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Battle command is the process of assimilating thousands of bits of information and using the data to visualize the battlefield, assess the situation, and direct military action required to achieve victory. Thinking and acting are simultaneous activities for leaders in battle.

The command and control of combat elements are the biggest chal lenges faced by combat leaders on the modern battlefield. Command involves directing various combat, CS, and CSS elements; control entails the measures taken to ensure these directions are carried out. Even the most knowledgeable tactician will be ineffective if he cannot properly use the techniques available to direct and control his combat elements.

The tank platoon leader, assisted by the PSG, employs a variety of techniques to prepare for operations, issue orders, employ the platoon, and communicate. The success of this command and con trol process rests mainly on leadership, training, thoroughly understood standing operating procedures (SOP), and the effective use of communications equipment. For maximum efficiency, the platoon leader must keep the process as simple as possible while ensuring that he provides the platoon with all required information and instructions.


SECTION I. Command

Section I. COMMAND

Command has two vital components: decision-making and lead ership. This section examines in detail how the platoon leader and his subordinate leaders use these elements to develop the flexible, productive command structure that is the catalyst for success on the battlefield.


Decision-making is a conscious process for selecting a course of action from two or more alternatives. At platoon level, many decisions are based on SOPs and standard unit drills. SOPs and drills cover an array of routine and emergency actions, such as evacuation of wounded soldiers, rearming and resupply procedures, and individual crew responsi bilities; they allow the platoon to operate quickly and efficiently without constant guidance from the platoon leader. SOPs are especially critical in helping to maintain combat preparedness when leaders are tired or under stress as a result of con tinuous operations. Because of this, it is absolutely necessary that everyone in the platoon thoroughly understand all applicable SOPs. FKSM 17-15-3 contains a sample SOP that can be adapted for use in various tank platoon organizations.

Troop-leading Procedures

Most tactical decisions are made by the commander, who then an nounces them in the form of orders that include his intent and concept of the operation. Based on these orders, the platoon leader uses troop-leading procedures to organize his time during planning and preparation and to translate the operation into instructions his soldiers can understand. He can then lead the platoon more effectively in the execution of the mission.

Troop-leading is a dynamic process that begins when the unit receives a new mission or is notified by warning order (WO) that a new mission is imminent. Whenever possible, troop-leading procedures are integrated and accomplished concurrently rather than sequentially. Time management is the key. The platoon leader normally uses one-third of the available time to plan, prepare, and issue the order; his TCs then have the remaining two-thirds of the time available to prepare their tanks and crews for the operation.

The following discussion focuses on the eight steps of troop-leading procedures:

    • Receive and analyze the mission.
    • Issue a warning order.
    • Make a tentative plan.
    • Initiate movement.
    • Conduct reconnaissance and coordination.
    • Complete the plan.
    • Issue the order.
    • Supervise and refine.

Receive and analyze the mission. The platoon leader normally receives his orders as an oral operation order (OPORD) or as a fragmen tary order (FRAGO) updating a previously issued OPORD. Graphics may be copied from the commander's overlay or sent by digital transmission (see the discussion on pages 2-23 through 2-25). Initial coordination with other platoon leaders and the company FIST should be accomplished upon receipt of the mission. (NOTE: Before the OPORD or FRAGO arrives, the platoon leader may receive a series of WOs from the company commander providing advance notice of an impending operation. The platoon leader should disseminate all pertinent information con tained in the WOs as quickly as possible after they are received.)

Upon receipt of the order, the platoon leader's first task is to extract his mission from the commander's overall plan. The key to understanding the platoon mission as part of the company team or troop mission lies in two elements of the plan: the commander's intent and the purpose he envisions for the company and for each platoon. One platoon will be designated as
the company's main effort. This platoon's performance is critical to the company's success. The other platoons are supporting efforts; their purpose will be to assist the main effort in some way.

The platoon leader's knowledge of the intent and purpose allows him to use his initiative, exploit battlefield opportunities, and accomplish the commander's plan. If he does not understand the intent or purpose, he should ask the commander for clarification.

The platoon leader analyzes the mission using the factors of METT-T: mission, enemy, terrain (and weather), troops, and time available. These factors allow the platoon leader to identify the platoon's purpose; the specified, implied, and essential tasks it must perform; and the timeline by which the platoon will accomplish those tasks. The following outline of METT-T factors will assist the platoon leader in analyzing the mission and creating a timeline.


    • What is the battalion commander's intent?
    • What is the company commander's intent and purpose?
    • What tasks did the commander say I must accomplish (specified tasks)? In the OPORD, specified tasks are contained in paragraphs 3, 4, and 5.
    • What other tasks must be accomplished to ensure mis sion success (implied tasks)? Implied tasks are those that are not specified in the OPORD but that must be done to complete the mission. They do not include tasks that are covered in the unit SOP. The platoon leader identifies implied tasks by analyzing the enemy, the terrain, friendly troops available, and the operational graphics. As an example, the commander may direct the platoon to occupy a support by fire position near a known enemy ob servation post (OP). The platoon leader will immediately recognize that he must occupy the designated position (the specified task); through his analysis, he will probably determine that the platoon must also destroy or neutralize the enemy OP because it can affect the platoon and/or company mission (the implied task). If time is available, the platoon leader should confirm implied tasks with the commander.


    • What have been the enemy's recent activities?
    • What is the composition of the enemy's forces?
    • What are the capabilities of his weapons?
    • What is the location of current and probable enemy positions?
    • What is the enemy's most probable course of action? The platoon leader must apply knowledge of the enemy's doctrine and his most recent activities and locations to answer the following questions:

    - Will the enemy attack or defend?

    - What is the enemy's objective?

    - What formations will he use?

    - Where are his engagement areas?

    - Where and when will he execute his operations?

Enemy information is included in paragraph 1 of the OPORD. It is important that the platoon leader analyze this information in terms of the platoon's role in the operation. For example, if the company commander only identifies platoon-size center-of-mass locations for a defending enemy, the platoon leader should identify probable enemy vehicle locations based on the terrain and the enemy's doctrine.

Terrain (and weather). The platoon leader analyzes the terrain using the factors of OAK-OC (obstacles; avenues of approach; key terrain; observation and fields of fire; and cover and conceal ment). Elements of this analysis include the following:

    • Obstacles.

    - Where are natural and existing obstacles located, and how can they affect maneuver?

    - Where are likely areas for enemy-emplaced obstacles, and how can they affect maneuver?

    - Are there bypasses, or must obstacles be breached?

    • Avenues of approach. Where are the best avenues of approach (mounted and dismounted) for enemy and friendly forces?
    • Key terrain.

    - Where is the key terrain?

    - How can key terrain be used to support the mission?

    • Observation and fields of fire. These are influenced by key terrain that dominates avenues of approach.

    - Where can the enemy observe and engage my platoon (danger areas)?

    - Where are the natural firing positions my platoon can use to observe and engage the en emy, including locations for battle positions (BP), support by fire and attack by fire positions, and overwatch positions?

    • Cover and concealment.

    - What routes within the area of operations offer cover and concealment for my platoon or for enemy elements?

    - Do the natural firing positions in the area of operations offer cover and concealment for the platoon or enemy?

    • Weather. The platoon leader can use these questions as he analyzes the impact of weather on the mission:

    - What are the light conditions (including percentage of night illumination) and visibility? What are the times for beginning of morning nautical twilight (BMNT), sunrise, sunset, end of evening nautical twilight (EENT), moonrise, and moonset?

    - How has recent weather affected the area of operations?

    - sion?

    - How will fog, rain, dust, heat, snow, wind, or blowing sand affect my men and equipment during the mission?

NOTE: The effects of weather on smoke or NBC weapons should also be considered.


    • What is the supply status of ammunition, fuel, and other necessary items?
    • What is the present physical condition of the soldiers, as well as of vehicles and equipment?
    • What is the training status of the platoon?
    • What is the state of morale?
    • How much sleep have the men had?
    • How much sleep will they be able to get before the operation begins?
    • Does the platoon need any additional assets to support or accomplish its mission?
    • What attachments are available to help the platoon accomplish its mission?

Time available.

    • What times were specified by the commander in the OPORD for such activities as movement, reconnais sance, rehearsals, and logistics package (LOGPAC) operations?
    • What priorities of work can the platoon accomplish (examples include security, maintenance, resupply, coordination, rehears als, inspections, and sleep)?

The platoon leader conducts reverse planning to ensure that all specified, implied, and essential tasks can be accomplished in the time available. He develops a reverse planning schedule (timeline) beginning with actions on the objective and working backward through each step of the operation and preparation to the present time. This process also helps the platoon in making efficient use of planning and preparation time.

Once his METT-T analysis is complete, the platoon leader can then write the platoon mission statement answering the questions of WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY. This is a clear, concise statement of the pur pose of the operation and the essential task(s) that will be crucial to its success. The essential tasks (the WHAT) should be stated in terms that relate to enemy forces, friendly forces, and/or the terrain (for example, "SUPPRESS THE ENEMY"; "OVERWATCH 2D PLATOON"; or "SEIZE AN OBJECTIVE"). The purpose (the WHY) explains how the platoon mission supports the commander's intent. The elements of WHO, WHERE, and WHEN add clarity to the mission statement.

NOTE: Simultaneous planning and preparation are key factors in effective time management during the troop-leading procedures. The next five steps (issue a warning order; make a tentative plan; initiate movement; conduct reconnaissance and coordination; and complete the plan) may occur simultaneously and/or in a different order.

Issue a warning order. The platoon leader alerts his platoon to the upcoming operation by issuing a WO that follows the five-paragraph OPORD format (see Appendix A). WOs maximize subordinates' planning and preparation time by providing essential details of the impending operation and detailing major timeline events that will support mission execution. The amount of detail included in a WO depends on the available time, the platoon's communications capability, and the information subordinates need to initiate proper planning and preparation. The WO may include the following information:

    • Changes to task organization.
    • Updated graphics (platoons equipped with IVIS or appliqué digital systems send new overlays).
    • Enemy situation.
    • Company mission.
    • Commander's intent (if available).
    • Platoon mission.
    • A tentative timeline, to include the following:
    • Earliest time of movement.
    • Readiness condition (REDCON) and vehicle preparation schedule. See Appendix C for a discussion of REDCON levels.
    • Reconnaissance.
    • Training/rehearsal schedule. (NOTE: Some individ ual and collective training may be initiated by the platoon leader before he issues the OPORD; this technique maximizes preparation time and allows the platoon to focus on tasks that will support the anticipated operations. For example, a tank platoon equipped with a plow tank may practice the crew task of dropping the plow as well as platoon-level actions at an obstacle.)
    • Time and location at which the platoon OPORD will be issued.
    • Service support instructions (if not included in the timeline).

As critical information is received or updated, the platoon leader should issue subsequent or updated WOs to keep the platoon informed.

Make a tentative plan. The platoon leader begins developing his maneuver plan as he listens to the commander issue the company OPORD. Based on the commander's plan and the results of his mission analy sis, the platoon leader develops a tentative plan that addresses all specified, implied, and essential tasks using the OPORD format (see Appendix A). The tentative plan also covers reconnaissance and coordination requirements between the platoon and adjacent and supporting units. The PSG and TCs are excellent sources of ideas concerning the platoon plan. A more detailed discussion of planning considerations is in Chapters 3 and 4 of this manual.
Initiate movement. Many company-level operations require movement to forward assembly areas and BPs during the planning phase of an operation. The platoon leader addresses movement in his timeline; he orders the platoon to begin moving in accordance with the company plan. Activities may include send ing platoon representatives to an assembly area with the company quartering party or beginning priorities of work.

Conduct reconnaissance and coordination. Effective reconnaissance takes into account the factors of METT-T and OAK-OC from both friendly and enemy perspectives. As a minimum, the platoon leader conducts a detailed map reconnaissance. If time and security considerations permit and authorization is obtained from higher headquarters, an on-site ground reconnaissance is the best way to survey the area of operations. The platoon leader should take as many TCs as possible on his recon naissance.

For offensive operations, the platoon leader should attempt to find a vantage point that will al low him to see as much of the objective as possible. Ground reconnaissance for offensive operations usually is limited to checking routes to the start point (SP), the line of departure (LD), and the axis just beyond the LD. For defensive operations, the platoon leader should conduct a reconnaissance of the engagement area, all platoon BPs, and the routes to be used.

During the reconnaissance (or during company-level rehearsals), the platoon leader or his representative should coordinate routes, movement speed, and sectors of observation and fires with other platoon leaders.

Complete the plan. The platoon leader refines the plan based on the results of the reconnaissance and coordination. He then completes the plan using these results and any new information from his commander, other platoon leaders, and members of his platoon. He should keep the plan as simple as possible, at the same time ensuring that the platoon scheme of maneuver supports the commander's intent.

Issue the order. If possible, the platoon leader issues the order from a vantage point overlooking the terrain on which the platoon will maneuver. If not, he uses a terrain model, sand table, sketches, or his map to orient the platoon. He can also build a model of the area of operations using a briefing kit that contains such items as engineer tape, colored yarn, 3-by-5-inch index cards, and "micro" armor vehicle models.
When time and security permit, the platoon leader issues the order to as many members of the platoon as possible. As a minimum, he assembles the TCs and his gunner. He briefs the platoon using the five-paragraph OPORD format (see Appendix A).

To ensure complete understanding of the operation, the platoon leader and TCs conduct confirmation briefings immediately after the OPORD is issued. The TCs brief the platoon leader to confirm their understanding of his intent, the specific tasks their crews must perform, and the relationship between their tasks and those of other units in the operation. If time permits, the platoon leader should lead the TCs in a walk-through using a sand table.

Supervise and refine. Flexibility is the key to effective operations. The platoon leader must be able to refine his plan whenever new information becomes available. If he adjusts the plan, he must inform the platoon and supervise implementation of the changes. Once the operation has begun, the platoon leader must be able to direct his platoon in response to new situations and new orders.

Crew orders, back-briefs, rehearsals, and inspections are essential elements of the supervision process as the platoon prepares for the mission. The following paragraphs discuss these procedures in detail.

Crew orders. The platoon leader and PSG make sure all crewmembers have been briefed by their TCs and understand the platoon mission and concept of the operation.

Back-briefs. The back-brief is, in effect, a reverse briefing process; those who receive an OPORD confirm their understanding of the order by repeating and explaining details of the operation for their leader or com mander. In the tank platoon, the platoon leader should conduct back-briefs after the TCs have had a chance to review the OPORD but before the platoon rehearsal begins. The TCs brief the platoon leader on how their crews will accomplish the specific tasks assigned to them in the order.

NOTE: Although the back-brief is an effective means of clarifying the specifics of the plan, it does not require tank crews to practice or perform their assigned tasks. By itself, therefore, it is not an ideal rehearsal technique.
Rehearsals. A rehearsal is a practice session conducted to prepare units for an upcoming operation or event. The tank platoon leader should never underestimate the value of rehearsals. Many units, in fact, consider rehearsals as a separate (ninth) step of troop-leading procedures. The platoon leader uses well-planned, efficiently run rehearsals to accomplish the following:

    • Reinforce training and increase proficiency in critical tasks.
    • Reveal weaknesses or problems in the plan.
    • Synchronize the actions of subordinate elements.
    • Confirm coordination requirements between the platoon and adjacent units.
    • Improve each soldier's understanding of the concept of the operation, the direct fire plan, anticipated contingencies, and possible actions and reactions for various situations that may arise during the operation.

Effective rehearsals require crewmen to perform required tasks, ideally under conditions that are as close as possible to those expected for the actual operation. Participants maneuver their actual vehicles or use vehicle models or simulations while interactively verbalizing their elements' actions. In a platoon-level rehearsal, the platoon leader will select the tasks to be practiced and will control execution of the rehearsal. He will usually designate someone to role-play the enemy elements he expects to face during the operation. (NOTE: A rehearsal is different from the process of talking through what is supposed to happen. For example, in a rehearsal, TCs should actually send SPOTREPs when reporting enemy contact, rather than simply saying, "I would send a spot report now.")

The platoon can prepare for operations using reduced-force rehearsals and/or full-force rehearsals. The platoon leader conducts reduced-force rehearsals when time is limited or the tactical situation does not permit everyone to attend. Platoon members who can take part practice their actions on mock-ups, sand tables, or actual terrain (usually over a smaller area than in the actual operation). The full-force rehearsal is the most effective, but con sumes the most time and resources. It involves every soldier who will participate in the operation. If possible, it should be conducted under the same conditions (such as weather, time of day, and terrain) that the platoon expects to encounter during actual operations.
The platoon leader can choose among several techniques in conducting rehearsals, which should follow the crawl-walk-run training methodology
to prepare the platoon for increasingly difficult condi tions. Rehearsal techniques include the following:

    • Special rehearsal. Individual and/or crew tasks that will be critical to the success of the operation are re hearsed as necessary. The platoon leader may initiate special rehearsals when he issues the WO.
    • Map rehearsal. This is usually conducted as part of a back-brief involving the TCs or a complete crew. The leader uses the map and overlay to guide participants as they back-brief their role in the operation. If necessary, he can use a sketch map.
    • Communications rehearsal. This reduced-force or full-force rehearsal is conducted when the situation does not allow the platoon to gather at one location. Crewmen check their vehicles' communications systems and rehearse key elements of the platoon fire plan.
    • Key leader rehearsal. Usually conducted as part of a larger force, this rehearsal involves leaders mov ing over the key terrain in wheeled vehicles while discussing the mission.
    • Sand table or terrain model. This reduced-force or full-force technique employs a small-scale table or model that depicts graphic control measures and important terrain features for reference and orientation. Participants walk or move "micro" armor around the table or model to practice the actions of their own vehicles in relation to other members of the platoon.
    • Force on force. This is used during a full-force rehearsal. The platoon may rehearse with sections or individual tanks
    going "force on force" against each other, or the entire platoon may go against another platoon in the company. Platoons should first rehearse with good visibility over open terrain. Rehearsals be come increasingly realistic until conditions approximate those expected in the area of operations.
Inspections. Inspections allow the platoon leader to check the platoon's operational readiness. The key goal is to ensure that soldiers and vehicles are fully prepared to execute the upcoming mission. Inspections also contribute to improved morale.

It is essential that the entire platoon chain of command know how to conduct precom bat checks in accordance with FKSM 17-15-3, the platoon SOP, or ARTEP 17-237-10-MTP. Procedures for a comprehensive inspection include the following:

    • Perform before-operation maintenance checks; report or repair deficiencies.
    • Perform prepare-to-fire checks for all weapons; report or repair deficiencies. Weap ons are boresighted, and all sights are referred. Machine guns are test-fired, if possible.
    • tems.
    • · Upload vehicles in accordance with platoon SOP. The standardization of load plans al lows the platoon leader and PSG to quickly check accountability of equipment. It also ensures standard locations of equipment in each vehicle; this can be an important advantage if the platoon leader is forced to switch to a different vehic le during an operation.
    • Review the supply status of rations, water, fuel, oil, all types of ammunition, pyrotechnics, first-aid kits, and batteries
    (for such items as flashlights, night vision devices, and NBC alarms). Direct resupply operations as necessary.

    • Ensure vehicles are correctly camouflaged so they match the area of operations.

The platoon leader and/or PSG should observe each crew during preparation for combat. They should conduct the inspection once the TCs report that their crews and vehicles are prepared.

Abbreviated Troop-leading Procedures

When there is not enough time to conduct all eight troop-leading steps in detail, such as when a change of mission occurs after an operation is in progress, the platoon leader must understand how to trim the procedures to save time. Most steps of these abbreviated troop-leading procedures are done mentally, but the platoon leader skips none of the steps. Once the order is received, the platoon leader conducts a quick map reconnaissance, ana lyzes the mission using the factors of METT-T, and sends for the TCs. He makes sure the TCs post the minimum required control measures on their maps and issues a FRAGO covering the key elements of the enemy and friendly situations, the platoon mission, and the concept of the operation. The service support and command and signal paragraphs can be deleted if they are unchanged or covered by SOP. FRAGOs are discussed in Appendix A. The platoon leader and TCs may also conduct a quick walk-through rehearsal of critical elements of the maneuver plan using a hastily prepared terrain model or sand table.

In some cases, there may not be enough time even for these shortened procedures. The platoon may have to move out and receive FRAGOs by radio or at the next scheduled halt. It then be comes critical for the platoon leader to send FRAGOs of his own to the TCs explaining the platoon's pur-pose within the overall company maneuver plan.

Digital and global positioning systems are valuable tools when the platoon is forced to use abbreviated troop-leading procedures and FRAGOs. They allow the platoon leader to designate waypoints to assist in navigation and target reference points (TRP) to assist in weapons orientation.

Other keys to success when abbreviated procedures are in effect include a well-trained platoon; clearly developed, thoroughly understood SOPs; and an understanding by all members of the platoon of the current tacti cal situation (situational awareness). The platoon leader and PSG must keep the platoon informed of the ever-changing enemy and friendly situations. They accomplish this by monitoring the company net and issuing frequent updates to the other crews using the radio and digital information systems.

Whenever time is available, however, there is no substitute for effective, thorough troop-leading procedures. The odds of success increase still further when detailed planning and rehearsals are con ducted prior to an operation, even if time is limited. Successful platoon leaders make the most of every available minute.


Competent, confident leadership inspires soldiers, instilling in them the will to win and providing them with purpose, direction, and motivation in combat. Leadership involves numerous important personal principles and traits: taking responsibility for decisions; exemplifying and demanding loyalty; inspiring and directing the platoon toward mission accomplishment; fostering a climate of teamwork that will engender success; demonstrating moral and physical courage in the face of adversity. FM 22-100 and
FM 100-5 describe the qualities of effective leadership. The following are the five characteristics of successful combat leaders, as described in the 1984 study titled Leadership in Combat: An Historical Appraisal conducted by the History Department at the United States Military Academy:

Terrain sense. Understand terrain; match tactics and weaponry with the terrain at hand.

Single-minded tenacity. This is the quality that compels the successful platoon leader to harness the combat power neces sary to overwhelm the enemy. The platoon leader sees the mission through and never gives up.

  • Practical, practiced judgment. Common sense and con stant practice allow the platoon leader to prioritize effectively, enabling him to separate critical tasks from the noncritical and preventing him from being overwhelmed by the demands of the information-rich battlefield.

Ferocious audacity. Risk-taking is a must if the platoon is to exploit enemy weaknesses as they present themselves.

  • Physical confidence. Leaders can maintain their ability to meet the demanding requirements of leader ship only if they are in top physical condition.


Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is the ability to maintain a constant, clear mental "picture" of the tacti cal situation. This picture includes an understanding of relevant terrain and of the relationship between friendly and enemy forces. It also includes the ability to correlate battlefield events as they develop. For platoon leaders and PSGs, situational awareness is the key to making sound, quick tactical decisions. It allows them to form logical conclusions and to make decisions that anticipate future events and information. A critical bene fit of situational awareness on the part of TCs is a reduction in fratricide incidents. Situational awareness also gives leaders the ability to compress the time necessary to conduct troop-leading procedures; this is especially critical when there is limited time to plan and prepare for an operation.

The commander will structure the battlefield based on his intent and the conditions of METT-T. How he does this affects the tank platoon leader's mission planning and his ability to maintain situational awareness. The framework of the battlefield can vary from a highly rigid extreme, with obvious front and rear boundaries and closely tied adjacent units, to a dispersed and decentralized structure with few secure areas and unit boundaries and no definable front and/or rear boundary.

Between these extremes is an unlimited number of possible variations. Maintaining situational awareness becomes more difficult as the battlefield becomes less structured. Modern, highly mobile opera tions involving small forces lend themselves to a less rigid framework that challenges the platoon leader's ability to maintain an accurate picture of the battlefield.

"Seeing" the Battlefield

To "see" the battlefield accurately, the platoon leader must have virtually perfect knowledge of the friendly situation one level higher than his own (the company team or troop situation). It is also important that he update the TCs periodically regarding the higher situation. The platoon leader must also have a relatively complete knowledge of the terrain and the enemy situation. He must be able to visualize enemy and friendly elements through time and to picture how the terrain will affect their actions. (NOTE: This requirement to maintain a real-time awareness of the battlefield one level higher does not relieve the platoon leader of his responsibility to understand the situation and commander's intent two levels higher than his own. The difference is that his understanding of the situation two levels higher does not have to be as specific or as timely.)

Most of the information the platoon leader requires comes from what he can observe from his tank and from reports he receives through his communications systems. Although few voice and digital reports are specifically addressed to him, particularly on the company team net, the platoon leader must monitor them by eavesdropping. He then can track enemy and friendly elements and plot all movement on his map and/or IVIS display. This allows him to adjust his own movement so the platoon makes contact with the enemy from positions of advantage, which are identified during the map/ground reconnaissance step of troop-leading procedures.

How effectively the platoon leader can keep track of events on the battlefield is, to some degree, experience-dependent. No matter what his experience level, however, he is responsible for learning techniques that allow him to relate the information he is receiving to his map or display and thereby track the tactical situation.

Battle Space

The ability to see the battlefield provides the platoon leader with important tactical informa tion, including friendly and enemy positions and relevant terrain. In turn, complete understanding of the military significance of this picture requires knowledge of the concept of battle space; this is the key element in the intellectual process of visualizing the battlefield.

At the most fundamental level, battle space is the three-dimensional area in which the platoon can acquire enemy forces and influence them with effective fires. This space is defined by several battlefield factors: the locations of friendly forces, including the platoon's individual tank crews and OPs; the effects of terrain, weather, and movement; and the ranges of all available platoon weapons and sensing systems. Each tank crew has its own battle space (see Figure 2-1). The platoon's total battle space is the sum of the individual tanks' battle spaces. Platoon battle space is not restricted by boundaries; it can overlap the battle space of adjacent units.

Figure 2-1. Individual tank's battle space
(two-dimensional view).
Battle space has applications in all phases of mission planning, preparation, and execution. During the planning process, it is a critical factor in the selection of routes, tentative positions, and potential engagement areas. In the preparation phase, battle space information aids in the synchronization of tactical movement and overwatch. Once mission execution begins, the platoon leader's knowledge of his battle space is critical to his ability to issue timely and effective orders as the situation changes.

The importance of battle space demands that the platoon leader direct most of his battle command effort toward managing and enhancing his space. He must be aware at every moment of how battle space is changing as friendly and enemy forces move and as terrain and visibility conditions change (see Figures 2-2A and 2-2B). As the operation progresses, the platoon leader must take active measures to shape the battle space to his best advantage.

Figure 2-2A. Effects of movement and terrain on battle space.
Figure 2-2B. Effects of movement and terrain
on battle space (continued).

One vital step in this process is to eliminate or reduce any gaps, or dead space, that exist within the platoon's battle space. The platoon leader can accomplish this in several ways. In the offense, for example, he can maintain a section in overwatch during movement through a choke point or a danger area. In the defense, he can emplace OPs or reposition individual tanks to cover potential gaps in the platoon's battle space (see Figures 2-3A and 2-3B, page 2-22). In all cases, the platoon's position in relation to other friendly elements is an important factor in defining and enhancing the battle space. The platoon leader can shape his space more effectively if he applies the principles of mutual support and thorough coordination with adjacent units.

Figure 2-3A. Reshaping the battle space.

Figure 2-3B. Reshaping the battle space (continued).

Maps, overlays, graphic control measures, and navigation

Maps and Overlays

The most important role of maps and the accompanying overlays is in helping the platoon to understand and visualize the scheme of maneuver. They are the primary tool the platoon leader uses to organize information concerning the battlefield and to synchronize his assets once the battle begins. They also provide TCs with a visual reference they can consult as needed. The platoon leader must ensure that each TC has an updated map with the latest graphic control measures posted on the overlay.

The map and overlay also assist the platoon leader in performing a variety of other functions. He consults them constantly during reconnaissance operations, which can vary in complexity from a quick map reconnaissance to a fully mounted ground reconnaissance of the area of operations. The map and overlay help him to communicate the company commander's concept while he is issuing the OPORD or briefing the TCs on the plan. During mission execution, the map and overlay play an invaluable role in helping leaders to maintain situational awareness.

Overlays can be prepared either in traditional fashion (written out by hand) or digitally. The platoon leader may receive one or more types of overlays from the commander covering such areas as maneuver, enemy forces, obstacles, fire support, and CSS. All of the informa tion is important; the key for the platoon leader is to combine, augment, and declutter the overlays so the information needed for a specific situation is readily available to the platoon on one simple, combined overlay.

Traditional overlays. Copied on acetate, these display graphic control measures as illustrated in Figure 2-4, page 2-24. Traditional overlays should be prepared even if a platoon is equipped with IVIS or appliqué digital systems in case the platoon loses digital data or has its digital link broken.

Figure 2-4. Traditional overlay.

Digital overlays. The IVIS and appliqué digital systems allow the platoon leader to receive and transmit graphics virtually on a real-time ba sis within the platoon and to and from higher headquarters. When these systems are integrated with automatic position/location updates, the platoon leader has a nearly perfect situational awareness "link." His display shows the positions of his platoon and adjacent unit leaders as well as the most current enemy disposition. These positions and locations are displayed on a menu of overlays using the most recent graphics. The platoon leader can combine, augment, and declutter the overlays as needed; when appropriate, he can choose not to display any of them on his digital screen. Figure 2-5 illustrates a sample IVIS-generated overlay.

Figure 2-5. Sample IVIS overlay.
Although fairly accurate, digital systems suffer from minor flaws that detract from their effectiveness as a stand-alone battle command tool. Until these systems become more reliable and less cumbersome and can display terrain relief features, they will serve as an enhancement to, not a substitute for, the platoon leader's map with traditional, handwritten overlays. Refer to FKSM 17-15-1 for a detailed discussion of techniques and procedures for using the IVIS.

Graphic Control Measures

The following paragraphs explain and illustrate graphic control measures commonly used at the company and platoon level. They are entered on overlays to illustrate the commander's intent and scheme of maneuver. In addition, they provide clarity when an order is issued and assist in the battle command process once the tank platoon begins executing the operation. Exact definitions are found in FM 101-5-1.

Unless they are specified as such, graphic control measures are not considered rigid and unchangeable. For example, if the map location of a support by fire position does not allow the pla toon leader to mass direct fires on the enemy, he can, in most situations, inform the commander and adjust the position as needed to accomplish the platoon mission. Control measures do not restrict the platoon's battle space; instead, they assist the platoon leader in identifying the necessary coordination that must be accomplished with adjacent platoons.

Boundary. Boundaries delineate areas of tactical responsibility between units. They are usually designated down to task force level. Coordination with adjacent units along boundaries is the key to en hancing synchronization and decreasing the risk of fratricide. The platoon leader must be aware of adjacent platoons within his company, adjacent companies within the battalion, and adjacent units along the task force boundary that may operate in the platoon's battle space.

Phase line. Phase lines are used to control and coordinate movement and synchronize tactical actions. Platoons may report crossing phase lines, but they normally do not halt unless directed to do so. The abbreviation on overlays is "PL."

Assembly area. Abbreviated "AA" on overlays, this is a location at which the platoon gathers (usually as part of the company) to conduct maintenance and resupply activities and to make other preparations for future operations. The platoon must be able to defend from the assembly area.

Route. This is the prescribed course of travel from a specific point of origin (the SP) to a specific destination (the RP). The route should be named, and checkpoints should be designated at key locations. The abbreviation on overlays is "RTE."

Checkpoint. Checkpoints are used to control and direct the maneuver of the tank platoon and tank section. They are usually placed on identifiable terrain features.

Attack position. This is the last position the platoon occupies or passes through before crossing the LD. The platoon assumes the proper formation and performs last-minute checks of its weapon systems. The abbreviation on overlays is "ATK POS."

Contact point. A contact point is a designated location, usually an easily identifiable terrain feature, where two or more units are re quired to physically meet. The headquarters assigning the contact point must specify what sort of activity is required when the units meet. The platoon leader may be tasked to man or move to a contact point for coordination.

Passage lane. This is the area or route through which a passing unit moves to avoid stationary units and obstacles. Tank platoons may move on a lane or serve as the overwatch for a passing unit moving through a lane.

Passage point. This is the place where a unit physically passes through another unit. Tank platoons may move through a passage point or overwatch other units moving through a passage point. The abbreviation for a passage point is "PP."

Objective. cupy some portion of the company objective. The abbreviation on overlays is "OBJ."

Axis of advance. This is the general route and direction of advance extending toward the enemy. It graphically portrays the commander's intent, such as envelopment of the enemy. The unit may maneuver and shoot supporting fires to either side of the axis provided it remains oriented on the axis and the objective. For example, platoons may maneuver on or to the side of the axis assigned to their company as long as deviations do not interfere with the maneuver of adjacent units.

Direction of attack. This is the specific direction and route that the main attack or center of mass of the unit will follow. Tank platoons move along directions of attack specified by the com mander to take advantage of terrain or to ensure maximum control of the moving unit. The abbreviation on overlays is "DOA."

Assault position. This is the location from which a unit assaults the Tank platoons may occupy an assault position or serve as overwatch for the occupation of the position by the assault force. The abbreviation on overlays is "ASLT POS."

Attack by fire position. This is the location from which a unit employs direct fire to destroy the enemy from a distance. Tank platoons occupy an attack by fire position alone or as part of the company. From this position, the platoon can attack the enemy on the objective when occupation of the objective is not advisable; the position can also be used in an attack on a moving enemy force. In addition, this type of position can serve as a counterattack option for a reserve force. The overlay abbreviation is "ABF."

Support by fire position. This is another type of position from which a maneuver element can engage the enemy by direct fire, with the fires providing support for operations by other units. The tank platoon usually occupies a support by fire position when providing supporting fires for an assault or breach force or when serving as the overwatch for a moving force. The overlay abbreviation is "SBF."

Battle position. This is a defensive location, oriented on the most likely enemy avenue of approach, from which a unit defends. Tank platoon BPs and direct fire orientations are designated in the OPORD.

Target reference point. This is an easily recognizable point on the ground (either natural or man-made) used to locate enemy forces or control fires. TRPs can designate either the center of an area on which the platoon can mass its fires or the left or right limit of such an area. The tank platoon leader controls platoon fires by designating platoon TRPs as necessary to supplement company TRPs issued by the commander. When designated with target numbers issued by the FIST or FSO, TRPs become indirect fire targets.


To protect his platoon, the platoon leader must learn to use terrain to his advantage. Land navigation of armored vehicles requires him to master the technique of terrain associa tion. This entails the ability to identify terrain
features on the ground by the contour intervals depicted on the map. The platoon leader analyzes the terrain using the factors of OAK-OC and identifies major terrain features, contour changes, and man-made structures along his axis of advance. As the platoon advances, he uses these features to orient the platoon and to associate ground positions with map locations.

The intellectual concept of battle space is vital to the platoon's sur vival during navigation and movement. The platoon leader must constantly be aware of key terrain and enemy fields of observation and fire that may create danger areas as the platoon advances. This allows him to modify movement techniques, formations, and routes and to maintain cross-talk with overwatch elements to ensure the platoon is not surprised by the enemy.

Navigation under limited visibility conditions is especially challenging. Vehicle thermal sights and night vision goggles provide assistance, but leaders nonetheless can easily confuse terrain features and become disoriented. See Appendix C for a discussion of limited visibility operations.

The platoon can employ a variety of techniques and equipment to assist in navigation. These are summarized in the following paragraphs.

Compass and odometer. This method of navigation entails use of a dismounted compass and the vehicle's odometer. Follow these steps:

    • Divide the route or operation into legs or parts, each with a unique direction and distance and a checkpoint at both ends.
    • Measure the map distance of each leg or part.
    • Determine the magnetic azimuth of each leg or part.
    • Develop a chart listing the legs or parts, azimuths, and distances. Write a description of each leg or part. Refer to Figure 2-6, page 2-32, for an example.
    • For each leg or part, move the gun tube to the direction of the magnetic azimuth. Maintain turret stabilization at all times; do not traverse the turret except at the start of the next leg or part.
    • Use the odometer to measure the distance traveled for each leg or part.
    • Review the written description of the route to help prevent navigational errors.

Figure 2-6. Route chart for compass and
odometer navigation method.
Fires. Using artillery or mortars to fire smoke (during the day) or ground-burst illumination (day or night) can provide a useful check on estimated locations or preplanned targets.

Global positioning systems. These systems receive signals from satellites or land-based transmitters. They calculate and display the position of the
user in military grid coordi nates as well as in degrees of latitude and longitude. Most GPS navigation readings are based on waypoints, the known positions entered into the system's memory. The platoon leader identifies points along the route or at the destination and designates them as waypoints. Once waypoints are entered in the GPS, the device can display information such as distance and direction from point to point. Leaders must still know how to employ terrain association while navigating in case satellite or land signals are inoperative or unavailable. For more information on GPS, see FKSM 17-15-1.

Inertial navigation systems. Based on an initial calculation of the vehicle's location from a known point, inertial navigation systems use the rotation of the track to determine the location of the vehicle. The M1A2's POSNAV system is an example. POSNAV allows the TC to determine his exact location and gives him the ability to plot up to 99 waypoints. Tank drivers can then use the steer-to function on their driver's integrated display as they move toward the designated waypoints. To compensate for track slippage that could affect the accuracy of the inertial system, TCs should reinitialize their systems often using a GPS or a known point. For more information on POSNAV, see FKSM 17-15-1.

NOTE: In using the GPS or POSNAV, the platoon leader must remember that waypoints are only one of several navigational tools he can use. He must still be prepared to use terrain association and map-reading skills in case of digital system failures. In addition, the platoon leader must not disregard the effects of terrain on the direction of movement. Terrain features that do not show up on the digital display (such as hills, valleys, and cliffs) may cause deviations in the route the platoon must take to reach the next waypoint.

Shift from a known point. Shifting from a known point is a convenient tool for the platoon leader to use as he maneuvers the platoon and
disseminates control measures. The known point is usually a previously distributed graphic control measure. Referencing a location from a known point is done in kilometers. For example, 500 meters is given as "POINT FIVE," 1,000 meters as "ONE," and 3,500 meters as "THREE POINT FIVE." Cardinal directions are used. Shifts to the east or west are given first, sion: "RED SET FROM CHECKPOINT SEVEN - EAST ONE POINT EIGHT - NORTH ONE POINT SEVEN." This means, "We (the Red element)
are set at a position 1,800 meters east and 1,700 meters north from checkpoint 7." Figure 2-7 illustrates this example.

Figure 2-7. Example of shifting from a known point.

Shifts from known points are used routinely to control combat operations. They make report ing of current platoon and enemy positions easier. The platoon leader could report his location by referencing a graphic control measure, such as a checkpoint as shown in Figure 2-8, or a grid location. The enemy, however, will quickly figure out the known points if they are continually used in the clear on a nonsecure net. The platoon leader should avoid using the same point more than twice. Instead, he should use a different known point to reference the same location. Enemy locations are identified only by using shifts from TRPs (see Figure 2-9).

NOTE: Many units routinely use the terrain index reference system (TIRS) or the grid index reference system (GIRS) to make shifts from a known point. TIRS identifies locations based on terrain points previously designated on an overlay; GIRS uses intersections of four grid squares as the known points.
Figure 2-8. Platoon reports own position using
shift from a known point (checkpoint).

Figure 2-9. Platoon reports enemy position
using shift from a known point (TRP).


During virtually all maneuver and combat operations, dispersion will force the tank platoon to rely heavily on effective communications by means of wire, visual signals, radio, and digital systems. The platoon must under-stand the proper procedures for using the available systems, the proper application of operational terms, and procedures for constructing and sending effective, concise messages using each type of system. The platoon leader is responsible for the planning, training, and employment related to use of the platoon's communications systems. He is also responsible for maintaining communications within the company communications system.

Means of Tactical Communications

The tank platoon has several available means of communications. Whether it is using messenger, wire, visual, sound, radio, or digital communications, the platoon must remain flexible enough to react quickly to new situations. The platoon leader must carefully plan the use of these resources, ensuring there is redundancy in the platoon's communications systems while avoiding dependence on any single means.

SOPs play a critical role in ensuring that platoon communications enhance situational aware ness and contribute to mission accomplishment. They prescribe hand-and-arm and flag signals that can aid in platoon movement and clear, concise radio transmissions that help to reduce transmission times. On digitally linked vehicles, crews can monitor the commander's integrated display, with its standardized graphics; this significantly reduces the need to send voice updates of friendly vehicle positions.

Messenger. Messenger service is the most secure means of communi-cations available to the tank platoon. When security conditions and time permit, it is the preferred means. It is generally very flexible and reliable. A messenger can be used to deliver platoon fire plans, status reports, or lengthy messages. When possible, lengthy messages sent by messenger should be written to prevent mistakes and confusion.

Wire. This method of communications is especially effective in static positions. The platoon will frequently employ a hot loop in initial defensive positions, OPs, and assembly areas. Unit SOPs, tailored to counter the enemy's electronic warfare capability, will dictate the use of wire. M60A3 and AGS crews can communicate directly with dismounted infantry by means of the vehicle's external field phone. On M1-series tanks, the crew can route wire from the AM-1780 through the loader's hatch or vision block to a field phone attached to the outside of the tank.

Visual. Visual communications are used to identify friendly forces or to transmit prearranged messages quickly over short distances. These signals must be clearly understood by TCs as they operate across the battlefield; each TC must be ready to pass on visual signals from the platoon leader to other vehicles in the platoon. Standard hand-and-arm or flag signals work well during periods of good visibility. Crews can use thermal paper, flashlights, chemical lights, or other devices during periods of limited visibility, but they must exercise extreme care to avoid alerting the enemy to friendly intentions. See STP 17-19K1-SM (the skill level 1 soldier's manual for MOS 19K) and FM 21-60 for a description of hand-and-arm signals.

Pyrotechnics. Pyrotechnic ammunition can be used for visual signaling. The meaning of these signals is identified in paragraph 5 of the OPORD and in the signal operation instructions (SOI). The main advantage of pyrotech nics is the speed with which signals can be transmitted. The main disadvantage is the enemy's ability to detect and imitate them.

Sound. This form of communications is used mainly to attract attention, transmit prear ranged messages, and spread alarms. Sound signals, however, carry only short distances, and their range and clarity are greatly reduced by battle noise. In addition, since they are open to enemy inter ception, use of sound signals may be restricted for security reasons. They must be kept simple to avoid creating confusion. Prearranged meanings for sound signals are covered in the unit SOP and SOI.

Radio. The radio is the platoon's most flexible, most frequently used, and least secure means of communications. It can quickly transmit information over long distances with great accuracy. Secure equip ment and the ability of the SINCGARS to frequency-hop provide the platoon with communications security against most enemy direction-finding, interception, and jamming capabilities. Sophisticated direction-finding equipment, how ever, can trace almost any radio signal; the transmitter then can easily be destroyed. Survival of the tank platoon depends on good communications habits, especially when it is using the radio; the platoon leader must strictly enforce radio discipline. The most effective way to use the radio is to follow standard radiotele phone procedures (RTP), including brevity and proper use of authentication tables and approved operational terms.

Digital. IVIS and appliqué digital systems enable the platoon leader to transmit digitally encoded information over the SINCGARS radio to other similarly equipped vehicles. Linkup refers to the ability of the tank's radio to transmit and receive digital information. When properly "linked," the platoon leader receives continuously updated position location information for the platoon's vehicles, as well as for those of adjacent platoon leaders and PSGs, the company commander, and the executive officer (XO). Using the digital link with other platoon vehicles and the company commander, the platoon leader can also send and receive preformatted reports and overlays with graphic control meas ures. FKSM 17-15-3 discusses the use of digital systems, including IVIS-specific log-on and linkup procedures.

Tank Platoon Nets

The platoon leader, PSG, TCs, and crewmen employ and/or monitor the following radio nets.

Platoon. This net is used to conduct all platoon operations. All tanks within the platoon must have the ability to monitor and transmit on this net at all times. Some units do not use platoon radio nets; in such a situation, it is critical that all platoon vehicles adhere to communications SOPs and observe strict radio discipline. Every crewman should understand the net control guidelines, including proper RTP and techniques for effective communications, discussed later in this section.

Company/troop command. This net is used to maneuver the company as well as to process routine administrative/logistical (A/L) reports. Platoon leaders and PSGs monitor this net to keep abreast of the current tactical situation from the reports of the commander, XO, and other platoon leaders. They transmit on it to keep the commander in formed and to talk to other platoon leaders to coordinate the tactical actions of their platoons. Both the platoon leader and PSG must always have the ability to monitor and transmit on this net. All TCs must be able to switch to this net to send re ports and receive guidance if they are unable to contact their platoon leader or PSG.

Net Control

The tank platoon net is the key to command and control of the platoon. The smooth functioning of this net allows accurate information to be passed quickly to and from the platoon leader. This information flow is critical in maintaining the platoon leader's situational awareness. Every soldier in the platoon must be trained how to provide the platoon leader with essen tial information efficiently and without redundancy. This becomes especially important when contact has been made and the volume of traffic on the platoon and company nets increases drastically. The following techniques and sugges tions will help to ensure that information flowing over the net is organized and controlled in a manner that permits the platoon leader both to understand it and to issue orders in response to it.

Digital traffic. Digital traffic may precede, replace, or follow voice transmissions; in many cases, it will reduce the need for and redundancy of voice traffic. Do not duplicate digital traffic with voice messages if digital transmissions precede or can replace voice traffic in a timely manner. Because digital systems are not totally reliable, it may be necessary to verify the receipt of critical digital traffic.

Routine traffic. The PSG normally receives and consolidates A/L reports and other routine communications from the TCs and passes the reports to the platoon leader or higher headquarters using the procedures prescribed in unit SOPs.

Initial contact. Any vehicle can alert the platoon to a threat. The section leader in contact (platoon leader or PSG) deploys and fights his section according to the platoon leader's intent. The section leader not in contact forwards the report to higher headquarters. If the entire platoon is in contact, the platoon leader fights the platoon while the PSG reports the contact to the commander.

Reporting. In keeping the platoon leader informed, TCs must avoid redundant voice and digital reports. They monitor the platoon net so they can avoid reporting information the platoon leader has already received from other TCs. The PSG pays close attention to the company net while the platoon net is active; he then relays critical information to the platoon. This technique allows the platoon leader to concentrate on fighting the platoon. Once the platoon leader begins to develop the situation, he is responsible for reporting the platoon's tactical situation to the commander using spot reports (SPOTREP) and situation reports (SITREP). Refer to FKSM 17-15-3 for information on report formats.

Radiotelephone procedure. Proper RTP is the cornerstone of effective command and control in the tank platoon. Every platoon member must be an expert in communications procedures. This ensures efficient communi cations within the platoon and allows members of the platoon to communicate effectively with outside elements such as other platoons or the company or troop headquarters.

Depending on the enemy's electronic warfare capability, the company commander may elect to use standardized call signs to simplify RTP. These call signs allow all users of a net to instantly recognize the calling station. Examples would be the use of RED, WHITE, and BLUE to designate 1st, 2d, and 3d platoons, respectively, and the use of bumper numbers to identity tanks within a platoon.

Techniques of effective communications. The platoon leader and PSG must ensure that every member of the platoon understands and adheres to the following techniques and guidelines, which can contribute to more effective, more secure tactical communications.

Minimize duration. All messages sent within or from the tank platoon must be short and informative. The longer the message, the greater the opportunity for enemy elements to use electronic detection to pinpoint the platoon's location. Message length can be controlled in several ways:

    • Write down the message and then eliminate all unnecessary words from the written message before sending it.
    • Read the message as written when sending it.
    • Use brevity codes that reduce the need to explain the tactical picture in detail.
    • Break long messages into several parts and send each part separately.

Minimize signature. When sending a message, every tanker must be conscious of the size and nature of the electronic signature that he is emitting. To reduce the size of the signature, he can use terrain to mask his transmissions from known or suspected enemy positions. He should set the transmitter to the lowest possible power that will provide sufficient range.

Know the system. Each crewman must be an expert in the technical aspects of his voice and digital communi cations systems. In particular, he must understand how to maintain each system, how to place it into operation, and how to troubleshoot it whenever he suspects it is not functioning properly.

Fire Distribution and Control

To maximize the effects of its fires, the platoon must know how to effectively focus, distribute, and control them. Depending on the situation, fire distribution and control may be ac complished by individual tanks, by section leaders' tanks and their wingmen, or by the platoon as a whole. On many occasions, particularly in defensive operations, the platoon leader will be in a position to direct the fires of the entire platoon. At other times, especially during offensive operations, fire distribution and control may begin with the PSG or a wingman; as the situation develops, the platoon leader then takes control of the platoon fires and distributes them effectively. Refer to FM 17-12-1-1 and FM 17-12-1-2 for a complete discussion of target acquisition and destruction procedures during direct fire engagements.


The platoon's ability to focus fires on the enemy is critical to combat survival. Proper scanning techniques and the violent execution of battle drills (refer to the discussion in Chapter 3) will initially orient the platoon toward the enemy. At that point, the platoon leader must supplement the drills by using TRPs to mass the platoon's fires at one location.

The platoon leader identifies and references each TRP using a terrain feature or by means of a digital overlay. When TRPs are used to delineate the left and right planning limits for the center of the sector. The center TRP roughly divides the left and right sectors in which each section will scan and engage targets. Each section should have the ability to engage targets in the other section's sector of fire from its primary, alternate, or supplementary position. This allows the pla toon leader to distribute fires in response to changes in the enemy situation.

One section will then scan for and engage targets to the left of the TRP while the other section does the same to the right of the TRP. (NOTE: If he has M1A2 target-designation capabil ity, each TC can lase in the vicinity of the TRP and orient his main gun on the TRP using the commander's digital display.)

The outer limits of the sector of fire can be supplemented with TRPs identified by the section leader or can be left to the discretion of individual TCs based on the tactical situation.


The entire platoon must thoroughly understand the three basic fire patterns: frontal, cross, and depth. In most situations, these allow the platoon leader to distribute platoon fires rapidly and effectively. Regard less of the fire pattern used, the goal is to engage near and flank targets first, then shift to far and center targets. Tanks should engage near to far and most dangerous to least dangerous in their sector. A "most dangerous" threat is any enemy antitank system preparing to engage the platoon. The platoon sector is defined by TRPs, which are used to mass platoon fires at specific locations and to mark the left and right planning limits for platoon fires.

Frontal pattern. The frontal pattern is used when all tanks within the platoon can fire to their front (see Figure 2-10). Flank tanks engage targets to their front (right tank shoots right target, left tank shoots left target) and shift fires toward the center as targets are destroyed. The frontal fire engagement rule is "near to far, flank to center."

Cross pattern. The cross pattern is used when obstructions prevent some or all tanks within the platoon from firing to the front or when the enemy's frontal armor protection requires use of flank shots to achieve penetration. In this pattern, each tank engages targets on the flank of its position. The right flank tank engages the left portion of the target area while the left flank tank en gages the right portion. As targets are destroyed, tanks shift fires inward. The cross fire engagement rule is "outside in, near to far." An example of the cross pattern is shown in Figure 2-11.

Figure 2-10. Frontal fire pattern.

Figure 2-11. Cross fire pattern.

Depth pattern. The depth fire pattern is used when targets are exposed in depth. Employment of depth fire is dependent on the position and formation of both the engaging platoon and the target. For example, the entire platoon may be required to fire on a column formation in depth; in other cases, individual tanks engaging in their sector may have to fire in depth. If the whole platoon is firing, it may be possible for each 12). The far left tank engages the far target and shifts fire toward the center of the formation as targets are destroyed; the left center tank engages the center target and shifts fire toward the rear as targets are destroyed. The right center tank engages the closest (front) target and shifts fire to the rear as targets are destroyed; the far right tank engages the center target and shifts fire to the front as targets are destroyed.

Figure 2-12. Depth fire pattern.


ning and fire commands. He decides how to control fires based on the factors of METT-T.

Fire planning. The more thoroughly the platoon leader can plan an operation, the more effective the platoon's fires are likely to be. The amount of time available for fire planning, however, depends almost entirely on the collective factors of METT-T. For example, some defensive operations may allow the platoon leader hours or days to conduct fire planning. Intelligence assets may be able to acquire, track, and report enemy elements as they move toward the platoon. The platoon leader can then initi ate fires with a platoon fire command or a predetermined event (such as the enemy crossing a trigger line). In other situations, especially during offensive operations, a member of the platoon may acquire and engage a "most dangerous" target before the platoon leader has an opportunity to initiate a fire command. Offensive and defensive fire planning is discussed in detail in Chapters 3 and 4.

In the absence of adequate planning time, the platoon leader must initially rely on preestablished, well-rehearsed SOPs to distribute and control fires and ensure fast, predictable engagement by all tanks. No matter what kind of situation it expects to face, the platoon must learn and rehearse target acquisition responsibilities, use of TRPs and fire patterns, and procedures for initiating, shifting, and stopping fires. Its survival depends on it.

Platoon fire commands. The battlefield situation and/or platoon SOP dictate the number of elements used in a fire command. The standard platoon fire command includes up to six elements, transmitted in the following order:

    • Alert.
    • Weapon or ammunition (optional).
    • Target description.
    • Orientation.
    • Control (optional).
    • Execution.

Alert. The alert element addresses the tanks that are being directed to fire; it does not require the individual initiating the fire command to identify himself. (NOTE: Wingman tanks or sections not designated to engage should sense the target effects and be prepared to engage targets as necessary.)

Platoon or company SOP code words may be used to standardize the alert element, as in the following example:

    • RED--Entire platoon prepare to fire.
    • ALPHA--Platoon leader and his wingman prepare to fire.
    • BRAVO--PSG and his wingman prepare to fire.

Weapon or ammunition (optional). The weapon is not announced unless specific control measures are required. Ammunition is not announced unless a specific type is dictated by the situation. The TC selects ammunition based on the platoon SOP, the number and type of enemy targets, and the supply status of ammunition (how much of each type is on hand).

Target description. This element briefly describes the target in terms of number, type, and activity ("THREE TANKS MOVING EAST TO WEST").

Orientation. Target location is described using one of two methods:

    • Reference point or terrain feature. This method is used for most defensive engagements and can also be applied to of fensive situations. If the platoon leader designates separate targets for each section, he assigns responsibility and clarifies target location in the orientation element. For example: "ALPHA - TWO TANKS - TRP 3126 - BRAVO - BMPs AND TROOPS - ROAD JUNCTION."
    • Direction of target. This method is used most often in the offense when no TRP or definitive terrain feature is near the target. Direction is indicated from the projected line of movement (LOM) of the platoon in the of fense or from the center of sector (COS) in the defense (for example, "LEFT FRONT" or "RIGHT FLANK"). The clock option indicates direction starting with the LOM or COS at 12 o'clock (examples: "TWO O'CLOCK"; "NINE O'CLOCK"). The
    cardinal direction may also be used ("NORTHWEST" or "SOUTHWEST"). When using the direction method, the pla toon leader will announce a range to help his TCs locate the targets, for example, "RIGHT FRONT - ONE EIGHT HUNDRED" or "TEN O'CLOCK - TWO FOUR HUNDRED."
Control (optional). The control element tells the platoon what type of fire pattern (frontal, cross, or depth) the platoon leader has selected based on his plan for fire distribution. If the control element is omitted, the platoon engages targets using the frontal pattern. All tanks normally engage simultaneously. If the platoon leader wishes to designate a firing tank or section, he specifies which tanks will fire in the alert element of the fire command. Additionally, the platoon leader may designate the amount or type of ammunition or weapons to be fired. For example, he might direct four bursts from the coax machine gun for every two main gun rounds fired.

Execution. The execution element indicates when firing will begin. Normally, this is simply the command "FIRE." If simultaneous fire is desired or if the platoon's fire is to be coordinated with other direct or indirect fires, the execution element "AT MY COMMAND" is given first. The resulting delay allows the coordination of all fires to be completed; the individual crews select their targets, issue their own fire commands, and prepare to engage. The platoon leader must remember that tanks have to occupy hull-down positions before firing. A proword can be used to signal this move.

During execution, the platoon leader controls fires by issuing subsequent fire commands or individual elements of the fire command; this serves to focus and distribute the fires of individual tanks, a section, or the entire platoon. The engagement is terminated when all targets are "CEASE FIRE." Figure 2-13 illustrates an example of a platoon fire command; note that the weapon/ammunition element has been omitted.

Alert "RED-

Target description THREE TANKS-


Control (optional) CROSS-


Figure 2-13. Example platoon fire command.

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