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Platoons that have trained long and hard and have mastered the tactical and technical job skills required will fight effectively even when visibility is limited. Darkness limits visibility on the battlefield, but there are also other conditions that limit visibility. They are almost as common as darkness but less predictable and more difficult to deal with. Smoke and suppressive fire, which can severely limit local visibility are used in all armies. Dust and smoke caused by fire and movement of troops in combat, are especially critical to the effective employment of long-range direct fire weapons. Rain, falling snow, and fog also limit visibility. Most current night vision devices and battlefield illumination means are less effective under these conditions.


The leader's primary task is to coordinate and control the fire and movement of his unit so that he can mass combat power. This is a demanding task when visibility is good; it becomes even more so when visibility is limited. Poor visibility adds to command and control problems, and leaders must recognize and overcome those problems that make it more difficult to:

Detect targets.

Distinguish between friendly and enemy units.

Fire weapons effectively.



Section I. Introduction

Section II. Platoon and Squad Limited Visibility Equipment

Section III. Battlefield Illumination

Section IV. Control During Limited Visibility



Technology has produced devices that soldiers and leaders can use to reduce the effects of limited visibility. Several of these devices are organic to the platoon. This section defines the types of devices issued to the platoon and explains how they are employed.


Advanced STANO equipment is either active or passive. To be effective, active STANO equipment must project some form of energy. This energy can be detected by the enemy Passive STANO equipment either detects existing energy emissions or uses available light as a detection means. Use of passive equipment is not detectable by the enemy.

There are two categories of passive STANO equipment--image-intensification devices and thermal-imagery devices.

Image-intensification devices, or starlight scopes, do not project detectable energy. They amplify the existing or ambient light at night to project an image on the scope. Ambient light may be moonlight, starlight, or the glow from cities and towns. Light from flares, searchlights, and laser illumination improves the viewing capability but should not be viewed directly by the device. Image-intensification devices are adversely affected by fog, smoke, heavy rain, and falling snow.

Thermal-imagery devices penetrate fog, smoke, falling snow, camouflage, and light vegetation. The principle of this type of device is that all objects radiate a certain amount of heat, which travels outward as detectable energy. Because of differences in the amount of heat being radiated, the viewer detects each difference as a more intense or less intense image. Thermal-imagery devices can be used in daylight or darkness.

STANO devices greatly improve a unit's ability to carry out its mission under all conditions of visibility. STANO devices perform three general functions to overcome the effects of limited visibility:

Image-intensification devices and binoculars aid observation and weapons' firing where darkness is the only limiting factor.

Thermal-imagery devices aid observation and weapons' firing through their ability to see through light vegetation, camouflage, darkness, smoke, fog, rain, falling snow, or a combination of these factors.

Image-intensification and thermal-imagery devices aid in detecting enemy active STANO devices, such as infrared equipment.

The platoon is issued the following STANO equipment:

Binoculars. The platoon headquarters is issued two sets of 7x 50-mm binoculars. They are used by the platoon leader and the platoon sergeant to acquire long-range targets. At night, binoculars can be used to extend the range of the naked eye by taking advantage of the existing light. Binoculars are less effective through smoke, dust, heavy rain, falling snow, or fog. Additionally each squad is issued one set of 7x 50-mm binoculars.


The AN/PVS-4 is a small, lightweight image-intensification device used on the M16A1 rifle and the M60 machine gun. It can also be held in the hand. It weighs 3.7 pounds and has a range of 400 meters in starlight and600 meters in moonlight. It is powered by a 2.7-volt battery with a battery life of 10 hours. It is a 3.8x telescopic device used to provide accurately aimed weapons fire at night and to detect, identify and observe friendly and enemy operations. The AN/PVS-4 is issued two per squad and one per platoon headquarters.

Squads can mount one AN/PVS-4 on the M60 machine gun and the other on an M16A1 rifle when in the dismounted role. The squad leader or platoon leader can hold the AN/PVS-4 in the hand, as in an observation post, to provide a night observation capability. Who is to use the device is controlled by the squad leader or platoon leader.

AN/PVS-5 Night Vision Goggles. The AN/PVS-5 is a lightweight, battery-powered (2.7-volt), passive or active night vision device worn on the head. The battery life is 10 hours. It weighs 1.9 pounds and has a range of 150 meters in the passive mode. It is issued two per squad and platoon headquarters. By using the AN/PVS-5 while moving, the TL or gunner has the same night vision capability as the driver. The AN/PVS-5 helps the TL/gunner control the movement of the vehicle as it travels at night on roads or cross country. The AN/PVS-5 has a built-in active infrared light source, which can be used to provide added illumination for close up viewing within 2 meters. In this mode, it can be used to read maps, overlays, or orders. The area where the active mode is used must be shielded from possible enemy detection. Inside a building, or a vehicle, or under a poncho, there is not a direct line of a sight from the infrared light source to the enemy. The AN/PVS-5 can also be used for vehicle maintenance during darkness, and it can be worn by a ground guide to direct the APC. The dismount element may also use the AN/PVS-5 to aid in dismounted limited visibility operations.

AN/TAS-5 Dragon Thermal Night Vision Sight.

The AN/TAS-5 is a battery-powered passive thermal-imagery system. It is issued one per Dragon daysight/tracker (thus three per platoon) for antiarmor specialist use. The AN/TAS5 will detect, and display on a screen, thermal energy that is emitted by all materials and man-made objects. It weighs 20.6 pounds and has a range out to 1,200 meters. The AN/TAS-5 uses rechargeable batteries and employs small gas cylinders or bottles for cooling the detector electronics. These batteries and cooling bottles have a life of 2 hours. The AN/TAS-5 should only be used to acquire and engage targets. It should not be used as a surveillance device; other night vision devices are used for that role. When a target is detected, the gunner is alerted and uses the AN/TAS-5 to acquire and engage the target. A cooldown period of 10 to 15 seconds is required to activate the sight before it can be used effectively.

The tracker batteries and cooling bottles are recharged and refilled at the brigade trains. They are placed by direct exchange on a one-for-one basis. Discharged batteries and empty gas bottles should be collected and exchanged whenever the situation permits. Collection and exchange procedures should be in the unit SOP. The platoon sergeant should collect the bottles and give them to the company supply personnel during normal resupply. The bottles should be exchanged during the day, when limited visibility engagements are less frequent.

M19 Infrared Periscope. The M19 infrared periscope is used by the driver to increase his field of vision during limited visibility operations. It has a 1x optical lens with a 26-degree field of vision and a planning range of 40 meters. This is an active STANO device using the infrared headlights on the carrier as the light source. These lights are easily detectable by the enemy's STANO devices and should be used only when the AN/PVS-5 night vision goggles are not available. (For operation, refer to TM 9-2300 -257-10.)

AN/TVS-5 Crew-Served Night Vision Device. The AN/TVS-5 crew-served night vision device can be mounted on the caliber .50 machine gun. It is a lightweight, battery-powered electro-optical telescopic sight. It can detect vehicle-size targets at ranges up to 2,000 meters. It is issued one per squad and one per platoon headquarters.

AN/TRS-2 Platoon Early Warning System. The AN/TRS-2 platoon early warning system (PEWS) is a remote sensor system (REMS). Each rifle company has three PEWS. The system has 10 ground-implanted sensors. They transmit a signal (by radio or wire) to a receiving set that indicates movement in the area and which sensor is reporting. PEWS also differentiate between foot and vehicular movement. This device is ideal for monitoring avenues of approach masked by terrain or poor visibility. They should be employed along avenues of approach and in dead spaces or gaps forward of or between units. Each sensor can detect targets up to 15 meters from the sensor location. Its signal can be transmitted up to 1,500 meters.



Artificial battlefield lighting is the easiest way to penetrate darkness. The trick is to illuminate or silhouette the enemy without illuminating friendly forces. There is always a chance that artificial lighting may have an adverse effect on friendly troops. The characteristics of available artificial illumination systems, and how they are influenced by darkness, weather, and terrain, are addressed in this section.


There are two types of artificial light--invisible and visible.

Invisible light is emitted by an infrared emitting source and is all but impossible to see with the unaided eye. It offers greater security than visible light because a night observation device is needed to detect it. But, because it is an active device, it is easily detected by active and passive devices.

Visible light, such as flares and searchlights, require no special equipment outside the light source itself. It is the simplest type of illumination. Visible-light sources are used frequently to continue daylight operations into darkness, when troops are untrained, when planning time is limited, or to offset an enemy advantage in night vision devices. The disadvantage of using visible light is that at close ranges it compromises friendly positions.

The platoon uses the following sources of artificial visible light: tripflares, M203 illumination rounds, indirect fire illumination, and tank searchlights.

Tripflares are mainly for defense and are excellent early warning devices. They can be set to ignite by rigging them either with pull pin or trigger release. Their size and limited burning time make them unsuitable for continuous illumination.

The M203 illumination round can provide fast, close-in illumination when the dismount team is deployed. The round burns for about 40 seconds. It is used the same way and is subject to the same conditions as indirect fire illumination.

Indirect fire illumination from artillery and mortar fire is the most commonly used form of battlefield illumination. Wind direction must be considered when requesting illumination of this type. The height of burst of the shell is set to achieve maximum burning time. Burn time of most rounds is 60 seconds, so to achieve continuous illumination one round should be fired every 30 seconds. Illumination rounds should be fired so that they burn out just before ground contact. Drifting flares may illuminate friendly units, so, the forward observer must adjust the detonation point of the round to keep it from illuminating friendly units. If ground fire is a hazard, the height of burst should be raised to keep the flare from landing while burning. Strong winds may move the burning flares off target; thus, to achieve continuous illumination, increase the rate of fire.

Illumination from artillery or mortar flares is dimmed by fog, dust, smoke, and falling snow. Under these conditions of limited visibility low illumination rounds may be used as a navigation aid, with the flares' light visible enough to act as a beacon, even though it may not furnish usable illumination.

Searchlights are on many types of tanks and in target acquisition batteries of corps artillery. Tank searchlights furnish two types of illumination--white light and infrared light. Depending on the terrain, enemy situation, and cloud cover, searchlights may be used to provide direct illumination, or reflected illumination off low clouds. They can mark targets, objectives, or boundaries. They can also be used to increase deception by illuminating an area or point outside the intended area of action. When using searchlights, the system employing the light is easily detected and extremely vulnerable. It should be used when no other system is available.



Various techniques must be used by leaders to control units during limited visibility. These include measures to identify friendly forces, to control movement and fire, and to navigate.

During movement, visual contact can be maintained by reducing the intervals between dismounted soldiers or vehicles. Night vision devices (AN/PVS-5 and AN/PVS-4) allow units to retain some dispersion while maintaining visual contact. When vehicles are moving in any area that has friendly dismounted personnel, such as an assembly area or urban terrain, dismounted guides must be used. Leaders should move forward where they can control the direction and speed of the movement.


Whenever possible, guides should be used while moving (mounted or dismounted) over unfamiliar terrain. Compasses, visible landmarks, and night vision devices can be used as navigational aids. Ground surveillance radar and night vision devices can also be used, to guide dismounted patrols as they depart and when they return to friendly positions. Artillery spotting rounds may help determine location and direction.


Besides the nightsight and other night observation devices, there are several techniques and aids that can be used to control the APC's and dismounted weapons' fires. When the unit is in a stationary position, range cards should be used. Range cards help orient weapons on likely targets and reference points. (See appendix C.) The platoon should make wide use of wire in the defense to establish more reliable and secure communication between the teams, OPs, and platoon headquarters. Tracers can be used to denote targets and to direct fire on targets. Pyrotechnic signals, such as hand-fired flares, can be used to call for the lifting and shifting of fires.

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