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FM 90-2 Chapter 3 Battlefield Deception At The Tactical Level Of War

Chapter 3

Battlefield Deception At The Tactical Level Of War

Deception is common sense soldiering.

- General Carl E. Vuono, Chief of Staff

Tactical commanders plan and prepare for upcoming battles and engagements according to the terms of battle set by campaign and major operation plans developed at the operational level. Battles are fought by corps and divisions. Engagements are fought by brigades and smaller. units. Tactical operations require unity of effort between corps and divisions throughout the depth of operations-rear, close, and deep. The task of tactical commanders is to-

The tactical commander is the catalyst who executes the means for tactical success-battles and engagements-to satisfy operational ends.

The terms of battle set at higher echelons should be exploited tactically to the maximum extent possible. Successful tactical exploitation of the enemy involves, among other things, using indirect approaches and deception.


The key to successful tactical planning is anticipation of future battle events and being prepared for contingencies. Deception operations are essential in the tactical planning process so that friendly anticipatory processes can be conducted with more certainty and to mask maneuver options. In practice, deceptions can play a significant role in-

Tactical commanders exploit operational-level terms of battle by avoiding the enemy's strengths, striking at his weaknesses, and gaining surprise. To gain surprise-


Close operations involve the fight between the committed forces and the readily available tactical reserves of both combatants. Deceptions employed in close operations-

Commanders generally weight their main efforts with every available asset. Main efforts are usually complemented with feints-supporting attacks. If the main effort fails or an opportunity is presented during combat to exploit the feint as the main effort, commanders must be able to shift the effort rapidly.

Proper positioning of reserves to follow up either the main or supporting effort serves two purposes:


Deep operations are employed to attack those enemy forces that can influence close operations, but are not yet in contact. Successful attack on them-

Deceptions in support of deep operations should either-


Rear area operations preserve the commander's freedom of action and assure uninterrupted support to the battle. Rear area units, whose assistance to the main effort is vital receive the highest priority for protection, thus enhancing survivability.

Deception in support of rear operations may show either the buildup of area logistic bases, notional fire and air defense sites, or the increase of survivability of the units. The use of decoys for survivability will not be reported-as a deception operation.


Operational deception plans facilitate the conduct of campaigns and major operations by setting the terms of battle before battles and engagements occur. Tactical deception plans exploit the tactical situation being immediately confronted by the tactical commander. Although tactical organizations are not precluded from developing tactical-level deceptions independent of the operational context, they usually will be derivative slices of operational deception plans.

Tactical deception plans should not be developed in operational plan vacuums for the following reasons:

Figure 3-1 Relationships between operational and tactical deception plans
05-28-1996; 14:57:57