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Which Military Operations Comprise Small-Scale Limited Duration Operations

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

which military operations comprise small scale limited duration operations

Unlike what most people think, the military does not just engage in wars. There is a whole range of military operations. Among the types is small-scaled limited duration operations.

Which military operations comprise small-scale, limited duration operations?

The short answer is crisis response and limited contingency operations. Keep reading to find out exactly what this is! There will also be other relevant information on U.S military operations. So, to get a complete understanding, make sure you read until the end!

What Is a Military Operation?

It is always best to start with a definition. So what is a military operation? Wikipedia states it is coordinated military actions to respond to a situation and resolve it in a favorable way.

Military operations do not have a set combat or non-combat nature; it varies case by case, which is why there are different types of military operations. Typically, a military operation is referred to by a code name for national security, but they also carry a common generally-accepted name.

Now let’s move our focus: military operation definition and to the different types.

What Are the Types of Military Operations?


In general, military operation types are based on the force employment scale and scope, but they can also be based on impact relative to a wider conflict.

Here are the types of military operations only Wikipedia:

1. Theater

This type of operation is conducted over a large area. And a lot of the time, the operation area is continental.

It symbolizes a national strategic commitment to a particular conflict. As such, there are goals that involve aspects outside of the military, like the political and economic implications.

2. Campaign

This type of operation is either a subset of the theater operation or a separate operation that is more limited in terms of geographic and operational commitment.

It can be conducted by a single service branch or a combination of service branches. There are 4 steps to a campaign: plan, execute, control, and conclude.

Unlike a theater operation, it does not necessarily reflect full national commitment to a conflict, nor does it necessarily have goals that extend out of the military.

Though some campaigns last for a few weeks, most take several months or up to a year.

3. Battle

This type of operation is a subset of a campaign with specific goals and objectives. In addition, it has a thought-out plan of force use. Usually, it pursues military goals and geographic objectives. Battles can take place on land, at sea, or in the air. The weapons and tactics used varied based on where battles are fought.

There are also other types of battles:

  • Pitched Battle
  • Battle of Encounter
  • Battle of Attrition
  • Battle of Breakthrough
  • Battle of Encirclement
  • Battle of Envelopment
  • Battle of Annihilation
Note: Battles can be hybrids of the types listed above, as well.

An example of a battle operation is the “Dardanelles Landings,” which is now called the “Battle of Gallipoli.”

4. Engagement

This type of operation is a tactical combat occurrence for a specific objective or area. It can be an event or a contest and involve actions of distinct units.

Usually, the two sides of combat are larger than a company but smaller than a division. It starts when one side initiates an attack and ends when the attacking side has:

  • achieved its specific objective
  • stopped trying to achieve its specific objective
  • received reinforcements to initiate another engagement

Most engagements last 1 to 2 days. But there are some that are only a few hours long. Rarely will an engagement exceed 5 days.

An example is the Battle of Kursk (Operation Citadel) which had multiple distinct engagements.

5. Strike

This type of operation is just a single attack at a specified target. It is typically a part of a broader engagement.

A strike pursues an explicit goal. Examples include rendering facilities inoperable, assassinating enemy leaders, or interfering with the supplies delivery of enemy troops.

6. Raid

A raid is a small-scale operation. It is characterized by a quick penetration of an enemy territory to:

  • obtain information
  • confuse the enemy
  • destroy installations

A raid ends when the set mission is completed and the side that started the raid withdraws. More Specific Types of Military Operations

There are four different types of military operations based on the tactic used. These are offense, defense, stability, and support.

Even more specific categories of military operations based on the objective are:

  • Protection of Shipping: Protect coastal sea, harbors, ports, and overall environment.
  • Recovery Operations: Search for, locate, rescue, and return people, remains, equipment, or important security items.
  • Show of Force Operations: Increase the visibility of the U.S force and defuse a situation.
  • Combatting Terrorism: Minimize vulnerability to terrorist acts, as well as prevent, deter, and respond to terrorist acts.

Crisis Response and Limited Contingency Operations


Going back to our opening question, “Which military operations comprise small-scale, limited duration operations?”

The answer is crisis response and limited contingency operations. They are limited in scope and scale in an operational area and made to pursue a very specific objective.

On the range of military operations, they lie in the middle. They are between large-scale combat operations and military engagement, security cooperation, and security detergence.

You may already know of military engagement, security cooperation and security deterrence from our article, “Which military operations are ongoing routine activities that establish, shape, maintain, and refine?

Generally, they are a single operation, but in some cases, they can also be part of a more major operation.

Crisis response and limited contingency operations tend to be for the purposes of peacekeeping, evacuation, and/or relief. Objectives example include:

  • Providing security assistance for host nations
  • Planning and carrying out disaster relief
  • Providing humanitarian assistance and civil support

A military operation example of this type is Operation RESTORE HOPE in Somalia.

The objective was to calm down the situation in Somalia and send humanitarian assistance to the Somali people in the southern part of the country. It was from December 9, 1992, to May 4, 1993.

Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) also includes this type of operation. There are ones that involve responding to strikes, riots, and overall disorder, as well as natural disasters.

For example:

  • the operation during Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Iniki in 1992
  • the operation during the Los Angeles riots in 1992 and the George Floyd protests in 2020


Which military operations comprise small-scale, limited duration operations?

As you have read, the answer is crisis response and limited contingency operations. These have very specific objectives and can be standalones or part of a more major operation.

Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) includes these operations. They mainly respond to strikes, riots, and natural disasters.

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