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The company may conduct air assault operations either as part of the battalion or as a separate unit when conducting raids, counterguerrilla operations, or other special missions. These operations, covered in detail in FM 90-4, are planned primarily by the battalion staff. This appendix covers the information the company commander needs to know to fulfill his responsibilities during such operations.


The CO may use helicopters when inserting or extracting patrol units, positioning weapons and crews, conducting resupply, and evacuating casualties. The company should have an SOP for working with helicopters. The SOP should cover the following:

  • LZ and PZ selection.
  • LZ and PZ security.
  • LZ and PZ operation and activities.
  • LZ and PZ marking procedures.
  • Downed aircraft procedures.
  • Load plan preparation.
  • Loading procedures.
  • Organization for an air assault operation.

a. Air assaults involve assault forces (combat, CS, and CSS) using the firepower, mobility, and total integration of helicopter assets and maneuver on the battlefield to engage and destroy enemy forces or to seize and retain key terrain.

b. Air movement operations involve the use of Army airlift assets for other than air assaults.


There are several types of helicopters that maybe used in air assault operations: observation, utility, cargo, and attack.

a. Observation. The OHs are organic to the aviation brigade found within the division. For assault helicopter operations, the cavalry squadron or AHB will normally provide the OHs. The OHs are used to provide--

  • Command and control.
  • Aerial observation and reconnaissance.
  • Aerial target acquisition.

b. Utility. The UHs are the most versatile of all helicopters. They are available in almost every unit possessing aircraft because they perform a variety of tasks. UH support normally comes from the assault company or battalion of the aviation brigade. UHs are used to conduct combat assaults and to provide transportation, command and control, and resupply. When rigged with special equipment, they may be used--

  • To provide aeromedical evacuations.
  • To conduct radiological surveys.
  • To dispense scatterable mines.

c. Cargo. These aircraft are organic to corps aviation units. They normally provide transportation, resupply, and recovery of downed aircraft.

d. Attack. AH organizations vary in size from company to battalion, but they can be task-organized to meet mission needs. However, they are not normally employed lower than battalion level. AH units are assigned to cavalry regiments, divisions, and corps. They may be used--

  • To provide overmatch.
  • To destroy point targets.
  • To provide security.
  • To suppress air defense weapons.


The foundation of a successful air assault operation is the commander's ground tactical plan, around which subsequent planning is based. It specifies actions in the objective area and addresses subsequent operations. The ground tactical plan for an air assault operation is essentially the same as for any other infantry operation. It differs in that it capitalizes on speed and mobility of helicopters to achieve surprise. Army aviation assets are integrated into the plan, coordinated, and controlled by the battalion staff under the battalion commander's guidance. One additional requirement is that aircrews must know this ground tactical plan and the ground commander's intent.


The landing plan must support the ground tactical plan. This plan sequences elements into the area of operations. It makes sure units arrive at designated places and times, and that they are prepared to execute the ground tactical plan.

a. Significant Factors. Consider the following factors while developing the landing plan.

(1) The availability, location, and size of potential LZs are key factors.

(2) The company is most vulnerable during landing.

(3) Multiple insertions require multiple LZs. Do not use the same LZ twice.

(4) Elements must land with tactical integrity.

(5) Soldiers are easily disoriented if they are not informed when the briefed landing direction changes.

(6) There may be no other friendly units in the area initially. The company must land prepared to fight in any direction.

(7) The landing plan should offer flexibility so a variety of options are available in developing a scheme of maneuver.

(8) Supporting fires (artillery, naval gunfire, CAS, and attack helicopters) must be planned in and around each LZ.

(9) Although the objective may be beyond the range of supporting artillery fire, artillery or mortars may be brought into the LZ(s) early to provide fire support on the objective for subsequent lifts.

(10) The plan should include provisions for resupply and medical evacuation by air.

b. Landing Zone Selection Criteria. LZs are selected by the battalion commander (or his S3) with technical advice from the AMC or his liaison officer. They do so using the following significant factors:

(1) Location. Locate the LZ on, near, or away from the objective, depending on the situation.

(2) Capacity. Determine how much combat power can be landed at one time by the size of the LZ. This also determines the need for additional LZs or separation between aircraft.

(3) Alternates. Plan at least one alternate LZ for each primary LZ selected to ensure flexibility.

(4) Enemy disposition and capabilities. Consider enemy troop concentrations, their air defenses, and their capability to react to a company landing nearby when selecting an LZ.

(5) Cover and concealment. Select LZs that deny enemy observation and acquisition of friendly ground and air elements while they are en route to or from (and in) the LZ.

(6) Obstacles. If possible, land the company on the enemy side of obstacles when attacking, and use obstacles to protect LZs from the enemy at other times. Keep landing zones free of obstacles. Organize and attach engineers for contingency breaching of obstacles.

(7) Identification from the air. Make landing zones readily identifiable from the air. Mark them with chemical lights (preferably infrared-type) if the assault is conducted with personnel wearing night vision goggles.

(8) Approach and departure routes. Avoid continuous flank exposure of aircraft to the enemy on approach and departure routes.

(9) Weather. Consider the weather. Reduced visibility or strong winds may preclude or limit the use of marginal LZs. Consider the impact of limited visibility and inclement weather restrictions on flying.

c. Options to Consider. If there are options available in selecting LZs, choose the ones that best aid mission accomplishment. This choice involves whether to land on or near the objective, to land away from it and maneuver forces on the ground to the objective, or to use single or multiple LZs. Significant factors to be considered are as follows:

(1) Combat power. This includes maneuver elements, firepower, and CS assets that can be introduced into the area early in the operation (usually dependent upon the number of aircraft employed and availability of suitable LZs).

(2) Enemy. This includes enemy strength and disposition in and around the objective area, to include air defense systems.

(3) Surprise. This is a goal that may be attained by careful use of terrain cover and concealment, darkness, or reduced visibility created by weather or smoke. Surprise is sometimes achieved by landing on the objective.

(4) Time. This is the time that is available for mission accomplishment. Limited time to complete the mission generally favors landing on or near the objective.

(5) Advantages of a single LZ. The use of a single LZ allows concentration of forces in one location if the LZ is large enough. It also--

  • Aids control of the operation.
  • Concentrates supporting fires in and around the LZ. Firepower is diffused if more than one LZ preparation is required.
  • Provides better ground security for subsequent lifts.
  • Requires fewer attack helicopters for security.
  • Reduces the number of flight routes in the objective area, making it more difficult for enemy intelligence sources to detect the air assault operation.
  • Centralizes any required resupply operations.
  • Concentrates efforts of limited LZ control personnel and engineers on one LZ.

(6) Advantages of multiple LZs. The use of multiple LZs avoids grouping assets in one location, which would create a lucrative target for enemy mortars, artillery, and CAS. Multiple LZs also--

  • Allow rapid dispersal of ground elements to accomplish tasks in separate areas.
  • Reduce the enemy's abilities to detect and react to initial and subsequent lifts.
  • Force the enemy to fight in more than one direction.
  • Eliminate aircraft congestion.
  • Make it difficult for the enemy to determine the size of the air assault force, the exact location of supporting weapons, or the objective of the air assault.

NOTE: If the objective is designated by a number, the LZ should be designated by a letter or code word to avoid confusion and mix-ups. This avoids having an objective and LZ with the same designator; for example, LZ 1 and OBJ 1.

d. Landing Zone Operations. Just as there is a priority of work for defensive operations, there is a priority of actions upon landing in an LZ.

(1) Unloading. Do not begin unloading the aircraft until directed by the crew chief or pilot (Figure D-1).

Figure D-1. UH-60 unloading diagram.

(a) Before leaving the aircraft, the chalk leader checks the landing direction and grid coordinates with the pilot if they were not determined during the approach. This aids in orientation to the LZ, particularly at night.

(b) Once the aircraft lands, the soldiers unbuckle their seat belts and get off (with all equipment) as fast as possible.

(c) They move 15 to 20 meters out from the side of the aircraft and assume the prone position, facing away from the aircraft with weapons at the ready until the aircraft has left the LZ.

(2) Immediate action on hot LZ. If the decision is made to use a hot LZ, or contact is made upon landing, soldiers quickly dismount and move 15 to 20 meters away from the aircraft and immediately return fire to protect the aircraft departure.

(a) If the situation allows, soldiers fire and move off the LZ to the closest cover and concealment. If this is not feasible and the enemy positions are near, they assault immediately.

(b) The ground or air element first detecting the enemy initiates the preplanned supporting fires.

(c) Once disengaged from the enemy force, the chalk leader moves the unit to a covered and concealed position, accounts for personnel and equipment, assesses the situation, and tries to link up with other elements of his lift. If unable to link up or if in a single chalk LZ, the senior man present issues a FRAGO to continue the mission or abort it.

(3) Chalk assembly on cold LZ. When unloading on a cold LZ, the chalk leader moves the chalk to its preset locations using traveling overmatch movement techniques. All soldiers move at a fast pace to the nearest concealed position. Once at the concealed assembly point, the chalk leader counts personnel and equipment and then proceeds with the mission.


The air movement plan is based on the ground tactical and landing plans. It specifies the schedule and details for air movement of soldiers, equipment, and supplies from PZs and LZs. It also coordinates instructions regarding air routes; air control points; and aircraft speeds, altitudes, and formations.


This paragraph serves as a small-unit (company and below) leader's guide for the safe, efficient, and tactically sound conduct of operations in and around pickup zones.

a. Selection and Marking of PZs and LZs. Small-unit leaders should be proficient in the selection and marking of PZs and LZs, and in the control of aircraft. Tactical and technical aspects must be considered when selecting an LZ/PZ.

(1) Methods available for marking PZs and LZs include the following:

(a) Day. A ground guide marks the PZ or LZ for the lead aircraft by holding an M16AI rifle over his head, by displaying a folded VS-17 panel chest high, or by some other identifiable means. Ground guides must wear eye and ear protection.

(b) Night. Use the code letter Y (inverted Y) to mark the landing point of the lead aircraft at night (Figure D-2). Use chemical light sticks or beanbag lights to maintain light discipline. When more than one aircraft is landing in the same PZ or LZ, use an additional light for each aircraft. For observation, utility, and attack aircraft, mark each additional aircraft landing point with a single light emplaced at the exact point that each aircraft is to land. For cargo aircraft (CH-47, CH-53, and CH-54), mark each additional landing point with two lights. Place the two lights 10 meters apart and align them in the aircraft direction of flight.

Figure D-2. Inverted Y marker.

(2) Obstacles include any obstruction that might interfere with aircraft operation on the ground that cannot be reduced, such as trees, stumps, and rocks. During good light, the aircrew is responsible for avoiding obstacles on the PZ or LZ. For limited visibility operations, mark all obstacles with red lights. The following criteria will be used in marking obstacles.

  • If the obstacle is on the aircraft approach route, mark both the near and far sides of the obstacle.
  • If the obstacle is on the aircraft departure route, mark the near side of the obstacle.
  • If the obstacle protrudes into the PZ or LZ, but is not on the flight route of the aircraft, mark the near side of the obstacle.
  • Mark large obstacles on the approach route by circling the obstacles with red lights.

b. Control of Aircraft. Control approaching aircraft by the use of arm-and-hand signals to transmit terminal guidance for landing. Position the signalman to the right front of the aircraft where he can be seen by the pilot. Give signals at night with a lighted baton or flashlight in each hand. When using flashlights, take care to avoid blinding the pilot. Keep batons and flashlights lighted at all times when signaling. The speed of arm movement indicates the desired speed of aircraft compliance with the signal.

c. Assembly Areas. Before the aircraft arrives, secure the PZ, position the PZ control party, and position the soldiers and equipment in a unit assembly area.

(1) Occupation of unit assembly area. While in a unit assembly area, unit leaders should--

  • Maintain all-round security of the assembly area.
  • Maintain communications.
  • Organize soldiers and equipment to chalks and loads in accordance with the unit air movement plan.
  • Conduct safety briefings and equipment checks.
  • Establish priority of loading for each man and identify bump personnel.
  • Identify the locations of the straggler control points.

(2) Organization of units into chalks. Make sure the chalk organization supports the ground tactical plan. Adhere to the following principles for loading the aircraft.

  • Maintain tactical integrity by keeping fire teams and squads intact.
  • Maintain self-sufficiency by loading a weapon (Dragon) and its ammunition on
  • Ensure key men, weapons, and equipment are cross-loaded among aircraft to prevent the loss of control or all of a particular asset if an aircraft is lost.

(3) Occupation of chalk assembly areas. Linkup guides from the PZ control party meet the designated units in the unit assembly area and coordinate movement of chalks to a release point. As chalks arrive at the release point, chalk guides move each chalk to its assigned chalk assembly area. (To reduce the number of personnel required, use the same guide to move the unit from the unit assembly area to the chalk assembly area.) If part of a larger air assault, locate no more than three chalks in the chalk assembly area at one time. Maintain noise and light discipline throughout the entire movement in order to maintain the security of the PZ. Do not allow personnel on the PZ unless they are loading aircraft, rigging vehicles for slingload, or being directed by the PZ control. While remaining in chalk order, assign each soldier a security (firing) position in the prone position weapon at the ready, and facing out (away from the PZ) to provide immediate close-in security.

(a) An example of a large, one-sided PZ is depicted in Figure D-3.

Figure D-3. Large, one-sided PZ.

NOTE: Artillery and mortar fire support is planned 360 degrees around the PZ with priority to the far side of the large, open area.

(b) An example of a small, two-sided PZ with the unit and chalk assembly area is depicted in Figure D-4.

Figure D-4. Small, two-sided PZ.

(c) Final preparations are made in the chalk assembly area. The chalk leader ensures all gear is tied down and checked, and short antenna are paced in radios, folded down, and secured before loading. He makes sure all squad and team leaders check the equipment of their men to ensure it is complete and operational. He also makes sure radios are on and a communications check is performed (unless directed otherwise). Then he assigns specific aircraft seat to each man.

(4) Bump Plan. The least important chalk in each lift is designated for bump in case too few aircraft arrive at the PZ. These personnel report to a bump/straggler control point to be rescheduled for movement to the LZ.

(5) Pickup zone closure. The CO designates a single man to be responsible for PZ closure. This may be the PZ control officer, the PZ control NCOIC, or another designated soldier. He ensures all company men and equipment are loaded and that security is maintained.

(a) Single lift. The designated man positions himself at the last aircraft and collects bumped men, if required. He is the last man to board the aircraft. Once on the aircraft, he notifies the crew chief/AMC (using the CO's radio handset) that all personnel and equipment are loaded. Aircraft door gunners provide close-in security. control NCOIC, or equipment are loaded. Aircraft door gunners provide another designated soldier. He ensures all company close-in security.

(b) Multiple lift. The duties of the PZ closure soldier are the same as for a single lift. However, during a multiple lift, the security teams maintain security of the PZ and depart last with the PZ closure man.

(6) The UH-60 loading sequence. Figure D-5 depicts the loading procedure for a UH-60. For combat operations, up to 24 soldiers may be loaded in a UH-60. See FM 7-20 for a detailed discussion of "seats-out" operations.

Figure D-5. UH-60 loading diagram.

(a) The chalk leader initiates movement once the aircraft has landed. The CO and platoon leaders normally occupy positions 5

(b) The far side and near-side groups move to the aircraft in file, with the number one man leading the load to the appropriate side.

NOTE: The far side group always moves around to the front of the aircraft.

(c) The chalk leader stops at the near side of the aircraft to ensure the near-side group loads properly; then he moves around front of the aircraft to the far side and checks the other half of the chalk.

(d) All personnel buckle up as soon as they are seated in the correct seat.

(e) The chalk leader hands the chalk card to the pilot and answers any questions the pilot may have. They use the aircraft's intercommunication (troop commander's) handset.


This plan synchronizes the arrival of soldiers, aircraft, equipment, and logistic support at the PZs. The staging plan is based upon the loading plan. At company level, the staging plan is primarily concerned with the movement of the company to the PZ unit assembly area. It also addresses the linkup of company PZ control personnel with the battalion PZ control party. (in larger operations) before the main body arrives. The staging plan should allow the company to be ready to start loading operations 15 minutes before the aircraft arrival time.


To ensure that the air assault is executed in an effective and efficient manner, designate key personnel to perform specific duties.

a. Air Assault Operations. In a company air assault, the following duties and responsibilities are assigned.

(1) Company Commander. The CO has overall responsibility fort he operation. He plans the operation, briefs subordinate leaders, issues the OPORD, and conducts rehearsals. He rides in the AMC's aircraft to ensure better command, control, and communication.

(2) Executive Officer of first sergeant. One of these two will--

  • Set up the PZ. He supervises the marking of the PZ and the clearing of obstacles from the PZ.
  • Brief all chalk leaders.
  • Supervise all activity on the PZ, such as PZ security, movement of troops and equipment, and placement of chalks and slingloads.
  • Devise and disseminate the bump plan and control the bumped soldiers.
  • Ride in the last aircraft for control purposes and ensure that the PZ is cleared.

(3) Chalk leader. He briefs his personnel on their respective tasks and positions inside the aircraft. He also--

  • Ensures that the lights or panels (if required) for his aircraft are properly emplaced.
  • Assigns respective areas of security to his personnel. Ensures that each soldier goes to his proper area.
  • Supervises the loading of his chalk and attachments into the aircraft to ensure that all personnel assume assigned positions and buckle their lap belts.
  • Keeps current on location by using his map and communicating with the aircraft crew during air movement.
  • Ensures upon landing that all personnel exit the aircraft quickly, rush to a safe distance (15 to 20 meters) from the aircraft, assume the prone position, and prepare to return enemy fire.

b. Pickup Zone Control Party. The PZ control party is responsible for the organization, control, and all coordinated operations in the PZ. (See FM 90-4 for more details on C2 techniques and responsibilities of key leaders.) Keeping in mind the CO's duties and responsibilities previously stated, a PZ control party for a company air assault operation could be organized as follows:

(1) Pickup zone control officer. He may be the XO, 1SG or a platoon leader.

(2) Pickup zone control NCOIC. He is the ISG, a platoon sergeant, a section sergeant, or a squad leader.

(3) RATELO with two radios. One radio monitors the combat aviation net for communication with the aircraft. The second operates in the company command net or a PZ control net.

(4) Chalk-linkup guides. There is one guide per chalk. Their primary duties are to assist in linkup and movement of chalks from the unit assembly area to the chalk assembly area. For company air assault operations, these guides should come from the same chalk they are assigned to.

(5) Lead aircraft signalman. He is responsible for visual landing guidance for the lead aircraft. This signalman should come from the chalk loading on the lead aircraft.

(6) Slingload teams. A team includes a signalman and two hookup men.


The air mission briefing is the last coordination meeting of all key participants for an air assault mission. It ensures that all personnel are briefed and that all details are finalized. It is coordinated by the battalion S3 Air and normally conducted at the battalion TOC. If the company commander is the ground tactical commander, he must attend. If the battalion commander is the ground tactical commander, the company may not have a representative. The format in Figure D-6 is a guide; it will help ensure that essential information is included in air assault mission briefings.

1. Situation.

a. Enemy forces (especially troop concentrations and locations and types of ADA assets).

b. Friendly forces.

c. Weather (ceiling, visibility, wind, temperature, pressure and density altitude, sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset, percent of moon illumination, EENT, BMNT, PZ and LZ altitudes, and weather outlook).

2. Mission. Clear, concise statement of the task that is to be accomplished (who, what, and when, and, as appropriate, why and where).

3. Execution.

a. Ground tactical plan.

b. Fire support plan to include suppression of enemy air defenses.

c. Air defense artillery plans.

d. Engineer support plan.

e. Tactical air support.

f. Aviation unit tasks.

g. Staging plan (both primary and alternate PZs).

(1) PZ location.

(2) PZ time.

(3) PZ security.

(4) Flight route to PZ.

(5) PZ marking and control.

(6) Landing formation and direction.

(7) Attack and air reconnaissance helicopter linkup with lift elements.

(8) Troop and equipment load.

h. Air movement plan.

(1) Primary and alternate flight routes (SPs, ACPS, AND RPs).

(2) Penetration points.

(3) Flight formations and airspeeds.

(4) Deception measures.

(5) Air reconnaissance and attack helicopter missions.

(6) Abort criteria.

(7) Air movement table.

i. Landing plan (both primary and alternate LZs).

(1) LZ location.

(2) LZ time.

(3) Landing formation and direction.

(4) LZ marking and control.

(5) Air reconnaissance and attack helicopter missions.

(6) Abort criteria.

j. Laager plan (both primary and alternate laager sizes).

(1) Laager location.

(2) Laager type (air or ground, shut down or running).

(3) Laager time.

(4) Laager security plan.

(5) Call forward procedure.

k. Extraction plan (both primary and alternate PZs).

(1) Pickup location.

(2) Pickup time.

(3) Air reconnaissance and attack helicopter missions.

(4) Supporting plans.

l. Return air movement plan.

(1) Primary and alternate flight routes (SPs, ACPS, and RPs).

(2) Penetration points.

(3) Flight formations and airspeed.

(4) Air reconnaissance and attack helicopter missions.

(5) LZ locations.

(6) 1 7 landing formation and direction.

(7) 1 7 marking and control.

m. Coordinating instructions.

(1) Mission abort.

(2) Downed aircraft procedures.

(3) Vertical helicopter instrument flight recovery procedures.

(4) Weather decision by one-hour increments and weather abort time.

(5) Passenger briefing.

4. Service Support.

a. FARP locations (primary and alternate).

b. Ammunition and fuel requirements.

c. Backup aircraft.

d. Aircraft special equipment requirements, such as cargo hooks and command consoles with headsets.

e. Health service support.

5. Command Signal.

a. Command.

(1) Location of commander.

(2) Point where air reconnaissance and attack helicopters come under OPCON as aviation maneuver elements.

b. Signal.

(1) Radio nets, frequencies, and call signs.

(2) Signal operation instructions in effect and time of change.

(3) Challenge and passwork.

(4) Authentication table in effect.

(5) Visual signals.

(6) Navigational aids (frequencies, locations, and operational times).

(7) Identification friend or foe (radar) codes.

(8) Code words for PZ secure, hot, and clean; abort missions; go to alternate PZ and LZ; fire preparation; request extraction; and use alternate route.

6. Time Hack. All watches are synchronized.

Figure D-6. Air mission briefing format.


The CO and his subordinate leaders must enforce strict safety measures when working with helicopters. Primary safety measures include the following:

  • Keeping the body low when approaching and departing a helicopter, especially on slopes.
  • Keeping safety belts fastened when airborne (for training).
  • Keeping weapons unloaded (no round in chamber) and on SAFE. Keeping the muzzle down on UH-60, OH-58, and CH-47 and up on the UH-1.
  • Keeping radio antennas down and secured.
  • Keeping hand grenades secured.
  • Not jumping from a hovering helicopter until told to do so by a crewmember.
  • Not approaching from, or departing to, the rear of a helicopter.

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