On the key battle of a counterattack campaign in a military region’s defensive operations
Conducting a key battle in general and a key battle in a counterattack campaign in particular is to carry out a battle or an assault by an essential element of the counterattack campaign or by the on-spot forces of a military region, possibly deciding the victory of each stage of the campaign or the whole campaign. A counterattack campaign in military region’s defensive operations is often composed of one key battle or a number of key battles, including a decisively key battle. The key battle in military region’s defensive operations is carried out by the combined arms force. The key battle of a counterattack campaign is often planned during campaign preparation, or it is decided during the operations. To win a key battle, it is necessary to ensure sufficient factors and meet the requirements set by the battle. To ensure the success of a key battle, it is necessary to create needed factors of a battle. It is vital for a counterattack campaign's successs to conduct a decisively key battle to destroy the most important part of the enemy force and make a turning-point of the campaign. The decisively key battle is given the most largest force and sufficient support. It could be conducted in the first stage or during the campaign or the last stage, ensuring the final victory of the campaign.
As for us, the armed forces of a military region includes the three forces: the main force (including ground force and technical units) which is built into elite, lean, strong and highly mobile ones; strong and extensive local force and militia and self-defence force. When a war occurs, on the basis of the operation plans in peacetime, the military region will quickly transform the all-people defence posture into the all-people war posture, and the forces mentioned above will be trained and enlarged according to wartime’s organizational structure. The military region will grasp the opportunity to launch defensive, offensive and counterattack campaign, of which the counterattack campaign is aimed at annihilating the enemy and retaking the lost zones, targets and areas. The success of a counterattack campaign depends on various factors; however, the most important is to successfully conduct key and decisively key battles to destroy the enemy attack and make the enemy fall into passive position, gradually fail and then completely fail.
As for the enemy, before attacking military, political and economic targets in the area of a military region, they will base on the geographic position of each zone to attack from various directions in combination with seaborne and airborne landings. Their forces could range from regiment or brigade level to division level, being equipped with modern weapons and highly manoeuvrable, attacking targets in the military region’s area in the main directions and roads. During their operations, the enemy combine their attack forces from the outside with the rebellion and conversion forces from the inside, attack with defence, frontal attack with attack from flanks and rear. Making best use of forces, modern weapons, equipment and vehicles, particularly hi-tech weapons, they carry out “quick, surprising, concentrated, speedy, daring attacks”, aimed at the main targets, and establish various attack directions to separate our defensive forces and destroy our disposition.
To successfully conduct key and decisively key battles of a counterattack campaign, the command of the military region, in general, and the command of the campaign, in particular, should focus on the following measures:
First, right in peacetime, when drawing up defensive plans, the military region should make careful preparations to handle potential situations, especially the possibility of being attacked by the enemy’s large forces. When building up the operational plan for the campaign, it is necessary to base on the superiors’ anticipation and evaluation on the enemy, and directly organize a recce force to grasp the enemy situation. Moreover, it is important to anticipate the enemy’s attacks and prepare the battlefield. The military region needs to anticipate the area of operation (AO) of the key and decisively key battles, size of the enemy force and their operational methods. Also, the military region should anticipate the use of force and our tactics to ensure the success. After anticipation, the military region makes preparations, being ready to supplement and adjust key battles during the operations. As for the first key battle and the decisively key battle, it is vital to make careful, thorough preparations.
Second, during defensive operations of the military region, it is necessary to create opportunities for key battles. The military region should closely direct its on-spot forces to actively destroy and prevent the enemy, weaken them and disrupt their formation and air and land command systems. Moreover, it is important to organize forces fighting to block the enemy’s flanks, firmly hold important jumping-off positions and entice them into our prepared AO for the key battle. Forces in the military region’s defensive zone must grasp the plans and the time for the key battle, resolutely and ingeniously entice the enemy into the prepared AO as soon as the mobile forces of the military region and of the Ministry of National Defence are formed up in order to surprise the enemy. When directing to create the opportunity, the military region must grasp its reserve forces to restore the status in case the on-spot forces are unable to stop the enemy’s attacks or lose the jumping-off position for counterattack.
Third, during the operations, it is necessary to follow the principle of concentrated force, speedy and complete combat. In this regard, it is vital to mobilize infantry forces and motorized infantry forces outnumbering the enemy (by twice or three times), artillery forces, tanks, armoured vehicles and air-defence weapons, even air forces when available. Besides, it is necessary to ensure logistic and technical support.
Fourth, it is important to seize the best opportunity to conduct key and decisively key battles. The best time is when the enemy are on the move, away from their fortified positions, or when they come to a halt and their fortified positions are not built carefully. Fighting the enemy at that moment, we could promote the capabilities and operational advantage of the local troops and defensive area, quickly annihilate the enemy and minimize our loss. The opportunity to carry out a key battle is often created by the campaign itself; however, it might be created by the situation in the battlefield or by the enemy’s mistakes. Thus, the matter of finding the opportunity is closely relevant to that of grasping the opportunity, and when it comes, we need to take it to fight the enemy immediately.
Conducting key battles and decisively key battles, the campaign command should base on the enemy status and tricks to take operational forms and measures appropriately, bring into play at highest level the combat capability of the arms, particularly infantry forces, motorized infantry forces, armor forces, and make careful and thorough preparations to successfully fulfil the task in the counterattack campaign and contribute to firmly protecting the military region’s area.
Senior Colonel, Hoang Manh Du, MA
National Defence Academy