I suppose it all boils down to what echelon you’re talking about, and perhaps a bit into what intensity/style of war you’re talking about.
I mean, Cold War, high intensity combat operations at the platoon level you could say that Mech Infantry forces looked to stay mounted in the offense, using cross-attached tanks at the company/battalion level as the punch, and supporting fires) until they could break through the MLR, and then (supposing their mission was to break the line/reduce strongpoints and not simply push for deeper penetration) dismount and clean up with organic (platoon) weapons.
But I don’t think, at the platoon level, you’d find much difference in doctrine between even NATO and WarPac on that. I suppose my thinking is that the further down you drill in echelon, the more things generally even out, where doctrine turns into tactics.
In modern low intensity conflict, I would submit it’s largely still the same at platoon level and below, only that the first world force is going to have more and better options in terms of supporting fires (to say nothing of situational awareness owing to better C4ISR capabilities, though that doesn’t change tactics, I think, it just makes you faster and better at your tactics. Or at least that is the plan!) than the third world force.
But in the attack, I think 1st and 3rd World forces are going to (at least try to) have separate base of fire and maneuver elements, attempting to fix the target with the base of fire element and available supporting fires, then assault through.
We can discuss the finer points, but the overall concepts are going to be very similar. A US platoon will likely use three legs (base of fire, maneuver, and reserve, but that’s not set in stone. They could go base of fire with two maneuver elements in a double envelopment, for example), while Taliban will typically go with two elements (base of fire and maneuver), for simplicity’s sake, and both will use attached crew serves and supporting fires in support of their main effort.
In the defense, both will dig in around crew serves covering main/likely avenues of approach, utilizing supporting fires to suit the tactical situation (long reach, break up formations, kill sacks, isolate attacker’s main effort, and/or cover efforts to withdraw/break contact.
The differences are in capability, not concept. To break contact the US can call in an air strike and back under its cover, while the Afghans will use a Dshk, a mortar, or recoiless rifle. Hell, they will use an IED to initiate a complex ambush, having placed other IEDs on avenues of approach NATO/ISAF troops would have to use to close assault, and break contact (or even counterattack) when those were detonated, using an IED basically ad a supporting fire.
You can get into the issue of ‘now NATO/ISAF will get IEDed, go firm, and call in supporting fires. Then, depending on the effectiveness of the supporting fires, they will either break contact (the supporting fires were largely ineffective and/or the NATO/ISAF small unit commander believed himself to still be in a tactically inferior position), or they will drive up to the Taliban’s former positions and conduct a BDA.
I hold that my point still stands, NATO/ISAF would behave as I diagrammed in an assault, they are simply not making an assault in that case. And you could call that a change in tactics/doctrine, but to my mind that is an issue of higher echelon Rules of Engagement regarding Force Protection issue.
That is, higher HQ has stated you won’t assault the enemy position, you will halt and levy supporting fires, then one of side or the other will leave the battlefield. Most of NATO/ISAF’s catastrophes have been when they made the decision to break contact but couldn’t because of 1) heavy casualties in the initial engagement or 2) because the Taliban anticipated NATO/ISAF attempting to break contact rather than assault through, and positioned troops/ordnance to counter it.
So please bear with me John, that whole screed is based on what I think you’re talking about, but there’s a good chance I could be off base. If so, please nudge me back in the right direction 😉