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Follow Up: What would you do if your force is unable to obtain fire superiority?

Max Velocity Tactical

I had the following question as a comment by ‘APX’ on my previous post ‘Combat Rifle – Solid Basics to keep you Alive’ HERE:

APX Asks: “I have a question maybe you can help me with, occidental military doctrine is based in gaining fire superiority to allow maneuver but…What would you do if your force is unable to obtain fire superiority? How would you improve your chances?I ask this because in a SHTF situation ammo could be scarce and our team’s weapons not the best, maybe people with hunting rifles or shotguns.”  

This is a good question and I felt it justified a longer answer, a post of its own. The overwhelming detail on this topic and similar tactical questions can to be found in the pages of ‘Contact!A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival’: go on, buy it and keep a copy, it may prove useful (Paperback or Kindle versions are available). Here are some comments on this particular question:

Gaining fire superiority should mean suppressing the enemy. Fire superiority is often mistaken as the same as suppression which is often mistaken for overwhelming firepower going downrange at the enemy, which is all well and good, but unless that is accurate and effective it is nothing more than noise. Rommel was quoted as saying something along the lines of “There is nothing more effective than plastering the enemy with fire,” which is true, so long as it is accurately targeted fire.

So let’s switch out the term fire superiority with suppressive fire, sometimes known as ‘winning the fire fight’. In order to suppress the enemy you must direct accurate effective fire that will either hit that enemy and injure/kill him or make him get his head down in cover and keep it down. Remember that you are both fighting for your lives, so noise alone won’t do it. He needs to feel that round crack past his head or over his trench while he is hiding in it, and know that he needs to keep that head down. If you can suppress the enemy you are able to maneuver with less risk of getting shot.

Incoming small arms fire has an inherent violence to it if it is close. If it is not close it’s just background. You will know if you are ‘pinned down’.

So back to the bolt action rifles in the original question: there is no reason why such weapons cannot be used to suppress the enemy, particularly if their very nature means you have to be more accurate with them. This exposes the weakness of automatic weapons: if you face someone with uncontrolled automatic weapons, they could be hosing down your general area but not effectively, while you can put one through their eye with your bolt action rifle. That does not mean all automatic weapons are bad, it depends on the operator: a good operator with a SAW firing short controlled burst will kill/suppress well.

Similarly with semi-automatic weapons with thirty round magazines, like AK or ARs, these can be devastatingly effective but in the wrong untrained hands can be next to useless. So a lot of this comes back to quality of the individual and the level of training and experience they have. Once the adrenalin stacks up in a contact situation it is very easy to look over your sights and fire into or towards the enemy, rapidly pumping rounds downrange in the excitement of the contact. You have to mentally get a grip of yourself, re-focus to get a sight picture and get more accurate.

So far I have basically said that you can use a lot of different types of rifles to be effective so long as you are trained to do so, and conversely even if you have the best equipment none of that will help you if you are just a tacticool goon. Yes, a well-trained team will be more effective if they have better equipment, but I am telling you not to give up hope if you have just bolt action hunting rifles. The advancing German Army at the beginning of the First World War thought they were up against machine gun battalions as they pushed the British Expeditionary Force back to the English Channel. No, it was the fire power generated by the British infantryman with his bolt action Lee-Enfield rifle.

Shotguns are a different matter in my opinion, (mentioned in the original question). At least with bolt action rifles you can try and adapt your tactics to take advantage of range and accuracy if terrain allows, but with shotguns you lose range, volume of fire and also accuracy. Useful for close range contacts in close country, historically carried by point men in the Jungle; I’d prefer an AR.

The next part of this post moves on from the weapons that you are equipped with to the nature of suppressive fire itself. You will know based on who you are, the circumstances and your mission what your plan is for making contact with the enemy. If you are a small recce patrol the idea may be to break contact for which you will have rehearsed immediate action drills for contact left/right and front/rear. Upon enemy contact you will go into your RTR drill as per my previous article HERE and then into the appropriate contact drill. It is of course important to suppress the enemy as much as possible when doing a break contact drill, which is why they are based on the principle of fire and movement, but given the fluid situation your suppressive fire is likely to be less effective as you move fast to get out of there: by which I mean you are not hanging around to locate all enemy positions and you are moving fast together with as much suppression as you can put down.

Remember that these contact drills are for ‘Oh Shit” situations where you have walked onto the ‘X’ and as such they are emergency drills to try and get you out alive. Not all of you may make it, and you may not even be able to run, you may be reduced to crawling out along a terrain feature. That is the reality of the difference between rehearsed immediate action drills and what may happen to you on the ground as you crawl out dragging your buddy by his harness.

If you are in more of an offensive mode then you will consider maneuvering onto the enemy position(s) once contact is made. This could be as part of a deliberate attack/raid or as a hasty attack as a result of unexpected contact. The unexpected contact is conducted as a series of battle drills. This is very simply how the first part of it works:

1)      Reaction to effective enemy fire: RTR (Return fire, Take cover, Return appropriate fire.

2)      Locate the enemy: Observation, target indications passed once the enemy is located. This may be very hard with a well-trained and concealed enemy and is a primary reason why it may be hard to suppress them: you can’t suppress what you can’t locate.

3)      Win the firefight: this is where fire control orders are given to allow the suppression to happen.

4)      The follow on hasty attack….which is the maneuver part.

Ok, so you just walked onto the X. Crack, crack, crack, you came under fire (assume no man down for now, keeping it simple). The element (squad maybe) scrambles for cover and is trying to locate the enemy and return fire.

Remember that you are on the X. You will not be able to roll into your offensive action at that point. You will likely have to re-position the elements of the squad unless you are already in good cover. You may have to fight your squad forwards or backwards or to the flanks simply to get off the X and into a better position. Once you re-position you will be better able to observe and try and locate the enemy firing points. Once you do that (communicate it using link men – “every man is a link man”) then you are able to begin to win the firefight where you are using your accurate suppressive fire to try and rip the initiative back from the enemy.

Once you roll into winning the firefight, this is when the squad leader needs to take a moment, leave the fire control to his second in command, and sit back and make an assessment. Remember, this was not a break contact drill, this is an offensive advance to contact. He will need to consider the enemy/ground that he can see, how the firefight is going, the assessed number and weight of fire from the enemy, and what he feels he can do. He may decide at this point to break contact, at which point he will order a break contact drill – but this is not an automatic immediate action, this is a deliberate move. Or, he will decide to put in a hasty attack. At that point he is considering factors such as the enemy ground, the location of his fire support element, covered routes to the enemy position(s) and how to assault the enemy.

Where reality diverges from the standard drill is how the enemy is behaving. Rather than being all in one position ripe for the plucking, they may have multiple firing points. If assaulting an enemy position, whether the enemy is in the open, in a trench or in a bunker (all have variations on how to best do it) you must consider the location of enemy firing points that are in depth and mutually supporting to the position you have targeted. Your fire support element will be suppressing all that they can, but as you move up and to a flank you will need to consider how to suppress depth/mutually supporting enemy positions in order to allow you to continue to maneuver. That is why you may reach the conclusion that you cannot assault, because there is too much to suppress in order to sensibly do so.

This is where reality hits us in the face. Unless you are facing a very simple solution, you are not going to be able to suppress all of the enemy all of the time, or even some of the time. Do you seriously think that you can shape the battlefield to where you can attack without return fire? No. You have to suppress the enemy to the point where you have the upper hand to allow you to maneuver. Other than that you must use terrain features and cover to allow your fire support element to survive and for the assault element to get onto the objective without being hit.

I would advise that you don’t sacrifice suppression for speed. Don’t let the suppressive fire slack up or lose accuracy in order to be able to run faster over the ground. Go for momentum instead, where you build pressure on the enemy by accurate volume of suppressive fire and then begin to maneuver, preferably to a flank. Never underestimate the psychological effect of your maneuver on the enemy, particularly if you get to a flank. You may push them to withdraw without it getting to a close fight-through battle.

So to answer the original question: if you cannot get fire superiority, then get better suppression by employing accurately targeted fire. Train and practice together to get your battle drills squared away as a team. Orchestrate your team using accurate suppressive fire and the terrain i.e. cover, in order to be able to maneuver on the enemy, gain the upper hand, and close with and destroy them.

Live Hard, Die Free


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