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Fire Support Planning

Fire support planning is the continuing process of analyzing, allocating, and scheduling fire support. It determines how fire support will be used, what types of targets will be attacked, when they will be attacked, and with what means. The goal is to effectively integrate fire support into battle plans to optimize combat power. To do this, fire support planning is concurrent with battle planning. Planning must be flexible to accommodate the unexpected in combat and to facilitate rapid change. It anticipates the massing of fire support assets, changes in the force mission, realistic movement times, resupply, target acquisition technical support to include survey and met requirements, and the replacement of entire units. In fire support planning, the FSO must consider three vital sets of information:

  • Commander's intent and/or scheme of maneuver.

  • Mission, enemy, terrain and weather, and troops and time available.

  • Guidance from higher FA headquarters.

These three items cannot be considered separately. Each impacts on the others.

Commander's Intent

At each level, the FSO plans fires as the commander outlines his scheme of maneuver. The FSO must know when and where the commander wants fire support. He must fully understand what the commander wants in the way of effects, duration, and timing. To truly understand the commander's intent, the FSO must know why the commander wants support. He must also understand how the unit direct fire assets are to be used so he can supplement, not interfere with, their employment. The FSO must seek and understand the commander's guidance and intent and be prepared to recommend the integration of available fire support. The FSO must inform the maneuver brigade commander and the S3 of the FA logistics cost for implementing the fire support battlefield operating system (BOS) for each course of action. This information must be presented during the war-gaming portion of the command estimate process. Also, the FSO informs the commander of all changes to the fire support plan he receives through fire support channels.


All levels of command continuously analyze information while considering factors of METT-T.

Guidance From Higher Headquarters

Higher headquarters will give the FSO information essential to the fire support plan. This information includes--

  • The commander's intent at the level.

  • Fire support assets available.

  • Fire support coordinating measures.

  • Target lists.

  • Schedules of fires.

  • Constraints on FA Class V consumption, stated in terms of a controlled supply rate (CSR).

  • Technical advice on fire support matters.

Decision-Making Process

The decision-making process is as detailed, or as simple, as time permits. The commander plays the central role in this process, with the staff providing advice and information related to their respective areas. The process is primarily downward, beginning at higher echelons and progressing down to the company FSO. Its effectiveness requires continuous interaction and bottom-up feedback. The following paragraphs describe some fire support aspects of the decision-making process at company, battalion, and brigade levels.

When the maneuver commander receives his mission (step 1) and issues his initial planning guidance (step 2), the corresponding FS cell receives guidance from the higher FS cell. As a minimum this guidance should include the following:

  • Fire support asset allocation and status.

  • Commander's target attack guidance.

  • Fires in the zone planned by higher headquarters.

The commander analyzes and restates the mission and issues his intent and planning guidance (step 3). This planning guidance may have several courses of action. Upon receipt, the staff take the following actions:

  • The FSO makes his staff estimate (step 4). He interacts with the other staff members and war-games the courses of action to determine the suitability of fire support to support the courses of action.

  • The S2 analyzes the area of operations (AO) and focuses the IPB process. He informs other staff members of the known enemy locations, capabilities and projected courses of action of the enemy force, and assets that are most important to the accomplishment of the enemy mission. He determines which organic and attached collection assets (maneuver, fire support, and military intelligence) can acquire those enemy assets. He also tasks and provides staff supervision of the collection assets. If time permits, the S2 and the targeting officer identify high-value targets within the brigade zone.

The staff members prepare and brief their estimates to the commander. The FSO must be able to brief the fire support requirements for each course of action and recommend the best one from a fire support perspective. The requirements he should be prepared to discuss include the following:

  • Assets available to support the operation.

  • Capabilities and limitations of fire support for each course of action (both friendly and enemy).

The commander gives his estimate and makes a decision. He issues his concept, stating how he visualizes the conduct of the battle (step 5). As he develops his battle plan for the employment of maneuver forces, he must also visualize and articulate how he will use his fire support resources, which subordinate echelon he will weight with fire support, and what targets to attack. Subordinate commanders and their FSOs may be present. The commander issues guidance to the staff regarding prioritization of targets, desired effects, and targets that require some sort of formal assessment after attack.

Plans and orders are prepared (step 6). The FSO, assisted by the other fire support staff officers, writes the fire support plan. The brigade FSO plans fires in support of the brigade operation in accordance with the commander's concept, intent, and scheme of maneuver. Fires planned outside the brigade zone are coordinated with higher and adjacent units. Fires planned in the brigade rear are coordinated with the S3 and the controlling agency in the brigade support area (BSA), normally the S4. The fire plan, with target lists and schedules, is disseminated to higher and adjacent units and to the battalion FSOs. The targeting officer helps the S2 write the target acquisition and surveillance plans. As a minimum the fire support plan should include--

  • Availability and status of fire support assets.

  • Priority of fires and how that priority will be executed.

  • Planned fire support within the zone.

  • Fire support execution matrix.

  • Target lists.

  • Attack guidance matrix.

  • Any requirements the higher FS cell will place on subordinate FS cells.

  • Retransmission requirements for communications, depending on terrain.

The commander approves the plan or order (step 7).

The written plan is disseminated to the subordinate units (step 8). The FSO at each level should accompany his maneuver commander when he receives briefings from higher headquarters on plans or orders.

Before execution, plans are refined as follows:

  • Target lists are refined and duplications resolved; company FSOs are particularly valuable in this refinement.

  • Schedules are updated and disseminated.

  • Additional fire support assets are requested.

  • The collection plan is reviewed to ensure it is compatible with the fire support plan.

  • Information collected by sensors before and during execution is processed. The targeting officer monitors reports by collection assets, updates target lists, and submits to the FS cell time-sensitive targets not in the fire support system.

  • The field artillery support plan is developed by the FA battalion S3. It is based on the information received from the FA battalion commander and the brigade FSO. This plan embodies the DS battalion commander's concept for executing the fire support plan supporting the brigade commander's intent. The DS battalion commander briefs the brigade commander on the FA support plan, which is the FA battalion operation order.

The fire support plan rehearsal (discussed below) is an important part of step 9 of the decision-making process.

As the plan is executed, the FSO continues planning. As the battle progresses, the commander may issue new guidance to reflect changes in enemy equipment and tactics, changes in friendly capability, and changes in the unit mission.

Fire Support Plan Rehearsal

The FSO should gather all available members of the FS cell to actively participate in the maneuver commander's rehearsal. Rehearsals improve total comprehension of the plan. Participants who are unclear on specific portions of the plan find answers through the repetitiveness afforded by war-gaming the operation. The maneuver course of action and supporting fire plan should be analyzed in anticipation of enemy courses of action that might occur during actual execution of the plan.

In addition to war-gaming possible enemy courses of action, the rehearsal may address the use of primary and alternate communications nets; alternative attack systems to be used in the engagement of specified targets; and positioning of munitions, observers, and weapon systems. The rehearsal improves responsiveness of fires and the synchronization of all the maneuver commander's resources for the battle.

At any level, fire support participants in a maneuver commander's rehearsal should include all members of the FS cell and any subordinate FS cell members associated with participating subordinate maneuver headquarters. These members include the FSCOORD and/or FSO, ALO, NGLO and/or SALT officer, mortar platoon leader, chemical officer, and Army aviation liaison officer, as applicable. The FA battalion S3 will benefit from the maneuver commander's rehearsal by obtaining information for movement, schedules of fire submitted by the FSOs, munition requirements, and a more complete understanding of the operational time involved with the scheme of maneuver. Also, the S2, the intelligence and electronic warfare support element (IEWSE) team leader, and the engineer officer, in particular, should be present. They should participate in the war-gaming of significant events, such as target acquisition employment and obstacle emplacement.

If the maneuver commander does not conduct a rehearsal and rehearsal time is available, the FSCOORD and/or FSO should conduct a fire support rehearsal by using the existing maneuver operation plan (OPLAN), fire support plan, and fire support execution matrix. The fire support execution matrix is ideal for use in the rehearsal, since the rehearsal is normally conducted by performing and/or reciting--

  • Actions to occur.

  • Possible friendly initiatives.

  • Possible reactions to enemy initiatives.

  • Control measures.

  • Significant events that are to occur in relation to time or phases of an operation.

The rehearsal conducted by only fire support personnel is limited in that the success of the rehearsal and benefits to be derived from it depend on how well the FSCOORD and/or FSO conducting the rehearsal know the maneuver commander's concept of the operation. Within the DS artillery battalion, the commander, S3, FSO, and S2 structure the fire support rehearsal in accordance with the enemy's most likely course of action and the friendly scheme of maneuver. At the appropriate time, each participant carries out his part of the plan. The FSOs execute their assigned targets, place fire support coordinating measures into effect, and make the reports the battalion depends on for its combat information. The FOs do the same. They ensure that their assigned missions, especially high-priority ones like FPFs, are loaded in the buffers of their digital message devices (DMDs) and ready for transmission. The ALOs monitor airspace coordination procedures, clear aircraft to depart from the initial point (IP), call for target marking, and request fires for suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD). The DS battalion CP monitors all of this. The battalion operations and intelligence (O&I) section pays particular attention to displacements. The battalion fire direction center (FDC) issues fire orders and passes messages to observers. If there is a mutual support unit, the two FDCs exercise transfer of control. Attached radars work situational cues with the cueing agents. Each fire unit FDC computes fire commands, acknowledges fire support coordinating measures, and ensures that it can fire its assigned mission. Where alternative friendly courses of action hinge on enemy actions and when time permits, the alternatives may be rehearsed.

Note the important features of the rehearsal. It presupposes a complete plan--a plan complete enough to be executed. It is designed to show whether everyone knows his responsibilities (for example, for firing a target, moving a battery, switching frequencies, observing a named area of interest) and the cues for his action. It allows a check on whether the plan will work. For example, observers confirm that they can see their targets and FDCs confirm that they have ballistic solutions to their targets. Finally, the rehearsal as a whole is clearly under someone's direction.

There are many ways to conduct rehearsals. When time is limited, you will not have a chance to rehearse everything. You must streamline your plan and focus your rehearsal on critical events. Some rehearsal methods are discussed below.

Suitable or Actual Terrain

The use of a suitable maneuver area or the actual area in which the operation is to be conducted is the best method for conducting a rehearsal because of its increased realism. Communications lines of sight, clutter on specific communications nets, trigger points or target reference points (TRPs), and actual operational times required to move from position to position may be visually simulated. This method requires a large area and an increased amount of preparation and planning time. Its use may depend on operational or signal security considerations.

Model Rehearsal

Models may be constructed showing buildings, compounds, or built-up areas. This type of rehearsal requires good intelligence information on the area of operation and more time to construct the model itself. This type of rehearsal is normally used for special operations.

Map RehearsaI

This rehearsal may be conducted on any map with the appropriate overlays. This method may be used when time and rehearsal space are limited. Using this method limits the number of participants to those who can gather around a single map unless individual maps are used. Actions to be taken are recited by the participants.

Sand Table

The sand table method expands the area in which rehearsal participants may gather around a single graphical representation of the operation. Maneuver graphics may be depicted by using engineer tape, string, or spray paint or simply by carving out lines in the ground. Key terrain, topography, and objectives may be depicted by the use of rocks, items of equipment, or piles of earth. Preparing for this rehearsal method requires more time; however, it generally permits more participants and is a better visual aid.

Radio Rehearsal
and Communications Exercise

This exercise is conducted on FS nets by using the brigade or battalion fire support plans or execution matrixes when the time available and the situation do not allow assembly of key personnel.

Fire Planning

Plan the minimum targets necessary to support the scheme of maneuver. The targeting process, a critical component of the fire planning process, is based on the friendly scheme of maneuver. It requires close interaction among the commander, S2, targeting officer, S3, FS cell, and various combat support agencies. It includes an assessment of the terrain and enemy and an identification of those enemy formations, equipment, facilities, and terrain which must be attacked to ensure success. It also involves anticipating the requirement for SEAD fires in support of CAS assets.


Fire planning begins with the commander's guidance and intent. It continues through the development of a prioritized list specifying what targets are to be attacked and when (decide), the acquisition of those high-payoff targets (detect), and the determination of attack options to be used (fire support, maneuver, electronic warfare [EW], or a combination) to defeat the target (deliver). It concludes with the assessment of the effects of the attack.

Offensive Fire Planning

For fire planning, offensive operations may be divided into four phases: short of the line of departure (LD) or line of contact (LC), from the LD or LC to the objective, on the objective, and beyond the objective.

Defensive Fire Planning

In the defense, the FSO should consider planning fires in front of, on, and behind the position.


After the FSO has collected the targets available to him, he must analyze them to determine which ones will be included in the fire plan. Having too many targets is as bad as having too few targets to support the scheme of maneuver. It is imperative that FS cells be able to reference targets quickly. The target list will be reduced by--

  • Resolving duplication of targets.

  • Removing targets that do not fit the commander's intent or support the scheme of maneuver.

Target Acquisition Assets
in a Brigade

The FSO has at his disposal not only the targeting assets of FA target acquisition systems but also maneuver and military intelligence (MI) assets.

Field Artillery Systems

The direct support FA battalion in light divisions has an organic AN/TPQ-36 radar.

The direct support FA battalion S2 has access to information normally limited to Threat field artillery assets.

Div arty may have aerial observers available.

Div arty may have COLTs available.

Forward observers are available.

Fire Support Cell Systems

At division level, the FS cell has access to targeting information from the division G2 and the all-source production section (ASPS).

One COLT is organic to each direct support FA battalion and three are organic to headquarters and headquarters battery (HHB), division artillery. They may be allocated to the brigade FSO to provide target acquisition critical to the operation and beyond the capabilities of the FIST. The maneuver brigade commander, in coordination with the direct support FA battalion commander, will retain positioning approval.

The battalion FSOs should provide targeting and intelligence information from the maneuver battalion S2 and TA assets not only to the brigade FSO but also to the FIST and the FA battalion.

Maneuver Systems

The brigade S2 can provide intelligence information gained through maneuver and MI channels.

Military Intelligence Systems

The division MI battalion (CEWI) commander task-organizes his assets to provide intelligence and EW support to committed maneuver brigades.

The CEWI battalion commander may form an IEW company team to control the diverse MI assets, including assets not directly supporting the brigade, deployed in the brigade area of operations. There is no standard structure for the company, and it is assigned standard tactical missions. Elements of the IEW company team may include those discussed below.

Counterintelligence Team(s). This team identifies hostile collection and rear battle threat; determines the EEFI; nominates enemy TA systems for suppression, neutralization, or destruction; and maintains intelligence, operations security (OPSEC), and deception bases.

Ground Surveillance Radar and Remotely Employed Sensor Teams. These teams give the brigade a highly mobile, near-all-weather, 24-hour capability for battlefield surveillance. They may be employed on patrols and at observation posts. Normally, most of the teams provided to the brigade are attached to subordinate battalions and may be deployed to company level. A ground surveillance radar is a better targeting asset when it is surveyed in.

Electronic Warfare Platoon. This platoon provides voice communications intercept. It can interface with the MI battalion tactical operations center (TOC) and the IEWSE and can scan and summarize voice interceptions.

Target List Work Sheet

The FSO records targets on DA Form 4655-R (Target List Work Sheet). An example of this work sheet and instructions for its completion are in Appendix F. A reproducible copy of this form is in Appendix M. The essential data recorded on this form are the target number, target description, target location, and specific guidance on the attack of the target. Specific information in the remarks column may include the following:

  • Shell-fuze combinations (if other than high explosive [HE]-point detonating [PD]).

  • Fire support system to engage the targets (if other than FA).

  • Effects required by the commander.

  • Duration of fires.

  • Schedule into which the target is to be included, such as a group or series.

Deliberate Fire Planning

Deliberate fire planning is conducted through a formal top-down process, with bottom-up refinement as time permits. However, deliberate fire planning at all levels also begins immediately upon receipt of the mission. Company and battalion FSOs should not wait for a target list from higher echelons before beginning their own planning. For the maneuver brigade, the process begins with the receipt of targeting information from the division. The division G2, in conjunction with the targeting officer of the division main FSE, performs a detailed IPB and target value analysis (TVA) for the entire division area of operation. Named areas of interest (NAIs) and target areas of interest (TAIs) are included in the IPB for the brigade S2. High-payoff targets for the division and specific targets of interest and schedules of fire come from the top down to the brigade FSE or targeting officer. The brigade S2 and FSO must refine this division guidance for the brigade area and concept of operation.

Brigade is normally the lowest level at which formal fire planning is done. The brigade FSO receives from the division targets that are in his zone and in the brigade area of interest and that have been developed from the division IPB and/or acquired by division TA assets. The brigade FSO works with the targeting team at brigade to develop targets within his zone. The targeting team includes the commander, S3, S2, IEWSE, targeting officer, and engineer officer. The brigade FSO adds division and brigade targets to his target list work sheet, posts the targets on his overlay, and passes those targets to subordinate maneuver battalions and the DS artillery battalion. He then receives target list modifications from the battalion FSOs. Using the target list work sheet and overlay, he resolves duplications, prioritizes the list, and sends it to the DS battalion and appropriate agencies available to the maneuver brigade commander for that operation. It is important that the brigade FSO allow enough planning time for subordinate headquarters and that he establish a cutoff time for their submission of modifications so that the plan can be disseminated with adequate time for execution.

The battalion FSO, in conjunction with the commander, operations officer, and primary and special staffs, is responsible for identifying the fire support requirements of the battalion. He receives targets from the brigade FSO, modifies them as necessary, and adds targets of concern to the battalion commander. Using the target list work sheet and overlay as tools, he forwards his list of targets to subordinate company FSOs.

The company FSO and company commander plan targets to support the company scheme of maneuver. From the battalion, the company FSO receives targets that are within the company area of interest. He modifies them as necessary and adds any other targets according to the maneuver commander's priorities. Modifications and additions are submitted through the battalion to the brigade FSO for inclusion in the final brigade target list and fire plan.

At the lowest level, the company FSO nominates targets in his sector, records this target information on the target list work sheet, and forwards it to the battalion FSO. The battalion FSO considers the target information he receives from each of the company FSOs, consolidates it (for example, eliminates duplications), adds targets needed by the battalion, and forwards a copy of the target list work sheet to the brigade FSO. The brigade FSO receives target lists from the battalion FSOs. Using a target overlay, he resolves duplications, adds targets developed by the brigade TA assets, prioritizes the list, and sends it to the DS battalion. He informs the battalion FSOs of any subsequent changes to the plans. Once targets are received by battalion and/or brigade FSOs, they prepare their fire plans and schedules to support the maneuver and allocate targets to the appropriate fire support agency or asset.

Quick Fire Planning

The purpose of quick fire planning is to quickly prepare and execute fire support in anticipation of an impending operation. The FSO must ensure the DS battalion S3, FDC, and battalion FS cells understand his quick fire plan and how it is used. Quick fire planning techniques constitute an informal fire plan. Quick fire planning differs from deliberate fire planning in that bottom-up, rather than top-down, fire planning is conducted. In the quick fire plan, the FSO is responsible for--

  • Identifying targets to be engaged in the target list.

  • Allocating all fire support assets available to engage the targets in the plan.

  • Preparing the schedule of fires.

  • Disseminating the schedule to all appropriate fire support agencies for execution.

The following paragraphs delineate the quick fire planning sequence.

Receive the operation order (OPORD). (Understand what the commander wants!) Get the following decisions from the commander:

  • Targets to be engaged.

  • Desired effects on targets.

  • Order and timing of target engagement.

  • Duration of fires.

  • H-hour.

  • Priority of fires.

  • Priority for targeting.

  • Priority for execution.

  • Time check from commander.

  • Estimated rate of movement.

  • Need for target adjustment.

  • Concept of the operation to include--

    • Objective and defensive positions.

    • Maneuver control measures.

    • Obstacles.

Find out what assets are available for the operation. Concurrently, send a warning order to all attack agencies. These include the FA battalion S3, mortar platoon leader, ALO, NGLO or SALT, and aviation liaison officer (if any are applicable). An example warning order is given below. Information to be obtained is as follows:

  • From the direct support FA battalion--the firing units that will be designated to fire in the quick fire plan schedule.

  • From the maneuver commander--the availability of the mortar platoon (company FSO to battalion FSO for the 81-mm mortars if a company operation) for inclusion as a firing unit in the schedule of fires.

  • From the FS cell--TACAIR mission information. Coordinate CAS requirements (for example, aircraft type, ordnance, time on station, laser codes, and control procedures) with the ALO.

  • From the firepower control team (FCT), SALT, or NGLO--the availability of naval aircraft and/or naval gunfire.

Plan targets in accordance with (IAW) the scheme of maneuver, commander's guidance, and allocated assets. Include--

  • Asset to be used.

  • Munitions mix.

  • Shell-fuze combinations.

  • Duration of fire for each target.

  • Time to fire.

After receiving the commander's approval, disseminate the fire plan to attack systems, higher headquarter FS cells, and those who will implement the plan (FOs and subordinate FS cells). Whenever possible, send DA Form 5368-R (Quick Fire Plan) to the FA battalion CP and the mortar platoon leader. A reproducible copy of this form is in Appendix M.

Ensure that the subordinate FSOs and/or FISTs understand the fire plan. As a minimum cover--

  • Positions or locations of FSOs and/or observers during the conduct of the operation.

  • Who is to initiate the fire plan or initiate the fire request on specific on-call targets within the fire plan. Include the agency to be contacted when the target is to be initiated, and the communications net to be used.

  • Which unit has priority of fires or priority targets, if applicable.

  • The use of methods of control in modifying the plan should it become necessary during the execution of the plan.

  • The agencies available when additional targets of opportunity arise during the execution of the plan.

NOTE: If time allows, a rehearsal should be
conducted to ensure comprehension of the plan.

Inform the commander when the fire support plan is ready.

Review the fire support plan, and modify it as necessary.

Fire Support Execution Matrix

The fire support execution matrix is a concise, easy planning and execution tool which shows the many factors of a complicated fire support plan. This matrix may help the FSO and the commander understand how the fire plan supports the scheme of maneuver. It is a valuable planning tool for both the offense and the defense. It explains the aspects of the fire support plan for which each FSO or FO is responsible and the phase during the battle at which these aspects apply. When approved, the matrix becomes the primary execution tool. The matrix is set up with the maneuver elements shown along the left side and different phases (phase lines, events, or times) of the mission along the top. Phases used should correspond to phases established on maneuver execution matrixes.

Company-Level Matrix

At company level, information to go in each box includes the following:

  • Priorities of indirect fire support to a platoon indicated by an abbreviation of that fire support asset, will appear in the upper left corner of the appropriate matrix box.

  • The acronym FPF, preceded by the type of indirect fire means responsible for firing that FPF, will appear in the center of the box.

  • Priority targets allocated to a platoon will appear in the box as PRI TGT, preceded by the means of fire support responsible for engaging the target and followed by the target number.

  • If FIST elements are responsible for the initiation of specific fires, the target number, group, or series designation will be listed in the box for that FIST element. Specific guidelines concerning fires not included on the target list work sheet will be included in that box.

  • Each fire support coordinating measure to be placed in effect, followed by a word designated for that measure, will be shown in the box. For airspace coordination areas (ACAs), the time the planned CAS or attack helicopter are due in place is listed.

  • Other factors that apply to a certain platoon during a specific time frame maybe included in the appropriate box. General guidance is issued in the written portion of the OPORD.

Battalion-Level Matrix

At battalion level, the matrix is used as follows:

  • If priority of any indirect fire support asset is allocated to a team, it is indicated by an abbreviation of that asset in the upper left corner of the appropriate matrix box.

  • If an FPF has been allocated, the acronym FPF, preceded by the type of indirect fire means responsible for firing that FPF, will appear in the center of the box.

  • If a priority target is allocated to a team, it will appear in the box as PRI TGT, preceded by the means of fire support responsible for firing the target. Once a target is determined as the priority target the corresponding target number is placed in the box.

  • If a certain company FSO is responsible for initiating specific fires, the target number, group, or series will be listed in the box for that FSO. Specific guidelines concerning the fires not included on the target list work sheet will be included in the box.

  • If an ACA is to be put in effect by a particular FSO, the acronym ACA, followed by the code word designated for that ACA, will be shown in the box. Also, the time the planned CAS or attack helicopters are due in the area (time on target [TOT]) is listed.

  • Other factors that apply to a certain team during a specific time frame may also be included in the appropriate box. General guidance is issued in the written portion of the OPORD.

Fire Support Coordination

Fire support coordination is the continuous process of implementing fire support planning and managing the fire support assets that are available to a maneuver force. The greatest fire support plan in the world is worthless unless it is properly coordinated with the appropriate personnel and/or agencies. In short, coordination makes the plan happen. Key personnel with whom coordination must be effected are as follows:

  • Higher FSE.

  • Lower FSE.

  • Chemical officer.

  • Direct support FA battalion TOC (usually done at the brigade FS cell).

  • Adjacent unit FS cells.

  • Mortar platoon leader (battalion or company).

  • Engineer platoon leader.

  • Air liaison officer.

  • Naval gunfire liaison officer.

  • Army aviation liaison officer.

  • Maneuver battalion S3 and S3 air.

  • Air defense representative.

  • Military intelligence representative.

  • Military police (MP) platoon leader.

Maneuver Commander Responsibilities

The maneuver commander sets the priorities for positioning of units within his sector. Normally, the FA battalion S3 and the brigade S3 coordinate positioning of an FA unit. However, the FSO may become involved by helping the FA battalion S3. Coordination should include--

  • Locations of delivery units, radars, CPs, and trains.

  • Movement routes and times.

  • Supply routes.

Priorities of positioning are as follows:

  • Direct support FA battalion.

  • Reinforcing battalions.

  • Divisional general support reinforcing (GSR) and general support (GS) units.

  • Corps units (GSR before GS).

Fire Support Officer Responsibilities

Specific FSO responsibilities for coordination are as follows:

  • Establish and maintain communications with key personnel, to include adjacent units.

  • Prepare and disseminate fire support documents, records, and reports.

  • Execute the fire support plan.

  • Supervise the target acquisition effort of the FS cell, and ensure that the S2 is aware of the intelligence needs of the FS cell.

  • Keep higher and lower FS cells informed of supported forces situation.

  • Exchange battlefield information with the field artillery and the supported force.

  • Task the most effective fire support means to attack targets.

  • Coordinate all fire support in the commander's zone or sector.

  • Ensure the safeguarding of friendly elements.

  • Ensure continued flow of targeting information.

  • Anticipate changes dictated by the developing battle, and recommend revision of the fire support plan.

  • Direct the fire support attack of targets in the priority establish by the commander.

  • Generate fire support missions against targets of interest.

  • Override requests for fire, or direct that another system provide the requested fire support as necessary.

  • Coordinate with the ALO on use of TACAIR assets.

Clearance of Fires

The FSO at each echelon is vitally concerned that all fire requests are quickly processed and that all fires into his maneuver commander's zone are properly cleared.

Requests for Fire. Within brigades, requests for fire are approved by the FSO at each echelon. Usually, requests for FA fire are approved by the task force (battalion) FSO. To expedite these requests, silence by the monitoring FSO is considered consent. This consent essentially validates the use of the requested asset to engage the particular target. For fires within the zone of the requestor, no clearance or other coordination is necessary.

Clearance. The maneuver commander has the final authority to approve (clear) fires and their effects within his zone. This is not the same as approval of requests for fire support assets as discussed above. Normally, a maneuver commander delegates authority to coordinate and clear fires within his zone (normally delineated by boundaries) to his FSO. When fires or their effects will fall outside the zone of the requesting FSO, every effort must be made to coordinate and clear those fires with the commander and/or FSO who owns the zone. This should be done by the most expeditious means available. This coordination may be between two adjacent company FSOs, or it may be done by the battalion FSO. The spirit of this coordination is to ensure that all fires out of zone or across boundaries are properly cleared. However, if no permissive coordinating measure exists, the inability to effect coordination should not prevent attack. This is especially true when friendly forces are under fire or when a high-value target is of fleeting nature.

Fire Support Officer Considerations. The FSO must consider the following key points with regard to coordination:

  • In whose zone the target is located.

  • Whether the effects of chemical munitions, riot control agents, illumination, and obscurants fired in his zone will affect adjacent zones or airspace.

  • Whether coordination is required. Whether coordination beyond that of the requesting agency coordinating with the maneuver commander or S3 is necessary.

  • That the battalion FSE coordinates all fires within the company or battalion sectors and initiates all coordination for fires outside the battalion sector.

  • Which FSE is responsible for the maneuver zone in which the target lies.

  • How he may contact them. What communications networks and agencies are available between the FSO initiating the coordination and the FSO in whose zone the target lies.

Required Actions. Upon receipt of the fire request, the following actions take place:

  • The DS artillery battalion FDC immediately begins the tactical processing during coordination. The battery FDC begins technical processing at the same time.

  • All FSEs monitor the fire request and plot the target on the situation map.

  • Depending on the location of the target in relation to the overall situation, the affected FSEs coordinate with the other members of the FS cell as appropriate.

  • If the target lies outside the requestor's zone of action or if it appears the fire mission may affect the brigade operation, the battalion FSE coordinates the request with the brigade FSE.

  • The brigade FSO coordinates with the appropriate adjacent FSO if the target lies across a brigade boundary.

  • The brigade FSE coordinates with the division FS cell if the target lies beyond a division boundary.

  • The approving authority in all situations is the maneuver commander in whose zone the target lies; authority is often delegated to the FSO.

  • Battalion FSEs on or near brigade or division boundaries should exchange frequencies and call signs to expedite fire support coordination across the boundary.

Brigade Fire Support
Coordination Checklist

The brigade FSO must coordinate with the personnel as indicated in the table below. Also, during the operation, the FSO must--

  • Implement on-order fire support coordinating measures.

  • Monitor the status of the maneuver battalions. Be prepared to shift priorities of fire and/or to request additional support from division.

  • Ensure a timely flow of targeting and battlefield information to battalion FS cells and the DS battalion.

  • Prepare for contingency operations.

Split Command
Post Operations

Brigade and battalion commanders each will establish a tactical (tac) command post during critical and fluid periods of combat operations to facilitate command and control of subordinate units. The organization and equipment may vary according to the commander's analysis. Usually, the tactical CP consists of the commander, S3, S2, FSO, and ALO. Other members of the staff or FS cell may be included according to the criticality of their areas; for example, the engineer should be present if obstacles are a critical part of the current operation. The DS battalion commander (FSCOORD) may be present at the brigade tactical CP for limited periods. He advises the commander, anticipates required movement of supporting artillery units, and directs execution of other fire support tasks. The tactical CP should include only the minimum number of personnel and amount of equipment necessary to control the battle. The FSO is responsible for keeping other fire support representatives informed of planned operations.

Planning Considerations

Each type of tactical CP at brigade and battalion is discussed separately with regard to personnel, equipment, and command, control, and communications (C3). The techniques described serve as examples and as a basis for establishing internal procedures. At times, the commander may have to make allowances to facilitate coordination of fires. He must be kept informed of the FSO's capability to influence the delivery and coordination of supporting fires. The timely employment of fire support will often determine the outcome of maneuver engagements and will often be controlled from the tactical CP by the FSCOORD and/or FSO.

Command, Control, and Communications

Communications must be maintained with subordinate and higher FSOs (includes division FS cell for the brigade FSO) and supporting artillery units to provide adequate support to the maneuver operation. A stationary tactical CP should be positioned to enhance communications between higher and lower units. This facilitates command and control (C2) of maneuver and combat support systems. The requirements for adequate fire support communications must always be a consideration for establishing a ground-based tactical CP. The FSO must ensure that his communications package is adequate. He must be aggressive in establishing and maintaining fire support communications for the tactical CP operations.

Main Command Post
Fire Support Cell Operations

The responsibilities of the FS cell during split CP operations are very similar at brigade and battalion. The FS cell helps the FSO maintain control and coordination of the maneuver unit fire support. It relays, takes messages, performs retransmission (retrans), does limited planning and coordination for current and future operations, and does any other assigned and implied tasks. In the absence of communications with the FSO, the FS cell is responsible for all FSO functions.

Brigade Tactical
Command Post Operations

Brigade Aerial Tactical Command Post. Usually, this CP operates from an OH-58 helicopter and consists of the maneuver commander and other staff members as directed. The FSCOORD or FSO should be included in the aerial tactical CP. Use of this type of CP is most likely when two or more battalions are conducting air assault operations.

The brigade FSO must ensure enough radios are available for his use, whether they are installed in the aircraft or man-portable. Consider placing the ground-based ALO, subordinate FSOs, and other delivery system representatives on one centralized net, usually the brigade FS net. Some aircraft (UH-60 equipped for C3) may be equipped with high frequency (HF) radios for control of Air Force and naval assets. Consider using the brigade FSE as a relay-retrans to the division FS cell.

The aerial tactical CP enhances C3 of maneuver and fire support. The use of aerial tactical CPs will normally be of limited duration. It involves higher risks, depending on the status of the Threat air defenses. The brigade FSO should expect the commander to direct attack of specific targets, and he must be prepared to coordinate those requests.

Stationary and/or Mobile Brigade Tactical Command Post. Usually, this CP is configured according to SOP and the commander's guidance. It should always include at least the FSCOORD or FSO during critical engagements when the brigade commander is actively engaged in the command and control of more than one battalion.

The brigade FSO must be prepared to improvise and make use of all available radios. A man-portable radio configured for backpack mode should always be carried for use as a primary or an alternate means of communication. Additional FM radios available to the FSO could include the radios of the commander or S3. The ALO's FM radio may be available. Availability of digital communications equipment may require minor installation modification to one of the brigade tactical CP vehicles. Use of radio remote devices, long-range antennas, and HF radios in the voice mode should be considered as appropriate. Use of the HF radios at the TACP and radio teletypewriter (RATT) or mobile subscriber equipment (MSE) nodes throughout the division gives the brigade FSO a long-range, unsecured communications capability.

Security must be a concern and planned for accordingly. Fire plans for local security should be planned, briefed, and disseminated as with any other maneuver position. Long-range antennas and high-power radio settings should be used only when needed.

Foot-Mobile Brigade Tactical Command Post. This type of CP is not likely except during brigade-level air assault, lodgment, and amphibious operations. See the battalion tactical CP operations for considerations.

Battalion Tactical
Command Post Operations

Battalion Aerial Tactical Command Post. This CP usually operates from an OH-58 helicopter and consists of the maneuver commander and other staff members as directed. Normally, it will be available when two or more companies are conducting air assault operations.

The battalion FSO must ensure enough radios are available for his use, whether installed in aircraft or man-portable. Consider placing the ground-based ALO, subordinate FSOs, and other delivery system representatives on one centralized net. Some aircraft (UH-60 equipped for C3) may be equipped with HF radios for control of Air Force and naval assets. Consider using the battalion FS cell as a relay-retrans to the brigade FSO.

Other considerations are similar to those in employing an aerial tactical CP at brigade level.

Stationary and/or Mobile Battalion Tactical Command Post. This CP usually is configured according to SOP and the commander's guidance. It should always include the battalion FSO. The other staff personnel present will be identified by the battalion commander. The battalion tactical CP may have two or three vehicles.

Considerations for communications are similar to those of the brigade FSO. The FM radios available to the battalion FSO, other than his man-portable radio, may include the ALO's FM radio. Availability of digital communications equipment may require minor installation modification to one of the tactical CP vehicles. Use of radio-remote devices, long-range antennas, and HF radios in the voice mode should be considered as appropriate. Use of the HF radios with the battalion ALO should also be considered for possible long-range, unsecured communications capability. In defensive operations, the tactical CP should be dug in with overhead cover when possible. This will require remoting and digging in the wire.

The battalion CP will be much lighter than the brigade tactical CP and will be a greater security risk because of nearness to the FLOT.

Foot-Mobile Battalion Tactical Command Post. This CP is usually configured with the same personnel as the stationary tactical CP. It is used extensively during movements to contact, infiltrations, and landing zone (LZ) operations. It is the most difficult configuration for conducting fire support operations.

The primary means of communication will be a man-portable FM radio. The ALO should have a man-portable AM radio, which has a greater range than FM radios in most circumstances. The FS cell and the brigade FSO will have a much greater role under walking CP conditions because of the battalion FSO's limited radio range. The battalion FSO must be prepared to clear fire tasks with assistance from the FS cell. The FSO's communications requirements should be considered when selecting the route of movement during dismounted operations. Use of retrans during offensive operations will probably be required to enable the FIST or FO to effectively adjust artillery and mortar fires.

The security risks for dismounted battalion tactical CP operations are more situation-dependent than for other operations. Constant movement reduces the chance of being located, but it increases the chance of walking into an ambush or a prepared enemy position.

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