Manoeuvre Warfare Applicability In Mountains And Developed Terrain Philosophy Essay

do not necessarily reflect the views of

1. Nothing has decided the fate of nations and people as war has- cultures and civilisations have vanished, the people absorbed by the victorious armies. War fare is thus the ultimate ‘survival of the fittest’ environment, and the evolution of war fare within the environment has occurred through an almost unconscious, Darwinian, process of natural selection It is therefore imperative that a nation’s armed forces match this evolution process. In order to achieve this they must embrace the latest technology and constantly endeavour to redefine and upgrade their strategy, doctrines and war fighting philosophy.

2. 2100 years of recorded history of warfare has led to the emergence of two distinct styles of warfare – Attrition warfare and Manoeuvre warfare. The simplest comparison between the two is that the former is akin to arm wrestling where the basic reliance is on strength or ‘force on force’ with limited application on targeting the mind through speed and agility, while the latter is akin to Judo or Taekwondo where the main thrust is on speed and agility to target the opponent’s mind and limited emphasis is on strength per se. In fact, the strength of the opponent is rendered ineffective and is utilized to defeat him.

3. Indian army executed the most brilliant campaign based on manoeuvre warfare – the Bangladesh War 1971 – wherein Bangladesh was liberated at a relatively low cost and the Pakistan Army largely intact was defeated and 93.000 prisoners were captured. By manoeuvre in time and space, the enemy mind was paralysed into inaction. The Bangladesh campaign is taught in foreign countries as the most complete campaign based on manoeuvre warfare. Yet it is an irony that our Army is just loosely following manoeuvre, in both theory as well as practice, for decades now.

4. Military theorists state that it normally takes a 50 years cycle in respect of changes in military equipment, force structure and doctrine to stabilise. It is no wonder that the winds of change are sweeping across military thought and several of world’s major armed forces are in a greater or lesser flux. On one hand, technological changes are influencing the warfare, on the other hand, military thought is looking towards better method of war fighting with the aim of switching from attrition warfare to manoeuvre warfare.

5. There is therefore a need to understand, institutionalize and apply the war fighting philosophy of manoeuvre warfare in the present times as it does not

permit us a long battle. The study focuses on the vital essentials of manoeuvre warfare and analysis how this approach can be satisfactorily applied in mountains and developed terrain in the Indian context.

Definition of Manoeuvre Warfare

6. Manoeuvre is one of the two basic components of combat. The other is fire power. It is some times taken to be simply another word fir the move of forces. More often, it is used to mean relational move, i.e. move relative to an opponent’s position. Manoeuvre is defined in the Glossary of Military Terms as, “move of forces in the field in order to place the fire power of the fighting elements in a favourable position. Combined with surprise, deception and speed, manoeuvre may be used on occasion to offset enemy superiority in the power and increase the offensive of own force.”

7. The US Army’s Field Manual defines manoeuvre as “move of forces in relation to the enemy to secure or retain positional advantage”. In this essence, Manoeuvre means an attack on either or both of the enemy’s flanks. Move into his rear to disrupt his support elements, or encirclement. The essence of manoeuvre – in the classic usage of the team – is not move per se but the achievement of positional advantage. Because of basic human psychology, a force that is hit where it is weak, where it does not except to be hit, or in such a manner as to have it cut off from its supplies. Reinforcement or line of retreat tends to panic and disintegrate. The principal effect or manoeuvre is the more mental the physical – and therefore more powerful than simple physical attrition. In manoeuvre warfare, the objective is the enemy’s collapse as a cohesive, functioning force, not his incremental destruction through the application of firepower.

8. Manoeuvre Warfare depends upon out manoeuvring the enemy, both in the spatial and the temporal sphere, through a faster “tempo” The “leverage” achieved by placing one’s own mass in a position of advantage through spatial manoeuvre at a faster tempo than the enemy brings about the dislocation and psychological disruption to paralyze the enemy commanders mind, leading to his defeat.

9. Manoeuvre is a frame of mind and a style that has application at the tactical, operational and strategic level. Mobility is the means to execute a manoeuvre. Only when mobility is applied with the aim of inflicting paralysis on the enemy commands, does it get translated into manoeuvre. Thus, manoeuvre is not a way of movement but a way of thinking.

10. Inherent in the Manoeuvre Warfare is the need for violence, not so much as a source of physical attrition but as a source of physical dislocation. Towards this end, we concentrate strength against critical enemy vulnerabilities, striking quickly and boldly where, when and how it will cause the greatest damage to the enemy’s ability to fight. Once gained or found, any advantage must be pressed relentlessly and unhesitatingly.

11. Surprise remains an integral weapon in the arsenal of Manoeuvre Warfare. By studying one’s enemy we should attempt to appreciate his perceptions. Through deception we should try to shape his expectations. Then we will dislocate them by striking at an unexpected time and place. In order to appear unpredictable, we must avoid set rules and patters which inhibit imagination and initiative. In order to appear ambiguous and threatening, we should operate on axes that offer several courses of action, keeping the enemy unclear as to which we will choose.

Manoeuvre and Manoeuvre Warfare

12. It is an accident of language that the word Manoeuvre and Manoeuvre Warfare have been confused and taken to be synonyms. Manoeuvre can be defined as the organised movement of forces during combat in combination with fire or fire potential to achieve a position of advantage relative to the enemy in order to deliver a decisive strike. Elsewhere, the term is also used as synonym for movement as in “fire and manoeuvre”, in small unit tactics. Since everyone is generally clear about “manoeuvre”, Manoeuvre Warfare is generally perceived as warfare employing manoeuvre. Consequently the retort, “it is just a fancy new name for what we have always done”.

13. The fact of the matter is that in Manoeuvre Warfare, manoeuvre means much more. It is not only a question of movement in space to gain positional advantage, but also to gain temporal advantage, through generation of a faster operational tempo. One aspect that stands out clearly on all victorious campaigns based on Manoeuvre Warfare is that one of the proponents, by his actions, brought about a sudden change or a series of changes on the battlefield to which the adversary could not adjust in a timely manner. As a result he was defeated and that too at a small cost to the victor.


Statement of the Problem

14. The aim of the study is to examine the significance of manoeuvre warfare and to analyse its application in mountains and developed terrain in the Indian context.


15. Manoeuvre warfare is a war fighting philosophy that seeks to shatter the enemy’s physical and psychological cohesion through a series of rapid and unexpected actions and can be successfully applied in any terrain or scenario from the tactical to the strategic level provided the basic tenets are adhered to. Thus, the concept can be equally and efficiently applied in mountain and developed terrain in the Indian context.

Justification of the study

16. The Indian Army Doctrine Section 20: Para 7.14 directs our focus on the intellectual understanding, institutionalisation and implementation of manoeuvre warfare and Directive command. The challenge before the Indian Army is to apply this sub doctrine of war fighting and command. Although this war fighting philosophy was successfully applied by Indian Army in the 1971 war, but no significant gains were made in the western sector. Therefore it is imperative that we give a more detailed look at what can be done to achieve a vital breakthrough and a decisive victory, especially in mountain and developed terrain.

17. Even though manoeuvre warfare is today a much talked about subject in our army, its application and convention to a doctrine or war fighting philosophy in mountains and developed terrain is a long way off. The possible reasons for this are many, which include cynicism that manoeuvre warfare is – “nothing new”, a traditionally attritionist approach, resistance to change, over emphasis on “no loss of territory” and so on. There is a need for us to analyse how this approach can be satisfactorily applied in the Indian Army’s context especially in mountains and developed terrain.

18. In the light of the arguments given above the subject “Manoeuvre Warfare and its Applicability in mountains and developed terrain” has been chosen for the study.

Scope of the Study

19. The research shall seek to study the essentials of manoeuvre warfare and its characteristics and to make it more meaningful the study will narrow down its focus on application of manoeuvre warfare in the developed terrain in Indian context. It will concentrate on the aspects needing attention in our thought process and the organisational and institutional changes necessary to facilitate this approach. The basic premise of the research is that manoeuvre warfare is a war fighting philosophy and can be successfully applied in any terrain or scenario from the tactical to strategic level provided the basic tenets are adhered to.

Operational Definitions

Methods oF Data Collection

Organisation of the Dissertation

20. The dissertation has been divided in following chapters:-

(a) Chapter I . Introduction.

(b) Chapter II. Essential Elements of Manoeuvre Warfare

and Analysis of 1971 Bangladesh Campaign..

(c) Chapter III. Emerging Principles for Application of Manoeuveristic Approach in Developed Terrain.

(d) Chapter IV. Characteristics, Challenges and Analysis of Own Concept of Operations in Developed Terrain.

(f) Chapter V. Recommendations and Suggested Changes for Application of Manoeuvre Warfare in Developed Terrain.

Directive Style of Command.

Leadership Doctrine.

Changes in Tactics and Equipment.

Education and Training.

Restructuring Strike Corps.


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