Central War Gaming Blog

Central War Gaming Blog


Sunday, November 13, 2022

Raids and Ambushes

We all like war movies, but I actually like to refer to them sometimes to teach tactical lessons. The real world is confusing, but 

Today's guest post by David Crew.

The Patriot — no the 1998 Steven Seagal one, not the Mel Gibson Revolutionary War one — while not a very good movie, does provide some lessons we can use around how to plan and execute successful raids, and ambushes.


The first lesson is in regards to the party defending the potential raid target. Granted, the soldiers in this movie were meant more to keep order than to defend from an armed attack, but notice that they are all prepared, for example carrying loaded firearms. Those of us who’ve seen photos and videos of military units operating in disaster areas and active riot zones are familiar with the site of soldier patrolling without magazines in their weapons, yet in most cases here, the soldiers are on alert and ready to defend themselves should the situation arise.

If you’re in a situation that requires you to carry a "cocked and locked" firearm that’s ready to be used at a moment’s notice, then it is important to recognize that you’re in a combat zone and need to be on the alert.

Now, for the attacking force in a raid, the OPFOR in the movie did some things right and a few things wrong.


They correctly first took out the outer defense, then didn’t waste anytime celebrating or consolidating and moved directly to assaulting their target building. In fact, they assault so fast after initiating the attack that the initial defenders they encounter haven’t reacted in the slightest. Because of this, they’re able to penetrate the building before any effective defense can be mustered. 

For the wrong, they only infiltrate the building through one entrance. This delays them enough for a few defenders to resist and inflict a few casualties. However, as proper, the raiders aren’t distracted by their casualties and push on, overwhelming what resistance is mustered. But if they’d attacked through multiple entrances instead of just the one, they might’ve been able to achieve complete surprise and suffered no casualties at all.


The first mistake was on the part of the OPFOR. Despite knowing where they were going, they elected to travel by vehicle, which kicked up dust and gave away their position. They also remained on the road, which allowed Seagal’s friend to figure out where they could be ambushed.

Considering the OPFOR had already seen what Seagal’s character was capable of and the fact that he used to be in the military, they should’ve expected resistance from him. While the decision to use vehicles makes some sense in that it gave them the advantage of speed and not arriving at the destination winded, at the very least, they should’ve stayed off the main road on approach, and/or have reduced speed to avoid revealing their approach both visibly and audibly. This would’ve made it harder for the defender to plan his ambush.

As for the ambush itself, the defender is fully aware he’ll be outnumbered and outgunned, so as with many ambush plans he stacks the odds as much in his favor as possible with force multipliers. Aside from surprise, ambushes can use placement, obstacles, and mass-casualty producing weapons such as machine guns, and thrown or emplaced explosives. 

The latter is what they choose here, in this case, an opportunistic bundle of dynamite which would today be called and IED.

This allows the ambushers to initiate with both enhanced surprise and immediate infliction of casualties and reduction of mobility. In fact, his use of it is so successful that the majority of the OPFOR are taken out by their own vehicles and the environment around them. 

The final key part of any successful raid or ambush, is the "sweep the objective" phase. This doesn't just mean physically moving across the area but using force and proximity to control the area. In some cases this will mean shooting all enemy, whether they present an immediate threat not, but can simply be verbal commands and covering, checking bodies after the initial firing has ended, and physically restraining or moving to consolidate EPWs. Don’t just assume someone is a casualty just because they aren’t moving. People who sustain injuries often are shocked or assume they are mortally wounded but can shortly recover and become a threat again, and playing possum is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Follow the applicable rules and laws but be sure to actively control the area. 

In the film, while the ambusher moves in and shoots those who present a threat, failing to secure the site fully results in him being shot in the back. 

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