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There are several other tactical operations covering a wide range of special-purpose operations undertaken routinely during offensive and defensive operations. While these operations are not the main focus of the commander at the tactical level of war, smoke may support these operations as well. These operations include--

  • Military operations in urban terrain (MOUT).
  • Passage of lines.
  • River crossings.
  • Retrograde operations.
  • Relief-in-place operations.
  • Linkup operations.
  • Breakout from encirclement.
  • Fixed site support.
  • Rear area protection.
  • Breaching operations.
  • Decontamination site reconnaissance.

Smoke and obscurant use in other tactical operations requires the same careful planning and execution as with the offense and defense. Special considerations include--

  • Know the limitations of your delivery systems. Smoke does not behave the same in all conditions or environments (for example, the jungles of Central America versus the woodlands of Europe). Plan for differences in coverage.
  • Use smoke to mask terrain from aerial observation. Except for jungles, much of the terrain described in this chapter affords good aerial observation. By masking key terrain features, you reduce your vulnerability as targets of opportunity for high-performance aircraft.



Urban combat is characterized by--

  • Reduced mobility.
  • Fortified positions.
  • Restricted observation.
  • Reduced range of weapons.

In urban terrain, ranges are drastically reduced. The attacker can take advantage of the cover and concealment offered by built-up areas, but the defender receives the same advantage in his defensive positions. There are three major types of terrain in nearly every built-up area:

  • Obstructions, such as buildings and heavily wooded parks.
  • Flat, open terrain over water, such as rivers and lakes.
  • Flat, open terrain over concrete or asphalt, such as parking lots, multiple-lane roads and highways, and open lots.

Considerations for smoke use in MOUT include--

    Air Currents. Air currents are unpredictable. Obstructions tend to break up smoke streamers, which re-form into a more uniform cloud. Convection currents over open areas cause smoke to rise.

    Observation. There are many observation points at multiple levels which allow observation from either above or below smoke.

    Coverage. Downwind coverage is often less due to obstructions breaking up the smoke, unpredictability of air currents, and smoke following street patterns. The Berlin Brigade showed us that open areas in cities tend to cause smoke to rise and obscure key observation points. This is a particular problem over wide expanses of concrete.

    Diffusion. Smoke diffuses well at night but tends to rise to rooftop level about one hour after sunrise until one hour after sunset. Burning rubble degrades the screening efficiency of smoke.

    Synchronization. Smoke and obscurant use in MOUT requires careful planning and execution to prevent interference with movement, assault operations, or target acquisition; to retain the element of surprise; and to avoid silhouetting or drawing undue attention to friendly forces.

    Rehearsal. Rehearsal of displacement under smoke will help you avoid confusion and disorientation.

    Stand-off Distance. Urban terrain causes smoke streamers to breakup quickly, creating the uniform phase closer to the smoke source. You can place smoke sources closer to target areas.

    Vulnerability. Smoke units are extremely vulnerable in urban areas due to smoke generator signature. In addition, stationary smoke positions need to be closer to the target than over other terrain, bringing smoke generator elements within range of enemy small arms weapons. Stationary smoke systems require additional security support. Employ smoke generator vehicles in groups of three, with two vehicles making smoke and one vehicle overmatching. Ensure the entire squad or platoon makes smoke simultaneously to preclude drawing attention to a lone vehicle or element.


A passage of lines is a coordinated movement of one or more units through another unit. Units conduct passage of lines to continue an attack or counterattack, envelop an enemy force, pursue a fleeing enemy, or withdraw a security or main battle force. Synchronization is the overriding imperative. In passage of lines, the considerations for smoke use are--

  • Conceal movement of maneuver and support forces, allowing the commander to mass forces unobserved.
  • Conceal maneuver and obstacle breaching.
  • Make smoke at the contact point, along passage lanes, and along the flanks to conceal movement.
  • Use smoke forward of passage points. You must carefully control the smoke to prevent silhouetting your units.


Units conduct river crossings as part of a higher headquarters scheme of maneuver. The commander's objective is to project his combat power to the exit side of the river quickly to maintain the unit's momentum. The overriding imperative is synchronization. Effective command and control are critical for success. Apply all techniques to minimize the interference caused by smoke.

In river crossing operations the considerations for smoke use are--

  • Conceal the movement of the initial assault force.
  • Obscure and isolate the exit bank of the river for rapid occupation by maneuver forces.
  • Conceal emplacement of crossing means such as engineer bridges.
  • Obscure and isolate follow-on objectives to allow the commander to rapidly project combat power across the river.
  • Obscure a large length of river to conceal crossing sites, assault and support forces, crossing means, and deceive the enemy to actual location of the crossing sites.
  • You must carefully control the smoke to prevent silhouetting your units or producing a column of smoke that identifies crossing sites. Begin making smoke prior to conducting the initial assault to confuse the enemy as to the actual location and size of the force. Use projected-smoke means to deliver the initial screening smoke to isolate the exit bank objectives and give other smoke delivery means time to build effective smoke.


A retrograde operation is a movement to the rear or away from the enemy. Retrograde operations gain time, preserve forces, avoid combat under undesirable conditions, or draw the enemy into an unfavorable position. Synchronization is the overriding imperative. In retrograde operations the considerations for smoke use are--

  • Use screening smoke to conceal maneuver and obstacle emplacement.
  • Use smoke along withdrawal routes and along the flanks to conceal movement. Begin making smoke prior to departing your existing position to confuse the enemy as to the actual location and size of the force. Use projected means to deliver smoke between the delaying unit and the enemy force.
  • Use smoke to conceal obstacle breaching or crossing. The priority of effort is to mobility operations; therefore, carefully control the smoke to prevent slowing or silhouetting your units.
  • Conceal designated withdrawal routes, traffic control points, and on-order assembly areas.
  • Create opportunities to disengage the force.


In a relief in place, a unit in contact is replaced by another that assumes the missions of the outgoing unit. Synchronization is the overriding imperative. In relief in place operations the considerations for smoke use are--

  • Deny the enemy reconnaissance force information about the disposition, composition, or intent of friendly forces.
  • Conceal the movement of relieving forces. This is critical as dispersion of forces in a relief is difficult. The enemy may exploit the massing as a time to attack with NBC weapons.
  • In planning the relief, attempt to duplicate patterns of employment for a brief period.
  • Use smoke in the reserve force area and along the flanks to conceal movement.
  • Use smoke forward of the FLOT to allow the relieved force to disengage. You must carefully control the smoke to prevent silhouetting your units.


Two friendly forces are joined in linkup operations. Units conduct linkup operations to complete an encirclement of an enemy force, assist in breakout of an encircled friendly force, or to join an attacking force with a force inserted into the enemy rear. Synchronization is the overriding imperative. In linkup operations the considerations for smoke use are--

  • Conceal movement of the linkup force.
  • Mark bypass routes.
  • Signal forces to consolidate on a particular objective or rally point.
  • If the enemy has known or suspected nuclear or directed-energy weapon capability, concealing logistics activities in oil smokes may attenuate some of the energy.


A breakout from encircled forces differs from other attacks only in that units must maintain a simultaneous defense of other areas of the perimeter. In breakout from encirclement operations the considerations for smoke use are--

  • Obscure the rupture objective.
  • Screen the flanks of the rupture force as they bypass, breach, or cross obstacles or small pockets of resistance.
  • Smoke danger areas and the flanks of the force to limit enemy observation and engagement.


When providing smoke support to a fixed site, a smoke platoon may operate independently or as part of a company operation. The size of the installation will influence the size of the supporting smoke force.

Primary and alternate smoke positions are selected around the installation. The primary smoke position or line is base on the prevailing wind direction. The leadership of the smoke platoon conducts a careful reconnaissance of each smoke position and line. If possible, smoke is actually generated to test the plan.

Smoke screens in support of fixed facilities are typically long duration operations. This requires extensive prestocking of supplies at both the primary and alternate smoke lines.

Communications is maintained with the supported facility. The smoke platoon leader occupies a smoke control point that will allow observation of the facility.


The smoke platoon may be directed to conduct combat operations against rear area threats. A mechanized smoke platoon has more fire power and survivability that most combat support and service support units operating in the rear. Even a motorized smoke platoon has significant fire power and mobility. A smoke platoon can defeat a level I and II level rear area threat. A smoke platoon cannot defeat a level III threat, but could delay a level III threat until a combat force arrives.

While providing rear area protection is not a primary mission for a smoke platoon, the platoon must be prepared to assume this type of mission. The platoon leadership must be familiar with fire control and distribution. Vehicle identification skills are extremely important to prevent fratricide.


Suppress, obscure, secure, and reduce (SOSR) are the breaching fundamentals that must be applied to ensure success against a defending enemy. These fundamentals are applied to the in-stride, deliberate, assault and covert breaches. Use smoke in obscuration to:

  • Hamper enemy observation and target acquisition.
  • Conceal friendly activities and movement.

Obscuration smoke deployed on or near the enemy position minimizes its vision. Screening smoke employed in the breaching area or between the breaching area and the enemy conceals movement and obstacle-reduction activities. Obscuration must be employed to protect obstacle reduction, passage of assault forces, and deployment of forces in assault formations. Obscuration must be carefully planned to provide maximum degradation of enemy observation and fires, but it must not significantly degrade friendly fires and control.

The optimal locations for smoke in support of breaching operations is between the obstacle being breached and the enemy force covering the obstacle or directly on the enemy force (obscuring smoke). Smoke placed directly on the obstacle or on the breach force hinders the speed and efficiency of the operation. Smoke units, depending on the steering winds can be used to isolate the breaching operation from the enemy. Indirect fire systems place smoke on enemy positions. This type of operation requires coordination to synchronize all smoke systems. A smoke control point is required to provide positive control of smoke operations in the breaching area.

See FM 90-13-1, Breaching Operations for more detail.


A smoke platoon could be assigned the task of reconnoitering designated decon sites to determine their suitability. FM 3-5, NBC Decontamination, provides general guidance on the selection of decon sites. If possible, the platoon should provide a detailed sketch map of the site. If possible, the nearest location for water should be determined.

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