Find a Security Clearance Job!




This appendix discusses the four environments most commonly encountered in combat operations. They are mountain, jungle, desert, and cold weather environments. Rarely will Avenger platoons operate in jungle and mountainous environments. Generally, MANPADS will provide air defense protection in these rugged environments.

Combat operations cannot be stopped because of rain, snow, ice, extreme heat, lack of water, or rough terrain. These environments present special problems to military operations.


Mountains of military significance are generally characterized by rugged, compartmented terrain with steep slopes and few natural or man-made lines of communications. 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 in creases the chances of frostbite. Winds are accelerated when forced over ridges and peaks or when con verged through passes and canyons.

There are several problems associated with a mountainous environment. Personnel acclimation is required above 2,500 feet. Acclimation is complete only when personnel realize their limitations and the limitations imposed on their equipment. The effects of high altitude on unacclimated 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.


Mountain Operations

Jungle Operations

Desert Operations

Cold Weather Operations

There are several health hazards that exist in mountainous climates. These hazards include--

  • Snowblindness--more direct sunlight reaches the earth at higher altitudes than at sea level and reflection is increased.
  • Frostbite--wind chill factor is increased by strong winds.
  • Sunburn--a serious case of sunburn can disable a person for days.
  • Dehydration--excessive sweating without replenishing water can happen in mountainous terrain.

Military operations have a unique challenge in mountainous terrain. Some of the physical characteristics of this environment that affect operations are--

  • Rugged peaks, steep ridges, deep ravines, and valleys.
  • Limited routes of communications.
  • Unpredictable weather.
  • Availability of natural cover and concealment.

Mountainous terrain offers distinct advantages to attacking enemy air threats. Air platforms can avoid radar and visual detection by flying low through valleys and mountain passes. They attack or surveil their target with little or no warning. Maneuver forces, combat support, and combat service support units that are road-bound provide lucrative targets. Narrow mountain roads often prevent passing and force one-way traffic. A disabled vehicle may stop a whole column and make it vulnerable to ground fire, indirect tire, or air attacks.

Operations in this terrain favor the use of small, lightly equipped maneuver forces such as--

  • Dismounted, accompanying the maneuver forces.
  • Pre-positioned, using helicopters for positioning of the teams to provide protection along the maneuver forces' route of march.
  • Mixed (dismounted and mounted). Mounted teams trail units by 1,000 meters. (This is especially useful in poor weather when helicopter support is not available.)

Some problems that may be encountered are as follows:

  • Reduced early warning because the terrain will cause masking of radars and difficulty in establishing line of sight.
  • Reduced ability to visually identify aircraft.
  • Degraded distance and quality of FM radio transmission.
  • Limitations of dedicated airlift for ammunition and supplies.
  • Limitations to the missile system for firing down into valleys.
  • Receiving adequate preventive medical care.
  • IR increases; however, back ground clutter noise will also increase.


Jungle areas usually are comprised of trees interconnected by a network of thick vines. High temperatures, high humidity, and a heavy annual rainfall create lush vegetation which can seriously impede movement.

There are unique hazards in the jungle. Some of these hazards are as follows:

  • Movement by vehicle or foot is difficult.
  • Minor terrain features can present major obstacles to movement in combination with the dense vegetation.
  • There is great fear of the jungle environment in the minds of personnel.

The health hazards associated with the jungle operations include the following:

  • Heat exhaustion and dehydration. High humidity and heat can cause problems without proper water intake.
  • Sanitation problems caused by the jungle climate that aids in the flourishing of bacteria.
  • Fungus can rapidly cause infections in personnel.
  • Jungle diseases are carried by insects.
  • Wildlife and poisonous or harmful plants are abundant.

Military operations in the jungle environment have an impact on equipment by requiring an additional maintenance effort to prevent--

  • Rust.
  • Corrosion.
  • Fungus growth that will cause failure or nonoperation of equipment.
  • Problems caused by humidity.

Repair parts, ammunition, and other items should be kept in sealed containers until they are needed to minimize damage from rust and corrosion. Electronic equipment should be kept on so that the heat generated can eliminate moisture which causes corrosion.

Dense jungle offers good concealment for maneuver forces. Defensive action is considerably aided by natural features. Small units are the essential element in all jungle operations. Enemy air attacks will be directed primarily against combat service support units, supply lines, and exposed field artillery units. However, air attack of maneuver forces can be expected when they cross open areas such as rice paddies or rivers.

The ADA unit supporting a maneuver force in a jungle environment will operate by positioning within and moving with the maneuver force. To defend a stationary asset, it will clear trees and underbrush to have adequate firing positions.

The ADA unit will encounter the following problems in a jungle environment:

  • Increased missile problems due to humidity.
  • Reduced detection and identification ranges.
  • Requirement for teams to be positioned closer together.
  • Requirement for more teams to provide balanced fires and mutual support for a particular asset.
  • Reduced range of FM radios.
  • Extensive use of wire communications or special wavelength antennas.
  • Proper individual sanitation to avoid health risks.
  • Canopy effect on GBS.


The desert is an arid, barren, and largely treeless environment that can be classified as three different types: mountain, rocky plateau, and sandy or dune desert. The only common denominator is the lack of water. A mountain desert is characterized by high, steep mountains. However, rains in the high areas can cause severe flash floods.

A rocky plateau desert is characterized by relatively slight relief interspersed with large flat areas. Rock is usually at or near the surface, and steeply eroded valleys are common. Flash floods often occur in the valleys.

Sandy or dune deserts are extensive, relatively flat areas covered with sand or gravel. Sand dunes can reach over 1,000 feet high and 15 to 25 kilometers long. Flash floods can occur and cause problems, along with high winds and dust storms.

Acclimation of personnel will be needed to allow for strengthened heat resistance and physical exertion. While the jungle and desert environments are very different, many of the health hazards are the same. The desert hazards include--

  • Dehydration--a resting person may lose as much as a pint of water per hour.
  • Heat injuries--sweat evaporates so fast that the cooling of the body is degraded. Personnel should remain fully clothed to retain sweat and aid the cooling process.
  • Cold injuries--rapid heat loss from the ground once the sun goes down can cause temperature fluctuations exceeding 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Numerous diseases.
  • Loss of mental alertness.

Military operations have unique challenges in a desert environment. Some characteristics of a desert operation are as follows:

  • Wide dispersion of forces.
  • Fast-moving operations and high-speed tactics.
  • Navigation problems
  • Covered and concealed positions are difficult to find.
  • Flash flooding can bog down movement.
  • Sand or dust storms will reduce visibility.

Forces will be required to disperse to prevent detection and engagement at long ranges. Vehicle tracks leading into fire positions must be erased or covered to prevent detection from the air.

The ADA unit supporting a maneuver force in a desert environment can expect the following:

  • The low, flat terrain aids in detection of enemy air at greater ranges.
  • Lack of landmarks causes problems to enemy air in finding and fixing their targets.
  • Fire units have a greatly improved chance of destroying the air threat before it attacks the target.
  • Fire units have to move rapidly to survive.
  • Line of sight can usually be obtained for communications.

While the ADA units will normally be aided in target detection and engagement in the desert, problems will also impact on its operations. Some of these problems are as follows:

  • Sand or dust storms may degrade threat detection.
  • Dispersion of forces may cause gaps in defenses where overlapping fires by the fire units are not possible.
  • Concealment is difficult, and fire units will need to move often.
  • Missile backblast will create a dust or sand cloud revealing the fire unit's position.
  • Reduced FM radio range caused by extreme heat and poor grounding of antennas due to lack of moisture in the surface soil.
  • Radio dead spaces due to the presence of RF absorbable minerals on or near the surface.

In the desert environment, dust and sand can be as deadly to equipment as enemy fire. Equipment is vulnerable to the extreme heat and cold temperatures of the desert. Problems can occur in the following:

  • Vehicle cooling and electrical systems.
  • Moving metal parts eroded by sand.
  • Rubber parts will dry-rot and crack; tires puncture easily.
  • Batteries have a shorter life span.
  • Seals break down.
  • Deterioration of clothing and equipment.
  • Extreme vibrations of equipment on rocky plateaus causes equipment failure and demands preventive maintenance checks and services be performed more often than required by operator maintenance manuals.
  • Fuel and air filters require more frequent maintenance.


The area of cold weather operations is generally defined as the areas lying north and south of the temperate zone. It is characterized by deep snow, permafrost, seasonally frozen ground, frozen lakes and rivers, glaciers, and extreme cold. Vegetation varies from thick evergreen trees to moss and lichens. During summer in permafrost areas, vegetation may mat together over a pool of water that can support soldiers but will not support any type of vehicle. These areas can be extremely dangerous.

There are several problems associated with a cold weather environment. They are--

  • Freezing--both wet and dry cold require special clothing.
  • Frostbite--skin can become painfully frozen in seconds.
  • Hypothermia--the body cannot reheat itself and needs an external heating source to regulate its functions.
  • Exhaustion--common in cold climates, especially at high elevations.
  • Snowblindness--reflection of sunlight is increased since more direct sunlight reaches the earth.
  • Dehydration--heavy clothing will cause increased sweating.

Several factors must he taken into account when planning military operations in a cold weather area. These factors are--

  • Mobility--conditions tend to restrict movement on the ground.
  • Momentum is difficult to achieve and is easily lost.
  • Requirement for heat will place a premium on fuel.
  • Camouflage is difficult due to ice fog created by personnel and equipment and tracks left in the snow.
  • Navigation is difficult due to lack of aids, blending of features, and blowing snow.
  • Night operations are the exception not the rule, because the temperature will drop several degrees during the hours of darkness.

Conditions which tend to restrict movement on the ground have little or no effect on enemy air operations. Roads, hills, and rivers found in all 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. The ADA units operating in this environment may encounter the following problems:

  • Units will be limited in the amount of ammunition.
  • Resupply may have to be made by air.
  • Equipment batteries have decreased power levels and drain quickly.
  • Special equipment for cold weather is necessary.
  • Wearing bulky, heavy clothing and gloves increases the time necessary to perform the engagement sequence.
  • Extreme and prolonged cold weather causes sluggish operations, malfunctions, and broken parts.

To reduce the effects of cold weather, the ADA leader must ensure that proper training in cold environments is conducted and that additional time is provided to perform preventive maintenance.

Join the mailing list