The French Army options and drawing on a year-old fortification pattern to protect its troops in North Africa. So do we.
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Let's nerd out over it together. The shape of the forts, as well as their outlying moats, are designed to allow defenders to fire on the flanks of attacking ground troops while offering no cover to those trying to breach its defenses.
At each of the five points of the pentagon is an arrow-shaped fighting position known as a redan. Vauban, who was born indesigned the fort concept. The concept of siege warfare itself was thousands of years old, but a lack of powerful siege weapons meant well-constructed fortresses could often hold out for prolonged periods of time.
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The advent of gunpowder meant an attacker could now shatter fort walls with cannonballs, reducing stone walls and other defenses and forcing the defenders to surrender. The Vauban fort is designed to bring as much defensive firepower as possible to bear against defending forces.
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Fort cannons can be easily moved from one wall to the next, and out on the arrow-shaped redans. From there, up to three such redans can fire upon enemy forces at long ranges, or two redans from shorter ranges. The trace italienne, by contrast, can only fire on an enemy from two redans.
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It gets worse. If an army attempts to storm a Vauban fort, the defenders can engage them from multiple directions. Not only must an attacking army face fire from the front, but the pentagon shape also means defenders can take them under fire from their flanks. If an attacker tries to attack a redan head-on, up to three of the redans can take them under fire at once.
Medieval Star Forts Are Surprisingly Alive and Well in North Africa
Photo credit: National Park Service Some forts included moats, constructed at a distance, that mirrored the shape of the forts. The moat wasn't meant to be impregnable, but rather to slow down an attacker and give the defender time to earl indicator for options. Enemy forces would also bunch up near moat crossings, making excellent targets.
Malinese insurgents aren't a sophisticated, well-trained enemy, and the most the French might expect is a mass attack by ill-trained guerrilla forces across open ground. The Vauban fort of the 21st century retains all the advantages of forts constructed in the 17th century, and one fort in Mali even has a star-shaped ditch that mimics a moat in purpose.
Vauban forts would be disastrous against a modern, mechanized enemy such as the Russian Army.
A modern adversary would pound the fort to pieces with air strikes and artillery, while the principle of trading options forts and other mechanized would simply bypass the fort. Trapped inside, the defenders could only sit and watch the enemy advance while they awaited destruction.
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