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Nuclear and chemical operations require detailed planning and specialized procedures. Both cause the FA battalion to plan and train to operate in a extremely stressful environment while continuing the basic mission of providing fire support to the maneuver force. This is particularly true of offensive nuclear and chemical operations. This appendix provides a general framework for nuclear and chemical planning and operations, but it is by no means exhaustive. Units with a nuclear and/or chemical mission must acquire and maintain a wide variety of references as well as special tools and equipment. Nuclear and chemical operations must be fully integrated into the battalion's tactical SOPs and must be practiced on a continual basis.

Section I


The mission of the nuclear-capable US field artillery battalion is to receive nuclear weapons, maintain them in a safe and secure environment, and deliver them against specific targets when authorized. Battalion commanders must plan and train for nuclear operations and integrate them into all training and contingency plans. Nuclear operations can be broken down into three phases:
  • Transition to war.
  • Battalion operations.
  • Battery operations.


Nuclear operations begin well before the initial use of nuclear weapons. Each battalion commander must decide how to transport, store, and safeguard his allocated nuclear weapons.

Most theaters do not require artillery units to pick up stocks from peacetime storage sites. The ordnance companies assigned to these sites do that. Rendezvous points are established at which custody is transferred from the ordnance company personnel to the artillery battalions when use is required. The timing of this transfer depends on requests for release and actual authorization to release. The earlier the notification, the more responsive the system.

In those theaters or commands where the artillery is responsible to pick up the stocks, the artillery battalion must plan and execute this mission. Plans must be well coordinated with the ordnance company that has custody; they must include the proper equipment and personnel to conduct a ground or air convoy. Normally, this mission is assigned to the service battery personnel. These personnel must maintain proficiency in a number of tasks. The tasks include receipt inspection, tie-down procedures, convoy operations, security emergency destruction (ED) requirement and custody transfer requirements.

Battalions must be capable of transporting nuclear weapons by both ground and air as a part of normal operations. They must be careful to avoid a distinctive convoy signature. The equipment assigned to the nuclear weapons convoy must resemble the equipment in a standard headquarters battery or service battery convoy.

Planning must allow for the availability of the equipment and personnel--including security personnel--required to move the weapons by ground or air. Routes to and from the transfer point and the firing batteries must be known, reconnoitered and updated to ensure timely pickup and delivery.

Initial issue and resupply of the nuclear weapons may be done by air. Units down to battery level must maintain the capability of transporting and receiving weapons by air. Loading and unloading procedures vary according to the weapon system and type of aircraft used.


To maintain the capability to perform nuclear operations, a battalion should have at least three special weapons teams--one per firing battery. Team members must be completely trained in all aspects of their requirements and duties. A fourth team may be formed from within the service battery for battalion-level operations. The service battery special weapons team should be trained in receipt loading and tie-down, security, transportation, and emergency actions. Firing batteries can augment the service battery special weapons team to form a battalion-level team. The use of the firing battery's dedicated vehicles as transport vehicles facilitates operations of the battalion field storage location (FSL).

Service or headquarters battery should provide the courier, custodian, and security force vehicles for battalion-level convoy operations.

Field Storage Locations

A number of factors must be considered in determining the location of the FSL. Commanders should refer to FM 100-50 when making any decision concerning the FSL. Two possible methods of location are:

  • Centralization of the FSL at battalion.
  • Decentralization of the FSL or battery FSLs.

The advantages and disadvantages are shown below.

Firing Units

Nuclear operations at the battalion begin when the corps commander decides that the use of tactical nuclear weapons may be required. At this point, a number of actions take place:

  • Firing units are selected (primary and alternate).
  • Firing positions are planned as directed by div arty or corps arty.

The battalion should give the battery as much warning time as possible to respond to a nuclear mission. The warning time depends on when the battalion receives warning from div arty or corps arty. In any case, the battalion and its batteries must be prepared at all times to execute a nuclear mission.

When the FSL is centralized, the battalion normally delivers the nuclear weapons to the designated firing battery. Of course, this depends on METT-T and unit SOPs. In some organizations, the battery picks up the weapon from the battalion FSL. Weapons should be distributed to battery level only if use is expected. Extended storage time should not be required at the battery but each battery must be prepared for storage, security, convoy, and emergency actions, if necessary.

It is preferable to fire the nuclear mission from an existing firing unit position. If the unit must displace because of the gun-target (GT) range, it is better to displace the entire battery or platoon.


A command may have to redistribute nuclear weapons to execute a nuclear mission. Planning and allocation of nuclear weapons focus on precluding this requirement. However, if necessary, the weapons are usually redistributed directly from one FSL to another by organic personnel and equipment. The headquarters directing the redistribution specifies the following:

  • Who provides the transportation and security.
  • Where the linkup points are.
  • What headquarters is responsible.

  • When personnel and equipment will be released back to the parent unit.


Nuclear weapons are under national command authority (NCA) control. A system is required by which to relay control orders from the NCA through intermediate headquarters to the nuclear delivery units. This system is governed by regulations peculiar to the theater of operations. As a delivery unit, the field artillery unit is the and operator in this system. It must be able to operate in this system at all times. Reliable and trained personnel must be available to receive and act on messages down to battery level. Commanders should ensure that they have enough personnel trained to maintain a 24-hour capability in the emergency action procedure (EAP) system.


Within the corps there are no nuclear-unique communications systems. Each headquarters uses existing communications nets. There is no requirement that any one specific net be used. However, once a nuclear mission is begun communication must be maintained between the delivery unit, the controlling headquarters of the delivery unit, and the headquarters assigning the mission. This ensures that changes and/or mission cancellations can be actioned immediately.


See FM 6-50 for battery-level tactical nuclear operations.

Section II


Chemical agents are chemical substances intended for use in military operations to kill, injure, or incapacitate humans through their physiological effects. This definition excludes riot control agents, herbicides, smoke, and flame-producing agents. Chemical agents are classified according to type (liquid or vapor), duration (persistent or nonpersistent), rate of action (immediate or delayed, and effects they produce on the body (nerve, choking, blister, or blood agents). The US currently has persistent and nonpersistent nerve agents (VX and GB). For more details, see FM 3-100.
The FA cannon battalion must be prepared both to defend itself from the effects of enemy chemical weapons and to deliver offensive chemical fires in support of the maneuver commander. Both offensive and defensive chemical operations require detailed planning and extensive training if the battalion is to be successful.


The FA units are likely to be near the top of the enemy's priority target list for chemical agent strikes. Commanders must anticipate chemical attacks and develop procedures for surviving them and minimizing their impact on the ability of the battalion to accomplish its mission. These procedures must be incorporated into unit SOPs and must be thoroughly integrated into all phases of individual and unit training.

During tactical operations, chemical defense will impact on the planning and execution of the battalion mission in a number of ways. The battalion commander and S3 must incorporate chemical defense considerations into the planning process any time the enemy has, or is thought to have, offensive chemical capability, regardless of whether it is believed that he intends to use it. The chemical officer is the primary advisor to the commander and S3 on chemical defense matters as well as on all other NBC-related topics.

Planning considerations for chemical defense include those discussed below.


Elements of the battalion should be dispersed as much as possible to minimize the number of units affected by a single chemical strike.

Mission-Oriented Protective Posture

The commander must determine both what the normal level of MOPP will be and what circumstances will cause him to raise or lower that level.

In determining the standard MOPP level the commander must balance the chemical threat against the negative effects of MOPP on individual and unit performance. Weather is a primary factor in this decision. Do the winds favor the enemy's use of chemicals? Will high temperatures create a substantial threat of heat casualties? The commander must also consider that dirty or wet MOPP suits offer greatly degraded protection.

The commander must determine and disseminate what actions or events will automatically trigger an increase in MOPP status. Will the unit increase MOPP whenever engaged by indirect fire or only after confirmed first use of chemicals by the enemy? What circumstances will cause the commander to lower the MOPP status?


Decontamination (decon) procedures must be thoroughly planned in advance. Decon planning considerations include those discussed below.

This list of considerations is by no means complete. Chemical defense is an extremely complex area, and specific defensive measures are beyond the scope of this book. For detailed information concerning chemical defensive measures, refer to FM 3-100 and other NBC-related publications (FM 3 series).

Facilities. For cannon battalions supporting maneuver brigades, decon support is provided by the brigade chemical platoon. General support units receive decon support from either division or corps chemical units. Exactly what unit will provide decon support and the location of decon sites must be determined before decontamination is required.

Routes. Routes contaminated vehicles can travel without further spreading contamination must be identified.

Casualty Evacuation. Where and how contaminated casualties will be evacuated must be determined.

Avoidance of Contaminated Areas. Persistent chemicals are more likely to be used to deny terrain than to directly attack units. Care should be taken to keep uncontaminated units from entering known contaminated areas. The battalion chemical officer must--

  • Carefully monitor NBC-5 reports sent by the supported maneuver unit and/or the force FA headquarters.
  • Plot the information.

  • Ensure that the S3 is aware of contaminated areas when routing units.

Information concerning contaminated areas must be disseminated to the batteries. If an element of the battalion encounters a contaminated area this information should be immediately sent to higher headquarters.

Chemical Reconnaissance

In a high chemical threat environment, reconnaissance is essential. Chemical reconnaissance includes both activities performed as a part of the larger overall mission (such as M8 chemical agent alarms and M256 chemical detection kits deployed with advance parties) and dedicated reconnaissance performed by specifically designated and trained chemical survey teams.


US policy renounces the first use of lethal or incapacitating chemical agents. However, it retains the right to retaliate if deterrence fails to prevent the enemy's first use of chemicals. As is the case with nuclear weapons, the President of the United States must approve the initial use of chemical weapons. This approval procedure is known as chemical release.

At the cannon battalion level the unit must receive three things before firing a chemical mission:

  • Chemical projectiles.
  • A release message.

  • An authenticated chemical fire mission.

Chemical Projectiles

Before chemical release, chemical rounds are stored at a corps chemical ammunition supply point (CASP) under the control of ordnance personnel. Once release is received and the commander directs that missions be fired the chemical rounds are either pushed forward to a division ATP or are delivered by air directly to the unit scheduled to fire them. Binary chemical rounds are assembled by ordnance personnel before delivery, and the battalion receives complete rounds (projectile, propellant, and fuze). Upon receipt of the rounds by battalion personnel either at the ATP or at a landing site selected by the unit, personnel in MOPP 4 must inspect the rounds for damage or leakage. Rounds found to be damaged or leaking at the ATP should be refused and replaced. If air-delivered rounds are found to be unserviceable, they should be placed in a dud pit at least 450 meters downwind of the unit, and ATP or explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) personnel should be notified. Specific procedures for handling damaged or leaking chemical rounds are in FM 6-50, Appendix P.

Once the chemical rounds have reached the firing unit, they should be inspected again by personnel in MOPP 4. If possible, they should be left on the transport vehicle to minimize handling. The vehicle should be parked on the furthest downwind side of the battery area or ammunition storage area. An M8A1 chemical agent alarm should be placed in the immediate vicinity of the storage site. Rounds not fired immediately should be periodically inspected for leakage or damage.

Chemical cannon projectiles currently in the US inventory include the following:

  • 105-mm:
  • M360 (GB) (unitary).
  • 155-mm:
  • M121A1 (GB or VX) (unitary).
    M687 (GB) (binary).
  • 203-mm:
  • M426 (GB or VX) (unitary).

Release Message

The battalion may receive release in a number of ways. A message may be received via the emergency action system. However, unlike in nuclear release, an authenticated emergency action message (EAM) is not required at the battalion or battery level. A properly authenticated voice or digital message from the div arty or corps arty commander or face-to-face authorization by the div arty or higher level artillery or maneuver commander is enough for the battalion or battery to action a chemical mission. Refer to local SOPs and directives to determine authorized chemical weapons release procedures.

Chemical Fire Mission

A chemical mission is not substantially different from any other fire mission. However, the initiating agency (observer) normally is the div arty or a higher level unit. Authorization for chemical employment seldom if ever, is delegated below the division level. At the battalion level the primary concern is making certain that the unit selected to fire a mission is given the appropriate chemical rounds.

At the battery level, a chemical mission is actioned like any other mission, except that personnel who actually handle the rounds should wear protective clothing. Current firing procedures do not require any increase in MOPP level for howitzer section personnel firing binary or undamaged unitary chemical projectiles. However, this does not keep the battery commander or platoon leader from raising the MOPP level if he deems it prudent to do so.

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