Battlefield Deception At The Tactical Level Of War
Deception is common sense soldiering.
- General Carl E. Vuono, Chief of Staff
Tactical commanders plan and prepare for upcoming battles and
engagements according to the terms of battle set by campaign and
major operation plans developed at the operational level. Battles
are fought by corps and divisions. Engagements are fought by
brigades and smaller. units. Tactical operations require unity of
effort between corps and divisions throughout the depth of
operations-rear, close, and deep. The task of tactical commanders
The tactical commander is the catalyst who executes the means
for tactical success-battles and engagements-to satisfy operational
- Coordinate attacks on the enemy indepth with attacks on his
- Use indirect approaches and flank positions to achieve
- Assure the uninterrupted support of field artillery, air
defense, air support, engineer, military intelligence (MI),
and logistic units.
- Avoid creating lucrative targets.
- Avoid positions that can become isolated as a result of
enemy maneuver or fires.
- Remain informed in order to execute adjustments to the plan
and retain the means to react to opportunities or threats.
The terms of battle set at higher echelons should be exploited
tactically to the maximum extent possible. Successful tactical
exploitation of the enemy involves, among other things, using
indirect approaches and deception.
TACTICAL DECEPTION PLANNING AND EXECUTION
The key to successful tactical planning is anticipation of
future battle events and being prepared for contingencies.
Deception operations are essential in the tactical planning process
so that friendly anticipatory processes can be conducted with more
certainty and to mask maneuver options. In practice, deceptions can
play a significant role in-
Tactical commanders exploit operational-level terms of battle
by avoiding the enemy's strengths, striking at his weaknesses, and
gaining surprise. To gain surprise-
- Masking the movement of tactical formations.
- Inducing the enemy to miscalculate friendly objectives or
areas to be retained.
- Inducing the enemy to miscalculate friendly zones, sectors,
and areas of responsibility.
- Creating notional tactical formations and force
- Facilitating the execution of maneuver options which may
develop during battles and engagements.
- Feign and demonstrate the use of direct approaches to the
objective, while actually using indirect approaches; or vice
versa, if the situation so dictates.
- Feign, demonstrate, and display frontal dispositions, while
using flank positions to attack command and control (C 2) and
- Feign, demonstrate, and display notional axes, routes, and
battle positions to preserve combat, CS, and CSS forces,
while simultaneously and harmlessly depleting enemy ground
and air attack.
- Feign the air axes of attack helicopter, air cavalry, and
air assault units.
- Demonstrate and display notional field artillery, air
defense, engineer, and logistic units to enhance real-unit
- When changes to the tactical plan are required by the
military situation, mask those changes with deception
Close operations involve the fight between the committed
forces and the readily available tactical reserves of both
combatants. Deceptions employed in close operations-
Commanders generally weight their main efforts with every
available asset. Main efforts are usually complemented with
feints-supporting attacks. If the main effort fails or an opportunity
is presented during combat to exploit the feint as the main effort,
commanders must be able to shift the effort rapidly.
- Can be preplanned or ad hoc.
- Should center around facilitating the tactical scheme of
maneuver and fire support plan.
- Should have localized, immediate effects during battle.
Proper positioning of reserves to follow up either the main
or supporting effort serves two purposes:
- To impede enemy assessments of where the main effort will
actually occur by evaluating frontline-reserve
positional-relationships. Both threats cannot be ignored.
- To induce the enemy to position his reserve force at a
location from which it can generally respond to both the
main and supporting attack, but cannot decisively influence
Deep operations are employed to attack those enemy forces that
can influence close operations, but are not yet in contact.
Successful attack on them-
Deceptions in support of deep operations should either-
- Isolates the close fight.
- Alters the tempo of battle.
- Preserves freedom of action.
- Facilitate exposing enemy rear forces to attack.
- Facilitate their commitment at a time and place that is
tactically irrelevant to the close fight.
- Delay, disrupt, or divert them.
Rear area operations preserve the commander's freedom of
action and assure uninterrupted support to the battle. Rear area
units, whose assistance to the main effort is vital receive the
highest priority for protection, thus enhancing survivability.
Deception in support of rear operations may show either the
buildup of area logistic bases, notional fire and air defense
sites, or the increase of survivability of the units. The use of
decoys for survivability will not be reported-as a deception
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN OPERATIONAL AND TACTICAL DECEPTION PLANS
Operational deception plans facilitate the conduct of
campaigns and major operations by setting the terms of battle
before battles and engagements occur. Tactical deception plans
exploit the tactical situation being immediately confronted by the
tactical commander. Although tactical organizations are not
precluded from developing tactical-level deceptions independent of
the operational context, they usually will be derivative slices of
operational deception plans.
Tactical deception plans should not be developed in
operational plan vacuums for the following reasons:
Figure 3-1 Relationships between operational and tactical
- Operational deception plans set the terms of battle in which
tactical commanders fight: the size of the enemy force; its
composition and dispositions; the enemy and friendly
mission; where and when the battle will be fought; and
tactical objectives; in other words, the factors of METT-T.
These operationally induced factors directly influence the
nature of the enemy intelligence collection, decision cycle,
and troop control procedures tactical commanders will be
deceptively manipulating to favorably influence tactical
- Operational deception plans should contain deception event
taskings for one or more tactical commands subordinate to
the operational commander. Operational deception plans must,
therefore, ensure that tactical-level plans are not working
at cross-purposes with one another.
- Operational deception plans might call for one subordinate
tactical command to provide support to another subordinate
tactical command to satisfy the latter's operational
deception-related taskings. Tactical deception plans must,
therefore, be coordinated at the operational level to ensure
they are not working at cross-purposes with one another.
Figure 3-1 depicts the relationship between operational and
tactical deception plans.