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This chapter addresses those functions of the FA battalions that are directly associated with the delivery of fires. Specifically, it encompasses tactical and technical fire direction.

The delivery of field artillery fires depends on--

  • Locating an appropriate target.
  • Analyzing that target to determine the proper method of attack (tactical fire direction).

  • Converting the call for fire into gun data (technical fire direction).

  • Delivering the required ordnance on the target to meet the needs of the supported maneuver commander.

Whether this is done manually or through an automated system (TACFIRE), the process is the same. Automating tactical and technical fire direction does not change what we do but how we do it.


Tactical fire direction is the process that results in a fire order. A fire order is the fire direction officer's decision on whether and how a target will be attacked. Specifically, it answers these questions:

  • Location of the target. Is it safe to fire? Is it within range? Are there intervening crests? Can the target be attacked?
  • Nature of the target. How large is it? What is its degree of protection?

  • Ammunition available. What do the batteries have on hand to fire?

  • Firing units available. Who is in range and ready to fire?

  • Commander's guidance and/or SOP. What do we want to do to the target?

  • Request for fire. What did the observer ask for? Can the battalion give it to him? Should the battalion give it to him?

  • Munitions effects. Given the ammunition available, nature of the target and commander's guidance, how should the target be attacked?

  • Tactical situation. When should the battalion fire? Are special instructions required?

The objectives of tactical fire direction are as follows:

  • Provide continuous accurate and responsive fire support under all conditions.
  • Maintain the flexibility to engage all types of targets over wide frontages.

  • Mass the fires of all available units quickly.

  • Engage a number and variety of targets simultaneously.


Target analysis is the examination of a potential surface target to determine the most suitable weapon, firing unit, ammunition, and method for attacking the target.

As they are received in the FDC, targets should be analyzed and tactical fire direction should be initiated. The analysis of a target is valid only for the level at which it is performed. For example, a battalion FDO might consider an automatic weapon an insignificant threat to the brigade mission. However, the same weapon might be of critical importance to the battery or platoon FDO of a firing battery whose priority of fire is to a maneuver company team in contact.

The amount of time devoted to target analysis and the thoroughness of the analysis depend on the following:

  • Amount of target information.
  • Availability of weapons to attack the target.

  • Urgency of the engagement.

Precedence of Attack

When an FDO receives a fire mission, he has the following options:

  • Attack the target immediately.
  • Defer attacking the target until an existing fire mission is complete.

  • Pass the fire mission to another fire direction center.

  • Cancel the mission.

An FDO selects a particular precedence of attack after considering the following:

  • Target characteristics.
  • Target location.

  • Terrain.

  • Weather.

  • Commander's criteria.

Target Characteristics. Targets vary considerably in composition, degree of protection, shape, mobility, and recuperability. Targets can be divided into four categories as shown below. These categories simplify the comparison of effectiveness of particular weapons and rounds. Examples are listed for each category. Under certain conditions, some examples could be listed in more than one category. For example, a motorized rifle battalion could be listed under the first category and the third category.

For personnel targets in particular, the posture of the target is extremely important. Normally, target postures used to describe personnel targets are standing, prone, and in fighting positions. In describing the posture of a target, consideration must be given to the protection afforded by the terrain. For example, an infantry platoon may be attacking in a standing posture. However, irregular terrain may provide protection equivalent to the prone position.

Normally, personnel targets will seek a more protective posture during an engagement, for example, from a standing to a prone position. This change is called posture sequencing. Posture sequencing causes considerable degradation of effects as additional volleys are fired. This is the reason for the continual emphasis on surprise or first-round fire-for-effect (FFE) missions. For the purposes of analysis, personnel targets in the offense are considered to be one-half standing and one-half prone during the first volley of fire and all prone for subsequent volleys. In a defensive configuration, personnel targets are considered to be one-half prone and one-half in fighting positions during the initial volley and all in fighting positions for subsequent volleys.

A target must be analyzed to determine its weak points, Where the target is most vulnerable and what fires will best exploit its weaknesses are influenced by the degree of damage desired. Often there is a tendency to overkill the target when less combat power would suffice. On the basis of the commander's criteria the FDO must ascertain the degree of effects needed (destruction, neutralization, suppression) to support the tactical plan. The acceptable degree of damage is the level that yields a significant military advantage. For example, fire from a heavily protected machine gun emplacement may be silenced by obscuration through smoke and subsequent engagement by direct fire as opposed to the expenditure of an excessive number of high-explosive (HE) rounds required for destruction.

Target Location. The proximity of the target to friendly troops and the accuracy of the target location must be weighted. The importance of certain targets that are not accurately located may justify the fire of several units to ensure coverage. Danger close (nearer than 600 meters to friendly positions) missions may preclude the use of a specific weapon or caliber.

Terrain. The terrain in the target area has a direct effect on the vulnerability of the target. Rugged terrain affords considerable natural cover and makes target location difficult. Certain terrain provides complete protection from some angles of approach but not from others. Thus it influences the unit and munitions to be employed. The type of vegetation in the target area should be considered in the selection of ammunition.

Weather. Weather is of little consequence in evaluating a target to be attacked with fuze quick. However, precipitation and wind are of particular importance in evaluating a target to be attacked with improved conventional munitions (ICM), smoke, or FASCAM or when illuminating projectiles are used. Low clouds, thick fog, surface water, and rain degrade the effectiveness of variable time (VT) fuze M513/M514.

Commander's Criteria. All phases of target analysis are conducted within constraints established by the commander. In determining the precedence for attacking a target, primary consideration should be given to the commander's target priorities. On the basis of ammunition constraints, a commander will also specify the type of effects he desires against specific target categories. The three target effects categories--suppression, neutralization, and destruction--are described below.

Suppression. Suppression of a target limits the ability of enemy personnel to perform their mission. Firing HE, fuze VT reduces the combat effectiveness of personnel and armored targets by creating apprehension or surprise and causing tanks to button up. Smoke is used to blind or confuse. The effect of suppressive fires usually lasts only as long as the fires are continued. This type of fire is used against likely, suspect, or inaccurately located enemy firing units. It can be delivered by small delivery units or means and requires little ammunition.

Neutralization. Neutralization of a target knocks the target out of the battle temporarily. Casualties of 10 percent or more will neutralize a unit. The unit will become effective again when the casualties are replaced and damage is repaired. Neutralization fires are delivered against targets located by accurate map inspection, by indirect fire adjustment, or by a target acquisition device. The assets required to neutralize a target vary according to the type and size of the target and the weapon-ammunition combination used.

Destruction. Destruction puts the target out of action permanently. Thirty percent casualties or materiel damage inflicted during a short time span normally renders a unit permanently ineffective. Direct hits are required to destroy hard materiel targets. Targets must be located by accurate map inspection, by indirect fire adjustment, or by a target acquisition device. Destruction usually requires a large amount of ammunition from many units. Use of artillery weapons for destruction of armored or dug-in targets is not economical.

Most Suitable Weapon and Ammunition

When an FDO decides to attack a target, he must select a weapon-ammunition combination that can achieve a desired effect with a minimum expenditure of available ammunition stocks.

Munitions. The following are considerations in determining the most suitable ammunition.

Type and Quantity Available. The nature of the target and its surroundings and the desired effects dictate the type and amount of ammunition to be used. For a detailed discussion of ammunition and fuzes, refer to FM 6-141-1 and (C)FM 6-141-2. The ammunition resupply system may sometimes rule out the best ammunition selection. For example, extensive smoke fires may be needed to screen maneuver movement, but such fires would probably cause a resupply problem. Some types of fires require more ammunition than others. Suppression and neutralization fires usually use less ammunition than destruction fires.

Troop Safety. Troop safety is a major concern in considering the weapon-ammunition selection for firing close-in targets. The FDO must ensure that fires do not endanger friendly troops, equipment, and facilities.

Residual Effects. Residual effects from special ammunition may influence whether a friendly unit can occupy an area. Use of FASCAM may change the direction of movement of supported elements. Conditions may be hazardous for supported troops occupying an area immediately after an attack with certain munitions. The incendiary effects of munitions may make areas untenable for supported forces. These effects can also deny the enemy use of selected terrain.

Effectiveness. When properly delivered against appropriate targets, artillery fire support can be the decisive factor in a battle. The FDO must ensure that maximum effectiveness is attained from every mission fired. To match a munition to a target, the FDO must know what damage a munition can produce and the damage required to defeat a target. The lethality of a munition must be matched to the specific vulnerability of the target. Thus, the FDO must understand the damage potential (blast, cratering, fragmentation, incendiary, and penetration) of specific munitions. Weather changes may change choices of certain munitions (for example, smoke, illuminating, or Copperhead). Specific information regarding the effects of various munitions is in the appropriate joint munitions effectiveness manual (JMEM), FM 6-141-1, and (C) FM 6-141-2.

Weapons. The following are considerations in determining the most suitable weapons.

Caliber and Type Available. In certain instances, an FDO may control the fires of reinforcing or GSR units that are firing a different caliber. The FDO must have a thorough knowledge of the characteristics, capabilities, and vulnerabilities of each weapon system. Weapons that have slow rates of fire or poor delivery accuracy are suited for long-range fires. Weapons that have rapid rates of fire and/or good delivery accuracy are suited for close fires.

System Response Time. An FDO must ascertain the urgency of each fire mission his FDC receives. Small and medium weapons have a quicker firing response time than heavy weapons. Fire missions sent by the DS battalion to reinforcing or GSR units require more processing time than those sent directly to the firing batteries of the battalion.

Predicted Fire Capability. The FDO must know the current survey, registration, and met status of all firing units under his control. The FFE missions should be assigned to units that have the best predicted fire capability.

Method of Attack

The next step in the FDO's target analysis is the selection of a method of attack. The FDO must select a method of attack that ensures target area coverage and desired target effects. To determine the best method of attack, the FDO must consider aiming points and density and duration of fires.

Aiming Points. Normally, the size of the area to be attacked depends on the size of the target or the size of the area in which the target is known or suspected to be located. A single aiming point in the center of the target is used to attack small targets. For attacking large targets, multiple aiming points must be designated to distribute the fires and ensure adequate coverage. TC 6-40 gives procedures for establishing multiple aiming points.

Density and Duration of Fires. Intense fires of short duration generally produce the best effects on a target. However, the tactical situation may require that fires be continued over a longer period of time. Some examples are screening smoke fires, continuous illumination fires, and suppressive fires supporting a maneuver final assault on an objective.

Weapons Effects

The most important step in performing a target analysis is determining the number and type of rounds required to produce the desired effects on a target. The battalion or battery FDO determines attack data by referring to the appropriate JMEM, by using the graphical munitions effectiveness tables (GMET), or by relying on experience.

Joint Munitions Effectiveness Manuals. Effectiveness tables published in JMEMs for surface-to-surface weapons (JMEM/SS) provide guidance for determining the expected fraction of casualties to personnel targets or damage to materiel targets. The JMEM/SS are published as field manuals. The manuals currently available for all systems are listed in FM 6-141-1. The basic data for these manuals were obtained from test firings actual combat performance, and mathematical modeling. Using JMEMs to determine attack data requires considerable time. Because of time constraints, use of JMEMs at battalion and battery FDC levels for engaging targets of opportunity is not recommended. The effects data included in these manuals incorporate reliability, delivery accuracy, and munitions lethality against a representative spectrum of targets. The computational assumptions, defeat criteria, and instructions for use are included in each manual.


There is no assurance that the expected fraction of damage or casualties will be provided by any number of volleys in a given situation. Although not precisely within the mathematical definition, the method of averaging data used for the tables will result in less damage being realized for approximately 50 percent of the rounds and, conversely, greater damage for the other 50 percent of the rounds.

Graphical Munitions Effects Tables. FM 6-141-1 and (C) FM 6-141-2 provide doctrine for target analysis procedures and the employment of weapons systems. The JMEMs provide excellent effectiveness data. However, the usefulness of these publications to the FDO during tactical operations is limited by their volume, the lack of accessibility (FM 6-141-2 is classified), and the difficulty in comparing ammunition and weapon systems. The GMETs overcome these limitations by providing quick access to average comparative values for selected situations. The FDO may use these as a guideline in making engagement decisions. Using GMETs in making manual tactical fire direction decisions is highly recommended. The following GMETs are available:

  • NSN 1220-01-121-7278(C), Scale, Graphical Munitions Effects (GMET-JMEM) for M102(U).
  • NSN 1220-01-021-7279(C), Scale, Graphical Munitions Effects (GMET-JMEM) for M109A1(U).

  • NSN 1220-01421-7276(C), Scale, Graphical Munitions Effects (GMET-JMEM) for M110(U).

  • NSN 1220-01-021-7277, Scale, Graphical Munitions Effects, Training (GMET-JMEM).

NOTE: These tables are expendable items authorized by commom table of allowances (CTA) 50-970.

The unclassified GMET (training edition for medium artillery) generally requires slightly greater expenditures of ammunition than the M109A1 GMET in a given situation.

NOTE: A detailed discussion of target analysis and use of the JMEMs and GMETs is in TC 6-40.


The delivery of field artillery fires is significantly enhanced through the use of TACFIRE. The TACFIRE links the FA battalions with the supported or reinforced unit, automates tactical fire direction functions, automates fire planning and has a technical fire direction capability. TACFIRE can process and disseminate the following:

  • Conventional, chemical, and nuclear fire plans.
  • Target information.

  • Fire missions generated from incoming target intelligence.

  • Fire support coordinating measures and other forms of battlefield geometry.

  • Ammunition and fire unit data.

  • Comprehensive and timely analysis of fire support capabilities.

  • Safety parameters for key installations, critical terrain, and exposed friendly units.

  • Messages of interest of selected computer actions to elements equipped with variable format message entry devices (VFMEDs).

  • Firefinder WLR zones.

Although TACFIRE can perform all of the above functions, only tactical fire direction is discussed here. In a unit equipped with TACFIRE, tactical fire direction is highly centralized while technical fire direction is decentralized. In light units, light TACFIRE (LTACFIRE) will provide many of the same capabilities.


The first step in tactical fire direction involves establishing parameters in the TACFIRE computer. These parameters are input during initialization of the computer and include the general area of operations (map data) and the tactical data base. The tactical data base includes information from unit contingency plans such as fire support coordinating measures (geometry), ammunition status (basic load), and fire unit locations. Commander's criteria regarding attack methods, percentage of effects desired, priority of selection of fire units, and exclusion of any fire unit and/or shell-fuze combination are also included.


The TACFIRE computer is simply a device that produces a fire order. For the computer to do so in a manner consistent with the maneuver commander's intent for fire support, four files in the computer must be kept current and accurate:

  • Support geometry (SPRT;GEOM).
  • Ammunition and fire unit (AFU).

  • Fire mission modification (FM;M0D).

  • Attack methods (FM;ATTACK).

Support Geometry. The support geometry file must be set up so that it is complete down to task-force level. Airspace coordination areas (ACAs) and air corridors should be included. No-fire areas (NFAs) and free-fire areas (FFAs) must be kept current and are deleted when no longer effective. Coordinated fire lines are important permissive measures, and must be included in the file. The O& I section should help the FDC obtain and input these measures.

Ammunition and Fire Unit. The importance of the AFU file cannot be overstated. Fire unit locations, weapon strength, and ammunition counts are critical factors in making the decisions involved in tactical fire direction. The O& I section must take the lead in making certain the firing units keep current information in the AFU file.

Commander's Criteria. The two other files (FM;MOD and FM;ATTACK) that are critical to the tactical fire direction process are included in commander's criteria. Commander's criteria are crucial to the effective implementation of automatic data processing with TACFIRE. Through commander's criteria, TACFIRE conforms to the commander's desires of how things should be done. Commander's criteria are not just established during initialization and then forgotten. They must be carefully and thoughtfully derived because of the effect they will have on tactical fire direction decisions. The parameters of the commander's criteria must be continuously reviewed as the battle develops. The master tape contains all the information available in the JMEMs concerning the amount and type of ammunition and the optimum number of units to fire (massed fires) for a particular target. This information enables the computer to select the best ammunition for a particular target. If the commander wants to reserve a certain ammunition for future use or to vary the JMEM data, that guidance should be converted into commander's criteria statements and input into the computer. Once they have been established, the computer implements the criteria without delay in mission processing. As the situation changes, guidance changes and the commander's criteria should be changed. Moreover, commander's criteria may be overridden manually anytime an urgent situation warrants it.

Commander's criteria can be very specific. When a target of a given type is received, the computer determines whether the target should be defeated on the basis of multiple volleys from one or more firing units or on the basis of the percentage of effects desired. A hardened target, such as an OP in a bunker, normally will be selected for attack on the basis of volleys. A soft target, such as personnel in the open, normally will be selected for attack on the basis of percentage of casualties desired. The maximum number of volleys the computer should use in analysis before considering another firing unit can be specified in the commander's criteria. Commander's criteria can also specify the percentage of effects desired. The commander may influence the priority of fire mission processing by specifying his desires. If he wants priority of fires to a specific maneuver battalion during an operation that parameter may be specified by identifying the unit's zone of operation. Then whenever a request for fire is received by TACFIRE and the target location is within the zone of the specified battalion, that fire request is moved to the front of the fire mission queue in the computer for the FDO's immediate review. Similar priority maybe set for a zone, a shell-fuze combination, or a target type. TACFIRE takes into account the various parameters, effectively controlling up to 15 fire units.

The two critical files specifically concerned with commander's criteria are the FM;MOD and FM;ATTACK files. Neither of these files should be fixed by unit SOP; rather, they must be developed for each operation or phase of an operation. The maneuver commander will probably be unable to establish the specific parameters for his supporting artillery. The FSCOORD and his staff must analyze the guidance they receive from the maneuver commander and develop the appropriate entries.

The PZONE field captures the priority of fires. The PTYPE captures high-payoff targets. The PSHEL captures high priority munitions, such as illumination for a night defense or smoke for a movement to contact. These fields will change from operation to operation or even from phase to phase in a single operation. Attack guidance is determined for each individual target type and is based on the effects the maneuver commander wishes to achieve and the availability of firing units and ammunition.

In addition to automating tactical fire direction, TACFIRE automatically prepares a request for additional fires (RFAF) whenever the volume of fire (volleys or effects) specified by commander's criteria cannot be met. This RFAF is sent to a reinforcing artillery battalion, if available, or to division artillery. Also, an initial request for fire can be handed off to the reinforcing battalion.

It is essential that the FDO continually assess and adjust commander's criteria during the course of tactical operations. Changes in the tactical situation may make assumptions and guidance that were valid earlier inadequate or even dangerously wrong. If anticipated ammunition fails to arrive, firing units are lost, or new. Threat units or equipment arrives in the supported unit's sector, the parameters in the TACFIRE computer must be adjusted. In a manual environment, this process is no less important, but it is much less easily overlooked. The FDO must aggressively seek new guidance from the FSCOORD and adjust the commander's criteria to reflect current reality.


The backup to automated tactical fire direction procedures with TACFIRE is manual fire direction. However, a battalion TACFIRE shelter is not designed to accommodate a manual FDC, and the battalion has neither the personnel nor the equipment to maintain a fully capable backup manual FDC. If the battalion either elects or is forced to go manual, this situation must have been carefully planned and prepared for long before the requirement. A battalion FDC can establish manual operations more easily if it keeps the following tools on hand:

  • A current fire order standard. Issuing a correct fire order will greatly reduce confusion and errors.
  • Written attack guidance. The JMEMs and GMETs are too cumbersome to be useful in a fluid tactical situation.

  • A current ammunition count for the firing units. This includes projectiles, propellants, and fuzes by lot.

  • A current situation map. As a minimum, the following information must be clearly and accurately displayed:

-Maneuver boundaries.
-Firing unit locations.
-Fire support coordinating measures.
- The FLOT.
- Observer locations
  • Range fans or the range-deflection protractor (Graphical Training Aid [GTA] 6-5-1) for checking ranges.

NOTE: A detailed discussion of TACFIRE operations is in TC 6-40A.


Massing all available fires enables the artillery to inflict maximum damage on the enemy with a minimum expenditure of ammunition. It also reduces the vulnerability of the firing unit to the enemy's target acquisition capabilities. Failure to mass fires gives the enemy time to react and seek protection. A clear understanding of the maneuver commander's intent for fire support and an accurate commander's criteria input into the TACFIRE computer are key to determining how much mass is enough. Every mission received must be evaluated in the light of the commander's criteria, and sufficient mass fire should be employed to achieve the effects required. If the FDO consults the JMEMs or accepts the TACFIRE-generated gunnery solution he will discover that most targets worth engaging should be engaged with volleys from one or more battalions. In most cases, engaging a target with a single battery or platoon results in piecemealing the artillery. More individual targets are fired, but the desired effects are achieved on few, if any, of them.

Maintaining control of the fires of the battalion requires that the FSCOORD maintain the maximum feasible degree of centralized control over the system. There will very likely be many more calls for fire than there will be assets available to fire them and still achieve the effects specified by the commander. The maneuver commander or his FSCOORD must be the one to decide which missions are critical to the success of the unit and which missions either will not be executed or will be delayed. Commander's criteria are the critical element in managing the fires of the battalion. If good commander's criteria are developed and accurately input into the TACFIRE, the computer can assume much of the burden of sorting the missions as they are received and assigning them the appropriate priority. To facilitate this process the S3 and FDO must ensure that they fully understand the commander's intent for fire support and must continually revise and update commander's criteria to reflect the changing tactical situation.

One of the best techniques available to the FDO for massing fires is the use of TOT. Also, the FDO can effectively mass fire for effect on mobile targets through use of AT MY COMMAND (AMC) in his fire order. With these techniques the element of surprise is not lost, since the delivery of fires is controlled. Survivability of firing units is enhanced, both because mass fire techniques require fewer rounds to achieve the desired effects and because massed fires temporarily saturate enemy target acquisition devices. The figure below graphically shows the number of volleys necessary to achieve equivalent effects against a typical target. These two techniques for massing fires when properly applied against appropriate targets, can be the decisive factor in the battle.

The key to effective massed fires when more than one battery is to be fired for effect is the efficient use of voice as well as digital fire orders. By using voice fire orders, the battalion FDO can ensure that targets are engaged with the required number of firing units in a synchronized manner. Unit SOPs should address the procedures for both digital and voice fire orders. Training should emphasize those procedures in all combined arms and live-fire exercises Procedures for voice fire orders are in TC 6-40.


Technical fire direction is the process of converting weapon and ammunition characteristics (muzzle velocities, propellant temperature, and projectile weight), weapon and target locations, and met information to firing data. The results of this process are commands that are sent to the individual howitzer section for firing. The battery or platoon FDC is still the control center for the gunnery team, even in TACFIRE-equipped units. It is the responsibility of the individual firing battery and platoon FDCs to conduct technical fire direction by using the BCS, the backup computer system (BUCS), or manual computations. Targeting agencies, such as FOs and radars, transmit targeting information to the FDC by using the DMD or voice communications. In BCS-equipped units, fire commands are generated by the BCS and passed to the howitzer sections through the gun display unit (GDU). Units using BUCS or manual gunnery must pass fire commands to the guns by voice.

In non-TACFIRE units, battalion-level technical fire direction is conducted by using BUCS and/or manual computations. Normally, a non-TACFIRE unit will send fire commands by voice, since no digital communication is available.

NOTE: A detailed discussion of technical fire direction is in TC 6-40 and TC 6-40A.


In many tactical situations, integration of the fires of TACFIRE and non-TACFIRE units is a problem the FSCOORD must address. The heart of this problem is the different primary communications systems used by the different units. Non-TACFIRE artillery units use voice communication for command and control. In TACFIRE units, while voice is still used for many command functions, digital communication is the primary means of conducting tactical and technical fire direction.

A detailed discussion of TACFIRE and non-TACFIRE operations and techniques is in Appendix A.

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