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"Deployment of barbed wire" Topic

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861 hits since 3 Jan 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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UshCha03 Jan 2019 5:02 p.m. PST

As is almost inevitable our latest game highlighted our lack of understanding. In this case the optimum layout for barbed wire protecting a strong point. In particular fields of fire along sections of wire and how the guns providing fixed line fire on the outside of the wire were protected. Can somebody recommend appropriate Online sources?

RudyNelson03 Jan 2019 6:51 p.m. PST

There have been army manuals, more like small phamplets on the subject. You do know that barbwire has evolved to more casualty producing constantenia, sp. wire.

Wire like minefields have a tactical use of delay rather than halting. Neither are effective if not covered by weapon's fire. Wires use is numerous and in some cases can be combined with mines, claymores and other obstacles.

If used around a TOC or TAC, it will be used to limit access to the area. The same use can be made around firing pits, supply dumps.

TNE230003 Jan 2019 9:38 p.m. PST

field fortifications

UshCha04 Jan 2019 2:18 a.m. PST

TNE2300 Thanks for that. Again its more about building it and not about how to lay it out.

Martin Rapier04 Jan 2019 4:34 a.m. PST

Anthony Farrar Hockleys 'Infantry Tactics 1939-45' shows how to wire a position properly based on late WW1 practice. Essentially the wire is used a a simple barrier around each firing point,positioned outside of grenade throwing distance, with additional barriers sited and angled further out to encourage infantry into enfilade from the defending MGs (similar to WW1 houndstooth layout).

Later manuals emphasised the need to conceal wire barriers to avoid telegraphing the position of your defence works to air recce so e.g. wiring natural barriers like fences or hedges (and again, covering them with enfilading MGs).

Many of the German defence nests in Normandy just had simple concertina wire barriers surrounding the minefields around the actual defence positions. They were pretty obvious from the air.

Legion 404 Jan 2019 8:21 a.m. PST

Something to keep it mind, concertina/barb wire is deployed at least a little farther than a grenade can be thrown.

To agree with all of what Rudy posted. And reiterate generally without being covered by fire any obstacle can be more easily breached, of course. It may just slow or channelize movement.

As we see today e.g. the US Southern Border, any type of obstacle will generally channelize movement. Without it, it's just open terrain, and much harder to control crossings, etc.

Again e.g. in WWII North African, both sides employed numerous minefields and obstacles to put "terrain" where there was nothing but open sand. And tie in those to the little existing terrain …

Blutarski04 Jan 2019 9:30 a.m. PST

WW1 Western Front wire belts were most often thick, tautly staked mazes fifty yards deep, with multiple belts. There was a reason why, before the introduction of tanks, so much preparatory artillery fire was devoted to gapping these protective wire barriers. I have a WW1 era field engineering manual that goes into some details about siting and constructing of such belts. As might be imagined, installation and maintenance involved huge quantities of wire, labor and time; hence they were most always associated with major prepared defensive positions.

As others have pointed out, wire belts were, in practice, almost always covered by fire, typically of the enfilading SFMG type. Even the friendly gaps were carefully designed to accommodate covering fire by automatic weapons.


donlowry04 Jan 2019 9:54 a.m. PST

As others have pointed out, wire belts were, in practice, almost always covered by fire, typically of the enfilading SFMG type. Even the friendly gaps were carefully designed to accommodate covering fire by automatic weapons.

So, if you want to know where the enemy MGs are, look at where they put their wire!

Later manuals emphasised the need to conceal wire barriers to avoid telegraphing the position of your defence works

Ironic choice of words, given that the first uses of wire, in the ACW, used telegraph wire!

Lion in the Stars04 Jan 2019 5:26 p.m. PST

Well, yeah, there was no commercially-produced barbed wire in the US until the 1870s. link

RudyNelson04 Jan 2019 6:49 p.m. PST

Lion is right about the 1870s. The first effective use of barb wire as a military fortification was during the Russo-Japanese War.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2019 7:53 p.m. PST

Don't forget the tanglefoot wire, that's a bitch.


Apache 604 Jan 2019 8:21 p.m. PST

I'm not endorsing this sight (I don't know enough about it) but, the graphic it displays is taken from the FM 5-34 Engineer Reference Manual.


It has a good explanation of protective and tactical wire obstacles.

Legion 405 Jan 2019 8:37 a.m. PST

thumbs up Apache 6

Don't forget the tanglefoot wire, that's a bitch.
If you are caught up in it ! Yes !!! evil grin

As others have pointed out, wire belts were, in practice, almost always covered by fire, typically of the enfilading SFMG type. Even the friendly gaps were carefully designed to accommodate covering fire by automatic weapons.
Just like with the design of many ancient fortresses. Obstacles, walls, etc. like concertina/barb wire channelize the enemy into kill zones.

And in some cases in more modern warfare you may not fire your MGs, GLs, etc., until the enemy is channelized into a kill zone. As like water, troops will in many cases go to/thru the path of least resistance naturally.

And by waiting to/holding fire until many of the enemy is in a kill zone(s). You keep your heavier weapons. e.g. MGs from drawing fire. And open up on the enemy that is clustered/bunched up. Making the MG fire that much more effective/deadly/lethal.

UshCha05 Jan 2019 12:00 p.m. PST

So already I am a bit confused, but that is all about the fun.

In one of the pictures it is very clear that the SFMG Final protective fire line is sited just on the Friendly Side of Tactical wire. In my ignorance I would have assumed the fire would be just on the UN-Friendly side of the wire to catch the guys cutting through. Can anybody give a good explanation for this? (See Apache 6 post 4 Jan). I can confirm this picture is out of the relevant manual but have so far found no explanation. any body got an answer or a good idea why this is the optimum position?

I could run the simulation but I am worried I may have got other boundary conditions adrift and the simulation only answers the question put. If its the wrong question the answer is also wrong.

I guess to me this is what realism is about. If your rules don't have FPF's then it will be rubbish at understanding such basic questions. Imponderables are of no impact on such analyses.

Windy Miller05 Jan 2019 3:29 p.m. PST

Final protective fire is just that. It's your last option when the bad guys are through the wire. For artillery and mortars your FPF could be less than 100m in front of your positions. SFMG can obviously be a lot closer as there is no blast, and would ideally be from a flank firing along the inside of your wire.

Lion in the Stars05 Jan 2019 9:57 p.m. PST

Agree with Windy Miller, though sometimes you will lay your FPF out farther.

I know it's a crazy, fantastic situation, but read the 'Gate – Thus the JSDF Fought There' manga. Writer of the novels was actually an active-duty JSDF troop when he started writing them. Anyway, during the siege of Italica, the JSDF troops laid out their FPF for the machine guns to be 300m, well outside bow range (hey, their opponents were basically a Roman Legion, so had bows for their ranged weapons).

UshCha06 Jan 2019 5:53 a.m. PST

So as always it begs more questions. If the FPF line is inside the wire can the same position shoot through the wire without significant risk to the wire? Experience would indicate the risk in percent of hitting the wire is small but if it broke it, the consequences could be significant. Rifle fire through it would be OK the sheer number of bullets is sufficently small that the risk would not be great, plus it would not be shhoting along the run so much.

Facinating stuff that I would not have realised unless I was doing simulations. Thanks for the help.

seneffe06 Jan 2019 7:45 a.m. PST

Interesting subject.
This 1980s training vid has some references to the use of wire in the specific situation of defending woods.

YouTube link

UshCha06 Jan 2019 8:15 a.m. PST

THAT was really Useful. While we have used Claymores before it has not been to cover a bug out. I had not thought of that and it would have been really useful and better than my use of them. If you come across any more I would love to see them.

Thanks again this is what wargames are about, leaning how its done!

donlowry06 Jan 2019 10:16 a.m. PST

Don't forget the tanglefoot wire, that's a bitch.

Not sure what that is. But, in the ACW in the Union defense of Knoxville the telegraph wire was strung about a foot off the ground so as to trip the unwary Confederates as they charged the defenses. The wire was rusty and thus hard to see against the dead pine needles covering the ground. Worked well until enough Rebels had fallen on, or stepped on, the wire to trample it down. IIRC, the wire was strung (in more than one line) just inside the abatis of fallen trees, which would also have made it harder to spot. (And the Rebels attacked just at first light, which didn't improve their chances of spotting it either.) The object was, of course, to break the momentum of the charge and disrupt the attacking formation. Worked like a charm.

Legion 406 Jan 2019 10:28 a.m. PST

Windy & Lion +1

Tanglefoot = "strung about a foot off the ground so as to trip the unwary" … generally yes. Also strung with metal cans, etc., to make noise as an early warning devise. And even booby trapped sometimes.

Lion in the Stars06 Jan 2019 12:44 p.m. PST

I'd think that a MG position should be able to shoot over the wire. Assuming that your wire is only ~waist high, your MGs will be shooting a couple feet over the top at longer targets. As long as the gunner doesn't sneeze, that's an uncomfortable-but-safe distance from fire.

Apache 606 Jan 2019 8:48 p.m. PST

The graphic may be deceiving. The fires are planned to be fired just on the enemy side of the tactical wire. The fires of automatic weapons are set to deliver grazing fire (sustained bursts of fire that is consistently about a meter off the deck). Machine guns are ideally employed on flanks so that attackers are exposed to enfilade fires. The purpose of the tactical wire is to delay the enemy in the cone of fire of the weapons.

UshCha06 Jan 2019 9:08 p.m. PST

Apache6 Both the Graphic AND the Text says fire on the Friedly side of the wire.

It did seem daft to me as well. However I have seen errors in US Manuals before but never found anywhere to report errors. Grasing fire is fire not exceeding 3 ft and from the M240 manual grazinf fire is 0 t0 600m. This is why I assumed the fire would be on the enemy side.

Funny how hard it is to get even basic moderen data.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2019 9:10 p.m. PST

Yes, you have the right idea. The tanglefoot that I used to see was woven about 6-8 inches above the ground in a grassy area where you could not see it. It would be woven in irregular triangles that would be small enough that your boot could not fit in between the strands (no tiptoe through the barbed wire). So you ended up attempting to walk over this stuff. If you tripped you fell down basically fell down on a bed of nails and if the defenders were really nasty they sharpened the metal stakes too.


UshCha07 Jan 2019 2:26 a.m. PST

OK so the plot gets more confused. FM 90-7 fig 8.5 Shows the close in belts wire with the Fire down the wirw on the ENEMY side. Also it looks like the Claymoprs are fireing from the enemy to the Outside (enemy side of the wire) this would make sence.



Legion 407 Jan 2019 9:30 a.m. PST

There are a number of ways a Cdr can set up a defense. Again, based on terrain & situation. And even the Cdr's predilection and/or training & experience. Plus in some cases based the Senior Cdr's guidance to who is in charge of setting up the defense. E.g. Sometimes even the Bn Cdr may tell the Co. Cdr what he wants. As well as of course the Cdr's "competence" may come into play.

Windy Miller07 Jan 2019 1:07 p.m. PST

Whether your MGs are sited to fire inside or outside the wire makes not a lot of difference. What is important is that your positions are mutually defending, any wire defences are outside grenade throwing distance, and that all obstacles man-made or otherwise are covered by fire – preferably from a flank so that you can hit the enemy with enfilading fire. There's no use in setting up a fantastic wire belt if the bad guys can get through it without you being able to shoot the blighters!

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2019 1:36 p.m. PST

In VN a firebase would have barbed wire around it but you needed to have a path for patrols to walk through. These would be easily identified as a worn path. The enemy would most likely try to take advantage of this during an attack.

You want to have it covered with command detonated Claymores or even a fougasse. The enemy also has the manuals so don't be too predictable.

I could not find a diagram of how MG's would fire their FPF along the wire.


Legion 407 Jan 2019 3:21 p.m. PST

Windy & Wolf +1

And barred wire/concertina won't stop automatic weapons rounds, regardless …

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