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Fundamentals of U.S. Breaching Operations

Suppress, obscure, secure, reduce, and assault are the breaching fundamentals that must be applied to ensure success when breaching against a defending enemy. These fundamentals will always apply, but they may vary based on the specific battle-space situation (mission, enemy, terrain, troops, time available, and civilian considerations).

Suppress - Suppression is a tactical task used to employ direct or indirect fires or an electronic attack on enemy personnel, weapons, or equipment to prevent or degrade enemy fires and observation of friendly forces. The purpose of suppression during breaching operations is to protect forces reducing and maneuvering through an obstacle.

Obscure - Obscuration must be employed to protect forces conducting obstacle reduction and the passage of assault forces. Obscuration hampers enemy observation and target acquisition and conceals friendly activities and movement. Obscuration smoke deployed on or near the enemy's position minimizes its vision. Screening smoke employed between the reduction area and the enemy conceals movement and reduction activities. It also degrades enemy ground and aerial observations. Obscuration must be carefully planned to provide maximum degradation of enemy observation and fires, but it must not significantly degrade friendly fires and control.

Secure - Friendly forces secure the reduction area to prevent the enemy from interfering with obstacle reduction and the passage of the assault force through the lanes created during the reduction. Security must be effective against outposts and fighting positions near the obstacle and against overwatching units, as necessary. The far side of the obstacle must be secured by fires or be occupied before attempting any effort to reduce the obstacle. The attacking unit's higher headquarters has the responsibility to isolate the breach area by fixing adjacent units, attacking enemy reserves in depth, and providing counter fire support.

Reduce - Reduction is the creation of lanes through or over an obstacle to allow an attacking force to pass. The number and width of lanes created varies with the enemy situation, the assault force's size and composition, and the scheme of maneuver. The lanes must allow the assault force to rapidly pass through the obstacle. The breach force will reduce, proof (if required), mark, and report lane locations and the lane-marking method to higher headquarters. Follow-on units will further reduce or clear the obstacle when required. Reduction cannot be accomplished until effective suppression and obscuration are in place, the obstacle has been identified, and the point of breach is secure.

Assault - A breaching operation is not complete until friendly forces have assaulted to destroy the enemy on the far side of the obstacle that is capable of placing or observing direct and indirect fires on the reduction area and battle handover with follow-on forces has occurred (if desired).

Source: U.S. Army, 2000.

charge capable of clearing a path up to 80 meters long, the setup and employment time is no more than 60 seconds. Other devices listed in Jane's should have similar employment times.

Considering the confusion and other conditions on the battlefield, the so-called “fog of war,” it would probably take longer to use a launched grapnel or a man-portable line charge in a real engagement than in an operational test. To compensate for the inherent confusion of combat, the committee notionally doubled the times claimed by the manufacturer and concluded that APL would provide, at most, approximately 10 minutes of additional protection for AT mines, if the enemy forces were properly equipped. In fact, the greatest time advantage provided by APL would be during a dismounted breach conducted under fire. In this situation, however, protective fires would cause a much greater delay than the APL.


Greenwalt, B., and D. Magnoli. 1997. Examination of the Battlefield Utitity of Antipersonnel Landmines and the Comparative Value of Proposed Alternatives. Livermore, Calif.: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Jane's. 1999. Mines and Mine Clearance, 4th ed., Surrey, U.K.: Jane's Information Group.

U.S. Army. 2000. Combined Arms Breaching Operations Field Manual 3-34.2. Washington, D.C.: Headquarters, Department of the Army.

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