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Chapter 3


Reconnaissance is a mission undertaken to obtain information about the activities and resources of an enemy or about the meteorologic, hydrographic, or geographic characteristics of a particular area. Reconnaissance produces combat information. Combat information is a by-product of all operations acquired as they are in progress. Reconnaissance, however, is a focused collection effort. It is performed before and during other combat operations to provide information used by the commander to confirm or modify his concept.

Cavalry is the corps or division commander's principal reconnaissance organization. Cavalry troops perform reconnaissance using a combination of mounted and dismounted techniques. The cavalry troop is uniquely organized, trained, and equipped to perform the crucial task of reconnaissance for other combined arms forces. Reconnaissance is the cavalryman's specialty.


Section I. Purpose, Fundamentals and Capabilities
Section II. Planning Considerations, Methods, and Techniques
Section III. Route Reconnaissance
Section IV. Zone Reconnaissance
Section V. Area Reconnaissance

Section I. Purpose, Fundamentals, andCapabilities


Cavalry troops conduct reconnaissance forward of another friendly force to provide information about the terrain and enemy within the area. The reconnaissance allows the follow-on force an opportunity to maneuver freely and rapidly to its objective. Reconnaissance keeps the follow-on force from being surprised or interrupted, and protects it against losing soldiers and equipment on the way to the objective. The cavalry troop performs three types of reconnaissance--route, zone, and area.


Successful reconnaissance operations are planned and performed with six fundamentals in mind.

  • Maximum reconnaissance force forward.
  • Orient on the location or movement of the reconnaissance objective.
  • Report all information rapidly and accurately.
  • Retain freedom to maneuver.
  • Gain and maintain enemy contact.
  • Develop the situation rapidly.

Maximum Reconnaissance Force Forward. In reconnaissance, every pair of eyes makes a difference. Do not keep scouts in reserve. This does not mean that every scout should be forward in a strictly linear sense, but actively employed in the conduct of the reconnaissance.

Orient on the Location or Movement of the Reconnaissance Objective. From the IPB (intelligence preparation of the battlefield) the S2 will identify gaps in the squadron's knowledge of the enemy and terrain it will be operating in. These gaps together with the commander's guidance form the PIR (priority intelligence requirements) and direct the reconnaissance efforts of the troop. Focus the efforts of the troop in selecting a course of action and a scheme of maneuver that continuously orients the troop on its reconnaissance objective based on the commander's guidance. The troop's focus may be a terrain feature, a specific area, or an enemy force.
Report All Information Rapidly and Accurately.Higher commanders base their decisions and plans on the battlefield information cavalry troops gather during reconnaissance. Combat information loses value as it ages, so the fresher the better. Scouts report exactly what they see. Troop commanders and executive officers may summarize or clarify reports to the squadron, but must never delete raw information reported by the scouts. Information that seems unimportant to the troop may be extremely valuable at higher echelons.

Retain Freedom to Maneuver.Cavalry troops must be able to maneuver on the battlefield to continue the reconnaissance mission. If the troop becomes decisively engaged, the reconnaissance stops. Use of proper movement techniques and overwatch helps prevent decisive engagement. IPB provides the troop commander information that allows him to anticipate battlefield events and to retain freedom of maneuver.

Gain and Maintain Enemy Contact.Contact is any condition ranging from a surveillance sighting to engaging in close combat. Surveillance is often sufficient and is the preferred method of maintaining contact. When necessary or required, troops will use fire and maneuver to maintain contact with an enemy force. Once contact is gained, however, it is not lost unless ordered by higher headquarters.

Develop the Situation Rapidly.During reconnaissance operations cavalry troops frequently and repeatedly encounter situations that require action to determine what the troop must face. These situations may be terrain oriented, obstacles, or enemy. Terrain or obstacle situations require close reconnaissance, bypass, hasty breach, if necessary, and marking. If an enemy force is encountered, the troop will determine the size, composition (What is the enemy force made up of-tanks, personnel carriers?), disposition (Is the enemy force in an offensive or defensive posture? Is he dug in? What is his orientation?), and activity. IPB provides the threat situational information that guides the effort. Reconnaissance techniques, often in the form of drills, are used while developing the situation.

Troops must develop the situation rapidly to get inside the enemy's decision cycle and force him to react to the actions of the troop rather than the troop reacting to the enemy. This requires the troop to rapidly execute development of the situation at the platoon level through the execution of rehearsed battle drills.


The ability of a cavalry troop to conduct reconnaissance is a function of the enemy situation, the terrain the troop is operating in, and the type of troop conducting the reconnaissance.

  • Heavy Troop
  • Can reconnoiter up to a 10-kilometer wide zone.
  • Can reconnoiter up to two routes simultaneously.
  • Can conduct reconnaissance at the rate of about 1 kilometer per hour, depending on the terrain.
  • When faced with a heavy-equipped threat, will conduct either aggressive or stealthy reconnaissance, depending on the higher commander's guidance.
  • Light Troop
  • Can reconnoiter up to a 10-kilometer wide zone.
  • Can reconnoiter up to two routes simultaneously.
  • Can conduct reconnaissance at the rate of about 1 kilometer per hour, depending on the terrain.
  • When faced with a heavy-equipped threat, will conduct stealthy reconnaissance and aggressive reconnaissance when reinforced with heavy forces.
  • When faced with a light-equipped threat, will conduct either aggressive or stealthy reconnaissance, dependent on the commander's guidance.

Section II. Planning Considerations, Methods, and Techniques

The purpose of this section is to outline the planning considerations, methods, and procedures a cavalry troop uses to execute reconnaissance missions.

Planning Considerations

When planning a reconnaissance mission, the troop commander must take into account his unit's capabilities and limitations and consider the following:

  • Time available from mission receipt to completion.
  • Threat size, composition, disposition, and will to fight.
  • Terrain and weather effects on the troop's ability to maneuver.
  • Tempo of the operation.
  • The squadron commander's (SCO) intent and guidance, as follows:
  • What are the SCO's focus and desired endstate of the reconnaissance?
  • What triggers the squadron's employment of the tank/AT company?
  • What does the SCO want the troop to destroy, fix, and bypass?
  • Task organization or reinforcements.
  • Critical tasks to be accomplished by the troop. Specifically, identify which critical tasks may be deleted during the reconnaissance.

Based on the considerations above, the troop commander determines the following:

  • What is the focus of the reconnaissance? What critical tasks must be accomplished within the constraints of time and terrain?
  • What specified or implied missions are associated with the squadron endstate?

Note. If given a limit of advance (LOA) for the reconnaissance mission, the troop commander should plan to screen along the LOA (see Chapter 4).

  • How will the troop deal with enemy contact? What are the troop's criteria for engagement, destruction, and bypass?
  • Under what situations does the commander see employment of his tank (heavy troop) or antitank (AT) (light troop) platoons?
  • How will the commander use indirect fires from mortars and artillery to support his maneuver?
  • Who controls the troop's attachments and how are they integrated into the reconnaissance?

The troop may receive attachments from higher headquarters. These assets may be maintained under troop control or tasked down to platoons for their use in the execution of the platoon's specified tasks. Examples include attached engineers, ground surveillance radar (GSR), or a chemical reconnaissance element.

  • Engineers. If an engineer platoon is attached to the troop, the commander may elect to keep them under his control and treat them as a maneuver platoon. He may assign them to conduct the reconnaissance of the route, while the scout platoons move just ahead and reconnoiter terrain on either side. If the troop receives a squad or section, the troop commander may elect to task it to the scout platoon conducting the reconnaissance of the route.
  • GSR. If a GSR squad or section is attached, the troop commander may elect to task organize them to a platoon or keep them under troop control. During reconnaissance operations, GSRs may be focused on flank avenues of approach into the troop zone with their movement controlled by the scout platoon leader or commander. In either case the commander should give clear guidance for positioning and orientation of the reconnaissance.
  • Chemical reconnaissance element. If a chemical reconnaissance element (squad, section, or platoon) is task organized to the troop, the commander may maintain the element in reserve to reinforce a scout platoon that comes in contact with a contaminated area, or he may task organize the element down to one of the scout platoons.

Methods of Reconnaissance

There are three methods of conducting reconnaissance at the cavalry troop level: dismounted, mounted, and reconnaissance by fire.The troop commander may use any method or combination of methods to accomplish the reconnaissance mission under the restrictions placed on him by METT-T (mission, enemy, terrain, troops, and time available) and the higher commander's intent and guidance. A fourth method of reconnaissance, aerial reconnaissance, may be executed by an air cavalry troop conducting a coordinated reconnaissance forward of the ground troop.

Dismounted Reconnaissance

The troop commander may direct scouts to conduct dismounted reconnaissance when-

  • Time is not a limiting factor.
  • Detailed information is required.
  • Stealth is required.
  • Enemy contact is expected or has been achieved through visual means.
  • Scout vehicles cannot move through an area because of terrain.
  • Security is the primary concern.
Dismounted reconnaissance permits the cavalry troop to collect the most detailed information about the terrain and enemy within a given zone, area, or route. However, dismounted reconnaissance is also the most time-consuming of all the reconnaissance methods. The cavalry troop, heavy or light, is limited in the number of dismounted scouts it can employ at any time.

Mounted Reconnaissance

The troop commander directs scouts to conduct mounted reconnaissance when-

  • Time is limited.
  • Detailed reconnaissance is not required, or mounted method affords the same opportunity to collect information as the dismounted method.
  • Enemy locations are known.
  • Enemy contact is not likely.
  • An air cavalry troop is conducting a coordinated air reconnaissance.
Reconnaissance by Fire

When conducting reconnaissance by fire, the troop places direct and/or indirect fire on positions the enemy is suspected of occupying. This action causes the enemy to disclose his presence by moving or by returning fire. The troop commander may use reconnaissance by fire when-

  • Time is critical.
  • Natural or man-made obstacles that could be overwatched by an enemy force are encountered.
  • A suspected enemy position fits the situational template.
  • Bunker complexes that may or may not be occupied are encountered.
  • Enemy locations are known.
The disadvantage of the reconnaissance-by-fire method is that the troop will lose any element of surprise it may have had. However, reconnaissance by fire may reduce the chance of some portion of the troop being caught in an enemy kill zone. Reconnaissance by fire may not always provide the desired effect. A well-disciplined force will resist the inclination to move when probed by weapon fires.

When indirect-fire situations exist, the troop commander ensures scouts are in a position to observe the target area. Once the decision is made to use reconnaissance by fire, weapons should be used in the following priority.

  • Indirect-fire systems.
  • Machine gun.
  • 25-mm chain gun or MK-19.
  • TOW or tank cannon fire.
Reconnaissance by fire does not mean the indiscriminate use of direct and indirect fires at all woodlines and hilltops in the hopes of causing the enemy to react. Not only will the enemy recognize this ploy for what it is and not react to it, but also it wastes valuable ammunition.

Aerial Reconnaissance

Air cavalry troops perform aerial reconnaissance when time is critical. Aerial reconnaissance is often coordinated closely with a ground reconnaissance troop. The air and ground forces complement each other. The air element can move forward of the ground unit and reconnoiter key pieces of terrain or restrictive terrain, allowing the ground troop to concentrate its efforts in other areas or to increase the tempo of its reconnaissance. The air troop provides the ground troop with added security by clearing the ground forward of the ground unit, thereby facilitating movement of the ground force and quickening the pace of the operation. The ground troop can move rapidly mounted to the areas of interest within its area or zone of operations and have the time to dismount and collect detailed information (see Figure 3-1).

Figure 3-1. Air scouts conduct coordinated reconnaissance of zone with ground troop.

Aggressive Versus Stealthy Reconnaissance

The cavalry troop uses various combinations of reconnaissance methods. The method or combination of methods chosen by the troop and its scout platoons is based on the higher commander's guidance and METT-T. The method or methods chosen will characterize the reconnaissance as either aggressive or stealthy.

The stealthy approach to reconnaissance is more time-consuming. It emphasizes avoiding detection and engagement by the enemy. To be effective, a stealthy approach must rely primarily on dismounted reconnaissance and maximum use of covered and concealed terrain.

Aggressive reconnaissance is characterized by the speed and manner in which the reconnaissance force develops the situation once contact is made with an enemy force. A troop conducting aggressive reconnaissance uses firepower from direct- or indirect-fire systems and maneuvers to rapidly develop the situation. The troop will primarily use mounted reconnaissance and reconnaissance by fire when conducting aggressive reconnaissance.

Cavalry troops must be trained to conduct both aggressive and stealthy reconnaissance. The troop commander, scout platoon leader, and squad leaders will most likely use many different methods over the course of a reconnaissance operation. The constraints of commander's guidance, the opposing threat, the capabilities of the troop, the terrain the troop is operating in, and the time available to complete the mission (METT-T) all have an impact on the method or methods chosen by the troop leadership.


Actions on Contact

Actions on enemy contact are a series of steps the troop takes when it encounters an enemy force or situation that warrants/demands action. Actions on contact are important because they allow the troop to maintain its tempo of operation by rapidly developing the situation and taking action before the enemy can gain the initiative and force the troop to react. At platoon level, actions on enemy contact consist of four steps.

  • Deploy and report.
  • Develop the situation.
  • Choose a course of action.

Recommend or execute a course of action.

Note. See FM 17-98 for an in-depth discussion of platoon actions on contact during reconnaissance.

While the platoon that makes contact executes actions on contact, the commander must continue to maneuver the remainder of the troop to ensure a clear picture of the enemy situation across the entire troop front. The following steps demonstrate the actions taken by the platoon in contact and the corresponding actions at the troop level.

Deploy and Report

Platoon Action.The elements of the scout platoon that make initial contact with the enemy immediately deploy to terrain that affords them both cover and good observation. If necessary, scouts return fire to suppress the enemy, and then deploy to their positions. The scout making contact sends a contact report to his platoon leader. The platoon leader forwards the report to the troop commander. Once the scout in contact is in a good covered and concealed position, he sends his initial spot report, which is forwarded through the platoon leader to the troop commander (see Figure 3-2).

  • Figure 3-2. Scouts deploy and report then begin to develop the situation.

    Troop Action.All other platoon leaders and platoon sergeants monitor the contact report. The troop commander assesses the information and moves, if necessary, to a position where he can observe the action. However, the troop must not lose focus of the reconnaissance mission.

    Develop the Situation

    Platoon Action.Next, the platoon in contact defines what it is up against. Scouts use dismounted and mounted reconnaissance to determine the enemy's size, composition, and orientation, and the exact location of weapon systems. The platoon may also use reconnaissance by fire to determine the enemy's tactical intentions. The reconnaissance-by-fire technique should, however, be conducted with indirect-fire assets when possible to avoid revealing the scouts' position. The scout platoon will search for minefields, wire, antitank ditches, and other obstacles that could force a friendly unit into a fire sack or cause it to flank itself to the enemy. To determine if the enemy can be supported by any other forces, the scouts search for enemy flanks and scour all adjacent terrain. They identify good counterattack routes into the flanks or rear of the enemy. Once the platoon leader determines the extent of the situation, he forwards a follow-up spot report.

    Troop Action.The troop commander will most likely tell the scout platoon not in contact to continue its reconnaissance to a designated LOA to develop the situation across the entire troop front. By doing this, the troop can determine if there are any other enemy forces with which the troop must be concerned. The scout platoon not in contact will establish hasty observation posts along the LOA oriented on likely enemy locations or avenues of approach. The tank platoons will continue to monitor the troop command net and prepare to act based on the commander's intent/guidance and the enemy situation.

    Choose a Course of Action

    Platoon Action.Now that the platoon leader knows what he is up against, he considers two or three possible courses of action and selects the one that best meets the commander's intent/concept of the operation, is within his capabilities, and allows the troop to resume its reconnaissance mission as soon as possible. The possible courses of action open to him, based on the commander's intent/concept, might be hasty attack, bypass, hasty defense/screen, or support of a hasty attack by another platoon(s). Some courses of action will quickly be ruled out because they do not meet the commander's intent and guidance for the operation.

    • Hasty Attack. The platoon leader can conduct a hasty attack if he has enough combat power to defeat the enemy quickly. In most cases, the scout platoon does not have the capability to mass enough combat power to defeat an enemy in prepared positions. In addition, the scout platoon leader may not want to risk battle losses that would reduce his effectiveness and his ability to complete the mission.
    • Bypass. If the platoon does not have enough combat power to conduct a hasty attack, or if it wants to remain undetected and continue the reconnaissance mission, the scout platoon can bypass the enemy. The platoon leader must receive the troop commander's permission to bypass. If he has permission to bypass, the platoon leader must leave scouts in contact with the enemy force unless ordered to break contact by the troop commander. The platoon leader will know from the troop commander's guidance in the operations order if this is a viable course of action.
    • Hasty Defense/Screen. If the platoon cannot conduct a hasty attack and cannot bypass, it establishes a hasty defense or screen. The platoon will conduct a hasty defense if it can defend against an enemy force. If the enemy contact exceeds the platoon's capability to conduct a hasty defense, it may elect to establish a screen and maintain contact through observation. The platoon concentrates on maintaining contact with the enemy and fixing it in place with indirect or possibly direct fire until additional support comes from the troop.
    • Support a Hasty Attack by Another Platoon(s). The platoon in contact may become the support element for a hasty attack by a tank/AT platoon(s).

    Troop Action.The troop commander continues to maneuver the troop and assists the platoon leader as required. He maintains situational awareness.

    Recommend/Execute a Course of Action

    Platoon Action.If the course of action the platoon leader chooses meets the commander's guidance for actions on contact, the platoon leader executes the course of action. If the situation dictates that the platoon execute a hasty defense/screen, or support a hasty attack by another platoon, the platoon leader reports this information to the troop. The report is brief. He updates his spot report (Blue 1) with any additional information, tells the troop commander what he is doing about the situation, and recommends the course of action that he thinks best suits the situation. The platoon in contact has then completed its actions on contact.

    Troop Action.The commander must approve or disapprove the recommended course of action, based on its effect on the troop and squadron mission.

    If the scout platoon is required to establish a hasty defense/screen, the troop commander assumes responsibility for continuing to develop the situation. The commander can do this best in a position from which he can influence troop actions. Based on what the scouts have found and reported and what the commander can see, he must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each course of action, and choose the one that best meets the troop's mission requirements.

    • Hasty Attack. The troop can conduct a hasty attack, which throws the weight of one or both tank/AT platoons against the enemy and destroys him quickly, then continue its reconnaissance. The commander may coordinate the efforts of the scout platoon and tank/AT platoon(s) in the hasty attack or delegate the responsibility to the scout platoon in contact. The hasty attack at troop level should have two elements: the assault/attack-by-fire element and the support element.

    Steps to the execution of a hasty attack are as follows:

    • The scouts determine that the enemy force encountered cannot be bypassed based on the enemy disposition and composition. The enemy encountered meets the commander's intent for destruction.
    • The scout platoon leader recommends hasty attack to the troop commander and identifies a good attack-by-fire or assault position for the tank/AT platoons.
    • The troop commander approves the scout platoon leader's recommended course of action and issues orders to execute a hasty attack.
    • The troop commander decides to use either attack by fire or assault as his method of destruction. Heavy troops equipped with tanks can perform attack by fire or assault. Because of the defensive nature of the TOW, light troops tend to use attack by fire when conducting hasty attack.
    • The scout squad or section moves to link up with the tank/AT platoons and guides them to an assault/attack position. The assault element reports when set in assault positions, and if time is available, reconnoiters the attack-by-fire position or the attack axis.
    • The troop commander moves to the scouts who are positioned in overwatch of the enemy contact. He also positions the FIST in overwatch to assist in controlling indirect fires.
    • The troop commander designates the scouts in overwatch as the support element. He establishes direction of fire and methods of control for direct-fire weapon systems; for example, left and right limits for fires, and signals for the initiation of direct fires and the shifting of fires as the assault element begins its attack.
    • The troop commander directs the FIST to fire for effect on enemy positions when given the signal (AT MY COMMAND). The FIST reports when guns are ready.
    • The troop commander issues the fire command for the support force and indirect-fire systems and directs the attack-by-fire or the assault element to execute its movement. The troop commander lifts and shifts direct and indirect fires as necessary to cover the movement of the assault element and to seal off the enemy withdrawal (see Figure 3-3).
    • Bypass. The troop may bypass the enemy force and continue the reconnaissance to further develop the enemy situation throughout the depth of the zone while maintaining an element of surprise. The decision to bypass is based on the higher commander's intent for the operation. The troop should leave an element in contact with the enemy force; however, the more elements in contact with the bypassed enemy mean the less reconnaissance will be conducted.

    Figure 3-3. Troop positions for hasty attack.

    • Hasty Defense. If the troop cannot conduct a hasty attack or bypass the enemy, it may establish a hasty defense to fix the enemy while waiting for further orders. If this is the troop's course of action, the squadron commander has the responsibility to develop the situation further.
    The overriding considerations in selecting a course of action are the intent of the squadron commander and the troop's ability to complete the mission with minimum losses.

    Danger Areas


    Obstacles encountered during reconnaissance are treated as enemy contact, because all obstacles are assumed to be covered by enemy fire. Upon encountering an obstacle, scouts deploy to covered positions, report, and then begin to develop the situation. The troop commander may move his tank platoon(s)/AT platoon(s) forward to overwatch the obstacle while the scouts conduct dismounted and mounted reconnaissance to determine the following:

    • Is the obstacle defended by the enemy? If so, how many enemy soldiers are there and where are they?
    • What are the extent and composition of this obstacle? How deep, wide, steep, or long is it?
    • Can the obstacle be bypassed, or will breaching be necessary?

    Once the scouts have completed the reconnaissance of the obstacle and recommended a course of action (either bypass, hasty attack/breach, or hasty defense), the troop commander must choose the course of action that best meets the commander's intent and guidance for the mission. If the commander's decision is to bypass or breach the obstacle, the troop must mark the obstacle and any lane created through the obstacle (see Figure 3-4).

    Figure 3-4. The troop develops the situation at the obstacle.

    Open Areas

    Open areas are dangerous for cavalry troops because they permit the enemy to observe or engage units as they move through them.When reconnoitering a route, zone, or area that includes an open area, do not try to force the reconnaissance through it. Treat it like a danger area. Reconnoiter the flanks using good covered and concealed routes. The troop should try to clear the far side of the open area before attempting to reconnoiter the open area itself. Open areas within the troop's zone or area of operations may force the troop commander to abandon the use of platoon boundaries to facilitate the reconnaissance to the flanks and rear of the open area (see Figure 3-5).

    Built-up Areas

    In most areas of the world the troop can expect to conduct reconnaissance of built-up areas (BUA). BUAs range from small hamlets to large towns, even portions of cities. BUAs are very dangerous for mounted units and should be avoided when possible. If the situation permits, the troop should conduct a reconnaissance of BUAs from a distance, and then bypass them. However, it may be necessary to move through a town as part of the troop's reconnaissance mission.

    The troop's ability to conduct reconnaissance of a BUA is constrained by the lack of dismounted scouts. The troop is capable of finding the following in BUAs:

    • Enemy vehicles.
    • Enemy command and control facilities.
    • Obstacles such as rubble, blown bridges, and craters.
    • Logistics elements.
    • Bypasses within the BUA.

    Figure 3-5. The troop reconnoiters to the flanks and rear of an open area.

    Choose your next action:

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