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  1. #1

    Default What is CQB?

    I raised this question on another forum (to remain nameless) and was slammed. I cautiously raise it again here confident that the level of discourse is able to cope with such a question....

    CQB = "Close Quarter Battle"

    The issue, with my raising and questioning of the definition, seemed to be that since 9/11 certain high Tier CT units have been training extensively in urban CQB, as a sub-unit tactical activity of the larger MOUT/FIBUA picture, which has concentrated on a lot of kill/capture missions into urban or structure environments. This has spread into the wider army and civilian culture and it seemed to me that a lot of people out there think that warfare is just about room clearing (I exaggerate).

    I asked the question of whether CQB is purely synonymous with urban operations, or whether CQB can be "close combat" in other environments. This is where the controversy was. Yes, urban CQB involves specific drills for room entry and clearance and all the rest, that is a given, but does that mean that is all CQB is? It is a semantics question, I know. I remember doing "CQB" on Jungle lanes.

    Yes, you will not use urban CQB drill in, for instance, the Jungle. But you may be doing another type of CQB. Or is it just "close combat". It appears that CQB has become, in the eyes of the primary CT practitioners, simply urban tactical operations.

    The other side to this was my observation that due to current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a lot of raid type search/capture/clear missions have gone on, including by conventional troops, that I felt we may be losing our way a little on what high intensity urban/MOUT is about. I felt that we have been applying techniques that are more suited for "permissive" environments or "semi-permissive" ones, which then carries over to kinetic completely non-permissive battlefields.

    What do I mean by this? Primarily entry drills. Even the US Army small unit tactics smart book, when discussing urban entry drills, describes it as I originnally learned it in the British Army; splitting the breach fire team into two man teams and moving to the breach site under cover of ground/fire before breaching and securing the entry point with two man teams, to be rapidly exploited into the building. What do we see all the time? "SWAT" style stacking at the breach, which isn usually a door.

    High intensity MOUT/FIBUA involves avoiding breaching and entering via the doors if at all possible. Without going into all of it here, the basics are that a higher level entry is preferred, and via another route such as a mousehole etc.

    So, to recap: There are two strands here:

    1. Is "CQB" simply an urban activity, involving entry and room clearance?
    2. Have we become "too SWAT" with our building entry drills and have we forgotten how to conduct ourselves in high intensity urban operations.

    An observation that I have as a British American is that a lot of the training is very "stylised" in the US. This includes room entry, where it is all about practising specific drills for entering and clearing the corners, dominating positions etc. The way I remember it, entering a room is a highly violent activity that is likely to result in a close encounter or just as well a full pile into the floor after tripping over an item of furntiture. I am wary of "stylizing" the training too much. I hope my point comes across as intended. I think you have to have good basic practised drills, go left, go right, cover the room etc, but real rooms are full of stuff, and it can rapidly become a clustee in there. You have to be flexible and ready to adapt. Just sayin'....
    Last edited by max velocity; 08-06-2012 at 08:38 PM.

  2. #2
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Dec 2005


    All your points are well taken and essentially correct. Some of the equipment is new and fancy but there isn't anything essentially new since the days of W.E. Fairbarin and Rex Applegate it's just people have figured out ways to make money off of it. But I am becoming very cynical in more old age.

  3. #3
    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    Jul 2009


    CQB is a "SME" empire built on police tactics entirely inappropriate for conventional operations in populated areas.

  4. #4


    Ok, thanks for the feedback. I knew something was up, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Now I feel that I am slightly less likely to be crazy (only slightly).

    It appears that those whom I tried to raise this issue with for discussion, are in fact embedded in the "industry" as SMEs - a quick website check got me that info. Mainly retired police/SWAT types with some military experience, and some Tier 1/2 military types. Defending empires I guess.

    I have never claimed to be "CQB" SME. I have certainly "done" CQB, and trained others, but I called it urban operations, MOUT/FIBUA and room clearing. I did a search of the internet and sites like youtube to find out what all this stuff is about. Interesting, very stylized drills that are not really appropriate and work well in empty kill house type rooms. When watching the way people are trained, I can't help but notice that they seem to almost ignore the center of the room in favor of concentrating on "dominating" the corners.

    I was originally in the British Army. In the Parachute Regiment we were considered very good at FIBUA. The British SAS is considered the premier "CQB" hostage rescue outfit and has been since the Iranian Embassy siege in 1982. If you look at some of the completely open source youtube videos of veterans showing somewhat outdated tactics, they don't do anything like the current US CQB teaching.

    Example: they will enter the room, one goes left, one right, but only so far to clear the "fatal funnel" and get out of the way of the door. They will then engage targets in the room and the third guy will come in as back up. The fourth man will do security in the corridor (assuming they are acting as a somewhat independently moving team and don't have another teams coming behind, and that they are going back out into the corridor as they clear multiple rooms).

    As to high intensity FIBUA, I am pretty sure that has been covered in detail on this site. A little summary: We were well trained at it, up to Company and Battalion level. Feeding into buildings and breaching through to avoid the outside and open spaces. It's all about link men and coordination! Back down to the tactical level, for any kind of normal residential type rooms, we would assault with two men, closely backed up by the rest of the team. Grenade goes in (not all the time, would use too many), one assaulter goes left, one goes right. Cover the room with fire. Fire into avaialble cover if the tactical situation called for it. Make sure the room was clear. Call room clear and indentify exits from the room for the section commander so when he entered he could rapidly make a plan to push the next asault team through into the next space. Repeat.

    Buildings would be defended and not easy to get through. The full gamut of OBUA defensive tactics woud be used to foil assault teams. Houses could be full of wire, rooms with furniture. No stairs, just as examples. Ladders and breaking tools would be carried, similarly to the way we carried assault ladders for urban movement recently in Helmand, when you need to patrol over the maze of alleyways and urban compound type terrain. Those mud compound walls are so strong that you need a bar mine type charge to breach them.

    I digress into ramblings....

    This is not a Brit bashing at US tactics. I know that US tactics are very close to UK for MOUT/FIBUA. With our current "SWAT Team" focus we seem to have forgotten that?

  5. #5
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Oct 2005


    Quote Originally Posted by max velocity View Post
    This is not a Brit bashing at US tactics. I know that US tactics are very close to UK for MOUT/FIBUA. With our current "SWAT Team" focus we seem to have forgotten that?
    I don't think anyone would/should take it that way, actually. I've been concerned as an outside observer for some time about what could be called the "law enforcement-ization" of military tactics and operations, honestly. Started, IMO, soon after 2001 when people started talking about military personnel "arresting" terrorists. CQB grew from hostage rescue techniques and LE stuff and soon become the "cool guys" method for urban operations. The fact that it wasn't appropriate for that wide of a focus escaped many.

    It just goes to show that we don't always learn the right lessons, or understand how to correctly apply those that we do learn.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  6. #6
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    May 2007

    Default Also two other factors. SOF-ization and a deeply flawed training system

    Not only is the US Army (and the Marine Corps to a lesser extent) guilty of "law enforcementization," the Army in particular dumbed down training to such an extent in the 80s that, given 2001 and some fighting to do, they adopted not only the flawed LE stuff but also much in the way of SOF Direct Action TTP. A combination of those two adoptions using the terribly flawed Task, Condition and Standard training process in an attempt to rectify shortfalls induced by that very process has been very harmful.

    Task: Clear a building. Condition: Whoops! Empire State Building? Pentagon? Crystal City Marriot? Typical American Office building? Strip Shopping Center? European urban house? Afghan Rural house? Viet Namese rural house? Thatched Hut?
    Standard: Clear and live...

    Both the LE and the SOF DA TTP have a place but in general, infantry combat is not such a place. Some one needs to go dig out the pre-1975 doctrine, get the Army on an outcome based training regimen and let the LE and SOF stuff stay where it belongs. Slap and Infanteer are both correct as are Steve and Max -- and we, the Army, have got a problem that must be addressed...

    Take doors as an example. For good reasons, LE and SOF DA types use doors. Why would Joe Tentpeg, Gruntus Typicalus, in an urban combat situation EVER use a door if it could be avoided? He's not remotely concerned with doing little damage to property, * he is very concerned with not ever doing the same thing twice (contrary to what we 'taught' and practiced for too long...) and doing the unexpected while letting the other SOB die for his country (hat tip to George C. Scott...).

    Mouseholes, battered holes, through the ceiling, even windows are better than doors. Been my observation that a Frag grenade is best first in if doors must be used (NOTE: That will work on most Afghan dwellings. Do not try it in much of the rest of Asia; the walls are far thinner... )

    * For those who cite good COIN etc. practices as a reason to avoid property damage, I agree -- what I do not agree with is using General Purpose Forces in that role; they will never do it well -- nor should they.

  7. #7
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Nov 2005
    Denver on occasion


    Quote Originally Posted by Infanteer View Post
    CQB is a "SME" empire built on police tactics entirely inappropriate for conventional operations in populated areas.
    Then there are the police tactics inappropriate for the police too. I was taught a very involved, complicated way of handcuffing people. Boy did I sweat over getting every step right. That is until an old Captain said if you do that you are just going to piss them off and then they might fight you. He said just ask them to turn around and put their hands behind their back and before they could figure out what was going on, click click and you were done. You took advantage of that moment of confusion.

    The thing was, the complicated method was meant (I think) for really dangerous guys who were covered with a gun by one officer while a second went though the evolution, the kind of thing the SWAT guys did. But the SWAT guys controlled most of the training so they taught what they knew even though it mostly didn't work.

    (I hope that story has some application to the discussion.)
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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