Military Operations in Urban Terrain

The company team may take part in large-scale urban combat operations as part of a larger force. The team may also have to conduct MOUT when maneuvering separately; situations might include enemy contact in a very small village (10 or fewer buildings) or in a lateral strip area (along a road or highway).

This appendix examines the basic characteristics of MOUT as well as special planning considerations and techniques of offensive and defensive operations. For more detailed information, refer to FM 90-10 and FM 90-10-1.


Section 1 MOUT Planning Considerations
MOUT Considerations
Vehicles and Equipment
Command and Control
Fire Support
Combat Service Support
Section 2 Offensive MOUT
Hasty and Deliberate Attacks in MOUT
Phases of Offensive MOUT
Task Organization
Offensive Techniques in MOUT
Section 3 Defensive MOUT
Enemy Forces Outside the Urban Area
Enemy Forces Within the Urban Area
Defensive Techniques in MOUT



Built-up areas consist mainly of man-made features such as buildings, streets, and subterranean systems. These features of urban terrain create a variety of tactical problems and possibilities. To ensure the company team can operate effectively in the MOUT environment, the team observation and direct fire plans must address the ground-level fight (in streets and on the ground floor of buildings), the aboveground fight (in multistoried buildings), and the subterranean fight. The following considerations apply:

  • Buildings offer cover and concealment and severely restrict movement of military elements, especially armored vehicles. They also severely restrict fields of fire. Every street corner and successive block becomes an intervisibility line, requiring careful overwatch. Thick-walled buildings provide ready-made fortified positions. Thin-walled buildings may afford observation and fields of fire.
  • Another important aspect of the MOUT environment is that built-up areas complicate, confuse, and degrade command and control.
  • Streets are usually avenues of approach. Forces moving along a street, however, are often canalized by buildings and have little space for off-road maneuver. Obstacles on urban streets thus are usually more effective than those on roads in open terrain since they are more difficult to bypass.
  • Subterranean systems found in some built-up areas can be easily overlooked, but they may prove critical to the outcome of urban operations. Figure I-1 illustrates examples of underground systems, which include subways, sewers, cellars, and utility systems.


Figure I-1. Underground systems.


As described in the following paragraphs, numerous factors related to vehicles and equipment affect the company teamís MOUT planning and execution.

M1-series tanks

The following factors may affect MOUT:

  • HEAT rounds are normally the primary main gun ammunition in the MOUT environment. They are the most effective round against masonry and will penetrate all but the thickest reinforced concrete. A HEAT round will open a hole large enough for a man to fit through in masonry or concrete walls, but it will not destroy the reinforcing bars in reinforced concrete. HEAT is also effective against all earthen and sandbag-reinforced strongpoints. A 120-mm HEAT round arms about 36 feet from the end of the gun tube.
  • MPAT rounds will also penetrate concrete and masonry, but they are not as effective as HEAT against heavier structures.
  • Sabot ammunition has limited utility against most nonvehicular targets, and its discarding petals endanger accompanying infantry elements. Sabot petals create a hazard area extending 70 meters on either side of the gun-target line out to a range of 1 kilometer.
  • The tankís main gun can depress only to -10 degrees and can elevate only to +20 degrees. This creates considerable dead space for the M1 crew at the close ranges that are typical in the MOUT environment.
  • When buttoned up, the tank crew has limited visibility to the sides and rear and no visibility to the top. Figures I-2 and I-3 illustrate the dead space associated with tank operations in an urban environment.
  • The external M2 HB machine gun can elevate to +36 degrees; however, the TC must be unbuttoned to fire the M2 on the M1A2.
  • The tank can be outfitted with an external phone hookup for communications with accompanying infantry.


The following factors may affect MOUT:

  • The primary roles of the BFV in the MOUT environment are to provide suppressive fires and to breach exterior walls. The vehicleís armor-piercing rounds can be extremely useful in urban operations. They can penetrate concrete up to 16 inches thick, can easily penetrate brick structures, and are highly effective against earthen and sandbag-reinforced bunkers.
  • The BFV can elevate its 25-mm gun to +60 degrees and depress it to -10 degrees.
  • The crew has limited visibility to the sides and rear and no vision to the top when buttoned up.
  • The BFV can be outfitted with an external phone hookup for communications with accompanying infantry.
  • The 25-mm gun can be used effectively against enemy-occupied buildings and fortifications, firing AP, HE, and even TP-T rounds. Refer to FM 90-10-1 for detailed information on the effects of these rounds on typical urban construction materials.
  • The M240C coax machine gun can effectively deliver suppressive fires against enemy personnel and against enemy positions that are behind light cover.
  • TOW missiles can be effectively employed to destroy heavily fortified positions.
  • The discarding petals of 25-mm sabot rounds create a downrange hazard for dismounted troops who are within 30 degrees on either side of the gun-target line out to a range of 200 meters.

Figure I-2. Tank weapon dead space at street level.

Figure I-3. Tank cannon and coax machine gun dead space above street level.


The following command and control considerations will affect the company teamís MOUT planning and execution:

  • Communications problems. The low-level task organization that may take place during MOUT will require elements to establish additional communications links, which can be disrupted by buildings and other urban terrain features.
  • Fire control. Extensive direct fire planning and restrictive fire control measures are an absolute requirement in MOUT.
  • Proximity and visibility. Friendly elements often must operate in confined and restrictive areas during MOUT, and they may not be able to see other nearby friendly forces. These factors significantly increase the danger of fratricide.
  • Personnel factors. MOUT imposes significant, and often extreme, physical and psychological demands on soldiers and leaders.
  • ROE and noncombatants. The ROE may restrict the use of certain weapon systems. As an integral part of MOUT, noncombatants create special operational problems. To deal with these concerns, units operating in urban terrain must know how to effectively employ linguists and counterintelligence and civil affairs teams.
  • The slow pace of MOUT. This will usually prevent the company team from taking full advantage of the speed and mobility of its fighting vehicles.


The following factors related to maneuver will affect the company teamís MOUT planning and execution:

  • The need for detailed centralized planning and decentralized execution. MOUT are usually executed as a deliberate attack, demanding extensive intelligence activities and rehearsals.
  • Formation of combined arms teams at the lowest levels. Whereas task organization normally is done no lower than platoon level, MOUT may require task organization of squads and sections. The company team may face a number of unusual organizational options, such as a tank section working with an infantry platoon.
  • Vulnerability of friendly forces. Tanks and BFVs can provide firepower to effectively support accompanying infantry squads, but they are, in turn, vulnerable to attack from enemy infantry. The attacking force in urban operations must also guard against local counterattacks.
  • Requirements for cooperation. MOUT can be successful only when close cooperation is established between infantry squads and fighting vehicles at the lowest level.
  • The role of infantry. Infantry squads are employed extensively during MOUT. They can fight both enemy vehicles and enemy dismounted elements.


The MOUT environment will affect how and when indirect fires will be employed. The following factors may have an impact on planning and execution:

  • Careful use of VT ammunition is required to prevent premature arming.
  • Indirect fire may cause unwanted rubble.
  • The close proximity of enemy and friendly troops requires careful coordination.
  • WP ammunition may create unwanted fires or smoke.
  • Fuze delay should be used to ensure rounds penetrate fortifications as required.
  • Illumination can be effective; however, it must be carefully planned to ensure friendly positions remain in the shadows while enemy positions are highlighted. Tall buildings may mask the effects of illumination rounds.
  • VT and ICM rounds are effective for clearing enemy positions, observers, and antennas on rooftops.
  • Scatterable mines can be used to impede enemy movement in the MOUT environment. It may be especially useful during the isolation phase to prevent the enemy from repositioning or reinforcing his forces. The effectiveness of scatterable mines is reduced when the mines are delivered on a hard surface.
  • Artillery may be used in direct fire mode against point targets.
  • Mortars are the most responsive indirect fires available to the company team in the MOUT environment. They are well suited for combat in built-up areas because of their high rate of fire, steep angle of fall, and short minimum range.
  • The MOUT environment creates difficulties for the company team in target acquisition and in clearance and adjustment of fires.
  • When taking part in urban operations, the company team must always keep in the mind that the MOUT environment creates unique requirements for centrally controlled fires and more restrictive fire control measures.
  • Depending on the range to targets and the height of buildings in the urban area, up to 50 percent of all artillery rounds may impact on the roofs and sides of the buildings rather than on targets on the ground. Mortar fires are significantly more effective in hitting targets at street level between buildings.


Guidelines for providing effective CSS to units fighting in built-up areas include the following:

  • Provide supplies to units in the required quantities and as close as possible to the location where those supplies are needed.
  • Protect supplies and CSS elements from the effects of enemy fire by preventing and/or avoiding detection and by using effective cover and concealment.
  • Disperse and decentralize CSS elements to develop the most effective support structure based on requirements for communications, command and control, security, and proximity to the MSR for resupply.
  • Position support units as far forward as the tactical situation permits.
  • Plan the locations of casualty collection points and evacuation sites.
  • Plan for the use of carrying parties and litter bearers.
  • Plan for and use host-country support and civil resources when authorized and practical.
  • Develop plans for requesting and obtaining special equipment such as ladders and toggle ropes with grappling hooks.


Offensive operations in a built-up area are planned and executed based on the factors of METT-TC and established doctrine. This section focuses on the unique problems and challenges that offensive MOUT pose for the company team.


At the task force level, the MOUT offense takes the form of either a hasty or deliberate attack. Both types of attack require the friendly force to conduct as much planning, reconnaissance, and coordination as time and the situation permit.

Hasty attack

Task forces and company teams conduct hasty attacks as a result of meeting engagements, when unexpected contact occurs and bypass has not been authorized, or when the enemy is in a vulnerable position and can be quickly defeated through immediate offensive action. The following special considerations apply for hasty attacks in the MOUT environment:

  • In built-up areas, incomplete intelligence and concealment may require the maneuver unit to move through, rather than around, the unit fixing the enemy in place (the base of fire element). Control and coordination become important factors in reducing congestion at the edges of the built-up area.
  • Once its objective is secured, a MOUT hasty attack force may have to react to contingency requirements, either by executing on-order or be-prepared missions or by responding to FRAGOs.

Deliberate attack

A deliberate attack is a fully integrated operation that employs all available assets against the enemyís defense. It is employed when enemy positions are well prepared, when the built-up area is large or severely congested, or when surprise has been lost. Deliberate attacks are characterized by precise planning based on detailed information and reconnaissance and thorough preparations and rehearsals. Given the nature of urban terrain, the techniques employed in the deliberate attack of a built-up area are similar to those used in assaulting a strongpoint. The attack avoids the enemyís main strength, instead focusing combat power on the weakest point in the defense. A deliberate attack in a built-up area is usually conducted in four phases: reconnoiter the objective, isolate the objective, secure a foothold, and clear the built-up area. The following discussion examines these phases in detail.


Reconnoiter the

The reconnaissance phase of MOUT must provide the company team and other friendly elements with adequate intelligence to stage a deliberate attack. This can pose a variety of problems and challenges since the intelligence not only must be extremely detailed but also must generally be collected from outside the urban area to ensure the survivability of the scouts. Detailed maps of the area of operations must be distributed to the lowest level.

Isolate the objective

Isolating the objective involves seizing terrain that dominates the area so the enemy cannot supply or reinforce his defensive forces. This step may be taken at the same time as securing a foothold. If isolating the objective is the first step, the subsequent steps should be carried out quickly so the defender has no time to react.

Secure a foothold

Securing a foothold involves seizing an intermediate objective that provides attacking forces with cover from enemy fire as well as a place at which they can enter the built-up area. For the company team, a foothold is normally one to two city blocks. As the team attacks to secure the foothold, it should be supported by direct and indirect suppressive fires and by obscuring or screening smoke.

Clear the built-up area

In determining the extent to which the built-up area must be cleared, the commander of the attacking force must consider the factors of METT-TC. He may decide to clear only those parts of the area necessary to the success of his mission if any of the following factors apply:

  • An objective must be seized quickly.
  • Enemy resistance is light or fragmented.
  • Buildings in the area are of light construction with large open areas between them. In this situation, the commander would clear only those buildings along the approach to his objective or those necessary to ensure the unitís security.

On the other hand, the attacking unit may have a mission to systematically clear an area of all enemy forces. Through detailed analysis, the commander may anticipate that the unit will be opposed by a strong, organized resistance or will be operating in areas where buildings are close together. In such a situation, one or two company teams may attack on a narrow front against the enemyís weakest sector. The teams move slowly through the area, clearing systematically from room to room and building to building. Other maneuver elements support the clearing teams and are prepared to assume their mission as necessary.


The task organization of a company team conducting an attack during MOUT will vary according to the specific nature of the built-up area and the objective. In general, the team will employ an assault force, a support force, and a reserve; in some cases, a security force is also used. Normally, there is no separate breach force; however, breaching elements may be part of the assault or support force, depending on the type and location of anticipated obstacles.

Support force

Normally, most mounted elements of the MOUT unit are task organized in the support force. This allows the task force or company team commander to employ the firepower of the fighting vehicles without compromising their survivability, a distinct danger when heavy forces move into an urban area. The support force isolates the area of operations and the actual entry point into the urban area, allowing assault forces to secure a foothold.

Assault force

The assault force is the element that gains a foothold in the urban area and conducts the clearance of actual objectives in the area. This force is normally a dismounted element task organized with engineers, with specific augmentation by armored vehicles.

Reserve force

The reserve force normally includes both mounted and dismounted forces. It should be prepared to conduct any of the following tasks:

  • Attack from another direction.
  • Exploit friendly success or enemy weakness.
  • Secure the rear or flank of friendly forces.
  • Clear bypassed enemy positions.
  • Maintain contact with adjacent units.
  • Conduct support by fire or attack by fire as necessary.


During the attack of a built-up area, tanks and BFVs may support by fire while lead elements are seizing a foothold. They then provide overwatch or serve as a base of fire for the infantry until the area has been secured.

Role of tanks
and BFVs

The commander must employ tanks and BFVs to take advantage of their long-range lethality. He can usually do this by positioning the armored vehicles outside the built-up area, where they remain for the duration of the attack to cover high-speed avenues of approach. This is especially true during the isolation phase. (NOTE: Before providing support for the attack, tanks and BFVs must be able to maneuver into overwatch or base of fire positions; this will normally require support from organic infantry weapons to suppress enemy strongpoints and ATGM assets.)

Mutual support

In house-to-house and street fighting, tanks and BFVs move down the streets protected by the infantry, which clears the area of enemy ATGM weapons. The armored vehicles in turn support the infantry by firing their main guns and machine guns from a safe standoff range to destroy enemy positions. (NOTE: Refer to Figures 3-24 and 3-25 for an illustration of the mutual overwatch techniques that are required during combined operations in restricted areas.)

Figure I-4 illustrates a task force attack in a MOUT environment.

Figure I-4. Example task force attack in a MOUT environment.


Like offensive MOUT, defensive operations in a built-up area require thorough planning and precise execution based on METT-TC and established doctrine. This section examines MOUT considerations that affect the company team in the defense.


While positioned in an urban area, the company team may be tasked to defend against an enemy approaching from outside the area. In general, procedures and considerations are the same as those for defensive operations in open terrain. For example, the commander designates BPs that take advantage of all available weapon systems. Objectives are similar as well; these may include preventing the enemy from isolating the defensive position, conducting reconnaissance of the defensive position, and/or gaining a foothold in the urban area. This type of MOUT may transition into an in-depth defense of the urban area, as described in the following paragraph, if the attacker continues to commit forces to the battle and the defending force fails to divert or destroy them.


The company team may be called upon to conduct any of several types of defensive operations (including defend in sector, defend a strongpoint, and defend a BP) when it faces enemy forces within the urban area. Procedures and considerations for these defensive operations are generally similar to those used in more conventional open terrain situations. The commander should designate engagement areas that take advantage of integrated obstacles and urban terrain features and that can be covered by direct and indirect fires. Figure I-5 illustrates defensive MOUT.


Role of tanks
and BFVs

In the defense, tanks and BFVs provide the MOUT commander with a mobile force that can respond quickly to enemy threats. They should be located on likely enemy avenues of approach in positions that allow them to take advantage of their long-range fires. Effective positioning allows the commander to employ the armored vehicles in a number of ways, such as the following:

  • On the edge of the city in mutually supporting positions.
  • On key terrain on the flanks of towns and villages.
  • In positions from which they can cover barricades and obstacles by fire.
  • As part of the reserve.

Tanks and BFVs are normally employed as a platoon. The commander also has the alternative of employing sections or individual armored vehicles with infantry platoons and squads; this allows tanks and BFVs to take advantage of the close security provided by the infantry.

Figure I-5. Example company team defense in a MOUT environment.

Fighting positions

Fighting positions for tanks and BFVs are an essential component of a complete and effective defensive plan in built-up areas. Vehicle positions must be selected and developed to afford the best possible cover, concealment, observation, and fields of fire; at the same time, they must not restrict the vehiclesí ability to move when necessary. The following considerations apply:

  • If fields of fire are restricted to the street area, hull-down positions should be used to provide cover and to enable tanks and BFVs to fire directly down the streets. From these positions, the armored vehicles are protected while retaining their ability to rapidly move to alternate positions. Buildings collapsing from enemy fires are a minimal hazard to the armored vehicles and their crews.
  • Before moving into position to engage the enemy, a tank or BFV can occupy a hide position for cover and concealment. Hide positions for armored vehicles may be located inside buildings or underground garages, adjacent to buildings (using the buildings to mask enemy observation), or in culverts. Refer to Figure I-6 for an example of a tank using a hide position in a MOUT environment.
  • Since the crew will not be able to see the advancing enemy from the hide position, an observer from the vehicle or a nearby infantry unit must be concealed in an adjacent building to alert the crew (see Figure I-6). When the observer acquires a target, he signals the armored vehicle to move to the firing position and, at the proper time, to fire.
  • After firing, the tank or BFV moves to an alternate position to avoid compromising its location.

Figure I-6. Example vehicle hide position in a MOUT environment.

Employment of
infantry squads

Infantry squads are usually employed abreast so that they all can fire toward the expected direction of attack. In the company team, however, the limited number of available infantrymen may require squad positions to be interspersed with vehicle positions. In built-up areas, squads may be separated by rooms within a building, or they may be positioned in different buildings. Infantry positions must be mutually supporting and allow for overlapping sectors of fire, even when they are in separate buildings or are divided by walls.

Employment of
the reserve force

The commanderís defensive scheme of maneuver in MOUT must always include the employment of a reserve force. This force should be prepared to counterattack to regain key positions, to block enemy penetrations, to protect the flanks of the friendly force, or to provide a base of fire for disengaging elements. For combat in built-up areas, the reserve force has these characteristics:

  • It normally consists of infantry elements.
  • It must be as mobile as possible.
  • It may be supported by tanks and/or BFVs.
  • In company team MOUT, the reserve force may be a platoon or squad.