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FM 90-2 Chapter 2 Battlefield Deception At The Operational Level Of War


Battlefield Deception At The Operational Level Of War

Operational-level deceptions are within the purview of Theater Army component, Army group, field Army, and in some cases, corps commanders. The objective of deception operations at the operational level of war is to influence the decisions of enemy commanders before battle occurs. This is done so that the tactical outcome of battles and engagements is favorable and, subsequently, operationally exploitable. The goal is to maintain operational fluidity. For this reason operational deceptions have a much larger potential payoff than those at the tactical level.

These echelons of command may have operational or logistic sustainment or a combination of both types of mission responsibilities.

During peacetime, the unit's true and deceptive efforts concerning how the force is organized, equipped, trained, and maintained directly contribute to--

During peacetime and wartime transition periods, the unit's true and deceptive efforts concerning how the force is allocated and sustained directly contribute to--


The essence of operational art is the identification of the enemy's center of gravity and the design of campaigns which expose it to attack and destruction.

Enemy operational centers of gravity can be a function of the political, economic, military, sociological, ideological, or psychological context (or combinations thereof) which give rise to the presence of the enemy. Operational centers of gravity have been characterized as--

A center of gravity is a fundamental source of enemy power and strength, and, in most cases, it will have to be attacked in phases over time.

A campaign plan's ultimate objective should be the destruction of the enemy's center of gravity. Deceptions supporting the campaign plan should be consciously designed to expose the enemy's center of gravity to increasingly higher levels of risk.

Deceptions that are developed around branches and sequels to campaigns and major operations plans weaken the robustness with which the enemy can preserve his center of gravity.


Lines of operation define the direction of a force in relation to the enemy. Multiple lines of operation in a campaign are not uncommon, although often there is usually only one per campaign or major operation. This line, or lines, connect the friendly operational base or bases geographically with the operational objective. By manipulating these lines, it is possible to mislead the enemy and cause him to adopt inappropriate courses of action (see Figure 2-1.).


All offensive operations reach a point-the culminating point-when the strength of the attacker no longer decisively exceeds that of the defender. Continuing to operate beyond that point risks overextension, counterattack, and defeat. The aim of attack is to achieve decisive objectives before reaching the culminating point.

While on the attack, deception operations make it easier to move supplies forward and to preserve--

Figure 2-1. Operational base: objective relationships

Offensive deception operations can take the form of displays, feints, or demonstrations (which reduce enemy maneuver or fire-induced force attrition), or a combination of displays, feints, and demonstrations. All contribute to delaying premature achievement of friendly culminating points.

Operational commanders who are attacking can manipulate the indicators which the enemy commander uses to perceive friendly culminating points. This can induce the enemy to--

Defense hastens culmination of the enemy attack, and then exploits it offensively. While on the defensive, deception operations are employed to--


Operational commanders plan and execute campaigns and major operations that extend from ports and support areas far to the rear of the line of contact to similarly distant sources of enemy support. They concentrate superior strength against enemy vulnerabilities at decisive times and places. These commanders set the terms of battle, which will be fought by subordinate units, by synchronizing--

For these reasons, rear, close, and deep operations truly become one AirLand Battle, whether offensive or defensive in nature.

The operational commander is the catalyst who converts strategic ends into operational means--campaigns and major operations--to accomplish the ends. He focuses on executing the campaign plan by staging, conducting, and exploiting the outcome of major operations. Campaign plans set long-term goals that are accomplished in phases in most cases. Depending on what the enemy center of gravity is, they can be designed to defeat the enemy in a number of different ways, such as--


The plan for the first phase of the campaign depicts the commanders intent, allocates forces to major subordinate units, disposes the force for operations, and coordinates air and naval support for ground maneuver.

Employing deception during the first phase of a campaign affords operational commanders ample opportunities to--

All this is done to predispose the enemy to adopt a posture that is operationally exploitable in the first as well as coming battles.

Preplanned branches to the campaign plan--options for changing dispositions, orientation, direction of movement, and decisions to accept or decline battle--are the fertile soil into which the seeds of deception can be sown.

Sequels establish dispositions, objectives, and missions for subordinate units after battle. Preplanned sequels allow effective transit to exploitations, counteroffensives, withdrawals, retreats, or reorientations of the main effort. Deceptions can be as effectively woven around preplanned sequel variants as branch variants (see Figure 2-2).

Figure 2-2. Use of branches and sequels as deceptions


Major operations planning begins prior to war (as long as a campaign plan is in place) or can begin as branches or sequels to campaign plans. Major operations are coordinated elements of campaigns, and their outcomes impact on different phases of a campaign plan.


Operational sustainment provides support by--

The following sustainment imperatives facilitate the sustainment function:


Operational sustainment planners must ensure that base facilities, priorities of support, lines of communication (LOC), and troop movements support the main lines of operation. They must also be robust enough to postpone attainment of the culminating point until after the friendly decision point is reached, in anticipation of attacks by enemy--

Operational sustainment planners should create notional base facilities and establish and use notional LOC.


Integration of operational and sustainment deception plans will result in the anticipatory sustainment requirements, mentioned earlier, being satisfied within the context of preplanned branches and sequels to campaign and major operations plans.


By satisfying the integration requirement mentioned earlier, operational continuity (in terms of linus of operations and culminating points) will be enhanced.


Deceptive dilution of the sustainment system, through the use of notional logistic bases and LOC, preserve the robustness of the system during surge periods needed to reconstitute the defense or exploit offensive successes.


The key imperative to sustaining the force is the imagination of everyone involved in the sustainment system to improvise, using organic and, where possible, host nation resources. For example, notional sustainment nodes can be created from discarded empty containers or materiel.


Creation and manipulation of both central and multiple bases of support, in conjunction with interior and exterior lines of support; are the means with which the sustainment system is deceptively enhanced. Reference to lines of support can be found in FM 100-5.


The key to success in offensive campaigns is to defeat the enemy before reaching your culminating point--the point where the offense becomes exhausted

Unfortunately, for one or more of the following reasons, culminating points are often reached before the decisive objective has been achieved:

To prevent reaching the culminating point at the wrong time-before the objective is secured-the attacker must cause the enemy defense to collapse as rapidly as possible. He must simultaneously protect his forces and sustainment system. Operational commanders should employ deception in offensive campaigns to-

The reasons for employing deception go to the heart of maintaining operational fluidity. Deception is employed to-

Offensive campaigns may be fought against concentrated or dispersed enemy forces. Against concentrated enemy forces, operational deception should induce the enemy to abandon his positions and fight at a positional disadvantage. This means-

Against dispersed enemy forces, operational deception should induce the enemy to remain dispersed for piecemeal defeat. This means-

General Grant's Vicksburg Campaign during the Civil War graphically depicts the use of deception against both concentrated (Vicksburg) and dispersed (Vicksburg-Jackson) forces.

Grant used demonstrations and feints north of Vicksburg to mask his maneuver south around Roundaway and Vidal bayous, and up the Big Black River. This phase of the campaign turned the southern flank of the Vicksburg defenses and exposed the rear (the town of Jackson) to attack.

By demonstrating and feigning south of the Vicksburg defenses, extending east from Warrenton toward the Big Black River, rebel forces at Vicksburg were effectively held in place. By demonstrating east to Jackson, rebel forces there were held in place as well. This tactic allowed Grant to-


The key to success in defensive campaigns is to destroy the enemy's capability to sustain forward movement-to hasten his culminating point. Defensive campaigns are undertaken-

Defensive campaigns must control the enemy's attack, while simultaneously preserving the defending force's ability to defend and to assume offensive operations. Commanders mix defensive and offensive battles and engagements. They contest the initiative at every opportune time and place, within the area of operations, to exhaust the enemy attack.

Operational commanders should employ deception in defensive campaigns to-

The reasons for employing deception go to the heart of maintaining a coherent defense. Those reasons are to-

Defensive campaigns, like offensive campaigns, contain branches and sequels that give the commander preplanned opportunities to exploit the military situation. It is around these branches and sequels that deception potentials exist.

Specific deceptive actions that the operational commander can take to hasten exhaustion of the enemy offensive include, but are not limited to-


Strategic deception plans are designed to facilitate war fighting, escalation control and war winning at theater level and higher. Operational deception plans facilitate the successful conduct of in-theater campaigns at Army EAC. Although EAC organizations are not precluded from developing operational-level deceptions independent of the strategic context, they usually will be land component-specific, derivative slices of strategic deception plans.

Campaign plans and operational deception plans must not be developed in strategic plan vacuums for the following reasons:

05-28-1996; 13:36:51