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Small Wars Journal article on future urban combat. 

It's weighted toward counter-terrorism/insurgency but there are many valid points. 

My interest here stems from comparing and contrast the self evident truth of more people in cities = more conflict in cities, VS the observed nature of both the Donbass and Syrian wars. 

Interestingly, the Donbass war had relatively few instances of drawn out urban warfare. My read is that the geography of the region, with no real choke points, coupled with a very high average frontage per  unit ( @Haiduk has mentioned 1-2 miles per company, sometimes even per platoon)  allowed for constant maneuvering by both sides. 

One of the fiercest fights was for an airport outside a major city (Donetsk, of course) and the climactic fight for Debaltsev' was fundamentally to control an MSR between the two main rebel cities. Ie, the town itself was less the objective than the road/rail roads that ran through it (and also to trap/destroy a significant element of the UKRAINIAN front line forces) . 

I'm not very versed in Syria, at all, but my impression is that it is more in line with the articles main contention. Every single major battle has been in a city. Control of those cities defines the real strategic state of affairs. By contrast, controlling oil fields/bases etc are more  of tactical importance, due to the inherent l difficult to hold tgem (at least by the SA proper). The terrain natural drives the focus on cities - the mountains of West Syria are a devil to fight on and control, and the deserts of the East allow for extremely fluid lines. 

Feel free to correct me if I am wrong %) 

WITH CMBS the in-game campaigns are actually fairly close to the way things played out, reasonably so - most maps are primarily rural, with one or two heavier urban fights (eg the US city assault towards the end).  

TBH, for me, the observed flow of this regional fight implies less of a need for the US  Marines than would be like by some :) - Unless they are doing their classic fight in from the sea, of course.

Otherwise, I'd be very wary about placing them in a Falluhjah/Mosul/Hue type fight in a geography like the Donbass - its so much more easy for them to get outflanked and trapped while engaged in pounding their way towards a city centre. 

Naturally, Stalingrad is what pops into one's mind at this point. 

So...if the Marines were included in a future  CMBS module and (say) mini-campaign, then it would be prudent to keep them oriented to the coast. An example could be to relieve/assault a coastal city like Mariupol, perhaps leapfrogging their way up the coast, rather than get chopped up 100km inland in a urban bear trap, vulnerable to encirclement and decimation by concentrated LR Fires, without the manpower to endure such losses. By staying coastal they would retain their primary advantages (naval support, logistics and mobility) and ensure a vital Ukrainian strategic need - access to the Black Sea. If UKR ever loses that it will rapidly lose viability as a state. 

So, while the future is urban for counter terrorism (indeed, it already is) the future of interstate war will still be heavily influenced by other factors, with the regional geographic flow still as the primary former of operations. 

Thoughts, comments, WTFs/Lols all welcome :).

 

Edited by kinophile
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2 hours ago, kinophile said:

( @Haiduk has mentioned 1-2 miles per company, sometimes even per platoon)  allowed for constant maneuvering by both sides. 

"Sometimes"... Hm... I would be say "in most cases" %). Most weird fact is frontline sector in 25 km southern of Donetsk, which after Ilovaisk disaster defended 74th recon battalion only with one BMP-2 and without any artillery and even mortar support.  

As urban (or heavy structure) combats you also forgot the battle for Luhansk airport, battle for Ilovaisk, two battles for Vuhlehirs'k (rus.Uglegorsk) and bloody battle for Shakhtarsk (though there was mostly mortar and artillery exchanges and direct clashes have took place when Ukrainian troops broke through). Also examples of fierce fighting in Shyrokyne and Nikishyno and some other places, but its are more large settlements, then towns and cities.

Edited by Haiduk
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11 hours ago, kinophile said:

Interestingly, the Donbass war had relatively few instances of drawn out urban warfare. My read is that the geography of the region, with no real choke points, coupled with a very high average frontage per  unit ( @Haiduk has mentioned 1-2 miles per company, sometimes even per platoon)  allowed for constant maneuvering by both sides. 

I'm not very versed in Syria, at all, but my impression is that it is more in line with the articles main contention. Every single major battle has been in a city. Control of those cities defines the real strategic state of affairs.

I'd suggest the following reasons as well:

  1. Different schools of thoughts: ex-Soviet military school is very much about maneuver warfare whereas Syria is still stuck somewhere in the past long gone. This defines commanders decisions.
  2. Road network and transport platforms in Syria. Road network is very much hub-and-spoke of highways and cities. Fighting platforms come in the form of civilian 4WDs and civilian buses and trucks provide for transportation. Since they require quality roads so it makes the task of controlling transportation hubs so important.
  3. Syrian war turns a "real" all-out war only in the very brief periods of intensive fighting (if at all...). Fully encircles cities of hundreds thousands live in full encirclement for years. That means encirclement does not mean real sealing out - an absurdity from a military point of view. So why practice maneuver if it does not give any advantage?

All points are IMHO...

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Syria is mostly urban conflict because of that is where the opposition forces mostly choose to fight, and there is no lack of big urban areas. Opposition forces are strongest at fighting in cities, because they lack the resources to fight in the open. This is because of the RUS and Assad air supremacy and mechanized/armored formations they possess. We have seen all the recent opposition "maneuver warfare like" offensives vaporized by the aforementioned assets.

First the terrain was different in Ukraine. The major fighting was not taking place in urban centers. The conflict "froze" before Ukrainians got to the major urban  centers with significant opposition forces.

Second the forces were different, both sides were and are highly mechanized/armored and there also were multiple at least company sized Russian MEC/Armod elements operating on the opposition side. Opposition AA assets (and the weakness of UKR airforce) were enough to keep them safe from air attacks.

Third and this one is the most speculative one. The Ukraine conflict is a lot more "civilized" conflict than the one in Syria. There is no large scale deliberate targeting of civilians. Just look at the casualty figures and not to even mention chemical weapons and killing by starvation of the population. This makes me think that in the war in Donbass the sides are also somewhat following the "rules of war" and avoiding major urban fights which necessarily lead to major civilian casualties.

Edited by The_MonkeyKing
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5 minutes ago, The_MonkeyKing said:

The conflict "froze" before Ukrainians got to the major urban  centers with significant opposition forces.

No. During 2014 campaing of intensive maneuver warfare Ukrainain troops liberated one city with population ower 450 000 - Mariupol, several cities with population over 100 000 - Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Siverodonetsk, Lysychansk and dozens of towns (in ukrainian classification "settlement of city type") with population 10-50000.

There is a significant difference in comparison with Syria - both sides tryed to avoid mass civilian casualties and total destruction like we can seen in Chechnya and Syria. So defenders in most cases hel positions on some distance from the settlements or on its outskirts. Inside the settlements only most appropriate buildings turned in strongpoints - as a rule local administrations (by soviet building norms such type of buildings should be more resistable to heavt ammunition hits), force structures offices and sometimes in the schools of 40-60th-years of building (also enough strong).

Second differ from Syria is when defenders seen they can be encircled or outflanked, in most cases they withdrew and didn't try to fight inside the settlements.

Third differs - in the summer 2014 separatists forces hasn't enough mancount and heavy weapon for long and fierced defending of large settlements. Our soldiers have said only indecision and hasitation of highest political establishment didn't allow to liberate Luhansk in the beginning of August - our special forces already were sneaking in the city, but our political establishment afraid panicaly of street clashes, which can inflict big casualties of civilians and negative reaction of the West, and didn't give the order. Time was lost and from 12th Aug vanguard of Russion troops and new parties of Rusian volunteers came in almost defensless city.  Almost the same situatin was with Donetsk. Yes, the city has enough troops inside and was much more heavy defended, but in late July was a chance to anchored in one of it's districts - volunteers and special forces also crossed city limit and were ready to advance, but HQ ordered "go back".

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57 minutes ago, Haiduk said:

No. During 2014 campaing of intensive maneuver warfare Ukrainain troops liberated one city with population ower 450 000 - Mariupol, several cities with population over 100 000 - Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Siverodonetsk, Lysychansk and dozens of towns (in ukrainian classification "settlement of city type") with population 10-50000.

As I said: "The conflict "froze" before Ukrainians got to the major urban centers with significant opposition forces." Your example battle, Mariupol total opposition forces were around 100 and same is true for the rest. After the point when Ukrainians got in to contact with significant opposition forces with their Russian backup no significant urban battles were fought.

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1 hour ago, The_MonkeyKing said:

As I said: "The conflict "froze" before Ukrainians got to the major urban centers with significant opposition forces." Your example battle, Mariupol total opposition forces were around 100 and same is true for the rest. After the point when Ukrainians got in to contact with significant opposition forces with their Russian backup no significant urban battles were fought.

Ukrainians got to the major urban centers before Russians - Donetsk and Horlivka, for example, continuously were taking in encirclement until 24th Aug. After Russian invasion I can remember such big (big for this war, of course) urban battles like Vuhlehirsk 30.01.2015 and Mariinka 3.06.2015. Some clashes also was in Debaltsevo, but that was just our screen of small number of special forces, which covered withdrawal of mech.infantry and police units.   

Edited by Haiduk
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37 minutes ago, Haiduk said:

Ukrainians got to the major urban centers before Russians - Donetsk and Horlivka, for example, continuously were taking in encirclement until 24th Aug. After Russian invasion I can remember such big (big for this war, of course) urban battles like Vuhlehirsk 30.01.2015 and Mariinka 3.06.2015. Some clashes also was in Debaltsevo, but that was just our screen of small number of special forces, which covered withdrawal of mech.infantry and police units.   

I agree :). If the Russians wouldn't have intervened in the scale they did we might have seen some largeish urban battles in the clean ups of Donetsk and Luhansk. Might have gotten ugly, but I am not sure would the opposition forces had the dedication to fight till the end like we have seen in Syria.

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Interesting. So, naturally, in the Donbassthere are several factors at work:

- The smooth flow of terrain in most cardinal directions. 

- presence of organised mechanised formations (and the institutional doctrine for their use) on either side

-availability of heavy weapons that can effectively and reliably punch a hole in defenses 

- insufficient troop & mech numbers to properly invest any large city (ie 200K+) and also hold off relief forces.

For Ukraine it comes down to also having to defend the rest of the country, and for the Rebels major issues are, also, troop numbers, but as well it appears there is a bare minimal level of enthusiasm amongst the populace to die on the front line. 

By the time the Rebels had enough numbers and machinery Minsk II had come into effect, weakly but it stayed in place. 

Now, of course, both sides have far better capabilities (relative to their ceasefire states) and far more is invested politically in cities like Donetsk/Luhansk/Mariupol. 

A UKR attack into Luhansk would be subject to cross border fires, while a Donetsk attack would require a lot more numbers, temporary/localised Air supremacy and some degree of local population resistance to the Rebel government. 

The Donbass Republics, by contrast, have better options with somewhere like Mariupol - they can cut it off on land, while Russia can blockade from the Sea. Crimea gives a very hand nearbyvair/sea base so local Air supremacy would be relatively easier to achieve & maintain. Terrain wise, it makes an excellent possible Stalingrad except that Russian FS is overwhelmingingly effective on a stationary target.

Finally, Mariupol is at the far end of UK logistics, I believe? I'm assuming a centralised, Soviet style system. 

 

Edited by kinophile
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Mariupol is too value place to destroy it in Stalingrad or Groznyi style urban combat. Two giaint metallurgy factories and port. Both sides have interest to use this potential. Also oligarchs-factory owners strong influence on UKR government and their ties with Russia establishment maintains some guarantee for "inviolability" of the city. Conflict between Russia and Ukraine has not only historical and political cases, but also strong economical component. Though, on other hand, on occupied territories we can see looting of industry - many factories and mines either already scrapped on metal or moved to Russia. But anyway I doubt that each side will defend Mariupol to last soldier. This is not total war for destruction. 

From logistic side Mariupol as sector HQ is a logistic center of this part of front. 

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Interesting, how strategic economic concerns could possibly affect tactical approaches. 

Of course, the citiy's value could also mean its destruction has value also - as a warning: "We're not kidding around - cease or we destroy valuable cities, like this...". 

Consider the Oligarchic control of UKR gov, selective "economic warfare" could achieve RUS goals the quickest.  

From a strategic perspective, it could make sense for RUS to seemingly overreach, encircle somewhere valuable like Mariupol and hold it hostage - not the people, but the industry. 

Considering the terrain of Mariupol, a hard, short fight for the primary local industry would make more sense than a grind through valueless (to the UKR  Oligarchs) population centres. 

I believe this pattern has already heavily informed the Donbass War already, no? 

Edited by kinophile
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This was something lacking in the CMBS campaigns - they are very often just straight up Unit v. Unit fights, with very little consideration of operational concerns other than basic attack/defend.

The campaigns would be more interesting with aspects such as take/hold a town's government infrastructure (town hall, police HQ, Admin buildings, Fire Station, Water Plant, Gas excganges). The vast majority of CMBS fights offer up single aspect tactical encounters - but urban fights are as often (I believe) about the structural control as they are about the elimination of the enemy.

Incorporating stronger reflections of such operational level priorities would add tactical depth to otherwise rather straightforward urban combat. 

IMHO :)

Edited by kinophile
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2 hours ago, kinophile said:

The campaigns would be more interesting with aspects such as take/hold a town's government infrastructure (town hall, police HQ, Admin buildings, Fire Station, Water Plant, Gas excganges).

Doesn't the "OCCUPY/HOLD" victory condition do that - accompanied with 'PRESERVE STRUCTURE" penalty/points?  Can a defender get points for preserving structure, or that only penalizes the attacker if he destroys it?

Edited by Erwin
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My angle is not that CMBS does not have the capacity for urban combat scenario design (it has plenty) but that there could be a deeper integration and articulation of higher level concerns/objectives, thus  informing local tactical decisions. 

For example, If I know that my Masters in Moscow/Brussels/Washington are adamant a particular structure must be protected/intact, I would be far more likely to achieve that. Currently, I find I can ride roughshod over a lot of scenario conditions, so long as I kill sufficient enemy. This can be a natural reaction to the pressure of combat (**** the higher ups, we're taking sniper fire from that factory). 

I think I've basically approached a position of whining about the CMBS narrative not being complex enough, so I'll stop here :). 

Maybe this just boils down to wanting more full Urban scenarios. 

Edited by kinophile
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20 hours ago, Erwin said:

Doesn't the "OCCUPY/HOLD" victory condition do that - accompanied with 'PRESERVE STRUCTURE" penalty/points?

Just as Erwin says. 

20 hours ago, Erwin said:

Can a defender get points for preserving structure, or that only penalizes the attacker if he destroys it?

It can be set up either way.  B)

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19 hours ago, kinophile said:

"...can ride roughshod over a lot of scenario conditions, so long as I kill sufficient enemy."

This is true.  But in RL, would not a force end up doing much undesired destruction if the defense was really tough?  

Also, is it possible to assign so many points to a destroyed building that it wipes out the points gain for killing enemy.  If that is possible, this is "simply" an issue of the designer doing a better job figuring out the victory points allocations.

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11 minutes ago, Erwin said:

Is there a limitation on how small the preserve objective area is?  ie:  Could each small building and/or parts of a large building have individual "Preserve" objectives.

A preserve objective can be as small as one action spot.  However there are a maximum of 15 terrain objectives which are divided between Occupy, Preserve, Destroy, Touch, Exit, AI Trigger friendly, AI Trigger friendly armor, AI Trigger enemy and AI Trigger enemy armor.    

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1 hour ago, MOS:96B2P said:

A preserve objective can be as small as one action spot.

One tile surely? 

7 minutes ago, MOS:96B2P said:

Yes, IMO more terrain objectives would be very helpful.

More is always better where the editor is concerned.....I've just started tinkering with CM:BS again and having 16 AI slots is great (but 32 would be better). ;)

Edited by Sgt.Squarehead
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