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Formations - close, or spread out?

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I suspect this topic has been discussed before, but here goes:

What is everyones take on the distance between tanks in a platoon? I notice the germans tend to operate a lot more spread out than we do. I strongly favour tight formations(5-10 metres between each tank), unless the terrain is VERY open.

Pro's include:

- MUCH easier to lead. Every tank will see the same things, and fire control becomes much easier. Trying to develop situational awareness becomes increasingly difficult when you can't see the targets your 4th tank is engaging.

-Every barrel in your platoon will be able to bear on targets. With 50 meters between tanks, chances are you'll be exposing individual tanks to targets. Close formation usually means better mutual support in the platoon. With a close formation, your targets will have to face 4 barrels. With a spread-out formation, they may only be facing one or two.

-In the same street as the previous point, but you'll expose yourself from a smaller amount of threats, because you'll cover less ground.

-Generally better all-round security. For instance, if you're travelling in an echelon formation to cover an exposed flank, chances are the first tank(whose field of fire is still straight ahead) will expose itself a long time before the tanks responsible for covering the flank are able to scan the exposed flank.

All in all, I'm having trouble understanding why the germans seem to favour spread-out formations. I realise spread-out formations have their pro's as well, but in european terrain, my opinion is that the pros of close formation heavily outweighs the pros of spread-out formations.

What is everyone elses opinion?

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Yeah, those are basically the two cons of going close. However, hitting a MOVING formation of tanks with artillery is EXTREMELY difficult, so that's not a major point in my book. The air threat in itself isn't enough to convince me that spread-out is the way to go.

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All in all, I'm having trouble understanding why the germans seem to favour spread-out formations.

What is everyone elses opinion?

With a open (spread-out) formation the troop will have a greater foot print on the ground. This will result in a larger area scanned by the troop. In turn this will give a better SA for the troop.

Even more so when the Germans had three tanks in their troop, however I do believe they have gone to four now.

I do prefer the open formation for the added SA it gives, when you know whats going on you can react faster and hopfully gain the upper hand.:cul:

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Even more so when the Germans had three tanks in their troop, however I do believe they have gone to four now.

The platoon strength was 4 tanks back in the 80s already.

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For me it depends on whether or not I'm attacking or defending and terrain.

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With a open (spread-out) formation the troop will have a greater foot print on the ground. This will result in a larger area scanned by the troop. In turn this will give a better SA for the troop.

Even more so when the Germans had three tanks in their troop, however I do believe they have gone to four now.

I do prefer the open formation for the added SA it gives, when you know whats going on you can react faster and hopfully gain the upper hand.:cul:

It will mean that the platoon is able to scan more terrain, however that also mean that the platoon is exposed to more threats. And chances are, your tanks will expose themselves individually, which means that your chances of establishing local fire superiority over that target are much smaller.

Regarding the SA, maintaining a proper SA becomes much more difficult once your tanks are no longer looking at the same things. That is; if your 2nd and 4th tanks are scanning terrain you yourself can't see, you'll have a much harder time figuring out just what they see. It will also generate a MUCH greater need for communications on the radio. My experience is that close formations provide greater SA.

This little sketch I drew in paint illustrates some of my points:

eksempel2qz6.th.png

(clickable)

Note that even though our plt outnumbers the enemy's 2 vehicles, they still manage to gain a very local fire superiority(2 barrels against our 1), because of the terrain. Now, on this sketch, that will be remedied as soon as the rest of the plt moves forward a couple of metres, but in a real scenario with ranges of several thousands of metres, it'll be more difficult. It isn't difficult to pick off tanks one by one in an open formation. In addition, since the rest of the tanks can't see the targets, the tank in contact needs to spend an unreasonable amount of time on the radio to explain what he's in contact with. If he isn't knocked out, that is; in which case the plt won't have any idea what kind of threat knocked out our tank. As if that isn't bad enough, as they advance further, they'll expose the next tank individually as well, leaving him in the same, shitty situation....

I'd also like to know just how open you feel an open formation should be? (Metres between vehicles)

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Another point is that an enemy, if your tanks are spaced too closely, can have two targets in his sight simultaneously which makes hitting the next target quickly much easier. I think that was at least historically (=WW2) a reason to space out the tanks so that, at typical engagement ranges, only one tank was visible to an enemy gunner at a time. With engagement ranges beyond the 1500m threshold it is probably impossible to maintain that rationale.

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Another point is that an enemy, if your tanks are spaced too closely, can have two targets in his sight simultaneously which makes hitting the next target quickly much easier. I think that was at least historically (=WW2) a reason to space out the tanks so that, at typical engagement ranges, only one tank was visible to an enemy gunner at a time. With engagement ranges beyond the 1500m threshold it is probably impossible to maintain that rationale.

In addition, tools such as the PERI means that target aquisition is much faster. The TC is usually scanning for the next target while the gunner is engaging the first.

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I'd also like to know just how open you feel an open formation should be? (Metres between vehicles)

For a troop 1 km is good in open ground.

As for you pic I think that manovering close to a gap is wrong. We don't do it that way, rather try to stay centered in the open and reporting gap (left/right) and having a drill to move past the gap.

One fire team would cover the gap while the other moves at best possible speed past the gap with the tank closest tube facing the gap. if fire is needed he is already facing it and the engagement is much faster.

Also we don't usually past a gap without reporting it, so the whole troop is in the loop, well we would know before hand anyways by a map recce before the mission.

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Regarding the SA, maintaining a proper SA becomes much more difficult once your tanks are no longer looking at the same things. That is; if your 2nd and 4th tanks are scanning terrain you yourself can't see, you'll have a much harder time figuring out just what they see. It will also generate a MUCH greater need for communications on the radio. My experience is that close formations provide greater SA.

If all tanks are looking at the same thing we would call that "tunnel vision" and that won't do. Every bound is followed by a situation rep, in which all info is pass along, thous giving the troop a good SA of what the lead Fire team sees . Each c/s has a arc of responsibility with in the troop and scans that arc and reports,each c/s keeps the tank on the left/right in sight, its a team effort in SA and protection.

This of course is in a line formation moving in bounds.

Generally moving in line without bounds is not safe and is for low threat situations or having another troop to the left and right and bounding by troop.

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The platoon strength was 4 tanks back in the 80s already.

Dough!!

Time to loose that 8track them:frown:, and stop living in the 80's.:biggrin:

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250 metres between each tank? I can see how that will work in a desert-environment, but in european terrain that seems excessive.

Regarding my sketch, don't focus on the specific terrain, it's a principle-thing. It doesn't have to be a gap, it could be a small gully, trees, etc. Apart from the desert, NO terrain is open enough to ensure mutual support with 100metres + between each tank. Small height differences can be VERY difficult to see, but still be able to conceal a tank. Similarly, small clusters of trees will give you the same difficulties.

I'll try another sketch:

eksempel3bk8.th.png

The oval at the top left is a very small ridge, too low to be practically visible from 1500 metres away, but still high enough to conceal a tank. (In light rolling terrain with long ranges, this IS an issue.) The threat vehicle could also be positioned in a small gully, not easily detectable from 2000 metres away. These terrain features are also not detectable on a 1:50.000 map.

Note also that the threat vehicle is in the sector normally covered by the two left tanks, not the right one, which will recieve the first enemy fire.

Even though the entire plt thinks they're in control of the terrain in front, the threat vehicle is still able to pick off our tanks one by one, by taking advantage of small features in the terrain. Apart from live firing ranges(Which usually are specifically designed to give optimal fields of fire), terrain WILL contain very many objects which will inhibit mutual support in your plt, should you choose to maneuvre in an open formation.

Also, if you choose to maneuvre through "gaps" by bounding overwatch, you are basically removing 50% of your tanks from the battle. The supporting tanks probably won't be able to bear on the enemy, if the enemy has been clever enough to exploit the gap good enough. AT-teams, for instance, will usually position themselves with frontal cover. By maneuvring the entire platoon past the gap in a tight echelon formation, the enemy needs to deal with 4 tanks, not 2. Bounding overwatch was useful when tanks needed to halt in order to fire; with stabilised weapons, the need to bound is greatly reduced IMO.

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If all tanks are looking at the same thing we would call that "tunnel vision" and that won't do. Every bound is followed by a situation rep, in which all info is pass along, thous giving the troop a good SA of what the lead Fire team sees . Each c/s has a arc of responsibility with in the troop and scans that arc and reports,each c/s keeps the tank on the left/right in sight, its a team effort in SA and protection.

This of course is in a line formation moving in bounds.

Generally moving in line without bounds is not safe and is for low threat situations or having another troop to the left and right and bounding by troop.

We're not looking at the same things in the way that every tank is scanning the same piece of terrain. What I mean is, when the plt leader refers to a reference point in the terrain, every tank is able to see it. This is absolutely necessary if you wish to ensure mutual support. Of course, every tank has it's specific sector to cover, but if no other tanks are able to support you in your sector(which will be the case with 100 metres between each tank in euro terrain), your tanks are probably going to face most of the threats alone.

IMHO, moving in bounds with a modern tank platoon is not advicable, since you're removing 50% of your firepower. Any decent enemy that wants to get your flank, will position himself with frontal cover, thus rendering your supporting element useless. In my book, moving the plt grouped together will give you a much higher degree of control than bounding in most terrain types. A better solution if you want to stop more often, is to move your entire plt at a time, but use temporary BPs more often. Still faster and less complex than bounding, but you'll have 100% of your barrels with you, and there is MUCH less need for radio traffic. Also, SA is better, because the the tanks all see the same things. (Again, not scanning the same sector, but they will see reference points the plt leader is referring to, and they will see the targets the neighbouring tank is engaging)

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Formations are entirely METT-TC dependent.

What are your Mission objectives and constraints?

What is the disposition and strength of the Enemy? What spacing and formations are they using?

How much Time do you have to reach your OBJ, ORP, or BP?

What Tactics are the enemy using?

What type of Terrain will you be moving across. What type of terrain will you be moving onto?

Are there any Civilian considerations? (Not applicable to SB at this time of course...)

All these factors go into my decision as to what formations and spacing to use.

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In your pic all the troop in in line. This is only happening when the first fire team is stopped and the second is either passing (leapfrog) or is taking a fire position for the stopped fire team to move off (cat).

The team that is stopped is covering the other team while they move, and have told the team moving what they can see, and more important what the can support to (ground) prior to them moving. So if the team moving comes under fire as per your pic the stopped team can return fire, or they will see the enemy move from a turret down to a hull down in order to engage. The enemy must be:

1-able to hit a moving target in broken ground

2- move from a turret down to a hull down undetected.

rember the stopped fire team is looking in the direction of the enemy and will notice any movement or black smoke from a tank or a ATGM launch.

Moving in troops (non-bounding) is moving without mutual protection, its your life and your team mates, and your choice. Me I'd like to have a beer after with my guys and not see them dead.

Our training areas have both European and desert areas, they have different ground features and we are able to adadapt to both, the brits come here also to train for IRAQ.

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Moving in troops (non-bounding) is moving without mutual protection, its your life and your team mates, and your choice. Me I'd like to have a beer after with my guys and not see them dead.

No, it's not, it's actually moving with a much higher degree of mutual support. Achieving a flanking/semi-flanking position which is completely covered from the front isn't hard to do at all, especially in euro terrain, and this is the MO of most AT-teams I've spoken with. This means that your plt will face the enemy with 2 tanks, while the 2 covering tanks won't be able to bear AT ALL. Bounding overwatch makes sense when your plt is equipped with tanks that needs to stop before firing. Not so with modern, gyrostabilised turrets.

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This sketch will illustrate my point.

eksempel4rl4.th.png

Note that the enemy hitting the right tank is completely covered from the supporting element. This means that only the moving element is exposed, and if the right tank is knocked out, you've got 1 tank left to face the threat. Most terrain allows this kind of MO to a smaller og bigger extent, which means that your supporting element will in many cases not be able to return fire on the enemy firing on your moving element.

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No, it's not, it's actually moving with a much higher degree of mutual support. Achieving a flanking/semi-flanking position which is completely covered from the front isn't hard to do at all, especially in euro terrain, and this is the MO of most AT-teams I've spoken with.

You seem to be missing the point of the fireteam that is supporting the moving firetean. They (as I have posted) are protecting/covering/watching/engaging the team that is on the move.

How is this 50%?

One team firing from a stopped position, and the other team firing from the move is in my books 100%, with 50% being harder to hit as its moving.

This means that your plt will face the enemy with 2 tanks, while the 2 covering tanks won't be able to bear AT ALL.

The two covering tanks are to cover (thats why we call them covering tanks) , the moving team will not move out of their coverage, therefore the stopped team CAN be able to bear fire on the enemy. It has been my experience that its much easer to see movement while stopped than moving, thous the stopped team will generally see the enemy first. And from what I've read about history of tank warfare past and modern this is the case.

Bounding overwatch makes sense when your plt is equipped with tanks that needs to stop before firing. Not so with modern, gyrostabilised turrets.

If this were the case most armies would not teach it{Bounding overwatch}, however I do believe that most armies still do and it is for a reason.

In the end it how each country does its fighting, and what value it places on conserving its forces and the troops. We will use overwatch in most cases to preserve our combat strength,

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This sketch will illustrate my point.

eksempel4rl4.th.png

Your tanks are not centered in the area..that could lead to a bad time as you has drawn

Note that the enemy hitting the right tank is completely covered from the supporting element. This means that only the moving element is exposed, and if the right tank is knocked out, you've got 1 tank left to face the threat. Most terrain allows this kind of MO to a smaller og bigger extent, which means that your supporting element will in many cases not be able to return fire on the enemy firing on your moving element.

Crew commander apprehension prior to moving to next fire position-

1-Where is my next position

2-How do I get there (route)

3-Where is the enemy likely to be

I guess you have to be looking at your map and think like the enemy before moving to your next position.........

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1) On a 1:50.000 map, you will not see enough terrain features to have a decent understanding of how small gullys, tree clusters and height differences will influence possible BPs. Maps are not that detailed. Unless you've been in the area a few times before, you ARE going to get a few surprises terrain-wise, no matter how good of a job you did with the map.

2) I am not missing your point about the covering team, I am just not so optimistic as you are in regards to their ability to detect an enemy that utilises frontal cover. I believe my sketch showed my 50%-point well enough. There is NO WAY that you can maneuvre your element several hundred of metres away from your covering element, and not expose yourself against areas your covering element cannot cover. That is simply not possible. If the maneuvring element is only to stay within the area the covering team has 100% control over, it can't move at all. The enemy is not stupid, his AT-teams WILL strive to accomplish frontal cover, and if you choose to split your plt, you will not be able to bear against him with your entire force.

3) Bounding overwatch is useful in some, rare scenarios. However, in most of the scenarios that don't involve VERY open terrain, you will be handing fire superiority over to the enemy, and feeding him your tanks piecemeal.

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There are two dimensions to use as well..

Formations like diamond/box/wedge/vee give relatively large spacing while minimising the unit's footprint.

If you are moving fast, and closely spaced it dramatically increases the likelyhood of your entire unit being caught at once in a single ambush, or driving into mines/bad going/marsh etc.

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If you are moving fast, and closely spaced it dramatically increases the likelyhood of your entire unit being caught at once in a single ambush, or driving into mines/bad going/marsh etc.

If the enemy can see you, you can see the enemy. If the enemy can't see you, you probably can't see the enemy. If you move your entire unit together, you're ensuring that every single barrel of your unit will be able to bear on the enemy. If you split your plt into sections, you're basically removing 50% of your barrels from the fight. Remember; keeping half your unit out of the engagement zone also means removing half your unit from the fight.

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