Army pathfinders primarily
provide navigational assistance and advisory services to military
aircraft in areas designated by supported unit commanders. Their
secondary missions include providing advice and limited assistance
to units planning air assault/airdrop operations.
The pathfinder provided navigational
assistance and air traffic advisories for Army aircraft encompass
any phase of an air assault or a ground operation that requires
sustained support by Army aircraft. For some missions, employment
may be on a short-term basis as pathfinders are redeployed upon
completion of a major troop lift or airdrop.
a. Primary Employment.
Ideally, a pathfinder
team is assigned to each combat aviation battalion. This enhances
the relationship between aviators and pathfinders; an understanding
between the two is important to the successful completion of a
mission. However, with the reduction of pathfinder units and the
assignment of pathfinder coded positions within ground units,
it is still important to maintain this relationship.
- (1) Personnel who are not
pathfinder qualified are trained by the pathfinder and formed
into a pathfinder team at company level. The team will provide
navigational assistance, air traffic advisories, and information
on an around-the-clock basis for any type air movement or resupply
operation conducted by or for the ground unit and supported by
an aviation unit.
Remove major obstacles.
Recover and assemble equipment
Operate additional radio nets
Transport items of equipment.
Conduct detailed NBC monitoring
- (2) Pathfinders are trained
and equipped to select, mark, improve, and control landing sites.
Engineers in direct support of lifted ground units may assist
pathfinders in improving LZs. In most situations, pathfinders
perform two or more of the functions at the same time, with priority
given to establishment of GTA radio communications. Pathfinders
should be combat lifesaver qualified to provide additional internal
c. Capabilities. Appropriately
equipped and trained pathfinders can fulfill the following responsibilities.
(1) Reconnoiter areas selected
by supported unit commanders and select LZs and DZs.
(2) Infiltrate areas of operation
by foot, vehicles, or watercraft, and airland, rappel or parachute
(3) Prepare LZs and DZs to
include establishing and operating visual and electronic navigational
aids and removing minor obstacles.
(4) Employ GTA radio communications
to provide pilots with guidance and air traffic advisories within
an area of operations.
(5) Advise pilots concerning
friendly mortar and artillery fires through direct coordination
with fire support units.
(6) Provide technical assistance
for the assembly of supplies, equipment, and troops before aircraft
loading for deployment to LZs and DZs.
(7) Advise and provide limited
physical assistance in preparing and positioning supplies, equipment,
and troops for air movement.
(8) Conduct limited NBC monitoring
and surveying of designated areas.
(9) Provide limited weather
observations, to include wind velocity and direction, cloud cover,
visibility, and approximate cloud ceiling.
(10) Operate, by agreement
with the USAF, DZs and airfields for USAF aircraft in the absence
(11) Survey DZs for use by
USAF and Army aircraft. (In this situation, it maybe necessary
to provide pathfinders with radios [UHF or VHF] that are compatible
with USAF radio equipment. Aviators and pathfinders must coordinate
to ensure they understand ground markings and radio procedures
to be used.)
A wide variety of equipment
is used by the pathfinder. Although the aviation unit SOP may
specify the type of equipment, the mission will dictate what will
be taken on the operation.
a. Navigation Aids. Navigation
aids are used to help aviators locate and identify an exact area.
(1) Electronic navigation
aids include homing beacons, transponders, radios, and other electronic
devices that assist in aircraft navigation. These aids have a
greater signaling range than visual navigation aids.
(2) Visual navigation aids
are used to designate specific areas or points on LZs and DZs.
They are also used as GTA signals. Daylight visual aids include
panels, smoke, signal mirrors, and colored gloves for signalmen.
Night visual aids include light beacons, lanterns, baton flashlights,
strobe lights, and pyrotechnics. Field-expedient visual aids may
also be used effectively day or night. Visual aids are vulnerable
to detection because the enemy can also see them.
(3) Infrared navigation aids
are used as NVG compatible items to assist in night navigation.
c. Assembly Aids. Assembly
aids are used to designate troop and supply assembly areas. As
with navigation aids, assembly aids may be either electronic or
visual. Field expedients may also be employed. All assembly aids
can attract the threat force's attention; therefore, care must
be exercised to avoid compromise.
(1) Electronic assembly aids
include radios and homing devices employing a radio signal. All
electronic signals can be intercepted by direction-finding equipment
and attract enemy attention.
(2) Visual assembly aids are
usually simple to employ. They include panels, smoke, and armbands
for day operations; and lanterns, flashlights, light beacons,
strobe lights, chemical lights, and pyrotechnics for night operations.
They afford positive identification of assembly areas; however,
they can also be seen by the enemy. Close coordination of their
use is required to prevent misunderstandings. (See TM 9-1370-206-10,
FM 21-60, and STANAGs 3117 and 3281.)
(3) Infrared light sources
can be used as assembly aids; but, they dictate the use of night
Pathfinders and terminal guidance
personnel must be aware of hostile data collection and exploitation
activities, which seek to disrupt, deceive, harass, or otherwise
interfere with the command and control of pathfinder operations.
a. Enemy Interception.
All signal equipment
that radiates electromagnetic energy (such as radios, radars,
and electro-optical devices) is vulnerable to enemy interception,
analysis, direction finding, and exploitation. Such exploitation
may be aimed at gaining intelligence for enemy fire and maneuver
elements and for collecting data for electronic countermeasures.
(1) Enemy exploitation of
pathfinder emissions may not include an immediate enemy response.
The enemy collection and analysis of data gained by interception
maybe used to plan operations for a later, more advantageous time.
Enemy jamming or deception may not be used either; the enemy may
pretend that he has not detected pathfinder electronic signals.
(2) The enemy's capability
to exploit signal intelligence in support of his ground operations
is limited to some degree by time-distance factors. He may use
a reaction force or a direction-finding fix. If he uses a DF,
he may use electronic countermeasures (jamming and deception)
against electronic aids used in pathfinder operations.
(1) Enemy actions to gain
signal intelligence may indicate their intended reaction to the
opposing force. Some factors to consider in combating enemy DF
(b) The amount of time their
transmitter is in use (on the air).
(c) The number of their transmitters.
(d) The distance of friendly
forces from enemy DF systems, fire and maneuver elements, and
collection and jamming resources.
(e) Friendly actions to mask
(2) The vulnerability of signal
devices to enemy exploitation is significantly reduced through
strict signal security practices to include electronic warfare.
(For more information on communications and EW, see FM 24-18,
FM 34-40, FM 90-2, and FM 100-26.)
Personnel become pathfinder-qualified
by completing the Pathfinder Course at the US Army Infantry School,
Fort Benning, GA. Every pathfinder training program emphasizes
development of individual proficiency in air traffic control procedures
and an understanding of supported aviation unit SOP. The training
program also stresses mission accomplishment in an electronic
a. Commander's Responsibilities.
Major unit commanders
employing pathfinders are responsible for sustaining their training
and proficiency. Pathfinder training is most beneficial when it
is integrated with the training of supported aviation and ground
b. Pathfinder's Responsibilities. The assigned, qualified, and trained pathfinder must ensure that the nonqualified personnel assigned to his unit team are adequately trained before they attempt a mission.
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