Subterranean War – U.S. Army Training to Fight Underground

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Modern warfare is constantly changing. What we considered conventional battlefields are slowly becoming a thing of the past with the fight moving into a variety of new realms. The bayonet charge has been replaced with tactics such as cyberwarfare and the development of a Space Force for wars that may take place in the solar system. Recently, the US military pledged to spend $572 million on the development of a comprehensive training program that would train US troops in the ability to fight underground wars in subterranean environments.

According to, the Department of Defence is aiming to provide training and new equipment to enable the majority of active combat units of the US Army to be able to conduct warfare and carry out operations in subterranean areas of urban environments such as sewers and subways that are a feature of almost all cities across the world.


Alongside extensive training, a range of new equipment is expected to be rolled out to allow US troops to be able to combat the debilitating factors of subterranean warfare such as poor air quality, lack of cover, night vision equipment to cope with being in low light or complete darkness, and most importantly, being out of signal range of communications when communicating threats is vital. All of which will allow the US military to deploy forces direct to underground facilities.

Through this program, the US Military is fighting stereotypes about its outdated approach to subterranean warfare which it was forced to adapt to on the job in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when a variety of battles and operations were fought in underground areas and tunnels. In 2017, it issued an up to date training manual for soldiers to fight in underground areas. The last manual was issued in 1993 and extremely outdated.


As we move into a new decade, Pentagon and other NATO chiefs and advisors are convinced that making preparations to fight in subterranean environments is vital for future wars that could take place in heavily urbanized environments such as a war between NATO and Russia in the Baltic States or a renewed Korean conflict that could take place in the South Korean capital of Seoul or the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

In the event of such a conflict spiral, North Korea is a prominent case study in the new subterranean training manual issued to US troops. It states that the North Korean military is capable of transporting 30,000 of its troops into South Korea through a series of subterranean tunnels. North Korea is also notorious for having a variety of underground military bases and nuclear missile facilities that will be the prime target of western forces in the event of a full-scale conflict with the DPRK.


Subterranean warfare in urban environments not isolated to the 21st century. During the Battle of Berlin in the final days of the Second World War the Soviet Red Army was forced to fight their way through the Berlin Metro were desperate German soldiers were launching attacks from. Similarly, in the Battle of Stalingrad earlier in WW2, the mass of urban destruction on the ground forced German and Soviet soldiers to take the fight below ground into the sewers of Stalingrad in what became known as ‘The War of the Rats’.

For an insight into the US military’s ongoing tactics to engage the nations enemies and their ambitions far above the ground, check out our article on the newly established US Space Force.

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