Comments on the Small Kill Team (SKT)

OK, I’ll bite.

The original article was here:

To me, this was an interesting summary of the Small Kill Team (SKT) concept within the US Military, combined with some good stories. The general idea is that you would deploy two sniper teams with protection assets (machine-guns) at a strength of 4-6 men, times two, because the two teams would be mutually supporting (perhaps a kilometer distance between them). The idea would be that the teams would overwatch an area “housing trouble makers, quartering enemy, IED hotspots, a weapons cache, or ambush alleys.”

Sounds super cool. What is also mentioned is that the team, should they get in a fight, are backed up by a Quick Response Force (perhaps x 4 their numbers). What is also not mentioned is that the teams have the ability to call on Close Air Support (CAS) or artillery support fires. This is a huge factor.

So, when this is flipped to a situation of potential civil war in the United States, we should be worried about these SKTs being deployed against us by Team Tyranny? Well, no. Because the article goes on to the (inevitable) discussion of calibers and roles and suggests that Team Freedom would employ the SKT concept. Sadly, for me, the article does not really cover MISSION. It goes into the (inevitable) arming of a potential team, but none of this covers what sort of missions a Freefor SKT could be deployed on? It also does not cover the behind the scenes hard work of INTELLIGENCE in order to inform any potential missions for such Freefor SKT’s. Recall: “housing trouble makers, quartering enemy, IED hotspots, a weapons cache, or ambush alleys.” Even flipped to a Freefor slant, where is this Intel coming from?

You could deploy a mutually supporting SKT, but to where? Where will they overwatch? An empty road or fields in case the enemy happened to come along? Just a thought…

(This does not even cover the demands of training, leadership, team work, followership, communication, physical fitness OR ANYTHING remotely approaching what an SKT MUST HAVE in order for it to work effectively.)

There was a follow up article:

This is a good article. To summarize the points:

  • Rather than have the caliber discussion, go for battlefield pickup ammunition. Most likely 5.56 and 7.62.
  • Engage using ‘ballistic advantage’ i.e. beyond their range (or where their range is inaccurate).
  • Consider mobility i.e. ATVs etc.
  • Must employ some riflemen who can reach beyond the enemies range – with suitably set-up rifles for longer range shooting.
  • It is possible to shoot beyond the 100-200 meter ranges that are commonly seen and where it is generally opined that you can’t get longer ranges due to terrain.

OK, cool. Good discussion.

We know that the basic tactics of the guerilla fighter boil down to ambush and raid. The type of ambush that you do will vary depending on the situation and threat. With the SKT, we are taking about a type of potential ambush. (We used to call them Reactive OPs). Given the discussion of weaponry, we are looking to ambush utilizing longer ranges, and thus we are taking about an attack by fire. The idea of having two mutually supporting groups brings us back to the basics of fire and maneuver, and gives you an ambush group and a cover group (which have the potential to alternate as they fight out, covering each other). Remember that nothing is complicated in tactics, it is about basics done well (because its hard to conduct in the face of the enemy).

Given the nature of the weaponry under discussion, it will be limited to what targets it is effective against. If the enemy is driving in armored vehicles or is inside a hardened base, then what effect a team can have will be limited, perhaps to harassing fire. As discussed the SKT will only be effective against an enemy that is dismounted, or is forced to dismount. Or is in soft-skinned vehicles. Given that, when I wrote ‘Patriot Dawn: The Resistance Rises’ I posited a situation where the enemy was running armored convoys through the Shenandoah valley. In order to have an effect on those convoys, the Resistance Fighters were using EFPs (Explosively Formed Projectiles – a form of IED). They would use a team split into an IED cell and a cover cell. The IED cell had to get close to the road to emplace and activate the IED. The cover team was there to cover their withdrawal. This is related to the SKT concept (mutually supporting) but varies due to the specific mission and ranges employed.

The SKT concept would in fact have been more useful if deployed by Team Tyranny in order to kill/capture one of the IED teams from the book! In fact, one of the teams is captured in the book. Because: “housing trouble makers, quartering enemy, IED hotspots, a weapons cache, or ambush alleys.”

Don’t also forget that despite the idea of using small-arms ranges to get outside the effective ballistic envelope of the enemy, we have not given consideration to other weaponry that may still get you (if they can get observed fire onto your position). Mortars, artillery, Javelin, drones (i.e. observation / spotter or armed themselves). Also the reaction times of any sort of deployable top cover, such as helicopters or drones.

A wise man once told me to always conduct yourself as if you were under enemy observation at all times.

Now, as to range. Is it possible to get longer ranges even on the east coast or in the Appalachian area? Of course it is. However, if you can’t, you can use the other feature of these areas (other than trees) which is terrain. If, for example you could only be perhaps 200 meters away from the enemy, perhaps you could be on a wooded ridge overlooking the area of enemy activity, with the cover team on a suitable other ridge. One of the teams engages. We are not there to get into a sustained firefight – so the team would make a couple of kill-shots, and then fade back over the ridge and extract.

What I really felt was missing from the original article was the discussion of mission, and thus also ignoring the necessary intelligence assessment that would need to be completed in order to decide what a suitable area would be to deploy a team into. And what would their mission be? Missions for a deployed military SKT are designed to fight the relevant insurgency. If we end up with an insurgency in the U.S., then SKTs are ideal – on the side of Team Tyranny! Given that an insurgent SKT can bring limited firepower, probably does not have a QRF, and cannot afford casualties, then it’s main mission would be to harass the enemy.

This seems totally familiar to me. Hold on…..Oh yeah: Northern Ireland since 1969. I’m talking about the modern ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland, not the post-WW1 independence of Ireland malarky. In that conflict, the insurgents would:

  • Avoid casualties if possible.
  • Attack only when all enemy forces (Brits) could be identified…..
  • Hence satellite patrolling, to keep the insurgents guessing…
  • Hence game of cat and mouse either rural or urban…..
  • Only when they were sure of their escape would they initiate the attack.
  • Multiple attacks were therefore not initiated due to….cat and mouse nature of patrolling.
  • Attacks would be:
  • IEDs – command or victim operated.
  • Sniper.
  • ‘Multi-weapon-shoot’ i.e. ambush.
  • Tactics developed on each side to counter each type of attack.

And guess where the term ‘Reactive OP’ was coined? If you said Northern Ireland, then you were right. To cover ‘over-watching an area known for housing trouble makers, quartering enemy, IED hotspots, a weapons cache, or ambush alleys.’ These would either be a specific mission, or utilize a multi-day patrol to overwatch known areas as part of its mission. Standard patrols were twelve men split into 3 x 4 man teams, which would patrol using the satellite patrolling method. This gives itself to overwatch and mutual support, whether while mobile or when static.

Given the advantage that an insurgency has if operating among a sympathetic population, one aspect that an insurgent SKT team would have would perhaps be local Intel. This is where a line in the original article stands right out: “Occasionally things go very, very wrong, because the enemy is paying attention and can, in fact, count higher than their fingers and toes. (Sometimes).” Yep. So, how about an Insurgent SKT that deploys as a counter-SKT team? Just a thought.

There is much more detail on satellite patrolling and related concepts in the ‘Tactical Manual: Small Unit Tactics.’ This is no Ranger Handbook re-write, but additionally covers tactics specifically learned on deployments, such as the mentioned Northern Ireland, and including follow-on time as a paramilitary contractor.