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Definition Defilade is a military term referring to the tactic of positioning troops or equipment such as vehicles behind a ridge or a crest of a hill to protect them from enemy observation or gunfire. This positioning can shield them from direct or indirect fire and conceal their location from the enemy. It is a […]


Defilade is a military term referring to the tactic of positioning troops or equipment such as vehicles behind a ridge or a crest of a hill to protect them from enemy observation or gunfire. This positioning can shield them from direct or indirect fire and conceal their location from the enemy. It is a significant element in military strategy that promotes troop survival and successful operations.

Key Takeaways

  1. Defilade refers to a tactical military term used to describe a position where forces are shielded from direct enemy observation and fire. This could be either by natural or artificial means such as hills, trenches, or walls.
  2. The concept of Defilade is vital in military strategy as it provides protection to troops from enemy fire. Units in Defilade are less likely to suffer casualties as they are hidden or protected from the enemy’s line of sight.
  3. Defilade can take multiple forms or levels: hull-down (where the hull of a vehicle is behind cover but the turret or superstructure is exposed), turret-down (the entire vehicle is hidden, only the commander can observe indirectly), and infantrymen can take cover in a variety of ways. This concept is not tied to a single type of unit or terrain.


The term ‘Defilade’ plays a significant role in military operations as it refers to the tactic of positioning oneself in a way that provides protection from hostile observation and direct enemy fire.

It is an integral element of strategic planning in warfare, which prioritizes the safety and effectiveness of troops during an attack or defense operation.

Defilade can involve using natural topographical features like hills and ridges, or constructed barriers like trenches and fortifications.

These provide a form of shield, enabling forces to move, plan, counterattack, or retreat with decreased risk of casualties.

The concept of ‘Defilade’ is therefore essential in ensuring the survivability and success of military forces in a combat scenario.


Defilade refers to the tactical use of natural or artificial obstacles to shield from enemy observation or fire, in the context of military operations. The central purpose of employing defilade is to provide both protection and concealment to military personnel, weaponry, or strategic positions from enemy attacks or reconnaissance.

This usage could involve leveraging geographical features like hills, ridges, or trees, or constructing artificial barriers like trenches or bunkers, based on the specific circumstances within the battlefield. Essentially, defilade functions to prolong the survival and operational capacity of military resources.

It provides valuable time for forces to strategize, organize, and launch their own attacks while remaining comparatively safe from enemy fire. Moreover, defilade can be a pivotal element for surprise attacks, since it enables forces to remain hidden until they decide to engage, thereby catching the enemy off guard.

Consequently, understanding and efficaciously employing defilade can be crucial to successful military operations.

Examples of Defilade

Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC): During the Battle of Thermopylae, Greek forces, led by King Leonidas I of Sparta, utilized defilade by taking position in a narrow passage – the Thermopylae pass. They used the natural features of the terrain to shield themselves from Persian projectiles, thereby minimizing their own vulnerability while maximizing their ability to inflict damage to the larger Persian forces.

The Battle of Gettysburg (1863) – Civil War: Union forces made effective use of defilade during the Battle of Gettysburg by placing their artillery and troops behind Cemetery Ridge. This made it difficult for Confederate forces to directly attack them, and they were shielded from direct lines of fire.

Operation Neptune – D-Day Landing (1944): During the Allied invasion of Normandy in World War II, the term defilade was used in a different context. Allied forces had to cross open beach without any cover (enfilade), making them easy targets for the defending German forces. However, once they reached the seawall or the base of the cliffs on the beaches, they were in defilade, or covered positions, from the fire from the German positions atop the cliffs.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Defilade

What is Defilade?

Defilade is a military term referring to the process of positioning forces or fortifications so they are protected from direct enemy fire or observation.

What are the types of Defilade?

Defilade can be classified into two types: hull-down, where only the top part of a vehicle is exposed, and turret-down, where the entire vehicle is hidden, typically behind a reindeer or similar terrain feature.

What is the purpose of Defilade?

The main purpose of defilade is to protect personnel and equipment from enemy fire. It involves the tactical use of ground to shield forces from observation or fired upon from the direction of the enemy.

How is Defilade used in Military Operations?

In military operations, defilade is used as a strategic position. Forces or fortifications can be arranged in a way to minimize exposure to enemy fire and observation. This can provide significant defensive advantages.

What is the difference between Enfilade and Defilade?

Enfilade and defilade are opposing tactics. Enfilade refers to firing along the longest axis of a target, while defilade refers to positioning forces or fortifications to minimize exposure to enemy fire and observation.

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Related Military Operation Terms

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  • Emplacement
  • Enfilade
  • Cover
  • Entrenchment
  • Artillery Placement

Sources for More Information

  • Military.com is a comprehensive online resource for the military community, offering various military-related information.
  • Britannica.com is a well-known, comprehensive online encyclopedia that could provide a formal, widely accepted definition of military terms like defilade.
  • Army.mil: The official website of the United States Army, likely to offer detail on many military tactics and terms such as defilade.
  • Federation of American Scientists – fas.org often publishes detailed information about military operations and concepts, including defilade.

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