Wire obstacle

Last updated
Double apron fence Double apron.png
Double apron fence
Obstacle with concertina wire Swiss Army - WEF 2015 (16133688558).jpg
Obstacle with concertina wire

In the military science of fortification, wire obstacles are defensive obstacles made from barbed wire, barbed tape or concertina wire. They are designed to disrupt, delay and generally slow down an attacking enemy. During the time that the attackers are slowed by the wire obstacle (or possibly deliberately channelled into killing zones, or both) they are easy to target with machinegun and artillery fire. Depending on the requirements and available resources, wire obstacles may range from a simple barbed wire fence in front of a defensive position, to elaborate patterns of fences, concertinas, "dragon's teeth" (which serve a similar purpose as wire obstacles, but for combat vehicles instead) and minefields (both anti-personnel and anti-armor) hundreds of metres thick.

Contents

One example is "low wire entanglement", which consists of irregularly placed stakes that have been driven into the ground with only some 15 cm (six inches) showing. The barbed wire is then wrapped and tightened on to these. An enemy combatant running through the barrier, which is difficult to see, is apt to trip and get caught.

History

Wire obstacles were used by Union General Ambrose Burnside during the American Civil War Battle of Fort Sanders in the Knoxville Campaign, when telegraph wire was strung between tree stumps 30 to 80 yards in front of one part of the Union line. Similarly the Danish army used wire fences in front of its Dybbøl fortifications during the Second Schleswig War. They first saw significant military use during the Second Boer War, and reached the pinnacle of visibility during World War I where they indirectly, together with machine guns, were responsible for many (although not the majority of) casualties in the trench warfare that dominated that conflict. Wire obstacles served to magnify the substantial advantage that the repeating rifle and rapid-firing artillery, along with machine guns, had given to the defending side in the new era of warfare.

World War I entanglements could in some places be scores of metres thick and several metres deep, with the entire space filled with a random, tangled mass of barbed wire. Entanglements were often not created deliberately, but by pushing together the mess of wire formed when conventional barbed wire fences had been damaged by artillery shells.

Whenever there was time and opportunity to plan and emplace wire obstacles during the First World War, it was standard practice to deploy designs that would channel and concentrate attacking troops, through avenues of approach, herding them like cattle into designated killing zones i.e. fixing multiple screw pickets of wire running diagonally, away from the protected zone. This meant that a belt-fed machine-gun such as the Maschinengewehr 08 sited along that diagonal line had easy targets to enfilade when attacking troops were blocked from advancing by the wire and then massed together in a line.

Another method was to deliberately leave attractive-looking gaps in wire obstacles to give the appearance of a weak link in the defences. Such gaps were designed to act like a funnel, luring attacking troops through the opening and straight into the concentrated direct and enfilade fire of different machine gun emplacements. Because multiple water-cooled machine-guns such as the Vickers gun were used, continuous fire could be sustained for hours at a time if required.

Methods for soldiers to face this threat were a small wheeled steel plate that was slowly pushed forward in front of the soldier to shield them from bullet fire as they crawled, shielded machine gun carts, the MacAdam Shield Shovel or systems like the mobile personnel shield among others. When the obstacle was reached, access holes in the shield allowed the attacking soldier to cut away at the wire obstacle with pliers from behind the protection of the armored shield. [1]

Stormtrooper platoons included ballistic shields in their equipment list, as infiltration was one of their specialities.

Relatively elaborate obstacles were also used in some phases of the Korean War, and continue to be used on the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and a few other borders. However the more fluid nature of modern war means that most obstacles used today are relatively simple, temporary barriers.[ citation needed ]

Tanks and light armored vehicles can generally flatten unmined wire obstacles, although the wire can become entangled in the tracks and immobilize the vehicle. This can also occur to wheeled vehicles once the wire becomes wrapped around the axle. Wire obstacles can also be breached by intense artillery shelling or Bangalore torpedoes.[ citation needed ]

Enhanced effectiveness

The effectiveness of any wire obstacle is greatly increased by planting anti-tank and blast antipersonnel mines in and around it. Additionally, connecting bounding anti-personnel mines (e.g. the PROM-1) to the obstacle with tripwires has the effect of booby-trapping the obstacle itself, hindering attempts to clear it. Dummy tripwires can be added to cause further confusion. If anti-personnel mines are unavailable, it is very easy to connect hand-grenades to the wire using trip-wires. If the use of lethal explosive devices is deemed to be unsuitable, it is easy to emplace tripflares in and around the wire obstacle in order to make night-time infiltration harder.

Related Research Articles

Armoured fighting vehicle Combat vehicle with both armament and armour

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.

Rocket-propelled grenade Shoulder-launched anti-tank weapon

A rocket-propelled grenade is a shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon system that fires rockets equipped with an explosive warhead. Most RPGs can be carried by an individual soldier. These warheads are affixed to a rocket motor which propels the RPG towards the target and they are stabilized in flight with fins. Some types of RPG are reloadable with new rocket-propelled grenades, while others are single-use. RPGs, with some exceptions, are generally loaded from the muzzle.

Barbed wire type of steel fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand(s)

Barbed wire, also known as barb wire, occasionally corrupted as bobbed wire or bob wire, is a type of steel fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strands. It is used to construct inexpensive fences and is used atop walls surrounding secured property. It is also a major feature of the fortifications in trench warfare.

Trench warfare Type of land warfare

Trench warfare is a type of land warfare using occupied fighting lines largely comprising military trenches, in which troops are well-protected from the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery. Trench warfare lasting for several years took place on the Western Front in World War I. Following that war, "trench warfare" became a byword for stalemate, attrition, sieges, and futility in conflict.

A Bangalore torpedo is an explosive charge placed within one or several connected tubes. It is used by combat engineers to clear obstacles that would otherwise require them to approach directly, possibly under fire. It is sometimes colloquially referred to as a "Bangalore mine", "banger" or simply "Bangalore".

Anti-tank warfare military operations and doctrine for defeating enemy tanks and armored forces

Anti-tank warfare originated from the need to develop technology and tactics to destroy tanks during World War I (1914–1918). Since the Triple Entente developed the first tanks in 1916 but did not deploy them in battle until 1917, the German Empire developed the first anti-tank weapons. The first developed anti-tank weapon was a scaled-up bolt-action rifle, the Mauser 1918 T-Gewehr, that fired a 13mm cartridge with a solid bullet that could penetrate the thin armor of tanks of the time and destroy the engine or ricochet inside, killing occupants. Because tanks represent an enemy's greatest force projection on land, military strategists have incorporated anti-tank warfare into the doctrine of nearly every combat service since. The most predominant anti-tank weapons at the start of World War II in 1939 included the tank-mounted gun, anti-tank guns and anti-tank grenades used by the infantry, as well as ground-attack aircraft.

Mortar (weapon) Artillery weapon that launches explosive projectiles at high angles

A mortar is usually a simple, lightweight, man-portable, muzzle-loaded weapon, consisting of a smooth-bore metal tube fixed to a base plate with a lightweight bipod mount and a sight. They launch explosive shells in high-arcing ballistic trajectories. Mortars are typically used as indirect fire weapons for close fire support with a variety of ammunition.

Concertina wire Type of barbed wire

Concertina wire or Dannert wire is a type of barbed wire or razor wire that is formed in large coils which can be expanded like a concertina. In conjunction with plain barbed wire and steel pickets, it is most often used to form military-style wire obstacles. It is also used in non-military settings, such as when used in prison barriers, detention camps, riot control, or at the U.S./Mexico Border.

Enfilade and defilade military positions

Enfilade and defilade are concepts in military tactics used to describe a military formation's exposure to enemy fire. A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. A unit or position is "in defilade" if it uses natural or artificial obstacles to shield or conceal itself from enfilade. The strategies named by the English use the French enfiler and défiler, which the English nobility used at that time.

Bar Lev Line building in Africa

The Bar Lev Line was a chain of fortifications built by Israel along the eastern bank of the Suez Canal after it occupied the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt during the 1967 Six-Day War. It was considered impregnable and was a symbol of Israeli military perfection. It was overrun in 1973 by the Egyptian military during Operation Badr.

<i>Panzerjäger</i> branch of service of the Wehrmacht during the Second World War

Panzerjäger was a branch of service of the German Wehrmacht during the Second World War. It was an anti-tank arm-of-service that operated anti-tank artillery, and made exclusive use of the tank destroyers, which were also named Panzerjäger. Personnel wore ordinary field-gray uniforms rather than the black of the Panzer troops; however, those Panzerjäger troops who crewed the tank-destroyers wore the Panzer jacket in field gray.

Battle of Norfolk tank battle fought on February 27, 1991, during the Persian Gulf War

The Battle of Norfolk was a tank battle fought on February 27, 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, between armored forces of the United States and United Kingdom, and those of the Ba'athist Iraqi Republican Guard in the Muthanna Province of southern Iraq. The primary participants were the U.S. 2nd Armored Division (Forward),1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), and the Iraqi 18th Mechanized and 9th Armoured Brigades of the Republican Guard Tawakalna Mechanized Infantry Division along with elements from eleven other Iraqi divisions. The 2nd Armored Division(Fwd) was assigned to the American 1st Infantry Division as its 3rd maneuver brigade due to the fact that one of its brigades was not deployed. The 2nd Armored Division(Fwd)'s Task Force 1-41 Infantry would be the spearhead of VII Corps. The British 1st Armoured division was responsible for protecting the right flank of VII Corps, their main adversary being the Iraqi 52nd Armored Division and multiple infantry divisions. It was the final battle of the war before the unilateral ceasefire took effect. One more battle occurred near the oil field at Rumaila after the ceasefire.

Project Dye Marker was a cover name for a strong point/obstacle component of the electronic anti-infiltration barrier system in South Vietnam known as McNamara Line during the Vietnam War, which aimed to create an alternative to the US bombing of North Vietnam. The fortifications were partially constructed by the American forces in 1967-1968 along the eastern portion of the demilitarized zone. An effective anti-infiltration barrier, running across South Vietnam deep into Laos, was a grand vision of the US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara, who feared that escalation of bombing can bring greater Chinese involvement, and a vital component of his operational strategy. It was an enormous multimillion project, which was nicknamed in the media as the Great Wall of Vietnam, McNamara's Wall, McNamara Barrier, Electric Fence, and Alarm Belt.

Fortifications of the inner German border

The fortifications of the inner German border comprised a complex system of interlocking fortifications and security zones 1,381 kilometres (858 mi) long and several kilometres deep, running from the Baltic Sea to Czechoslovakia. The outer fences and walls were the most familiar and visible aspect of the system for Western visitors to the border zone, but they were merely the final obstacle for a would-be escapee from East Germany. The complexity of the border system increased steadily until it reached its full extent in the early 1980s. The following description and the accompanying diagram describe the border as it was around 1980.

Operation Shmone military operation

Operation Shmone was an Israeli military operation conducted against the Egyptian-held police fort of Iraq Suwaydan in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. The battle was fought between the Israel Defense Forces and the Egyptian Army on November 9, 1948, and ended in an Israeli victory, following numerous previous Israeli attempts to capture the fort, two of them in Operation Yoav just weeks before.

Man-portable anti-tank systems are shoulder-launched anti-tank rockets. They are typically unguided weapons and are a threat to armored vehicles, low-flying aircraft, and field fortifications. Generally, MANPATS fall into three distinct categories. The first consist of a small, disposable preloaded launch tube firing a high explosive anti-tank warhead operated by a single soldier. The second is a firing system onto/into which a rocket is loaded, operated by a single soldier. The third are manufactured prepacked and issued as a single unit of ammunition with the launcher discarded after a single use.

Árpád Line

The Árpád Line was a line of fortifications built in 1941-44 in the north-eastern and eastern Carpathian Mountains, along the border of Kingdom of Hungary. It was named after Árpád, the head of the Hungarian tribes. The main function of the Line was to protect Transylvania, Székely Land, and Kárpátalja from the east.

Flexible defense

The flexible defense is a military theory about the design of modern fortifications. The examples of "flexible" defense-lines are not based on dense lines of heavily armed, large and expensive concrete fortifications as the systems such as the Maginot Line were. Their protective capacity hinges on multiple lines of obstacles and small shelters fitting into the environment. They are "flexible" because soldiers are not locked in pillboxes, but fight instead in easily replaceable open earth-wood maden positions, while bunkers serve only as shelters during bombardments. As a result, they are able to adapt to the opponent's movements, and there are no easily targeted large buildings in these lines.

Tet Offensive attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base

The attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Base, headquarters of the Republic of Vietnam Air Force (RVNAF) and the United States Air Force (USAF) 7th Air Force, occurred during the early hours of 31 January 1968. Tan Son Nhut Air Base was one of the major air bases used for offensive air operations within South Vietnam and for the support of United States Army and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) ground operations. The attack by Vietcong (VC) and People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) forces was one of several major attacks on Saigon in the first days of the Tet Offensive. The attack was repulsed with the VC/PAVN suffering heavy losses; only superficial damage was done to the base.

References

  1. "It Nipped Its Way Through Wire Entanglements", Popular Science monthly, January 1919, page 30, scanned by Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=HykDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA30