About Me

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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. Until recently, I was a contributing editor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


The aim of the attack is to disrupt, disorganise and destroy the enemy.

The principles of the attack are as follows:

1.      The CoG must be targeted
2.      Fire-and-manoeuvre must be exploited
3.      The attack must be organised in depth
4.      The attack must be launched from a firm base
5.      The start of the attack must be secured
6.      The tempo and momentum of the attack must be maintained
7.      The attack must be supported by maximum firepower
8.      Assault forces must move close to supporting fire
9.      Support weapons must be brought forward as soon as possible
10.   Relentless execution.

The CoG must be targeted: The enemy’s Centre of Gravity and those strong points that protect it must be located and targeted. Their destruction will bring about a weakening or a collapse in the enemy’s defences. The destruction of the CoG is a key to victory. (The COG must not be confused with the Trinity of Gravity in unconventional warfare)

Fire-and-manoeuvre: The ability to manoeuvre and utilise direct and indirect firepower to achieve advantageous positions in relation to the enemy must be exploited at all times. All engagements are reliant on fire-and-manoeuvre. Fire without manoeuvre and manoeuvre without fire is of no value. Fire-and-manoeuvre adds to momentum.

Depth: Depth in the attacking forces ensures momentum, provides flexibility, space and options for manoeuvre and additionally reduces casualties amongst the attacking forces.

Firm bases: The attack must begin from a firm base and as the attack develops, commanders must continue establishing firm bases (overwatch positions). This allows the attacking forces to maintain “one foot on the ground” and thus retain balance during the attack. Firm bases make it difficult for the enemy to launch successful counter attacks. Firm bases are established on terrain that provides the attacking forces an advantage in terms of fire and observation.

Secured start: The attack must be launched from a secure position to prevent assault forces from making immediate contact with the enemy as this will make deployment difficult and derail fire plans, especially indirect fire plans. Starting an attack from an unsecured position will give the enemy the initiative, adversely affect own forces morale, create casualties and confusion within the attacking force and disrupt the attack plan.

Tempo and momentum: Maintaining the tempo and momentum of the attack will ensure sustained pressure on the enemy. Sustained pressure will prevent the enemy from being able to reorganise and counter the attack, bring his reserves forward or prepare new positions. Aggressive execution will result in a rapid, relentless attack

Maximum firepower: Effective, sustained direct and indirect fire will inflict casualties and reduce enemy resistance. Fire support is vitally important where exposed assault forces move across open terrain or breach obstacles without adequate cover.

Moving close to supporting fire: The assault forces must move as close as possible to the supporting direct and indirect fire. This will prevent the enemy from reorganising or reacting once the supporting fire is lifted.

Support weapons rapidly to front: The aim of the attack is to destroy the enemy, capture and occupy the objective and defend it. It must be expected that the enemy will try to launch a counter attack as soon as possible to recapture terrain it has lost. Support weapons should rapidly be brought forward to strengthen positions that have been captured from the enemy.

Relentless execution: Once the attack begins ie the attacking forces cross the start line, the execution must be relentless. Relentless execution will enhance momentum, weaken enemy resolve, add speed and tempo to the attack as well as unbalance the enemy.

The above principles are relevant to all types of conventional infantry attacks, regardless of whether they are launched in the day or at night, mounted or dismounted.

The commander who applies the principles of the attack will create the necessary space in which to manoeuvre his forces, exploit his firepower, grasp the initiative from the enemy and develop advantages as they occur.

Note: This posting has been taken from the book I am currently writing and is an extract from Chapter 15: The Attack


Herbert said...


Good posting. It is appropriate that we periodically focus ourselves back to the particulars of the tactical level of warfare--that is, after all, where the real business gets done.

While your list of principles is excellent, may I offer a candidate for an addition on the end: Immediate preparation for defending against counterattack. I am reminded of that point because I'm rereading some old German WWII unit histories dealing with the eastern front war--perhaps the premier example of conventional warfare on this planet.

The Germans discovered that even after being overrun by massive Russian assaults, if in accordance with German doctrine they could mount an immediate counterattack with even a relatively small scratched-together unit, they stood an excellent chance of throwing the not-yet-prepared Russians off their newly acquired objective. As the war wore on, the Russians got better at hasty defense.

As you know, many armies and forces teach immediate counterattack and incorporate it into their defensive planning. It seems prudent that an attacker plan for it as well.

Just a thought for your consideration.


Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I am in total agreement with you that the business is done at the tactical level, Herbert.

Thank you for your additional principle. WW2 gave us so many lessons that we are quick to forget. A wily enemy will always attempt to counter attack, especially if he believes he will not be taken alive.

However, under the principle of bringing support weapons forward as soon as possible, I wrote “It must be expected that the enemy will try to launch a counter attack as soon as possible to recapture terrain it has lost”. For that reason, I did not add it as a principle. Perhaps it may make more sense if I separate it as a principle on its own.

Thanks again for pointing me in that direction.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I forgot to add something, Herbert...have you read “The Path to Blitzkrieg”? I found it a very good book in explaining the German doctrine of WW2. I am also trying to get through “Battles of World War 2” – a series of books my wife and son bought me.

I find the wars of the past how so many lessons we tend to either ignore and forget – and we do so at our peril.



Bret said...


I enjoy your work and have been very interested in the various posts that are excerpts from your book. Sorry if I missed it, but when do you think the book will be available, and will it be available to customers in the US?

Obin and Jessica Robinson said...

This posting makes me even more excited about the release of your book. I have money set aside for this one. It is going to be the "reference standard" for security operations.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks Obin and Jessica.

Unfortunately, my planning went awry as I spent a lot more time away from home than I initially anticipated and thus, my timeline fell to pieces.

I am slowly but surely gaining some momentum on the book but I am now getting worried as it passed the 500-page mark a few days ago. I may have to rethink on what could be excluded.



Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for the compliment, Bret. (Sorry, but I initially posted this response under a different posting!)

I am now completing the second to last chapter but as I have spent a lot of time away from home this year, my timeline has collapsed.

Yes, it will be available in the US when it finally surfaces.