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Support of Special Operations

The environment greatly affects combat operations. Operations cannot be stopped because of rain, snow, ice, extreme heat, lack of water, or rough terrain. Certain areas of the world combine one or more of these conditions. These environments present special problems to military operations. In this chapter, four environments most commonly encountered are described. They are mountains, jungles, deserts, and northern environments.

In addition to fighting in these environments, certain types of operations require special planning and tactics. Chief among these are airborne, air assault, night, and river crossing operations and operations in urban terrain. This chapter describes these types of operations and how Stinger can be used to support them.


Mountains of military significance are generally characterized by rugged, compartmented terrain with steep slopes and few natural or man-made lines of communication. The weather is usually seasonal varying from extreme cold to warm temperatures. Rapid, drastic changes in weather are not unusual in mountainous terrain. The wind can also pose a problem. In cold weather, the wind chill factor significantly increases the chance of frostbite. Winds are accelerated when forced over ridges and peaks or when converged through passes and canyons.

Above an altitude of 2,500 meters, acclimatization is required. Acclimatization is complete only when personnel realize their limitations and the limitations imposed on their equipment. After months in a high altitude environment, 70 percent of sea level work capacity standards can be achieved. The effects of high altitude on unacclimatized personnel are increased errors in performing simple mental operations, decreased ability for sustained concentration, deterioration of memory, decreased vigilance, increased irritability, and self-evaluation impairment.

There are several health hazards that exist in mountainous climates.


Because of the rarified atmosphere at high altitudes, more direct sunlight reaches the earth than at sea level. In the snowy conditions common in mountainous areas, snow blindness can become a problem. Snow reflects about 75 percent of the sun's rays. This, coupled with the increased intensity of the sun's rays, can overload the eyes. Snow blindness is usually temporary. However, personnel with severe cases may be completely disabled for several days. Snow blindness can be prevented by using snow goggles or sunglasses which completely cover the eyes.


Mountain Operations

Jungle Operations

Desert Operations

Northern Operations

Airborne and Air Assault Operations

Operations at Night

Military Operations in Urban Terrain

River Crossing Operations


Frostbite is a constant hazard when the wind is strong because of the wind chill factor. The face, especially, must be protected from high winds and prop blast. Sweating excessively must be avoided. The buddy system is essential when the danger of frostbite exists.


In the rarified atmosphere at high altitudes, sunburn can be a problem. A serious case of sunburn can disable a person for several days.


Although normally associated with desert climates, dehydration can occur in mountainous climates as well. Personnel often will not drink as much water as they need. Use of fruit flavoring often helps. Leaders must, however, monitor their personnel closely for any signs of dehydration.

Mountainous terrain offers unique challenges to military operations. Some of the physical characteristics of this environment which affect operations are rugged peaks, steep ridges, deep ravines, and valleys; limited routes of communication; highly changeable weather; and the availability of natural cover and concealment.

Control of the heights is important to successful mountain operations. Mobility is another prime consideration. Because of terrain and, in some cases, weather, obstacles and barriers assume added importance.

Mountainous terrain offers distinct advantages to attacking enemy aircraft. Aircraft can avoid radar and visual detection by flying at low level through valleys and mountain passes. They strike their targets with little or no warning. Heavy ground forces and combat support and service support units are road-bound, providing lucrative air targets. Narrow mountain roads are often restricted to one-way traffic with no room for passing. One vehicle disabled by an air attack may stop an entire column. It then becomes an open target for field artillery, ground, or follow-up air attack.

Mountainous terrain favors the use of small, lightly equipped maneuver elements. The nature of the terrain will normally afford these elements good cover and concealment. However, they will at times be exposed to air attack. Stinger may be the only air defense weapon that can accompany and provide close-in air defense protection for these units. Dismounted Stinger operations are not uncommon in this environment.

Because of terrain masking of radars and difficulty in establishing line of sight with FAARs, early warning for Stinger teams may be limited. Continuous visual observation must be maintained, particularly along likely low-level air attack routes. Observation posts some distance away from Stinger firing positions may be required for early detection of approaching aircraft.

Stinger sections and teams will rely primarily on radios for communications. Hill masses and forests will degrade distance and quality of FM radio transmission. Use of long-wire antennas and relays can ease this problem.

Reference FM 90-6 for further details on mountain operations.


Jungle areas are found in the wet tropics. They generally consist of trees interconnected by a network of thick vines. Jungles do, however, vary greatly within this general description. High temperatures, high humidity, and a heavy annual rainfall create lush vegetation. This can seriously impede movement.

One thing is hard to overcome when preparing for operations in a jungle area. It is the popular misconception in the minds of personnel about the jungle. Most unacclimatized personnel harbor a great fear of the jungle. They see it as a purgatory in the form of large trees, thick brush, swamps, heat, and humidity infested with thousands of animals, snakes, and insects just waiting to get them. This fear can incapacitate some personnel. Fortunately, most eventually see the jungle for what it actually is and learn to function with it. As with any other environment, the jungle serves those who know it best.

There are, of course, unique hazards in the jungle. As with anything else, proper training and precautions greatly reduce these hazards.

Movement either by vehicle or foot is difficult in jungle areas. Minor terrain features can present major obstacles to movement in combination with the dense vegetation. Defensive action in jungle terrain is considerably aided by natural features. Small units are the essential element in all jungle operations.

The dense jungle offers good concealment for maneuver forces. Therefore, enemy air attacks may be directed primarily against combat service support units, supply lines, and exposed field artillery units. However, air attack of maneuver units can be expected when they cross open areas such as rice paddies or rivers.

Stinger firing positions that offer 360 observation and fields of fire will be difficult, if not impossible, to find. Stinger teams defending unit convoys will normally have to be positioned within and move with these convoys. Stinger teams defending stationary assets may have to clear trees and underbrush to have adequate firing positions. These positions should only be occupied to engage aircraft. Then they should be vacated rapidly, as cleared areas are easily detected and attacked from the air.

Jungle conditions tend to reduce detection and identification ranges. This may require teams to be positioned closer together. More teams than usual may be required to defend a particular asset.

Thick vegetation, high humidity, and rugged, hilly terrain will reduce the range of FM radios. Extensive use of wire communications may be necessary. When radio is used, special purpose one-fourth wavelength antennas should be provided.

Rust, corrosion, and fungus growth will require an additional maintenance effort. Repair parts, ammunition, and other items should be kept in sealed containers until they are needed. This will minimize damage from rust and corrosion. Electronic equipment should always be kept on. The heat generated by the equipment eliminates moisture which causes corrosion.

Personnel must be well-trained and acclimated to the jungle environment. Heat exhaustion and jungle diseases carried by insects are common. Proper individual sanitation, wearing of protective clothing, and use of insect repellent will minimize these health risks.

Reference FM 90-5 for detailed information on jungle operations.


While most people see the desert as hot, arid, sandy land, actual conditions vary greatly. The only common denominator is lack of water. The three different types of desert are mountain, rocky plateau, and sandy or dune deserts.

Mountain type deserts are characterized by high, steep mountains. When it rains, it generally does so in high areas. This causes severe flash floods. Water from these floods collects in depressions. This water usually evaporates rapidly. In some instances, however, the volume of water entering the depression with each storm exceeds the evaporation rate, and a salt lake is formed.

Rocky plateau deserts are characterized by relatively slight relief interspersed with large flat areas. Rock is usually at or near the surface. Steeply eroded valleys are common. Flash floods often occur in these valleys.

Sandy or dune deserts are extensive, relatively flat areas covered with sand or gravel. Some areas contain sand dunes over 1,000 feet high and 15 to 25 kilometers long. Other areas may be totally flat for distances of 3 kilometers and beyond, As with other types of deserts, flash floods may be a problem. Rain in mountains can cause flash floods for hundreds of miles. High winds and dust storms are also common to these areas.

Water, of course, can be a major problem in any desert area. In desert areas with high temperatures, a resting man may lose as much as a pint of water per hour. Sweating may not be noticeable as it evaporates so fast that the skin may appear dry. To retain sweat on the skin, which aids in cooling the body, personnel must remain fully clothed.

Day/night temperature fluctuation can exceed 70 F in some areas. It is vital that leaders check their personnel to insure that they have all the equipment they will need prior to starting a mission. The wide dispersion of units common in desert warfare also places a great deal of responsibility on junior leaders.

The jungle and desert are very different environments. Although it may seem strange, many of the hazards present in a jungle environment are also present in a desert environment. The same key should be applied in fighting these hazards. The list includes: dehydration, heat injuries, cold injuries, plague, typhus, malaria, dengue fever, dysentery, cholera, typhoid, polluted water, loss of mental alertness, and social diseases.

In hot areas, acclimatization will be needed. Two weeks should be allowed with progressive degrees of heat exposure and physical exertion. This will strengthen heat resistance, but it will not totally protect personnel.

The low, flat terrain found in desert areas normally aids Stinger in detection of enemy aircraft at greater ranges. During windy seasons, blowing sand may, however, degrade aircraft detection. Because of a general lack of landmarks such as wood lines, buildings, and rivers, enemy aircraft often will have problems finding and fixing their targets. This may require them to make two passes at a target; one to locate it and a second to attack it. This will greatly improve the chances of a Stinger team destroying the aircraft before it attacks the target.

Low, flat, desert terrain will require forces to disperse to prevent detection and engagement at long ranges. This dispersion aids passive air defense. However, it may cause gaps in defenses where overlapping fires between Stinger teams are not possible.

Covered and concealed positions are difficult to find in the desert. Vehicle tracks leading into firing positions must be erased or covered since they are easily spotted from the air. Since concealment is difficult, Stinger teams should move often. They should move to alternate positions every 1 or 2 hours and after each firing. The dust or sand cloud created by missile backblast may reveal the team's position.

Stinger teams must be able to move rapidly to survive. They must also move to keep up with the high-speed tactics used by mechanized maneuver elements. In most desert environments, track vehicles must be provided to Stinger teams when moving cross-country. The assigned 1/4-ton vehicle will often bog down in loose sand or rocks.

Fast-moving operations and great distances between units will be found in the desert. These require reliance on radio, as opposed to wire, for communications. Line of sight can usually be obtained. However, lack of moisture and extreme heat may cause FM radio ranges to be reduced by as much as 30 percent. Dipole or other directional antennas should be used where possible to increase range of FM radios.

Dust and sand can be as deadly to equipment as enemy fire. Vehicle cooling and electrical systems are vulnerable to the extreme heat of the desert. Extra water should be carried on all vehicles. Cooling systems should be checked several times a day. The eroding effects of sand on moving metal parts require more frequent cleaning of individual weapons and equipment air filters. The preventive maintenance effort on all equipment must be increased in the desert.

The Stinger system has been qualified for storage up to 160 and operation up to 140 F.

Reference FM 90-3 for detailed information on desert operations.


The area of northern operations is generally defined as the area lying north of the temperate zone. The boundary is irregular because of the many factors influencing climate in a given area. In general, the farther north from this boundary the harsher the climate.

As a minimum, harsher winters and milder summers will be encountered. In the far north, permafrost is encountered. In this area, the ground never fully thaws. This can be one of the trickiest areas in which to stage operations. The chart summarizes the environment which can be expected in the different seasons.

The most suitable time for conducting ground operations is from mid-winter to early spring before the breakup period. During this period, the ground remains frozen allowing greater mobility. Care must be taken with operations in the late spring or in the fall. They should only be undertaken when daytime thaw and nighttime freeze leave only a thin layer of mud on deeply frozen ground.

Vegetation varies from thick evergreen trees to moss and lichens. Forests are usually found closer to the temperate zone. Moss and lichen are usually found in permafrost areas. In summer in permafrost areas, vegetation may mat together over a pool of water. This is called a bog. The matted vegetation may support a man but will not support any type of vehicle. These areas can be extremely dangerous.

There are certain unique weather conditions that are common in the northern environment.


Whiteout is a milky atmospheric condition in which the observer appears to be surrounded by a uniform white glow. Shadows, the horizon, or clouds are not discernible. Whiteout is experienced in the air as well as on the ground. The observer's sense of depth and orientation is completely lost.


Greyout occurs over unbroken snow at twilight or when the sun is close to the horizon. The observer is surrounded by an overall greyness. When the sky is overcast, shadows cannot be seen, leading to a loss of depth perception. The difference between this and whiteout is that the horizon can be seen, so orientation is not completely lost. The effect of greyout is greatest when a person is fatigued.


Ice fog occurs around inhabited areas at temperatures below -35 F. Air at that temperature cannot hold the water vapor created by human activity. The excess water vapor freezes into ice particles and creates a fog.

Perhaps the greatest danger to personnel in a northern area comes from the cold. Special clothing is required for both wet cold and dry cold. Bare hands will stick to metal and fuel in contact with the hands will result in supercooling. If this occurs, the hands can be painfully frozen in seconds. The buddy system is essential in this environment. Overdressing may cause as many problems as not wearing enough clothes. Exhaustion is common in cold climates, especially when operating at high elevations.

Stinger teams operating in extreme cold should hold their breath during and after firing. The exhaust from the missile may crystallize into a form of ice fog. If this fog is inhaled, toxic fumes may thaw out inside the lungs causing injury or death.

Several factors must be taken into account when planning military operations in a northern area. Mobility may be a problem. Momentum is difficult to achieve and easily lost. Requirements for heat will place a premium on fuel. Ice fog and tracks in snow can make camouflage difficult. Blending of features, lack of navigational aids, fog, and blowing snow make navigation difficult. Permafrost makes digging in positions extremely difficult. Night operations are the rule rather than the exception.

Conditions which tend to restrict movement on the ground have little or no effect on enemy air operations. Roads, hills, and rivers found in northern regions provide good navigational aids for enemy aircraft. Road-bound maneuver and support units are easily detected and attacked from the air.

Heavy snow in the winter and poor ground conditions in other seasons may require units to move on foot. Accompanying Stinger teams will be limited to one missile per team member. Other members of the unit may carry additional missiles for them. Resupply may have to be made by air.

Missile warm-up time will be increased. The wearing of bulky, heavy clothing and gloves will increase the time necessary to perform the engagement sequence. Proper training in operations in cold environments will reduce this time.

Extreme and prolonged cold has an adverse effect on all weapons and equipment. Sluggish operations, malfunctions, and broken parts are common. Additional time should be provided to perform preventive maintenance. Exteme cold can more than double the time it takes personnel to perform even the simplest maintenance task. Special attention must be paid to batteries. In extreme cold, batteries have decreased power levels and drain more quickly.

The Stinger weapon system has been qualified for storage to -50 F and operation to -40 F.

Reference FM 90-11 for detailed information on northern operations.


One phase of operations ends when the force conducting either an airborne or an air assault operation is on the ground. The principles and guidelines for the employment of Stinger are essentially the same as for other operations. One major factor sets these operations apart, as far as Stinger employment is concerned. This factor is the phasing of units, Stinger teams, and other air defense support into the objective area. Command and control relationships between Stinger teams and supported units must be clearly defined. This is modified, as necessary, as the operation progresses.


In a typical airborne operation, each battalion secures a drop zone. Each battalion then develops its portion of the airhead. In the initial phase, a maneuver company from each battalion makes a parachute assault to secure a drop zone. Then the remainder of the battalion is dropped.

The initial phase is decentralized and the situation is likely to be very fluid. This is true until the entire battalion is on the ground. The Stinger section chief attaches his teams to the maneuver companies during the assault. Stinger thus provides air defense for the maneuver companies as they develop the airhead. Stinger team members do not jump with weapon systems. The weapon systems are palletized and dropped separately.




Once the battalion is on the ground, it establishes a TOC. The Stinger section chief then assumes control of his teams and coordinates the air defense of the battalion. Stinger teams previously attached to maneuver companies are relieved from attachment. They are redeployed as required to support designated battalion priorities as the airhead is established and expanded.

With the establishment of an airhead, the brigade is able to insert additional combat support and combat service support elements. These are needed to sustain combat power. As a part of the follow-up echelon, other air defense weapons may be air-landed.

A towed Vulcan battery is usually attached to the brigade for insertion into the airhead. Along with its three Vulcan platoons, the battery may have two FAARs. However, the FAARs may not be inserted into the airhead for several days and Stinger teams will have to operate without TADDS.

The Vulcan battery is responsible for providing air defense information to the Stinger sections. The Stinger section chief enters the Vulcan battery command net and forwards early warning and other air defense orders and information. Information received from the Vulcan battery is relayed to Stinger teams over the Stinger command net. When Vulcan and Stinger are supporting the same company, Stinger teams operate in the Vulcan platoon net. They receive air defense orders and information over this net. When required, the Stinger section chief may pass orders and information to the Stinger team(s) through the Vulcan platoon net.

Reference FM 7-30 and 71-101 for detailed information on airborne operations.


A typical air assault operation is of battalion size. The air assault task force (AATF) will initially move to covered and concealed holding areas. These will be in proximity to primary and alternate pickup zones (PZ). Stinger teams are attached to companies or, if necessary, platoons. Generally, two teams will go in the first helicopter to help secure the landing zone (LZ). The other teams follow later.

The teams are dependent upon the supported unit for assistance in carrying the extra Stinger missile rounds. They are provided no vehicle, and therefore are dependent upon the supported unit for mobility. Mobility for the section equipment and Stinger rounds is provided by a 11/4-ton truck and 1/4-ton trailer.

Upon landing, troops disembark as rapidly as possible. They immediately move into tactical formations. Stinger teams remain attached to companies. Stinger teams immediately provide air defense of the LZ as subsequent lifts of troops and equipment are brought in.

Once on the ground, the AATF masses its combat power to engage in ground combat and attack its objective. The Stinger section chief assumes control of his teams. He also coordinates the air defense of the AATF. Stinger teams previously attached to the maneuver companies are relieved from attachment. They are then redeployed as required to support the AATF's priorities as it maneuvers to attack its objective.

The operation may be expanded with the insertion of additional maneuver and support elements, to include Vulcan units and FAARs. Control and coordination links similar to those used in the airborne operation are then established. Reference FM 90-4 for detailed information on air assault.




During hours of darkness, the Stinger team's ability to perform its mission is severely handicapped. Fortunately, the air threat is not as great at night. However, the threat of nighttime attack by helicopter assault forces cannot be ignored. Visual detection, visual identification, and determining the range of an aircraft are difficult, if not impossible. In addition, the Stinger team consists of only two men. Thus, it is not manned for 24-hour operation. The section can perform only a limited air defense mission at night: a self-defense role, when the defended unit or asset is under air attack, or if a higher air defense authority declares Weapons Free during hours of darkness.

The Stinger team has a limited capability against jet aircraft at night. However, the team has a much better chance of engaging a slower moving aircraft such as a helicopter. Target detection is very difficult even when stars are visible. The gunner attempts to pick up the sound of the aircraft to determine its position and direction. When he hears the noise, the gunner points the sight at the noise source and activates the weapon. The gunner attempts to acquire the target at this time even though he cannot see it. He moves the weapon line of sight until he receives ir acquisition signals (ir tone) indicating that the seeker has acquired the target. He maintains track and uncages the gyro. After uncaging, their tone gets stronger and louder. The gunner fires when he senses that the target is within range. The gunner does not make a range ring-target size estimation. If he cannot see the target, he does not apply superelevation and lead. If he can see the target, he should apply superelevation and lead prior to firing.

Stinger teams normally use the hours of darkness to move, rest, resupply, and perform maintenance on their equipment. They may be supporting a unit in a static position or a stationary asset. At nightfall they normally move from air defense firing positions to positions affording better security against ground attack (e.g., within the perimeter of the supported unit).

If supporting a unit that is moving during the night, Stinger teams normally move with the unit. Remaining within the unit's formation provides for Stinger security. Before first light, the teams deploy to air defense firing positions. They are then ready to engage aircraft as soon as visibility permits. Stinger in night operations is further discussed in FM 44-11.


The battalion task force will often have to fight as part of a larger force. This may be in villages as a separate force or in towns and small cities. The defender has the advantage in built-up areas. He has instant fortified positions, good cover and concealment, and a detailed knowledge of the terrain. Where possible, built-up areas will be bypassed and isolated by attacking forces.

Because they are difficult to identify and hit, targets for enemy aircraft are few. City fighting is normally conducted at very close ranges. The attacker usually attempts to clear the enemy from built-up areas one building at a time. Coordination for close air support by jet aircraft, because of the closeness of enemy and friendly units, is difficult. Enemy attack helicopters may be used to attack exposed vehicles. They have the ability to pop up from behind obstacles to engage targets and then hide behind buildings.

When supporting company teams fighting in urban terrain, Stinger teams take up firing positions on rooftops. As company teams move through the built-up area, some of the Stinger teams remain in position. Meanwhile, others move to take up new firing positions on other rooftops. They maintain continuous overwatch against the air threat. Small arms and machine guns supplement Stinger in defending the company teams when this occurs.

Reference FM 90-10 for detailed information on military operations in built up areas.


River crossings can be conducted to continue an attack as a part of a delay or withdrawal. River crossings can also be used to concentrate forces for another offensive or defensive operation. A battalion task force normally crosses a significant river obstacle as part of a brigade, division, or corps level operation.

A strong and well-planned air defense is necessary for a successful river crossing operation. A mix of ADA weapons -- Chaparral, Vulcan, and Stinger -- is employed in mass to protect crossing sites.

If all company teams are crossing at the same time, each should have dedicated Stinger support. The Stinger teams support the assault elements from good positions on the near side of the river, They cross after the assaulting elements have extended their bridgehead.

Priority for the Stinger section will normally be the units making the assault. Stinger elements are deployed with the assaulting elements and should be included in the early crossing forces.

Vulcan platoon may remain with the battalion task force as it continues the combat operation. Chaparral platoons will then be brought forward. They support the crossing of the rest of the brigade or division. Stinger teams will again be deployed with company teams when all elements of the task force have completed crossing the river.

From positions to the rear, Hawk units provide continuous overmatching coverage during the river-crossing operation.


The following illustration shows a Vulcan gun battery-in support of a brigade in the crossing. The integrated Vulcan/Stinger defense is shown below.

As elements of the brigade expand the thicken the defense of the crossing site and bridgehead, the Vulcan battery commander also to support the forward maneuver moves additional elements of the battery to elements.

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