Defense against convoy ambush

convoy_training.jpg A convoy, whether carrying important logistics materiel or VIPs, are often targets of enemy ambushes. As such officers and personnel tasked to ensure that the convoy pushes through must employ techniques that will help protect and defend against such attacks.

The following doctrines gathered from the internet are employed by US military in hostile areas. However, one can easily modify said techniques to ensure a strong ambush defense in urban terrain, depending on the situation encountered. Responses such as “calling for artillery support” need not apply, but fire team responses are essential to establishing a quick and decisive response.

CONVOY DEFENSE TECHNIQUES

ARTILLERY OR INDIRECT FIRE.

Enemy artillery units or indirect fire weapons may be used to destroy logistical convoys or to harass and interdict the forward movement of supply and personnel.

a. Active Defense. Active defense measures against artillery are extremely limited but must not be overlooked. Active measures include–

  • Directing counterbattery fire if the direction and approximate distance to the enemy artillery can be estimated.
  • Directing fire against the enemy FOO if he can be located.
  • Coordinating airstrikes against the enemy artillery.

b. Passive Defense. The formation in which the convoy moves can be a type of passive defense.

  • The convoy (escort) commander has three options when confronted with incoming artillery rounds: halt in place, continue to advance, or disperse quickly to concealed positions. Regardless of the option selected, the actions should be taken and the signal directing the action should be covered in SOP’s. The primary consideration is the immediate departure from the impact area.
  • The convoy should only be halted when artillery concentration is ahead of the convoy. The convoy commander should look for an alternate route around the impact area and the convoy should remain prepared to move out rapidly.
  • The mission or terrain may require the convoy to continue. If this is the case, increase speed and spread out to the maximum extent the terrain will allow. Casualties can be reduced by: avoiding the impact area, increasing speed, wearing protective equipment, using the vehicle for protection, and increasing dispersion.

SNIPER FIRE. Take extreme caution when sniper fire is received to ensure that any return fire does not harm friendly troops or civilians in the area. The best actions are passive. Ensure all personnel wear helmets and available body armour at all times. All vehicles should move through the area without stopping. Escort personnel should notify the convoy commander by giving a pre-arranged signal, like a smoke grenade, thrown in the direction of fire, and attempt to locate and destroy the sniper by long range fire if in a free-fire area.

NOTE: Convoy personnel should be aware that a heavy volume of fire is frequently used by enemy/belligerents to slow down a convoy before an ambush. Remember all details so the incident can be reported to higher HQ.

AMBUSH. This paragraph gives guidance in developing and employing counter-ambush tactics and techniques. The very nature of an ambush—a surprise attack from a concealed position—places the convoy at a disadvantage. Combat situation may prevent a convoy from from taking all the measures necessary to avoid being ambushed. Therefore, c convoy must take all possible measures to reduce its vulnerability. These are passive measure supplemented active measure to destroy or escape from an ambush.

No single defensive measure, or combination of measures will prevent or effectively counter all ambushes in a situation. The effectiveness of counter ambush measures is directly related to the state of training of troops and the abilities of their leaders.

The best defense is to avoid being ambushed. Take the following actions to avoid an ambush:

  • Select the best route for the convoy.
  • Make a detailed map reconnaissance.
  • Make an aerial reconnaissance.
  • Obtain current intelligence information.
  • Use OPSEC to deny the enemy foreknowledge of the convoy.
  • Do not present a profitable target.
  • Never schedule routine times or routes.

Take the following precautions to reduce the effectiveness of ambushes:

  • Harden MSE.
  • Cover loads.
  • Space prime targets throughout the convoy.
  • Wear protective clothing.
  • Use assistant drivers
  • Use pre-arranged signals to warn the convoy of an ambush.
  • Thoroughly brief all convoy personnel on immediate action drills.
  • Practice IA’s.
  • Maintain intervals between vehicles.
  • Move through the kill zone, if possible.
  • Stop short of the ambush.
  • Do not block the road.
  • Rapidly respond to orders.
  • Aggressively return fire.
  • Conduct a counter attack (escort).
  • Call for air / artillery support.
  • Call for the QRF.
  • In the event of ambush during night convoy operations under blackout drive, turn on service lights and increase speed to clear the ambush area. Be aware that drivers using night vision equipment will be temporary blinded when service drive lights are turned on.
  1. Road Not Blocked. Guerillas are seldom able to contain an entire convoy in a single kill zone. This is due to extensive road space occupied by even a platoon size convoy and because security or lack of available forces may limit the size of the ambushing force. More often, a part of the convoy is ambushed – either the head, tail or section of the main body. That part of the convoy that is in the kill zone and receiving fire must exit the kill zone as quickly as possible if the road to the front is open. Vehicles disabled by enemy fire are left behind or, if blocking the road, pushed out of the way by following vehicles. Escort vehicles must not block convoy vehicles by halting in the traveled portion of the road to return fire. Vehicles that have not entered the kill zone must not attempt to do so. They should stop and personnel should dismount, take up a good defensive position, and await instructions. Since escort vehicles may have left the road to attempt to overrun a hostile position, elements of the convoy should not fire on suspected enemy position without coordinating with the escort.

Other actions that convoy personnel can take to neutralize the ambush force include:

  • Call for artillery fire on enemy positions
  • Call for tactical air assets to fore on the enemy.
  • Direct escort vehicles to lay down a heavy volume of fire on the ambush force.
  • Call for the QRF.
  • Direct all non-driving personnel to place a heavy volume of fire on enemy forces as rapidly as possible as vehicles move out of the kill zone.

NOTE: Vehicles must keep their distance to reduce the number of vehicles in the kill zone. An MSE convoy with a limited escort is seldom able to defeat a hostile force and should not attempt to do so. When part of the convoy is isolated in the kill zone, vehicles that have not entered the ambush area must not attempt to do so. They should stop; personnel should dismount, take up good defensive positions, and await instruction until the escort has cleared the ambush.

b. Road Blocked. When an element of a convoy is halted in the kill zone and is unable to proceed because of disabled vehicles, a damaged bridge, or other obstacle, personnel will dismount, take cover, and return a maximum volume of fire on enemy positions. When dismounting, exit the vehicle away from the direction of enemy fire. Security / escort troops from vehicles that have passed through the ambush area dismount and lay down a base of fire on the ambush position. Reaction forces should be called in as soon as the ambush attack is launched. Normally the escort will take action to neutralize the ambush while the convoy escapes from the kill zone. In an ambush situation, immediate reaction and aggressive leadership are essential to limit casualties and damage to vehicles, cargo, and personnel. If immediate air or artillery support is available, personnel will be restricted to a specified distance from the road to avoid casualties from friendly fire. In this situation, personnel in the kill zone establish a base of fire, while others take up defensive positions away from their vehicles and wait while supporting fire is called on the enemy positions. Fire in the kill zone may be from only one side of the road with a small holding force on the opposite side. To contain the convoy element in the kill zone, mines and booby traps are frequently placed on the holding force side. The escort must take care in assaulting the main ambush forces as mines and booby traps are commonly used to protect its flanks.

When the enemy is dislodged, the road must be cleared and convoy movement resumed as soon as possible. Wounded personnel are evacuated using the fastest possible mode. When disabled vehicles cannot be towed, their cargo should be distributed among other vehicles if time permits. When it is not feasible to evacuate vehicles and/or cargo, they will be destroyed upon order from the convoy commander. If at all possible, radios and other critical items will be recovered before the vehicles are destroyed. Under no circumstances will they be allowed to fall into enemy hands.

c. Mines and Booby Traps. Mines and booby traps are frequently part of an ambush. Command-detonated mines are often used to start an ambush. Mines will also be planted along the shoulder of the road for harassment and interdiction. A booby trap system may be used against personnel in vehicles and could consist of hand grenades. Claymore mines or artillery shells may be suspended from trees and command-detonated when a vehicle passes.

The following guidelines have proven effective in decreasing damage by mines in convoy operations:

  • Track the vehicle in front.
  • Avoid driving on the shoulder.
  • Whenever possible, do not run over foreign objects, brush, or grass in the road.
  • Avoid fresh earth on the road.
  • Watch local traffic and the reactions of people on foot. (They will frequently give away the location of any mines or booby traps.)
  • When possible, arrange for the engineers to sweep the road immediately before the convoy is scheduled to move over it.
  • Harden MSE.
  • Wear protective equipment.

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