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Subterranean Warfare

Challenges and Training

The combination of streets and subterranean & urban structures has become the battlefield of today. Gaining combat skills in CQB (Closed Quarters Battle) is paramount for fighting terrorism and guerrilla wars, and the armies need to adjust and be prepared to navigate this adversary environment.

In the past few years, subterranean warfare has become essentially important. Recent combat experience shows that subterranean structures (natural and human-made) are enhanced and frequently used by adversary forces to gain tactical advantage over larger, more technically equipped and professionally trained armies.

Subterranean warfare may be roughly divided into two major groups that differ drastically in terms of terrain and surrounding conditions and, thus, requires different tactical training.

Group 1:

Tunnels, caves, caverns, and underground facilities, often developed and further constructed from naturally formed terrain, are tactically perfect for smaller armies or teams and as such became the battlefield of choice for terrorist organizations and states, militia, and guerrilla groups.

Group 2:

Underground structures in urban environment, such as underground communications, walking tunnels, subways, sewage systems, and others.
Based on the type of adversary forces and subterranean structures, different kinds of combat units are engaged and, naturally, different and very special type of training is required. In the modern days, underground facilities are often used for weapons production, leaders’ protection, storage and, of course, as a tactically preferential battlefield.
In Iraq and Syria, ISIS used subterranean structures to attack coalition forces, to launch drones, and produce weapons. Such organizations as ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas often utilize underground tunnels and facilities for planning and carrying out their attacks.

“The Department of Defense (DOD) estimates 10,000 known or suspected HDBTs [‘hard and deeply buried targets’] exist worldwide… and some are in or near highly concentrated urban areas.” (from Strategic Latency Unleashed, 2021).

Not to forget, that underground passageways, often reinforced and weaponized, are widely used to smuggle weapons, people, or drugs.
Subterranean structures are perfect for creating the possibility of ambush, strengthening the defense, hiding troops and weapons. They have become the preferential battle grounds for guerrilla wars and irregular warfare, as they allow relatively small groups of fighters to withstand and fight against superior and more technologically advanced forces.

“The Army can encounter subterranean environments in rural tunnels and cave complexes or dense urban sewer or subway systems as well as hardened underground military sites. Although varying in type, all underground environments mitigate U.S. technological superiority.” (from the article The Army is preparing to go underground by Jeremiah Rozman, 2019).
The combination of streets and subterranean & urban structures has become the battlefield of today. Gaining combat skills in CQB (Closed Quarters Battle) is paramount for fighting terrorism and guerrilla wars, and the armies need to adjust and be prepared to navigate this adversary environment.

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The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) have developed and continue perfecting its subterranean warfare strategies to achieve tactical superiority in fighting terrorist groups and organizations – Hezbollah, Hamas, and other smaller chapters. Brig. Gen. (ret.) Hagai Mordechai and Lt. Col. (ret.) Eitan Ben Gad have developed advanced equipment for training subterranean warfare skills and tactics. The equipment can be used to simulate realistic subterranean environment. Its modular structure allows for a fast setting of any required scenario, imitating all the challenges of modern-day underground battlefield.