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Chapter 8

Combat Support

The effective integration of combat support (CS) will spell the difference between success and failure on the battlefield. The commander must know the capabilities and limitations of CS assets, and how to employ them properly.


Section I. The Fire Support Team
Section II. Mortar Support
Section III. Artillery Support
Section IV. Engineer Support
Section V. Ground Surveillance Radar Support
Section VI. Air Defense
Section VII. Army Aviation Support
Section VIII. Close Air Support

Section I. The Fire Support Team


The FIST is organized, equipped, and trained to provide-

  • A fire support advisor/coordinator--the FSO.
  • An observation/laser designation capability.
  • A communications link to all available fire support.

The FIST has secure FM communications on four radios, and digital communications on two nets through the use of digital message devices (AN/PSG-5 and AN/PSG-2). These capabilities enable the FIST to maintain communications on the following nets (see Figure 8-1):

  • Troop command net.
  • Troop fire support net.
  • Supporting artillery fire net (digital).
  • Squadron fire support net.

Figure 8-1. Fire support team communication nets.

The FIST is also equipped with a target laser locator designator set to designate targets for terminally guided munitions and to determine target locations accurately at ranges up to 10 kilometers (limited by line of sight). The target designator set is equipped with a thermal sight to use under limited visibility conditions.

The digital message devices allow the FIST to transmit and receive high-speed digital messages from the howitzer battery computer system, the direct support artillery battalion TACFIRE, OH-58D aircraft, and the squadron FSO's variable format message entry devices, among other digital message devices. Digital message devices can quickly transmit standard fire requests, fire adjustments, and plain text messages. The FIST can store nine fire requests on the digital message devices for rapid transmission in support of troop operations.

The FIST's abilities may be constrained by its communications with the supporting field artillery (FA). To coordinate any fire support for the troop, the FIST must be positioned where it can maintain at least a voice communications link to the supporting artillery. The FIST may not be able to see the battlefield and use the laser designator capability in all situations. When the troop is operating in a large sector, the FIST will be able to see only a small portion of the area. The scouts, therefore, must be proficient in requesting indirect-fire support. The scouts' calls for fire will be relayed through the FIST to the appropriate fire support unit.


Planning and Coordination. Fire support planning and coordination begin on receipt of a mission, and continue throughout its planning and execution. The troop FSO should always accompany the commander to mission briefings at squadron, so that he is fully aware of the squadron scheme of maneuver and the availability of fire support assets. He and the squadron FSO can also begin coordinating any specific requirements for fire support, such as preparations, groups, and series.

The troop commander's guidance should include the following to allow the troop FSO to plan the operation:

  • What is the purpose of FA and mortar fires?
  • How will FA fires support the troop's maneuver?
  • What are the attack criteria? Will the commander use FA for immediate suppression, screening, or destruction?
  • Are the attack and engagement criteria for mortars different from FA?
  • On what and where does the commander want to mass FA and mortar fires?

Plan indirect fires on known or suspected enemy positions; at choke points; on the troop's objective or flanks; or on any other areas that would support the scheme of maneuver. These targets can be fired at a specific time, on call, or when a particular event takes place.

The FSO incorporates his approved fire plan into a target list and forwards it to the squadron FSO. The squadron FSO compiles the lists from all the troop FSOs, eliminates any duplicate targets, forwards the list to the supporting artillery, and informs the troop FSOs of any changes to their target lists.

Once he has completed his plan, the FSO will brief the commander on planned targets, scheduled fires, and fire support coordination measures that will be in effect. The commander will make the final decision on the fire support plan. Ensure it complements the scheme of maneuver and maximizes the available firepower for the troop. Once approved, the fire plan is continuously modified and updated to meet changing situations.

Silence is Consent. Once the FSO has briefed the commander and the commander approves the troop fire support plan, calls for fire are executed during the conduct of the operation by the silence is consent method. This method allows subordinate leaders within the troop to request indirect fires in support of their maneuver within the framework of the commander's guidance and the troop fire support plan. All initial requests for fires will go over the troop command net and the commander will simply acknowledge the request with "ROGER-OUT." The troop FSO will process the call for fire through the appropriate indirect-fire system based on the commander's guidance. All adjustments and corrections for the fires will be communicated on the troop fire direction net directly between the observer and the troop FSO. If the request for fire that is submitted by the subordinate leader is not within the commander's fire support guidance, the troop commander will deny fires or modify his guidance based on the situation.

Execution of the Fire Support Plan.During the operation, the FSO is responsible for-

  • Keeping the commander advised of all fire support matters.
  • Resolving any fire support conflicts that may arise during the planning and execution of the operation.
  • Attacking targets with the most suitable fire support means available to support the scheme of maneuver.

Also, the commander may make the FSO responsible for positioning the troop mortars to best support the operation.

The FSO operates on the four radio nets mentioned previously. The scouts in the troop normally serve as the observers calling for indirect-fire support. The FIST monitors all spot reports on the troop command net and, as necessary, prepares calls for fire. The FSO will allocate fires from mortars and artillery, based on the commander's guidance. The commander may give the FSO additional guidance concerning a fire mission as it is requested (see Silence is Consentparagraph). Further information about the fire mission and all other calls for fire are passed on the troop fire support net. Keep the troop command net free for other traffic.

Both the FIST and the mortars monitor the troop fire support net. When scouts forward adjustments or corrections for indirect-fires, they use the troop fire support net. If the FSO forwards the mission to supporting artillery, he sends the message "LIGHTNING UP" on the troop fire support net. This tells the scouts calling for fire and the mortars that the mission is being fired by supporting artillery and that all adjustments and the "end of mission" report must be relayed through the FSO. If the mortars will fire the mission, the FSO sends the message "THUNDER DOWN" on the troop fire support net. This tells the mortar squad to fire the mission, and tells the scouts to send all adjustments and the "end of mission" report to the mortar squad (see Figures 8-2 and 8-3).

Figure 8-2. Fire request channels (artillery).

Figure 8-3. Fire request channels (mortar).

Section II. Mortar Support


The mortar section provides a heavy volume of accurate, sustained indirect fires in response to the needs of the troop. They are ideal weapons for attacking targets on reverse slopes, in narrow ravines, built-up areas and in other areas that are difficult to strike with low-angle fires. Mortars are most effective for-

  • Suppression. Suppression forces the enemy to button up or move to less advantageous positions. High explosive (HE) ammunition with a variable-time fuze or quick fuze does this best.
  • Screening. Obscuration smoke is placed directly on or just in front of enemy positions to obscure vision. Screening smoke is placed between troop positions and the enemy to conceal the troop's movements. Smoke will degrade the effectiveness of laser range finders, so the tank platoons must adjust their gunnery techniques when engaging the enemy.
  • Illumination. The use of illumination permits daytime engagements during some limited visibility conditions by improving the effectiveness of image intensification devices. Illumination rounds are used to mark targets for close air support and attack helicopters, and to allow observers to adjust artillery onto a target. Illumination rounds are usually adjusted so they illuminate above or behind the enemy location to silhouette him.

The height of the illumination should be adjusted to burn out about 200 meters above the ground. This gives maximum illumination time, about 90 seconds for one round, and will not degrade the effectiveness of image intensification devices. Because illumination rounds light the battlefield for both sides, it should be used when night-vision devices are not available in sufficient quantities or when ambient light levels are very low.


The troop mortar section is employed as a separate element during operations. It moves independently of the platoons, and provides its own security. The troop commander normally designates positions for the section sergeant and provides guidance for support forward of the scouts. The commander may find that having the FIST position the mortars is easiest and most effective. This technique allows the mortar section sergeant the ability to concentrate on providing fires and computing fire data and the commander to focus on maneuvering the troop, not one section.

The mortars can operate on two nets. If the FIST is responsible for moving the section, both nets may be on the troop fire support net. The FSO will keep them updated on the situation. However, since many spot reports over the troop net become fire missions, the mortars can eavesdrop and provide more responsive fires if they stay abreast of the situation themselves. If the commander gives the mortar section sergeant authority to select positions and to move the section, he must operate on the troop command net to stay abreast of the situation and on the troop fire support net.

Offense.During offensive operations the movement of the mortars will be based on the progress of the scout platoons. While the section is on the move, it must be prepared to provide immediate fires using direct lay, direct alignment, or hip shoot. Plan the moves of the section so it is in position to support the troop at critical times, such as during river crossings and counterattacks, and when clearing defiles.

Defense.Considerations for using mortars in the defense are similar to those for using them in the offense. Plan on prestocking ammunition at subsequent positions to reduce resupply problems during a defensive operation.

Reconnaissance and Security.During reconnaissance and security missions, the troop will often be operating over a large frontage that cannot be completely covered by the section. The commander must decide whether to position the mortars to cover the most dangerous area, or to move them to a position where they can cover a part of different areas and adjust as necessary. Knowing what other artillery assets are available will help in making that decision.

Commander's Guidance.A list of considerations the commander can use to help plan mortar section employment follows:

  • Ammunition constraints by type and quantity.
  • Priority of fire to a designated platoon.
  • Anticipated changes in mortar employment.
  • Communications constraints.
  • General designation of positions.
  • Movement guidance.
  • Coordination requirements.
  • Resupply.

Section III. Artillery Support


The howitzer battery organic to the regimental cavalry squadron consists of eight 155-mm self-propelled howitzers. The squadron will often be supported by an artillery battalion. The artillery battalion usually has three batteries of 155-mm self-propelled howitzers, and provides direct support to the squadron.


Field artillery provides the troop its main fire support. It gives accurate fires with a wide variety of munitions. Field artillery adds a powerful dimension to troop direct-fire and maneuver capabilities.

  • Artillery can--
  • Provide fire support under all weather conditions and terrain types.
  • Shift and mass fires rapidly without the requirement to displace.
  • Support the battle in depth with long-range fires.
  • Provide a variety of conventional shell/fuze combinations.
  • Provide continuous fire support by careful displacement.
  • Be as mobile as the supported unit.
  • Artillery has--
  • Limited capability against moving targets.
  • Limited self-defense capability against air and ground attack.
  • Limited capability to destroy point targets without considerable ammunition expenditure. (Copperhead is the exception. It can be used to engage point targets.)
  • Vulnerability to detection by enemy target acquisition systems because of firing signatures.

Field artillery has a wide variety of munitions tailored for the engagement of different types of targets. The ammunition types include-


High explosive Personnel, field

HC smoke Obscuration and

White phosphorus Obscuration


Cannon-launched Armored vehicles or
guided projectiles high-payoff targets
(Copperhead) requiring precision
target engagement

In addition, the troop must become acquainted with the characteristics of improved conventional munitions (ICM) and scatterable mines. ICMs include antipersonnel (APERS) and dual-purpose ICM. The commander must consider the danger to friendly troops in areas in which APERS is fired. Also, the high ICM dud rate makes maneuver hazardous in the area of an ICM field. Scatterable mines are area denial munitions for use against personnel and remote antiarmor mines for use against armored vehicles.


Artillery units normally provide direct support to the squadron, and are positioned by the artillery commander in close coordination with the squadron S3 and FSO. The troop FSO is the troop's link to the supporting artillery (see Section I, The Fire Support Team, and Chapters 1 and 2).

Section IV. Engineer Support


A combat engineer company is organic to the heavy and light armored cavalry regiment. Additional engineer assets are often provided from divisional and corps engineer units to support the regiment. Up to a platoon of engineers is frequently attached to or placed in direct support of a cavalry troop for combat operations. A combat engineer platoon from the heavy regimental engineer company is organized for combat as shown in Figure 8-4.


A combat engineer platoon is uniquely equipped and trained to conduct mobility, countermobility, and survivability operations in support of troop operations. The platoon headquarters has two M9 armored combat earthmovers, which are highly mobile, armored, and amphibious (see Figure 8-5).

Figure 8-4. Regimental engineer company (heavy) organization.

Figure 8-5. Armored combat earthmover, M9.

In mobility operations, the engineer platoon can provide-

  • Obstacle reduction. The engineers can reduce or negate the effects of obstacles to improve the troop's ability to maneuver.
  • Route construction. The engineers can construct, improve, and maintain roads, bridges, and fords.

In a countermobility role, the engineers can assist with obstacle construction. The engineers can reinforce terrain by constructing obstacles to delay, canalize, disrupt, and destroy the enemy force to support the scheme of maneuver.

In survivability operations, the engineers can improve positions by constructing berms, dug-in positions, and overhead protection to reduce the effectiveness of enemy weapons.

A cavalry troop is frequently supported by additional engineer assets, such as an armored vehicle launched bridge (AVLB) and combat engineer vehicles (CEV) from the engineer company. The AVLB section of headquarters and headquarters troop of the armored cavalry squadron consists of three AVLBs that could be available during combat operations.

An AVLB is a tank chassis modified to transport, launch, and retrieve a 60-foot class-60 bridge. The bridge is capable of carrying military load class-60 track vehicles across a 17-meter gap and military load class-70 track loads across a 15-meter gap (see Figure 8-6).

Figure 8-6. Armored vehicle launched bridge.

The CEV is an M60A1 tank mounted with a hydraulically operated dozer blade, a 165-mm turret-mounted demolition gun, a retractable boom, and a winch (see Figure 8-7).

Figure 8-7. Combat engineer vehicle.
The small emplacement excavator (SEE) is a small highly mobile truck with a front-end loader and a backhoe (see Figure 8-8).

Figure 8-8. Small emplacement excavator.


The engineer platoon from the light regimental engineer company is equipped with five HMMWVs. The platoon can accomplish most of the same tasks that a heavy platoon can, but the time to complete most jobs is greater. The platoon can provide the troop with the following:

  • In mobility operations.
  • Obstacle reduction. Engineers can reduce or negate the effects of obstacles to improve the troop's maneuver ability. To improve the platoon's ability, they may be reinforced with an M9 ACE, SEE, MICLIC, and Bangalor torpedo. The engineer company from the light regiment does not provide the regiment (troop) with any bridging capability.
  • Route reconnaissance. Engineers can conduct route reconnaissance.
  • In a countermobility role, the engineers are usually left under squadron control to complete priorities of work in accordance with the squadron obstacle plan. The engineers can reinforce terrain by constructing obstacles to delay, canalize, disrupt, and destroy the enemy force to support the scheme of maneuver.
  • In survivability operations, the engineers can improve positions by constructing berms, dug-in positions, and overhead protection to reduce the effectiveness of enemy weapons (see Figure 8-9).

Figure 8-9. Regimental engineer company (light) organization.

The troop has several options in the task organization and employment of engineer assets to support its operation. Normally, the troop will keep the entire platoon under troop control and assign missions just as with a maneuver platoon. The commander can also task organize the engineer platoon, and assign squads to scout platoons to support the operation. Whatever method is chosen, the engineer platoon leader needs to be involved in the troop planning process.

Section V. Ground Surveillance Radar Support


A GSR team is organized for combat as shown in Figure 8-10. The team(s) is normally attached or OPCON to a troop during combat operations. GSR is found only in heavy regiments and divisions.

Figure 8-10. Ground surveillance radar team.


GSRs provide mobile, all-weather battlefield surveillance. GSRs employed in pairs can provide observation from a given vantage point 24 hours a day, detecting targets and providing accurate range and azimuth readings.

The AN/PPS-5 has a line-of-sight range of 10,000 meters against vehicles and 6,000 meters against personnel. A GSR can detect targets through light camouflage, smoke, haze, light snow and rain, darkness, and light foliage. Heavy rain and snow seriously restrict its radar detection capability.

The GSR is generally ineffective against air targets unless the aircraft is flying close to the ground. The GSR is designed to detect targets moving in the presence of a background. It is vulnerable to enemy direction finding and jamming.


The troop will normally employ supporting GSR teams to augment the surveillance capabilities of its scout platoons. The commander should assign each GSR team a specific sector of surveillance and a frequency of coverage, or give the scout platoon leader guidance for employing the GSR team. The enemy can detect radar signals, so the GSR cannot conduct continuous surveillance. The tasks assigned GSR surveillance teams include-

  • Searching avenues of approach or possible enemy positions on a time-schedule basis or randomly to determine location, size, composition, and nature of enemy activity.
  • Monitoring point targets such as bridges, defiles, and road junctions and reporting quantity, type, and direction of enemy movement through the target.
  • Extending the observation capabilities of scouts by enabling them to survey distant points and areas of special interest.
  • Vectoring patrols to keep them oriented during times of limited visibility.

Position the GSRs in an area that is free of ground clutter and in one that affords them long-range observation and a wide field of view. Normally, they should be assigned a general area by the troop commander or scout platoon leader and the GSR team leader will select the specific location. The team should be prepared for rapid displacement, and have several alternate positions selected and reconnoitered to avoid enemy suppressive fires.

Offensive Operations.Employ GSRs in the offense to augment reconnaissance and security efforts. Fast-moving operations may preclude the continuous, effective use of GSRs.

In a movement to contact or a zone reconnaissance, employ GSRs on high-speed avenues of approach to the front or flanks of the troop to provide information on enemy movement. A GSR team can provide long-range observation while the scouts conduct a detailed reconnaissance of the local area. Employ GSR teams on the flanks of the troop's movement in pairs so they can bound forward. In this manner, the GSR can provide continuous early warning and keep pace with the operation.

Defensive Operations.In defensive operations, employ GSR teams to augment scouts. Position them to provide long-range observation on expected avenues of approach or to maintain surveillance of flanks.

Position the GSR teams behind the screen line if the terrain affords them long-range observation. Use GSR to assist scouts in maintaining contact with the enemy as the scouts deploy to subsequent screen lines. This also reduces their vulnerability to enemy fires.

Section VI. Air Defense


An air defense artillery (ADA) battery is organic to the regiment. For combat operations, these assets are normally attached or direct support to the squadron. The squadron commander may provide a slice of ADA to the troop.

Air defense assets are scarce, so the troop cannot plan on dedicated air defense protection. It is the troop's responsibility to protect itself from enemy air attack. The commander must take measures to avoid enemy air attack, to limit the damage if attacked and, if necessary, to fight back.


Include air defense planning in all tactical operations. Air defense includes passive and active air defense and the employment of ADA assets.

Passive Air Defense

Passive air defense measures are the troop's first line of defense against enemy air attack. They include all measures, other than active defense, taken to minimize the effects of hostile air action. There are two types of passive air defense-attack avoidance and damage limiting measures.

Attack Avoidance.If the enemy pilot cannot find the troop, he cannot attack it. Use concealment, camouflage, obscuration, and deception to hide from the enemy.

Select positions that provide good concealment. When adequate concealment is not available, camouflage the vehicles to blend with their surroundings. Cover all track marks leading into the troop's position. Cover all shiny objects that could reflect light and attract attention. Take all actions necessary to reduce the enemy's ability to find the troop.

Damage Limiting Measures.Damage limiting measures are taken to reduce the effects of enemy air attack. Disperse vehicles while occupying static positions such as assembly areas or when preparing to cross a water obstacle or a breached obstacle. Dispersion reduces the effects of munitions. While on the move, air guards must be alert for enemy air attacks. When an enemy air attack is identified, quickly disperse, go to a concealed position, if possible, and then stop moving. A stationary vehicle is more difficult to see than a moving vehicle, and dispersion will reduce the effect of the air attack.

Use natural or man-made cover to reduce the effects of enemy air attack. Use folds in the earth, depressions, buildings, and sandbagged positions as damage limiting cover. These methods to reduce the effects of air attack must be used scrupulously by troop trains and command posts to reduce their vulnerability on the battlefield.

Active Air Defense

Although passive measures are the first line of defense against air attack, the troop must be prepared to fight back if necessary. The troop gains two things by fighting back. It may kill or drive off the attacker, and the morale and spirit of the troops improve by fighting back.

The decision to fight an air threat is based on the situation and the capabilities of the troop's weapon systems. Generally the troop may defend itself against direct attack, but unless attacked, it does not engage aircraft unless directed to do so by the squadron commander.

Stinger/Avenger Employment

Stingers/Avengers are used most effectively in point defense. However, mobility during tactical operations requires that Stinger crews move with the troop during maneuvering to provide the best possible air defense.

The troop commander must determine the air defense priorities for each phase of the operation and brief the Stinger/Avenger section chief accordingly. In order for the section chief to design an effective troop air defense plan for the commander, the commander must furnish the section chief the mission, objective, routes of march, intended scheme of maneuver, battle formations, and intended response to hostile air activity.

Unit air defense falls under two major categories: air defense of a fixed asset (assembly area or defensive position), and air defense of a mobile asset (convoy or maneuvering troop).

Fixed Asset.The air defense section leader places his crews from 2 to 4 kilometers apart near the troop's position, which provides overlapping and mutually supporting fires for troop defense. He provides command and control to his section, and air defense early warning to the troop unit and his deployed crews. The commander must provide logistical support for the section, indirect protective fires for their defense, and security within the troop defensive perimeter during hours of darkness.

Mobile Asset.While the unit moves, either in a tactical road march or during movement to contact, the air defense crews must move with each element to provide uninterrupted air defense protection.

Convoy operations require the air defense section leader to weight his crews near the front and rear of the troop's column(s), and to spread the remainder of his crews evenly throughout the column(s). While traveling, he provides command and control to his crews and air defense early warning to the troop and his crews.

Section VII. Army Aviation Support


Army aviation units are seldom OPCON to the troop; however, the troop frequently conducts joint operations with air cavalry or attack helicopter units within the troop area of operations. Air and ground units work together to make an effective team in conducting cavalry operations.


Air operations are controlled and coordinated by one man, the aviation troop commander. He coordinates directly with the ground troop commander, on the command net, when air operations extend into the troop's area of operations. When time is available, coordinate face-to-face to prepare for an operation. Let him know-

  • Situation.
  • Enemy. Ground and ADA units by type and location.
  • Friendly. Locations and FLOT to include supporting artillery.
  • Mission.
  • Execution.
  • Scheme of maneuver.
  • Fire support.

The aviation troop commander tells the ground troop commander-

  • His capabilities.
  • Number and type of aircraft.
  • Armament.
  • Time available.
  • Execution. Scheme of maneuver to include approach direction into area.
  • Command and signal.
  • Aviation troop commander, frequency, and call sign.
  • Succession of command and designated platoon leader in the troop commander's absence.

The aviation troop commander reports all spot reports and fire requests through the troop command post or FIST while operating in the ground troop's area of operations.

Reconnaissance.The capabilities of air and ground scouts complement each other. Air scouts can quickly reconnoiter a large area while ground scouts are conducting a detailed terrain reconnaissance. Employ the air scouts forward to provide information about areas where the ground scouts need to concentrate their efforts, such as at possible fording sites or route restrictions. The ground scouts can focus their efforts where the air scouts have directed them, instead of conducting a complete and time-consuming reconnaissance. The air scouts can also provide early warning of enemy movement to the front or flanks of the troop.

Security.During screen missions, employ the air assets to the front or flanks of the troop to observe areas between OPs and those areas that are difficult to observe from the ground. The air scouts can place effective indirect fires on the enemy and in maintaining contact with the enemy when the ground scouts move to subsequent screen lines. In offensive and defensive operations, Army aviation will normally work for the squadron to complement the squadron scheme of maneuver.

Section VIII. Close Air Support

CAS sorties are usually allocated to the regiment by the corps commander to meet preplanned requests submitted by the regimental fire support element. CAS for the troop is obtained by submitting an immediate CAS request.

CAS is requested by submitting an immediate request to the squadron air liaison officer. When CAS is on station, the tactical air control party may talk directly to the troop commander to determine enemy strengths, descriptions, and locations, as well as friendly unit locations. A forward air controller (FAC) normally directs the air strike. In the absence of a FAC, the troop FSO is trained to direct air strikes.

The ground troop may be required to mark the target for CAS aircraft. Use the mortar section for this. Fire white phosphorus or illumination rounds set for a ground burst. The FIST can designate targets for aircraft equipped with laser-spot trackers, such as Pave Penny or laser-guided bombs.

CAS capabilities are listed below.

  • High speed and long range.
  • Versatile weapon and ammunition mix.
  • Accurate delivery.
  • Excellent air-ground communications in A-10 and A-16 aircraft.
  • Can locate and strike moving targets.

CAS limitations include-

  • Limited resources.
  • Delivery restrictions caused by limited visibility and weather or the proximity of friendly forces.
  • Flight restrictions imposed by enemy air defense.
  • Delayed response and short time on station.

Choose your next action:

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