Offensive Operations

Offense is the decisive form of war. With offensive action comes the ability to create and maintain the initiative and choose the time and place of decisive action. Because of their ability to move quickly and employ devastating amounts of firepower with a high level of protection, armor and mechanized infantry company teams are ideally suited to perform a variety of critical offensive operations on the modern battlefield. Company team operations accomplish the following purposes:

  • Defeat, destroy, or neutralize an enemy force.
  • Protect friendly forces by suppressing the enemy.
  • Seize or secure key or decisive terrain.
  • Develop the situation and gain critical tactical information.
  • Deprive the enemy of resources.
  • Hold the enemy in position.
  • Disrupt an enemy attack.
  • Set conditions for future operations.


Section 1 Planning Considerations
Fire Support
Aviation Combat Missions
Air Defense Artillery
Mobility and Survivability
Combat Service Support
Section 2 Tactical Movement
Movement Techniques
Movement Formations
Section 3 Maneuver
Base of Fire Element
Bounding Element
Positioning of Platoons and Other Elements
Relationship of Tactical Movement, Actions on
    Contact, Maneuver, and Tactical Tasks
Section 4 Actions on Contact
Developing Actions on Contact
Time Requirements for Actions on Contact
The Four Steps on Actions on Contact
Examples of Actions on Contact
Section 5 Types of Offensive Operations
Movement to Contact
Section 6 Offensive Tactical Tasks
Advance in Contact
Attack by Fire
Support by Fire
Follow and Support
Clearance in Restricted Terrain



As part of the top-down fire planning system, the company team commander must refine the fire plan from higher headquarters to meet his mission requirements. He incorporates the results of his METT-TC analysis and makes key locations and targets from the fire plan an integral part of the company team rehearsal. Additionally, he works with the FSO to develop a corresponding observation plan as well as triggers for initiating or shifting fires.

The commander employs supporting fires in the offense to achieve a variety of operational goals:

  • Suppress enemy antitank systems that inhibit movement.
  • Fix or neutralize bypassed enemy elements.
  • Prepare enemy positions for an assault. Preparatory fires are normally used during a deliberate attack, with fires placed on key targets before the assault begins. Fires are initiated on call or at a prearranged time. The commander must weigh the benefits of preparatory fires against the potential loss of surprise.
  • Obscure enemy observation or screen friendly maneuver. The company team can take advantage of smoke in various maneuver situations, such as during a bypass or in deception operations.
  • Support breaching operations. Fires can be used to obscure or suppress enemy elements that are overwatching reinforcing obstacles. They can also obscure or suppress enemy forces on an objective area during the conduct of an assault breach.
  • Illuminate enemy positions. Illumination fires are always included in contingency plans for night attacks.



Like their ground-based counterparts, air reconnaissance operations obtain information by visual observation and other detection methods; they employ assets that must have the ability to develop the situation, process the information, and provide it to the commander in near real time. The company team commander can take advantage of the supporting aviation elementís OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and AH-64 Apache helicopters to dramatically improve his 24-hour reconnaissance capability. These assets complement and extend the zone covered by the teamís tank and mechanized infantry platoons. Under favorable conditions, they can furnish early information concerning the enemyís general disposition and movements to considerable depth beyond the FEBA.


Aviation assets can extend the company teamís security area, providing the commander with enhanced situational awareness and battle-tracking capability. They can expand the teamís maneuver space, provide additional reaction time, and assist in protection of the team.


The primary purpose of attack helicopter operations is the destruction of enemy ground forces at decisive points of the battle. Attack helicopter units can be used in conjunction with tank and mechanized infantry elements during close operations. Helicopters are normally most effective when used in mass in continuous operations on the enemyís flanks and rear. Night operations are preferred.

Support by fire

When assigned a support by fire mission, attack helicopters establish a base of fire or overwatch position. They then can engage enemy targets while tank or mechanized infantry elements move to or bypass the target area. The helicoptersí role may range from suppression to complete destruction of the enemy force; their most common mission is to fix targets so other friendly elements can maneuver.

Attack by fire

When the enemy situation is vague, as in a movement to contact, and the attack helicopter battalion commander has been assigned his own sector, he may establish attack by fire positions. From these positions, the attack helicopters engage their targets, but do not maneuver over them, with the intent of inflicting a specified level of damage. Attack by fire positions are best suited to a fluid battlefield. The aviation commander often has the best vantage point from which to synchronize the combat multipliers, clear fires, and prevent fratricide.

Air assault

Heavy forces should always consider the use of air assault to assist them in overcoming obstacles during the seizure of critical terrain and in executing follow and support missions to preserve the momentum of the attack. Refer to FM 90-4 or FM 7-10 for a detailed discussion of air assault operations.


All Army helicopters have SINCGARS radios, and the OH-58D(I) and
AH-64 can transmit digital information to vehicles equipped to receive such data (currently the M1A2 tank). While the radio is the primary means of tactical communications, however, face-to-face contact is still the best method of passing information between air and ground elements. Whenever the situation permits, aviation leaders should land their aircraft, link up with their ground counterparts (such as the company team commander), and directly communicate the battlefield situation as gathered from the air.


Aviation scout assets can easily identify enemy targets and then coordinate with the company team FIST to facilitate destruction of the targets with direct and indirect fires. In addition, prior coordination between air and ground elements, identifying friendly positions and planned movements, can eliminate a significant number of factors that contribute to fratricide, a vital concern during combined arms missions.


BSFVs, Bradley Linebackers, or HMMWV-mounted Stinger sections may be attached to or travel with the company team. Their security must be a consideration in planning for offensive operations. The company team commander must plan for and rehearse internal air security and active air defense measures. ADA requirements and procedures are normally dictated by SOP. The commander must anticipate possible contact with enemy air assets by templating enemy helicopter and fixed-wing air corridors and avenues of approach.


The task force may task organize the company team with engineers as part
of a deliberate or in-stride breaching operation in the offense. If the company
team is tasked to serve as the advance guard or breach force for the task force, it will normally receive additional mobility assets (such as MICLICs, ACEs, or AVLBs) based on METT-TC. (NOTE: Refer to FM 90-13-1 and/or FM 90-7 for a more detailed discussion of mobility and survivability operations and support.)


The main purpose of CSS in the offense is to assist maneuver elements in maintaining the momentum of the attack. Key CSS planning considerations for company team offensive operations include the following:

  • Increased consumption of Class III supplies.
  • Higher casualty rates.
  • Vehicle maintenance requirements.

In the offense, CSS functions are performed as far forward as the tactical situation allows. Team trains remain one terrain feature (or about 1 kilometer) behind the combat formations. CSS elements move forward as required to evacuate casualties and conduct resupply. The 1SG reports the teamís combat status to the task force combat trains CP and requests resupply of Class III and V as needed.



The purpose of tactical movement is to move units on the battlefield and prepare them for contact. This section focuses on the movement techniques and formations that, in combination, provide the commander with options for moving his unit. The various techniques and formations have unique advantages and disadvantages. Some movement techniques are secure yet slow, while others are faster but less secure. Some formations work well in certain types of terrain or tactical situations, but are less effective in others.

The task force may dictate which movement techniques and formations the company team will use in a particular situation. This decision, however, normally falls to the team commander. His primary goals are to balance the requirements of speed and security and to conduct movement so the smallest possible element of the team makes contact with the enemy.

In developing the company team movement plan, the commander must assess METT-TC factors to determine which techniques and formations will allow him to maintain the correct balance of speed and security to best accomplish his mission. He also must determine how and when the unit will transition to more secure or more rapid techniques and/or formations based on the situation. None of the movement techniques or formations discussed in this section should be considered inflexible or immutable. The commander must always be prepared to adapt them to the situation at hand.


The company team commander selects from the three movement techniques (traveling, traveling overwatch, and bounding overwatch) based on several battlefield factors:

  • The likelihood of enemy contact.
  • The type of contact expected.
  • Availability of an overwatch element.
  • The terrain over which the moving element will pass.
  • The balance of speed and security required during movement.


Traveling is characterized by continuous movement by all company team elements. It is best suited to situations in which enemy contact is unlikely and speed is important.

NOTE: Organization of the company team in both traveling overwatch and bounding overwatch consists of a lead element (also called the bounding element in bounding overwatch) and a trail (or overwatch) element. The commander constitutes these elements using varying combinations of company team elements; his decision must be based on the results of his METT-TC analysis. As an example, the lead element might be one platoon and the XOís vehicle, overwatched by the remaining two platoons, the commander, and the FSO.

Traveling overwatch

This is an extended form of traveling that provides additional security when speed is desirable but contact is possible. The lead element moves continuously. The trail element moves at various speeds and may halt periodically to overwatch movement of the lead element.

Dispersion between the two elements must be based on the trail elementís ability both to see the lead element and to provide immediate suppressive fires in case the lead element is engaged. The intent is to maintain depth, provide flexibility, and maintain the ability to maneuver even if contact occurs, although a unit ideally should make contact while moving in bounding overwatch rather than traveling overwatch.

Bounding overwatch

Bounding overwatch is used when contact is expected. It is the most secure, but slowest, movement technique. The purpose of bounding overwatch is to deploy prior to contact, giving the unit the ability to protect a bounding element by immediately suppressing an enemy force.

In all types of bounding, the overwatch element is assigned sectors to scan while the bounding element uses terrain to achieve cover and concealment. The bounding element should avoid masking the fires of the overwatch element; it must never move beyond the range at which the overwatch element can effectively suppress likely or suspected enemy positions. The company team can employ either of two bounding methods, alternate bounds and successive bounds; these are discussed in the following paragraphs.

Alternate bounds

Covered by the rear element, the lead element moves forward, halts, and assumes overwatch positions. The rear element advances past the lead element and takes up overwatch positions. This sequence continues as necessary, with only one element moving at a time. This method is usually more rapid than successive bounds.

Successive bounds

In the successive bounding method, the lead element, covered by the rear element, advances and takes up overwatch positions. The rear element then advances to an overwatch position roughly abreast of the lead element and halts. The lead element then moves to the next position, and so on. Only one element moves at a time, and the rear element avoids advancing beyond the lead element. This method is easier to control and more secure than the alternate bounding method, but is slower.


Infiltration is a form of maneuver that infantry units can employ in a variety of situations. During an attack, for example, the company team may encounter strong enemy defensive positions. To avoid the enemyís strength, the company team commander may use stealth to move infantry elements through gaps or around the enemy positions to conduct operations in the enemyís rear area. The teamís infantry may also infiltrate to conduct attacks to seize key terrain, such as a choke point that will facilitate movement of the rest of the company team, or it can infiltrate to conduct an ambush. Infiltration can also be used in many other types of operations, such reconnaissance and covert breaching.

Infiltration is normally conducted in five phases:

  • Patrol. Locate enemy positions, and find gaps or weak areas in the enemy defense.
  • Prepare. Conduct troop-leading procedures.
  • Infiltrate. The primary goal is to avoid enemy contact, normally by moving in the smallest elements possible.
  • Consolidate. Link up with other infiltrating elements, and prepare for actions on the objective.
  • Execute. Complete the mission.

For a more detailed discussion of infiltration, refer to FM 7-10.


Overwatch is the component of tactical movement in which an element observes and, if necessary, provides direct fire support for a friendly moving element. Situational awareness is crucial for the overwatch unit, whose objective is to prevent the enemy from surprising and engaging the moving unit. The overwatch force must maintain communications with the moving element and provide early warning of enemy elements that could affect it. The overwatch must be able to support the moving element with immediate direct and indirect fires; it can do this either while stationary (as in bounding overwatch) or on the move (as in traveling overwatch). (NOTE: The overwatch element must also maintain 360-degree observation and security for itself.)

The key to successful overwatch is aggressive scanning of gaps and dead space within the moving elementís formation and on surrounding terrain. If the overwatch is unable to scan gaps and dead space and effectively engage the enemy, it must alert the moving element of the lapse in coverage. The moving element will normally adjust its movement speed and/or formation and initiate its own overwatch until the overwatch force completes movement to a position from which it can continue the overwatch mission.

Figure 3-1 illustrates what the overwatch element must look (and listen) for as well as locations where the enemy can often be found.

Company team role

The company team may be tasked to perform an overwatch mission in support of the task force or a portion of it. In general, because of organic weapons capabilities and normal operational intervals, one company team will not normally provide overwatch for another. At this level, overwatch is usually performed by platoons, sections, or individual vehicles.

Stationary overwatch

If possible, the stationary overwatch element occupies hull-down firing positions that afford effective cover and concealment, unobstructed observation, and clear fields of fire. The leader of the overwatch element (such as the commander or the platoon or section leader) will assign sectors of observation and fire. As noted, the overwatch element is responsible for its own security during both occupation of the overwatch position and execution of the operation. A common security measure is to dismount infantry squads or loaders from the tanks to clear the overwatch position before the rest of the element occupies it.

Crews aggressively scan their sectors to identify enemy elements and positions. The leader must structure the mission so the overwatch element can effectively scan for known or likely enemy positions, paying close attention to possible gaps and dead space. The element must have a clear understanding of the enemy situation so crewmen know what to look for and where to look. They use applicable search techniques and employ all available sights and other visual devices (such as binoculars and night vision goggles).

If contact is made, the overwatch element initiates a high volume of direct and indirect suppressive fires. It moves as necessary between primary and alternate positions to avoid being decisively engaged by the enemy.

on the move

This type of overwatch is used in conjunction with the traveling overwatch movement technique. While maintaining its location in the overall unit formation, the overwatch element (usually a platoon or section) continuously scans the lead elementís battle space and closely monitors all potential gaps and dead space.

The overwatch maintains a specified interval from the lead element; this is dictated by weapons capabilities and the effects of such factors as terrain and movement speed. As needed, the overwatch can execute short halts to provide more effective observation, facilitating acquisition of enemy forces.

Figure 3-1. Overwatch locations and techniques.


The company team commander uses formations for several purposes:

  • Establish the relationship of one platoon to another on the ground.
  • Allow the team to position firepower where it is needed in support of the direct fire plan.
  • Establish responsibilities for sector security among platoons.
  • Facilitate the execution of battle drills and directed COAs.

Like movement techniques, formations are planned based on where enemy contact is expected and how the higher commander expects to react to the contact. The company team commander must evaluate the situation and determine which formation best suits the mission and the situation.

It is not necessary for the team formation to be the same as the task force formation. It is critical, however, for the team commander to coordinate his formation with those of other elements moving in the main body task force formation. A parallel consideration is that while the company team formation establishes the relationship between the teamís platoons, the actual positioning of vehicles within each platoon is dictated by the platoon formation. In some cases, the platoon may use the same formation as the company team (for example, the platoons may use the column formation within a team column). In other situations, however, platoon and team formations may be different as a result of METT-TC factors (such as the platoons moving in wedge formations within a team vee.)

An important consideration in movement planning and execution is that formations are not rigid. Spacing requirements, as well as other METT-TC considerations, will require the company team commander and subordinate leaders to adapt the basic formations as necessary. They must be ready to adjust the distance between platoons and individual vehicles based on terrain, visibility, and mission requirements.

As a rule, the company team will move in formation when using traveling or traveling overwatch. When the team is using bounding overwatch, the bounding element makes the best use of the terrain, rather than adopting a precise formation, to move effectively while maintaining adequate security.

NOTE: The formations shown in illustrations in this chapter are examples only; they generally are depicted without consideration of the terrain and. other METT-TC is always the deciding factors, which are always the most crucial element in the selection and execution of a formation. and Lleaders must be prepared to adapt theseir choice of formation guidelines to the specific situation.


The column is used when speed is critical, when the company team is moving through restricted terrain on a specific route, and/or when enemy contact is not likely. Each platoon normally follows directly behind the platoon in front of it. If the situation dictates, however, vehicles can disperse laterally to enhance security; Figure 3-2 illustrates this type of column movement. The column formation has the following characteristics, advantages, and limitations:

  • It provides excellent control and fires to the flanks.
  • It permits only limited fires to the front and rear.
  • It is easy to control.
  • It provides extremely limited overall security.
  • Normally,Iit is normally used for traveling only.

Figure 3-2. Company team in column formation with dispersal for added security.


The wedge formation, illustrated in Figure 3-3, is often used when the enemy situation is unclear or contact is possible. In the company team wedge, the lead platoon is in the center of the formation, with the remaining platoons located to the rear of and outside the lead platoon. The wedge has the following characteristics, advantages, and limitations:

  • It permits excellent fires to the front and good fires to the flanks.
  • It is easy to control.
  • It provides good security to the flanks.
  • It can be used with the traveling and traveling overwatch techniques.
  • It allows rapid transition to bounding overwatch.

Figure 3-3. Company team in wedge formation (with different platoon formations).


The vee formation, illustrated in Figure 3-4, is used when enemy contact is possible. In the company team vee, the center platoon is located in the rear of the formation, while the remaining platoons are to the front of and outside the center platoon. The vee has the following characteristics, advantages, and limitations:

  • It permits more firepower to the front than the wedge and affords good fires to the flanks.
  • It is more difficult to control than the wedge and makes it more difficult for vehicles to maintain proper orientation.
  • It allows one platoon in the formation to maintain freedom of maneuver when contact occurs.
  • It facilitates rapid deployment into any other formation.
  • It can be used with the traveling and traveling overwatch techniques.
  • It allows rapid transition to bounding overwatch.

Figure 3-4. Company team in vee formation (with different platoon formations).


The line formation, illustrated in Figure 3-5, is primarily used when a unit or element is crossing a danger area or needs to maximize firepower to the front. In the company team line, platoons move abreast of one another and are dispersed laterally. The line formation has the following characteristics, advantages, and limitations:

  • It permits maximum fires to the front or rear, but minimum fires to the flanks.
  • It is difficult to control.
  • It is less secure than other formations because of the lack of depth.
  • It is the most difficult formation from which to make the transition to other formations.
  • It may be used in the assault to maximize the firepower and/or shock effect of the heavy company team. This is normally done when there is no more intervening terrain between the unit and the enemy, when antitank systems are suppressed, and/or when the unit is exposed to artillery fire and must move rapidly.

Figure 3-5. Company team in line formation (with platoons in wedge formations).


The echelon formation, illustrated in Figure 3-6, is used when the task force wants to maintain security and/or observation of one flank and enemy contact is not likely. The company team echelon formation (either echelon left or echelon right) has the lead platoon positioned farthest from the echeloned flank, with each subsequent platoon located to the rear of and outside the platoon in front of it. The echelon formation has the following characteristics, advantages, and limitations:

  • It is difficult to control.
  • It affords excellent security for the higher formation in the direction of the echelon.
  • It facilitates deployment to the echeloned flank.

Figure 3-6. Company team in echelon right formation (with platoons in echelon formations).

Coil and herringbone

The coil and herringbone are platoon-level formations, employed when elements of the company team are stationary and must maintain 360-degree security. Refer to FM 17-15 or FM 7-7J for more information on these formations.


Maneuver is the foundation for the employment of forces on the battlefield. It is defined as the use of movement in combination with fire (or fire potential), employed to achieve a position of advantage with respect to the enemy and to facilitate accomplishment of the mission. At the company team level, maneuver is the essence of every tactical operation and task. The company team commander maneuvers his mounted and dismounted elements to close with the enemy, to gain positional advantage over him, and ultimately to destroy him.


The combination of fire and movement first requires a base of fire, in which some elements of the company team remain stationary and provide protection for bounding elements by suppressing or destroying enemy elements. The base of fire element occupies hull-down firing positions (when possible) that afford effective cover and concealment, unobstructed observation, and clear fields of fire. Once it is in position, the base of fire has the responsibility both for suppressing known enemy elements and for aggressively scanning assigned sectors of observation; it identifies previously unknown elements and then suppresses them. The protection provided by the base of fire element allows the bounding unit to continue its movement and to retain the initiative even when it is both under enemy observation and within range of enemy weapons.

Because maneuver is decentralized in nature, decisions on where and when to establish a base of fire must be made at the appropriate level. They normally fall to the leader on a specific part of the battlefield who knows what enemy elements can engage the moving element and what friendly forces are available to serve as the base of fire. Within the company team, these decisions may be made at team level (with the base of fire provided by a platoon), within platoons (with base of fire by a section), or within sections (with an individual vehicle or squad as the base of fire).


Movement in a maneuver situation is inherently dangerous. It is complicated not only by the obvious potential for harm posed by enemy weapons but also by the uncertainty caused by unknown terrain and other operational factors. The following considerations apply for movement in maneuver situations:

  • The bounding element must take full advantage of whatever cover and concealment is provided by the terrain. Leaders and drivers can enhance security by enforcing or applying the principles of terrain driving; among these important actions are use of intervening terrain and avoidance of skylining.
  • All crews involved in the maneuver must maintain 360-degree security at all times. Crewmen in the bounding element must continuously scan their assigned sectors of observation.
  • Although METT-TC factors will ultimately dictate the length of the bounds, the bounding element should never move beyond the range at which the base of fire element can effectively suppress known, likely, or suspected enemy positions. This will minimize the bounding elementís exposure to enemy fires.
  • In severely restricted terrain, bounds will generally be much shorter than in more open areas.
  • The bounding element may have to dismount infantry squads or individual crewmen to observe intervening gaps or dead space. Although this will usually force the element to make a tactical pause, it will not slow the operation as much as the loss of a vehicle and crew to a hidden enemy antitank system.
  • The bounding element must remain focused on its ultimate goal of gaining a positional advantage, which it can then use to destroy the enemy by direct and indirect fires.


Based on his evaluation of METT-TC factors, the company team commander should establish the role of each platoon and support asset within the company team scheme of maneuver. These considerations apply:

  • Tanks lead in maneuver against automatic weapons, antipersonnel mines, wire obstacles, and enemy armored units.
  • Tanks, BFVs, and dismounted infantry maneuver in concert in the following situations:
  • - In assaults against entrenched infantry, jungle positions, heavily fortified areas, and towns and villages.

    - During periods of limited visibility.

  • Dismounted infantry squads and engineers lead in maneuver against constructed antitank defenses (such as antitank ditches and abatises), across defended water obstacles, through heavy woods, within built-up areas, and in mountainous terrain. In such situations, tanks and BFVs provide a base of fire.


The purpose of tactical movement is to move units on the battlefield and to prepare them for contact with the enemy. The process by which units transition from tactical movement to maneuver is actions on contact, which are covered in Section 4 of this chapter. Properly executed, maneuver allows units to move on the battlefield while in contact. Maneuver is an integral part of tactical tasks, all of which require the combination of fire and movement. At the same time, it is the action that allows a unit to advance while in contact to reach the point on the battlefield from which it executes its next tactical task. Tactical tasks, in turn, have specific effects in relation to the enemy, the terrain, and other friendly forces. (NOTE: Section 6 of this chapter examines the tactical tasks most frequently executed by the company team.)

This complex relationship can be illustrated using the example of a company team with the mission of conducting support by fire as part of a task force attack.

The company team conducts tactical movement from its assembly area (changing movement techniques as appropriate) and makes initial contact with the enemy. The team then conducts actions on contact and transitions to maneuver. It maneuvers by establishing a base of fire and using bounding techniques to "fight" its way to a position from which it can conduct its support by fire task. While conducting that tactical task, the company team continues to maneuver as necessary. Figure 3-7 illustrates the transitions that affect tactical movement (changes in movement technique) and the relationship on the battlefield of tactical movement, actions on contact, maneuver, and tactical tasks.

Figure 3-7. Battlefield relationship of tactical movement,
actions on contact, maneuver, and tactical tasks.



In both offensive and defensive operations, contact occurs when a member of the company team encounters any situation that requires an active or passive response to the enemy. These situations may entail one or more of the following forms of contact:

  • Visual contact (friendly elements may or may not be observed by the enemy).
  • Physical contact (direct fire) with an enemy force.
  • Indirect fire contact.
  • Contact with obstacles of enemy or unknown origin.
  • Contact with enemy or unknown aircraft.
  • Situations involving NBC conditions.
  • Situations involving electronic warfare tactics.

Leaders at echelons from platoon through task force conduct actions on contact when they or a subordinate element recognizes one of the forms of contact or receives a report of enemy contact. The company team may conduct actions on contact in response to a variety of circumstances, including the following:

  • Subordinate platoon(s) conducting actions on contact.
  • Reports from the task force or another higher unit.
  • Reports from or actions of an adjacent unit.


Company team commanders and platoon leaders analyze the enemy throughout the troop-leading process to identify all likely contact situations that may occur during an operation. Through the planning and rehearsals conducted during troop-leading procedures, they develop and refine COAs to deal with the probable enemy actions. The COAs will eventually become the foundation for the company teamís scheme of maneuver.

During the troop-leading process, the leaders must evaluate a number of factors to determine their impact on the unitís actions on contact. For example, the commander needs to consider how the likelihood of contact will affect his choice of movement techniques and formations. In doing this, he can begin preparing the team for actions on contact; for example, he may outline procedures for the transition to more secure movement techniques before a contact situation. An example of a commanderís assessment and corresponding selection of movement techniques is illustrated in Figure 3-7.


Commanders must understand that properly executed actions on contact require time at both platoon and company team levels. To fully develop the situation, a platoon or team may have to execute extensive lateral movement, dismount and remount infantry squads, conduct reconnaissance by fire, and/or call for and adjust indirect fires. Each of these activities requires time. The commander must balance the time required for subordinate elements to conduct actions on contact with the need of the company team or task force to maintain tempo and momentum. In terms of slowing the tempo of an operation, however, the loss of a platoon or team is normally much more costly than the additional time required to allow the subordinate element to properly develop the situation.


The company team should execute actions on contact using a logical, well-organized process of decision-making and action entailing these four steps:

  • Deploy and report.
  • Evaluate and develop the situation.
  • Choose a COA.
  • Execute the selected COA.

The four-step process is not intended to generate a rigid, lockstep response to the enemy. Rather, the goal is to provide an orderly framework that enables the company team and its platoons to survive the initial contact, then apply sound decision-making and timely actions to complete the operation. Ideally, the team will acquire the enemy (visual contact) before being sighted by the enemy; it then can initiate physical contact on its own terms by executing the designated COA.

Actions on contact
Step 1 -
Deploy and report

Events that occur during the first step of actions on contact depend in great measure on whether the contact is expected or unexpected. The following discussion examines some of the variables the company team commander faces in expected and unexpected contact situations and discusses the role of platoon battle drills and reporting in the deploy and report step.

Expected contact

If the commander expects contact, he will already have deployed the company team by transitioning to the bounding overwatch movement technique. If the team is alert to the likely presence of the enemy, it has a better chance of establishing first visual contact and then physical contact on its own terms. Contact, either visual or physical, is usually made by an overwatching or bounding platoon, which initiates the teamís actions on contact. In a worst-case scenario, the platoon may be engaged by a previously undetected (but expected) enemy element. The platoon in contact would conduct a battle drill Rfor its own survival and then initiate actions on contact.

Unexpected contact

In some cases, the company team will make unexpected contact with the enemy while using traveling or traveling overwatch. The element in contact or, if necessary, the entire company team may have to deploy using battle drills to survive the initial contact.

Battle drills

Battle drills provide virtually automatic responses to contact situations, in which immediate and, in many cases, violent execution of an action is critical both to the unitís initial survival and to its ultimate success in combat. Drills are not a substitute for carefully planned COAs; rather, they buy time for the unit in contact and provide a framework for development of the situation.

When contact occurs, the company teamís platoons deploy immediately, executing the appropriate battle drills under the supervision of the commander. Table 3-1 lists the drills executed during the deployment step of actions on contact. Figure 3-8 shows an example of platoons executing battle drills.

NOTE: For additional information on platoon battle drills, refer to FM 17-15, FM 7-7J, ARTEP 17-237-10-MTP, and ARTEP 7-247-11-DRILL.

Table 3-1. Platoon battle drills for deployment
during actions on contact.



  • Change of Formation Drill
  • Contact Drill
  • Action Drill
  • React to Indirect Fire Drill
  • React to Air Attack Drill
  • React to a Nuclear Attack Drill
  • React to a Chemical/Biological Attack Drill
  • Platoon Attack Drill
  • React to Contact Drill
  • Break Contact Drill
  • React to Ambush Drill
  • Change Formation Drill
  • Execute Action Right or Left Drill

Maneuver SOP

An effectively written, well-rehearsed maneuver SOP helps to ensure quick, predictable actions by all members of the company team. In addition, the SOP, unlike platoon battle drills, allows leaders to take into account the friendly task organization, a specific enemy, and a specific type of terrain. As a result, the SOP can assist the company team in conducting actions on contact and in maintaining the initiative in a number of battlefield situations. For a more detailed discussion of SOPs, refer to Chapter 2 of this manual.


Timely, accurate reports are essential throughout actions on contact. As part of the first step of the process, the company team commander must send a contact report to the task force as soon as possible after contact occurs. He provides subsequent reports updating the situation as necessary. (NOTE: Refer to the discussion of reports in Chapter 2 of this manual.)

NOTE: Whether contact is expected or unexpected, the first step of actions on contact concludes with the unit deployed (into base of fire and bounding elements), the enemy suppressed or destroyed, and the XO sending a contact report sent to task force headquarters.

Figure 3-8. Example of a tank platoon contact drill in concert with
a mechanized infantry platoon action right drill.

Actions on contact
Step 2 -
Evaluate and
develop the situation

While the company team is deploying, the commander must evaluate the situation and, as necessary, continue to maneuver to develop it. The commander quickly gathers as much information as possible, either visually or, more often, through reports of the platoon(s) in contact. He analyzes the datainformation to determine critical operational considerations, including these:

  • The size of the enemy element.
  • Location, composition, activity, and orientation of the enemy force.
  • The impact of obstacles and terrain.
  • Friendly and eEnemy capabilities (especially antiarmor capability).
  • Probable enemy intentions.
  • How to gain positional advantage over the enemy.
  • The friendly situation (location, strength, and capabilities).
  • Possible friendly COAs to achieve the specifiedfacilitate end state..

After evaluating the situation, the commander may discover that he does not have enough information to identify the necessary operational considerations. To make this determination, he canmust further develop the situation in accordance with the task force commanderís intent, using a combination of these techniques:

  • Surveillance, employing infantry squads, dismounted tank loaders, and/or tank and BFV commanders (using binoculars and other optical aids).
  • Mounted and/or dismounted maneuver (this includes lateral maneuver to gain additional information by viewing the enemy from another perspective).
  • Indirect fire.
  • Reconnaissance by fire.

Once the commander determines the size of the enemy force the company team has encountered, he sends a report to the task force.

Actions on contact
Step 3 -
Choose a COA

After developing the situation and determining that he has enough information to make a decision, the company team commander selects a COA that both meets the requirements of the task force commanderís intent and is within the company teamís capabilities.

Nature of contact

The nature of the contact (expected or unexpected) may have a significant impact on how long it takes a commander to develop and select a COA. As an example, in preparing to conduct an attack, the company team commander determines that the team will encounter an enemy CSOP along its axis of advance; during troop-leading procedures, he develops a scheme of maneuver to defeat the outpost. When the teamís lead platoon makes contact with two BMPs, the commander can quickly assess that this is the anticipated contact and direct the team to execute his plan. On the other hand, unexpected contact with a well-concealed enemy force may require time for development of the situation at platoon and team levels. As it "fights" for critical information that will eventually allow the commander to make a sound decision, the platoon and/or company team may have to employ several of the techniques for developing the situation.

COA procedures

The commander has several options in how he goes about the process of selecting a COA. These procedures include the following:

  • The company team commander can direct the team to execute the original plan if his development of the situation reveals no need for change.
  • If his analysis shows that the original plan is still valid but that some refinement is necessary, the team commander canshould inform the task force commander (prior to execution, if possible) and issue a FRAGO to refine the plan.
  • If his analysis shows that the original plan needs to be changed but that the selected COA will still comply with the task force commanderís intent, the team commander should inform the task force commander (prior to execution, if possible) and issue a FRAGO to retask his subordinate elements.
  • If his analysis shows that the original plan deviates from the task force commanderís intent and needs to be changed, the team commander mustcan report the situation and, based on knowninformation in response to an unforeseen enemy or battlefield situation, recommend an alternative COA to the task forceTF commander..
  • He can direct If the battlefield picture is still vague, the team commander must direct the team or a platoon to continue to ovementdevelop the situation. This will allow him to gather the information needed to clarify a vague battlefield picture. He then uses one of the first four options to report the situation and choose a COA and/or to direct further action.

Actions on contact
Step 4 -
Execute a COA

In executing a COA, the company team transitions to maneuver. It then continues to maneuver throughout execution, either as part of a tactical task or to advance while in contact to reach the point on the battlefield from which it executes its tactical task. The team can employ a number of tactical tasks as COAs, any of which may be preceded (and/or followed) by additional maneuver. Refer to Chapters 3, 4, and 5 of this manual for detailed descriptions of these tasks, which include the following:

  • Advance in contact.
  • Support by fire.
  • Attack by fire.
  • Bypass.
  • Clearance in restricted terrain.
  • Assault.
  • Breach.
  • Defend.
  • Delay.
  • Withdraw.

As execution continues, more information will become available to the company team commander. Based on the emerging details of the enemy situation, he may have to alter his COA during execution. For example, as the company team maneuvers to destroy what appears to be a tank platoon, it discovers two additional platoons in prepared positions. The commander must analyze and develop the new situation. He then selects an alternate COA, such as establishing a support by fire position to support another company teamís maneuver against the newly discovered enemy force.


The following examples illustrate the four-step process for executing actions on contact in two possible tactical situations.

Contact with an
expected force

Figures 3-9 through 3-11 illustrate actions on contact when the company team encounters an expected enemy element.

Figure 3-9. Company team deploys and reports.

Figure 3-10. Company team develops the situation and advances in contact.

Figure 3-11. Suppression continues as mech platoon assaults to destroy remaining BMP and infantry.

Contact with an
unexpected force

Figures 3-12 and 3-13 illustrate an example of actions on contact that the company team might execute following an unexpected encounter with an enemy force. In this case, the enemy element is a forward security element (FSE) with tanks and BMPs.

Figure 3-12. Company team makes unexpected contact, deploys,
and receives and sends contact reports.

Figure 3-13. Company team develops the situation and chooses and executes a COA.


Chapter 3 (continued)