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Chapter 7

Fire Control and Distribution

The HMMWV and scout platoons must be able to conduct reconnaissance and security missions. Scout and antitank crews must be able to provide direct-fire support for maneuvering scout vehicles and dismounted patrols. Effective fire control measures are required to avoid fratricide and allow the platoon to retain its freedom of maneuver.

Depending on the situation, fire control and distribution may be accomplished by individual vehicles, sections, or platoons. On many occasions, particularly in defensive operations, the platoon leader will be in a position to direct the fires of the entire platoon. On other occasions, particularly in offensive operations, fire control and distribution may begin at section level; as the situation develops, the platoon leader controls the platoon fires and distributes them effectively.

This chapter provides a standardized way of controlling and directing fires within the HMMWV section, and platoon. It includes the procedures used from the time targets are acquired, through the placement of fires on those targets.

Principles of Fire Control and Distribution

To maximize a platoon's ability to engage the enemy, leaders must synchronize the fires of all direct-fire weapons and direct-fire assets. The HMMWV scout platoon achieves fire control and distribution through fire plans and fire commands. When developing, refining, and executing fire plans, leaders must apply the following principles:

  • Destroy the most dangerous target(s) first. Targets should be engaged in relation to the danger they present. If two or more targets are equal threats, the closest one should be engaged first.
  • Avoid target overkill. Engage targets one-on-one and for one-shot kills with the TOW. Avoid continuous engagement of disabled or destroyed vehicles.
  • Concentrate on long-range targets. Use dismounted elements to complement the HMMWV along more restrictive approaches when fields of fire are limited, allowing the gunner manning the vehicle-mounted weapons to acquire targets at greater distances.
  • Control fires to achieve the best shots and expose only those vehicles needed for the engagement. Use only those vehicles or weapon systems that have the best chance of destroying the enemy. All other vehicles/weapons systems should remain hidden until additional targets are within the engagement area, the firing vehicle needs additional help in destroying the enemy, or they are needed to assist in the withdrawal of the engaged element.
  • Use the appropriate weapon for the target. Each weapon system has its own capabilities and limitations. The fire plan should use the weapon systems to complement each other.
  • Conserve ammunition, when possible. Continuously monitor the ammunition supply. Reload and cross-level immediately after each engagement. Do not wait until the ammunition is depleted to request resupply.
  • Avoid fratricide. When possible, avoid engagements that are close to friendly elements. Control movement and fires using easily identifiable control measures, and rehearse actions for all phases of the operation.

Standing Operating Procedures

Platoons must establish fire control and distribution SOPs. Squad leaders must remain aware of the tactical situation, maintain contact with dismounted elements at all times, and coordinate with adjacent elements.

A well-rehearsed platoon SOP ensures quick reaction times. The SOP should include area coverage responsibilities and weapons-ready postures for different situations (such as road marches, halts, and various battle drills). Battalion, squadron, or troop SOPs should prescribe the combat load of ammunition, by type and amount. The section leader should prescribe the weapons-ready posture (battlecarry) that makes the best use of available firepower in the present situation.

Situations the section leader should plan for when forming his section SOPs (see ARTEP 17-57-10-MTP) are:

  • Actions on contact.
  • Reaction to ambush.
  • Reaction to air attack.
  • Deliberate ambush.
  • Reaction to artillery strike.

The section should be prepared to engage PCs, suppress ATGMs with machine guns, and engage tanks with TOWs. (TOWs can also be used on BMPs at long ranges.) TOWs are fired from covered and concealed positions. The weapons-ready posture may have to be adjusted, or ammunition redistributed, after an engagement to make sure that vehicles have the ammunition or missiles needed.

Fire Control Measures

Fire control measures are used to coordinate and mass direct and indirect fires in the most efficient manner possible. These measures include: sectors of fire, engagement areas, terrain reference points, phase lines, and engagement priorities. Their use must be routine, with no need for detailed or lengthy instruction.


Sectors of fire are areas that are covered by observation and fire, starting at the weapon system and extending to its maximum effective range. Sectors of fire must overlap with adjacent element's sectors of fire. Plans must be made to cover dead space within and between sectors to maintain coverage.

  • The primary sector of fire is the main area on which the leader wishes the weapon system to concentrate its firepower, usually overlooking a main engagement area. The primary sector of fire is covered by the primary and alternate fighting positions.
  • The secondary sector of fire is assigned to engage a secondary avenue of approach or cover another vehicle's sector, if it is required. The secondary sector of fire is covered by the supplementary fighting position.


Engagement areas are enclosed areas that are located away from the weapon system. They are specifically designed to mass fires from several different weapon systems simultaneously. The area should be supported by direct and indirect fires. Obstacles should be used to channel the enemy into the areas of engagement and trap him there.


A TRP is an easily recognizable point on the ground (natural or man-made) used for identifying enemy targets or controlling direct fires. TRPs are used to designate targets of opportunity, shift fire, or assign sectors of fire.

In the defense, TRPs are assigned for vehicles along mounted avenues of approach. In the offense, TRPs are assigned on likely enemy locations or on prominent terrain features. To avoid confusion, the number of TRPs should be limited to the number required to distribute and control fire.

When using a TRP to hand off targets, compass directions (north, east, south, west) are used rather than right or left, because each vehicle may be viewing the TRP from a different direction.

TRPs are indirect-fire targets. The FIST will assign each TRP a target identification number. The target identification number consists of two letters and four numbers (for example, AB5010). These identification numbers are recorded on range cards in the data section for easy reference and control. To simplify fire commands, TRPs may be referred to by the last three digits (for example, TRP AB5010 may be referred to as TRP 010).


A phase line is a simple and effective linear control measure normally used to control movement; it can also be used to control and distribute the fire of several widely separated vehicles. The section leader uses phase lines to indicate to his crews when to fire and when to displace to an alternate position. Any prominent (natural or man-made) linear terrain feature (ridgeline, river or stream, road, or railroad track) can be used as a phase line.

In either offensive or defensive operations, phase lines can be used to start or stop firing simultaneously, shift fire to another sector, or indicate when vehicles are to move to alternate or supplementary positions.


Engagement priorities are high-value targets that, if destroyed, could break an attacking enemy's momentum or destroy the enemy's cohesion in the defense.

Fire Distribution

Fire distribution is a combination of fire patterns and control methods used to effectively distribute direct fire from multiple weapon systems on several targets.


There are three basic fire patterns that can be used to distribute fire when engaging multiple targets: frontal fire, cross fire, and depth fire.

  • Frontal fire is used to engage targets arrayed laterally in front of the platoon or section. The left most vehicle fires on the left most target; the right most vehicle fires on the right most target. As targets are destroyed, fires are shifted toward the center of the enemy formation.
  • Cross fire is used when targets are positioned laterally and obstructions prevent vehicles from firing to their front. The left-most vehicle engages the right-most target; and the right-most vehicle engages the left-most target. As targets are destroyed, fires are shifted toward the center of the enemy formation and from far to near.
  • Depth fire is used when targets are arrayed perpendicular to the platoon or section in depth. The left-most vehicle engages the farthest target; and the right-most vehicle engages the closest target. As targets are destroyed, fires are shifted to the center of the enemy formation.


There are four basic methods that may be used to control fires: simultaneous fire, massed fires, observed fire, and alternating fires.

  • Simultaneous fire occurs when all vehicles of a platoon or section are firing into their assigned sectors at the same time. The simultaneous-fire method is used when moving while unprotected or when surprised by many enemy vehicles, requiring immediate massed return fires.
  • Massed fires occur when all vehicles and dismounted weapons are concentrated on a specific target or a selected area. The massed-fires method is used to produce a high volume of fire.
  • Observed fire occurs when the firing vehicle engages targets while his wingman observes the effects of the fire and helps to spot and call fire corrections. The wingman provides local security while the firing vehicle concentrates on the engagement area. The observed-fire method is normally used when TOW vehicles are engaging long-range targets, or when engaging dismounted elements at long range.
  • Alternating fires allow one vehicle to shift firing positions while the other engages targets. The alternating-fires method provides constant fire into the engagement area, while hindering the enemy's attempts to acquire and suppress firing vehicles. This method can be conducted within section and by section.

Platoon Fire Planning

Platoon fire planning begins when the platoon leader receives his mission. Fire planning is a continuous process; it does not stop until the platoon's mission is accomplished. Fire planning prescribes fire control and distribution for all available weapons to support the scheme of maneuver. Fire planning must also include planning for indirect fires.


Defensive fire planning is normally deliberate and detailed because time is available. To develop a defensive fire plan, the platoon leader--

  • Determines where the enemy will most likely attack, based on enemy doctrine and terrain.
  • Designates control measures to initiate, shift, mass, and cease fires.
  • Assigns primary, alternate, and supplementary fighting positions for each vehicle.
  • Receives information from subordinate leaders (sector sketches from each vehicle).
  • Completes the platoon fire plan and gives a copy of the sector sketch to the troop/company commander and all vehicle commanders.


It will not be possible to develop fire plans for offensive operations in the same degree of detail as for defensive operations. Extensive use of map and leader reconnaissance, TRPs, platoon targets, and platoon SOPs will assist the platoon leader in developing his plan. When developing offensive fires, the platoon leader must consider many aspects of the operation, such as:

  • Mission to be accomplished.
  • Enemy strengths and weaknesses.
  • Likely or known enemy locations.
  • Indirect fire support and smoke employment.
  • Control measures (phase lines, checkpoints, limits of advance, and TRPs).
  • Route of movement.
  • Movement techniques.
  • Sectors of responsibility (platoon and section).
  • Operational readiness status of equipment.
  • Friendly forces' situation.
  • Movement information.

Platoon and Section Fire Commands

The platoon or section leader must quickly analyze a situation and issue concise and complete fire commands without delay. The standard platoon or section fire command consists of the following elements:

  • Alert.
  • Weapon or ammunition (optional--may be given when troops and armored threats appear together).
  • Description.
  • Location (optional).
  • Range (optional--may be given if it is necessary and time is available).
  • Control (optional--may be given to designate the fire pattern and control).
  • Execution.
Weapon/Ammunition. "MACHINE GUNS"
Description. "TRUCK AND TROOPS"
Location. "TRP 0034"
Control. "FRONTAL"
Execution. "AT MY COMMAND"

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