Rukla, Lithuania, 15 March 2017
All is quiet in the Rukla training area. There is good visibility across the extensive terrain. The sandy plain is criss-crossed with ditches and punctuated by small patches of undergrowth, shrubs and woodland. The sound of tank engines and automatic cannon fire is heard from the distance, and suddenly the view is obscured by artificial smoke. 

Image 1
(© Bundeswehr/Thiel)
The thunder of diesel engines gets louder, then the hazy outlines of Marder infantry combat vehicles and Leopard battle tanks loom out of the fog.

The deployment of the multinational battlegroup’s German contingent from its home base in southern Germany was only completed a few days ago, when the final vehicles arrived in Rukla. Now the soldiers of the German-led battlegroup are getting on with their main job, namely training and conducting exercises.

Impeding movement, weakening the enemy

Members of a Lithuanian mechanised infantry company practise delaying tactics alongside the battlegroup’s mechanised infantry platoon, which has been reinforced by Leopard battle tanks. This involves the soldiers taking their Marder infantry combat vehicles and Leopard battle tanks forward well beyond their own defensive positions to engage the enemy forces in initial skirmishes.

This slows down the attack and weakens the enemy. The mechanised infantry forces and battle tanks then make intelligent use of the terrain to swiftly disengage and take up secondary positions.

Image 2 EFP a joint show of strength
(© Bundeswehr/Thiel)
Further delayingJoint exercises

Another attack yet again slows down the enemy advance and imposes further losses. Under cover of the curtain of smoke, the German forces disengage once more and return to their ultimate defensive positions, which have already been established by their Lithuanian colleagues. Together, they all now have to bring the enemy to a standstill and quickly shift into counter-attack mode.

Delaying action is very dynamic and complex. Battle tanks and mechanised infantry forces should collaborate well. Movements within the field of battle need to be coordinated, and battle tank teams as well as infantry soldiers need to be able to switch effectively between tactics.

Mounted on infantry combat vehicles or M113 light-armoured tracked vehicles, they rapidly change position under cover of the battle tanks. Moments later, they re-enter the fray on foot, armed with anti-tank weapons. This only works if tactical procedures are practised intensively on a daily basis.

This is a translation of an article by Carsten Vennemann published on

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