Fire and Movement
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Fire and movement or fire and maneuver is a military tactic that uses suppressive fire to decrease the enemy's ability to return fire, its organization unit cohesion, and morale. The tactic is used by small unit commanders on the modern battlefield. The "movement" part of the action consists of a separate organizational unit moving forward in greater safety afforded by the suppressive fire laid down on the enemy.
Fire and Movement became particularly important when more and more rifled muskets and breech-loading weapons, later followed by machine guns, were fielded on the battlefields of the 19th century. The increased accuracy, range and rate of fire translated into more firepower, allowing smaller units to operate more independently. This marked the transition from First to Second-generation warfare that saw the increasing application of Fire and Movement on the tactical level.
According to Stephen Biddle, the effective use of fire and maneuver was the key to ending the stalemates on the lines of the Western Front during the final months of World War I. Since that time, he argues, mastery of fire and maneuver has been one of the central components of successful military tactics in modern land warfare.
Fire and movement can be performed by any unit made up of at least two soldiers. The first part of the military unit suppresses the enemy by firing from behind cover, while the second advances. After a short time, the advancing unit will halt behind cover and open fire, allowing the second to advance. The two parts of the unit will repeat the cycle until the objective is met. Enemy suppression can also be achieved with direct and/or indirect fire from combat support units. Artillery, mortars and armor are a few examples of combat support units often used in fire and movement.
In the United States military, a basic fire and movement tactic is called overwatch. There also exists several variations of overwatch, generally adding further description to more accurately describe the specific maneuver.
A unit fires upon an enemy to distract or suppress them allowing another unit to assault, flank or encircle the enemy. The enemy will be pinned down and cannot react, and will be forced to take cover until the flanking unit engages them.
Heavy and continuous suppressive fire keeps an opponent in a defensive posture (hunkered in their foxholes instead of taking aimed shots) and therefore limits the enemy's overall firepower. Suppressive fire also prevents the enemy from properly assessing the attack and organizing a coherent and coordinated defense or counter-attack.
While a base of fire is set up, the second unit will advance to cover in front, in the process setting up a new base of fire at this point. After a new base of fire has been set up, the first unit will advance, under cover of the new fire base, to a new position and set up another base of fire.
These actions are repeated until the units have closed upon the enemy position. At this point they engage directly with the enemy, often with grenade-throwing, close-quarters battle techniques, and hand-to-hand combat.
Use in film
This tactic was used in the British film, Bravo Two Zero. A small unit of SAS soldiers is attacked from the rear in open desert by a mechanized unit of the Iraq Army. Turning to face the threat, the SAS fought in a series of bounds and over watches while utilizing overwhelming firepower to get within hand grenade range, thereby eliminating the attack from the rear.
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- The Age of Wars of Religion, 1000-1650, Cathal J. Nolan, p. 374
- Various (2014). "Fire and Movement". Retrieved January 19, 2014.
- Kenneth F. Mckenzie, Jr. (1993). "Elegant Irrelevance: Fourth Generation Warfare". Retrieved January 19, 2014.
- Biddle, Stephen (2004). Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle. Princeton (N.J.): Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691116458. Retrieved 10 November 2014.