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The goal of fire support planning is to know the maneuver commander's guidance, intent, and scheme of maneuver and to coordinate fire support assets to support the operation. This chapter offers considerations to use in planning offensive and defensive operations. It does not address the commander's intent or factors of METT-T. Therefore, each FSO from company through brigade must add those two items to the considerations to adequately plan and coordinate fire support for an operation. The product of fire support planning is the fire support plan, a key component of the commander's operation plan. The plan must be simple flexible, and descriptive. It must support the scheme of maneuver and the commander's intent.

Maneuver Tactics and Fire Support

In the process of integrating fire support into operations, the most important considerations are adequacy, flexibility, and continuity. The FSO ensures that these primary considerations are observed by carefully weighing the fire support tasks required for each maneuver operation.


The primary purpose of the offense is to destroy the enemy. The fire support tasks associated with offensive operations are as follows:

  • Provide responsive fires to maneuver.
  • Attack deep targets with massed indirect fires and TACAIR.
  • Use aggressive counterfire.

Before the attack, soften enemy defenses by attacking--

  • Indirect fire systems.
  • Reserves and command and control facilities.
  • Logistical centers.
  • Assembly areas.
  • Communication centers.
  • Frontline troops.

During the attack, provide support by using all available fire support (including TACAIR) to destroy, neutralize, or suppress high-payoff targets that could slow or react to the attack.

During consolidation, plan fires (including TACAIR)--

  • To protect friendly units as they reorganize.
  • To break up enemy counterattacks.
  • To prevent enemy reinforcement, disengagement, or resupply.


The primary purpose of the defense is to defeat an enemy attack and destroy enemy forces. Other objectives may be to retain a piece of terrain, to gain time, to concentrate elsewhere, and to wear the enemy down before offensive operations. The main fire support tasks to support the defense are as follows:

  • Integrate indirect and direct fires in support of the operation.
  • Disorganize, delay, and weaken the enemy before the attack begins.
  • Strip away enemy AD and reconnaissance (recon) elements.
  • Strike the enemy as he attacks.
  • Deny the enemy avenues of approach.
  • Canalize the enemy.
  • Suppress the enemy fire support system.


Offensive Operations

The primary purpose of an offensive operation is to destroy the enemy. Critical to the success of offensive operations are gaining and retaining the initiative and forcing the enemy to tight and react at a time and place not of his choosing. This section describes fire support considerations for the following offensive operations and techniques:

  • Movement to contact.
  • Hasty attack.
  • Deliberate attack.
  • Exploitation.
  • Pursuit.

Movement to Contact


A movement to contact is an offensive operation designed to gain initial ground contact with the enemy or to regain lost contact. It is used to develop the situation early to provide an advantage before decisive engagement. The primary consideration in preparing for a movement to contact is anticipating enemy actions during the movement. Such anticipation provides for friendly deployment in a manner that affords the greatest possible security to the main body while facilitating quick strong reaction when the contact is made.

Fire Support Considerations

Immediately responsive fires are provided initially to the lead element and then to the lead company as contact develops. Responsive tires are provided by--

  • Assignment of priorities of fire.
  • Allocation of priority targets to the company and/or team performing a mission requiring responsiveness.
  • Responsive repositioning of firing batteries by the artillery S3 as the movement to contact progresses.
  • Effective positioning by forward observers and/or COLTs.
  • Integration of additional assets, such as the immediate response of mortars on contact with the enemy.

Responsive fires are also provided by effective assignment of forward observers to the available communications nets. Assignment can give specific observers priority of response. The quick fire net and the exclusive net are options. They do not prevent the firing unit from answering calls for fire from other than the specific observer.

  • A quick fire net (voice) authorizes direct association of an observer with a selected weapon system (normally field artillery). Although the designated observer is not the only observer on the net, he has the highest priority for calls for fire. In a voice net, the net control station (NCS) (normally the FDC) will restrict all other net traffic immediately on receiving a request for fire from the priority observer. In a quick fire net (digital), the designated observer maybe given priority in the tactical fire direction system (TACFIRE) or the observer may be allowed to communicate directly with a designated battery computer system (BCS). (See TC 6-40A.)

NOTE: In either digital case, the operators must diligently and continuously review input queues to ensure immediate actioning of the priority call for fire.

  • An exclusive net is a fire direction net to be designated (as a field expedient) for exclusive use for a limited period of time by the observer and the appropriate FDC. No other subscriber will enter the net except in an emergency. This procedure will be used only for special situations. The commander, considering the factors of METT-T, must determine that absolute responsiveness to a specific unit is mandatory. This procedure requires frequencies and radio equipment that are normally not readily available. For example, the FDC may not be able to monitor a normally required net for the limited period of time designated, but it will always monitor its normal fire direction net.

On the basis of the commander's guidance, schedule fires on deep targets with massed fires and TACAIR. Plan fires on and around reserves and logistics sites to hinder their movement onto the battlefield. Plan fires on flanks to protect the flanks and to reduce the number of maneuver forces committed to the flanks.

Plan fires on the terrain to be traversed and on the flanks to protect the force. As maneuver forces move, fire immediate suppression missions to help the maneuver forces get within range of the enemy direct fire weapon systems. Fire immediate smoke to obscure OPs, screen friendly movement, and help maneuver forces breach obstacles. COLTs may be positioned forward near the advance guard in an overwatch position (pos) to provide responsive fires when contact is made. Once contact with the enemy is made, the FSO must be prepared for either a hasty attack or a defense.

Place coordinated fire lines (CFLs) well forward of friendly maneuver forces. Plan on-order (O/O) CFLs on phase lines so that CFLs can be quickly lifted and shifted.

Hasty Attack


The main goal of a hasty attack is to seize the initiative. A hasty attack is usually conducted after a movement to contact, during a counterattack, or when unexpected enemy contact is made. The commander attacks quickly from his existing dispositions to gain the upper hand or to keep the enemy from organizing resistance. Planning time is extremely limited.

Fire Support Considerations

Develop fire plans to concentrate fires on forward enemy elements. If time permits, use quick fire planning techniques to plan fires. Fires should be massed on the forward units and are continuous until the final coordination line is crossed or as directed by the commander.

Suppress direct fire weapon systems to allow friendly maneuver forces to get within range of the enemy direct fire weapon systems for engagement.

Use screening smoke to provide an artificial camouflage for friendly forces moving to the enemy. Use obscuring smoke to obscure enemy OPs and direct fire weapon systems.

Isolate the enemy force being attacked by the use of deep fires. FASCAM may be used around enemy reinforcements and logistic sites and on approaches leading into the immediate battle area Dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM) may be used to inflict damage on soft-skinned vehicles in assembly areas and logistic sites.

Deliberate Attack


A deliberate attack is characterized by thorough detailed planning, rapid concentration of forces, timely exploitation of enemy weaknesses, violent execution, and positive aggressive leadership at all echelons of command. It involves overcoming strong enemy forces in established positions and is undertaken after thorough reconnaissance acquisition and development of targets, and analysis of all other factors affecting the situation.

Fire Support Considerations

During the attack, provide immediately responsive fires to the lead company by assigning priority of fire support. COLTs may be placed forward on prominent terrain to engage targets early.

Throughout the operation, plan for the attack of deep targets to block movements of reserves and follow-on forces into the close-in battle area. Plan FASCAM to limit enemy movement but not to interfere with friendly maneuver. As targets are acquired, forward them to the higher FS cell for engagement, if necessary. The brigade FSO will inform the FS cell of the current FLOT and radiation exposure state (RES) status to expedite the employment of a division nuclear subpackage to support deliberate attack. Additional nuclear considerations are in Appendix H.

Plan fires to support maneuver phases of the operation. When determining the number of targets to be planned, balance the need for fires with the reality of time and resources available. Plan groups and series to support the movement. Plan fires--

  • On the flanks to protect the force.
  • On the way to the objective to engage enemy OPs, enemy direct fire systems, and enemy elements that might be bypassed.
  • To screen friendly movement and support minefield breaching.
  • On the objective to suppress, neutralize, and destroy targets.
  • Beyond the objective to prevent counterattacks, help consolidate the objective, and prevent reinforcement of the objective area by the enemy.

Support consolidation on the objective. Plan fires to prevent reinforcement of the enemy on the objective (obj) and to defeat enemy counterattacks (groups, series, designated priority targets, and FPFs). Plan for a hasty attack or defense.

Preparation fires may be planned and delivered.

To deceive the enemy into thinking an attack is taking place elsewhere, plan and deliver fires in support of the deception plan. These may be massed fires and smoke delivered before the attack begins on forward enemy elements not in the main attack.

Plan CFLs well forward to keep the maneuver forces from outrunning the CFLs and to give the forces enough room in which to move. Additionally, the brigade FSO must use on-order CFLs to rapidly place new CFLs in effect.

Plan suppressive fires on enemy overwatching direct fire systems to help maneuver direct fire systems engage the enemy systems. Plan smoke to screen movement, obscure enemy OPs, and help in breaching operations.

Plan massed fires at breakthrough points to create holes in enemy defenses. Also, plan heavy suppressive fires on the other side of the intended breakthrough.

Plan for a hasty defense.



Exploitation is an offensive operation that follows a successful attack to take advantage of weakened or collapsed enemy defenses. Its purpose is to prevent reconstitution of enemy defenses, to prevent enemy withdrawal, to secure deep objectives and to destroy enemy forces. An exploitation is conducted with two forces, the direct pressure force and the follow-and-support force.

The follow-and-support units clear the overrun area of pockets of resistance and expand the zone of exploitation. Follow-and-support units are assigned missions to help exploiting forces by relieving them of tasks that would slow their advance, such as preventing the enemy from closing a gap in a penetration and securing key terrain gained during a penetration or envelopment. As the exploiting brigade advances farther into the enemy rear areas, the follow-and-support units secure lines of communication and supply, support the exploiting elements of the brigade, destroy pockets of bypassed enemy, and expand the area of exploitation from the brigade axis.

Depending on the situation and its task organization, the brigade can exploit its own success. It can be used as an exploiting force for a higher echelon or it can follow and support another exploiting force. Subordinate battalions normally maneuver as in a movement to contact.

Fire Support Considerations

The FSO must be prepared to provide flexible fire support to both the direct pressure force and the follow-and-support force. On-order priorities of fire must be designated to rapidly shift priorities to units within the direct pressure force and/or to the follow-and-support force if necessary. Fire planning must be flexible. It must encompass fires not only in front of the force (on choke points and to canalize the enemy) but also to the flanks and rear. COLTs must be employed to support the force as a whole. Quick fire planning techniques may be necessary to provide responsive support planning. As the enemy force retreats, it will be necessary to slow it down for the encircling force to catch up. Also, it will be necessary to prevent the enemy from reinforcing the retreating force either logistically or with combat personnel. Plan massed fires on enemy choke points and key terrain to canalize, slow, and block the enemy movement. Multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) fires and DPICM are suitable for slowing down targets. FASCAM may be employed on escape routes. TACAIR on ground alert and attack helicopters employed in a fire support role can provide rapid engagement of hard or mobile targets and can provide massed fires for area targets. Smoke may be used to slow and disrupt the retreat. Fix bypassed pockets of resistance until follow-on forces can engage. Use suppressive fires. DPICM is suitable for slowing down vehicles and fixing the force.

Plan for hasty attack.

Plan CFLs so they can well forward. Use on-order CFLs be quickly emplaced and moved.



If it becomes apparent that enemy resistance has broken down entirely, either an attack or an exploitation may give way to pursuit. The pursuit is ordered when the enemy can no longer maintain his position and tries to escape. The commander exerts unrelenting pressure to keep the enemy from reorganizing and preparing defenses. A direct pressure force places pressure on the enemy while another highly mobile encircling force cuts the enemy retreat to intercept and destroy him. Hasty attacks may take place with little or no preparation.

The mission of a direct pressure force is to prevent enemy disengagement and subsequent reconstitution of the defense and to inflict maximum casualties. Lead elements move rapidly along all available roads to contain or bypass small enemy pockets, which are reduced by follow-and-support forces. At every opportunity, the direct pressure force envelops, cuts off, and destroys enemy elements if such actions do not interfere with its primary mission. The enemy is not allowed to break contact.

The mission of the encircling force is to get behind the enemy and block his escape so that he can be destroyed between the direct pressure and encircling forces.

Fire Support Considerations

Responsive fire support must be provided to both the direct pressure and encircling forces. Priorities of fires may be designated for both forces. Because of distance considerations, the encircling force may get priority of field artillery, while the direct pressure force gets priority of the mortars. The decision to assign priorities of fire to one force or both forces at the same time will depend on the tactical situation. COLTs may be positioned to support both forces. As the enemy retreats, it will be necessary to slow him down for the encircling force to catch up. Also, it will be necessary to keep the enemy from reinforcing the retreating force, either logistically or with combat personnel. Plan massed fires on enemy choke points and key terrain to canalize, slow, and block the enemy movement. MLRS fires and DPICM are suitable for slowing targets. FASCAM may be employed on escape routes and to slow the retreat and prevent reinforcement. TACAIR and attack helicopters employed in a fire support role can attack hard targets. Smoke may be used to slow and disrupt the retreat.

Air support must be responsive to the needs of the force to effectively slow the retreat of the enemy. Air or ground alert may be necessary to provide the degree of responsiveness required. Also, ALOs, ETACs, and/or AFACs should be positioned forward to respond in a timely manner.

Fix bypassed pockets of resistance until follow-on forces can engage. DPICM delivered on vehicles may significantly reduce the enemy movement. Suppressive fires may be delivered to hinder the movement of bypassed forces.

Both direct pressure and encircling forces must plan for hasty attack.

Place CFLs well forward. Use on-order CFLs so they can be quickly shifted and lifted, Plan a restrictive fire line (RFL) between converging forces.


Purpose of Defensive Operations

The purpose of any defense is to destroy the enemy, gain time, concentrate forces, or slow or weaken the enemy before the conduct of offensive operations. Friendly forces must retain the initiative to keep the enemy off-balance. The key to this type of defense is depth. Fire support considerations discussed in this section apply to any type of defensive operation.

Fire Support Considerations

Attack the Enemy Deep

Fires will always be planned to attack the enemy before he reaches the main battle area (MBA), These fires are planned--

  • To disorganize, delay, and weaken the enemy.
  • To strip away the enemy reconnaissance elements.
  • To impair the enemy vision by causing him to button up. Use of variable time (VT) and time (ti) fuzes will also destroy some of the vehicle optics and antennas.

Plan Fires to Support Scouts

Fires also must be planned to support the scouts deployed forward to provide intelligence. These fires are planned--

  • To screen scout movements with smoke.
  • To suppress enemy units engaging the scouts.
  • Along avenues of approach.

The purpose of the scouts is to report the enemy size, configuration, and direction of attack. Therefore, the scouts can provide much valuable information. This includes the following:

  • Speed of enemy formations to trigger points and selection of trigger points.
  • Dispersal of enemy formations.
  • Amount and location of artillery and mortar assets.
  • Locations of command, control, and communications (C3) cells.

Because the scouts belong to the task force commander and may have other information requirements, consider attaching forward observers with the scouts. Besides reporting specific information wanted by the FSO, the FOs can control indirect fires against the enemy force. Also, under emergency combat conditions the FOs can control fires delivered by CAS assets if the ALO, ETAC, or AFAC is not available.

Consider emplacing COLTs forward on prominent terrain to acquire specific high-value targets the commander wants destroyed. These high-value targets are normally determined by a target value analysis and included in the commander's guidance. High-value targets may include C3 cells, armored vehicles, combat support (CS) elements, and combat service support (CSS) elements.

Separate the Enemy Infantry From Armor

Plan fires where friendly units engage the enemy with direct fires. As the enemy deploys his infantry, the indirect fires will slow the infantry and cause the armor to outdistance the infantry support.

Airburst munitions, such as those delivered with VT and time fuzes, will be most effective against deployed troops in the open.

Support the Obstacle Plan

Plan fires in front of, on top of, to the sides of, and behind obstacles to maximize their effect as combat multipliers.

Plan fires far forward of obstacles to disrupt enemy formations, to separate attacking echelons, and to force enemy deployment into forward engagement areas. As the enemy approaches an obstacle, massed fires and priority targets maximize casualties on enemy elements halted or bunched by the obstacle.

Plan fires on top of obstacles to hinder breaching attempts by destroying breaching teams or equipment, including lane markers. When deciding to fire on top of an obstacle, the commander must consider the effects of these fires on the obstacle itself.

Plan fires to the sides of obstacles to hinder enemy attempts to bypass obstacles.

Plan fires behind the obstacle to destroy the enemy piecemeal as he passes through the obstacle, to support the withdrawal of friendly elements, and to force the enemy into another engagement area.

Consider using smoke to support the obstacle plan. Fired in front of the obstacle, smoke obscures the obstacle from the enemy. Smoke fired on top and to the sides of the obstacle hinders breaching or bypassing efforts and silhouettes the enemy for overmatching elements if the enemy succeeds in breaching or bypassing.

The exact location of each obstacle must be determined after the obstacle is emplaced. COLTs can be used to provide exact location if time permits.

Consider using FASCAM if available. (Use of FASCAM must be coordinated with the engineers.)

Devise an observation plan that provides for continuous observation (to include periods of limited visibility) from multiple vantage points. Designate redundant responsibilities for executing fires in support of obstacles. Also designate primary and alternate communications means.

Support Disengagements

The commander's concept of the operation may state that friendly units are to disengage at a certain time to move to successive positions. Therefore, the fire plan must include fires to support the disengagement. The FSO must plan--

  • On-call suppressive fires at the point where the unit will disengage.
  • Smoke to screen the movement of friendly elements and obscure the enemy vision.
  • Targets along the route to the next position.

Plan Smoke and Illumination

Because the enemy has the advantage of choosing when to fight, the FSO must be prepared to implement the fire plan both day and night, Smoke and illuminating munitions can be used to silhouette the enemy and thus provide more visible targets to direct fire systems. The commander must decide if and how he wants to employ smoke and illuminating munitions, Considerations for employing these munitions are as follows:

  • Smoke used to screen friendly movements and obscure the enemy vision may also obscure the vision of adjacent friendly elements.
  • Illuminating munition burning on the ground behind the enemy at night is also effective. Illumination will ruin the night vision of friendly units and, if not properly coordinated, can injure friendly observers looking through night vision devices.
  • Units in the defense normally have the advantage of knowing the terrain better than the attacking force, The use of illumination may negate this advantage.
  • Smoke deployed on the ground behind the enemy is effective during daylight.
  • To create these silhouettes, the terrain must be either level or gently sloping with no crests between the munitions and the enemy.

Use trigger points to determine when to engage moving targets with indirect fires. Trigger points are identifiable points (natural or man-made) on the ground. The enemy arrival at a trigger point signals the FOs to initiate a call for fire. The sequence for determining when to intiate a call for fire is as follows:

  • Determine the position on the ground that you want fires to impact on the enemy or to silhouette the enemy.
  • Determine the enemy rate of movement (speed). This may be done by estimation, on the basis of past experience, from doctrinal literature, or from scout reports or enemy speed. The best way is from scout reports.
  • Determine the time of flight of the rounds from the weapon system firing the mission.
  • Determine processing time (transmission time plus FDC time equals total processing time [TPT]).
  • Determine total mission time (TOF plus TPT equals total mission time [TMT]).
  • Back up the trigger point the required distance on the basis of computations based on total mission time and rate of speed as shown.

Plan Fire Support Coordinating Measures

Fire support coordinating measures must be flexible to facilitate a changing situation and must not be too restrictive.

  • A coordinated fire line may be employed to allow the attack of the enemy by all surface-to-surface systems. The CFL should be placed close to the front of the main battle area.
  • Restricted fires areas (RFAs) may be employed around scout positions in forward areas.
  • Remember that unit boundaries are also fire support coordinating measures in that fires from one unit may not cross boundaries into another unit sector without coordination.

To emplace fire support coordinating measures, consider wartime minimum safe distances of the munitions to be fired.

Plan Final Protective Fires

Plan final protective fires as they would be planned for any defensive operation. Final protective fires must be planned at blocking positions (if any) selected by the commander.

  • Place FPFs along the most likely approach by the enemy into a friendly position.
  • Place FPFs close enough to the friendly position to augment the direct fire weapons--normally no more than 300 meters in front of the position.
  • Fire FPFs only when needed and end them only on order. The FPF may be initiated by a code word or target number or by calling specifically for the FPF. However, when this is done, such initiation should be a matter of SOP and should be coordinated carefully.

Allocate Mortars

The battalion FSO must recommend which company will receive priority of mortar fires. The priority of fires can change according to time, event, or threat so that during an operation, each company is provided priority of fires. The following considerations can be used to determine priority of fires.

  • Priority is usually assigned to a forward security force initially.
  • Priority may be subsequently assigned to weight a critical sector or battle position. The commander may state that a specific position, terrain feature, or event is vital to the success of the defense.
  • Priority is changed as required to meet the threat. The enemy may not always attack where expected.
  • Priority may be assigned to increase the effectiveness of the unit direct fires. For example, the effectiveness of ATGMs can be increased by forcing armor to button up and by canalizing the enemy.

The allocation of priority fires must--

  • Provide fires to support the scheme of maneuver and/or commander's intent.
  • Enhance response to anticipated on-call fires.
  • Provide continuous indirect fire support.

The cavalry troop FSO recommends priority of fires for the troop mortars similarly. In certain circumstances and terrain, those mortars may not be able to support the entire troop front. The commander must decide to whom priority of fires will be provided. The commander must determine--

  • Where the enemy will most probably deploy his infantry and attack.
  • Likely enemy avenues of approach.
  • What position or positions must be held to ensure the success of the defense.

Allocate Field Artillery Fires

The brigade FSO must allocate priority of FA fires from the supporting FA direct support battalion. Like the mortar allocation of fires, the FA priority of fires--

  • Is usually assigned initially to a forward security force.
  • Is subsequently assigned to weight a critical sector or battle position.
  • Is changed as required to meet the threat.
  • Can increase the effectiveness of direct fires of a unit.

Plan Close Air Support

The FSO (in coordination with the S3 air, S2, and ALO) recommends targets for engagement with preplanned CAS. Preplanning permits the most effective and efficient use of TACAIR assets. Preplanned requests permit ordnance to be precisely matched to the target. Mission planning can be more complete. CAS missions can be integrated into the operations to ensure timely mission accomplishment. Preplanned missions facilitate the ALO, ETAC, and/or AFAC control of aircraft; the planning and employment of airspace control procedures; and SEAD planning.

As they become available, target information updates or changes in target status should be forwarded to the air support operations center (ASOC) through the TACP. If the target has moved or has been destroyed or if the commander no longer wants the target to be engaged by TACAIR, the ALO must be notified so the mission can be retargeted, diverted to a higher priority mission, or otherwise used in a more effective manner.

Plan for Nuclear Operations

When the division uses a division nuclear subpackage in the defense, the brigade FSO will ensure that the division FS cell knows the latest FLOT location. The FSO will inform the brigade commander of the location of the minimum safe distance (MSD) lines and will ensure that any STRIKEWARN message is disseminated. Further information is in Appendix H.

Security Area


The security area extends from the FLOT or a line designated by the force commander back to the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA). The mission of the covering force is--

  • To gain and maintain contact with attacking enemy forces.
  • To develop the situation.
  • To delay or defeat the enemy leading fighting forces.


Corps and division commanders may establish a covering force as the first echelon of a two-echelon defense. When this is done, the covering force, normally composed of tank-heavy task forces and regimental cavalry, fights a major action to destroy leading enemy formations, to cause the commitment of follow-on forces, and to force the enemy to disclose his main effort. The covering force must be prepared to conduct counterattacks or drive between echelons to isolate leading units. The corps or division will normally control the covering force.

Fire Support Considerations

Engage the enemy before he moves into the covering force area. Target enemy combat units to force the enemy to deploy, to inflict casualties, and to strip away reconnaissance elements. Isolate the attacking force by engaging second-echelon forces, C3 facilities, and logistic sites. Plan fires deep to slow and canalize the enemy.

Target enemy reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering elements (the combat recon patrol and forward security element) to lessen the capability of the enemy to gain information on friendly forces status and disposition. Laser-guided munitions directed by COLTs placed forward may be used to accomplish this task.

Counterpreparation fires should be planned and may be fired (at the commander's direction) when the threat of enemy attack is discovered.

Deceive the enemy as to the location of the MBA. Cause the enemy to deploy early and reveal his main attack. Mass fires at critical points. Have observers in position to call for those fires. Mass fires to slow and canalize the enemy to provide better targets for maneuver direct fire systems and to cause the enemy to deploy early and thus reveal his main attack.

Support the withdrawal of the covering force. Suppress enemy direct and indirect fire weapons. Assist maneuver in moving and disengaging. Plan smoke, FPFs, priority targets, suppression fires on direct and indirect fire systems, and groups and series along withdrawal routes. Support barrier and/or obstacle plans.

Plan for hasty attack.

Keep FS cells in the MBA informed of the current tactical situation. Among the items to be forwarded to FS cells in the MBA are--

  • Fire support coordinating measures in effect.
  • The tactical situation.
  • Target lists and fire plans in effect.

Place CFLs close to friendly maneuver forces and plan on-order CFLs.

Main Battle Area


The main battle area extends from the FEBA back to the rear limit of the brigade area of operation. The bulk of the defending force normally is deployed in the main battle area to defeat the enemy main thrust. Fire support in the MBA is used to slow, stop, or destroy attacking forces and to enhance the use of massed fires to inflict the greatest damage.

Fire Support Considerations

Before the enemy enters the main battle area, plan deep fires to disrupt, delay, canalize, and cause casualties. TACAIR missions may be planned on known, suspected, and likely enemy locations. Also, plan fires on choke points to inflict maximum casualties. If a covering force is deployed forward of the MBA, coordination must be made to fire on the targets.

Plan fires to deny the enemy information about friendly forces and to strip away his reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering elements (the combat recon patrol and forward security element). Laser-guided munitions directed by COLTs placed forward may be used to do this.

As the enemy moves into the main battle area, use fire support to canalize him, deny him use of chosen terrain, and cause him to deploy early and thus reveal his main attack. Mass fires to delay, disrupt, and destroy the enemy throughout the sector. Counterpreparation fires may be planned and executed. Observers (to include COLTs) may be placed in key positions overmatching avenues of approach. Also, fires should be planned to support the barrier and/or obstacle plan.

Plan fires to isolate front echelons from the follow-on forces, making it easier for friendly maneuver forces to defeat the enemy. Observers must be in forward positions to call for fire, Consider using smoke and FASCAM behind forward enemy elements and in front of enemy follow-on forces. Engage high-payoff targets in the follow-on forces early to disrupt their operations.

Help maneuver forces in moving and disengaging from enemy forces as they fall back through the MBA. Suppress enemy direct and indirect fire weapons. Plan smoke, priority targets, and fires along withdrawal routes.

Make contingency plans to reallocate fire support assets once the main attack is identified to strengthen the most vulnerable area. Fires must be planned along all viable avenues of approach, and on-order priorities of fire must be designated. TACAIR missions must be planned to support the contingencies.

Plan fires on obstacles to hinder breaching attempts with the use of massed fires and priority targets. FASCAM may be used to reseed breached minefield.

Plan for hasty attack. The opportunity may appear to conduct counterattacks. The FSO must be prepared to support a hasty attack using quick fire planning techniques, as planning time will be limited. Place CFLs close to forward units to open up the area for rapid engagement of the enemy.


This section implements STANAG 2082, Edition 5.



The delay trades space for time while inflicting maximum punishment on the enemy without becoming decisively engaged. The delaying force selects positions that provide long-range observation and fields of fire. Thus, friendly forces can engage the enemy at long ranges and bring him under increasingly heavy fires as he maneuvers toward friendly positions. The delaying force seeks concealment and cover for delaying positions, assembly areas, and routes of movement. It occupies battle positions long enough to cause the enemy to deploy, allowing the delaying force to develop the situation and maneuver to an attack position. The delaying force normally deploys to the next delay position before becoming decisively engaged.

Fire Support Considerations

Fires are planned to engage the enemy early, before he gets to the battle positions, to inflict casualties and disrupt his approach to the positions. Massed fires are planned on high-payoff targets and canalizing terrain. Enemy reserves and logistic sites are engaged to reduce the ability of the enemy to support the attacking force.

All fire support assets must be used to support the delaying force as it proceeds to the rear. Priority targets are planned and designated, as are fires along the route from the old position to the next position. Observers are placed in position to support the displacing force. COLTs may be needed to provide the degree of support necessary. All assets are used to support the movement. Smoke may be used to screen the movement.

Fires must be planned in front of, on top of, and to the sides of the battle position to engage the enemy immediately before his attack of that position. Also, FPFs should be planned.

Fires must be planned for the disengagement. Specifically, massed fires on likely and known enemy positions and smoke should be planned. Use of the COLT can help in this.

At some time during the battle, the enemy may become particularly vulnerable. The commander may decide to conduct a counterattack. There may be enough planning time to use quick fire planning procedures. Otherwise, the FSO must be prepared to shift and mass fires. He must plan continuously. If the counterattack is to be more than a limited one, the FSO must be prepared to reallocate assets in support of it.



During a withdrawal, all or a part of a force disengages from the enemy and moves away in an organized manner. A withdrawal may occur under enemy pressure or not under pressure. It may be executed in daylight or darkness. In withdrawing from the enemy, the disengaging force must put distance between the it and the enemy as quickly as possible, preferably without the enemy's knowledge. Withdrawal is best done under the cover of darkness or limited visibility, even though command and control is more difficult. Smoke helps conceal the operation. In the case of the withdrawal under enemy pressure, the commander will leave an overmatching force, a covering force, or a detachment left in contact (DLIC) to maintain contact with the enemy and keep him from spoiling the withdrawal. The DLIC may have to perform a delay to keep enemy forces from engaging friendly forces at this critical time.

Fire Support Considerations

Withdrawal Without Enemy Pressure. Ideally, the maneuver force will be able to withdraw without enemy pressure. In such a case, the commander will want to use a deception plan to make it look as though the force is still in contact with the enemy. The withdrawal may be detected by the enemy. Therefore, the FSCOORD must be prepared to support a withdrawal under enemy pressure.

Withdrawal Under Enemy Pressure. If the force must withdraw under enemy pressure, the DLIC must be given maximum fire support to help in the disengagement. Suppression of enemy direct fire systems and the use of smoke to obscure enemy OPs must be planned. Because of terrain considerations, smoke may be required to screen friendly movement. TACAIR and attack helicopters employed in a fire support role may be used to provide effective support.

Barriers and obstacles become critical to the success of support of the operation. Massed fires in barriers and obstacles and the use of smoke can restrict enemy movement. Smoke can hinder enemy breaching attempts.

Passage of Lines


A passage of lines is conducted to allow a moving unit to pass through a stationary unit. It can be conducted in offensive or defensive operations. During this passage, both units are temporarily concentrated in the same area and are, therefore, vulnerable to enemy action. The normal confusion of combat is increased by having two units in an area where only one was before. Therefore, extremely detailed planning and coordination are required. A passage of lines is rarely a specified mission; rather, it is usually an implied task.


Extremely detailed planning is required for passage of lines to avoid unnecessary casualties and damage to equipment and to deceive the enemy. The aspects of planning with which FSCOORDs of the stationary and passing forces must be concerned are discussed below.

Control Measures. The following data must be passed between two forces involved:

  • Location of passage lanes.
  • Location of passage points.
  • Location of contact points.
  • Recognition signals.
  • Attack positions or assembly area (in a forward passage).
  • Routes (start points [SPs] and release points [RPs]).
  • Location of CS and CSS units (in a rearward passage).

Transfer of Control. The commanders of the two forces decide when transfer of control will be effected. Most often, it will be determined by event; however, the commanders may select a time (H-hour) to effect transfer of control. This transfer of control impacts on fire support (that is, the mission changes from DS to GS, GSR, or reinforcing or from GS, GSR, or R to DS). Also, responsibility for fire support coordination passes from the FSCOORD of the force in contact to the FSCOORD of the passing force at H-hour (or event). In a fluid situation, which will be the norm, this transfer of control will probably not occur at the same time across the front. Therefore, it must be planned for and procedures, such as collocation of DS battalion CPs, must be established to ensure smooth transition.

Targeting. Targeting is similar for forward and rearward passages of lines.

For a forward passage of lines--

  • Screen enemy forward observation of passage.
  • Plan groups and/or series of targets on enemy direct fire systems, command and control, indirect fire systems, TA systems, and air defense.
  • Plan fires to support the deception plan.
  • Plan smoke to screen friendly movement through passage points.
  • Plan fires to interdict enemy counterattacks in the area of passage and reinforcements.
  • Emphasize massing indirect fires.
  • Ensure the stationary force supports the close battle while the passing force indirect fire assets move through.
  • Ensure counterfire is planned and controlled by the stationary force.
  • Position COLTs of both forces to designate targets for precision guided munitions.
  • Plan fire support coordinating measures.
  • Use AFSOs to cover dead space and flanks.
  • Ensure the passing force plans fires to support operations after the passage of lines.

For a rearward passage of lines--

  • Plan smoke to conceal movement through passage points.
  • Plan fires to disengage forces.
  • Plan fires to support the obstacle and barrier plans.
  • Plan fires to support the deception plain
  • Plan fire support coordinating measures.
  • Ensure the stationary force supports the close battle while the passing force indirect fire assets move through.
  • Ensure counterfire is planned and controlled by the stationary force.
  • Plan fires on the passage points to be fired after friendly units have passed through.
  • Ensure the stationary force plans fires to support operations after the passage of lines.

Positioning of Field Artillery

Positioning is a critical task in the support of a passage of lines.

Forward Passage. The field artillery of the passing force should be infiltrated from the rear assembly area to the designated primary positions to support the operation. These positions should be near the passage lanes but not so close that they interfere with the maneuver force movement. On a forward passage, position priority goes to the passing force. During the passage of lines, the passing force FS cell and/or CPs collocate with the stationary force FS cell and/or CPs. The FSCOORD must coordinate FA position areas with the maneuver commander. Position areas forward of the passage points are away from the passage points. Their selection is based on the anticipated rate of movement of the maneuver forces and terrain availability.

Rearward passage. The field artillery of the stationary force should be positioned well forward to provide deep fires to support the withdrawal of the passing force. Again, these positions should be away from passage lanes. In the rearward passage, the stationary force has positioning priority. As the passing force artillery moves through, it should position behind the stationary artillery and move laterally away from the passage lanes.


Close cooperation and coordination of plans between the commanders and staffs of the involved forces are mandatory. Once the passage of lines is ordered, the FSCOORD of the passing force in a forward passage of lines needs to send a liaison section to the FSCOORD of the force in contact. In a rearward passage, the FSCOORD of the stationary force needs to send a liaison section to the FSCOORD of the passing force. The FSCOORDs define and assign mutually agreed upon fire support responsibilities to facilitate the passage. It is important to remember that each unit will be in the area of responsibility of another unit for a period of time and that detailed coordination is vital to ensure that each unit understands how the other operates. The two FSCOORDs need to share information and coordinate as follows:

  • Exchange unit SOPs, and resolve differences in operating procedures.
  • Exchange existing targets and fire plans.
  • Describe unit target acquisition assets.
  • Exchange high-payoff target list, attack guidance, and casualty criteria.
  • Exchange control measures in effect; for example, passage points, passage lanes, and contact points.
  • Exchange fire support coordinating measures currently in effect and those that-will be in effect.
  • Coordinate recognition signals.
  • Provide information on obstacles and barriers.
  • Coordinate position areas.
  • Provide met information to passing force.
  • Provide available survey control to passing force.
  • Exchange SOIs, and resolve communications differences; for example, frequencies, call signs, and challenge and password.
  • Coordinate security measures in effect.
  • Exchange intelligence.

Deliberate River Crossing

Maneuver Tasks and Events

In the deliberate river crossing, maneuver tasks are as follows:

In the advance to the river--

  • The crossing site must be secured.
  • Control measures must be established.
  • Control must be transferred from the assault force to the crossing area commander, who controls the movement within the crossing area.

In an assault crossing of the river--

  • Support forces develop crossing sites, emplace crossing means, and control unit movement into and away from the crossing sites.
  • Defensible terrain on the exit bank is secured, The area must be large enough to accommodate the assault force and essential elements.
  • Follow-up forces provide overmatching direct and indirect fire support, crossing site security, and follow-and-support assistance to the assault force.

In the advance from the exit bank--

  • Assault forces lead, making the initial assault of the river and continuing to attack from the exit bank.
  • Support forces help the assault forces to the objective.
  • An assault force may make a hasty or a deliberate attack from the exit bank.

In securing the bridgehead, CSS elements sustain the assault and subsequent advance to the bridgehead. When the bridgehead is secured, the river crossing is complete.

Fire Support Considerations

Fire Support Tasks. The following are fire support tasks in the deliberate river crossing:

  • Make fires immediately available to crossing forces.
  • Assign priority of fires to assault forces.
  • Plan smoke and suppression fires in greater than normal amounts if necessary.
  • Use smoke to screen both actual and dummy crossing sites.
  • Use smoke to obscure enemy direct fire positions in the bridgehead area until the crossing forces can engage them.
  • Suppress enemy forces in the bridgehead area until the assault force can provide its own suppressive fires.
  • Follow river-crossing SOP in planning fire support.
  • Use all available targeting assets to develop targets in the bridgehead area. A direct link between TA assets and supporting artillery should be considered.
  • Use target value analysis to help develop high-value targets and facilitate effective engagement of high-payoff targets.
  • Ensure that DS and reinforcing units move into the bridgehead area as soon as feasible behind the assault force. This maximizes range capability of the weapon system and enhances coordination.

NOTE: Movement by battalion is appropriate if reinforcing FA is available.

Command and Control. Maneuver forces may move into temporary defensive positions pending the crossing. The massed units at the crossing site are vulnerable to counterfire and counterattack. Fire support must be planned accordingly. Procedures to request, control, and coordinate fires must be designated to provide continuous fire support when DS artillery battalions cross the river. The following considerations apply:

  • Designate and disseminate on-order fire support coordinating measures.
  • Ensure that advance coordination between GS and DS units addresses C3 considerations to facilitate a smooth transition.
  • Include all FS cells in the planning process.

Fire Support Planning and Coordination. Plans will be commensurate with visibility conditions that prevail during the crossing. The width of the crossing area will affect the planning. The amount of time necessary to cross a river--hence, the vulnerability of the crossing force--will affect the types and volume of fires requested.

Prepare fire plans to soften enemy defenses at crossing sites and to seal off far bank positions. Fire planning should include the following:

  • Fires to facilitate the assault force in securing the exit bank.
  • Preparations, groups, and series to support the operation as the assault force secures the bridgehead.
  • On-order fire support coordinating measures.
  • Interdiction fires to isolate the bridgehead area from enemy reinforcement.

Plan smoke to obscure actual and decoy crossing sites and to screen friendly movements. Mortars and artillery may be used to establish a smoke screen on the enemy side of the river. Smoke pots and generators will be required to establish large-area screens and to sustain a smoke screen to support the operation.

NOTE: Smoke created by almost any means will pinpoint the area and draw the enemy's attention; therefore, it is important that the smoke screen extends over enough of the area so that the actual point of crossing is not obvious to the enemy.

Relief in Place


Supported maneuver forces conduct a relief in place to remove units from combat. A deployed force is replaced by another unit, which assumes the mission and the assigned sector or zone of action of the outgoing unit.

The relief in place is executed in stages, from front to rear or rear to front. The incoming unit assumes the general defense plans of the relieved unit.

Secrecy is vital to success, as the operation must be conducted without weakening security. Normal patterns of activity must be maintained to deceive the enemy. The relief in place must be executed expeditiously, and it is normally conducted at night or during periods of limited visibility.

The following principles apply to all relief operations:

  • The relief sector remains under the control of the outgoing commander until all his forward elements are relieved (or as mutually agreed upon or directed).
  • Normally, the CP of the incoming commander is collocated with that of the outgoing commander.
  • Liaison and communication are established between outgoing and incoming FS cells.
  • Outgoing and incoming units exchange SOPs.
  • Existing fire plans are passed to the incoming FSCOORD.
  • Routes and times for withdrawal of the outgoing field artillery are established.

Fire Support Considerations

Fire Support Tasks. The following are fire support tasks in a relief in place:

  • Arrange for an exchange of outgoing and incoming FS cell liaison personnel.
  • Provide incoming field artillery with existing fire plans.
  • Determine needs for smoke and other types of ammunition.
  • Establish how the outgoing field artillery will be relieved.
  • Establish how the outgoing field artillery will contribute.

Command and Control. Normally, the field artillery units will not be relieved at the same time as the maneuver forces. The change of fire support responsibilities is as agreed upon by the two FSCOORDs unless otherwise directed.

Fire Support Planning and Coordination. The outgoing force passes fire plans to the incoming force so that plans can be continued. The following are specific tasks in fire support planning and coordination:

  • Prepare and disseminate plans to support the incoming force.
  • Make available to all concerned fire planning SOP items of the incoming force.
  • Make arrangements for the incoming force to use the targeting list and means of the outgoing force.
  • Ensure that fires have been planned to support or emplace a barrier or an obstacle to slow advancing enemy.
  • Plan smoke to screen friendly movements.
  • Support the deception plan.

Breakout by Encircled Forces


A force is considered encircled when all ground routes of evacuation and reinforcement have been cut by enemy action. A force may be ordered to remain in a strong position on key terrain to deny the enemy passage through a vital choke point after an enemy breakthrough, or it may be left to hold the shoulder of a penetration. In either case, it may become encircled.

When the encirclement occurs, the senior maneuver commander within the encirclement assumes control of all forces. He must quickly establish a viable defense, and fire support must be centralized.

If there is to be a breakout, it will be attempted as soon as possible. The longer the encircled force takes to reorganize and break out, the more organized the enemy becomes. The breakout is normally conducted during periods of darkness or limited visibility. Overwhelming combat power is focused at the breakout point. Tank-heavy forces lead the attack, when terrain permits. The rest of the forces fight a delaying action or defend the perimeter during the initial stages. FA units are integrated into the formations.

Fire Support Considerations

Fire Support Tasks. Following are fire support tasks in an encirclement:

  • Reorganize available fire support.
  • With the force commander, determine the most critical areas in defense, future breakout plans, and the amount of outside help available.
  • Prepare for the breakout.

Command and Control. Field artillery and mortars are centralized and positioned throughout the encirclement to limit vulnerability and mass fires. Communications are reestablished with FA units and higher and lower FS cells.

Fire Support Planning and Coordination. The following are fire support and coordination tasks in the encirclement:

  • Plan fires for both the defense and the subsequent breakout.
  • Effect fire support coordination with FS cells outside the encircled area.
  • Use fire support for deception, if necessary.
  • Establish fire support coordinating measures (an RFL if necessary).
  • Use TACAIR and precision guided munitions during the breakout.
  • Plan massed fires at breakout points to enhance momentum.

Linkup Operations


Linkup operations join two friendly forces. The forces may be moving toward one another, or one may be stationary. It is a complex operation that requires detailed planning and coordination. Linkup operations often require a passage of lines. When the linkup is made, the linkup force may join the stationary force or it may pass through or around and continue the attack.

The controlling headquarters of both forces establishes the command relationship between the two forces and the responsibilities for each. It also establishes the control measures to be used.

Forces that are linking up exchange as much information as is practical before an operation. Considerations may include--

  • Fire support needed before, during, and after the linkup.
  • Recognition signals and communications needs from both forces.
  • Future operations after the Linkup.

Fire Support Considerations

Fire Support Tasks. The following are fire support tasks in the linkup:

  • Ensure that all fire support personnel know the fire control measures and recognition signals for the linkup.
  • Ensure that fire support personnel are continuously aware of the progress of the linkup forces.

Command and Control. Centralized control is desirable.

Fire Support Planning and Coordination. The following are fire support planning and coordination considerations in the linkup operation:

  • Most planned fries are short of the RFL.
  • Targets beyond the RFL must be cleared by the controlling headquarters.
  • Smoke and illuminating fries must not cause adverse effects on the other friendly forces.
  • Fires must ensure that the enemy force between the two friendly forces cannot escape. Use of FASCAM should be considered to block enemy withdrawal.
  • Indirect fire weapons are positioned to allow them to mass fires at linkup points.
  • Positions should afford easy access to routes to be used after the linkup.

Security Operations


Security missions prevent observation, harassment, surprise, or sabotage by enemy forces. Units conducting security operations provide information about size, composition, location, and direction of movement of enemy forces. Reaction time and maneuver space gained by this information allow the main body to prepare and to deploy to engage the enemy. Security operations include--

  • Screening.
  • Guarding.
  • Covering (discussed with defensive operations).
  • Providing rear area protection.

A screening force maintains surveillance and gives early warning by maintaining contact with enemy forces without becoming decisively engaged. It will destroy or repel enemy reconnaissance units.

Guard operations protect the main body by preventing enemy ground observation, direct fire, and surprise attack. A guard force reconnoiters, attacks, defends, and delays as necessary to give the main body time to react or to continue its mission. It can be conducted to the front, rear, or flanks of the main body. It is normally done within friendly field artillery range.

Providing rear area protection protects units, installations, facilities, and lines of communication from enemy attack or sabotage and reestablishes support capabilities.

Fire Support Considerations

Fire Support Tasks. Fire support must be highly responsive to the security forces. The following are fire support considerations in a security operation:

  • Fire support means must be as mobile as the force being supported.
  • Fire Support communications means must be flexible.
  • Secrecy will often dictate the nature of operations.

Command and Control. As security forces may operate some distance beyond the main body, field artillery may be attached to the supported security forces.

Fire Support Planning and Coordination. Fires should be planned to cover the security operations of the force. The following are planning and coordination considerations:

  • Fires may be used to screen movements or areas.
  • Illuminating fires may be needed operations.
  • AFSOs and sensors maybe used. during night
  • Tactical aircraft of all types can assist in most operations by providing current visual reconnaissance information. Requests for TACAIR reconnaissance support from the Air Force are made by the S2 or S3 through normal request channels.
  • Indirect fire weapons are positioned to allow massing of fires in the target areas of interest.
  • COLTs in overwatch positions should be used as designators for laser-guided munitions.

Reconnaissance Operations


Reconnaissance operations are used to gather information. There are three types of reconnaissance operations:

  • Route reconnaissance missions are assigned to gather detailed information about a specific route and all adjacent terrain or about an enemy force moving along a route.
  • Zone reconnaissance is a thorough reconnaissance of all routes and terrain within specified boundaries. It is made to report the locations of all enemy forces within the unit zone.
  • Area reconnaissance is conducted when a commander needs information about a specific area, such as a town, proposed assembly area, or other feature that may be critical to an operation.

Fire Support Considerations

Fire support contributes to the reconnaissance efforts by using aerial and ground observers, sensors, and radars to gather combat information and intelligence.

Fire Support Tasks. Fire support helps a reconnaissance force by--

  • Orienting on the location or movement of the recon objective.
  • Reporting all information quickly and accurately.
  • Helping the force retain freedom to maneuver.
  • Gaining and maintaining enemy contact.
  • Developing the situation quickly.

Command and Control. Attachment of field artillery may be considered.

Fire Support Planning and Coordination. The planning and coordination parallel those for security operations.

Mobility. Fire support must be as mobile as the supported force.

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