U.S. Army Field Manual 100-5: Operations

Chapter 2: The Fundamentals of Army Operations

Excerpts from subsection: The Foundations of Army Operations

Unclassified. Approved for public release.

Table of Contents
The Principles of War

The nine principles of war provide general guidance for the conduct of war at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. They are the enduring bedrock of Army doctrine. Today's force-projection Army recognizes the following nine principles of war.

Direct every military operation toward a clearly defined, decisive and attainable objective.

The ultimate military purpose of war is the destruction of the enemy's armed forces and will to fight. The ultimate objectives of operations other than war might be more difficult to define; nonetheless, they too must be clear from the beginning. The linkage, therefore, between objectives at all levels of war is crucial; each operation must contribute to the ultimate strategic aim.

Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative.

Offensive action is the most effective and decisive way to attain a clearly defined common objective. Offensive operations are the means by which a military force seizes and holds the initiative while maintaining freedom of action and achieving decisive results. This is fundamentally true across all levels of war.

Mass the effects of overwhelming combat power at the decisive place and time.

Synchronizing all the elements of combat power where they will have decisive effect on an enemy force in a short period of time is to achieve mass. To mass is to hit the enemy with a closed fist, not poke at him with fingers of an open hand. Mass must also be sustained so the effects have staying power. Thus, mass seeks to smash the enemy, not sting him. This results from the proper combination of combat power with the proper application of other principles of war. Massing effects, rather than concentrating forces, can enable numerically inferior forces to achieve decisive results, while limiting exposure to enemy rife.

Employ all combat power available in the most effective way possible; allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts.

Economy of force is the judicious empioyment and distribution of forces. No part of the force should ever be left without purpose. When the time comes for action, all parts must act. The allocation of available combat power to such tasks as limited attacks, defense, delays, deception, or even retrograde operations is measured in order to achieve mass elsewhere at the decisive point and time on the battlefield.

Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power.

Maneuver is the movement of forces in relation to the enemy to gain positional advantage. Effective maneuver keeps the enemy off balance and protects the force. It is used to exploit successes, to preserve freedom of action, and to reduce vulnerability. It continually poses new problems for the enemy by rendering his actions ineffective, eventually leading to defeat.

For every objective, seek unity of command and unity of effort.

At all levels of war, employment of military forces in a manner that masses combat power toward a common objective requires unity of command and unity of effort. Unity of command means that all the forces are under one responsible commander. It requires a single commander with the requisite authority to direct all forces in pursuit of a unified purpose.

Never permit the enemy to acquire unexpected advantage.

Security enhances freedom of action by reducing vulnerability to hostile acts, influence, or surprise. Security results from the measures taken by a commander to protect his forces. Knowledge and understanding of enemy strategy, tactics, doctrine, and staff planning improve the detailed planning of adequate security measures. Risk is inherent in war; however, commanders must not be overly cautious. To be successful, commanders must take necessary , calculated risks to preserve the force and defeat the enemy. Protecting the force increases friendly combat power.

Strike the enemy at a time or place or in a manner for which he is unprepared.

Surprise can decisively shift the balance of combat power. By seeking surprise, forces can achieve success well out of proportion to the effort expended. Rapid advances in surveillance technology and mass communication make it increasingly difficult to mask or cloak large-scale marshaling or movement of personnel and equipment. The enemy need not be taken completely by surprise but only become aware too late to react effectively. Factors contributing to surprise include speed, effective intelligence, deception, application of unexpected combat power, operations security (OPSEC), and variations in tactics and methods of operation. Surprise can be in tempo, size of force, direction or location of main effort, and timing. Deception can aid the probability of achieving surprise.

Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and concise orders to ensure thorough understanding.

Everything in war is very simple, but the simple thing is difficult. To the uninitiated, military operations are not difficult. Simplicity contributes to successful operations. Simple plans and clear, concise orders minimize misunderstanding and confusion. Other factors being equal, the simplest plan is preferable. Simplicity is especially valuable when soldiers and leaders are tired. Simplicity in plans allows better understanding and troop leading at all echelons and permits branches and sequels to be more easily understood and executed.

Webmaster's note:

The specific principles of war, as outlined above, were probably based on J.F.C. Fuller's eight principles, which he worked out between 1912 and 1924 (based on the theories and discussions by Jomini and Clausewitz, which began during the late 18th century).

His principles were: Objective, Offensive Action, Surprise, Concentration, Economy of Force, Security, Mobility and Cooperation.

The British have two additional principles of war:
Maintenance of Morale and Administration. U.S. military doctrine also recognizes these principles, of course, but they're not explicitly listed because they're more or less implied by the other principles.

The Russian doctrine includes Annihilation as well.

War: A Matter of Principles recommends the following principles - relevant to warfare in the 90's (and the 21st century) - based on its evaluation of the principles of war as adopted by the armed forces of Great Britain and the U.S. (Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force):

  • Selection and Maintenance of the Aim (or Objective)
  • Morale
  • Offensive Action
  • Security
  • Surprise
  • Concentration of Combat Power
  • Economy of Effort
  • Flexibility
  • Unity of Command
  • Administration and Logistics
  • Simplicity
The Tenets of Army Operations

The Army's success on and off the battlefield depends on its ability to operate in accordance with five basic tenets: initiative, agility, depth, synchronization, and versatility. A tenet is a basic truth held by an organization. The fundamental tenets of Army operations doctrine describe the characteristics of successful operations. All training and leadership doctrine and all combat, combat support, and combat service support doctrine derive directly from, and must support, the fundamental tenets. The US Army believes that its five basic tenets are essential to victory. In and of themselves they do not guarantee victory, but their absence makes it difficult and costly to achieve.

Initiative sets or changes the terms of battle by action and implies an offensive spirit in the conduct of all operations. Applied to the force as a whole, initiative requires a constant effort to force the enemy to conform to commanders' operational purposes and tempos, while retaining freedom of action. It means depleting the enemy's options, while still having options of their own. This requires leaders to anticipate events on the battlefield so that they and their units can act and react faster than the enemy. Applied to individual soldiers and leaders, initiative requires a willingness and ability to act independently within the framework of the higher commander's intent.

Agility is the ability of friendly forces to react faster than the enemy and is a prerequisite for seizing and holding the initiative. It is as much a mental as a physical quality. Greater quickness permits the rapid concentration of friendly strength against enemy vulnerabilities. Forces may need to concentrate repeatedly so that by the time the enemy reacts to one action, another has taken its place, disrupting the enemy's plans and leading to late, uncoordinated, and piecemeal responses. This process of successive concentration against locally weaker or unprepared enemy forces enables smaller forces to disorient, fragment, and eventually defeat much larger opposing formations. To achieve such a defeat, leaders and units must be agile.

Depth is the extension of operations in time, space, resources, and purpose. These factors vary by echelon and by constraints given to commanders. What is most important, however, is the fact that in any operation the Army must have the ability to gain information and influence operations throughout the depth of the battlefield. This ability highlights the joint nature of deep operations, which means participation by the other services.

Synchronization is arranging activities in time and space to mass at the decisive point. For example, integrating the activities of intelligence, logistics, and fire support with maneuver leads to synchronized operations. It means that the desired effect is achieved by arranging activities in time and space to gain that effect. Synchronization includes, but is not limited to, the massed effects of combat power at the point of decision.

Versatility is the ability of units to meet diverse mission requirements. Commanders must be able to shift focus, tailor forces, and move from one role or mission to another rapidly and efficiently. Versatility implies a capacity to be multifunctional, to operate across the full range of military operations, and to perform at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. Army units are capable of rapidly realigning forces and refocusing on widely divergent missions. Disciplined units, highly trained and competent throughout the range of military operations, are the wellspring of versatility.

The Dynamics of Combat Power

Combat power is created by combining the elements of maneuver, firepower, protection, and leadership. Overwhelming combat power is the ability to focus sufficient force to ensure success and deny the enemy any chance of escape or effective retaliation. Overwhelming combat power is achieved when all combat elements are violently brought to bear quickly, giving the enemy no opportunity to respond with coordinated or effective opposition.

Commanders seek to apply overwhelming combat power to achieve victory at minimal cost. They attempt to defeat the enemy's combat power by interfering with his ability to maneuver, apply firepower, or provide protection. Commanders multiply the effects of combat power through the integrated efforts of combat, CS, and CSS arms, as well as the forces of the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy.

Four primary elements - maneuver, firepower, protection, and leadership - combine to create combat power - the ability to fight. Their effective application and sustainment, in concert with one another, will decide the outcome of campaigns, major operations, battles, and engagements. Leaders integrate maneuver, firepower, and protection capabilities in a variety of combinations appropriate to the situation.

Maneuver is the movement of combat forces to gain positional advantage, usually in order to deliver - or threaten delivery of - direct and indirect fires. Maneuver is the means of positioning forces at decisive points to achieve surprise, psychological shock, physical momentum, massed effects, and moral dominance. Successful maneuver requires anticipation and mental agility.

Firepower provides destructive force; it is essential in defeating the enemy's ability and will to fight. It is the amount of fire that may be delivered by a position, unit, or weapon system. Firepower may be either direct or indirect. Integrated as part of the commanders concept, firepower includes the fire support functions that may be used separately from or in combination with maneuver to destroy the enemy. The extended range and precision of direct and indirect fire weapon systems, using laser-guided munitions and integrated target acquisition systems, make firepower more lethal than ever before. Firepower can be integrated with smoke or electronic warfare systems to disrupt or disorganize the enemy, producing specific physical and psychological effects.

Protection conserves the fighting potential of a force so that commanders can apply it at the decisive time and place. Protection has four components:

The most essential dynamic of combat power is competent and confident officer and noncommissioned officer leadership. Leaders inspire soldiers with the will to win. They provide purpose, direction, and motivation in combat. Leaders determine how maneuver, firepower, and protection are used, ensuring these elements are effectively employed against the enemy. Thus, no peacetime duty is more important for leaders than studying their profession, understanding the human dimension of leadership, becoming tactically and technically proficient, and preparing for war. These help them understand the effects of battle on soldiers, units, and leaders. The regular study and teaching of military doctrine, theory, history, and biographies of military leaders are invaluable.

Commanders are selected for their tasks because of their moral character, firm willpower, and professional ability. They must imbue their commands with their ideas, desires, energy, and methods.

Professional competence, personality, and the will of strong commanders represent a significant part of any unit's combat power. ... all leaders must demonstrate character and ethical standards. Leaders are first soldiers, and they must know and understand their subordinates. They must act with courage and conviction in battle. Leaders build trust and teamwork. During operations they know where to be to make decisions or to influence the action by their personal presence.

Strong leaders and trained, dedicated soldiers are the greatest combat multipliers. When opposing forces are nearly equal, the moral qualities of soldiers and leaders ... provide the decisive edge.

Once the force is engaged, superior combat power derives from the courage and competence of soldiers, the excellence of their training, the capability of their equipment, the soundness of their combined arms doctrine, and, above all, the quality of their leadership.

Combat Functions

A variety of functions help the commander build and sustain combat power. Commanders integrate and coordinate these functions to synchronize battle effects in time, space, and purpose. The combat functions are:

Intelligence is fundamental to effective planning, security, and deception. Intelligence operations are the organized efforts of a commander to gather and analyze information on the environment of operations and the enemy. Obtaining and synthesizing battlefield information prior to beginning operations is a vital task.

Maneuver is both an element of combat power and a principle of war and is discussed at length under those headings elsewhere in this manual. Maneuver is movement relative to the enemy to put him at a disadvantage. Commanders maneuver their forces to create the conditions for tactical and operational success. By maneuver, friendly forces gain the ability to destroy the enemy or hinder his movement through the direct or indirect application of lethal power or threat thereof. Tactical maneuver is done to gain operational results.

Fire support is the collective and coordinated employment of the fires of armed aircraft, land- and sea-based indirect fire systems, and electronic warfare systems against ground targets to support land combat operations at both the operational and tactical levels.

Fire support is the integration and synchronization of rifes and effects to delay, disrupt, or destroy encmy forces, combat functions, and facilities in pursuit of operational and tactical objectives.

Air defense operations are key when generating combat power. They provide the force with protection from enemy air attack, preventing the enemy from separating friendly forces while freeing the commander to fully synchronize maneuver and firepower. The threat to friendly forces and combat functions is significantly greater than in the past due to weapons of mass destruction and the proliferation of missilc technology.

Mobility operations preserve the freedom of maneuver of friendly forces. Mobility missions include breaching enemy obstacles, increasing battlefield circulation, improving existing routes or building new ones, providing bridge and raft support for crossing rivers, and identifying routes around contaminated areas. By denying mobility to enemy forces (countermobility), Army forces can destroy them with fire and maneuver. These efforts limit the maneuver of enemy forces and enhance the effectiveness of fires. Countermobility missions include building obstacles and using smoke to hinder enemy maneuver.

Survivability operations protect friendly forces from the effects of enemy weapon systems and from natural occurrences. Hardening of facilities and fortification of battle positions are active survivability measures. Deception, OPSEC, and dispersion can increase survivability. Nuclear, biological chemical (NBC) defense measures are also key survivability operations.

Logistics incorporates a variety of technical specialties and functional activities, to include maximizing the use of available host nation infrastructure and contracted logistics support. It provides the physical means with which forces operate, from the production base and replacement centers in the US, to soldiers in contact with the enemy. It applies across the full range of military operations and at all levels of war. As the scale and complexity of Army operations increase, the importance of logistics to their success increases too.

In modern battle, the magnitude of available information challenges leaders at all levels. Ultimately, they must assimilate thousands of bits of information to visualize the battlefield, assess the situation, and direct the military action required to achieve victory . Thinking and acting are simultaneous activities for leaders in battle.

Command has two vital components - decision making and leadership.

Control is inherent in battle command. Control monitors the status of organizational effectiveness and identifies deviations from set standards and corrects them. Commanders acquire and apply means to accomplish their intent. Ultimately, commanders provide a means to measure, report, and correct performance.

Reliable communications are central both to battle command and to control. General Omar Bradley once said, "Congress can make a general, but only communications can make him a commander." Effective battle command requires reliable signal support systems to enable the commander to conduct operations at varying operational tempos.

Joint Capabilities and Missions

The Army does not fight alone. It integrates its efforts within the theater commander's unified operations along with the other services, other national agencies, and often allied and coalition forces. By doing so, the Army's operational capabilities are enhanced, victory comes quicker, and friendly casualties are reduced. The capabilities described below are essential to success on the battlefield.

Army forces depend on space-based systems in joint and combined operations. Space-based systems offer significant political and technical advantages to force-projection operations, allowing quick access to certain capabilities without concern for national boundary restrictions.

Interdiction destroys enemy forces, delays and disrupts their maneuver, and diverts their resources from the main effort. Interdiction is a means to direct combat power simultaneously throughout the depth of enemy forces and hasten enemy loss of initiative and ultimate destruction. Effective interdiction occurs when it is synchronized with maneuver to support the concept of operation of a single commander.

A primary consideration in employing joint forces is gaining and maintaining the freedom of action to conduct operations against the enemy. Control of the air gives commanders the freedom to conduct successful attacks that can neutralize or destroy an enemy's warfighting potential. A continuous effort exists to gain and maintain the capability to use the enemy's airspace to perform combat missions and to deny the enemy the use of friendly airspace. Control of the air enables land forces to execute operations without interference from an enemy's air forces. Without this control, tactical flexibility is lessened. Ground commanders must have access to sufficient airspace to employ Army helicopters, drones, and airborne sensors.

Operations in the maritime and littoral environment contribute to gaining and maintaining freedom of action, just as do air operations. Sea control gives commanders the freedom to project power through the strategic and operational movement of forces by sea, to protect SLOCs, to secure littoral areas from sea-based threats, and to execute air and land operations from the sea. Maritime functions that contribute to land operations are sea control and power projection.

Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps surveillance and reconnaissance efforts are a part of national intelligence gathering and the systematic observation process. These missions are affected to collect information from airborne, space-based, surface-based, and subsurface sensors. Surveillance and reconnaissance operations provide a wide variety of information necessary to the development of national security policy, force posture, planning actions, force employment, and informed responses in times of crisis.

Army forces depend upon airlift and sealift to project their capabilities into the theater of operations and to sustain themselves throughout the assigned mission. They are critical elements of the Army's force-projection strategy. Airlift provides quick insertion and limited capability to move supplies and equipment for Army elements. Sealift provides the movement of large tonnages of supplies, heavy equipment, and weapons systems over the length of a campaign. Sealift also allows for the projection of power through amphibious landings and transport to ports within or adjacent to the theater of operations.

Special operations are actions conducted by specially organized, trained, and equipped military and paramilitary forces to achieve military, diplomatic, economic, or psychological objectives by unconventional means. US SOF consist of Army, Navy, and Air Force units. Special operations occur frequently in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive areas across the full range of Army operations. In operations other than war, they may substitute for the commitment of general-purpose military forces.

The five principal missions of special operations are unconventional warfare, direct actions, special reconnaissance, foreign internal defense, and counterterrorism. In addition, SOF may participate in collateral activities of security assistance, humanitarian assistance, antiterrorism, counterdrug operations, personnel recovery , and special activities with other components.

Tactical Units

Army commanders use a variety of Army units to generate combat power. Commanders may task-organize maneuver units for a particular mission to improve their combined arms capabilities.

The five lypes of infantry forces are light, airborne, air assault, ranger, and mechanized. Each has its own special skills and specific organizational design, but all share the common mission to close with and destroy the enemy.

In mounted warfare, the tank is the primary offensive weapon. Its firepower, protection from enemy fire, and speed create the shock effect necessary to disrupt or defeat the enemy. Tanks can destroy enemy armored vehicles, infantry units, and antitank guided missilc units. Tanks can break through suppressed defenses, exploit the success of an attack by striking deep into the enemy's rear areas, and pursue defeated enemy forces. Armored units can also blunt enemy attacks and launch counterattacks as part of a defense.

The basic missions of cavalry units are reconnaissance, security, and economy of force. The ability of cavalry units to find the enemy, to develop the situation, and to provide the commander with reaction time and security also make them ideal for operating in an economy-of-force role. Cavalry forces can delay an attacking enemy as well as assist in a withdrawal. Air cavalry units perform the same missions of reconnaissance and security as ground cavalry and are organic to all cavalry units.

The firepower, agility, and speed of Army aviation permit ground commanders to close with and defeat a wide range of enemy forces. Attack helicopters are ideally suited for rapid reaction in close, deep, or rear operations. Scout helicopters provide a wide range of armed and unanned reconnaissance and security capabilities. Utility aircraft provide airmobile and air assault capabilities for dismounted infantry and ground antitank units. Dismounted forces achieve greatly increased mobility and can gain positional advantage when rapidly airlifted across the battlefield.

A principal means of fire support in fire and maneuver is the field artillery. It not only provides fires with cannon, rocket, and missile systems but also integrates all means of fire support available to the commander. Field artillery can neutralize, suppress, or destroy enemy direct fire forces, attack enemy artillery and mortars, and deliver scatterable mines to isolate and interdict enemy forces or protect friendly operations. Field artillery units contribute to attacking the enemy throughout the depth of his formations and suppress enemy air defense systems to facilitate ground and air operations. As mobile as the maneuver force it supports, field artillery provides continuous fires in support of the commanders' schemes of maneuver.

ADA units provide tactical and operational-level force protection. Tactical air defense supports the overall objectives of divisions and corps. Operational air defense protects the force and supports joint service counterair objectives. ADA units make a variety of contributions to the battle. They contribute to the intelligence and electronic warfare (IEW) effort by gathering and disseminating information about the enemy air order of battle. They also contribute to the deep battle by denying the enemy his own reconnaissance and C2 aircraft. Additionally, they provide information on enemy surface-to-surface missile launch points to our deep-attack systems.

Engineers operate as an integral member of the combined arms team throughout the theater of operations to provide a full range of engineering capabilities. Engineers execute mobility, countermobility, and survivability missions in the forward combat zone and provide sustainment engineering for support forces. Topographic engineers provide terrain analysis and map products.

MI units are capable of exploiting signals, imagery , signatures, counterintelligence, and human intelligence to provide the commander with early warning of enemy intentions, intelligence preparation of the battlefield, situation development, target development, force projection, and battle damage assessment. They can also direct EW against enemy c2, fire direction, and electronic guidance systems, as well as provide critical counterintelligence support to friendly command force protection programs. These capabilities contribute both directly and indirectly to the effectiveness of combined arms operations.

Other units perform CS or CSS functions in wartime and offer a variety of mission capabilities in operations other than war. Chemical, finance, legal, health service support, MP, personnel, maintenance, ammunition, public affairs, signal, supply, field services, and transportation units are all indispensable to operations and offer a range of capabilities necessary to a versatile force. They can comprise the early entry component in strategic deployment.

Each element of the Total Anny is an important piece of the overall effort. Units are task-organized and employed according to the mission and the situation. They integrate their capabilities to ensure victory across the entire range of military operations, while providing the maximum protection and care to American soldiers.