--Forms of Maneuver



2-12. Leaders select the form of maneuver based on METT-TC. The leader then synchronizes the contributions of all warfighting functions to the selected form of maneuver. An operation may contain several forms of offensive maneuver, such as frontal attack to clear enemy security forces, followed by a penetration to create a gap in enemy defenses, which in turn is followed by an envelopment to destroy a counterattacking force. While Infantry platoons and squads do not have the combat power to conduct all forms of maneuver on its own, they will participate as part of a larger organization. The six forms of maneuver are ─

  • Envelopment.
  • Turning movement.
  • Frontal attack.
  • Penetration.
  • Infiltration.
  • Flank attack.


2-13. Envelopment is a form of maneuver in which an attacking force seeks to avoid the principal enemy defenses by seizing objectives behind those defenses allowing the targeted enemy force to be destroyed in their current positions. BCTs and above normally plan and conduct envelopments. At the tactical level, envelopments focus on seizing terrain, destroying specific enemy forces, and interdicting enemy withdrawal routes. The leader’s decisive operation focuses on attacking an assailable flank. It avoids the enemy’s strength at the front where the effects of fires and obstacles are greatest. Generally, the leader prefers to conduct envelopment instead of a penetration or frontal attack because the attacking force tends to suffer fewer casualties while having the most opportunities to destroy the enemy. Envelopment also produces great psychological shock on the enemy. If no assailable flank is available, the attacking force creates one. The four varieties of envelopment are single envelopment, double envelopment, encirclement, and vertical envelopment. (See figure 2-1.)


Figure 2-1. Envelopment


2-14. A turning movementis a form of maneuver in which the attacking force seeks to avoid the enemy’s principle defensive positions by seizing objectives behind the enemy’s current position. This causes the enemy forces to move out of their current positions or divert major forces to meet the threat. The leader uses this form of offensive maneuver to seize vital areas in the enemy’s support area before the main enemy force can withdraw or receive reinforcements. This form of offensive maneuver transitions from an attack into a site exploitation or pursuit. A turning movement seeks to make the enemy force displace from their current locations, whereas an enveloping force seeks to engage the enemy in their current locations from an unexpected direction. Divisions normally execute turning movements. (See figure 2-2.)

Turning Movement

Figure 2-2. Turning Movement


2-15. A frontal attack is a form of maneuver where an attacking force seeks to destroy a weaker enemy force, or fix a larger enemy in place over a broad front. An attacking force can use a frontal attack to overrun a weak enemy force. The leader commonly uses a frontal attack as a shaping operation in conjunction with other forms of maneuver. (See figure 2-3.)

Frontal attack

Figure 2-3. Frontal attack


2-16. A penetration is a form of maneuver where an attacking force seeks to rupture enemy defenses in a narrow front to disrupt the defensive system. Destroying the continuity of defense allows the enemy’s subsequent isolation and defeat in detail by exploiting friendly forces. The penetration extends from the enemy’s security area through main defensive positions into the enemy support area. The leader employs a penetration when there is no assailable flank, enemy defenses are overextended and weak spots are detected in the enemy’s positions, or time pressures do not permit envelopment. (See figure 2-4.)


Figure 2-4. Penetration


2-17. An infiltration is a form of maneuver where an attacking force conducts undetected movement through or into an area controlled by enemy forces. The goal is to occupy a position of advantage behind enemy positions while exposing only small friendly elements to their defensive fires. Infiltration occurs by land, water, air, or a combination of means. Moving and assembling forces covertly through enemy positions takes a considerable amount of time. To infiltrate, the force avoids detection and engagement. Since this requirement limits the size and strength of the infiltrating force, and infiltrated forces alone rarely can defeat an enemy, infiltration normally is used in conjunction with and in support for other forms of maneuver. (See figure 2-5.)


Figure 2-5. Infiltration


2-18. A flanking attack is a form of offensive maneuver directed at the flank of an enemy force as illustrated in figure 2-6. A flank is the right or left side of a military formation and is not oriented toward the enemy. It is usually not as strong in terms of forces or fires as is the front of a military formation. A flank may be created by the attacker with fires or by a successful penetration. A flanking attack is similar to envelopment but generally conducted on a shallower axis. It is designed to defeat the enemy force while minimizing the effect of the frontally-oriented combat power. Flanking attacks normally are conducted with the main effort directed at the flank of the enemy. Usually, a supporting effort engages the front by fire and maneuver while the main effort maneuvers to attack the enemy‘s flank. This supporting effort diverts the enemy’s attention from the threatened flank. Corps and divisions are the most likely echelons to conduct turning movements. It often is used for a hasty operation or meeting engagement where speed and simplicity are paramount to maintaining battle tempo and, ultimately, the initiative.

Flank Attack

Figure 2-6 Flank Attack

Edited by MAJ J.LaFlash