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Mogwa

Meeting Battle / Movement to Contact

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Movement to Contact / Meeting Engagement / Meeting Battle seems to generate a lot of confused looks on peoples faces. This has come up in discussions on Teamspeak and I read a similar post in the Mission editor thread. So, I thought I would attempt to explain movement to contact if I could. I am not an expert on any of this, so I relied heavily on references. I was trained by the US Army so i have a US Army viewpoint. Your country may use the terms differently. All emphasis is my own.

I was taught that the OpFor (Soviets, Former Soviet States, etc) called this the meeting battle and the OPFOR defines a meeting battle as an encounter between opposing sides, both trying to fulfill their mission by offensive action .

From the TraDoc Pam on OpFor tactics:

The chief characteristics of the meeting battle are--

• Both sides are attacking from the march, leading to a close-quarter battle in which speed and surprise are the crucial factors.

• There is an intense struggle to seize the initiative, with each side trying to impose its will through offensive action.

• The battle is one of maneuver, with both sides accepting open flanks and gaps in their deployment as the action spreads over a wide area. Since neither side enjoys the advantage of having chosen and prepared the ground, everything is to be gained from bold maneuver.

• For most or all of the time, the situation remains fluid and obscure. Intelligence is limited and dates rapidly. Commanders cannot always wait until the situation is clear, but should attack vigorously into the gaps and flanks of the enemy deployment.

• Given that there may be sudden and dramatic developments, special reserves and, in particular, antitank reserves are needed to meet the unexpected.

• Only a commitment to the offensive ensures that most of the surprises happen to the enemy.

• The time available for decision making and deployment is limited. Victory goes to the side that attacks first and builds up its combat power in the decisive area fastest. Thus, there is a premium on simple deployment drills.

• Meeting battles are expected to be decisive. The defeated side, outflanked and penetrated deeply from the front, with no prepared positions to fall back on, should find it difficult to go over to the defensive or withdraw. His force may very well cease to exist as a coherent combat grouping.

The US definition, from the CGSC Student Text 100-40:

Movement to contact is a type of offensive action designed to develop the situation and establish or regain contact.

It goes on to state that "A commander conducts this type of offensive action when the tactical situation is not clear or when the enemy has broken contact. A properly executed movement to contact develops the combat situation and maintains the commander's freedom of action after contact is gained. This flexibility is essential in maintaining the

initiative."

Rapid and aggressive movement, decentralized control, and the hasty deployment of combined arms formations from the march to attack or defend characterize the movement to contact.

The fundamentals of a movement to contact are:

-Focus all efforts on finding the enemy.

-Make initial contact with the smallest force possible, consistent with protecting the force.

-Make initial contact with small, mobile, self-contained forces to avoid decisive engagement of the main body on ground chosen by the enemy. This allows the commander maximum flexibility to develop the situation.

-Task-organize the force and use movement formations to deploy and attack rapidly in any direction.

-Keep forces within supporting distances to facilitate a flexible response.

-Maintain contact regardless of the course of action adopted once contact is gained.

Sound familiar? A lot of those are comparable to the OpFor fundementals of Meeting Battle.

To further muddy the water, aspiring disciples of Patton are taught "The conduct of a movement to contact will result in a meeting engagement.

OK, Great. So what is a meeting engagement? Again from CGSC ST 100-40: A meeting engagement is a combat action that occurs when a moving force that is not completely deployed for battle collides with and engages an enemy at an unexpected time and place.

The enemy force may be either stationary or moving. Such encounters often occur in small-unit operations and when reconnaissance has been ineffective. The force that reacts first to the unexpected contact generally gains an advantage over its opponent. However, a meeting engagement may also occur when the opponents are aware of each other and both decide to attack without delay to obtain a tactical advantage or seize key or decisive terrain. A meeting engagement may also occur when one force attempts to deploy into a hasty defense while the other force attacks before its opponent can organize an effective defense. Technical intelligence systems may discover the enemy before the security force can gain contact. No matter how contact is made, seizure of the initiative is the overriding imperative.

Just to ensure confusion, the OpFor uses the term meeting battle to describe an action by a division level unit or below and meeting engagement to describe a battle at the operational level conducted by fronts and armies. Since different countries may use some of the terms for slightly different actions, I think that may be a source of confusion for the multi national SB community.

So in summary, both sides are attempting to accomplish their mission through offensive action. The location of the enemy force is not known and the combat occurs at an unknown location, in terrain neither side really chose. Although a smart commander that knows contact is imminent will move to seize the best terrain possible prior to contact or at initial contact of the lead elements.

I think most Friday night games are movement to contacts. there may be an objective for each side, often shared by each side (the monkey in the middle obj) 3 sisters is a scenario like this. others like 6K front (maybe Im thinking of the wrong name) where both sides move west around an obstacle then turn toward the center is also a movement to contact. Anyway most scenarios that arent attack/defend are Movement to Contact. We're on this side of the map and you're on that side and we will meet in the middle somewhere and fight. Since it is probably only 20 Km or so to the other side of the map, finding the enemy seems slightly less important that securing the best terrain in these situations.

Perhaps more to follow,

Mog

Edited by Mogwa

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A very good example of this is Gettysburg, July 1, 1863. Neither side expected contact, but they got it, and the result was the largest battle ever fought in North America.

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Unless I’m mistaken the Battle of Prokhorovka during the Battle of Kursk in July 1943 is a perfect example of a meeting engagement or “an encounter between opposing sides, both trying to fulfil their mission by offensive action”. In this engagement the advancing German II SS Panzer Corps met the counterattacking Soviet 5th Guards Tank Army head on and it quickly degenerated into a confused melee, a kind of armoured “dog fight”.

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Gettysburg isn't really a meeting battle per sae; it was a triumph of coup d'oueil from the Union recce commander, followed by a hasty attack on a hasty defense, followed by attacks on a semi-prepared position.

In a nutshell:

1. Rebel recce (Stuart) is off on a tear instead of screening his own forces, leaving Lee blind;

2. Union recce comes off the high ground and encounters the Rebel infantry vanguard;

3. Union recce commander realizes that he has just come forward of the best piece of ground for miles around, and if he forces Lee to deploy in the low ground, the follow-on Union forces will have no choice but to deploy on the high ground - meaning that not even the worst Union general can fuck it up. Accordingly, he has his men dismount and act like infantry;

4. The Rebel Vanguard engages the Union recce, and lacking their own recce to tell them otherwise, assumes they have encountered the Union van and start deploying for battle. Meanwhile, the Union troops start deploying on the high ground. Once they are in place, the Union recce withdraws;

5. You now have the Union in a hasty defense and the Rebels in an assembly area ready for a hasty attack. No engagement has taken place between primary fighting forces.

What happens next is a series of assaults up the hill - first a left flank (that nearly works) then a right flank (stalled due to shitty ground and a spirited defense) and finally the frontal (Pickett's Charge) that is a bloody slaughter. At no time does the Union consider assaulting down the hill.

For it to be a true meeting engagement, both sides have to consider themselves on the offense and have to maneuver offensively. Gettysburg fails that test.

As far as the battle itself went, the Union recce won the day. I use this battle all the time to teach troop leaders how understanding ground, time, and space, plus the careful use of initiative, can make recce into a force multiplier - and how NOT doing the mission and running around like an idiot can blind your commander and place him in an untenable situation.

DG

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Well, if one side gains the information superority, a battle ceases to be a "meeting engagement".

f.e. this one:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Rossbach

This was used to teach us the importance of initiative by subordinates.

On the Austrian/French side, it may well count as meeting engagement. They where still on the march and expected the prussian army more to the west...and suddently ran into the enemy. On the prussian side, it was an ambush.

The initiative part: General v. Seydlitz only had orders to attack the enemy cavalery and cover the left flank. He saw that he routed the enemy cav, still had 90% strength(and in high spirit due to the succesful engagement), the enemy was still in marching order and the prussian infantry still needed time to close in...so he decided "WTF...lets charge".

==> decicive victory for prussia

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As far as the battle itself went, the Union recce won the day. I use this battle all the time to teach troop leaders how understanding ground, time, and space, plus the careful use of initiative, can make recce into a force multiplier - and how NOT doing the mission and running around like an idiot can blind your commander and place him in an untenable situation.

DG

I use the clip from the Turner film where Sam Elliott imagines the battles before its fought and stresses the importance of the ground.

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Mogwa, excellent post.

A meeting engagement is a combat action that occurs when a moving force that is not completely deployed for battle collides with and engages an enemy at an unexpected time and place.

[My bold, relevant bits]

Not in the Soviet understanding: The Soviet (and maintained by the Russians as far as I can tell) reconnaissance system operated in great depth and had many points of overlapping coverage, precisely to support their Tukachevskii/Triandafillov "Deep Battle", which against a mobile force is simply the familiar "pivot/hinge" of a mobile force off of a holding force, against a more static enemy is a breakthrough battle and pursuit. Therefore, while we might think the meeting battle is "Recce done gone and f*cked up" with our march columns encountering the enemy unexpectedly, the Soviets and the Russians actively strive to attack from the march, using superior reconnaissance information to make it possible to envelop or even encircle the enemy's columns - in their understanding, it is not an unexpected time and place, as recce will have told them where the enemy is.

The TraDoc Pamphlet otherwise has an excellent understanding... little confused as to why they left out the huge Soviet emphasis on recce and how that shapes the Soviet understanding of meeting engagements and meeting battles, and why they consider it the ideal engagement.

Simpkin (amongst others, it's just that I read him most recently) points out that the Soviet emphasis on C3I that allows for "forward command from the rear" and the distinct Soviet tendency to do so conflicts directly with the kind of directive-based orders required to successfully implement their theories on manouevre warfare, which is exactly what a meeting engagement and meeting battle are. This may largely negate the advantage to be gained from what I described above, which is the very thorough and optimized-for-task Soviet reconnaissance system.

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...the Soviets and the Russians actively strive to attack from the march, using superior reconnaissance information to make it possible to envelop or even encircle the enemy's columns - in their understanding, it is not an unexpected time and place, as recce will have told them where the enemy is.

I agree. FM 100-2-1 (available in the Downloads>Library>US Army Field Manuals section) has a clear and concise explanation of the Soviet concept of a Meeting Engagement on pages 76-83.

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I dissagree...when you "strike form the march using superior reccon information" you are not doing a meeting engagement, you are attacking. I mean it implies that you know what you are facing, in the definition of a meeting engagement you don't.

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How can we speak of “superior reccon information" when the cited pam (FM 100-2-1) uses a Soviet quote to define it as (page 5-29 / 76):

“A clash between opposing sides when they are simultaneously striving to fulfil assigned missions by means of offensive actions. A meeting engagement is characterised by obscurity of the situation and by abrupt changes in it ... by rapid changes in ... formations”.

To divide this quote up:

“A clash between opposing sides when they are simultaneously striving to fulfil assigned missions by means of offensive actions.“

If the Soviet / Russian reconnaissance effort provides the required information / situational awareness (SA), then that suggests the Soviets / Russians know about the NATO (to give their opponents a name) offensive manoeuvre, so therefore the Soviet / Russian counterstroke is a spoiling attack.

“A meeting engagement is characterised by obscurity of the situation and by abrupt changes in it“

If there is obscurity of information then one or both sides have lost the recon battle (or has been deceived by their opponent).

The Soviet / Russian organisation is arguably better suited to this environment where their “encounter battle” drill is very well rehearsed and can be executed off the line of march with minimal delay (potentially within NATO’s OODA loop). However it is a small scale action designed for the CRP / Vanguard / Advance Guard to quickly overwhelm a small force or pin a larger force until the larger assault is delivered by the main body.

Now if the Soviet / Russian SA was so good then it can be suggested that such defensive positions would be bypassed in order to penetrate further or that the initial assault would be tailored to match the known defensive force and it would not require a “follow up” attack.

This is not to belittle the Soviet / Russian belief in reconnaissance or the assets and resources they devote to it, nor the importance of “NATO”s tasking of its own reconnaissance assets to deceive, blind, disrupt and ideally destroy it.

But to suggest that the provision of superior SA generates an ad hoc encounter “characterised by obscurity of the situation“ where two opposing forces are simultaneously conducting offensive manoeuvre in the same location at the same time but in opposite directions, doesn’t ring true to me.

Edited by Gibsonm

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An issue of Red Thrust Star had an article on meeting engagements you guys might find interesting, linked below:

http://nara-wayback-001.us.archive.org/peth04/20041020015617/http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/red-star/issues/JUL94/JUL94.HTML#Military%20sciences

I would note, reading the article that references to precision-guided weapons and "future/modern battle" was part of Ogarkov's legacy to the Soviet Army when they tried to deal with the theater war in the information age, and so that stuff might not apply for 1980s scenarios. :)

The 1984 edition of FM 100-2-1 has been widely referred to, but one author of the 1990 revision on another forum called it a "stereotyped, misleading, and woefully incomplete view of the subject", so I wouldn't rely on it that much.

Edited by Tac Error

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Good additional reference. Do you have a link to the 1990 revision? Is it an incremental change, or is it just a re-write of FM 100-2-1?

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A total rewrite. It's not widely available being a draft, but you might be able to find it in various U.S. Army schools, training centers or university libraries. (Such as Stanford or the Fort Leavenworth Combined Arms Research Library)

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Gibson: My readings of Simpkin et al place less emphasis on the characterization of the situation as being obscure and vague and more on the necessity of acting on whatever actionable intelligence is available at the time: to rapidly make a decision and implement it in an attempt to maintain or gain the initiative. Certainly Field Service Regulations 1936 (PU-36) make this clear, as they were a radical departure from positional warfare and attritionist thinking. Therefore the emphasis was on acting in accordance with the commander's intent - a rather Western notion soon to be stamped out by the purges and the Stalinist reordering of Soviet society. It was acknowledged that the situation would be cloudy, but I don't think it was a defining characteristic quite as FM 100-2-1 (1984) states. The Soviets also consider that recce has only completed its task fully when it has penetrated the enemy's tactical depth and is determining the location of CPs, logistics dumps and major LoCs in the tactical rear/operational depth* - it might be that we've got a misunderstanding based on expectations of the recce forces. Now, PU-36 becomes the basis of Soviet manouevre thought and survives the Great Patriotic War because of guys like Zhukov, who are quoted extensively as saying that: "Success only came when the theories of Tukachevskii were applied."

Perhaps we have key misunderstandings based on mistranslations, the emphasis being in the wrong place. I don't know, it might be something to write a paper on later, but I haven't got the time now. Sorry for any confusion; if you've the time and access to it, Simpkin's "Deep Battle" might help clarify.

I haven't read that '84 edition FM in forever and a day. I agree that it seems counter-intuitive according to that definition; I think I might have to agree with the author of the 1990 edition who considers the 1984 ed. to be blinkered.

* - Edit: Also, of massive importance, position of tactical and operational reserves. Meeting engagements often were projected to happen between two forces in motion, a breakout force or a mobile group in the enemy's rear and the enemy's reserves. I know that we - and they - have concepts like spoiling attacks, counterattacks and the like, but honestly it seems like at times the concept of a meeting engagement supercedes these in some way. Obviously an area for further study on my part. As to the level of formation which carries out the mission, yes, forward detachments and the like but keeping in mind that the forward detachment of an army might very well be a reinforced tank or motor rifle division, the lines become blurry again.

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Sorry for any confusion; if you've the time and access to it, Simpkin's "Deep Battle" might help clarify.

a. No I don't, sorry.

b. Yes I do. A copy is about 1m away from this keyboard.

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My reason for highlighting the relevant section of FM 100-2-1 (which is perhaps now discredited – though six years of hindsight and further research is a wonderful thing) is that, based on the US interpretation of Soviet doctrine outlined here, the Soviet army did “not look upon the meeting as a purely chance occurrence”. According to the quote supplied by Radzievskiy “As a result of…the depths of modern reconnaissance…commanders of both sides, more often than not, will already have some indication of the strength and firepower of the enemy far before the meeting.” Personally, I don’t think “some information” and “obscurity of the situation” are mutually exclusive.

It’s also clear from the Red Thrust Star article that “In the meeting battle, the winner will be the one who acts quickly, decisively, and dynamically, and who is prepared to make bold decisions even when the situation is unclear [my emphasis]”. The article goes on to state “Continuous and dynamic reconnaissance, using all the available forces and resources, is most important in the meeting battle…”. “Units conducting a march in expectation of a meeting battle usually deploy stronger reconnaissance elements than they would if conducting a march with no threat of contact with the enemy. A division sends out several (but at least one) reconnaissance detachments, all of company or battalion size. The detachments consist of reconnaissance, motorized rifle, or even tank subunits.”

So, to my mind, whilst the Soviets may not actually have “superior reconnaissance information”, they will certainly strive for it and will aim to identify and anticipate a meeting battle and then fight to win it decisively, even when there is not perfect clarity on the situation (when is there ever in warfare?; but I presume only more clarity than the enemy will help to obtain the upper hand in a meeting engagement, assuming relative balance in the opposing forces).

Whilst there may be differences of definition and interpretation vis-a-vis Western armies, I was simply attempting to emphasise the different concept of a meeting battle as understood and practised by the Soviets.

Edited by Panzer_Leader
Correction

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Just FYI the primary documents I used in the original post were the CGSC student text 100-40 Offensive and Defensive Tactics dtd 7 Jun 1999 and TRADOC PAM 350-16 Heavy Opposing Force Tactical Handbook (Draft) dtd 15 September 1994.

I made the Op to try to provide a Steel Beastian understanding of the terms movent to contact and/or meeting battle.

Mog

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I made the Op to try to provide a Steel Beastian understanding of the terms movent to contact and/or meeting battle.

Mog

Yes understood.

I think its now spun off into more of a theoretical / academic / after dinner port and cigars chat / navel gazing activity. :)

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Thats cool, please continue. I just wanted to get the sources of the quoted material out there.

Mog

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Well, it’s very rare that I get to discuss differing definitions of a meeting engagement at any dinner party I attend I can assure you. ;)

Crack open the port I say.

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An issue of Red Thrust Star had an article on meeting engagements you guys might find interesting, linked below:

http://nara-wayback-001.us.archive.org/peth04/20041020015617/http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/red-star/issues/JUL94/JUL94.HTML#Military%20sciences

There's some great information on infiltration tactics by OPFOR scouts at the NTC in sections 5 and 6 of this paper. I'm just wondering, do people think these tactics are applicable in Steel Beasts (with lack of meaningful rear areas, except perhaps tactical reserves, CSS and now SP artillery) and, if so, has anyone attempted them in multiplayer successfully?

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Panzer, I was reading the same thing, and thinking along the "MP Applicable" line.

First draft opinion: no, that doesn't work in MP. Why? Because in MP we don't have doctrine- or HQ-mandated player behavior. We only have what the designer builds in.

By example: I recently designed a medium MP mission with a red attacker, blue defender. Red begins with a CRP, Blue has a screen zone and his Company team set back from the FEBA some 5-6km. Red main forces (a Bn-) arrive on scene 10 minutes later. I was playing with Red. Wanna guess what happened?

The opposing blue team went on the offensive. They used thier temporary numerical superiority to attack the CRP (which they knew would be there from the briefing) and forced the later-arriving Bn- into a defense of their own arrival routes.

Lesson learned: Blue had no doctrinal or HQ-mandated reason NOT to attack. I've subsequently moved to change.

How does this relate to recon? Several ways:

1) Most of the time, the MP groups can "see" both sides prior to play.

2) The timing of the real Division/Regimental recon is far before the battle is joined. We'd have to have a separate recon scenario to simulate the attempt at penetrating the screen line and getting "eyes on." Add to that the issue from above. Why would a blue MP player just sit and wait as told? It's more likely they will go BRDM hunting than act as a real BLUEFOR would.

3) Instant ID in the SB world negates much of the real-world confusion of the behind-lines effect of a penetrating recon group.

4) Dismounts and static vehicles are quite easy to find in SB. Camouflage and such are a bit underrated compared to the real world. (See the pic with the caption re: scout teams/vehicles that remain still are often never detected, let alone engaged.)

I think the recon fight would be FUN to game. But it has a pace that is VERY different than the MP world of our average SB game. I used the same article as inspiration for some SP recon game design, which I think may suit more.

OTOH: there are some MP game DESIGN tricks that may simulate some of the recon/counterrecon fight, but I'll test before I post more there.

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Thanks DrDevice, great feedback. I was thinking along those lines re: multiplayer applicability but it's interesting to see your testing in practice confirms it.

It's a shame because I quite like the doctrinal emphasis and rhythm of Soviet reconnaissance with timing, organisation and specific missions of CRP, FSE, Advance Guard Main Body and Main Force.

If you ever feel like sharing those single player reconnaissance-orientated scenarios let me know, I'd love to have a crack at them!

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Absolutely. The idea is way in the alpha stages. GaryOwen's BRDM scenario started it, this article cemented it. I think a sneak and peek mission of penetration at the larger level will make a fun SP mission. I'll see what I can cook up.

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