--Special Purpose Attacks


2-320. Special purpose attacks are ambush, counterattack, demonstration, feint, raid, and spoiling attack. (Refer to ADRP 3-90 for more information.) The commander’s intent andMETT-TC determine which special purpose attacks to employ. Each attack can be conducted as either a hasty or a deliberate operation. The commander’s intent and METT-TC determine the specific attack form. As subordinate attack tasks, they share many of the planning, preparation, and execution considerations of attack. Demonstrations and feints, while forms of attack, also are associated with military deception operations. (Refer to FM 3-13 for more information.)

Watch the video below to learn more about how force multipliers assist special purpose attacks.


2-321. An ambush is an assault by fire or other destructive means from concealed positions on a moving or temporarily halted enemy. An ambush stops, denies, or destroys enemy forces by maximizing the element of surprise. Ambushes can employ direct fire systems as well as other destructive means, such as command-detonated mines, indirect fires, and supporting nonlethal effects. They may include an assault to close with and destroy enemy forces. In an ambush, ground objectives do not have to be seized and held.

2-322. The three forms of ambush are point, area, and antiarmor ambush. In a point ambush, a unit deploys to attack a single kill zone. In an area ambush, a unit deploys into two or more related point ambushes. Units smaller than a platoon normally do not conduct an area ambush.

Watch the video below to learn more about an Ambush

2-323. A typical ambush is organized into three elements: assault, support, and security. The assault element fires into the kill zone. Its goal is to destroy the enemy force. When used, the assault force attacks into and clears the kill zone. It also may be assigned additional tasks, to include searching for items of intelligence value, capturing prisoners, photographing new types of equipment and when unable to take enemy equipment, completing the destruction of enemy equipment to avoid its immediate reuse. The support element supports the assault element by firing into and around the kill zone, and it provides the ambush’s primary killing power. The support element attempts to destroy the majority of enemy combat power before the assault element moves into the objective or kill zone. The security element isolates the kill zone, provides early warning of arrival of all enemy relief forces, and provides security for the assault and support elements. It secures the objective rally point (ORP) and blocks enemy avenues of approach into and out of the ambush site, which prevents the enemy from entering or leaving. (Refer to chapter 6 this publication for detailed discussion.)


2-324. A counterattack is an attack by part or all of a defending force against an enemy attacking force, for such specific purposes as regaining ground lost or cutting off or destroying enemy advance units. The general objective is to deny the enemy his goal in attacking. The leader directs a counterattack normally conducted from a defensive posture, to defeat or destroy enemy forces, exploit an enemy weakness such as an exposed flank, or to regain control of terrain and facilities after an enemy success. A unit conducts a counterattack to seize the initiative from the enemy through offensive action. A counterattacking force maneuvers to isolate and destroy a designated enemy force. It can be an assault by fire into an engagement area to defeat or destroy an enemy force, restore the original position, or block an enemy penetration. Once launched, the counterattack normally becomes a decisive operation for the leader conducting the counterattack.

2-325. To be decisive, the counterattack occurs when the enemy is overextended, dispersed, and disorganized during his attack. All counterattacks should be rehearsed in the same conditions they will be conducted. Careful consideration is given to the event triggering the counterattack. Once committed, the counterattack force conducts the decisive operation.


2-326. In military deception, a demonstration is a show of force in an area where a decision is not sought but made to deceive a threat. It is similar to a feint, but no actual contact with the threat is intended.


2-327. A feint is an attack used to deceive the enemy as to the location or time of the actual decisive operation. Forces conducting a feint seek direct fire contact with the enemy but avoid decisive engagement. As in the demonstration, leader use feints in conjunction with other military deception activities.


2-328. A raid is a limited-objective, deliberate operation entailing swift penetration of hostile terrain. A raid is not intended to hold territory; and it requires detailed intelligence, preparation, and planning. The Infantry platoon and squad conducts raids as part of a larger force to accomplish a number of missions, including the following -

  • Capture prisoners, installations, and/or enemy materiel.
  • Capture or destroy specific enemy command and control locations.
  • Destroy enemy materiel or installations.
  • Obtain information concerning enemy locations, dispositions, strength, intentions, or methods of operation.
  • Confuse the enemy or disrupt his plans.
  • Liberate friendly personnel.
Example of a Raid

Example of a Raid


2-329. A spoiling attack is a tactical maneuver employed to impair a hostile attack while the enemy is in the process of forming or assembling for an attack. The spoiling attack usually employs heavy, attack helicopter, or fire support elements to attack on enemy assembly positions in front of a main line of resistance or battle position.

2-330. The objective of a spoiling attack is to disrupt the enemy’s offensive capabilities and timelines while destroying targeted enemy personnel and equipment, not to secure terrain and other physical objectives. Two conditions must be met to conduct a survivable spoiling attack ─

  • The spoiling attack’s objective must be obtainable before the enemy being able to respond to the attack in a synchronized and coordinated manner.
  • The force conducting the spoiling attack must be prevented from becoming over extended.

2-331. Infantry forces conduct a spoiling attack whenever possible during friendly defensive missions to strike an enemy force while it is in AA or attack positions preparing for its own offensive mission or is stopped temporarily.


2-332. Army electronic warfare operations seek to enable the land force commander to support unified land operations through decisive action. Decisive action consists of the simultaneous combination of offense, defense, and stability or defense support of civil authorities appropriate to the mission and environment. The central idea of unified land operations is to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative to gain and maintain a position of relative advantage in sustained land operations in order to create the conditions for favorable conflict resolution.

2-333. The foundation of unified land operations is built on initiative, decisive action, and mission command—linked and nested through purposeful and simultaneous execution of both combined arms maneuver and wide area security—to achieve the commander’s intent and desired end state. Appropriately applied, electronic warfare enables successful unified land operations. Commanders and staffs determine which resident and joint force electronic warfare capabilities to use in support of each element of decisive action. As they apply the appropriate level of electronic warfare effort to support these elements, commanders can seize, retain, and exploit the initiative within the electromagnetic environment.

2-334. Once a commander can seize, retain, and exploit the initiative within the electromagnetic environment, then control becomes possible. Commanders plan, prepare, execute, and assess electronic warfare operations to control the electromagnetic spectrum.

2-335. To exercise electromagnetic spectrum control commanders effectively apply and integrate electronic warfare operations across the warfighting functions: mission command, movement and maneuver, intelligence, fires, sustainment, and protection.

Read the following vignette to learn more about Electronic Warfare.  SELECT HERE