What Are the Four Different Types of Military Operations?

Tank speeding through a desert.
... Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

Military operations are strategically planned to fit individual situations. Using proven tactics, techniques and procedures, commonly referred to as TTPs, military strategists mold each operation to meet the challenges of each enemy situation. There are four types of military operations: offensive, defensive, stability and support. Each serves its own purpose and is used by battlefield commanders to handle different enemy engagements. Army Field Manual 3-0, "Operations," clearly defines each type of operation and outlines its uses. FM 3-0 is used by soldiers at all levels.

1 Offensive Operations

Offensive operations are mainly used during times of war. The purpose of offensive operations is to change the course of events in our favor -- and these types of operations usually include violence and force. However, offensive operations can also be used to deter future conflicts; for example, placing armed soldiers at civilian checkpoints in combat zones is a type of offensive operation. Armed soldiers working out of civilian checkpoints is a show of force designed to deter conflict.

2 Defensive Operations

Defensive operations are designed to prevent military casualties on our side of the battle while setting the stage for a future offensive operation. During a defensive operation, military forces will protect themselves, their area of operations (commonly called the AO) and any property contained in the AO. When U.S. forces come under attack, commanders gather information and instruct their troops to defend themselves. Generally, commanders plan ahead for these situations and can use experience, strategy and TTPs to turn the tables on the enemy.

3 Stability Operations

Stability operations hold military situations together during tenuous times. Using psychological operations, latent shows of force and cooperation between local forces and our military, stability operations prevent the U.S. Armed Forces from having to take an offensive or defensive stance. Stability operations cannot be conducted during active combat; rather, stability operations occur before and after periods of active combat. Building community facilities, responding to local crises and training local law enforcement officers are examples of stability operations.

4 Support Operations

Support operations provide reinforcement to local authorities, both foreign and domestic, during times of need. This type of operation can be used concurrently with a stability operation and during defensive operations. When a local military engages an enemy, for example, U.S. forces may lend assistance as requested. Support operations are designed to win wars, resolve conflict and promote peace. Support operations can also include responding to national emergencies and disasters.

A professional writer since 1994, Eva Talent was trained as a journalist by the U.S. Army. She received two Army Commendation Medals and an Army Achievement Medal for journalistic excellence. Her press releases are frequently featured on the websites of the Department of Defense and the Army. Talent holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Michigan.