Military tactics can be described as the science and art of organizing a military force, and the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In current military thought, tactics are the lowest of three planning levels. The highest tier of planning is the strategy, which is about how force is translated into political objectives or, more specifically, how the means and ends of war are bridged together. An intermediate level, which converts strategy into tactics is the operational level that deals with formations of units. In common vernacular, "tactical" decisions are those made to achieve greatest immediate value and "strategic" decisions are those made to achieve the greatest overall value irrespective of immediate return.
Military tactics are both a science and an art. They answer the questions of how best to deploy and employ forces on a small scale. Some practices have not changed since the dawn of warfare: ambushes, seeking and turning flanks, maintaining reconnaissance, creating and using obstacles and defences, etc. Using ground to best advantage has not changed much either. Heights, rivers, swamps, passes, choke points, and natural cover, can all be used in multiple ways. Before the nineteenth century, many military tactics were confined to battlefield concerns: how to maneuver units during combat in open terrain. Nowadays, specialized tactics exist for many situations, for example for securing a room in a building.
What does change constantly is the technological dimension, as well as the sociology of combatants. One might wish to reflect on the differences in the technology and society that produced such different types of soldier or warrior as the Greek Hoplite, the Roman Legionary, the Medieval Knight, the Turk-Mongol Horse Archer, the Chinese Crossbowman, the British Redcoat, or an Air Cavalry trooper. Each, constrained by his weaponry, logistics and his social conditioning, would use a battlefield differently, but would usually seek the same outcomes from their use of tactics. In many respects the First World War changed the use of tactics as advances in technology rendered prior tactics useless.
- Clausewitz, Carl (1832). On War.
- Rogers, Clifford J. (2006). "Strategy, Operational Design, and Tactics". In Bradford, James C. International Encyclopedia of Military History. New York: Routledge.
- Paddy Griffith (1994). Battle Tactics of the Western Front: The British Army's Art of Attack, 1916–18. Yale University Press. p. 20.
- Johnson, Rob, Michael Whitby, John France (2010). How to win on the battlefield : 25 key tactics to outwit, outflank, and outfight the enemy. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-25161-4.
- Muhm, Gerhard. "German Tactics in the Italian Campaign".
- Gerhard Muhm : La Tattica nella campagna ass d’Italia, in LINEA GOTICA AVAMPOSTO DEI BALCANI, (Hrsg.) Amedeo Montemaggi - Edizioni Civitas, Roma 1993.