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Opposing Forces


OPFOR units are trained and equipped to confront US units with realistic opponents that look like and fight like potential adversaries. Such realism enhances training exercises. Well-equipped OPFOR units are skilled in the tactics and techniques of a potential adversary. They not only add realism to training exercises, but generate player enthusiasm. Soldiers learn the potential adversary's tactics, doctrine, and weapon systems that they could successfully exploit in air-land battles. OPFOR units encourage--

  • Effective intelligence-gathering procedures.
  • Electronic warfare techniques.
  • Operations security measures.
  • Deception measures.
  • Unconventional warfare techniques.

Presently, the collective sustainment training in units further refines the tactical skills taught in service schools. However, such training usually derives from friendly-on-friendly force engagements. Given such training, US forces would have to develop innovative ways to fight an actual enemy during the initial stages of a war. However, under current operational concepts, a period of adaptation is no longer acceptable. All units should train for future battles by exercising as much as possible against realistic, uncooperative, and competitive OPFORs that use threat doctrine, tactics, weapon systems, and fortifications. Knowing how a potential adversary is likely to perform on the battlefield, US soldiers and units can take advantage of enemy characteristics and weaknesses from the very start.


Successful OPFOR employment relies on support from unit commanders and staffs. Except for the NTC, the Army has no authorized manpower allocations for OPFOR maneuver units. Therefore, corps and division training programs must use unit assets to depict OPFOR tactics and operational principles. The G3 manages the OPFOR program. The G3 staff section uses the available expertise within the G2 section to help manage the program. This staff relationship fosters intelligence support to the overall unit training goal of combat readiness. The G3 also monitors unit scenarios. He ensures that they are properly designed and controlled and that they allow the OPFOR to create a realistic environment.

Units in the division or corps should be trained, on a rotating basis, to perform as an OPFOR element for training exercises and ARTEP evaluations.


Full-scale employment of OPFORs demands extensive resources. Thus, OPFOR participation may be scaled down to reduce costs. The size of the OPFOR usually depends on the unit's ability to provide supporting personnel. For reporting purposes, one OPFOR soldier normally represents three enemy soldiers. One tank normally represents a tank platoon. The ratio between the OPFOR and the notional enemy it represents is flexible. The chief controller of the exercise must establish the ratio, based on available OPFOR training time, equipment, and personnel. However, the ratio must always be realistic. When using MILES with an OPFOR, refer to TC 25-6. Some additional considerations when using OPFOR units in a training exercise include--

  • Free play or controlled play scenarios.
  • The exercise training objectives.
  • The personnel, equipment, and facilities available.
  • The scheme of maneuver.
  • The fire support plan.
  • The type, strength, composition, and training status of the OPFOR unit.
  • The available maneuver space within the area of operations.
  • The weapon systems to be employed.


Modified US vehicles can suggest the appearances and silhouettes of threat combat equipment. Vehicle and equipment modification kits and soldier uniforms can be obtained from TASCs. Likewise, foreign material and equipment for training can and should bean important part of the total OPFOR program. Foreign equipment in displays and in typical strongpoints can enhance realism in individual, leader, and collective training. AR 350-2 outlines the training objectives and explains how to obtain and maintain foreign equipment.

The OPFOR emblem identifies OPFOR equipment and personnel. It is also used on OPFOR training literature and materials. When the emblem is superimposed on OPFOR-designed equipment, the star is black and the circle red. The background remains the original color of the equipment. When a colored version is for uniforms, flags, and staff papers, the star and circle will be gold and the background red. These emblems can be obtained from TASCs.


Ideally, each division should have a small, permanent cadre to assist in OPFOR training. This cadre should train the OPFOR maneuver unit to execute the OPFOR portion of exercises quickly and professionally. It should provide divisionwide classroom instruction pertaining to Soviet and North Korean military forces. See FM 30-102 and FM 34-71.

The US Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) Red Thrust element, located at Fort Hood, Texas, has prepared training packages to teach tank and motorized rifle companies and battalions throughout the Army how to portray authentic Soviet and North Korean tactics. Both Soviet and North Korean formations are relatively easy to learn. To save fuel, OPFOR units can practice them with 1/4-ton trucks instead of tracked vehicles. Considerations to keep in mind when using OPFORS are--

  • The general tendency of an OPFOR to revert to US tactics once it begins to maneuver against an actual US force.
  • The tendency of OPFOR commanders to use the best of both Soviet and US tactics. Doing so should be avoided because any-thing less than authentic Soviet and North Korean tactics degrades the training of both the player unit and the OPFOR element.


The exercise directive provides initial planning guidance such as--

  • The size of the OPFOR element required.
  • The player units that will participate.
  • The equipment available.
  • The constraints (physical, financial) or other limitations.
  • The tactical doctrine or techniques to be emphasized.
  • The procurement of special supply items.
  • The OPFOR training objectives and equipment.
  • The source of OPFOR equipment and personnel.

The OPFOR scenario is developed in the same manner as the player unit scenario to facilitate player intelligence training. The OPFOR scenario emphasizes the following:

  • Propaganda to enable all personnel to develop positive attitudes toward the exercise. Appropriate means may include posters and leaflets, agent activities, and loudspeaker broadcasts.
  • Simulated nuclear-chemical operations.
  • Tactical deception designed to strengthen procedures for developing counter-deception activities.
  • Partisan, guerrilla, and counterintelligence agency operations to train all player units in survivability operations.

The preexercise phase must provide sufficient time to allow for--

  • Training and converting a unit to OPFOR status, to include rehearsing the tactical plan.
  • Developing plans and orders, to include preparation of communication, air support, and fire support plans.
  • Developing plans for OPFOR intelligence activities.

Once the OPFOR has been designated by the directive, the OPFOR commander and staff begin planning and training--

  • To establish operational headquarters.
  • To reorganize units for OPFOR employment.
  • To designate OPFOR identities for personnel and to issue weapons, clothing, markings, and documents, as needed.
  • To construct necessary defensive positions according to threat tactics.
  • To prepare the OPFOR OPLAN based on the exercise scenario.
  • To plan and conduct appropriate rehearsals in coordination with controller personnel.
  • To schedule briefings for all OPFOR personnel on the nature of the exercise and their particular roles in the exercise.


The exercise control plan details provisions for controlling OPFOR play. The type of scenario dictates the measures used for OPFOR control. Threat doctrinal control measures and graphics control OPFOR elements during the exercise. Controllers and umpires are designed to OPFOR units--

  • To evaluate actions.
  • To ensure realism.
  • To assess loss and damage.
  • To control activities.

Detailed training for umpires and controllers in OPFOR organization, doctrine, and tactics is the key to realistic control of exercise play. The corps or division OPFOR program manager or other personnel trained in OPFOR tactics and organization can provide this training.

The OPFOR commander has tactical and administrative control of the OPFOR and its attached units during the exercise. The OPFOR should rehearse planned tactical operations with the umpires and controllers. This enables all concerned to become familiar with the terrain and control measures to be used and allows correction of faulty tactical procedures.

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