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Salient (military)

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German attack plan (blue arrows) to pinch out the Soviet-occupied Kursk salient, which resulted in the Battle of Kursk
German-occupied salient in the Ardennes on the eve of the Battle of the Bulge on December 15, 1944

A salient, also known as a bulge, is a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. The salient is surrounded by the enemy on multiple sides, making the troops occupying the salient vulnerable. The opponent's front line that borders a salient is referred to as a re-entrant – that is, an angle pointing inwards. A deep salient is vulnerable to being "pinched off" through the base, and this will result in a pocket in which the forces in the salient become isolated and without a supply line. On the other hand, a breakout of the forces within the salient through its tip can threaten the rear areas of the opposing forces outside it, leaving them open to an attack from behind.


Salients can be formed in a number of ways. An attacker can produce a salient in the defender's line by either intentionally making a pincer movement around the military flanks of a strongpoint, which becomes the tip of the salient, or by making a broad, frontal attack which is held up in the centre but advances on the flanks. An attacker would usually produce a salient in his own line by making a broad, frontal attack that is successful only in the center, which becomes the tip of the salient. A salient can also be formed if the attacking army feigns retreat, tricking the defending forces to chase them down, leading to the main army being on all sides in a pre-arranged ambush.[1]

In trench warfare, salients are distinctly defined by the opposing lines of trenches, and they were commonly formed by the failure of a broad frontal attack. The static nature of the trenches meant that forming a pocket was difficult, but the vulnerable nature of salients meant that they were often the focus of attrition battles.

Map showing German forces pushing out through the tip of the salient in an attempt to penetrate into the rear of the Allied forces during the Battle of the Bulge, December 16–25, 1944.
  Front line, 16 December
  Front line, 20 December
  Front line, 25 December



In mobile warfare, such as the German Blitzkrieg, salients were more likely to be made into pockets which became the focus of annihilation battles.

A pocket carries connotations that the encircled forces have not allowed themselves to be encircled intentionally, as they may when defending a fortified position, which is usually called a siege. This is a similar distinction to that made between a skirmish and pitched battle.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Art of War under Chinggis Qahan (Genghis Khan) » de Re Militari".
  2. ^ Rice, Gary. "Daniel Sickles". Historynet. Retrieved 2022-03-24.
  3. ^ Britton, Rick (2019-11-26). "The Antihero of Gettysburg". Historynet. Retrieved 2022-03-24.
  4. ^ C. A. Rose (June 2007). Three Years in France with the Guns: Being Episodes in the Life of a Field Battery. Echo Library. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-4068-4042-1. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  5. ^ "Battle of Kursk". HISTORY. October 29, 2009. Retrieved 2022-03-24.
  6. ^ Waxman, Olivia B. (Dec 16, 2019). "How the Battle of the Bulge Got Its Name". Time. Retrieved 2022-03-24.

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