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Chapter 3

Target Acquisition

Target acquisition is the timely detection, location, and identification of targets in enough detail to attack accurately by either direct fire or supporting weapons. The target acquisition process is a series of progressive and interdependent actions by which the crew acquires targets. These actions are: crew search, detection, location, identification, classification, and confirmation. All crew members observe continuously. Effective target acquisition for a light cavalry crew requires the combined effort of all crew members.

Crew Search

Crew search (observation) is the act of watching the area of operations carefully. Crew members use the unaided eye, as well as optics, to search or scan the predetermined sector to acquire targets.


Sectors of observation are areas assigned to each crew member for target acquisition. The vehicle commander is responsible for 360-degree security of his vehicle. To ensure that all-around coverage of the battlefield is maintained, the vehicle commander assigns each crew member a specific sector of observation. The vehicle commander must understand the limitations of NBC operations and adjust the sectors of observation to compensate for them.


The use of a dismounted observer is the best way to cover the assigned sector of observation and maintain the smallest vehicle signature possible. The dismounted observer should be used when the vehicle is in the hide position, to observe deadspace and provide local security while halted. Depending on the area(s) of responsibility, more than one dismounted observer position may be required.


Crew members must scan their areas of observation at all times to detect targets or possible target locations. Three ground-search techniques (rapid scan, slow scan [50 meter], and detailed search) enable crew members to locate targets quickly. Crew members may use all three techniques, simultaneously, using the unaided eye, binoculars, or other optics, during good and limited visibility conditions. These techniques are modified at night by using the off-center vision method.


The rapid-scan technique is used to detect obvious signs of enemy activity quickly (see Figure 3-1). It is usually the first method used, whether stationary or moving. The vehicle commander may use optics or the unaided eye; the gunner may use TOW sights (day or thermal mode), if available, in low magnification, or the unaided eye. To search using the rapid-scan technique--

  • Start in the center of the sector, and rapidly scan from the nearest to the farthest visible point.
  • Then, orient left or right, and conduct a rapid scan, near to far. (This sweep must overlap the center area of the previously scanned sector.)
  • Once one side (front center) is completed, scan the remaining side in the same manner.

Figure 3-1. Rapid-Scan Technique.


If no obvious targets are identified while using the rapid-scan technique, crew members will conduct a more deliberate scan of the terrain by using the optics (day or night mode) or binoculars--the slow-scan (50-meter) technique is used for this task (see Figure 3-2). Slow scan is best used by the vehicle commander or gunner when in a defensive position or from a short halt. To search using the slow-scan technique--

  • Search a strip of the target area 50 meters deep from right to left, pausing at short intervals to give the eyes time to focus.
  • Then, search a strip farther out from left to right, overlapping the first area scanned.
  • Continue this method until the entire assigned sector has been searched.

Figure 3-2. Slow-Scan (50-Meter) Technique.

Note. Thoroughly search suspicious areas or possible target signatures using the detailed-search technique. High magnification is used for an intense observation of potential targets when using the UAS12 or AN/TAS 4A.


If no targets are found using the rapid-scan or slow-scan techniques, and time permits, crews should use the optics (day and night) to make a careful, deliberate, or more detailed search of specific areas in their assigned sector. This detailed-search technique is also used to search small areas or locations with likely or suspected avenues of approach (see Figure 3-3). To search using the detailed-search technique--

  • Concentrate on one specific area or location, and study that area intensely.
  • Look for direct and indirect target signatures, scanning clockwise around the focal point (terrain feature) of the area. The following are examples of target signatures:
  • - Dust created by movement of vehicles.
    - Tracks or tire marks.
    - Reflections (flash) from glass or metal.
    - Angular objects that do not conform to the surrounding area.
    - Vegetation that appears out of place.
    - Flash or smoke from a weapon or missile.
    - Entrenchments or earthworks.

Figure 3-3. Detailed-Search Technique.


Day and night scanning techniques (rapid, slow, and detailed) are similar, with one exception. Do not look directly at an object using daylight optics or the unaided eye at night; look a few degrees off to the side of the target object. When scanning with off-center vision, move the eye in short, abrupt, irregular movements. Pause a few seconds at each likely target area to detect a target or any movement. If a possible target is detected, use off-center vision to observe it. Frequent eye movement is necessary to prevent object fade-out while observing the object. Cupping the hands around the eye will also increase night vision.

air-search techniques

While scanning their assigned sector for ground targets, crew members must also be aware of air targets. To aid in the detection of air targets, crews should use the flat-terrain scan and hilly-terrain scan techniques (see Figure 3-4). Both of these techniques are based on the slow-scan (50-meter) technique. When using an air-search technique, crew members should always search far to near.

Figure 3-4. Air-Search Techniques.


In flat terrain, search the horizon by moving the eyes in short movements from object to object (see Figure 3-4).


In hilly terrain, search the sky beginning just below the horizon and moving upward (see Figure 3-4). Use prominent terrain features as points of reference to ensure overlapping areas of search.

Notes. When using the air-search technique, concentrate just below the tops of the trees or vegetation to detect helicopters in hide positions.

Ground- and air-search techniques may be combined to allow crew members to scan for targets in the air and on the ground at the same time. Combinations used will depend on the area of operations and METT-T.

Air search at night is similar to searching for ground targets at night.

Threat aircraft operate in pairs. If aircraft are acquired, a second pair of aircraft should be expected, and possibly another pair. There may be one to four pairs of aircraft.


Crew search, or observation, is the act of carefully viewing or watching the area of operation, using search and scan techniques and sectors of observation, to acquire targets. Target search is continuous. Any target(s) missed on the first or second scan may be seen on the third or fourth scan.

Initial scanning is always done without optics first, then with optics (such as binoculars or sights). All of the STANO devices on the vehicle can be used to acquire targets. These devices include binoculars, night-vision goggles, starlight scopes, AN/TAS-5, and the TOW sights in either the day or night mode.

While on the move, the gunner should use the rapid-scan technique, constantly scanning his sector limits from the right limit to the left limit. The search should be concentrated in areas where targets are more likely to appear (such as identified avenues of approach, wood lines, and reverse slope firing positions).

Targets on the edge of the peripheral field of view are harder to detect and locate. The field of view is greatly narrowed while the crew members are wearing protective masks; therefore, the crew's ability to acquire targets during NBC conditions is limited.

Target Detection

Target detection is the discovery of any target or object on the battlefield (such as personnel, vehicles, and equipment) of potential military significance. Target detection occurs during crew search, as a direct result of observation.


Target signatures are indicators or clues that aid an observer in the search to detect the presence of potential targets. Most weapons and vehicles have identifiable signatures. These signatures may be the result of the design of the equipment or the environment in which the equipment is operating. For example, firing a vehicle's main weapon system could produce blast, flash, noise, smoke, and dust. The movement of vehicles through a built-up area causes more noise than the movement of the same vehicle in an open field. Different types of aircraft have different signatures (the signature of a hovering helicopter is not the same as that of a fixed-wing aircraft). Other factors (such as visibility, temperature, and weather conditions) also affect target signatures.

Look for targets where they are most likely to be employed. Tracked vehicle signatures are most likely to be detected in open areas and rolling terrain. For threat antitank positions, visually cover primary avenues of approach where tanks and APCs are likely to be used. Look for helicopters on the reverse side of woodlines, ridgelines, and significant folds in the terrain. These are only a few examples of signatures with which crews must be familiar. Sight, hearing, and smell can all assist in detecting signatures that will lead to target location and identification. Target signatures include--

  • Soldier signatures:
  • - Foxholes.
    - Broken vegetation.
    - Footprints.
    - New and old fires.
    - Small-arms weapons noise and flash.
    - Noise.
    - Trash.

  • Tracked vehicle signatures:
  • - Vehicle tracks on the ground.
    - Engine noise.
    - Exhaust smoke.
    - Dust clouds from movement.
    - Weapon-firing report and smoke.
    - Bright white flash at night.
    - Disturbed areas of vegetation.
    - Open-hatch silhouettes.

Note. Normally, when weather conditions permit, a tracked vehicle is more visible than the surrounding area and readily visible through passive and thermal sights.

  • Antitank signatures:
  • - Missile launch swish sound.
    - Long, thin wires from fired ATGMs.
    - Sharp crack of the ATGM being fired.
    - Destroyed armored vehicles.

  • Artillery signatures:
  • - Loud, dull sound.
    - Grayish-white smoke cloud.
    - Bright, orange flash and black smoke from air bursts.
    - Rushing noise several seconds before round impacts.

Notes. Towed artillery signatures vary according to the towing vehicle.

Self-propelled artillery has the same thermal infrared signature as tracked vehicles.

  • Aircraft signatures:
  • - Glare of sun reflecting off canopies, wings, and fuselages of fixed-wing aircraft, and windows and rotor blades of helicopters.
    - Aircraft noise.
    - Vapor trails from engine exhaust and fired missiles.
    - Dust and movement of foliage from hovering helicopters.

  • Obstacles and mine signatures:
  • - Loose or disturbed dirt in a regular pattern.
    - Destroyed or disabled vehicle that appears to have struck a mine.


Some targets are more difficult to detect than others. Increased crew sustainment training and greater concentration are needed to detect and locate targets. Some examples of these more difficult targets and challenges are--

  • Peripheral targets (targets on the edge of the field of view).
  • Targets that are camouflaged or in shadows.
  • Targets that can be heard but not seen.
  • Targets under less than ideal indirect fire illumination. (If the illumination is in front of the target, the resulting shadow will be darker than the target. If the illumination is behind the target [and not in position to wash out the crew's optics], the target should stand out distinctly from the background.) Always keep one eye closed during illumination search, and never look directly into the illumination source.
  • Small, single targets such as lone, dismounted ATGM or RPG positions.
  • Natural obstacles (weather and terrain).
  • Man-made obstacles (smoke and battlefield clutter).
  • Mirage effects caused by high temperatures and heat waves near the ground.

Note. Behavioral or physical deficiencies (fatigue, eye reaction to gun flashes) also make target detection more difficult.


In winter, about 12 hours are spent in the dark. The threat makes the most of these conditions by moving his forces in the dark. He also digs in or continues the attack during the night. Even during the day, the threat uses every means possible to cover his intentions. Camouflaged targets in wood lines or behind buildings are difficult to acquire with day optics. These targets can sometimes be detected more easily with thermal sights or other night-vision equipment (see the Thermal Sights and Night-Vision Equipment table below); for example, a vehicle in a woodline will be seen as an irregular shape compared to surrounding vegetation. A vehicle behind a building with its engine running may give off a heat plume from the exhaust, thus alerting the crew to the target. The gunner must be able to use thermal sights, if available, to acquire targets during limited visibility and daylight. Thermal sights operate by sensing heat radiation or temperature changes. Thermal sights can sense any source of heat that is at least one degree above the surrounding temperature. Thermal sights may detect the following primary heat sources:

  • Solar heat. Energy from the sun is absorbed by the exterior surface of an object. The thermal sight then senses the heat radiated from the object. During daylight, targets are hotter and easier to detect. It is necessary, as the sun goes down and the temperature drops, to note how the object's form changes.
  • Fuel combustion. Heat is created through the operation of a vehicle engine. Most vehicles will show one or more image(s). Vehicles will show a plume of heat from the exhaust and another around the engine compartment.
  • Friction. The moving parts of a vehicle will cause friction, which causes heat. These areas will then appear as images in the sight: tracks, road wheels, drive sprockets, and support rollers. (Vehicles driving through mud or snow will not show as sharp an image.)
  • Thermal reflections. Glossy, smooth surfaces may reflect radiated heat.
  • Body heat. The thermal sight also senses body heat.
EQUIPMENT WEIGHT (pounds) RANGE (meters) Starlight/
PVS-7A/B Goggles 1.5 150/300 BA 5567 (1 ea.) or AA (2 ea.) 40
Individual Sight
3.5 400/600 BA 5567 (2 ea.) 15
PAS-13 Thermal 4.13 to 4.85 Equal to or greater than weapon BA 6847 (2 ea.) 15
TVS-5 Crew Sight 7.5 1,000/1,200 BA 5567 (2 ea.) 9
GVS-5 Range Finder 5.0 200 to 9,900 BA 6515 or BB 516 7
PVS-6 Range Finder 3.5 50 to 10,000 BA 6515 or BB 516 7

Note. There are three versions of the PAS-13, which replaces the PVS-4 and TVS-5:

  • Light--4.13 pounds.
  • Medium--4.33 pounds.
  • Heavy--4.85 pounds.

Target Location

Target location is the determination of where a potential target is on the battlefield. A target is located as a result of observation and detection during crew search. Once a crew member locates a potential target, the target location must be communicated to all other personnel. Target location methods used to announce a target depend on the individual's specific position, unit SOP, and time available.


Machine gun tracers can be used effectively to designate targets for other vehicles in the area, such as, artillery forward observers or air fire support.

Limited use of this technique is recommended because it reveals the crew's position.


The clock method is commonly used to get the vehicle commander or gunner on target. Twelve o'clock is based on the direction of vehicle movement while traveling, and the front of the vehicle when stationary. The vehicle commander or gunner can use the vehicle front direction to assist in accurately announcing target location. (Example: "BMP--NINE O'CLOCK.")


The sector method is similar to the clock method; it is quick and easy to use. It is best used to indicate a direction from the direction of movement (moving) or vehicle orientation (stationary) using the terms center, left, right, and rear. Center sector is always to the direct front. (Example: "THREE TANKS--LEFT REAR.")


The reference point method is used in conjunction with optics. The vehicle commander uses optics to determine the mil value from a terrain feature or known position. He then announces the mil value to the gunner. The gunner uses the mil reticle relationship to traverse onto the target. The key to this location method is the vehicle commander and gunner's knowledge of the mil sight relationship. (Example: "ATGM--TRP ONE FOUR--RIGHT FIVE MILS.")

The quick reference point method is used to hand over targets near a TRP. (Example: "TWO PCs--TRP ONE FOUR.")

The precise reference point method is used to locate targets accurately in relation to a known reference point.


The grid method is the least desired technique because of the length of time it takes to bring the gunner on target. The vehicle commander receives the location of a target by map grid (usually from an observation post). He then uses his map to orient the vehicle toward the target area for the gunner.

Target Identification

Target identification is the recognition of a potential military target as being a particular target (such as a specific vehicle by type).

As a minimum, identification must determine the target as friendly or threat (friend, foe, or neutral). Crews must know what to engage and what not to engage. The crew's only method of positive vehicle identification is visual. The crew's ability to visually identify targets greatly decreases as engagement ranges increase, camouflage techniques become more effective, and battlefield obscuration increases.

Target identification training is an essential part of any weapon system proficiency training program. Crews must be able to identify targets quickly to have the advantage of engaging first when necessary and destroying the threat at the weapon system's maximum engagement range; therefore, crews must be continuously trained and evaluated on target identification. (See the unit S2 for more information on identifying specific or additional vehicles, aircraft, and equipment likely to appear on the battlefield.)

Battlefield Combat Identification System (BCIS)

The BCIS is a ground-to-ground, multifunctional, all-weather, day or night, question-and-answer system that provides positive identification of friendly targets equipped with BCIS. The BCIS was designed to minimize fratricide while maximizing combat effectiveness under rapidly changing and intense tactical scenarios.

Note. Keep in mind that, in many parts of the world, our allies and the threat employ both allied- and threat-made vehicles.

Target Classification

Target classification is categorizing potential targets by the level of danger they represent. To defeat multiple targets on the battlefield, the most dangerous targets must be engaged first. This requires a quick determination of which target is the most dangerous. All crew members must know the engagement priorities of their unit and be able to classify priority targets; however, the vehicle commander is responsible for classifying targets and deciding what and when to shoot.


When the crew observes a threat target with HMMWV-defeating capabilities that appears to be preparing to engage them, the target is classified as most dangerous. This type of target is the greatest threat and must be engaged immediately. When faced with multiple most dangerous targets, the vehicle commander must further classify the targets based on which one of the most dangerous targets is the greatest immediate threat.

Generally, helicopters, tanks, and BMPs within their effective ranges have a greater kill probability against HMMWVs than handheld HEAT weapons (for example, RPGs).

Stationary targets can fire more accurately (and are therefore more dangerous) than moving targets. If two or more targets are of equal threat, engage the closest one first. When engaging more than two most dangerous targets from a stationary (weapons-down) position, the crew should use an alternate firing position. Smoke (indirect fire or on-board) may also be used to keep the enemy from observing the vehicle. Minimizing the number of rounds fired from any one position (primary or alternate) aids in confusing the enemy and avoiding detection caused by a firing signature.


When the crew sees a target with HMMWV-defeating capabilities, but the target is not preparing to engage them, the target is classified as dangerous. This type of target should be engaged after all most dangerous targets have been destroyed, unless otherwise specified by the priority of engagements. Multiple dangerous targets are engaged in the same manner as most dangerous targets--engage the target that presents the greatest threat; if the targets are of equal threat, engage the closest one first.


A target that does not have a weapon system capable of defeating a HMMWV is classified as a least dangerous target. Engage this type of target after all most dangerous and dangerous targets have been destroyed, unless it has a higher priority of engagement.


Engagement priorities are used to classify targets for specific unit objectives. Unit OPORD or SOPs will usually designate certain types of targets as priority targets for destruction. These targets are selected by the chain of command, using the following criteria, regardless of the threat to the individual vehicle, to enhance the overall success of the unit mission:

  • Special targets. Targets are selected based on their impact on the total threat force (command and control vehicles, engineer assets, reconnaissance vehicles, and artillery).
  • Weapon system. Targets are prioritized by specific weapon (TOW trucks would engage tank targets before trucks or BMPs).
  • Unit. Targets would be assigned to specific elements (for example, "D CO DESTROY LEAD TANK PLATOON").

Information to assist light cavalry crews in classifying targets includes--

  • The most likely threat vehicles to be engaged by light cavalry.
  • Threat vehicle primary and secondary armament capable of penetrating HMMWVs.
  • The armor penetration data, with no angle of slope at 1,000 meters (except where noted as 500 meters).

Target Confirmation

Target confirmation is the rapid verification of the initial identification and discrimination of the target. Confirmation is the final step in the target acquisition process, and is completed during conduct of fire. Confirmation takes place after the vehicle commander has initiated the fire command, but before the execution element as the gunner is completing his lay. (Gunners also go through a confirmation step--as the gunner makes his final lay, he assures himself that the target is hostile.) On vehicles equipped with BCIS, the gunner interrogates the target to determine if the return signal is friend, unknown, or friend in sector.

The vehicle commander completes his evaluation of the nature of the target based on the target's appearance and his knowledge of the tactical situation. If the vehicle commander determines that the target is hostile, he continues the engagement. If he determines the target is friendly or neutral, he commands "CEASE FIRE." If he cannot confirm the nature of the target, he continues to observe until he can confirm the target.

If the gunner confirms the target is hostile, he completes his final lay and engages the target, on order. If the gunner determines the target is friendly or neutral, he announces his confirmation to the vehicle commander ("CONFIRMATION FRIENDLY" OR "CONFIRMATION NEUTRAL"). If he cannot determine the nature of the target, he announces "CONFIRMATION UNKNOWN." On BCIS-equipped vehicles, the gunner announces "FRIENDLY," or "FRIEND IN SECTOR." The vehicle commander then determines whether to continue or terminate the engagement. (Crew duties during conduct of fire are discussed in this manual, Chapters 5 and 6.)

It is vital that the vehicle commander is kept informed on the tactical situation so that he can assist in target confirmation. For example, he must be aware of friendly element movement within or between battle positions, the forward passage of lines, status of the withdrawal of any covering force, or the movement of civilian vehicle traffic in the area of operations.

Acquistion Reports

Targets acquired by a crew member must be reported to the vehicle commander immediately by crew acquisition report. This target handover technique must take place before the classification step of the target acquisition process continues. An acquisition report consists of three elements: alert (optional), description, and location (for example, "DRIVER REPORT--TWO MOVING PCs--LEFT FLANK"). The acquisition report is given internally between the crew members who can identify each other by voice recognition. Therefore, the description element of the report usually serves as the alert element also (for example, "TWO MOVING PCs--ELEVEN O'CLOCK").

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