Offense is the basic form of combat action to destroy enemy units. The north Korean infantry divisionís main offensive roles are to attack, destroy, capture, and secure enemy territory. An infantry division is augmented with armor, artillery, and engineer units, so that it may conduct combined arms operations. It is capable of conducting independent ground operations or operations as part of a corps. Within the limitations of equipment, it also conducts special purpose missions such as airborne/air assault and amphibious landings; though these missions are typically assigned to special operation forces. Infantry tactics also include air defense and anti-armor operations.
The north Koreans place emphasis on simultaneously striking the front with strong firepower, enveloping the enemy, and infiltrating the rear area. They will attack with multiple echelons in an attempt to expand the penetration and envelop enemy maneuver forces. They will reinforce success only. If an attack is failing they will fall back, reorganize and attack in a different area.
The envelopment is characterized by massive firepower applied on the enemyís flank. Its purpose is to divide and destroy the enemy. Employed in conjunction with a frontal attack which fixes the enemy, the envelopment surrounds them and insures their destruction. The goal of the envelopment is the isolation of the enemy. By blocking reinforcements, the enemy unit is forced to withdrawal under fire or surrender.
First echelon units will bypass any unit they can; follow-on forces are expected to destroy all bypassed units. By bypassing units, first echelon forces preserve their combat capability for future operations. Bypassing forces the enemy to abandon or change its defensive posture. It cuts the enemy off from reinforcements and blocks their ability to withdrawal ensuring their destruction.
During offensive operations the division commanderís focus is timing the arrival of infantry and armor forces at the focal point of the battle. The infantry divisionís organic armor battalion is capable of operating independently or in a supporting role. Based on terrain, tanks are used to spearhead the envelopment or conduct the frontal attack. Tanks support the advance of infantry with direct fire and breaching obstacles.
Armor battalions assigned to infantry divisions are, typically, equipped with older T-55 tanks. The T-55 does not have the capability to destroy the M-1, though it is very capable of destroying our support vehicles. Some units are equipped with the T-62. Though possessing enhanced firepower and acquisition capabilities, the T-62 is not a significant threat to the M-1. Both the T-55 and T-62 suffer from severe limitations in their reengagement ability. The main gun must be returned to the neutral position for reloading. When the main gun is brought to the neutral position, the gunner cannot track the target. Once reloading is completed the gunner must reacquire the target before firing. The time between rounds is approximately 30 seconds.
At the outbreak of war, first echelon forces of the nKPA (1st, 2d, and 5th Infantry Corps) are responsible for penetrating the enemyís main defensive belt near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Second echelon corps (the 806th and 815th Mech Corps and the 820th Armor Corps) are responsible for securing the flank and rear of the first echelon along with mopping up bypassed enemy forces. They are committed to battle when first echelon forces are no longer able to continue.
Infiltration forces have a variety of missions. Some of these are: securing the approach route, raids against enemy strongholds, neutralizing the enemyís command system, and blocking enemy supply routes. As noted by the north Korean officer who defected in October, 1995, north Korea will attempt to destroy the Second Infantry Division immediately upon the outbreak of war; infiltration forces will play a major role in accomplishing this mission.
Generally, nKPA units move during darkness or under conditions of limited visibility. Forces move in a safe and expedient manner. Columns are supported by antitank and air defense forces. Battalions maintain 500 meters between each other and artillery marches to the rear of the column along a parallel route. For the sake of speed, the march formation is the preferred method of troop movement. A march formation usually consists of the following elements:
- Advance guard
- Flank security
- Regiment main body
- Rear security element
The focus of march planning is security of the main force and the creation of conditions for its successful commitment to battle.
The advance guard precedes the main force on the same route as the reconnaissance unit and provides movement security and warning. It normally consists of approximately one third of the total combat power of the main force. The advance guard of an infantry regiment is normally an infantry battalion reinforced with artillery, engineers, and anti-armor equipment. The division may employ a regiment as an advance guard.
The advance guard will dispatch to its front a forward security element (FSE) also consisting of one third of its combat power. The FSE element is a reinforced company. Preceding the FSE is the combat reconnaissance element. This element is normally a platoon reinforced with engineer and NBC reconnaissance elements. It reports intelligence information and makes the initial contact with any enemy forces. Flank and rear security for a regiment on the march is conducted by platoon size units.
Each element of the march formation is responsible for destroying enemy forces before they can slow the main body. If the unit is unable clear the way for the main body, they fix and hold the enemy force until the next unit in the column can join the fight. Figure #6, shown on the next page, is a picture of a typical nKPA infantry regiment in march formation.
Due to the type of terrain typical to Korea, it is likely you will encounter a north Korean unit still in its march column. Despite the normally narrow terrain, there are places where units can deploy forces into formations which place more combat forces in front.
From the march formation, a unit deploys into the pre-battle formation. A unit disperses abreast by increasing space between vehicles. This formation is used when approaching the battlefield, moving in the depths of a defending enemyís rear area, and attacking enemy defenses when preparatory fires have significantly reduced enemy resistance. Pre-battle formations minimize troop vulnerabilities to collation air and artillery strikes. It facilitates rapid maneuver as well as quick deployment into attack formation. Units in pre-battle formation either deploy into attack formation or return to the march formation, depending on the tactical situation.
In a pre-battle formation, a battalion advances with its companies deployed in column; deployed in a forward or reverse wedge, or echeloned left or right. Each company moves in march column within the formation. A tank platoon is attached to reinforce the battalion. The pre-battle formation does not deploy beyond platoon formations. Dispersal and speed of separate column formations are what makes them less vulnerable. Figure 8, shown on the next page, is a picture of a battalion in pre-battle formation.
If time and terrain permits, a unit moves into an attack formation approximately 1,000 meters before enemy positions. Tanks on line normally lead dismounted infantry by 100 to 200 meters. Often, the infantry forces will remain in column behind the tanks for protection from direct fire weapons. The infantry will deploy when they are within effective range of their weapons. In the attack formation, platoons disperse laterally into a line formation.
A battalion normally attacks as part of its parent regiment. A battalion does not have the organic support elements needed for an independent attack. Its likely mission is to attack through strong points of the defending enemy and to continue the attack in an assigned direction. The mission of these elements is similar to the missions of the division and regiment elements, but it is on a smaller scale. Subunits normally do not stop on objectives and consolidate, but continue the attack deeper into the enemy rear area.
The battalionís zone of attack can vary from 1 to 2 kilometers with a depth of up to 3 kilometers. The battalion will attempt to create a breakthrough zone 500 to 1,000 meters wide. Follow-on forces, 3-5 km behind, will attempt to exploit the breakthrough.
An infantry battalion does not have an organic reconnaissance element. However, a surveillance patrol is composed and trained to act in a manner similar to an American scout platoon. This scout element advances 2-3 kilometers forward of the battalion sector and provides intelligence information to the unit headquarters.
The first echelon of the attack battalion will consist of two infantry companies supported by artillery from the regimental artillery group (RAG) composed of three artillery battalions (122mm, 152mm, and 107mm MRL), which is located 3-5 km from the front line. This artillery operates under control of the regimental commander. Placing the artillery under the control of the regiment, combined with the older generation of north Korean radios, causes a longer turn around in calls for fire then in the Dragon Force. The division artillery group, comprised of 152mm and MRL, is located 7-9 km behind the front line and supports the divisionís main attack. The infantry soldiers are usually reinforced with tanks from the infantry divisionís armor battalion.
The second echelon of the attack is formed by the remaining infantry company. Its primary mission is to exploit success of the lead companies. Usually this company detaches a platoon size element to act as the battalion reserve. The reserve is placed in an area which provides rapid deployment against developing threats or reinforcement of the first echelon, if needed. Anti-armor assets are usually placed in ambush sites or in assembly areas along mechanized/armor avenues of attack.
A typical infantry company attack frontage is from 500 to 800 meters (as you can see in the above graphic). Platoons normally attack on a frontage of 150 to 200 meters. Within this sector, the nKPA may deploy armor, antitank guns, and artillery in a direct fire mode supporting the attack. Also, crew served weapons such as mortars and heavy machine guns are pushed forward providing support to areas of success.
North Korean mechanized forces comprise the exploitation forces of their army. The mission of mechanized forces is to exploit the success of first echelon divisions in penetrating ROK defenses. These are the forces that the Dragon Force will fight.
The increased speed and mobility offered by mechanized forces is a significant increase in north Korean capabilities. Many historians believe that it was a lack of this kind (and this amount) of mobility that cost the north Koreans a victory in the Korean War. Knowing this they developed a large number of mechanized units which are capable of conducting independent operations in South Korea.
Mechanized forces of the nKPA are very different than mechanized forces in the American army. The majority of north Korean mechanized forces are truck mobile. A truck mobile unit is transported to combat aboard cargo trucks. The trucks transport the infantry soldiers to a dismount point where they enter the fight as foot infantry. Truck mobile infantry is required to dismount earlier then infantry forces that are transported to battle in the VTT-323 (the north Korean APC).
North Korean mechanized forces fight the same as their infantry counterparts. They use the same formations and fight with much of the same equipment. In the case of units equipped with the VTT-323, they employ the 14.5mm machinegun much the same as an American Bradley crew uses their 25mm.
MECHANIZED INFANTRY BATTALION FORMATIONS
The mechanized brigade march formation mirrors that of the infantry regiment. A mechanized brigadeís advance guard is a mechanized battalion.
The advance guard precedes the main force on the same route as the reconnaissance unit and provides movement security and warning. The advance guard of a mechanized brigade is a mechanized battalion reinforced with an artillery battalion, engineers, and anti-armor equipment.
The advance guard detaches a forward security element (FSE) to its front, consisting of one third of its combat power. The FSE element is a reinforced company. Preceding the FSE is the combat reconnaissance patrol (CRP). This element is normally a platoon reinforced with engineer assets and NBC reconnaissance elements. Flank and rear security for a regiment on the march is conducted by platoon size units.
Travelling 15-20 km in front of the CRP is the brigade reconnaissance element. It is charged with providing early warning, target identification, locating key terrain, and clearing the brigadeís main route.
Signature vehicles for the brigade recon element and the CRP are the KMT-4, KMT-5, and the BTR-60rkh. The KMT-4 and KMT-5 are T-55s with a mine plow or a mine roller, respectively, mounted on the front. The BTR-60rkh is a chemical reconnaissance vehicle. Unlike the picture shown here, the actual rkh model carries a chemical field marker flag dispenser on the back. It is important that you know the roles these vehicles play in the north Korean march formation.
Each element of the march formation is responsible with destroying enemy forces before they can slow the main body. If the unit is unable clear the way for the main body, they maintain contact with the enemy, holding them in place until the next unit in the column can join the fight.
As with infantry battalions, a mechanized battalion in pre-battle formation advances with companies in column, see figure 11. A unit does not deploy laterally beyond platoon columns.
Tanks on line normally precede the APCs by 100 to 400 meters. Infantry dismount when the enemy is in range of their weapons or when the tanks are threatened by antitank weapons. When the latter occurs, the infantry dismount and run to the rear of the tanks which they use for cover while engaging targets and/or spotting targets for the tanks. When the tanks close with the enemy and demolish antipersonnel obstacles, the infantry follow the tanks by 50 meters, assaulting the enemy. When the assault is complete, the infantry remount their vehicles and continue the attack. An attack formation is normally assumed within 1,000 meters of enemy positions.
MECHANIZED BATTALION ATTACK
During an attack, a mechanized brigade is tasked to capitalize on the success of the infantry division it is supporting. When the infantry division has opened a gap in the enemyís line, the mechanized forces are committed into that gap. It is their responsibility to widen the gap and continue the attack. While the mechanized forces are attacking, the organic light infantry battalion and reconnaissance assets are attempting to locate weaknesses in the enemyís rear area.
If the infantry division is unsuccessful, the mechanized forces are committed into another sector. The infantry division maintains contact with enemy forces to keep them from relocating and reinforcing another unit.
The first echelon of an attacking mechanized battalion will consist of two infantry companies supported by artillery from the brigade. This artillery is controlled by the brigade commander. The companies are typically reinforced with tanks from the brigadeís armor battalion.
PART 1 QUIZ
1. The effective range of the AK-47 is __________.
2. The effective range of the B-11 Recoilless Gun is __________.
3. The effective range of the T-62 is __________.
4. An infantry division is formed with __________ infantry regiments.
5. North Korean infantry divisionís main offensive roles are __________, __________, __________, and __________ __________.
6. The favored method of attacking involves ______________________________, ______________ ________________, and ______________________________.
7. In armor operations, the north Koreans focus on __________ the arrival of infantry and armor forces.
8. Armor battalions assigned to infantry divisions are equipped with __________.
9. The re-engagement time for T-55 and T-62 tanks is __________ seconds.
10. The doctrinal frontage of an infantry division in the attack is __________ Km.
11. The north Korean militaryís first echelon forces are comprised of the __________, __________, and __________ Infantry corps.
12. Second echelon forces are committed to battle when the first echelon forces _________________ ________.
13. When in a march formation, battalions maintain a __________ interval.
14. The Forward Security Element consists of __________ of the total combat power of the Advance Guard.
15. Each element of the march formation is responsible for __________ enemy forces before they can slow the main body.
16. Regimental reconnaissance forces operate __________ in front of the Combat Reconnaissance Patrol.
17. From the march formation, a unit deploys into a ____________________.
18. The attack formations is normally assumed within __________ of expected enemy positions.
19. A battalion in the attack will attempt to create a breakthrough zone __________ wide.
20. The acronym RAG stands for ______________________________.
1. The effective range of the AK-47 is 500m
2. The effective range of the B-11 Recoilless Gun is 1000m
3. The effective range of the T-62 is 1600m
4. An infantry division is formed with 3 infantry regiments.
5. North Korean infantry divisionís main offensive roles are attack, destroy, capture, and secure territory.
6. The favored method of attacking involves striking the front with massive firepower, enveloping the enemy, and infiltrating the rear area.
7. In armor operations, the north Koreans focus on timing the arrival of infantry and armor forces.
8. Armor battalions assigned to infantry divisions are equipped with T-55s.
9. The reengagement time for T-55 and T-62 tanks is 30 seconds.
10. The doctrinal frontage of an infantry division in the attack is 6-10 Km.
11. The north Korean militaryís first echelon forces are comprised of the 1st, 2nd, and 5th Infantry corps.
12. Second echelon forces are committed to battle when the first echelon forces are no longer able to continue.
13. When in a march formation, battalions maintain a 500m interval.
14. The Forward Security Element consists of one-third of the total combat power of the Advance Guard.
15. Each element of the march formation is responsible for destroying enemy forces before they can slow the main body.
16. Regimental reconnaissance forces operate 10-15 Km in front of the Combat Reconnaissance Patrol.
17. From the march formation, a unit deploys into a pre-battle formation.
18. The attack formations is normally assumed within 1000 meters of expected enemy positions.
19. A battalion in the attack will attempt to create a breakthrough zone 500 - 1000m wide.
20. The acronym RAG stands for Regimental Artillery Group.