Defensive fighting position | Wikipedia audio article


A defensive fighting position (DFP) is a type
of earthwork constructed in a military context, generally large enough to accommodate anything
from one soldier to a fire team (or similar sized unit).==Terminology==
Tobruk type positions are named after the system of defensive positions constructed,
initially, by the Italian Army at Tobruk, Libya. After Tobruk fell to the Allies in January
1941, the existing positions were modified and significantly expanded by the Australian
Army which, along with other Allied forces, reused them in the Siege of Tobruk. A foxhole is one type of defensive strategic
position. It is a “small pit used for cover, usually
for one or two personnel, and so constructed that the occupants can effectively fire from
it”.It is known more commonly within United States Army slang as a “fighting position”
or as a “ranger grave”. It is known as a “fighting hole” in the United
States Marine Corps, a “gun-pit” in Australian Army terminology, and a “fighting pit” in
the New Zealand Army. In British and Canadian military argot it
equates to a range of terms including slit trench, or fire trench (a trench deep enough
for a soldier to stand in), a sangar (sandbagged fire position above ground) or shell scrape
(a shallow depression that affords protection in the prone position), or simply—but less
accurately—as a “trench”. During the American Civil War the term “rifle
pit” was recognized by both U.S. Army and Confederate Army forces. A protected emplacement or concealed post
in which one or several machine guns are set up is known in U.S. English as a machine gun
nest.==History==During the fighting in North Africa (1942–43),
U.S. forces employed the shell scrape. This was a very shallow excavation allowing
one soldier to lie horizontally while shielding his body from nearby shell bursts and small
arms fire. The slit trench soon proved inadequate in
this role, as the few inches of dirt above the soldier’s body could often be penetrated
by bullets or shell fragments. It also exposed the user to assault by enemy
tanks, which could crush a soldier inside a shallow slit trench by driving into it,
then making a simple half-turn.After the Battle of Kasserine Pass (early 1943), U.S. troops
increasingly adopted the modern foxhole, a vertical, bottle-shaped hole that allowed
a soldier to stand and fight with head and shoulders exposed. The foxhole widened near the bottom to allow
a soldier to crouch down while under intense artillery fire or tank attack. Foxholes could be enlarged to two-soldier
fighting positions, as well as excavated with firing steps for crew-served weapons or sumps
for water drainage or live enemy grenade disposal.===Tobruks===The Germans used hardened fortifications in
North Africa and later in other fortifications, such as the Atlantic Wall, that were in essence
foxholes made from concrete. The Germans knew them officially as Ringstände;
the Allies called them “Tobruks” because they had first encountered the structures during
the fighting in Africa.Frequently, the Germans put a turret from an obsolete French or German
tank on the foxhole. This gave the Tobruk enhanced firepower and
the gunner protection from shrapnel and small arms.==Modern designs==
Modern militaries publish and distribute elaborate field manuals for the proper construction
of DFPs in stages. Initially, a shallow “shell scrape” is dug,
much like a very shallow grave, which provides very limited protection. Each stage develops the fighting position,
gradually increasing its effectiveness, while always maintaining functionality. In this way, a soldier can improve the position
over time, while being able to stop at any time and use the position in a fight. Typically, a DFP is a pit or trench dug deep
enough to stand in, with only the head exposed, and a small step at the bottom, called a fire
step, that allows the soldier to crouch into to avoid fire and tank treads. The fire step usually slopes down into a deeper
narrow slit called a grenade sump at the bottom to allow for live grenades to be kicked in
to minimize damage from grenade fragments. When possible, DFPs are revetted with corrugated
iron, star pickets and wire or local substitutes. Ideally, the revetting will also be dug in
below ground level so as to minimise damage from fire and tank tracks. The revetting helps the DFP resist cave-in
from near misses from artillery or mortars and tank tracks. Time permitting, DFPs can be enlarged to allow
a machine gun crew and ammunition to be protected, as well as additional overhead cover via timbers. In training, DFPs are usually dug by hand
or in some cases by mechanical trench diggers. On operations, explosives, especially shaped
charges (“beehives”), may be used to increase the speed of development. Developing and maintaining DFPs is a constant
and ongoing task for soldiers deployed in combat areas. For this reason, in some armies, infantry
soldiers are referred to as “gravel technicians”, as they spend so much time digging. Because of the large expenditure in effort
and materials required to build a DFP, it is important to ensure that the DFP is correctly
sited. In order to site the DFP, the officer in charge
(“OIC”) should view the ground from the same level that the intended user’s weapons will
be sighted from. Normally, the OIC will need to lie on his
belly to obtain the required perspective. This ensures that the position will be able
to cover the desired sector.==See also==
Pillbox (military) Sangar
Spider hole Shell scrape
Tett turret Trench warfare
All-around defense/Perimeter defense Entrenching tool==Notes

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