tactical preschool 56

We have already had a lesson on basic tactical concepts such as; flanking, fire and maneuver and team formations. Now we are going to talk about where these all come together. Offensive Maneuver.  The forms of offensive maneuver are the basic techniques a force conducting offensive operations uses to gain advantage over the enemy. Each form of maneuver has a resultant effect on the enemy. A few fundamental examples are:

The Frontal Attack:

A frontal attack is an offensive maneuver where the main action is directed against the front of the enemy forces. It is used to rapidly overrun or destroy a weak enemy force or fix a significant portion of a larger enemy force in place over a broad front to support a flanking attack or envelopment. It is generally the least preferred form of maneuver because it strikes the enemy where he is the strongest.

The Flank Attack:

A flanking attack is a form of offensive maneuver directed at the flank of an enemy force. As you already know, a flank is the right or left side of a formation that is not oriented toward the enemy. It is usually not as strong in terms of forces or fires as is the front of a military formation. If there is no discernible “end” or “side” of an enemy position, a flank may be “created” through the use of fires or by a successful penetration of the formation. A flank attack is similar to an envelopment but generally conducted on a shallower axis. Such an attack is designed to defeat the enemy force while minimizing the effect of the enemy’s frontally oriented combat power. Flanking attacks are normally conducted with the main effort directed at the flank of the enemy and a supporting effort that engages the enemy force’s front. This supporting effort diverts the enemy’s attention from the threatened flank. This is often used for a hasty attack or meeting engagement where speed and simplicity are paramount to maintaining battle tempo and, ultimately, the initiative.

The Single Envelopment:

An envelopment is a form of offensive maneuver by which the attacker bypasses the enemy’s principal defensive positions entirely in order to secure objectives to the enemy’s rear. The enemy’s positions may be bypassed using ground, waterborne or vertical (helicopter or Airborne) envelopment. An envelopment compels the defender to fight on the ground of the attacker’s choosing. It requires surprise and superior mobility relative to the enemy.

The Double Envelopment:

The commander may choose to conduct a double envelopment. Double envelopments are designed to force the enemy to fight in two or more directions simultaneously to meet the converging axis of the attack. It may lead to the encirclement of the enemy force so the commander must be prepared to contain and defeat any breakout attempts. The commander selects multiple objectives to the rear of the enemy’s defense and the enveloping forces use different routes to attack, seize or secure those objectives.


Infiltration is a form of maneuver where forces move covertly through or into an enemy area to attack positions in the enemy’s rear. This movement is made, either by small groups or by individuals, at extended or irregular intervals. Forces move over, through or around enemy positions without detection to assume a position of advantage over the enemy.Infiltration is normally conducted with other forms of maneuver.


A penetration is a form of offensive maneuver where an attacking force seeks to rupture the enemy’s defense on a narrow front to disrupt the defensive system.

Penetrations are used when enemy flanks are not assailable or time, terrain or the enemy’s disposition does not permit the employment of another form of maneuver. Successful penetrations create assailable flanks and provide access to the enemy’s rear. A penetration generally occurs in three stages:

  • Rupturing the position.
  • Widening the gap.
  • Seizing the objective.

A penetration is accomplished by concentrating overwhelmingly superior combat power on a narrow front and in depth. As the attacking force ruptures the enemy’s defenses, units must be tasked to secure the shoulders of the breach and ultimately widen the gap for follow-on units. Rupturing the enemy position and widening the gap are not in themselves decisive. The attacker must exploit the rupture by attacking into the enemy’s rear or attacking laterally to roll up the enemy’s positions.

Reference: MCDP 1-0, Marine Corps Operations, pgs. 7-16 to 7-23



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