Military Engineering Science

Military Engineering Science


the branch of the art of war that encompasses theoretical research and practical solution of the problems of military engineer preparation of the state for war and engineer support for carrying out combat operations. Areas of study include the missions of military engineer preparation of the country’s territory, of the theaters of military action, and of the armed forces for war and the problems of engineer support for the preparation for and waging of a battle, operation, or combat action of the armed services and the combat arms. It determines the principles of organization and combat application of engineer troops in armed combat and the directions of development of engineer equipment, as well as develops designs of engineering structures and methods of using them. In its current meaning, military engineering science also includes a number of branches, such as fortification, military roads, military bridges and stream crossings, minefields, camouflage, field water supply, field power supply, airstrip building, and engineer support for establishing naval bases.

Elements of military engineering science originated in ancient times and found their first manifestation in the ability to use advantageous features of the terrain (heights, bends in rivers, and so on) and to set up the simplest fortifications and obstacles to protect populated areas against enemy attack. During the period of the slaveholding order, complex man-made fortifications were erected around populated areas (Carthage, fifth century B.C., and others) and along state borders (the Roman Wall, the Great Wall of China, the Derbent Wall from the Caspian Sea to the Greater Caucasian Range, and others). Field fortifications were widely used to protect troops against enemy attack while located in camp during the siege of fortresses or when resting and also during combat. Ditches, earth walls, and obstacles composed of logs, poles, rocks, war chariots, and wagons were used for these pur-poses. The questions of building and overcoming fortifications were the object of study of special sciences (for example, military architecture and others) and were treated in literary works (the works of Philo of Byzantium, third century B.C.; Polybius, second century B.C.; Vitruvius, first century B.C.; and others). This marked the beginning of the development of fortifications.

Expanding the scale of use of various technical means in armed combat, increasing the size of armies, and the necessity of supporting movement by large armies and feeding them led to the origin and development of such branches of military engineering science as military roads and military bridges and stream crossings. Already in the fifth century B.C. the constructing of large bridges and the laying of crossings to support military action were undertaken (the crossing over the Dardanelles in 480 B.C., the constructing of bridges across the Rhine and Danube in the fourth through first centuries B.C.), and road construction was used for military purposes (the campaigns of Julius Caesar in Gaul, Belgium, and Germany in the first century B.C.). All this made it necessary to train specialists and troops. In Julius Caesar’s army (first century B.C.) the position of chief of engineers (magister fabrum) was instituted, and military artisans were kept with each legion for special military engineer jobs.

During the feudal period there appeared theoretical works on military engineering, but they were not widely distributed. Later, when capitalist relations began to take shape and a stage of rapid development in all sciences—including the military sciences—began, fundamental theoretical investigations were made (the works of French military engineer S. Vauban and the Russian military engineers A. Z. Teliakovskii, Ts. A. Kiui, F. F. Laskovskii, and others). With the invention of gunpowder (14th century) and explosives, demolition and minefield-laying techniques began to develop. The necessity of satisfying troop needs for water led to the establishment of branches of military engineering such as field water supply. The appearance of rapid-fire cannon, machine guns, and aerostats led to the emergence and development of military camouflage. The establishment of aviation required working out the problems of building airstrips, and naval development required the development of engineer support for naval bases.

Russian military engineering science developed from the time of the formation of the ancient Russian state, especially in the building of fortresses (the Novgorod Kremlin, the Moscow Kremlin, the Pskov Kremlin, and others), the pre-paring of lines of communication, and the devising of obstacles. During the campaigns of Ivan the Terrible (16th century), ready-made designs for building fortifications in short periods of time (Sviiazhsk fortifications), mobile fortifications (“walking cities”), and special detachments to build roads and bridges were all used. During the siege of Kazan (1552) the idea of organizing in an engineering sense the initial base of operations for attacking the fortress appeared and was carried out, the fortress walls were destroyed by an explosion, and mobile fortifications were employed. The development of methods of applying engineer facilities at that time was carried on by the talented military engineer Ivan Vyrodkov. Other prominent military engineers (Vasilii Kulemin and Fedor Kon’) directed construction of the fortifications around Smolensk, Vladimir-na-Kliaz’me, Belyi gorod in Moscow, and elsewhere. The level of these structures was superior to that of foreign ones. Principles proposed and tested in practice concerning methods of building and attacking fortresses were put down in the Army and Artillery Regulations and Other Matters of Concern to Military Science (1621).

Military engineering science developed further in the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. A prominent role in this was played by the outstanding military leaders of that time—Peter the Great, A. V. Suvorov, and M. I. Kutuzov. Credit for establishing regular engineer troops (1712), for using river-crossing means and field fortifications to support combat operations (Battle of Poltava in 1709 and others), and for further development of ways to fortify state borders be-longs to Peter the Great. A. V. Suvorov was the leader in developing methods of accelerated preparation for an attack and ways to storm fortresses (Izmail and others), and credit belongs to him for developing the technique of stream crossing. M. I. Kutuzov appreciated the important role of engineer troops in armed combat and established an engineer corps in the Russian Army. Under his direction field fortifications were used successfully at Borodino and in other battles, and military bridges and stream crossings were also employed.

At the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century in foreign countries (France) a rapid growth in military engineering science took place, which substantially influenced the development of Russian military engineering science. It became very important to develop methods for the rapid construction of paved roads, for organizing bridge-building and stream-crossing techniques, and for destroying roads and bridges during troop retreats.

The development of Russian military engineering science in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century is linked with the names of prominent military engineers, such as A. Z. Teliakovskii, E. I. Totleben, R. I. Kondratenko, and K. I. Velichko. Teliakovskii wrote the first major work on military engineering, Fortification (parts 1-2, 1839-46). In it he explained the connection between fortification and strategy and tactics. During the defense of Sevastopol’ in 1854-55 a new system originated of fortifications for troop positions. Instead of a narrow line of bastions and curtains (fortress walls) connecting them, for the first time a fortified zone 1,000-1,500 m deep was used, defended positions for artillery were established, buried land mine warfare was carried on successfully, and the electrical method of detonation was first used. In the course of the defense of Port Arthur in 1904 explosive land mines, barbed wire obstacles, buried land mines, and a system of trenches and communication passages were used, and for the first time military camouflage was utilized and the rear defensive lines were organized to a significant depth. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century the theory of engineer preparation of a country’s territory for war was being developed. This is the subject of works by the military engineer K. I. Velichko (Engineer Defense of States and the Layout of Fortresses, 1903, and others).

The development of military engineering science during World War I (1914-18) was involved primarily with the belligerents’ use of static forms of combat action and with the elaboration of questions on the theory and practical measures for establishing deeply echeloned defensive zones and to secure breaks through them. During the course of the war the first models of antipersonnel and antitank mines were developed and employed; in 1917-18 within the territory of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands the Germans were the first to carry out massive destruction by means of these mines.

During the course of the Civil War and the military intervention of 1918-20, Soviet military engineering science was born. Its foundations were laid under the direct influence of V. I. Lenin, who demanded extensive use of engineer facilities in combat operations. In February 1918 at the initiative of Lenin, the Collegium for Engineer Defense of the Republic was established. It worked out measures for accelerated preparation of defensive lines and fortified regions to repulse the advance of interventionists and White Guards and proposed methods for engineer support of the highly mobile Red Army operations, for consolidating positions, and for preparing fortified bases of operations. At this time the Military Engineer School and the fortifications department at the Technical War College were formed. In 1919, K. I. Velichko’s work Fortified Positions and Engineer Preparation for Attacking Them was published; it was very significant in the formation of Soviet military engineering science.

In the development of military engineering science between the world wars the primary place was occupied by questions of military engineer preparation of states for war and the problems involved with establishing a system of border fortifications. In the Western countries (France, Germany, and Belgium) construction of fortified lines (the Maginot Line, 1928-38; the Siegfried Line, 1935-40, and others) led to further development of permanent and armored fortifications. New views appeared on the use of obstacles. The influence of Western military engineering science spread to Finland (the Mannerheim Line, 1929-39), Greece, and other countries of Europe and Asia. At the same time there was development in the construction of motor vehicle roads for military purposes (Autobahns in Germany, 1934-39; motor vehicle roads in Manchuria), and airfield construction developed in a number of countries. In Great Britain and the USA the primary efforts of military engineering science were directed to working out the problems of mobile naval basing and of support to water-mobile troop operations, in particular amphibious landings.

During this period Soviet military engineering science developed from the summarization of experience gained in World War I and the Civil War, as well as from a critical evaluation of the views of foreign theoreticians. Unlike Western specialists, who devoted their primary attention to the further development of methods of supporting static forms of combat, in particular to the creation of border fortifications of solid lines, Soviet military engineering science worked out ways to support mobile combat action under the conditions of deep operations while simultaneously solving the problems of military engineer preparation of the state for war. Instead of solid lines of border fortifications, Soviet military engineering science substantiated and put into effect the idea, which had originated during the Civil War, of using a system of fortified regions to cover the borders. The formation and development of Soviet military engineering science during the Civil War and in the postwar period was linked with the activity of prominent Soviet scientists—military engineers K. I. Velichko, D. M. Karbyshev, G. G. Nevskii, F. I. Golenkin, G. Kh. Potapov, S. A. Khmel’kov, A. P. Shoshin, V. V. laklovlev, and others. Soviet military engineering science took the leader-ship in working out the problems of engineer support to operations and combat. In the works of the Soviet scientist and military engineer Karbyshev (1930’s)—Engineer Support tothe Offensive Operation, Engineer Support to the Defensive Operation, and others—the fundamentals of the theory of engineer support to operations and the combat application of engineer troops were worked out. E. V. Aleksandrov and others worked out the principles for employment of engineer troops in combat and in an operation and proposed methods for using and laying out obstacles to the full depth of the operation. Many of these theoretical principles were fixed in the Field Service Regulations of 1936 and 1941, in the 1939 Manual on Engineering, in the 1939 Manual on Fortification, and elsewhere.

During the course of the Soviet-Finnish War (1939-40), theoretical principles were laid down and practical recommendations developed on overcoming massive mine obstacles and other obstacles and on using obstacle-clearing groups and assault groups and detachments to break through permanent fortifications (the Mannerheim Line). In addition, minesweepers and mine detectors were used for the first time.

At the start of World War II military engineering science in France, Great Britain, and Belgium was unable to suggest effective methods to counteract with engineer facilities the highly mobile operations of the German forces, whereas German military engineering was unable to solve the problem of securing a breakthrough of the permanent fortifications of the Maginot Line. During the course of the war the military engineering science of Great Britain and the USA successfully solved the problems of engineer support to major amphibious landing operations (the landings in France and Italy) and troop action under special conditions (North Africa, Indochina, and elsewhere) but lagged behind in working out the problems of engineer support to operations in continental theaters of military action. In this respect German military engineering had some success, but it did not advance notable ideas or solutions to the given problems. Soviet military engineering science exerted a strong influence on the development of military engineering science in the Western countries during this period.

The theoretical points and practical recommendations worked out by Soviet military engineering science for military engineer preparation of the territory of the country and theaters of military action for war, on engineer support to troop operations and combat action, for the general direction of the development of engineer troops and their tactics, and for the nature of the development of engineer armament found wide application in the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). Participating in the organization of engineer support to operations of the Red Army during this war were the talented Soviet military engineers M. P. Vorob’ev, K. S. Nazarov, I. A. Petrov, A. I. Proshliakov, L. Z. Kotliar, A. F. Khrenov, and others. By their efforts and also through the creativity of many unit commanders, troop engineers, engineer forces staffs, and scientists at the Military Engineering Academy and other academies, further development of Soviet military engineering was ensured during the war.

During the first years of the Great Patriotic War, Soviet military engineering successfully worked out a system of engineer organization of state borders and strategic regions of defense (Moscow, Leningrad, and others) and steps to counteract highly mobile enemy actions (massive use of various obstacles and so forth). During the war a system of engineer organization of a deeply echeloned static defense was developed and formed; this was reflected in the utilization of a system of trenches in the Field Service Regulations and in the Manual on Static Defense. A high level was achieved in the techniques of support for a breakthrough of the enemy defense, forcing water obstacles, consolidating captured beachheads by engineer facilities (Sandomierz on the Vistula, Kostrzyn on the Oder, and others), and storming cities 2(Königsberg, Berlin, and others). A clearer definition was given of the role and place of engineer troops in combat and in an operation, the organization of their combat application, and coordination with different combat arms; the principle of the massive use in operations of engineer forces and facilities along the major operational axes became established.

At the start of the postwar period the military engineering of all countries developed from the sum of experience gained in the war, primarily in the direction of further improving the forms of engineer support to the actions of armored and mechanized troops, the methods of forcing water obtacles, the principles of devising and overcoming obstacles, and the application of the methods of unit and operational camouflage. That which has been learned by military engineering science has been set down in a number of regulations and manuals published in various countries since the war.

The appearance of nuclear weapons and their adoption by the armies of several states plus the development of other types of weapons and materiel have provided a number of new strategic, operational, and tactical problems for military engineering science with the consideration of the prospects for the development of means, forms, and methods of armed combat. Special significance has been acquired by the working out of the problems of engineer support for constant troop combat readiness and engineering measures to protect troops and objectives in the rear against modern weapons and of support for troop combat action under conditions of massive devastation and contamination.


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