Offensive (military)

An offensive is a military operation that seeks through an aggressive projection of armed forces to occupy territory, gain an objective or achieve some larger strategic, operational, or tactical goal. Another term for an offensive often used by the media is 'invasion', or the more general 'attack'.

The offensive was considered a pre-eminent means of producing victory, although with the recognition of a defensive phase at some stage of the execution.[1]

A quick guide to the size or scope of the offensive is to consider the number of troops involved in the side initiating the offensive.

Offensives are largely conducted as a means to secure initiative in a confrontation between opponents. They can be waged on land, at sea[2] or in the air.

A naval offensive, such as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, can have wide-ranging implications for national strategies and require a significant logistical commitment to destroy enemy naval capabilities. It can also be used to interdict enemy shipping, such as World War II's Battle of the Atlantic. Naval offensives can also be tactical, such as Operation Coronado IX[3] conducted by the United States Navy's Mobile Riverine Force during the Vietnam War.

An air offensive is an operation that can describe any number of different types of operations, usually restricted to specific types of aircraft. The offensives conducted with the use of fighter aircraft are predominantly concerned with establishing air superiority in a given air space, or over a given territory. A bomber offensive is sometimes also known as a strategic bombing offensive and was prominently used by the Allies on a large scale during World War II.[4] Use of ground attack aircraft in support of ground offensives can be said to be an air offensive, such as that performed in the opening phase of the Red Army's Operation Kutuzov and Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev, when hundreds of Il-2 aircraft were used en masse to overwhelm the Wehrmacht's ground troops.