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The Beginnings of the End Game of LTTE - Page 3

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The Beginnings of the End Game of LTTE
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In theory this narrow frontage may have ensured a high local FFR but in exchange it posed a number of important problems. The front was so narrow that enfilading fire from German positions on either flank had the ability to sweep the entire penetration corridor thus interfering with British resupply and reducing the freedom to manoeuvre. The narrow frontage forced the British to form the three divisions one behind the other rather than bringing all three into action simultaneously. Perhaps more important, it created serious congestion in the British rear where assembly areas and approach routes were located. This made combined arms integration much harder since it is common practice to position artillery to the rear. In principle combined arms fire and movement should have been employed to maintain suppression while the attackers made first contact with the enemy. However it was not to be.  The attack by then had moved beyond the reach of the British batteries and the congestion in the march columns had kept the artillery from moving forward into supporting range to sustain the creeping barrage. With no artillery support forthcoming an attempt was made for a second saturation bombing later during the day, but the massive air effort earlier during the day had left the air forces unable to respond quickly to a new mission. Despite small scale CAS type sorties the failure of a breakthrough was inevitable because sustained suppressive fires of the kind needed to screen an extended advance in massed formations over open ground were unavailable.

Moving forward through a narrow penetrative corridor means that there are fewer smaller routes of access for supplies. Fewer smaller routes of supplies means the troops that poured in through will move slower with slower commitment hence the forces can only sustain a smaller exploitation force. Further such a narrow frontage increases the vulnerability of a potential counterattack for, the counterattacking Tigers require only to advance a short distance to cut the supply route. Therefore movement along a narrow penetrative corridor is always inherently risky. For this reason it can be expected that 552/553 will not move further South of CHALAI without the flanking support of the 58 Division moving parallel to them. What the parallel coordinated movement of these two divisions does is, it expands the frontage.

Even though MULLATIVU was captured it did not make the NANTHIKADAL lagoon any safer. The Northern and North Eastern segment of the lagoon still lay in Tiger hands giving them the opportunity to outflank the 59 division via the lagoon in anyway they want. Outboard motors of sea tiger boats also meant the outflanking could be achieved in one swift stroke either to the East to cut off MULLATIVU or to the West to cut off PUTHUKKUDIYIRUPPU South. The lagoon stretching 10Km further South towards MULLIYAWALI and TANNIYUTTU also meant they could reach this area via boats in a small matter of 10 to 15 minutes. A similar situation was faced by troops operating at the KILALY FDLs before hence as 53 Division had done MBTs were positioned overlooking the lagoon. Tanks are direct fire weapons hence can provide a firing solution quicker than artillery which lacks a direct LOS. Time in instances like these is the key since in a small matter of minutes the Sea Tigers are capable of reaching a secure shore and disembark.

Exploiting the geographical advantage of the lagoon which they had used to train for decades, sea tigers infiltrated under the cover of darkness on the 1st of February. Their primary infiltration points were muddy/soggy stretches of the lagoon where MBTs/IFVs have limited mobility. These areas helped the boats to beach further inland. Once the boats were beached a hail of artillery fire began to land on or around the vicinity of ammo dumps, MBTs, known troop concentrations, brigade HQ etc to disrupt the rear support of the 59 Division. The intelligence the Tigers had at hand raises the question if the Tigers too had carried out a Trudy Jackson type recon operation days before the attack. Amidst the chaos more boats had begun beaching with some infiltrating even further South of the VATTAPPALAI Amman kovil. Radar plots were providing vital intelligence of the locations of the Tiger support fire batteries. Not surprisingly the sustained fire of 130mm/122mm/152mm were plotted to be originating from the Civilian Safety Zone. The CFFZ being located within a densely populated area made the commanders to act with restraint with regards to long range artillery and instead had to resort mainly to heavy mortar fire that pose less potential for collateral damage from 58/57 Division that was operating closest to the CFFZ.

Using fluid defence tactics described in detail later in this brief, commanders inducted the available reserves while withdrawing frontline troops that risked being isolated by the flanking Tiger manoeuvres. This move also meant the flank the Tigers had planned to exploit was minimised. In order to do this commanders must have the defence in depth factor. Depth is an invaluable tradeoff for any defender. Deeper the defence the lower the risk of breakthrough. However, deeper the defence, lighter the defence becomes at the front and thus more ground an attacker can gain before being halted by counterconcentrating reserves. Further was the fact of the superior training of the squad leaders. At training level they are trained to observe vital indicators such as number of enemy automatic weapons, presence of any vehicles, the number of vehicles and the concentration of indirect fires that might give away the extent of the attack they are facing. Depending on the extent of the attack they are trained to either react to contact or to break contact with the enemy.



 

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