There are many forms of combat, and any situation where people are firing live rounds in your general direction with the intention of killing you is deadly. However, one of the most challenging and lethal, is where life-and-death can be separated in the space of going through a door. That is close quarters warfare. In this blogpost, we will picking apart the deadly world of close quarters warfare and examine if science fiction has any examples.
This stands for C
ombat. This is the more or less standard term for close
quarters engagements today. It largely has replaced the older term CQB, but both have existed since the 2nd World War.
This stands for C
attle. This was older common term that was used for this type of warfare. CQB was featured in mass media, including films like 1990's Navy SEALs
, and it was replaced with the usage of CQC in the mid-1990's by both mass media and the military.
This stands for C
arfare, and it more of catch all term for this type of warfare. I tend to use this term more when saying the whole phase out, and CQB when I abbreviate. This is term I will be using through the article.
This is act of breaking through a barrier and gaining entry into a hostile situation. Breaching is often associated with blasting through doors, windows, and walls. While Boarding is associated with assault a vehicle, like a cruise ship or airplane or an starship.
This is a method of not only gaining entry into a closed structure, but also allowing the CQW team to entry while destabilizing the enemy via sensory overload, allowing the team the opportunity to entry and take control of the situation. The commonly known "breach-and-clear" tactic with the use of flash-bangs is a part of Dynamic Entry.
This stands for V
earch, and S
eizure. This type of close warfare engagement occurs in a maritime environment against all manner seaborne installations and vehicles. VBSS is most commonly seen with naval units searching ships for smuggling and contraband, but it can involve offshore oil drilling platforms.
What is "Close Quarters Warfare"?
Close quarters warfare is combat that occurs from up to 100 meters to so close; you can smell what your target likes on their Subway sandwiches and in all types of environments and structures. Everything from cruise ships, airplanes, office buildings, and even jungles. What separates CQW from other types of combat? Proximity. Close quarters engagements can occur as easily in fields as cities, airplane, or an office building.
Close quarters combat situations can also occur during different phases of a battle. For example: during World War One on the western front, soldiers were separated by No Man's Land, and it wasn't until they went over the top and crossed No Man's Land and jumped into an enemy trenchline that the combat environment altered into close quarters warfare. CQW scenarios can also be the result of changes in weather conditions and even the fall of night. Most commonly, the CQW seen in popular media has to do with dynamic entry, door breaching, and room clearing. But CQW is more than just than "blow the door, and spray the fuck out of the tangos". It involves intimate teamwork, superior weapons handling, how to move with your team in all manner of tactical scenarios and settings. These skills are more important than ever. With the increase in urban combat areas due to population growth and urbanization, CQW tactics are being taught to an boarder spectrum of warfighters than the typical SWAT, CT, and HRT units. This has caused some to say that
CQW encompasses more than just the distance between two groups of soldiers. Some sites have said that CQW is also a system of micromanagement of soldiers, gear, and weapons in situations where space, visibility, and maneuverability are all limited.
Who Uses CQW Tactics?
When most civilians think of who are the users of CQW tactics and
training, their minds jump to SWAT, SAS, SEALs, and DELTA. That is because of
the link between specialized counter terrorism/hostage rescue units and
up-close-and-personal combat; however there are many other users of CQW than just
elite units. Prison guards, the Coast Guard, most law enforcement, some professional
criminals (banker-robber). This can even extend to some sports like AirSoft and Paintball. After all, Speedball is a form of CQW, and those professional teams train in aspects of CQW tactics and situations.
The Stages of Close Quarters Warfare
The golden rule in the military is “train like you fight”, and with the high-stress environment of CQW, training is critical in getting assaulters ready from the big day when it will be real and live. For CQW teams that depend and
rely on those skills, weeks if not months of training goes into honing the skill that will become automatic to those CQW assault teams. Killhouses are some of the most familiar tools of training operators in CQW tactics and situations. While typically Killhouses are live-fire trainings, they can use force-on-force training tools to have active and dynamic environments.
Things like Airsoft, Simulation, and Paintball (.43, .50 .68 balls) are used by OPFOR players to increase the level of difficult and fluidity. It is not just static, somewhat familiar environments. At times, field trips are arranged to sites for training in unfamiliar environments, putting training into practice, like a MOUT facility or even an decommissioned ship or airliner. In units like DEVGRU, SAS, and DELTA; CQW training is a staples of the operators' lives. After the 2003 Iraq Invasion, incoming infantry units were
receiving training in CQW due to the likelihood of house-to-house searching and urban engagements.
Planning and Intelligence
Some CQW scenarios can have the benefit of allowing the assault team time to gather the intelligence and planning out the assault in highly detailed fashion. Such was the case with Operation: NEPTUNE SPEAR. In that iconic Special Forces mission, the DEVGRU assault teams had the luxury of detailed planning that allowed for the Operators to train using an mockup of the Bin Laden compound, to use all intel gathering assets to update the situation on the ground continuously until the operation is undertaken. This can include human sources, drones, hacking, fiberscope probing, on-site observation teams, and satellite imagines. Intelligence gathering is also aimed at the structure itself. This information can come from official government records, like building blueprints or even interviewing people that may have worked or constructed a building, or even experts on architects and construction.
Once the intelligence is gathered, the information is put into the planning stage of the CQW operation. As with the Bin Laden Raid, the intel on the area and the building shaped how the teams were going to be inserted and how much time they had on the ground. From there, the assault teams plan out how they are going to attack and breakdown the target with attention paid to contingency plans. These plans are submitted to Command. If approved, the assault teams move into as much training and preparing as possible before the balloon goes up. This allows everyone to know their role, the target, and how they could improve the plan before one bullet is fired at them.
The element surprise can be the determining factor between life and death, and my cat proved that to me when I used to watch her hunt birds in the backyard. If she maintained the element of surprise, the bird would not be aware until my cat unleashed her claws. Before the bird knew it...it was game over. The same is true in CQW operations. In any CQW operation, surprise is a critical element that stacks the deck of luck and fortune in the favor of the assault team and their plans. Surprise can allow the assault team to move about the objective like a ghost, and when it comes time to flip the switch, surprise catches the enemy in a relaxed posture, and less able to defend against the assault team. Surprise also allows the assault team to position themselves into a superior location to fend off the enemy if the element of surprise is busted or reach their objective without contact.
To assist the element of surprise, assault teams will enact their plan at the best time to foster the element of surprise and place the advantage in the hands of the assault team. This optimum operational window of time is deduced via intelligence, but the majority of the time, it is in the dead of night where well trained CQW assault teams can use their NVGs, PEQ, and sound suppressed weapons to full advantage. To avoid alerting the objective, like an Afghan village, insertion via helicopters maybe miles away from the village or the assault team will jump in rather risk being busted. I read in a book about Navy SEAL operations in Afghanistan and there was a section detailing village raids that explained how creepy the element surprise can be. The Navy SEAL author wrote about his slipping in and out of rooms and houses while the Afghans slept. Once that portion of the village was clear, they hit the house with the suspended AQ forces, and when the enemy awoke, the SEALs were return to repel them by being in a superior position. One of the best examples of how bad shit can be in an CQW operation when the element of surprise is broken is when the ATF agents attempted to raid the Branch Davidians compound in Waco, Texas.
Method of Entry
Method of entry is often discussed with assault CQW units choosing how to enter the structure with maintaining surprise to gain dominance over the enemy. However, I believe Method of Entry is more than just choosing how to blow a door or knocking down a wall. Method of Entry is first about how your assault teams are going to get to the objective. Insertion is critical in getting all of your assets into play and maintaining the element of surprise. That could be that assaulters walk into the target from a helicopter landing, or airborne jump, or insert by watercraft.
Method of Entry is also about where to entry to achieve maximum speed and control. When assaulting an major structure like a office building or a mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the planning phase should include where the various assault teams should entry to dominate the situation. Maybe that means fast roping into a courtyard or a roof, or hitting the structure from the top and the bottom; dividing and conquering. This can come down to experience of the assault team and its commanders, the intel on the target, and the timetable. When it comes to the interior spaces, Method of Entry is about how the assaulters are going to open the barrier and clear the inside. That also comes down to what could be on the other side of the door, what the assaulters brought with them, and level of noise.
Speed can be an asset to the assault unit or a dead sentence. Speed can allow the assault teams to overcome the enemy and their defences. "Good" speed is a byproduct of good training and teamwork. They move smooth, clear, cover, and push the enemy. Speed can prevent the enemy from killing hostages, escaping or wiping out their porn history. Speed goes hand-in-hand with Violence of Action. But "bad" speed can kill the assaulters and the overall mission. If several assault teams are in motion during an CQW operation, they must move together. But if one team moves too quickly, they can blow the element of surprise, alerting the enemy, or getting hostages killed. Bad speed can also destroy the Tactical Tree Formation, breaking down the formation, leading to greater risk.
"Violence of Action"
Violence of Action is queer phase, but it real sums up one important element of CQW: fucking up your enemy mentally and physically. Violence of Action is using all methods to overcome your enemy with being aggressive and applying overwhelming force to break your enemy with all tools in your arsenal. It also means that if you fuck up, then fuck up aggressively. This tactic is more than just shooting, it means using dynamic entry to confuse and disrupt your enemy with sensory overlord, and if it gets into hand-to-hand, you destroy them. Violence of Action requires that members of the assault team are confident in their training and abilities; they are warfighters and they have come to delivery the pain.
When the firing has stopped, and the objective met, the operation is not over. The team, and possibly hostages, have to exfil the AO. In most situations, the assault team(s) have cleared the path from their insertion site up to the objective. When it comes time to fall back to the exfil site, the path should
be clear, but never assume anything in combat. Depending on the operation, the exfil route could be covered by an drone, other assaulters, an QRF, or an sniper team. In some situations, another force of soldiers is on the outside of the objective, and when the assaulters exit the building, they rush in to secure the site. This was the situation in summer of 2004 when Taskforce 20 located Uday and Qusay Hussein. The house was engaged by all manner of firepower, and when the firing stopped, Taskforce 20 operators stormed in to clear the house and locate the sons of Saddam while the 101st Airborne maintained a perimeter.
After the shooting has stopped and the CQW operation is completed, it is time for the people involved to review the operations and see where they can improve and where they were successful. I've read in several books about Special Forces that after an operation, there is a review of how the operation went down and what can be improved. Often these meetings are brutal with honest assignments, throwing out what didn't work and keeping what did; egos need to be checked at the door.
"Shoot, Move, and Communicate"
Since the dawn of human civilization, teamwork has been a critical factor for survival of the species. Everyone knows their role and everyone works together for the greater common good. Teamwork is vitally important in everyday life, from the football field, to the office, to at home. Teamwork is also at the heart of nearly every function in the military and the importance of teamwork increases greatly in the CQW environment. "Lone Wolfing it" an CQW assault is only possible if you are the Master Chief, Jack Bauer, Solid Snake, or Sam Fisher. In these CQW scenarios, three of the most important skills for CQW units and their operators is: Shoot
, and Communicate
Close quarters combat limits the reaction time to a threat for our assaulters. The time to decide between engaging a target is measured in split seconds. This means that everyone in the stack must be confident in their teammate's ability to make that call and to neutralize that threat: Aim, Think, Action, and Refocus. This inter-unit dependence on shooting or not shooting comes from long hours of training and trust.As a member of the stack I have to be 100% confident that my teammate has their section covered and that they can deal with any threat, because in the CQW environment, if that ability to shoot is not honed, the entire assault team can be killed and the mission will be a failure. That means that when the decision to shoot is made, the operator can and does put those rounds onto the target with lethal and immediate results. A-Box. All day long. This also means that the operator must be confident in their weapon's performance and know their weapon like their own sexual organs. The ability to shoot is not just at paper targets, but also to understand how living targets behave and move, which comes from force-on-force training as well...as Bruce Lee said "Boards don't hit back
When cleaning and securing the types of environments found in CQW scenarios, proper movement is critical for success of the mission and living to see another day. Once again, it comes down to trust and training. The assault team must move as in a organic, steady, flow. In most CQW units, like SAS, the SEALs, and SWAT, assault units form an "tactical tree" formation to maximize coverage and minimize surprise/risk. During the mission, each assaulter must be able to move and cover their assigned section in the "tactical tree" formation as denoted in the military usage of positions on a watch-face.
Let us back down the Tactical Tree formation...and don't laugh at my awesome Microsoft Paint picture...it was the best I could do to illustrate the Tactical Tree. In a four man assault team, each assaulter forms the trunk or core of the Tactical Tree and they move as one. The branches of our happy little Tactical Tree is the eyes, head, and hands bearing arms. In the four man team, the top or front of the Tactical Tree formation is watching/covering the forward arch or 11. 12, and 1 o'clock positions. It is also his job to move the formation in the CQW environment and communicate what is ahead. Behind him, is the left and right sidemen, who watch/cover the 2, 3, 4, 10, 9, and 8 o'clock positions. At the rear, covering the 7, 6, and 5 o'clock position is the tailgunner, who watches the collective ass of the assault team.
When it comes to clearing an room, movement becomes a pressure cooker, with each assaulter having to put their full faith and lives in each other's hands. Each assaulter must understand their role in the stack and once inside the room without hesitation or doubt along with basic safety skills. Doubt and carelessness is lethal in CQW. When the door is breached and the rush begins is the very moment that all of those years of training and experience becomes the line between success and failure, life and death.
In that blur of controlled chaos and risk, the "move" portion of the equation is critical to determine the domination of the situation inside the room and the effectiveness of the engagement. During this, each member of the assault team has to move properly to ensure no one's head gets swept by an gun barrel, no one gets in the way of another assaulter's firing lane, and that the room is covered, so that no tangos come out of the woodwork and engage the team. One mistake during bearching with movement can result in fatal blue-on-blue, an active enemy being able to engage the team, or an hostage being killed. Once again, this where time, training, and teamwork all comes together.
Good communication is one of those terms that gets thrown around alot in modern society. From the boardroom to the bedroom to the classroom, effective communication is the key to success and the CQW environment is no different. While coordination and communication between the assault team and the command post is critical to a successful mission and avoiding blue-on-blue fire, it is the communication between members of the assault team that is the most critical...and it is not the time of communication that most people think of.
Unlike what has been portrayed in mass media, communication in CQW teams and scenarios is not a lot of chatter nor a fury of hand signals that would make a Kung-Fu Master blush. Most communication is nonverbal with trust and body language. Most CQW teams have trained for these kinds of scenarios that they are operating in for years and that level of professionalism and training allows for an inmate knowledge of their tradecraft and roles in close quarters engagements. That nonverbal communication along with experience allows teams to perform the operation with little hand gestures and talk. One or two words and trust in training are the order of the day. This nonverbal communication allows for greater stealth and oddly, clarity in a chaotic environment. That is not to say that some hand signals are not used, but they are simple and something that all members of the team understand...this not a baseball game or a game of charades.
The Weapons of Close Quarters Warfare
Let us be honest here, any weapon that you can use effectively and accurately is going to be your first choice in CQw. However, some weapons are better in the close quarters firefight than others. There is a list of the most common lethal weapons used in close quarters combat and training.
The Submachine Gun
From the time of World War One to the 1990's, the go-to CQW weapon was the submachine gun. These fully automatic compact pistol cartridge firing weapons were specifically designed for CQW and personal defense, and the best among the breed was the iconic H&K MP5. From the 1970's until the 1990's, the MP5 was the
SMG for HRT/CT/SWAT units. However, the rein of the SMG was soon replaced by the PDW and the shortened assault rifle. These weapons featured more powerful cartridges that allowed for easier defend of body armor and more penetration. It is unlikely that the submachine gun as we understand it will once again become the king of CQW.
The Carbine/Commando Length Assault Rifle
At one time, weapons like the iconic H&K MP5 SMG dominated the world of CQW weaponry and it was the weapon-of-choice for any CQW unit and operation. That has changed. PDWs like the H&K MP7 and the FN P90 are the spiritual successors to the SMG, but most CQW units have transitioned to using carbines and commando length carbines that fire assault rifle cartridges, like the Colt M4 CQBR, the H&K G36C, and the AKS-74. The change was due to more tangos wearing body armor, the fluidity of the modern battlefield, and increased urbanization. As we have seen in operations in Baghdad and Mogadishu, soldiers dismount from helicopters and/or vehicles and operate in urban/CQW environments. Soldiers could be asked to engage in a street gunbattle, then transition to house clearing. This leads to the need for an all-in-one flexible weapon system, and that means carbines. Carbines allow soldiers to do all of these tasks without fighting the length of their weapon in CQW engagements. Carbines also givens the assaulters the power of assault rifle cartridges. When CQW operations come with some advanced warning, CQW assault units switch out their 14 inch carbine barrel for 10 inch barrel that transforms their carbine into a commando length carbine. These commando length carbines are often fitted with sound suppressors. In the 2010 raid on Bin Laden's compound, most of the DEVGRU operators were using H&K 416's fitted with 10.5 inch commando barrels with sound suppressors.
The Personal Defense Weapon
The spiritual successor to the SMG is the Personal Defense Weapon. Where the SMG fires pistol cartridges, the PDW fires specifically designed cartridges to put the most punch into a smaller round for a compact weapon like the MP7 and the P90. PDW are not as popular as the SMGs they replaced due to the spread of carbines, but they have found acceptance for the task they were designed for: personal protection. Navy SEALs have been seen using the MP7s in some village clearing operations and the FN P90 has been seen in service with close protection units like the US Secret Service.
The Almighty Shotgun
The shotgun is both the premier CQW weapon due to fearsome power and offensive punch, however, it is also the worst. An combat shotgun rigged up for close quarters warfare can serve three purposes in the same weapon system. One being an door breach tool by blowing off the lock of any door (the masterkey!). A great deal of tactical shotguns used in close quarters operations is to be an breaching tool. Then there is the ability to enter a room and fire a 00 buckshot shell and effect a number of targets in a confined space. This is one of the primary reasons why an boomstick is the home-defense weapon-of-choice for most people I know. Third, the shotgun can be loaded with less-than-lethal rounds to deal with a threat without lethal results.
That all sounds good, right? Well, it is...mostly. In CQW, decision considering life-and-death are made in a trigger pull and over-penetration is always a factor in hostage rescue. And while that can be said of most weapons, shotguns are designed to spread, and can lead to hitting things you don't want to hit and things you do. They have a much smaller magazine, are slower to reload, and they slower to fire than carbines. Shotguns are not as common as they once were for military and LE units, and when it comes time for CQW, carbines get the call.
Pistols were some of the original close quarters combat weapon system due to their size and the technology of firearms of the 18th and 19th centuries. With cumbersome reloading processes of earlier firearms along with their steer size, pistols were seen has a solution to CQW engagements and situations like shipboarding and firing from an horse. When carbines started to appear, the role of the weaker and shorter range pistol began to get replaced by the carbine. In combat situations, pistols became backup weapons and were seen in service with officers and specialized soldiers. It was still common for soldiers to use pistols for CQW scenarios, like being an tunnel rat, in-vehicle, and house clearing. However, shotguns and SMGs were quickly the weapon-of-choice by the time of the world wars. In the 1970's, the SMG was the king of CQW weaponry, relegating the pistol to secondary status. Currently, the pistol are the most popular personal defense weapon for civilians, who main use their pistols in CQW situations. Even police use their pistol for engagements, and the majority of those are CQW settings. For military assault units, the pistol is the backup weapon, but operator do switch to their secondary weapon if they escorting a hostage, carrying a ballistic shield, or escorting a wounded team members. So, why is the pistol not the weapon-of-choice in CQW engagements? Recoil is more manageable in more full sized weapons, like SMGs or carbines, and pistols do not offer the same about of power as an assault rifle or PDW round. With more manageable recoil, higher rate of fire, and improved aiming sights, also better body position, SMGs and carbines can put more rounds into a target with greater penetration. Still, pistols and the skills associated with them are critical for CQW assaulters, and there is no reason why that will not continue.
In the dynamic and fluid CQW environment, danger can and does lay around the corner. Corners are a challenge in CQW scenarios, and the ability to fire around walls and behind cover has been one experimented with since the first world war. This experimentality has led to some "interesting" firearms over the years, like the banana-shaped barrel attach (or Krummluf
) for the STG44. While none of these were either effective or issued in great numbers, it is computer technology that finally has realized the promise of firing around corners without exposing yourself. During the 1990's through the early 2000's, the US Army experimented with the LAND WARRIOR program that was meant to integrate the infantryman with modern computer technology to be a force-multiplier.
One element of LAND WARRIOR was to use an helmet mounted HUD system to connect to an camera system on the assault rifle. This mated system allowed for the soldier to use the weapon to peer around obscurations and corners, and even engage them. While some of the technology from programs like LAND WARRIOR have filtered down to boots on the ground, the connected rifle/HUD that would allow a soldier to fire around barriers did not. In the 2000's, an Israeli Lt. Colonel Amos Golan helped develop a very flexible easy weapon system to solve the issues of corners in CQW scenarios: CornerShot system. This two-piece weapon platform would allow CQW units to have a offensive weapon to counter the deadly corner that worked with existing weaponry. Unlike many other similar systems, CornerShot is a two-piece system that allows for easy transition from the corner application to a normal weapon system without the need of bulky HUDs or cameras.
Sensors on the front of the CornerShot feed information back to the operator via a small screen. Here the operator can see and/or engage targets. Also in this flexible forward section is the weapon itself. Most videos on the operation of CornerShot is fitted with a 9x19mm Glock pistol with extended magazines. Other videos show the use of assault rifles or even 40mm grenade launchers. The issue with larger weapons is that it expands the size of the forward portion of the weapon, causing odd weight distribution. CornerShot has been adapted by several countries and even had some companies have been copying the weapon like China...no surprise there. I have been unable to locate any information if the CornerShot has actually been used in a combat situation.
Okay, you cannot Google the term "close quarters combat" without getting a million-and-one website and videos all about Martial Art strategies and fancy moves used in CQB situations. These sites and videos scream about secret SAS/DELTA/SEAL techniques, or members of this elite SPECOPS unit have developed this patented system for effective hand-to-hand techniques in CQC, or even that this certain Martial Art like Krav Maga, Aikido, or Wing Chu, are the most effective in CQW. So, what is the truth? We have to remember that most elite hostage rescue units, counter-terrorist groups, or Special Warfare units are not putting their member through years of Martial Arts training. Some members of specialized units do take Martial Arts, but it is often an hobby and done outside the base. This means that when specialized hand-to-hand techniques for close quarters combat are taught, they are limited to a few moves that work for most tactical scenarios. We also have to remember the uniqueness that the CQC environment is and all of the conditions that come with it. When SWAT or soldiers engage in CQC hand-to-hand, they are fully kitted up, armed with their weapon up and often clearing a room.
This means that their hand-to-hand techniques used for CQB situations has to take into account those factors. Often, the goal of those fistcuffs is not auditioning for the next Bourne
film, but to quickly subdue or control or maneuver the hostile away from the rest of the team and reduce them from being an variable in the CQC equation. The most famous example of this is during NEPTUNE SPEAR. When the SEALs went into UBL bedroom, one of the SEALs in the stack was forced to subdue, control, and maneuver the women that were in the bedroom with him. That SEAL selflessly took those women out of the equation at great personal risk to himself. From the accounts I've read, the technique was rather simple, but executed with such violence of action and speed that it didn't need to be some grand Kung-Fu demonstration to be effective. In Andy McNab's 1995 novel Immediate Action
, he discusses the nature of CQB hand-to-hand in SAS training in the 1980's. On page 194-198, he says in CQB, you learned "to drop the boys quickly and effectively
The Tools of Close Quarters Warfare
All structures, from cruise ships, to airplanes, schools, to starships all have doors and walls. These are barriers to the CQW teams that prevent movement and allow the enemy to hide themselves. These barriers have to be removed to all the assault teams access to the enemy. One of the tools to assist them are breaching tools that use kinetic force to break and smash those barriers. These range from battering rams, sledgehammers, bolt cutters, prying bars, and even axes. While explosive are faster, they take time to setup and if not properly used, they can wound you, your team, and the hostages. Breaching tools can take down a door with one blow, without risk of an explosives mishap
Dynamic Entry Explosive/Door Breaching Charges
Speed is a critical element for any assault team in the CQW environment and the faster the breacher can get that obscuration down to allow the assault team access the better. That often means explosive charges to blow the door, wall, or floor away. There are dozens of explosive charges designed to blow all kinds of obscurations from door knockers, to specially made shotgun shells, tank rounds, satchel charges, flex linear charges, and sheet charges.Each one of these different types of charges works in different ways and there are pros and cons to all, but there is always risk in using explosives. Faulty handing of the charge can result in death of the assault team or harming hostages or faulty placement can result in a lack of effectiveness and then the element of surprise is blown all to hell. Often with explosive dynamic entry/breaching there an flash-bang tossed in to give the assault team those split seconds to enter the room while the bad guys are experiencing massive sensory overload.
The Tactical Portable Ladder
The battlefield is a fluid environment, and intelligence can only go so far. To overcome some of the possibilities presented to the assault team, they must carry a wide variety of tools. One of these is the tactical portable ladder. This allows assault CQW units to overcome walls, access windows and balconies, deepening the range of options for entry. It also can be used as a bridge between buildings in urban environments. Some assault units operating in Baghdad used ladders in this way to access roofs of target buildings. In Special Forces assault units, like DEVGRU, there is normally one of the members of the team that carries a ladder for such an occasion to give the assaulters all of the tools on hand.
The term "breach-and-clear" is familiar to most gamers, Special Forces soldier, and SWAT officer. This one of the less-than-lethal tools in the arsenal of CQW units. Items like flash-bang grenades, smoke, and sting then allow the assault team time to get through the door and either kill the targets or force them to surrender. These less-than-lethal options are more than just shock-and-awe grenades/explosive charges, but also TASERs, pepper spray, pepperball, and even sonic/microwave weaponry. As seen in dynamic entry techniques, the less-than-lethal explosive are combined with room clearing and engagement by the assault team. Why? It some ways, an flash-bang is more effective at allowing the assault team to gain entry than a grenade because it overwhelms the senses of the enemy. I've read that modern flash-bang grenades have a greater effective range than grenades. Also, if you are trying to rescue hostages or take prisoners, grenades can make a situation messy.
Cutting Torches and Breacher Saws
Two of the heaviest, non-explosive methods of gaining access in CQW environment are the cutting torch and breacher saw. At one time, these were rarely used in the field due to their need for heavy external fuel/power sources. However, cutting torches and breacher saws are much more portable now, allowing them to be used more frequently in operations. Cutting torches are now slimmed down to a backpack unit with half the normal weight, allowing them to be used in more operations. This is a good thing, because cutting torches are a “masterkey” to most reinforced barriers and heavy hatches. This all comes at a stiff price these backpack units cost about $3500.
One example of an cutting torch in science fiction was the Colonial Marines' ME3 series Hand Wielder from ALIENS.
Much like the cutting torch, portable hand saws are designed to cut down most barriers, but with high-powered diamond or carbon saw blades. This comes at a price…they have a small fuel tank, about 20ozs and weight in at around 40 pounds. Both of these breaching tools need more training than most and these require specialized garments and protective gear.
Shields seem to be an historically important tool of CQW since the times of the Greek Phalanx and even today, the modern ballistic shield is used by CQW teams in the military and law enforcement to achieve victory in the deadly arena of close quarters warfare. Modern ballistic shields allow for mobile cover for officers and operators in the critical life-or-death moments of close quarters engagements. These modern shields are quite durable and resistant to incoming fire and melee attack, but weight in at nearly 40 pounds, and even the best even parts of the user's body exposed. Trained users can use the ballistic shield to allow cover for shooting or for psychology effect on the target, and even cover for wounded assaulters as they are moved out of the hot zone. Ballistic shields can also herd hostiles and force them to retreat at the mere sight of assaulters in their ninja kit with an shield carrier at the head of their assault stack.
One common thread among close quarters combat hand-to-hand systems is the use of melee weapons. All manner of knives are designed and sold for their use in a CQW engagement, included the famed Sykes-Fairbairn knife and the Gurkha knife. This is also extended to tomahawks, clubs, and even axes. Whiles melee weapons are used to kill, some can be dual purpose and used as breaching tools, like the tomahawk that can hack down a door or snap off a lock. One of the most classic military melee weapons, is the bayonet. Since around 1660's, the knife at the end of the muzzle has been a fixture of warfare, and a tool of last resort. The heyday of the bayonet parallel with the single-shot muskets, and could be highly effective and deadly in trained hands.
From the 18th century, bayonet charges were a common tactic in clearing and seizing the field of battle; generating large scale close quarter combat engagements. The use of the bayonet became less and less common over the evolution of firearms; but a majority of modern assault rifles still maintain the attachment lug. While the standard application of bayonets obvious, it can also be used for crowd control, and this has allowed for continuation of bayonet training. However, that does not mean bayonets have completely vanished from the modern battlefield and some military organizations (often specialized units) still carry on the tradition of bayonet training. During the Korean War, the last bayonet charge of the American army took place with the 65th infantry Regiment against Chinese forces. Bayonets were seen used in Siege of Sarajevo in 1995, but is British forces that keep the tradition alive and well into the 21st century. Since the Falklands War, British forces have used bayonets during engagements like the Battle of Danny Boy in Iraq in 2004 and the 2009 engagement in Afghanistan when Lt. James Adamson used a bayonet against a Taliban fighter when his weapon ran out of ammunition.
One of the symbols of close quarters combat is an weapon fitted with an sound suppressor. It can be an pistol, or SMG or even short-barreled assault rifle. So, why are so many sound suppressors used by CQW units? One reason is plain to see: noise reduction. Sheath and surprise are always best practice in CQW, and sound suppressors can help that. However, contrary to Hollywood silencers, no weapon is truly 100% silence, but sound suppressors cut down on some of the sound, especially when subsonic ammo is used. In addition, sound suppressor help cut-down muzzle flash and ringing in the ears by the user. All sense need to be sharp during CQW. That is real bottomline with sound suppressors: they reduce the presences of the assault team from the enemy in hopes of gaining surprise and tactical advantage...and they look cool.
Tactical Flashlights, Night Vision Devices, Lasers, and the AN/PEQ
CQW can be a dark environment, and darkness is often an critical element for the "surprise" portion of the overall CQW assault. It is common for assault teams and hostiles to cut off the power to confuse their opponent and give them the advantage or even mount CQW operations during the night to increase the odds in the favor of the assault teams. This is were the tactical flashlight, NVDs, lasers, and devices like the AN/PEQ come into play in the CQW environment. Night vision gear in the form of weapon mounted devices or helmet mounted allow darkness to be the friend of the user and allows for the element of surprise to be maintained.
However, NGDs can limit the field of vision of the user and increasing the danger for the user. This is why four-tube NVDs were developed. Another tool of CQW is the tactical flashlights. Attached flashlights to firearms are a common slight now and considered standard issue to CQW assault teams, however, there is another use for these handy devices in CQW. Some military/tactical lights are designed to blind or disorient hostiles in close combat situations with brilliant beams or pulses in the several hundred lumens range. I actually used an attached tactical flashlight in an indoor paintball field in Tulsa to force the last few defenders to surrender.
This makes tactical flashlights a cheap and effective less-than-lethal option. Another devices that can be dual use is the laser. Of course, lasers allow shooters to aim quickly and accurately, they can also allow an assaulter to intimidate their target into surrendering. Helping with the surprise element and allow assaulters to have accurate fire when the time comes to pull the trigger is devices like the AN/PEQ. This compact box mounted to rail systems allows for the shooter to illuminate or target an hostile with beams that are only visible with night vision gear. These tools all allow the assault team to maintain the advantage of surprise so critical to CQW operations.
The ability to see into a room prior to entry has always been the goal of CQW teams, and technology as allowed that dream to become reality...sort of. First developed in the 1960's, the fiberscope allow for a flexible optic device to feed information back on a hard-to-reach area. Fiberscopes were used by the military to peer into rooms and assess the tactical situation prior to entry. The "snake camera" became part of the tools of HRT/CT/SWAT units and soon was seen in movies and video games like RAINBOW Six: Vegas 2
, Who Dares Wins
Close Quarters Warfare Training Environments
Killhouses are some of the most familiar tools of training operators in CQW tactics and situations. While typically Killhouses are live-fire trainings, they can use force-on-force training tools to have active and dynamic environments to better prepare soldiers for the real thing. Force-on-Force training tools like Airsoft, MILES, Simulation, and Paintball (.43, .50 .68 balls) are used by OPFOR players and the assault teams. In addition to these elements, Killhouses are often modular, allowing for layouts of all types to be assembled to foster the real uncertain of an real-world CQW situation. At times, Killhouses training with HRT scenarios involve assaulters firing on paper targets with real live hostages. Killhouses are also places to allow VIPS and government officials to see the effectiveness of their CQW units in actions as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did with the SAS during the 1980's.
The New "High-Tech" Holodeck Killhouses
One of the issues with most CQW training is that most Killhouses are using paper targets that are nonreactive and static. But given that this is the future, a company is pioneering the use of holographic technology in training troops in the deadly world of CQW. The company, HologramUSA, is applying holographic technology to create more interactive and dynamic targets in Killhouses. In addition to making these holographic targets more realistic than the old paper targets, the US Army wants these targets to react to the soldiers and make virtual training to hurt. That's right...holograms that fire back sending impulses to rigs that soldiers will wear. In the realm of science fiction, holographic has been used to train soldiers and now the real-world is catching up.
Sometimes, Killhouses cannot replicate real environments and empty buildings of all types are used to train CQW units in various scenarios. In Fort Worth, Texas, the local SWAT teams use the old Swift Meat Packing Plant for all manner CQB training scenarios, including force-on-force situations. According to rumor among the North Texas Paintball community and some of my own human sources, they used Tippmann A-5 Paintball guns.
There is a strong connection between military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) combat and CQW, however, the two are separate combat environments. CQW deals more with soldiers fighting in tight spaces and up-close-and-personal settings with the tactics and equipment involved, while urban warfare has all elements involved, from soldiers, to armor, to tact-air, to even drones. Soldiers use MOUT facilities around the world to hone their skills in both urban warfare and close quarters combat.
Private CQW Facilities
With the need for CQW skills being greater than ever, private companies have take advantage of the opportunity and created private training facilities. Places like OPSGEAR in Utah that operated their Urban Warfare Center that trained a variety of groups in CQW tactics with Force-on-Force methods or IBK UK. This facilities can offer a number of services not found in the military for specific users and their needs, like close protection duties. Some of the facilities are run by former military or law enforcement personnel and they can bring a lot to the table. These private companies and schools are even hired by the military to deepening training and best practice.
Examples of Various Tactical Environments of CQW
Clearing and secure navy vessels has been one of the primary environments of CQW since before the Battle of Salamis. Ship boarding is not normally done during ship-to-ship engagements in the 20th and 21st centuries if the primary objective is "sink the battleship". However, throughout history, ships engaged much closer than before the invention of the cannon, and ramming the vessels and sending over boarding parties was a fixture of naval combat. Ships that were secured from their original owners, could be put into service. During the much famed "age of piracy and sailing ships", cannons did cut down on the use of boarding parties, but it was still a method of gaining victory and a prize.
Today, ship boarding or VBSS is used if the vessel or what is on it is important in some way. If the vessel was hostile and it was wartime, the ship would be attacked from a great distance with aircraft, missiles, and rail guns. VBSS operations are launched primarily to secure either the vessel itself, recover a piece of cargo, an important person, to search the vessel during blockades, or to rescue hostages. VBSS is risky and tricky due to boarding parties would have to insert via small boat or helicopter, overcome the defenders, and secure the site or objective all while on a moving object that is physical hard defined unlike most building. What do I mean by that? Space is one of the primary considerations for CQW, and in some environments, there is breathing room, like buildings. but in targets like ships, space stations, or oil rigs, the vacuum of space or the water limit the space the assault teams have to work in. Also, this makes the job for the assaulters harder due to the limited number of entry points. If there is only two paths to access the bridge of a cargo ship, than the tangos are going to secure those entry points.
Then we have the other issue: the layout of the ship itself. Planning and training is critical in VBSS that takes place on actually naval vessels, but ships can be very different in layout and placement of cargo. That is where research and intelligence can come into play. If an drone or the plans to the vessel, or photos can help put the puzzle pieces of the interior of the vessel together, the VBSS boarding party can be successful. Another factor, is the crew. If the assault team is boarding the ship to rescue hostages or secure drugs or prevent it from running a blockage, the real question is what is the crew going to do? In some cases, like the Somali pirate raids, the entire crew attempts to repel or they hid. In some cases, none of the crew resists. This is one of the issues with VBSS and estimated the number of hostiles. VBSS units train to see Violence of Action to overcome and bully the majority of the crew to submitting to the team. Only hardliners often resist, which is often a minority.
During operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers were forced to engage in search-and-clear operations in homes. Often these missions were done on the fly and not planned out. Homes, in of themselves, are individualized with countless layouts and configurations. This was the case of what the DEVGRU assault teams ran into when they hit the Bin Laden compound. To overcome this, training, speed, and violence of action are employed to put the advantage into the hands of the assault teams. Homes can also bear secret hideouts, escape routes, and even be wired with explosives.
One of the truly sad and disturbing trends in the 21st century has been the spectre of school shootings. This CQW environments has become part of the news and a change in our society as seen at Sandy Hook and Beslan. Police departments and even military units have been training to engage hostiles in schools. The issue with schools is they are not uniformly designed, laid out, and they are teeming with hiding spots and hostages. In the horrible Beslan School Siege of 2004, the shitbags took over 1,000 hostages, and over 300 innocents were killed. This spells out the terrible cost and risk of CQW in schools. Mistakes can be measured in children and teachers (like me) being killed and that will haunt the assault team members. In addition, schools alter their layout and those new layouts are not in any official record, causing the planning stage to not be completely up-to-date.
One of the deadliest environments for CQW is one of the most common for counter-terrorism operations: the commercial airplane. Why? Airplanes are packed with a vast number of people, limited access points, most airplanes are cramped with limited movement options, and bullets can be deadly if they miss their intended target. When it comes to CQW operations in airliners, speed and violence of action are used to overcome the hostages and protect the hostages. One of the challenges in training for CQW in airliners is the various sizes and construction of the vast number of commercial airliners. This makes the planning and intelligence phase of the assault much more labor intensive.
Airliners became a frontline on the war in terror occurred during the 1970's, airliners were targets by terrorists and CT units were used to engage the terrorists and free the hostages. Such successful HRT onboard airplanes were Sabena Flight 571 and Lufthansa Flight 18. This caused units like DELTA Force to train for HRT operations in airliners. During the early days of DELTA, operators trained on real airliners with cooperation from the major carriers. After the September 11th attacks, the US government increased the number of Air Marshals to attempt to prevent another hijacking. These Air Marshals are some of the best trained for CQW HRT airliner operations and some have trained CQW units on airliner boarding operations. During the research phase of this blog, I used several video games that have used airliners as a setting and they are bloody affairs with misses being deadly and costly.
Much like most topics in science fiction, the level of technology comes into play on how your boarding parties access the enemy ship for VBSS. If your fictional universe includes teleporters like Star Trek
and Stargate SG-1,
than the issue of insertion and exfil is much easier. Your VBSS boarding parties can simply teleport to the critical areas of the ship, or beam in a few flash-bang grenades a few seconds before you materialize (tele-fragging). However, in the real world and most fictional universes, ship boarding insertion is done the old fashion way: boarding craft. There is a wide variety of boarding craft seen in sci-fi; from shuttles, to squid-like, to missiles-like craft, or even pods fired at high speed to crash through the hull.
One of the great risks in boarding an enemy vessels is crossing the gap between both starships, as the website Atomic Rockets
pointed out. Unless the target ship is completely shut down, it will attempt to repel the boarders even before they step one foot inside. An starship will attempt to evasive maneuvers, use defensive armaments, or even put a few crewmen on the hull with missile launchers. If the assault shuttle gets close enough to dock, the question becomes about location. Obviously, the easiest method is to breach or force the airlocks or shuttle bays rather than risk cutting into the hull. However, this will be risky and natural point of enter like airlocks and shuttle bays would highly defended and defendable. Starships could even install something as simple as automatic shotguns in the airlock that would shred the spacesuits of any hostiles.
Cutting into the hull to create your own entry point would be risky and could be slower. The risk of the cutting into the hull would be explosive decompression and damaging their prize or objective. If and when the space vikings board the wounded warship, the crew could cut the artificial gravity network to some sections and the same would be truth of the boarding parties. Much like scene in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
and Guardians of the Galaxy,
the boarding parties could damage the environmental systems or the artificial gravity network to make their entry easier and put them at an advantage with their magnetic boots and spacesuits.
In some cases, the boarding parties warship could fire precision shots to help out the boarding parties if they run into a phalanx of defenders by blowing a hole in the hull. Prey that the gunner can aim. One of the variables for the boarding parties, much like boarding naval ships, is how many defenders will be there to meet and greet the boarding parties? Will all of the crew take up blasters and defend the Galactica
or will they run and hid in the Jefferies tubes? This is were "violence of action" comes into play just as much as in house clearing. Any boarding party will have to knowledgable about the layout and function of the starship they are boarding to allow for maxium effectiveness in the shortest amount of time.
Orbital real estate will be critical to any wars fought in outer space, and space stations will be part of the battlespace in outer space. That makes space stations an important target in invading or holding an planet under contention. This also makes space stations already in orbit important targets, most likely more so than starships. However, VBSS operations to take and control the space station would be only undertaken IF the space station has some sort of value to the invaders. If it does not, the invaders could simply blast the space station out of orbit and have it be flaming falling debris over Australia.
The real difference between space stations and starships is the location, maneuverability, and number of access points. Unlike starships, the space station cannot easily move to throw off defenders, and they are more in a fixed location. Then space stations will have a number of access points in the form of docking ports, airlocks, and access hatches. This could be a nightmare for any defending force and a number choses of entry access points for the boarding parties. The challenge of attacking space stations was very clear illustrated by Firefly
episode "War Stories" and the film Interstellar
. You have to successful dock with the station and somehow overcome the station's defenses. Any space station in a hostile universe will be defended, and any hostile boarding craft will have to overcome those weapon systems. Once docked, the boarding parties will have the some challenges has on a starships...however that largely depends on what kind of space station we are assaulting.
Size and number of crew could be the simplest differences. For example, boarding stations the size of the ISS would be a more simple affair while boarding something the size of Deep Space Nine or Babylon 5 would require a large force of space marines...like hundreds if not thousands. Plus there will be more security on stations this size, and there could be stiff defends. For example, Deep Space Nine had shielding, a number of security personnel, docked warships, and a number of weapon systems. Babylon 5 was the same way, but they had a trained military space fighter force, 2,000 military and security personnel, plus ambassadors from dozens of worlds that would send their own rescue force if their people were threatened.
Military bases are always a natural target for assault during times of war, and when warfare moves out into the black, the off-world installations will be natural targets. Bases on planets with hostile environments, like Mars, Luna, or Titan; will be natural CQW environments with unique challenges of their own. Much like any futuristic CQW scenario listed above onboard spaceships or space stations, the objective would be VBSS and not simple destruction. After all, off-world installations could be just bombarded from orbital while the crew and space marines enjoys hot coco and watches the show. Much like boarding an starship or space station, the boarding party will be outfitted in spacesuits and a variety of weapons; lethal and less-than-lethal. Size of the boarding party will also be determined by the size of the installation and its crew compliment and the objective of the assault. Off-world installations could be a simple wheel-like layout or they could be underground structures without a standardized layout. And if the off-world installation is in an hostile atmosphere like Mars, entry points will be limited as well as options to cut into the structure to create new access points.
Close Quarters Warfare in Video Games
I thought I would devote some space to the presentation and transmission of CQW via video games. Classically, the central ideas, units, and uses of CQW would be found in the pages of books like Inside DELTA Force
by Eric L. Haney and Immediate Action
by Andy McNab or even in documentaries, films, and even television series like Ultimate Force
and The Unit.
Even real-world events like Iranian Embassy Siege in 1980. While these are important types of mass media products that give the public information on CQW, there is nothing quite like video games. When computer technology achieved a certain level, it allowed for games like SWAT
and RAINBOW Six
to demonstrate the world of CQW with varying degrees of accurate and of course, some of this was dependant on computer technologies at the times.
These games allowed the player to fully plan out an CQW assault scenario and execute that plan with all of the positives and negatives consequences of your plan. As technology improved, games like R6:3 Raven Shield
allowed for players to employ the tactics, tools, and weapons of dynamic entry. With a few clicks, CGI operators would flash-and-clear right along side the player. These types of games were ported or designed for the home console market, like First to Fight: Close Combat
. As CT operations became more common, the more inclusion of CQW into video game....and then Call of Duty
and Medal of Honor
While I am a fan of both gaming franchise and they do include CQW tactics, scenarios, tool, and weapons; they betray one critical element of CQW: teamwork. Often in these shooter games, the player has to "lone wolf" CQW operations. COD
games do show your character using breaching charges, flash-bangs, and dynamic entry, the entire slo-mo sequences is fully dependant on your actions alone. You alone are responsible to flash the room, engage tangos, and rescue the hostages. Teamwork is at the heart of real-world CQW, but that aspect is absent from Call of Duty
and Medal of Honor
games. I've never heard or read an real-world situation where an operator was, by choice, engaging in room clearing by themselves.
The same is true of the MoH
to a degree, especially in the 2012 game Warfighter.
Danger Close Games attempted to bring an even greater, more realistic, game of TIER-One units and their experiences. Part of this attempt featured a greater CQW dynamic entry system. The player could choose a number of breaching equipment: everything from the almighty foot, to shotgun, to door knocker charge. These options were unlocked by headshots pulled off in those slo-mo dynamic entry scenes. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Like much of the game, it was half-baked and broke the rule of teamwork in CQW. You burst into a room and you alone engage the evildoers.
However, there is hope in the realm of video games and CQW realism: RAINBOW Six: Siege
, Door Kickers
, and Breach & Clear.
While R6: Vegas
departed from some of the aspect of CQW, it was largely more of a shooter, however, Seige
swings the franchise back to the original roots of RAINBOW Six
: Hostage Rescue. Siege
allows two side of players to engage in a dynamic and fluid CQW battlefield with many of the tactics, tools, and weapons of the real-world CQW operations and units. This has format has been praised by the gaming community and media and rumors of real CQW units using R6: Siege
for training and education.
Close Quarters Warfare in Science Fiction
At times, it is difficult to understand if an creator has intentionally designed an setting for the purpose of showing CQW or that it is just where their minds took them. There are many setting in the sci-fi realm that lend themselves to CQW scenarios like starship boarding and assaulting space stations or even asteroid based installations. Some of the combat we've seen in megacities could be taken as also examples of CQW, but the are these purely accidental? Some of the CQW seen in sci-fi is a result of the creators wanting the close conditions to fuel an air of tension as seen in ALIENS
and other Dark Sci-Fi works.
When most think of CQW, we think of Martial Arts or assault teams kitted out in black ninja gear blowing doors and rushing in with guns blazing. We rarely see these hallmarks of CQW in science fiction works in genuine sci-fi settings and scenarios, and even more rare is proper CQW tactics, tools, dynamic entry, or even weapons. In works like DOOM
, Space Hulk
, and even Star Trek
do feature the basic definition of combat in close proximity. but it wasn't until recently that the tactics and the tools of CQW units have become more common in science fiction due more mass exposure to
CQW incidents, like counter-terrorism operations and Special Forces operations.
Even video games and films help expose sci-fi creators to CQW like RAINBOW Six
, and 24
. This filters down and we've seen it spawn units like the MACOs from the 3rd season of Star Trek: Enterprise
and Section Nine from Ghost in the Shell
. However the most common sci-fi CQW scenario is shipboarding. From Star Wars
, to Star Trek
, to Space Hulk
and even in Starblazers
, we see space marines boarding starships or repelling boarders. This is again, partly due to the tension and drama that shipboarding operation give to the story and the characters. This is also due to the amount of starships seen in science fiction and that people seem to like to see shipboarding and the resulting combat. This could be linked to people's enjoyment of shipboarding in the era of pirates and wooden sailing ships. Either way, proper CQW is going to be more popular in science fiction.
CQW in my own Science Fiction
The basic concept of close quarters warfare entered into my mind by watching the news during the 1980's and my general interest in all things military. It was the very nature of terrorism and counterterrorism that I learned the building blocks of CQW. I first heard the term "close quarters battle" from the 1990 film Navy SEALs
...which is a terrible film, but it does have the excellent Michael Biehn. CQW has always held an certain fascination for me and it was helped by playing paintball, playing Photon
at the Photon Centers in Tulsa and Albuquerque, and Martial Arts. In my own early sci-fi works from the 1990's, I featured characters serving in an elite Special Force unit specializing in assaulting starships, space stations, and off-world bases. When it came time to write my books, I featured real-world CQW tactics, tools, weapons, and scenarios. In my book Endangered Species,
I featured several examples of ODA-229 using proper CQW tactics to search and clear several types of structures. One of these CQW scenarios was conducted by ODA-229 was when they were encased in their Dragoon
class CLASS-II powered armor. This might be one of the few examples, outside of Japanese Anime and Manga, of CQW in powered armor that conforms to proper and standard CQW tactics. In my next book, we will see more CQW scenarios, teams, and technology. Watch for it!
This was a difficult one to get examples for, and I wanted to let you know that I tried to gather some various examples of the different types of CQW scenarios, environments, tactics. And oddly, there is a number of examples from Star Trek
The Boarding of Qo'nos One from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
In one of the best Trek
films, we see an two-man assassination team board the D-7 class Qo'nos One
and engage several crew members until finally morally the high chancellor of the Klingon Empire. While unusually violent for Trek
, the really interesting element is how the team evens the odds. Two men against a heavy cruiser filled with Klingon warriors would be a certain death sentence. However, several torpedo hits crippled main power and the artificial gravity network. The two Starfleet crew members worn spacesuits and magnetic boots, allowing them to pick off the floating aliens. This would be a realistic scenario for an boarding party: knocking out main power and the gravity system to confuse and disoriented. Anyway, a great scene and an interesting take on the sci-fi trope of boarding parties.
Counter-Terrorism Operations from Ghost in the Shell Universe
The Ghost in the Shell
universe is packed with realistic near-future examples of CQW scenarios, environments, equipment, and units (Section 9). It also helps that creator Masamune Shirow educated himself on current HRT/CT operations and folded that knowledge into the pages of his Ghost in the Shell
manga. This series was helped by his work on Appleseed
with the ESWAT units. It is also interesting that the GITS
universe includes a form of mech, the Fuchikomas and the Tachikomas, and even sets them into CQW scenarios.
The MACO Boarding and Defending Scenes from ST: Enterprise
It may like an odd choice, but throughout the 3rd and 4th seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise
, we see the United Earth Special Forces unit. MACO. using close quarters combat tactics, weaponry, and situations in all manner of CQW environments and scenarios. The MACOs were used in hostile VBSS, defending the NX-01 from hostile alien boarding parties, and engaging in hostage rescue. Given the time period when Enterprise
was filmed, Special Forces units were front-and-center in the public sphere, and the tone of the 3rd season made this elite unit a prefect fit. To ST:ENT
's credit, the tactics, equipment, and behavior of the MACO operators all fits realistically within CQW.
The Battle of the Martian Installations from the DOOM Universe
Given the format of the one of the landmark FPS games, DOOM
, is nearly set in an CQW environment: the UAC Martian installations. Much as I said above, I think that ID Software placed the game inside the Maritain bases for tension and jump-scares. It was also done for programming reasons and that ALIENS
helped inspirit the original 1993 game. The team designing the game took inspiration from realistic bases and installations as well. The idea of the cramped is has much a challenge to the player has the hellspawn and zombies is an element of CQW, but that is about all that is borrowed from CQW. DOOM 3
is the best example of CQW in the series...and no, I am not going to talk about the *shudder* film.
The Stormtrooper Boarding of the Tantive IV from Star Wars: A New Hope
During the opening 10 minutes of A New Hope
, we see a prime example of ship boarding in the form of the stormtroopers seizing the Tantive IV
CR90 Corvette. This was the courier/transport vessel of Leia Organa, and Imperial forces seized the vessel for searching the vessel for classified blueprints of the new Death Star. When the main reactor was destroyed, the Tantive IV
was taken into the Star Destroyers shuttle bay. Rebel troopers stationed onboard took defensive positions to repel the boarders. The Stormtroopers of the 501st Legion assaulted the Tantive IV
with dynamic entry tactics, stunning the rebel troops, and allowing the stormtroopers a moment to get the upper hand. Still, the first stormtrooper through the breached hatch was killed by rebel troopers. The skill of the stormtroopers wins out and the Tantive IV
is seized along with Princess Leia.
The Vidiian Boarding of the USS Voyager from the episode "Deadlock" from ST:VOY
There were so few Voyager
episodes worth taping and saving for future enjoyment, and one of those was "Deadlock" from season two. An typical spatial anomaly creates two Voyagers
, one that suffers terrible damage and another is untouched. During this crisis, the plague-inflicted Vidiian race took advantage and launched boarding parties to harvest the crew. Some of the crew crossed over to the damaged Voyager
and the undamaged Voyager
set their self-destruct and took out the Vidiian ship. Given the horrific nature of the Vidiians and their pracific of harvesting organs to prolong their own failing bodies gives these boarding parties some glouish elements. We running phaser fights in the corridors, Vidiians harvesting on the spot, and the tension is also very nice as well.
Various Clearing, Boarding, and Rescue Operations from the Stargate Universe
From the 1994 feature film, to the three TV series, and several direct-to-DVD movies, the Stargate
universe is packed with CQW environment and scenarios in all manner of uses of the term "close quarters". From shipboarding Wrath warship to rescue captured team members in Atlantis
, to assault missions in grand alien palaces, to defending the Stargate lobby room in Colorado; Stargate
has it all. It is not just fighting in close quarters with weapons and melee, but also dynamic entry with some proper tactics and tools. Even when it comes to weapons, the SG teams use CQW weapons like the P90 and the MP5...sometimes in the right situations and sometimes in the wrong situations. Unlike DOOM
is all over the map because the series is, and sometimes, it is honestly using CQW in a proper way...while others, it is luck. Of course, the entire universe is ranked has "mildly military."
Boarding Party by Task Force Games (1982)
Frontline games published a pocket war game for 1-2 players in 1982 that was all about starship boarding parties. The basic plot is that an human colony ship and robotic cruiser called the DESTRUCTOR had both been disabled in a engagement. It is a race against time has both ships are repairing to continue the fight. The human vessel deploys boarding teams to disable the central computer or the repair systems to all the meatbags to gain the upper hand. The player of the humans has 14 turns to disable either system or the robotic cruiser restores its main systems and destroys the human starship. If this game is played solo, the robot defenders are randomized, and if it is two player, both control either side, making it more challenging.
From the information online, this game seems to be a prime example of a classic element of science fiction warfare. This could make for an good candidate for being mobile game for the smartphone market.
CQC from the Metal Gear Universe
One of the most famous examples of the term "CQC" in sci-fi is the Close Quarters Combat system from the Metal Gear
games. Developed for MGS:3
by the game's military advisor Motosada Mori, it was an unarmed and armed system of taking down enemies in both lethal and nonlethal methods. Mori was an SWAT instructor and applied the system to the gameplay. In-universe, CQC was developed by The Boss and Naked Snake, where it became part of the training in the FOX unit and later, FOXHOUND.
In the armed version of CQC, pistols and knives were used over longer firearms, and while the knives were used for killing, they were also used to control limbs. In the unarmed version CQC, the limbs of the enemy are used to pin, throw, and control the enemy. At times, it is a dance of pain and others, it is throw to the ground. Given the popularity of the Metal Gear
series of video games, the inclusion of the tactics of CQC and the term itself has exposed a wider audience to elements of CQW...much like RAINBOW Six
did on the original Playstation/PC.
Various Ship/Station Boarding and Counter Boarding from Battlestar Galactica
Given the setting and conditions of the reimagined BSG
universe, there is a fair amount of CQW seen. These close quarters engagements are inside all manner of spaceships and space stations. Some of these are ship-boarding and counter ship-boarding operations, and even tools and tactics of the trade are seen. These CQW situations are conducted by Cylon warrior drones, Fleet Marines, and even Colonial pilots. It has been suggested that it could be SOP that all
Colonial Fleet personnel servicing onboard ship have to undergo CQW training in case of being boarding, as was seen during Cylon Wars. One of the cool elements of these shipboarding elements was it was seen on both side of the conflict. We witness bucketheads assaulting the Galactica
and the Pegasus
through their landing pods after using Cylon heavy raiders. It was also revealed that the Cylons during the war, used the tactic of purging the environmental systems to kill the meatbags.
Clearing Hadley's Hope by Colonial Marines from ALIENS
In the best military sci-fi movie of all time ALIENS,we see a squad of badass space marines...oh, I'm sorry...Colonial Marines, search and clear the colonial settlement of Hadly's Hope on LV-426 using real world CQW tactics of the 1980’s. With securing colonial settlements in all types of environmental conditions being a primary mission of the Colonial Marines, CQW tactics are part of their training. The tactics used by the colonial response team in the cramped conditions of the colony townsite and the atmospheric processor could have been influenced by the actor who played Sgt. Al Apone: Al Matthews. Matthews was a Marine for six and served in Vietnam. It is possible that some of the tactics that he learned were used on set for the actors to appear more genuine. One of the real reasons why the close quarters conditions were seen on screen was due to ALIENS being a dark science fiction film and we all know the power of cramped conditions and darkness play in the horror genre.
The Battle of Cairo Station from HALO: 2
During the Battle of Earth in 2552, the UNSC anti-ship MAC cannon planetary defense stations were keeping the aliens at bay just outside the killzone of the MAC cannons. The Covenant sent boarding team to take out the MAC stations to allow the majority of their warships to survive for the direct assault on the Earth. These alien board parties were to assault the station and secure a powerful bomb to knock out the station. During the beginning levels of the game, the player is take on the Covenant boarding parties and defuse the bomb. This one of my favorite sections of the second HALO
game, and placement of crew-served heavy machine guns in key points is a nice touch. The boarding ships used were similar to the ones seen in HALO: Combat Evolved
, and their superior technology allows them to breach in more places than just the airlocks.
The Marine Breaching Teams from the Episode "Severed Dreams" from B5 Universe
In one of the best episodes of the entire series, the Babylon 5 station secedes from the Earth Alliance and declares itself independent. That brings the wrath of President Clark with an taskforce of loyal EarthForce ships and Marines. During the climatic battle, the EarthForce taskforce manages to get one breaching pod through the defensive fire. The cone-shaped pod latches on, blows a hole into the hull in Brown sector, and a team of Marines pile out into an unpopulated section of the station. Prior to the breaching pod landing, B5 command was able to track the breaching pod to the precise location on the massive station, this allowed heavily armed B5 security teams to intercept the Marines before they could spread out and attack vitally more important sections of the station.
Security teams were able to hold and eliminate the Marine boarding team in a lethal and brutal CQW engagements that resulted in hand-to-hand. While this is an amazing scene and a great example of sci-fi boarding parties and the vehicle itself is cool; it is odd that only a single breaching pod was dispatched to B5. Consider that B5 is miles long and populated with a quarter-of-a-million humans and aliens. There were 2,000 EarthForce personnel alone onboard the cylinder station, and the taskforce only sends, at best, 30-40 marines. That is not much when compared to the security force that B5 has. Someone did not do their homework when planning this assault. Of course, B5's new defenses could have intercept other breaching pods before reaching the station.
Magog Boarding Parties from the Episode "Its Hour has Come Round at Last" from Andromeda
One of the finest episodes of the entire series is the first season finale "Its Hour Has Come Round at Last!". Here we see the Magog in all of their gruesome glory boarding the the good ship Andromeda Ascendant
. When Harper hacks an old version of the Romie AI, she resume an older recon mission in Magog space. This goes horrible wrong, has it did before, and the Magog board the ship. The Magog favor using boarding tactics to secure ships and victims for food and breeding stock. This means that frontline warship, the Swarm Ship, is specifically designed for boarding and seizing.
The funny thing is that the Swarm Ship latch on the hull like a tick and them pump up and down, feeding the Magog horde into the poor vessel. This appears nearly comical on-screen, and it appears that the parasitic Swarm Ships are literally fucking
the host vessel. Anyways, this a great episode has the few Andromeda
crew and their robots attempt to repeal the legions of Magog boarding parties. The scene with Tyr and Harper with their knives is pure greatness and one of the most moments in the entire series, and we even see Captain Dylan Hunt use some CQW tactics when moving through the ship to reach the bridge.
The Cancelled CQW tactics and equipment from HALO: Reach
As I've said above, video games are either setup to show CQW in realistic and dynamic ways, like RAINBOW Six
, or in the majority, the events in the game happen to occur in CQW situations. For the most part, the HALO
games fall into the latter, then the rumors of HALO: Reach
began to swirl. Rumors of the assassination close quarters melee system, and even an dynamic entry system, where NOBLE Six character could use RAINBOW Six
-like tools and tactics to clear sections of the game. It was believed that futuristic flash-bangs would be used. There was an hint of this in the HALO: Reach
vidoc "A SPARTAN will Rise". When HALO: Reach
dropped 2010, we got an amazing game with the very badass assassination system, but alas, no CQW "bang-and-clear" system. Pity. It could have been a cool addition to the character of NOBLE Six, and add a depth to the game itself. It is uncertain if the RAINBOW Six
like system was seriously concerned by Bungie, and it was all just rumors.
Clearing the Space Hulks of Xenos from the WH40K Universe
Space hulks are the ghost ships of the 41st millennium, and they draft through the Milky Way, phasing in and out warp and normal-space. These abandoned adrift vessels often accumulate other material and grow larger. These space hulks can become security risks when used by Genestealers to raid ships or worlds or by Orks or even Chaos forces. Given the risk, specialized units of the Legiones Astartes
are used to purge the threat and secure the space hulk. This duty often falls to the Space Marine Terminators, who don the Tactical Dreadnought Terminator armor. This makes them walking tanks in tight interior spaces.
Given the tone of the WH40K
universe, we all know that everything has to be big, outlandish, and with big fucking guns, and that is the way that the Space Marines approach CQW. One of the issues that the donning of Terminator armor causes is that normally only one Space Marine Terminator can fit in a corridor, causing them to be single stacked and unable to assist the Space Marine in front of them. There was nothing more helpless feeling than when the Terminator in front of you engages a Genestealer, and they are cut down, causing you to set over their bloodied body and pump Bolter rounds into the xeno. This was especially grim in the Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels
video game. For many of us, me included, the Space Hulk
game was our gateway drug to the wider and more expensive Warhammer 40,000
The Klingon Boarding of Deep Space Nine from the episode "Way of the Warrior" from ST:DS9
One of the best two-parters from Deep Space Nine
was the 1995 "Way of the Warrior", and it had a scene that many of thought would never happen: Klingon boarding parties beaming onboard the Deep Space Nine station. These two episodes show a great deal of CQW: from the room clearing training at the beginning, to the Klingon boarding parties. In the episode, the station shelters the Cardassian council after the Klingons had invade Cardassian space. When the Klingon taskforce arrives to take back the council, Sisko refuses, and the shooting starts. Despite the offensive and defensive upgrades to the station with the Dominion threat, the massive Klingon presence overwhelms the station, and the Klingon beam over a number of boarding parties.
Given the technology of transporters, the Klingons are able to make a direct assault on critical areas of the station, and with the enviroment being an space station, hand-to-hand close quarters combat ensues. Nasty close quarters engagements at the station's OPS center along with the council chambers erupt with Klingons proving how much they enjoy fighting up close and personal. However, the assault on OPS and the council chambers are halted, and Odo's security teams contain the boarding parties with much loss on both sides. While this two-parter is one of the best in the DS9
lineup, it does take away some of the fieriness of the Klingon warriors.
The Slo-Mo Room Clearing from Dredd (2012)
In the 2012 Dredd
, which was a complete overhaul from the 1995 canned dogshit film, we see Judge Dredd and his foxy partner taking down scum in a cramped dystopia apartment complex that takes its styling choices from Soviet Russia. This means that the two Judges engage glorious room clearing with one in slow motion that is bloody and artful. These are some of the best and most recent examples of CQW in science fiction.
The Jem 'Hadar Boarding of the USS Defiant from the episode "The Search Pt. 1" from ST:DS9
In the episode where we fans finally got to see a Federation starship with teeth, we also got treated to an nasty close quarters melee on the bridge of the Defiant
. When the cloaked Defiant
is discovered by a swarm of Jem 'Hadar fighter-destroyers, they fall under a crushing attack. Despite the advanced armor and weaponry of the Federation warship, the shields are knocked down, and Jem 'Hadar boarding teams are beamed over. The crew, especially Sisko and Dax, met the alien warriors with hand-to-hand combat, while the Romulan officer uses her pistol. For a few minutes, the bridge is steel cage death-match, but it is too late, the Jem 'Hadar take the ship and crew. This was, at the time, one of the most brutal up close and personal combat scenes in all of Trek
, and the episode is still one of my all-time favorites. Scenes like really set DS9
apart from TNG
, and it was also a nice example of Federation hand-to-hand combat techniques. It also shows the effectiveness of transporter technology in ship boarding. Instead of breaching an airlock and fighting to the command-and-control section of the starship, the boarding parties can just beam directly to the bridge. However, they should beamed a few flash grenades prior to their arrival to avoid the amount of causalities that were inflicted.
Next Time on FWS...
In the next installment of the continuing series Ships of the Line
, we will be exploring and explaining one of the enduring warship classes: the destroyer.
1) in corner shot, The Trackingpoint Rifles now feature a App that interfaces wirelessly with a set of Smart glasses called Shot Glass. this allows streaming, aiming and firing of the rifle around corners.
2) In ship boarding I was kinda surprised you didn't make a glf of the storm troopers cutting through the door when boarding in a New Hope.
3) Hand to hand/space station. I feel there should have at least been a mention of the events of the Novel Ghost Fleet, Where A team of PMC's/Privateers are commissioned to take a Chinese orbiting station. trained and equipped with Tasers and modified trench knives as opposed to firearms, The Team used these alternative arms to take the station in a more realistic manor then the events of Call of Duty Ghosts. Where bullets would likely have decompressed the station the knives and tasers offer more control in the tight quarters and fragile hull.
Snapshot from GDW Traveller was pretty good too.ReplyDelete
Another excellent article.ReplyDelete
A great example of a training environment was the Gryphon Longsword exercises held at the never-completed Satsop Nuclear Power Plant in Washington state. Forces were able to simulate operating in a nuclear/chemical/biological environment at an actual nuclear power facility. Here's one article about it:ReplyDelete
Great article Will,ReplyDelete
BTW in case you or anyone else is interested, the Norwegian tv series "occupied" about a near future Russian invasion of Norway is coming to netflix on the 15th of January.
It'll be in English.
It's pretty good IMHO.
Not a super amount of future combat but interesting non the less.
It was a huge hit in Norway so a second series seems likely.