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In a conflict, threat aerial platforms may operate over the entire battlefield with the potential to attack any friendly unit or force. Army units operate under the protection of ADA units. However, for close protection and self-defense, these forces also depend on their own passive and active air defense measures. Every member of the combined arms team must be capable of firing at attacking air threat platforms. Individual and crew-served weapons provide a significant defense against aerial threats.


Passive air defense includes all measures used to prevent attack by threat aerial platforms except engagement-by fire. The effectiveness of enemy air is greatly reduced when units take full advantage of terrain for cover and concealment. The strict enforcement of communications security reduces the enemy's ability to pinpoint friendly units. This is particularly important for C3I nodes. If the situation allows, units should--

  • Travel by covered and concealed routes when moving.
  • If moving when enemy air attacks, turn vehicles 90 degrees away from the direction of attack (the attack is normally parallel to the movement of the convoy) and seek cover and concealment. This quickly gets vehicles out of the line of fire.
  • Wipe out track marks after moving into position.
  • Occupy positions which offer natural cover and concealment when stopped. Camouflage vehicles that are exposed to enemy observation.
  • Dig in and camouflage dismounted positions. Use engineer assets if available.
  • Disperse vehicles as much as possible. This makes detection and engagement difficult.
  • Cover windshields, headlights, and canopies of vehicles to retard glare, making detection difficult.
  • Require air guards on each vehicle and at each position and rotate them.
  • Establish an air attack warning system. Include both visual and audible signals. Ensure warning system is included in supported unit OPORD (usually coordinating instructions).
  • Ensure unit SOP includes passive air defense measures tailored to the unit. The SOP must be practiced during unit training.


Passive Air Defense

Active Air Defense


Active air defense is direct action taken to destroy or reduce the effectiveness of an enemy air attack. Techniques of engaging aircraft for non-ADA systems are summarized below.


While the decision to fire is made at the lowest level and is based on the leader's judgment of the situation, the techniques used in delivering fire are standard. Volume fire is the key to effective small arms fire against hostile aerial platforms. Every weapon must be used to engage the target. The goal is to mass a high volume of sustained small arms fire in the target's flight path with the intention of destroying the aerial platform when it flies into the fire. Each fire unit and individual must select an aiming point in front of the target and fire at that point. This method uses the football field technique for estimating lead distance. Aiming points for slow-and fast-moving aerial targets using the football field technique for estimating lead distance are shown in the following three illustrations below.

Small Arms (M16, M60, M249, and M2)

Fighting back is active air defense, but should not be undertaken as a one-on-one activity (one soldier, acting independently, against one aircraft). Rather, it is a coordinated group response undertaken either spontaneously or under command using proper engagement techniques.

Precision is not important. A coordinated high volume of fire will get results. Fire should be delivered on command and not at the option of the individual. This will ensure a controlled, high-volume engagement. See the Aiming Points illustration below.

Firing Positions For Small Arms

A supine position is the proper firing position for the engagement of aerial platforms. This means the soldier is lying on his back, aiming his weapon into the air. Soldiers should seek some kind of cover and concealment no matter how small. If in an individual fighting position, fire from a supported standing position. If not in an individual fighting position, look for a tree, a large rock, or something to help support the weapon and provide protection.

The M249 gunner will also fire from a protected position if possible. He can hold the weapon up or use a support for his arms and the weapon. In an emergency, another soldier can act as a hasty firing support.


See Appendix K, The Engagement Systems.

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