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Combat Operations

As a part of the divisional air defense battalion, Stinger is a vital member of the combined arms team.

This chapter focuses on the Stinger section and teams in support of the battalion task force conducting combat operations. The close relationship between Stinger and the supported maneuver unit is magnified by the very real enemy air threat and the requirement for continuous, ready, and effective air defense.

This chapter is not intended to fully inform the reader on the offensive and defensive techniques used by the battalion task force. The leaders of Stinger platoons and sections, however, must thoroughly understand the operations of the battalion task force and the company team to effectively support them.


Stinger is always a defensive weapon, that is, it reacts to the presence of an air threat. Whether defending maneuver units engaged in the offense or in the defense, the key to successful Stinger operations is to establish and maintain positions that will enable Stinger teams to provide protective cover for the supported force. This means that Stinger moves with the force and shifts its positions as necessary to support the force.

The differences then, between Stinger operations in the offense and in the defense lie primarily in the manner the supported force moves in each situation. The offense is fluid. It is characterized by sudden bursts of movement followed by short halts as contact is made and the battle develops. The tempo of the defense is slower but still involves movement as the supported force advances in preparation for the attack.

In a fluid situation, teams move and position themselves relative to the supported unit to maintain covering fires. On occasion, the section chief will be unable to position his teams. Therefore, the teams position themselves relative to the element of the force they are assigned to support. The teams will keep the section chief informed of their locations. If the tempo of the action is slower, the section chief retains positioning control of his teams.


How Stinger Supports Combat Operations

Stinger Support in the Offense

Stinger Support in the Defense

Dismounted Operations


When maneuver units begin an offensive operation, they must give up their covered and concealed positions, attracting the attention of the enemy. Therefore, moving units are extremely vulnerable to air attack. For this reason, these maneuver units are normally accorded a higher priority for air defense than they would be in a defensive posture.


The battalion task force will participate in many different types of offensive operations. Each of these combat activities require changes in the manner in which Stinger is deployed and employed. Operations commonly conducted include:

  • Movement to contact.
  • Attacks -hasty and deliberate.
  • Exploitation and pursuit.
  • Movement to Contact. Movement to contact is a tactical maneuver to gain or regain contact with the enemy. Units moving to contact move in a traveling configuration, traveling overwatch or bounding overwatch. The method used depends on the probability of contact with the enemy. Traveling is used in the initial phase of the operation when no contact with the enemy is expected. The unit shifts to traveling overwatch as the probability of contact increases and to bounding overwatch when contact is imminent.

    Defense of the unit in the traveling technique is similar to the defense of a convoy. Stinger teams are integrated into the column, and firepower is concentrated at the head and tail of the column.

    Stinger teams move out of the column path and dismount to engage attacking aircraft.

    In the traveling overwatch, the unit slows down and moves in long bounds with an overwatch element providing covering fires over the bounding element. Stinger teams should be used with both the bounding and the overmatching elements. The teams with the overmatching element are positioned to provide coverage over the bounding element while it moves forward. The teams with the bounding element stop and dismount to engage attacking aircraft but their purpose is to establish forward positions to cover the trail element as it moves up.

    The bounding overwatch is characterized by short spurts of movement, making maximum use of cover and concealment. The lead unit moves under the protective fire of a trail overmatching unit. In this situation, the length of the bound is such that Stinger can cover the bounding element from the overwatch position. When the lead unit completes its bound, it provides cover as the trail unit with accompanying Stinger moves up.

    If only one Stinger team is available, the team will normally remain with the overwatch element.

    If two Stinger teams are available, one team will remain with the overwatch elements. The other Stinger team should accompany the bounding element. When the bounding element becomes the overmatching element, its Stinger team will be ready to fire.

    Attacks -- Hasty and Deliberate. When the task force does gain or regain contact with the enemy, one of several actions may be taken. One company team may fix the enemy force with fire while the remainder of the task force bypasses it. The task force may conduct a hasty attack using fire and maneuver to neutralize or destroy the enemy and continue the attack. If strongly defended positions are encountered, the task force may stop, regroup, and mass for a deliberate attack to penetrate and break through into the enemy's rear area. When contact is gained, fire and maneuver may be used. Movement is similar to bounding overwatch, coupled with controlled and directed fires against the enemy position.

    The basic guidelines for Stinger teams supporting the bounding overwatch also apply during the attack.

    Exploitation and Pursuit. An exploitation is undertaken to follow up success in the hasty or deliberate attack. This consists of a series of movements to contact and hasty attacks characterized by speed and violence. Once the enemy is in full retreat, the battalion task force executes a pursuit to overtake and destroy the retreating forces.

    The same basic guidelines for Stinger teams supporting the bounding overwatch also apply during the exploitation and pursuit.


    Normally at battalion level, Stinger support is planned and controlled by the section chief. Support is based on the battalion commander's priorities. The Stinger leader works closely with the battalion S3. Two factors, mobility and vulnerability, are critical considerations when planning support of an offensive operation. The team's organic vehicle is the 1/4-ton truck. It may be unable to keep up with armor or mechanized infantry forces in some instances. When planning support of an operation, the section chief must recognize that his mobility problem may increase as ordnance litters the battlefield.

    The Stinger teams will be more vulnerable to enemy direct and indirect fire than the armored or mechanized units they are supporting. This is true because Stinger must be fired from an exposed position. Also, the vehicle is not armored. These factors must be taken into account when planning an operation.

    Flexibility and coordination are the keys to a successful plan. Once contact is made with the enemy, the battalion task force commander may have to shift units rapidly. Little or no time will be available for additional planning. The flexibility of the initial plan will determine how well Stinger teams continue to support the mission after contact. The Stinger section and teams must continuously coordinate with supported units, who insure that their units do not outrun or fall behind air defense coverage.

    The Stinger section chief will normally receive a warning order prior to an offensive operation. This warning order can contain information such as the time of attack, mission, and objectives. It can also contain administrative instructions and employment plans for battalion elements. The section chief then issues a warning order to his teams. Additional information required to support his plan must be obtained from the supported unit.

    Air defense priorities will be provided to the section chief with the warning order. After developing his plan, the section chief must get the battalion commander's approval through the battalion S3.


    The overall system of ACTIVE defense is based on the rapid movement of forces. These forces concentrate against the enemy's main thrust once it is identified. Battalion task forces then engage the enemy attack with all available firepower. The friendly forces use the advantages of terrain and prepared firing positions. As the attacker is defeated, forces are shifted to new positions or reoccupy old ones.

    The battalion task force may be employed in a variety of situations in the conduct of the ACTIVE defense. At division level, the battlefield is normally organized into three areas: covering force area, main battle area, and rear area.


    Forces in this area are deployed to find the enemy. They fight him with sufficient force to cause him to reveal the location of his main effort. Battalion task forces make up the covering force. They fight from a series of covered and concealed battle positions --engaging when the enemy cannot return effective fire. They then move on order to new positions and engage the enemy again.

    Priority of air defense for a battalion task force in the covering force area (CFA) will normally go to the exposed and vulnerable company teams. Each company team should be supported by one or more Stinger teams.

    The teams will be positioned to provide overmatching of units as they move from position to position. Remaining teams will be employed to protect logistical elements and other assets.

    In the CFA, passive air defense measures of camouflage, dispersion, night displacement and resupply, and reduced size of CPs contribute to the effectiveness of air defense.


    The main battle area (MBA) begins at the forward edge of the battle area and extends to the rear boundaries of the forward brigades. Forces in the CFA delay the enemy and make him deploy. Then the battalion task forces are shifted in the MBA. Battalion task forces may concentrate on a series of successive battle positions in order to destroy the enemy in the main battle area.

    In the main battle area, when the battalion TF is in the defense, the priorities of air defense will shift. The shift is from company teams more toward fire support, command and control, and logistical assets of the battalion. Company teams in good defensive positions are not as vulnerable as some other battalion elements. Typical priorities for Stinger support might be: heavy mortar, supporting tanks and antitank weapons (such as TOWs), trains, and TOC areas.

    In the MBA, Stinger teams should be deployed behind the FEBA to protect the flanks and rear of the battalion task force from air attack. Stinger teams may occupy preselected positions which are planned for as much overlapping coverage as possible. Usually, they provide air defense protection from overmatching positions. As a general rule, Stinger units will overwatch their supported units from high, accessible terrain that provides the best fields of view, communications, and command and control.

    When a battalion task force is directed to shift to concentrate against the enemy main thrust in another brigade area, Stinger priorities would again change. Company teams moving on road networks provide lucrative targets for air attack. Stinger teams are integrated into each company's march column to provide air defense. A company team using open roads and moving a considerable distance may have two or more Stinger teams allocated to support it.

    The Stinger section chief is located where he can best control the section. The teams begin movement when friendly elements begin movement. If a team is accompanying a maneuver element, the team chief selects the best positions en route to the new area.

    When supporting a maneuver unit in defense, Stinger leaders must be aware of all the ground tactical aspects of the defense; the section chief must decide what to do in any given situation. For example, when a battalion task force is disengaging, the section chief must be prepared to rapidly change Stinger coverage to comply with new priorities.


    Stinger is assigned to all types of divisions, separate brigades, and regiments. Regardless of their mode of transportation, at times Stinger teams will have to abandon their vehicles and operate dismounted. While Stinger teams operate most effectively with their organic equipment, they must be prepared to support maneuver units under all tactical and terrain conditions.

    A Stinger team without organic transportation to carry team equipment or the basic load of Stinger weapons is severely limited as to firepower, communications, and mobility.


    Generally, the types of offensive operations conducted by foot mobile troops are similar to those previously explained for the battalion task force in offensive operations. During the attack, within battalions, companies use bounding overwatch and fire and maneuver.

    Stinger teams provide support by moving and positioning themselves relative to the element of the force they are assigned to support.

    When planning to move Stinger teams dismounted during an attack, extensive coordination is required. The commander may decide to provide assistance to Stinger teams to hand carry additional Stinger weapons to insure an adequate supply of weapons. When dismounted, because of weight limitations, the team is limited to carrying only two Stinger weapons. In addition, a team radio (manpack), extra BCUs, individual weapons, binoculars, etc., must be carried. Providing assistance to dismounted Stinger teams to carry extra Stinger weapons will enhance the sustainability of air defense for the supported unit. To aid the section chief in planning, a sample march-load and weight allocation table of Stinger team equipment is shown in FM 44-18-1.

    Equipment remaining behind must be safeguarded. Arrangements must be made to bring this equipment forward as soon as the tactical situation permits.

    The section chief should plan for resupply of missile rounds as required.


    Dismounted troops are used in built-up areas or in rugged, broken, or heavily wooded terrain which restricts mounted movement. Dismounted troops in the defense do not move rapidly. Stinger positions are preselected as much as possible before teams move into them. Stinger positions are chosen with the idea of obtaining overlapping coverage. Again, when maneuver units displace in the defense, Stinger teams move and position themselves relative to the supported force.

    During defensive operations, Stinger teams positions must include overhead protection. Alternate fighting positions should always be constructed.


    Stinger teams will fight essentially the same in a nuclear environment as in a conventional environment. Combat service support and communications may be disrupted more than in a conventional environment. Teams may also be isolated for extended periods of time. Otherwise, conventional team tactics are unchanged for use in a nuclear environment.

    Complete descriptions of how Stinger personnel operate, survive, and fight in a nuclear environment are found in FM 44-18-1.

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