Urban warfareUrban warfare is warfare conducted in populated urban areas such as towns, cities and refugee camps. An alternative term, still in widespread use, is MOUT, commonly standing for Military Operations in/on Urban Terrain. The US manual Warfare inside a city is very different from a traditional open field battle against a conventional army. A complicating factor of urban warfare is the presence of civilians, sometimes as combatants of various sorts, ranging from armed militias to people defending their homes against all comers, usually with many innocent non-combatants trying to stay out of the way of the battling forces. The military operations are also complicated by limited fields of view and fire because of buildings, large amounts of concealment and cover for defenders and the ease of placement of booby traps and snipers.
Traditional (World War II) military operations often rely on large quantities of artillery fire, which many modern armies will try to avoid as a way of reducing civilian casualties. A notably exception to this was the Russian attack on Grozny in which large amounts of artillery fire were used. The Russian army handled the issue of civilian casualities by warning that the city would be levelled and that any civilian should leave the city before the attack began.
The limited fields of view require far larger numbers of troops than open field warfare and the operations are renowned for resulting in very high casualty rates. The US forces operating in Iraq in 2003 saw remarkably low casualty rates, attributable to:
- overwhelming force from a wide range of platforms
- very well armored vehicles
- new Interceptor body armor, which provided excellent protection to exposed soldiers, resulting in a major shift in the type of casualties, away from wounds to the torso area, protected by the armor, and towards wounds in the unprotected arms and legs. Also noted was an increase in the boldness of troops wearing this armor once they had seen its effectiveness
- a policy of bypassing resistance where the mission allowed it
- the limited degree of organization of the defenders, in part caused by attacks on command, control and communications targets
- lack of urban warfare experience in the defending Republican Guard.
Famous urban battles in modern time:
- Stalingrad, USSR (1942-1943).
- Berlin, Germany 1945
- Kosovo, Yugoslavia (1994).
- Grozny,Chechnya (1996, 1999 and even today).
- Mogadishu, Somalia (1992-1993).
- Jenin, the West Bank (2002).