The key to a successful attack will depend on small well equipped and drilled attack groups using a mixture of infantry and combat engineer specialists.

The first step to clearing a building is identifying or making an entry point. This can be achieved with direct fire, specialist engineer ‘mousehole’ explosive charges or demolition vehicles. Once the entry point has been identified the entry team will need cover, preferably by a combination friendly fire and smoke.

Clearing a building from the top down is the best approach. Gravity and the buildings floor plan will help when using hand grenades and moving from floor to floor. There are various methods to enter a building from the top including; neighbouring roofs and attics, drainpipes, ladders, grappling hooks, helicopters and adjacent trees. Doors and windows should be avoided as they can be easily booby trapped and covered by enemy fire. It is likely that the enemy will have placed booby traps in most buildings, even those not being defended. Specialist engineers will be needed to deal with them.

Clearing a room needs three groups; support, assault and re-enforcement. The cover group will create the opening and provide covering fire and support the assault group. The assault group will enter the room. Speed at this point is essential to success. They will first throw in a grenade, then immediately after it detonates charge in shooting into likely hiding places. Once the room is clear the assault group will secure the room covering any openings (such as ‘mouseholes’, doors and windows). Once the room clear signal is given the re-enforcement group will move through and clear the next room. This will continue until the building is clear. Additional supplies of ammunition and grenades will be required by the assault team so logistic re-supply routes will need to be quickly established to ensure the attack does not falter.

Clearing a stairway is similar to clearing a room. The assault group stand at the top of the stairs and throw a grenade to the landing below. As soon as it detonates they rush the landing keeping as close as possible to the walls and away from doorways. The commander then identifies the next room to be cleared and the normal room clearing drill continues.

Once the building has been cleared it will be clearly designated as such. This can be a simple pre-agreed chalk or paint mark on the wall. If the building has vulnerable points it will need to be secured to prevent the enemy re-gaining possession.






History has shown that fighting in built up areas (FIBUA) is one of the most demanding operational scenarios. The complex 3 dimensional terrain and close quarter nature of the combat makes it extremely costly for the attackers. Conversely a small group of well prepared and determined defenders can resist a much larger attacking force. 

Conventional weapons such as tanks are extremely vulnerable; they cannot use their range, may not be able to traverse their turrets, are easily blocked and are susceptible to mines and booby traps. Therefore intensive planning, specialist tactics, training and equipment are required to ensure success for both sides.   Communication links can also be very difficult to maintain, vhf radios will have limited utility and both sides will quickly be forced to rely on word of mouth and hastily laid land lines.  Limited communication coupled with poor fields of view makes FIBUA extremely confusing and difficult to control. Senior officers can quickly loose situational awareness and the initiative and judgement of junior commanders becomes the key to success.

Defenders will prepare their key positions channelling the attackers into killing areas using obstacles and mines. They will establish a number of defensive layers including observation posts, preliminary and secondary positions before falling back to their strong points. The advantage with this type of warfare is with the defender they will normally know the terrain, have fortified and strengthened the buildings and will have short supply lines. 

The attackers will normally split the attack into a number of phases the break in, establishing a foothold, consolidation and expansion.  Inevitably the progress will be made by small attack groups of infantry and combat engineers, using small arms and explosives to painstakingly take every room and building. Once cleared buildings need to be secured otherwise the defenders using tunnels, sewerage pipes and attic runs will re-emerge behind the attackers.  Huge numbers of attackers can be quickly absorbed into the attack and progress can be extremely slow.

Key Factors Defensive Operations



·        Preparation: maps (street, building and underground systems), clear fields of fire, clear and mark routes, pre-dump resources (ammunition, fuel, food, water), switch off gas supply

·        Outposts: destroy enemy reconnaissance forces, disrupt enemy, act as observation posts (eyes and ears), deploy snipers

·        Strong Point: dominate the killing areas, support other strong points, provide reserve forces, medical support, handling prisoners of war

Key Factors in Offensive Operations



·        Break in point: Identify break in point, covered route and fire base

·        Foothold: Concentrate force at foothold, identify specialised infantry and combat engineer support, synchronise attack with indirect and direct fire support

·        Consolidation: identify enemy strong points, identify enemy snipers, secure cleared areas

·        Expansion: Set objectives, secure cleared areas, engineer support, resupply routes (manpower, ammunition, equipment, fuel and water), prisoners of war, prepare defences against counter attacks