the River Elbe still under German control, the battle in Berlin details the fighting and German capitulation that took place within the city.
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