The war in the mountains has a number of fundamental differences from the plains wars. The tactics of combat in the highlands differ from those in the middle mountains, and in the conditions of the low mountains also has its own characteristics, and ignorance of these differences can lead to defeat. Recommendations on the organization and conduct of combined arms combat in the mountains, which are given by the current Battle Regulations for the preparation and conduct of combined arms combat, are suitable only for hilly terrain, very small hills or low mountains. For successful combat in high mountains, a different view of the organization of the battle and the real idea of the size of the mountains and the fact that they themselves are the environment in which commanders not prepared for war in the mountains can destroy their troops, but unprepared the soldiers die without even engaging the enemy.
In the Military Regulations for the preparation and conduct of combined arms combat, in the sections "Offensive in the mountains" and "Defense in the mountains", there are many recommendations that are not suitable for the conditions of large mountains that can give a negative result in battle. This key document requires some amendments. And for a start, it would be nice to return to the old version of the name of the statute "The combat regulations of the ground forces," which most accurately reflects the essence of this document.
Let's look at the essence of the problem on the example of the second part of this charter. The 348 article proposes: "When attacking a height with a multi-tiered arrangement of fire weapons, artillery, with the approach of the attacking subunits to the height, carries fire on fire weapons on the upper levels."
For a plain or a small hill, this tactic is good, but not for the mountains. If the artillery fires the upper tier of height (apex) or ridge, and the infantry at this moment begins to climb the slope, then the enemy’s firearms will not be necessary to destroy the infantry, its own artillery will do. The fact is that the shelling of a mountain slope will inevitably cause rockfall, and the attacking infantry will simply die under the stream of flying stones.
I quote the 349 article: “Mastering a pass or gorge usually begins with capturing the surrounding heights and destroying the enemy on the slopes facing the pass or gorge ... The battalion part of the forces from the captured line binds the enemy directly defending the pass or gorge, and attacking the flank with the main forces or the rear destroys it. " The very view of all the gorges and passes as something equivalent is fundamentally wrong, this will be discussed below. The main forces around, as recommended by the charter, quit also fail. In the mountains to move a large mass of troops is very difficult even where there is a road or path. Outside the path, only a small group can go around or reach. The enemy will surely defend the paths and roads, and there are steep slopes, cliffs and glaciers to go around, which a large number of people cannot take.
In article 350, mountain rivers are recommended to be wade mainly. I think it’s worth saying a few words about the hidden danger of a mountain river. The flow of such a river is strong and multi-layered, for example, a person who entered the stream of the Baksan river with a channel 20–25 m wide and 1,5 m deep loses balance and goes under water instantly and forever, and this river is considered calm by mountain standards . In addition to the strong pressure of the water, one more surprise awaits the equipment - the stream drags large boulders along the bottom, which can become an insurmountable obstacle tank. So in order to overcome a mountain river in its middle course, the main way is to build bridges, you should forget about the pontoons. Fording can be overcome only very shallow channels, with a low flow of water, usually in the upper reaches.
Further in the same article: "Canyons crossing the direction of the attack, are overcome, as a rule, on the move and on the captured transitions." It seems that having written the above lines, the canyons have never been seen since it is difficult to imagine such a situation. In reality, roads in the mountains are laid over canyons. On the one side of this road there are vertical cliffs (which are part of the slope of the large ridge), on the other - a cliff, according to the introductory information stated in the 350 article of the BU, advancing troops must cross the impassable ridge. You can consider another case where the canyon cuts through the plateau on which the troops are leading the offensive. In this case, the canyon will really be in the way of their movement. Only in developed countries with a magnificent system of roads there are capital bridges over canyons that are able to withstand heavy loads, and then no more than one bridge per district. Basically, the passage through the small canyon can be a bridge, a small capital one (capable of withstanding light traffic, but not tanks) or a trailing bridge, at best, one for the whole canyon. I continue to quote the same article: “The canyon is overcome primarily by motorized rifle units. Tanks and artillery overcome the canyon after the motorized rifle subunits ... "Well, well, let's say the task is to overcome the canyon, orders are not discussed, but carried out. About transitions forget, they can only be in the imagination. For infantry, you can prepare a mounted crossing over a small canyon, but armored vehicles to overcome small, medium and large canyons should be able to fly through the air. How can you not remember the famous saying of Alexander Suvorov: "It was smooth on paper, but they forgot about the ravines, and walk on them ..."
ATTACK IN THE MOUNTAINS
I bring to your attention a reflection on the peculiarities of combat operations in the big mountains, the lower limit of which is the Alps, the middle one - the Caucasus, the upper one - the Himalayas. There is a difference in the actions of the troops depending on the direction of the attack. I explain that if the troops advance into the depths of a mountainous country from the foothills, in the direction of the main ridge, they operate from the lowland with a climb, and the enemy is constantly above. As is well known in the mountains, the one who is above has a tactical advantage. In this case, the offensive is carried out in conditions where the defending enemy takes a deliberately more advantageous position. On the other hand, the defenders will have difficulty with the delivery of material resources and replenishment, since their operating lines will pass through the main ridge, and air support will be somewhat difficult for them.
When troops develop an offensive from the main ridge in the direction of the foothills and constantly hang over the enemy, they obviously have a tactical advantage, but supply and support aviation this will be difficult.
In the mountains, in the operational-tactical space, the direction of the main attack is chosen, usually in one of the main valleys, in order to master the most suitable passage for high masses of troops in the high mountain pass, then to overcome the main ridge and develop the offensive on the other side of the mountains. Right and left along the parallel main valleys are moving columns, providing the flanks of the main forces.
When attacking in the direction of the main ridge, troops from the plains first enter the foothills and low mountains. The terrain of the foothills is replete with hills, small heights, ravines, may be wooded or steppe. Here it is possible to use all types of weapons and military equipment that the ground forces have. For combat aircraft there are no restrictions. The valleys of the foothills, as a rule, are wide (in fact, they are only the mouths of the valleys that go to the heart of the mountains). The terrain is replete with folds suitable for maneuver. The enemy occupying the dominant heights can be destroyed both from the air and by artillery fire. Attacks of positions equipped on gentle slopes can be carried out on armor or on foot with the support of armored vehicles.
Rivers of foothills are generally wide, but not deep, their flow is moderate in speed, but in spring and with heavy precipitation in the upper reaches significant changes in water masses are possible, leading to the formation of strong flows and spills, in these cases it will be impossible to force water barriers.
In the foothills, the advancing side of the plains has the advantage of the possibility of using aviation, reserves and all-round support for combat, they have a plain in the rear with good roads and convenient platforms for airfields. On the contrary, the defending enemy has high mountains behind him, which create difficulties in supplying troops, pulling up reserves from the depths and for the operation of army aviation. Transport is difficult to overcome the mountains, there are few roads, and they are usually narrow and often exposed to water streams, rockfalls, mudflows, and the construction of runways in the mountains is difficult due to the lack of large flat areas.
BATTLE AT LOW-MOUNTAIN
Lowland is that part of a mountainous country that is at a height from 500 to 1500 m above sea level. It may be a belt of low mountains immediately following the foothills, it may be the bottom of the main valleys extending from the foothills to the center of a mountainous country, along its entire length, or the bottom of the side valleys within the specified maximum height. For the Pamirs, Karakorum, Himalayas, heights up to 2500 m above sea level are considered low mountains.
The onset of the main forces in this part of the mountainous country is possible only along the bottom of the valleys. The use of aviation here is difficult because of the peculiarities of the air flow and the possibilities of a more efficient use of MANPADS and memory than on the plain. Artillery and armored vehicles maneuver wheels can carry out only on the roads. Because the slopes and bottom of the valley are often covered with boulders or have small rocky protrusions, which is a natural obstacle not only for the wheeled, but also for tracked vehicles. The positions of long-range cannon and rocket artillery can be arranged on the sites at the bottom of the valleys, and if there are roads - on the plateaus. On the “slopes”, that is, the slopes (as recommended in the statutes), it is impractical to do this, because there may not be flat areas, and there is no time to prepare them.
The positions of the enemy, equipped on the upper edge of the rocky belts or protrusions in any case, do not attack in the forehead, they can always be bypassed along the gentle slopes on the other side. The southern slopes of the low mountains, as a rule, have steppe vegetation and are clearly visible. The northern slopes in this part of the mountains are often covered with forests, which allows the defending enemy to secretly perform a maneuver to conduct surprise counterattacks or to arrange well-disguised positions. Small side canyons, an abundance of caves will also allow the defending side to prepare a lot of unpleasant surprises for the advancing troops. And to avoid these troubles, knowledge of the terrain is essential. It is better not to enter the side canyons at all, but when pursuing an enemy, direct your forces along the plateau over the cliffs of these canyons and destroy the enemy, driven into them, by fire from above. Covers and detours on the technique are impossible, it is necessary to carry them out on foot, which is fraught with loss of time. Foot marches through the ravines are hampered by natural forest and stone debris, and, in addition, they are dangerous because the attacking units can be ambushed there, so it is wiser to take them along the watersheds. Movement along the ridge ridges require mountaineering skills and difficult for numerous units. In order not to waste time, it is preferable to land as much as possible in the rear of the enemy (meaning helicopter transfer).
In the low mountains, attack helicopters, multiple rocket launchers (MLRS), and heavy flamethrower systems (TOC) are indispensable for supporting the advance of first-echelon troops. Moreover, under no circumstances should they fire on the slopes under which their troops are located.
The armored vehicles off the roads will no longer pass, for it there are only roads that run along the bottom of the gorges or rise serpentine on the slopes. Stormtroopers and front-line bombers can strike only at targets deep in the enemy's defense because of the danger of hitting their forces. The second, third echelons and reserves, rear units on the march at the location for the night, you must always have security and be prepared for a sudden attack of the enemy. In the mountains, because of the large space and rough terrain, it is almost impossible to carry out a reliable sweep. Too much strength and too much time will be required. Therefore, some small enemy formations may remain and act in the rear of the attacking troops. For their destruction will have to create separate fighter units.
Long-range cannon and rocket artillery can take up positions only at the bottom of valleys (gorges) near roads. Lifting heavy weapons on slopes and plateaus where there are no roads is impractical. Where there is no enemy artillery, army and front-line aviation will work. Mountain artillery guns and light mortars infantry can even lift on ridges, if possible, they should be thrown upward with the help of helicopters.
Mountain rivers have a number of features, which are vital to consider. In winter, the water consumption in them is stable throughout the day, but in the warm season, the situation changes dramatically. In the morning, the rivers are relatively calm, in the second half of the day the water flow in them repeatedly increases, due to the melting of snow and glaciers in the high mountains, everything returns to normal only at night. Therefore, in the warm season, the investigation of fords and the forcing of rivers should be planned only at night and in the early morning. Once again I want to emphasize that to overcome mountain rivers, it is preferable to build bridges. For infantry, you can arrange a mounted crossing. A strong stream of water drags large stones along the bottom of the river, so the condition of the bottom is constantly changing. Another peculiarity is that they do not freeze in winter due to the rapid flow, therefore crossing over the ice is impossible.
Tunnels are a more interesting target to capture than passes. But to storm them in the forehead is almost impossible. Attempts of such assaults end in heavy losses or complete collapse of the tunnel. Therefore, the capture of the tunnel is always conducted on the other hand, by the forces of bypass groups or tactical assault forces. In general, any defile in the mountains is better to bypass, and not to climb into them in the forehead.
THE ATTACK IN THE MIDDLE MOUNTAIN
The zone of middle mountains is the height from 1500 m to 3000 m above sea level (for the Himalayas from 2000 m to 4500 m). During the offensive deep into the mountainous country, it is necessary to allocate part of the forces to advance into the side gorges, to prevent flank attacks from them, as well as to prevent sabotage that could lead to mudflows or large masses of water to the main valley. Through the side gorges can also operate units, bypassing the line of defense of the enemy.
Troops not prepared for combat operations in the mountains can be used, but very limitedly, only for an offensive along the bottom of flat-bottomed valleys. The same can be said about long-range towed and self-propelled artillery, armored vehicles, MLRS and TOC. For combat operations in the upper part of the middle mountains and above, special mountain infantry is needed. The use of unprepared infantry in the midlands can lead to large non-combat losses. In terraced or hanging valleys, in the absence of roads, the equipment cannot climb. On trails, it is possible to use only pack animals as a means of transport, for the transport of mountain artillery, ammunition and other goods. At altitudes from 2300 m, due to the lower portion of oxygen pressure than on the plain, non-acclimatized people feel uncomfortable, have shortness of breath, quickly become tired. But the main trouble is that the unprepared fighters do not know how to move around the mountainous terrain, that is, the mountainous terrain itself is a mortal danger for them.
If it becomes necessary to conduct attacks up the slope, to make a decision on their conduct, the commander must know the features of the mountainous terrain.
For the war in the mountains, soldiers must have special training and equipment. Photos by Alexander Sharkovsky
When attacking upwards in battle formations on gently destroyed rocks, it is necessary to take into account the constant danger of rockfalls, if possible not to climb into the lobby (they are most dangerous with rockfalls). It is best to climb in small groups on buttresses, so it is easier to provide visual communication and interaction between them.
Climbing steep grassy slopes is very dangerous. The grass itself is slippery, it is difficult to walk on it, and after a fall it is very difficult to stop sliding, the presence of stones lying loose on the slopes or small outcrops of rocks makes any fall life-threatening.
With rockfalls, it is impossible to take shelter on grassy slopes, stones are flying along them along a flat trajectory, “jumping” down an inclined surface, changing direction after each collision with a slope. When attacking enemy positions passing through grassy slopes and gently sloping rocks, artillery support is unacceptable because of the danger of causing rockfalls, which will lead to the defeat of their units. Attacking down sloping rocks and grassy slopes quickly will not work, since the soldiers will have to move carefully to avoid falling, but you can use artillery to support their troops.
It is possible to move upward in battle formations only by large and medium-sized scree. But only on foot. Large debris, although difficult to overcome, are replete with natural shelters and provide secrecy of the approach to the positions of the enemy, while artillery support of their infantry is possible. It is easier to advance on the middle scree, but there is no place to hide, besides, it is impossible to go quickly and quietly, artillery support is impossible because of the danger of causing rockfalls.
To carry out an attack down the middle scree is difficult, but artillery support is possible, the striking effect of which will be enhanced by rockfall. It is not possible to move upwards along the small scree. Therefore, if there is a need to attack upward, a slope covered with small talus, you just need to bypass it. But for the descent small scree is very convenient. Attacking it down will be quick and physically uncomplicated. The attack upwards will be slow on the snowfields, and rapid downward, artillery support is only possible here with a downward attack.
In winter, snow and frost are a serious problem for the troops. Important for the soldier acquires ownership of alpine skiing. Almost every slope is steeper than 15 degrees, with deep snow cover is avalanche-prone. When moving on such slopes, it is necessary to choose the right direction, in no case do not cross them across, the integrity of the snow cover is destroyed by the road from the tracks, and this causes an avalanche to disappear. The use of artillery and attack aircraft requires special skills. There is a danger to cause avalanches and bury their troops in huge masses of snow with fire support during the offensive. Strong avalanches sweep away everything in their path, the chances of surviving those who hit them are not. Tanks strong avalanche blow can throw a hundred meters. At the same time, several damage factors work, starting with the fact that a strong avalanche drives a powerful air wave in front of itself, comparable in strength to a shock wave in the explosion of a tactical nuclear weapon. Low temperatures in the mountains are especially sensitive to humans due to oxygen starvation.
Broad passes have several false passes in their structure, which is very convenient for the organization of defense in depth. Before the assault, careful reconnaissance of the disposition of the enemy’s forces and his fire weapons is necessary not only on the pass, but also on the other side of the ridge. Part of the force, intended for a bypass maneuver, is sent in advance (it will take a long time to bypass). The use of helicopters in the middle mountains is difficult, so the landing should be abandoned. The main problem for the attackers is to master the first false pass. The solution of this task lies solely on the infantry (and without fire support), some of whose forces are used to attack the enemy’s flanks from the nearest heights. Then you can pull up artillery and armored vehicles and use them to support the attack of the infantry. On the sloping section of the pass, you can use all fire weapons to destroy the enemy without restriction. When entering the opposite slopes, the attackers must, without stopping, pursue the enemy, leaning on him from above. In this case, the artillery must destroy the enemy's firepower, located in the depths of the valley that opened beyond the pass, and on its slopes.
Once again I remind you that in the mountains who are higher, he has a tactical advantage. In this case, the mountain infantry training is of key importance. Below it is more difficult to find a protected position. Firing of small weapons in the mountains is significantly different from what we have in the conditions of the plain. When firing down the bullet flies much further along a straight path than when firing up. Due to rarefied air, small arms with a caliber of 5,45 mm significantly lose their effectiveness, and it is preferable to use automatic machines with a caliber of 7,62 mm. Sniper fire is of particular importance, all the most distant effective shots in the battle of sniper rifles (over 2000 m) were made in the mountains in descending trajectories. To support the actions of the infantry in the mountains, the RPO Bumblebee, AGS-40, and the Pecheneg PKP are effective. Everything that is heavier in weight is sometimes simply difficult to carry in the mountains.
TACTICS OF MANEUVRE GROUPS
If there is an opportunity to move to the rear of the enemy along the tracks, the number of the detachment assigned to perform the round can reach the battalion. But this possibility is very rare. The battalion and even the company on the march in the mountains are too noticeable. And in conditions when complete supremacy in the sky has been achieved, it is more expedient to land assault forces at the necessary points in the enemy's rear by helicopters, without losing time and energy for long marches. If air supremacy is not achieved, movement to the rear of the enemy should be carried out in small groups (no more than 15 people) who, if necessary, can concentrate in a certain place or at the turn near the object of attack.
Small groups can also attack the enemy from different positions, this tactic plus the surprise factor is more effective. The enemy creates the illusion that he was attacked by a larger group than it actually is.
The structure of small maneuverable groups should include only fighters trained to fight in the mountains, equipped and acclimatized, respectively. Moreover, at least two people per group must be climbers - high-level athletes. This will increase the ability of such groups to make a maneuver, will give them the opportunity to overcome the relief impassable for fighters who do not have the skills of sports mountaineering. For example, on a climb, the climbers will prepare the way for the group to move: they will hang the ropes on difficult rock or ice sections of the group's route. And on the descent on the difficult terrain one of them will lead the group, the other will close the movement.
If it becomes possible to make the helicopters necessary for maneuverable cargo groups to a point located in relative proximity to the object of attack, this will undoubtedly speed up the action. But in any case, the surprise factor has priority, and helicopters can unmask the group, so they should be used in such cases only when absolutely necessary.
In the operational-tactical space, columns of troops advancing along the bottom of the adjacent main valleys interact among themselves, including in the use of maneuver groups, which often have to act in the interests of their neighbors. Sometimes, due to the peculiarities of the relief, it is easier to circumvent or cover the positions of the defending enemy from the neighboring valley.
BATTLES IN HIGHLAND
For a normal stay at a height of 3000 m above sea level and more (for the Himalayas from 5000 m), a person needs acclimatization, otherwise he may "get mountain sickness" or hypoxia, against the background of which there is a risk of developing pulmonary edema or brain edema with unpredictable the consequences. Long stay in the highland zone, even with acclimatization, is undesirable. And at altitudes above 7000, land combat is almost impossible.
Technique at altitudes from 4500 m, even in the presence of roads, due to lack of oxygen can not be used, engines stall. In addition, no cars will pass through the mountainous terrain (only slopes are available to ratracks). Army aircraft in the highlands can be used very limited. Since the practical high-altitude ceiling of attack aircraft and helicopters is small, they become a good target for MANPADS. A helicopter at these altitudes cannot deliver a landing force. Limit the action of aviation air flow, a sharp change of weather. If the board is shot down, the catapult does not always save the pilots, they die when landing, in the mountains it is more convenient to use a “wing” parachute, and the “dome” is extremely difficult to control.
Units fighting at these heights will be equipped accordingly. Fighting in this area of the mountains is carried out only on foot. Units are completed mainly from climbers. Mostly there are small groups, numbering up to a platoon. Their task is to move as secretly as possible and with all precautionary measures in accordance with the rules of movement in the highlands. The most dangerous places need to pass at night, not only because of the enemy, but also to avoid falling into an avalanche, under a rockfall or ice landslide. In winter, due to the deep snow cover, the movement is carried out on skis or snowshoes.
The valley glaciers are clearly visible, they are better to be held in bad weather conditions, when there is no visibility due to cloudiness, and the sounds of movement of the group cover the noise of the storm. To do this, you must have the skills to overcome the glaciers open and closed, and also be able to navigate the terrain in stormy conditions. In good weather, it is better to bypass the glaciers in the moraines, using the terrain, to preliminarily examine for ambushes or mine explosive obstacles. When passing through the icefalls, it is possible to move imperceptibly; during the shelling, you can hide in small cracks and seracs. It should be borne in mind that the passes through the icefalls are convenient for arranging ambushes or mining. To go to the upper circuses, on the ice or snow plateau should be with caution. These plateaus are clearly visible and sweep from the ridges. Bergshrund, crowning the icefall, usually has one, maximum two convenient passes, which can be under the supervision of a sniper.
High mountain passes, as a rule, are difficult to reach and pass, but can be used when approaching to reach the rear of the enemy. Large forces cannot be conducted through them, all the more so. In a very rare case, if there are simple approaches to it, a detachment of no more than 100 man can master this maneuver, provided that the pass is not occupied by the enemy. If there is an urgent need to storm a high mountain pass, it must be borne in mind that it will take a long time to reach the enemy’s maneuvering groups on the enemy’s flanks. This maneuver roundabout groups are often forced to conduct through neighboring circuses, and then they will have to move along narrow, complex rock ridges. Before approaching the assault group's pass, it can be subjected to artillery shelling (if conditions allow artillery systems to be withdrawn to convenient positions in the depth of the valley) or a fire strike from the air, but only if their units are at a safe distance from the pass. High mountain passes, to which the roads lead, it is also better to storm on foot. Artillery support infantry attacks in this case is possible only on gentle sections of the pass and after its passage on the reverse slopes.