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Military tactics are the science and art of organizing a military force, and the techniques for combining and using weapons and military units to engage and defeat an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology have been reflected in changes to military tactics; in contemporary military science tactics are the lowest of three planning levels: (i) strategic, (ii) operational, and (iii) tactical. The highest level of planning is strategy, how force is translated into political objectives, by bridging the means and ends of war. The intermediate level, operational level, the conversion of strategy into tactics deals with formations of units. In the vernacular, tactical decisions are those made to achieve the greatest, immediate value, and strategic decisions are those made to achieve the greatest, overall value, irrespective of the immediate results of a tactical decision.
Military tactics answer the questions of how best to deploy and employ forces on a small scale. Some practices have not changed since the dawn of warfare: ambushes, seeking and turning flanks, maintaining reconnaissance, creating and using obstacles and defences, etc. Using ground to best advantage has not changed much either. Heights, rivers, swamps, passes, choke points, and natural cover, can all be used in multiple ways. Before the nineteenth century, many military tactics were confined to battlefield concerns: how to maneuver units during combat in open terrain. Nowadays, specialized tactics exist for many situations, for example for securing a room in a building.
What changes constantly is the technological dimension, as well as the sociology of combatants. One might wish to reflect on the technological and societal differences that produced such varying types of soldier or warrior: Greek Hoplite, Roman Legionary, Medieval Knight, Turk-Mongol Horse Archer, Chinese Crossbowman, British Redcoat, or an Air Cavalry trooper. Each – constrained by his weaponry, logistics and social conditioning – would use a battlefield differently, but would usually seek the same outcomes from their use of tactics. In many respects the First World War changed the use of tactics as advances in technology rendered prior tactics useless.
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- Gerhard Muhm : La Tattica nella campagna ass d’Italia, in LINEA GOTICA AVAMPOSTO DEI BALCANI, (Hrsg.) Amedeo Montemaggi - Edizioni Civitas, Roma 1993.