Not yet Megacity Warfare: West Beirut, 1983. The Lebanese civil war raged for more than fifteen years and a lot of the fighting happened in Beirut. Credits: Wikimedia Commons
Battle Tactics

Megacity Warfare Tactics

By on May 19, 2017

Megacities are urban areas that have a population of more than ten million people. Because of their size and other special characteristics, warfare in a megacity has its particularities:

The main problem for an attacking force in a megacity is the large surface they have to deal with:

A skyscraper takes up the same surface area as a small field, but each floor adds another small field area to the overall surface: a one hundred story building has one hundred and one times more area than just the ground (100 floors, plus the roof).

A good example is the International Commerce Centre in Hong Kong, which has one hundred and eight floors and a supersurface of almost 300,000 square meters. This is the size of an area of operations for three infantry brigades!

And we haven’t talked about the underground surfaces, yet: multi floored subterranean parking spaces and a network of subway lines and stations add many more hectares to our megacity battlefield.

Another problem is the resilience of skyscrapers: most often these type of structures are built with high quality materials as they have to withstand a lot of weight. Therefore, unlike many smaller buildings, a skyscraper is very hard to destroy.

In urban warfare, the defenders always have a big advantage. Often, an army that is too weak to oppose its adversary on the open ground, moves to a city to avoid annihilation. In a megacity, this “defender’s advantage” will become even bigger.

Artillery, air power and armored vehicles are much less effective in an urban area than in other battlefields. Urban warfare is mainly fought with assault rifles, multiple grenade launchers, RPGs, hand grenades and, of course, sniper rifles.

The bigger the city, the better for the defender: more places to hide and more resources.

An attacker, on the other hand, can’t use many of their modern weapons as effectively as they would do on open battleground. Every single street, building, floor and room has to be cleared-a nightmare for every military commander!

The urban terrain is often unwieldy and, unlike nature, can even transform itself: structures get destroyed and make streets impassable or the ruins of a multi story building become perfect defense positions.

The attacker is also confronted with numerous specific threats: mines and boobytraps, snipers, ambushes and guerrilla style attacks are common occurrences in urban warfare.

Another important element in megacity warfare is the population. Even if an evacuation had been ordered, there will still be many thousands of people left, interfering with military operations.

Because of all this, an attacker would normally not choose a megacity as their preferred battleground. However, from Troy to Stalingrad and from Beirut to Aleppo, many battles have been fought in cities and often the fate of of the whole war had been connected with the outcome of one urban battle.

As more and more people on earth are going to live in megacities, it’s just a matter of time until a battle will be fought in one of them. Due to the sheer size of these cities, such a battle would become a war inside a war.

Photo: Not yet megacity warfare: West Beirut, 1983. The Lebanese civil war raged for more than fifteen years and a lot of the fighting happened in Beirut