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The art of establishing combat posture and developing force to conduct key battles of a medium-size counter-offensive campaign

Counter-offensive campaigns could be commonly employed at the onset of the war to safeguard the Fatherland (if war is to occur) or during that war on various scales, with many key battles. To win victories in key battles of a counter-offensive campaign, commander and office of the campaign must pay due attention to establishing combat posture and developing force as a core issue that should be researched both theoretically and practically.

During national liberation wars, our Military victoriously launched a large number of counter-offensive campaigns, typically Viet Bac counter-offensive campaign in Autumn – Winter (1947), counter-offensive campaign against Operation Junction City (1967), and Route 9 – Southern Laos counter-offensive campaign (1971). The art of establishing combat posture  and developing force to carry out key battles during a counter-offensive campaign was successfully applied by campaigns’ commanders and offices, thus providing us with numerous lessons that remain valuable nowadays.

In the war to safeguard the  Fatherland (if war is to occur), our enemy  would have superiority in reconnaissance, firepower, manoeuvrability, electronic warfare, and cyber warfare, thereby leading to rapid, complex, unpredictable developments in campaigns in general, key battles in particular. Hence, to earn victories in key battles, apart from other elements, campaigns must quickly establish combat posture and develop force  in our favour and put the enemy at a disadvantage. There are several reasons for that requirement. First, during a counter-offensive campaign, its key battles are designed to destroy an important section of enemy troops and means as the basis for developing the campaign, fulfilling tasks of a phase of the campaign, or ending the campaign in our favour. If favourable combat posture  and force  are created, combat strength of forces participating in a key battle will be improved to accomplish tasks of the battle. Second, establishing combat posture for key battles is aimed at bringing advantages to us, causing surprise to  and weakening the enemy. Establishing combat posture for key battles represents the development of our strength and the recession of the enemy as a favourable condition for our forces to bring into play their combat power, destroy the enemy, and fulfil their assigned tasks. Third, in order to develop strong force  for victories in key battles, campaigns must know how to establish combat posture. With strong combat posture  and force, our combat power will be raised to defeat the enemy in all circumstances. Fourth, given the balance of power in previous wars, our enemies often had superiority in firepower and impetus. However, to achieve changes favourable for key battles, we concentrated our resources in each battle and combat area, while establishing favourable combat posture for us and disrupting the enemy's posture simultaneously by properly employing and disposing our forces in places convenient for our attacks to put the enemy at a disadvantage.

Those above-mentioned things reveal that the art of establishing combat posture and developing force to conduct key battles of a counter-offensive campaign during the war to safeguard the Fatherland  consists of various elements, focusing on several issues as follows.

1. Build a solid, flexibly convertible posture detrimental to enemies. Normally, during key battles of a counter-offensive campaign, our enemy employ hi-tech weapons and extensive electronic and cyber warfare; however, their offensives will be prevented by our local armed forces within defensive zones, leading to the separation of their formation. Key battles of a counter-offensive campaign organised to annihilate enemy troops from ground and airborne operations will take place in a large area with the participation of many forces, urgent combat preparations, a large amount of material and equipment, and difficulties in establishing our attack formations. Thus, campaigns must rely on defensive zone postures and build a shrewd, flexible offensive posture in order to facilitate reinforcement, bring into play forces’ synergy, and create advantages for victories in key battles. Besides, counter-offensive campaigns take place within military regions’ defence based on provincial-level defensive zones. Hence, right in peacetime, we have formulated combat plans and determination, while preparing forces, means, and equipment in advance. Once a war breaks out, campaigns could take advantage of those elements to build an astute, flexible posture detrimental to the enemy. In order to flexibly transform such posture, campaigns’ commanders and offices must carry out researches into the situation, deploy forces to positions having enemy troops, creatively apply tactics and combat methods, organise extensive, in-depth combat, and take advantage of favourable conditions, especially topographical features to construct trenches, fortresses, battlefields, and roads in a quick, timely, secret way. Moreover, a counter-offensive campaign must establish combat posture and develop force to conduct its key battles not only in the preparatory phase but also in its operational process amidst constant changes in combat posture  and force of our side and the enemy. When winning the first key battle, we manage to destroy a section of enemy troops and their posture. However, the enemy will also seek every way to restore their posture and regain the initiative. Thus, to establish combat posture  and develop force for the following key battles, campaigns must correctly anticipate the enemy’s combat artifices and actively prepare a posture in accordance with changes in our forces, the enemy, and terrain.

2. Organise, use, and deploy forces and equipment on the battlefield. During a counter-offensive campaign, in order to establish combat posture  and develop force for its key battles, the organisation, use, and deployment of forces must be centred on bringing into play our combat power, exploiting the enemy’s weaknesses, and forcing the enemy to take action under our combat methods at a disadvantage. In the new combat condition, in spite of developments in forces, weapons, equipment, and operational art of fighting, in order to establish combat posture  and develop force for key battles, it is vital to grasp the viewpoints on “taking the few against the many” and concentrate forces on main directions, areas, and targets. That is considered as the “law of victory” in key battles of a counter-offensive campaign. When making preparations for combat, campaigns must carry out comprehensive, objective, detailed assessments of the situation as the basis for organising, using, and deploying forces to create superiority in both impetus and firepower in each direction, area, and attack target. During a medium-size counter-offensive campaign, the organisation and use of forces are based on the enemy  in each key battle. Normally, a campaign will employ 1 infantry division or 1 reinforced infantry division together with on-the-spot forces to carry out a key battle destroying enemy troops from ground or airborne operations. Zones for combat must have tactical and operational values to keep the secrecy of our combat intent, reduce the enemy’s reconnaissance capacity, and facilitate our forces’ manoeuvre and formation deployment.

Furthermore, equipment on the battlefield must enable our forces to manoeuvre, deploy attack formations, flexibly transform postures, and create opportunities for attacking enemy troops from different directions, at the onset of a campaign, and during that campaign. In peacetime, when constructing roads for socio-economic development, we must take situations relating to military and defence tasks in the event of a war into account. The system of roads into zones for pause, attack, and combat development of a campaign and its key battles must be prepared in advance, with importance attached to ensuring roads for motor vehicles.

3. Identify directions, areas, and targets of key battles. It is commonly known that when a counter-offensive campaign is launched, our enemy are in the state of offensive and basically they still take the initiative on the battlefield. Therefore, it is hard for us to identify directions, areas, and targets of key battles, which is, however, of importance to creating advantages and synergy for key battles. To that end, it is necessary to conduct detailed assessments and analyses of the situation and correctly anticipate the enemy’s intent, plots, artifices, and attack directions. In the Route 9 – Southern Laos counter-offensive campaign of 1971, via assessments and analyses, we anticipated that the Central Highlands and Southern Military Region 4 would be the enemy’s diversionary direction and Route 9 would be the main attack direction. Thus, we proactively established combat posture  and developed force, while identifying directions, areas, and targets of key battles to make preparations. In the future war to safeguard the  Fatherland, correctly identifying directions, areas, and targets of key battles of a counter-offensive campaign will be much more difficult and complex due to robust developments in our enemy’s combat methods, manoeuvrability, weapons, and equipment. That necessitates campaigns’ commanders and offices having acumen, correctly evaluating the situation, closely combining combat methods, creating diversions, and maintaining the secrecy and surprise of our combat intent. In the combat process, it is important to grasp objects of combat and accurately predict the enemy’s plots, artifices, and attack capacity to identify directions, areas, and targets of the following key battle.

4. Manoeuvre forces quickly, secretly, and opportunely in accordance with the combat determination in key battles of a counter-offensive campaign. This is an important measure aimed at quickly deploying formations and opportunely establishing a convenient attack posture. Manoeuvring forces means the process of establishing  combat posture and isolating the enemy. However, as our enemy in key battles of a counter-offensive campaign often have modern means of reconnaissance, powerful firepower, and extensive electronic warfare, there should be close coordination between forces of the campaign and the armed forces within combat areas to hold the enemy off in relevant targets, annihilate the enemy’s guard, commando, and reconnaissance forces, and enable our forces to deploy their formations opportunely. To that end, the campaign must closely work with on-the-spot forces, command all forces to occupy areas capable of preventing the enemy, seize opportunities, and manoeuvre forces for quickly attacking targets. In attack directions, making use of combat fruits, our forces in key battles must approach targets, deploy their formations, and carry out attacks simultaneously to put the enemy into passivity.

Due to new developments in the organisational structure, equipment, and combat methods of both our forces and enemies in modern warfare, winning victories over the enemy in key battles of a counter-offensive campaign relies on many elements, including the art of establishing combat posture and developing force. Therefore, there should be further researches into this field to develop theories on the art of a counter-offensive campaign and satisfy the requirements of the war to safeguard the Fatherland.

Maj. Gen., Dr. DO MINH XUONG, Commandant of the Army Academy

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