Echeloning of Forces

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Echeloning of Forces


(Russian, eshelonirovanie voisk), the deployment of military units (“echelons”) in depth according to a plan of battle or operation. In Soviet usage, the units are considered to be echeloned when they are positioned a given distance one behind another. The units may be directly behind one another, or they may be arranged like a series of steps, with each unit somewhat to the left or right of the one in the rear.

The use of echeloning in an offensive makes possible the introduction into battle of additional units in order to provide a concentration of force where and when needed; such reserves may be used, for example, to repel the strikes of advancing enemy reserves. Echeloning provides excellent concealment for a troop movement and reduces the movement’s vulnerability to a tactical nuclear strike or air attack. It permits rapid deployment of forces brought into battle. It can bolster a defensive action and make possible timely counterattacks and counterstrikes. Echeloning is essential for the continued survival and combat effectiveness of a large unit engaging enemy forces that are employing nuclear weapons.

In modern armies the combat and operational formations of both large and small units and combined forces usually include several echeloned units as well as reserves. The number of echeloned units deployed and their composition depend on the type of combat action undertaken, the nature of the mission being carried out, and the specific conditions under which the operation is performed. All branches of the armed forces use echeloning. For greater safety and maneuverability, military aircraft fly in formations that are echeloned both from front to rear and by altitude.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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