Part I: Equipment
Close Quarters Battle, or Close Quarters Combat as it is sometimes referred, is a very specialized combat environment, full of a special set of dangers and requirements.
Any field shooter that has suddenly found himself inside the confines of a building can tell you that the rules of the game change drastically. Reaction times have to be faster, movements more deliberate and careful, and the likelihood of being hit in an engagement multiplies tenfold.
Because this is such a different environment, commanders should develop plans and loadouts to accommodate an operation which will include even a small amount of indoor combat.
In Part I we will be discussing equipment loads and considerations, and weighing some of the pros and cons of common equipment.
Part II will discuss the specialized training which will increase the survivability, effectiveness, and speed with which CQB operation can be executed.
Part III will examine the planning phase of a CQB operation.
Part IV will cover the actions and procedures of storming a building.
And finally, Part V will cover securing objectives and prisoners before exfiltrating the building.
Equipment selection is a vital part of preparing for a CQB operation. Inside small rooms is not the ideal environment for a ghillied sniper with his rifle, nor for a gun squad trying to find a position for their M60. Although these situations may occur, it should not be because of poor planning, or improper load procedures.
METT-T (Mission, Enemy, Troops, Terrain-Time) dependent, a commander should plan to have the proper kit available to his troops if CQB is likely, even if it requires carrying extra equipment throughout an extended mission, or preparing a firebase while equipment is stowed and changed out. While troops may moan about extra weight and time, the significantly decreased casualties and increased effectiveness will be well worth the effort.
The primary criteria by which CQB equipment should be judged is: Mobility, Versatility, and Intimidation. Whether CQB will be the focus of the operation, or just one stage in an ongoing campaign, these criteria should be applied to all equipment planned to be carried into the building.
- Mobility: The number one concern of any equipment carried into a CQB environment is how it affects the mobility of the operator. CQB is won or lost by the reaction times of the operators involved, and anything that reduces their mobility inside an enclosed space jeopardizes their survival. Equipment should be properly sized and weighted to accommodate the operator’s role in the operation. Weapons should be compact and mobile without sacrificing firepower or effectiveness. Combat load should be minimized to only those items which will be used in the course of the CQB portion of the operation. Rucksacks, additional weapons, extra equipment, even non-essential quantities of water, ammunition, and rations should be left behind at a secured release point.
- Versatility: In order to minimize load carried onto the objective, the commander should apply the criteria of versatility to every piece of equipment the operator intends to carry. Is an M203 (which is normally very versatile in field combat) more versatile in a CQB environment than a basic M4? Perhaps, but only if the commander planned ahead to request gas or buckshot rounds to be used in the grenade launcher portion of the weapon. Any highly specialized equipment that adds weight, mass, or size to a standard piece of equipment must be made more versatile IN THE CQB ENVIRONMENT by the addition.
- Intimidation: Whether the operation is law enforcement or military, intimidation is still a major factor in the winning of a CQB engagement. Anything that makes the enemy hesitate for even a moment increases the survivability of the operators involved. Thus, no commander should overlook the intimidation factor of equipment. Painting skulls on face masks, screaming orders, lighting off flash bangs whenever entering a room, rushing directly at a target with muzzles pointed right at their face. All these things increase the chance that the enemy will take a moment to pause, to decide whether to surrender or resist, whether to stand or to flee, will increase the likelihood of the operators surviving the engagement.
Now that we have examined the equipment criteria, let us now consider some of the standard equipment carried by military and law enforcement operators in a CQB environment.
- Weapons: The weapons carried by each operator should allow them to accomplish their role within the assault team in a timely and effective manner. Door breakers need shotguns, while the majority of the team frequently use submachineguns or short carbines, and at least one member of the team should have a weapon that fires rifle or carbine ammunition in case targets are armored or cover needs to be penetrated.Popular SMGs include the MP5 series made by Heckler & Koch, the FN P90, and newer offerings by H&K such as the MP7 PDW, and UMP45.Popular carbines include specially sized versions of the Colt M4, H&K’s MC51 and G36C, as well as Sig’s 552. All of which fire carbine power ammunition in a compact package.When a longer barreled rifle is needed for increased range or penetration, bullpup weapons are gaining popularity, such as the British L85, the French FAMAS, or the Austrian AUG. All of which offer a full length barrel in a compact and easily maneuvered package.Shotgun selection varies, but almost always include pump or semiautomatic versions. Automatic shotguns are still far too bulky to be effective in a CQB environment. One modification that is infrequently seen but highly effective is the attachment of a buttless pump shotgun modified to mount to the picatinny rail on an M4 or similar carbine.Because there is no room for error, reloads, or stoppage drills in a hot room, the carry of an effective backup weapon is recommended. This may be a standard issue sidearm, or a machine pistol, or in a last resort an edged weapon. Whatever it may be, it should be sized and placed in such a way that it can be quickly drawn and employed in an emergency.
- Armor: While body armor is infrequently employed on the battlefield, in CQB it is nearly required. In close quarters, poorly aimed shots still run the risk of contacting an operator. Grenades may cause secondary projectiles which could harm or injure a soldier, and booby traps can significantly impair an unarmored target. As such, METT-T dependent, commanders should consider body armor for their operators.Body armor should be as compact and lightweight as possible, yet still capable of stopping at least pistol if not carbine or rifle ammunition. Front and rear coverage of the torso is necessary, while side inserts and additional plate coverage is recommended. Ballistic helmets are uncomfortable, but lifesaving.While it is not ballistic armor, consider the necessity for knee and elbow pads with hard shells. Indoor areas frequently have corners, furniture, and various other obstacles on which an operator can potentially injure themselves. Floors may be littered with broken glass, or made from hard concrete, and the potential of pain may cause an operator to pause when they really should be taking a knee or going prone.
- Vision: Before an assault it is often standard procedure to cut the electricity to a building. This is in part to reduce the enemy’s visibility, as well as to disable security systems, electrified booby traps, and reduce the chance of fires starting as a result of explosions and gunfire. Therefore, commanders should outfit their operators with flashlights and/or night vision equipment. There are a great number of inexpensive options available, from hand held Maglites and Surefires, to weapon mounted tactical lights. Night vision is considerably more expensive, and susceptible to white-out by muzzle blasts, flashlights, and explosions, but allow an operator to move in near darkness without giving away their position to an observant enemy.
- Additional equipment: While it is necessary to reduce the operators’ load as much as possible, some equipment is essential to their roles. You medic still needs to have medical equipment at hand, even minimal necessary to stabilize a casualty long enough to extract them to a release point where further aid can be applied. If prisoners are to be taken, zip ties and hoods must be carried, If there are devices which must be disarmed, penetrated, or removed, proper equipment must be available. Even such considerations as extra ammo and grenades need to be considered when planning the operation. Every operator should be fully equipped with everything they need to accomplish their mission, and absolutely nothing more.
With these criteria in mind, I urge commanders and operators alike to consider their equipment, and plan for CQB operations accordingly. Go through your equipment, and decide which pieces of gear you intend to take with you when storming a building, and what pieces you will prefer to leave behind. Make a wish list of equipment you need to acquire, and apply the above considerations to that equipment before you make a purchase or requisition. The more prepared the commander and the operator are, the easier it will be to prepare a plan and execute an operation in the future.
While some operators may specialize in CQB operations, every operator should be prepared to be included in an operation, and be trained and equipped accordingly.
Join us next time for Part II, where we will discuss the specific training concerns and drills necessary to prepare an operator for CQB.