-- Plan, Prepare, Execute, Assess

PLAN

2-276. In an attack, friendly forces seek to place the enemy in a position where the enemy can be defeated or destroyed easily. The leader seeks to keep the enemy off-balance while continually reducing the enemy’s options. In an attack, the leader focuses movement and maneuver effects, supported by the other warfighting functions, on those enemy forces seeking to prevent the unit from accomplishing its mission and seizing its objective. Planning helps the leader synchronize the effects of combat power through TLP. (Refer to appendix A for more information.)

MISSION COMMAND

2-277. The leader states the desired effect of fires on the enemy weapon systems, such as suppression or destruction, as part of his planning process. The leader assigns subordinate units their missions and imposes those control measures necessary to synchronize and maintain control over the operation.

2-278. Using the enemy situational and weapons templates previously developed, the leader determines the probable LC and enemy trigger lines. As the leader arrays subordinate elements to shape the battlefield, friendly weapon systems are matched against the enemy has to determine the PLD. Once the leader determines the PLD, the leader establishes how long it takes subordinates to move from the LD to the PLD and all support-by-fire-postions the attack requires. The leader establishes when and where the force must maneuver into enemy direct-fire range.

2-279. In addition to accomplishing the mission, every attack plan must contain provisions for exploiting success or all advantages may arise during the operation. The leader exploits success by aggressively executing the plan, promoting subordinate leader initiative, and using units that can rapidly execute battle drills.

MOVEMENT AND MANEUVER

2-280. In the plan of attack, the Infantry leader seeks to surprise the enemy by choosing an unexpected direction, time, type, or strength for attacking and by exploiting the success of military deception operations. Surprise delays enemy reactions, overloads and confuses enemy command and control, induces psychological shock in the enemy, and reduces the coherence of the enemy’s defensive operations. The leader achieves tactical surprise by attacking in bad weather and over seemingly impassible terrain, conducting feints and demonstrations, maintaining a high tempo, destroying enemy forces, and employing sound OPSEC. The leader may plan different attack times for decisive and shaping operations to mislead the enemy and allow the shifting of supporting fires to successive attacking echelons. However, simultaneous attacks provide a means to maximize the effects of mass in the initial assault. They also prevent the enemy from concentrating defensive fires against successive attacks.

2-281. The platoon leader often will find himself as the observer (and executor) of company and battalion level fires. Understanding the concept of echelon fires is critical for indirect fire plan to be synchronized with the maneuver plan. The purpose of echeloning fires is to maintain constant fires on a target while using the optimum delivery system up to the point of its risk-estimate distance in combat operations or minimum safe distance (MSD) in training. Echeloning fires provides protection for friendly forces as they move to and assault an objective, allowing them to close with minimal casualties. It prevents the enemy from observing and engaging the assault by forcing the enemy to take cover, allowing the friendly force to continue the advance unimpeded.

2-282. In planning, Infantry leaders focus on the routes, formations, and navigational aids they will use to traverse the ground from the LD or PD to the objective. Some terrain locations may require the attacking unit to change its combat formation, direction of movement, or movement technique when it reaches those locations. The unit can post guides at these critical locations to ensure maintaining control over the movement.

INTELLIGENCE

2-283. To employ the proper capabilities and tactics, leader and subordinate leaders must have detailed knowledge of the enemy’s organization, equipment, and tactics. They must understand enemy’s strengths and weaknesses. The platoon leader may need to request information through the CoIST from the battalion staff to answer platoon information requirements. (Refer to FM 3-21.10 for more information),

2-284. Generally, if the leader does not have good intelligence and does not know where the overwhelming majority of the enemy’s units and systems are located, the leader cannot conduct a deliberate operation. The attacking unit must conduct a movement to contact, conduct a hasty operation, or collect more combat information.

FIRES

2-285. The planning process synchronizes the unit’s scheme of maneuver with the indirect fire support plan. It must identify critical times and places where the Infantry leader needs the maximum effects from fire-support assets. Leaders combine maneuver with fires to mass effects, achieve surprise, destroy enemy forces, and obtain decisive results.

2-286. The goal of Infantry leader’s attack criteria is to focus fires on seizing the initiative. The leader emphasizes simple and rapidly integrated direct and indirect fire support plans. This is done using quick-fire planning techniques and good SOPs. Leader integrates fire assets as far forward as possible in the movement formation to facilitate early emplacement. Fires concentrate (mass) on forward enemy elements to enable maneuver efforts to close with the enemy positions.

SUSTAINMENT

2-287. The leader and subordinate unit leaders must plan to provide support and services to ensure freedom of action, extend operational reach, and prolong endurance. Sustainment is the provision of logistics, personnel services, and HSS necessary to maintain operations until mission accomplishment.

PROTECTION

2-288. Protection facilitates the Infantry leader’s ability to maintain force integrity and combat power. Protection determines the degree to which potential threats can disrupt operations and counters or mitigates those threats. Emphasis on protection increases during preparation and continues throughout execution. Protection is a continuing activity; it integrates all protection capabilities to safeguard bases, secure routes, and protect forces.

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PREPARE

2-289. Even in fluid situations, attacks are best organized and coordinated in AA. If the leader decides rapid action is essential to retain a tactical advantage, he may opt not to use an AA. Detailed advance planning, combined with digital communications, SOP, and battle drills, may reduce negative impacts of such a decision.

2-290. Unless already in an AA, the attacking unit moves into one during the preparation phase. The unit moves with as much secrecy as possible, normally at night and along routes preventing or degrading the enemy’s capabilities to visually observe or otherwise detect the movement. It avoids congesting its AA and occupies it minimal possible time. While in the AA, each unit is responsible for its own protection activities, such as local security.

2-291. The attacking unit should continue its TLP and priorities of work to the extent the situation and mission allow before moving to attack positions. These preparations include but are not necessarily limited to ─

  • Protecting the force.
  • Conducting task organization.
  • Performing reconnaissance.
  • Refining the plan.
  • Briefing the troops.
  • Conducting rehearsals, to include test firing of weapons.
  • Moving logistics and medical support forward.
  • Promoting adequate rest for both leaders and Soldiers.
  • Positioning the force for subsequent action.

2-292. As part of TLP, leaders at all levels should conduct a personal reconnaissance of the actual terrain when this will not compromise operational security or result in excessive risk to the unit leadership. Modern information systems can enable leaders to conduct a virtual reconnaissance when a physical reconnaissance is not practical. If a limited-visibility attack is planned, they also should reconnoiter the terrain at night.

EXECUTE

2-293. Executing an attack is a series of advances and assaults by attacking units until they secure the final objective characterizes the attack. Leaders at all levels must use their initiative to shift their main effort between units as necessary to take advantage of opportunities and momentum to ensure the enemy’s rapid destruction. Attacking units move as quickly as possible, following reconnaissance elements or probes through gaps in the enemy’s defenses. They shift their strength to reinforce success and carry the battle deep into the enemy’s rear. The leader does not delay the attack to preserve the alignment of subordinate units or to adhere closely to the preconceived plan of attack.

2-294. The leader avoids becoming so committed to the initial plan that opportunities are neglected, and is mentally prepared to abandon failed attacks in order to exploit all unanticipated successes or enemy errors. This is achieved by designating another unit to conduct the decisive operation in response to the changing situation.

2-295. The following sequence is used to execute an attack ─

  • Gain and maintain enemy contact.
  • Disrupt the enemy.
  • Fix the enemy.
  • Maneuver.
  • Follow through.

GAIN AND MAINTAIN ENEMY CONTACT

2-296. Gaining and maintaining contact with the enemy when he is determined to break contact is vital to the success of the offense. A defending enemy generally establishes a security area around his forces to make early contact with the attacking forces. This helps determine their capabilities, intent, chosen COA, and delays their approach. The enemy commander wants to use his security area to strip away friendly reconnaissance forces and hide his dispositions, capabilities, and intent. The goal is to compel the attacking force to conduct movement to contact against his defending force while knowing the exact location of the attacking forces.

DISRUPT THE ENEMY

2-297. Disrupting one or more parts of the enemy weakens the entire force and allows the friendly leader to attack the remaining enemy force in an asymmetrical manner. The assessment and decisions regarding what to disrupt, when to disrupt, and to what end are critical.

2-298. Once all types of contact, even sensor contact is made with the enemy, the leader wants to use the element of surprise to conduct shaping operations striking at the enemy and disrupt both the enemy’s combined arms team and his ability to plan and control his forces. Once this disruption process begins, it continues throughout the attack.

FIX THE ENEMY

2-299. A primary purpose in fixing the enemy is to isolate the objective of the force conducting the echelons decisive operation to prevent the enemy from maneuvering to reinforce the unit targeted for destruction. The Infantry leader does everything possible to limit the options available to his opponent. Fixing an enemy into a given position or a COA and controlling his movements limit his options and reduce the amount of uncertainty on the battlefield.

2-300. Fixing the enemy is done with the minimum amount of force. The Infantry leader normally allocates the bulk of his combat power to the force conducting his decisive operation. Fixing operations are, by necessity, shaping operations illustrating economy of force as a principle of war. Therefore, the leader must carefully consider which enemy elements to fix and target only those he can significantly affect the outcome of the fight.

MANEUVER

2-301. The Infantry leader maneuvers his forces to gain positional advantage to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative while avoiding the enemy’s defensive strength. He employs tactics defeating the enemy by attacking through a point of relative weakness, such as a flank or the rear. The key for success is to strike hard and fast, overwhelm a portion of the enemy force, and quickly transition to the next objective or phase, thus maintaining the momentum of attack without reducing the pressure. Examples of maneuver include—

Movement From the Line of Departure to the Probable Line of Deployment
2-302. The unit transitions from troop movement to maneuver once it crosses the LD. It moves aggressively and as quickly as the terrain and enemy situation allow. It moves forward using appropriate movement techniques assisted by the fires of supporting units. Fire and movement are integrated and coordinated closely. Suppressive fires facilitate friendly movement, and friendly movement facilitates more fires. Whenever possible, the attacking unit uses avenues of approach avoiding strong enemy defensive positions, takes advantage of all available cover and concealment, and places the unit on the flanks and rear of the defending enemy. Where cover and concealment are not available, the unit uses obscurants to conceal its movement.

Actions at the Probable Line of Deployment, Assault Position, or Final Coordination Line
2-303. The attacking unit maintains the pace of its advance as it approaches its probable line of deployment. The attacking unit splits into one or more assault and support forces once it reaches the PLD if not previously completed. All forces supporting the assault force should be set in their support by fire positions before the assault force crosses the probable line of deployment. The leader synchronizes the occupation of support by fire positions with the maneuver of the supported attacking unit to limit the vulnerability of forces occupying these positions. Leaders use unit tactical SOPs, battle drills, prearranged signals, engagement area, and TRP to control direct fires from these supporting positions and normally employs RFL between converging forces.

Breaching Operations
2-304. To conduct breaching operations successfully, the platoon applies the breaching fundamentals of suppress, obscure, secure, reduce, and assault (SOSRA). The support force sets the conditions, the breach force reduces, clears, and marks the required number of lanes through the enemy’s tactical obstacles to support the maneuver of the assault force. The leader must clearly identify the conditions allowing the breach force to proceed to avoid confusion. From the PLD, the assault force maneuvers against or around the enemy to take advantage of support force’s efforts to suppress the targeted enemy positions. (Refer to appendix H, section II of this publication for a more detailed explanation.)

Actions on the Objective
2-305. The effects of overwhelming and simultaneous application of fire, movement, and shock action characterize the final assault. This violent assault destroys or defeats and drives the enemy from the objective area. Small units conduct the final assault while operating under the control of the appropriate echelon command post. Heavy forces have the option of conducting this final assault in either a mounted or dismounted configuration.

2-306. Mounted forces have the option of conducting this final assault in either a mounted or dismounted configuration.

2-307. The platoon leader and company commander must decide whether or not the assault element will assault the objective mounted or dismounted. Generally, if the enemy is in restrictive terrain and poses a significant antiarmor threat, the platoon assaults the objective dismounted. If the objective is on unrestrictive terrain and the enemy’s antiarmor threat is minimal, the assault element may assault mounted.

  • Mounted assault. If the platoon leader decides to assault mounted, then as soon as the BFVs assault across the objective, the rifle squads dismount to clear the objective of enemy forces
  • Dismounted assault. If the platoon leader decides to assault the objective dismounted, the platoon dismounts its rifle squads to assault the objective, and the vehicles move to support-by-fire positions. If possible, the platoon dismounts in an area that offers some cover and concealment from enemy observation and direct fire, which allows the platoon to assemble and orient appropriately. The dismount point must be close enough to the objective that the rifle squads do not become excessively fatigued while moving to the objective.

2-308. Whether assaulting mounted or dismounted, the platoon leader or company team commander designates the dismount point based on the following factors:

  • Short of the objective (near or at the assault position).
  • On the objective.
  • Beyond the objective.

Short of the Objective

2-309. The advantages of dismounting the rifle squads before reaching the objective include: protection for the squad members while dismounting; better control at the dismount point; and an ability to suppress the enemy with indirect fires without endangering the platoon. The disadvantages include: exposure of the rifle squads to indirect and direct fires as the move toward the objective; and the enemy may target possible dismount points with indirect fires.

On the Objective

2-310. The advantages of dismounting the rifle squads on the objective include: better platoon speed toward the objective; protection for the rifle squads and the platoon maneuvers toward the objective. The disadvantages include: difficult to orient the rifle squads on specific locations or objectives while riding in the vehicle; difficult to control at the dismount point; and the vehicles are vulnerable to short-range, handheld antiarmor systems while dismounting the rifle squads.

Beyond the Objective

2-311. Dismounting beyond the objective has several potential advantages: effective control at the dismount point; easier to orient the rifle squads to the terrain and the objective; and confused or disoriented enemy are forced to fight in an unexpected direction. Significant disadvantages remain the platoon is vulnerable to attack from enemy defensive positions in depth; the platoon is vulnerable to attack by enemy reserve forces; the vehicles are vulnerable to short-range, handheld antiarmor systems; and it is difficult to control direct fires, increasing the risk of fratricide.

2-312. Ideally, the platoon’s assault element occupies the assault position without the enemy detecting the platoon’s elements. Preparations in the assault position may include preparing Bangalore, other breaching equipment, or demolitions; fixing bayonets; lifting or shifting direct fires; or preparing smoke pots.

2-313. If the platoon is detected as it nears its assault position, indirect fire suppression is required on the objective and the support element increases its volume of fire. If the platoon needs to make last-minute preparations, then it occupies the assault position. If the platoon does not need to stop, it passes through the assault position, treating it as a PLD and assaults the objective. Sometimes, a platoon must halt to complete preparation and to ensure synchronization of friendly forces. Once the assault element moves forward of the assault position, the assault continues. If the assault element stops or turns back, the element could sustain excessive casualties.

2-314. Infantry leaders employ all direct and indirect fire support means to destroy and suppress the enemy and sustain the momentum of attack. By carefully synchronizing the effects of indirect-fire systems and available CAS, leaders improve the likelihood of success. Fires are planned in series or groups to support maneuver against enemy forces on or near the geographical objective. As the leader shifts artillery fires and obscurants from the objective to other targets, the assault element moves rapidly across the objective. The support element must not allow its suppressive fires to lapse. These fires isolate the objective and prevent the enemy from reinforcing or counterattacking. They also destroy escaping enemy forces and systems.

FOLLOW THROUGH

2-315. After seizing the objective, the Infantry force has two alternatives: exploit success and continue the attack or terminate the offensive mission. After seizing an objective, the most likely on-order mission is to continue the attack. During consolidation, the unit continues TLP in preparation for all on-order missions assigned by a higher headquarters.

 

ASSESS

2-316. Assessment refers to the continuous monitoring and evaluation of current situation, particularly the enemy, and progress of an operation. Assessment precedes and guides every operations process activity and concludes each operation or phase of an operation. It involves a comparison of forecasted outcomes to actual events. Assessment entails three tasks ─

  • Continuously assessing the enemy’s reactions and vulnerabilities.
  • Continuously monitoring the situation and progress of operation towards the commander’s desired end state.
  • Evaluating the operation against measures of effectiveness and measures of performance.

INITIAL ASSESSMENT

2-317. Upon receiving the mission, leaders perform an initial assessment of the situation and METT-TC, focusing on the unit’s role in the larger operation, and allocating time for planning and preparing. The two most important products from this initial assessment should be at least a partial restated mission, and a timeline. Leaders issue their initial WARNORD on this first assessment and time allocation.

INTELLIGENCE ASSESSMENT

2-318. Army forces conduct (plan, prepare, execute, and assess) operations based on the all-source intelligence assessment developed by the intelligence section. The all-source intelligence assessment is expressed as part of the intelligence estimate. They are continuous and occur throughout the operations process and intelligence process. Most products resulting from all-source intelligence are initially developed during planning, and updated as needed throughout preparation and execution based on information gained from continuous assessment.

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EXECUTION ASSESSMENT

2-319. During execution, assessment of risk assists the leader in making informed decisions on changing task organization, shifting priorities of effort and support, and shaping future operations. Effectiveness entails making accurate assessments and good decisions about how to fight the enemy. Mission complements command by using the most efficient means available. Vital supporting concepts are TLP, actions on contact, and risk management. Leaders use the assessment process to generate combat power.