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Battlefield survival of platoons and squads will often depend on how quickly and effectively they can fire on the enemy. Even when fighting out-numbered, platoons and squads must distribute their fires over an enemy force. To make every shot count, these fires must be controlled. Platoons must develop and use standard procedures for fire distribution and control. These procedures help quicken reaction time and reduce confusion during the first seconds of an engagement. Fire can then be redistributed as needed.


There will be times, mainly during defensive operations, when the platoon leader can direct the fires of the entire platoon. In offensive operation this often may not be the case. Prearranged methods will be necessary to rapidly place effective fire on enemy targets as they appear.

Visual control measures often may be used to start and stop engagement, shift fire, and signal prearranged actions. Often, though, the speed of mechanized warfare will require that fires be controlled using the radio. Alerts and command must be clear, accurate, and brief.


Section I. Introduction

Section II. Fire Distribution Measures

Section III. Fire Control Measures

Section IV. Small Arms Fire

Section V. Platoon Fire Planning

Section VI. APC Range Card



Two ways to cover a target with direct fire are point fire and area fire.

Point fire is fire directed at one point; for example, an entire fire team or squad shooting at one bunker.

Area fire is fire that covers an area laterally and in depth. If a squad leader wants fire on a woodline, tracers may be fired to mark the center of the target. Men to his left fire left of the tracers, and men to his right fire right of the tracers.


Suppressive Fire. Suppressive fire is fire directed at the enemy to keep him from seeing, tracking, or firing at a target. It can be direct or indirect fire. Suppressive fire can also be smoke, placed on or near the enemy, that keeps him from seeing targets.

Cone of Fire. This type of fire is the cone-shaped pattern formed by the paths of rounds in a group or burst of rounds fired from a gun with the same sight setting. The paths differ and form a cone because of vibration, wind changes, variations in ammunition, etc.

Beaten Zone. This zone is the pattern on the ground formed by the rounds in the cone of fire as they fall.

Dead Space. This is an area, within the sector and range of a weapon, that can neither be hit by fire from that weapon nor seen by its gunner.


Rifle and machine gun fire is classified with respect to the ground and with respect to the target.

Fire with Respect to the Ground.

Grazing fire is fire in which most of the rounds do not rise over 1 meter above the ground.

Plunging fire is fire in which the path of the rounds is higher than a standing man except in its beaten zone. Plunging fire is attained when firing at long ranges, when firing from high ground to low ground, and when firing into a hillside.

Fire with Respect to the Target.

Frontal fire is fire shot directly at the front of the target.

Flanking fire is fire shot into the flank of the target.

Oblique fire is fire where the long axis of the beaten zone is oblique to the long axis of the target.

Enfilade fire is fire where the long axis of the beaten zone is the same as the long axis of the target. This type of fire is frontal, flanking, or oblique. It is the best type of fire with respect to the target because it makes best use of the beaten zone. An example would be firing at the front of a column of soldiers or at a flank of soldiers on a line.



In addition to controlling fires, fire control measures for direct- and indirect-fire weapons are used for:

Massing fire.

Distributing fire.

These measures are provided by commanders/leaders (battalion/company/platoon) to insure that:

Targets are covered in depth.

Fires of direct-fire weapons are integrated.

More than one weapon system does not engage the same target (target overkill).

Fire control measures must be simple and clearly understood. This section describes fire control measures which can be used by the platoon.


A TRP is used for identifying targets or controlling direct-fire weapons.

TRPs are usually designated by company commanders or platoon leaders for companies, platoons, squads, or individual weapons.

TRPs are actually indirect fire targets that also control direct fires. Each TRP is given an identification number by the platoon forward observer. The number consists of two letters and four numbers--for example, AB5010. These identification numbers are placed on range cards and sector sketches for easy reference and coordination. To simplify fire commands, TRPs may be referred to by the last three digits. For example, TRP AB5010 may be called TRP 010.

When using a TRP to designate targets or to shift fires, use compass directions (north, south, east, west). Each position may be viewing the TRP from a different direction.


A sector of fire is an area, assigned to a unit (squad, platoon) or a weapon to cover by fire. It is designated by pointing out prominent terrain features (roads, streams, hills, ridgelines) that outline the sector. A sector of fire is assigned to each squad by the platoon leader to insure that the platoon's area is completely covered by fire.

Mutual support is a condition which exists when positions are able to support each other by direct fire. Such support prevents the enemy from attacking one position without being subjected to direct fire from one or more adjacent positions. In offensive operations, mutual support applies to units in position to maneuver support of an other unit.


An engagement area is an area clearly defined by natural boundaries.

For an engagement area to be effective, either the enemy must choose to move through the area or he must be forced into the area by friendly action (obstacles, indirect fire, etc.).

Additional control measures are used within an engagement area to distribute fire (TRPs, sector stakes).


Priority targets increase responsiveness to specific types of targets within an area or a formation.

They are normally designated by the battalion commander or company commander. When assigning priority targets, consideration is given to targets that present the greatest threat (BMPs with infantry still mounted, ZSU-23-4's if friendly air is available).



The dismount team uses specific techniques of fire for the offense and for the defense.


During the assault as well as the fire and movement phase, fire distribution and control are critical.

Leaders and riflemen fire on that portion of the objective to their immediate front. If there are no targets to the front, they fire as far to the left and right as necessary to concentrate on enemy positions without endangering friendly forces.

Machine gunners and SAW gunners mainly engage enemy automatic weapons anywhere in the squad's portion of the objective. After destroying the machine guns or if none were available, they concentrate fires on targets within the squad objective.

Grenadiers also engage enemy automatic weapons as a first priority and then other targets throughout the squad objective.

The squad leader does not fire during the assault unless his firepower is more critical to the squad effort than his control of the squad.

All weapons including grenades and bayonets are used to overcome pockets of resistance. Dismount teams or team members who have gained a foothold in enemy positions support the rest of the platoon by fire, and continue to assault through the objective until reaching the limit of advance.


Infantry fighting positions are constructed so that individuals can observe and fire to the front as well as to the flanks. Two-man fighting positions work best. If one man becomes a casualty, the second man insures that a gap is not left in the defense. When attack is not imminent, observation to the front by one person is sufficient, allowing the other to rest. When attack is imminent, all squad members observe their assigned sectors of fire, normally to the flank of their positions. When under attack, squad members can concentrate fires on clearly defined targets that present the greatest threat to them; or the squad can distribute its fire throughout its sector of fire when a large number of enemy forces approach or when no single target presents a more critical threat.

Controlling the rate of fire is important because ammunition resupply may be difficult if not impossible during the battle. Fire discipline must be practiced. Only SAW gunners should be allowed to fire in the automatic mode. But even they fire only short bursts. Machine gunners attempt to fire in six-round bursts.

Leaders can use several methods to control fires.

Oral--voice commands provide the most positive control until the noise of battle drowns them out.

Arm-and-hand signals--effective only when squad members can see the leader.

Prearranged signals--visual or sound should be included in SOPs.

Passing orders from man to man--may be effective if fighting positions are close to each other.

Personal contact between squad/team leader and squad members--may be particularly appropriate when the leader desires to maintain control of ground-mounted Dragon or M60 machine gun fire.



Platoon fire planning, a part of the platoon leader's troop leading procedures, starts as soon as the platoon leader gets a mission. Once begun, fire planning continues until the platoon mission is accomplished. Fire planning's primary goal is to prescribe how fire is to be distributed and controlled to best support the scheme of maneuver. The platoon fire plan furnishes the platoon leader information needed to distribute and control the fire of all available weapons.


In offensive fire planning, it is normally not possible to plan fire in the same detail as in defensive fire planning. The platoon leader will have to rely more on fire commands and prearranged SOP signals to rapidly bring effective fire on enemy targets.

Offensive action does, though, require planning. A platoon leader must plan how he will engage known or suspected enemy targets, where suppressive fire may be needed, and how he will control platoon fires against both planned targets and targets of opportunity.

Fire planning should include a thorough analysis of the type of threat expected. This will aid the overwatch element in tailoring the mix of mounted Dragons and caliber .50 machine guns to suit the situation. The analysis will insure that the proper weapon is ready for immediate action.


Defensive fire planning is normally deliberate and detailed because more time will be available to consider:

Individual carrier targets.

Platoon targets.

Indirect fire targets.

Fire distribution and control measures.

To develop a defensive fire plan, the platoon leader:

Assigns a primary firing position and one or more alternate positions to each squad APC, and assigns each a primary and a secondary sector of fire.

Designates platoon point or area targets and other control measures, such as TRPs, to coordinate the fire when more than one vehicle is firing into the same engagement area or sector.

Receives target information from squad leaders (normally provided on sector sketches and individual weapon range cards). The platoon leader reviews this target information to insure that fire is equally distributed across the entire platoon sector and that sufficient control measures are established.

Completes the platoon fire plan and gives a copy of the platoon sector sketch to the company/company team commander. If time is available, he has each squad leader make a copy of the sector sketch. If time is short, he may only be able to give the squad leader a quick briefing on the sector sketch.



A range card is a rough sketch of the terrain that a weapon is assigned to cover. It shows possible target areas and terrain features plotted in relation to a firing position. The information is used to plan and control fire, to rapidly detect and engage targets, and to orient replacement personnel or units.


Each carrier gunner normally prepares range cards for his mounted weapons. He prepares one for each primary alternate, and supplementary position designated in the defense and for any static position when enemy contact is possible, such as a position in an assembly area. Each range card has at least the following information:

The symbol for the weapon covering the sector.

The azimuth (degrees) and distance (meters) of the firing position from an easily recognizable terrain feature. (This serves as an easy reference to locate the firing position.)

The boundaries of the area assigned to be covered by observation and fire, to include both primary and secondary sectors.

Areas where targets are likely to appear (engagement areas) and the range and azimuth to them from the firing position.

Dead space or areas that cannot be observed or covered by fire.

Tie in with the weapon system on the right.

Identification data:

Unit designation (no higher than company).

Time and date of preparation.

Firing position (primary, alternate, or supplementary).

Magnetic north arrow.

Depending on the priority of work established, and once the squad leader tells him the sector of fire and other required information, the gunner prepares a range card as soon as possible after moving into a firing position. Two copies must be prepared. One is kept on the carrier, and the other is given to the platoon leader. The platoon leader uses the range cards and squad sector sketches to prepare a platoon sector sketch. A standard preprinted sheet of paper is best for drawing the range card, but anything the gunner can write on, such as notebook paper or a C-ration box, can be used.

The APC map symbol is drawn in the lower center of the range card. A nearby terrain feature is shown and a line is drawn from it to the APC symbol. The magnetic azimuth (degrees) and the distance (meters) from the terrain feature to the firing position are written along the line.

The primary and secondary sectors of fire are shown by drawing solid lines for the primary sector and dashed lines for the secondary sector. These represent the left and right limits of the sectors. Easily recognizable terrain features that can be used to identify the sectors are also sketched on the range card. The magnetic azimuth, deflection, and range to the far limit of the sectors of fire are written along each line. The tie-in with the weapons system on the right is shown by drawing a line to the point of the intersection between the fields of fire and by writing in the type of weapon system.

A sketch of the terrain within the sector of fire is then completed. For easy identification, terrain features are labeled.

TPRs chosen by the platoon leader are placed on the range card, and other locations where a target would be likely to appear are also marked. A line, with the range and deflection, is drawn to each TRP and every likely target location.

A maximum engagement line is drawn across the sector of fire for the caliber .50 machine gun and Dragon, if mounted. These lines depict the maximum range which targets can be effectively engaged with each of those weapons. If there are no obstructions in the sector, the lines are curved and drawn at the maximum engagement range of each weapon. If there are obstructions that limit the range at which targets can be engaged, that part of the area is shaded to show dead space.

Dead space is shown by drawing diagonal lines across the area or writing the word "dead space." Dead space is covered by the M203 and indirect fires.

The last step in preparing the range card is to orient it with the terrain and draw on it a magnetic north arrow. Identification is then added--unit designation, time and date of preparation, and type of position (primary alternate, or supplementary). The information is taken from the sketch and transferred to the data section. Target No. 1 is always the priority target. The deflection is taken from the azimuth indicator pointer and the elevation is taken from the gun elevation pointer.

Once the range card is completed, it should be given to the squad leader so that he can check it for accuracy and completeness before it is given to the platoon leader.


After a firing position range card has been completed, the position should be marked on the ground with stakes. This enables the same APC or an APC from a relief unit to reoccupy the firing position and use the data from the prepared range card for the position.

Staking the Position. Once the position range card is completed, the position should be staked before the vehicle is moved to any hide position or to an alternate or supplementary position. Three stakes are needed to mark the position, as shown in the illustration.

One stake, centered on the driver's station and touching the hull, is placed in front of the vehicle. This stake should be long enough so that the driver can see it as he moves into the position. The other two stakes are placed parallel to the left track, one lined up with the front wheel hub and one with the rear road wheels.

The stakes should be placed close to the vehicle with only enough clearance to let a driver move into position with out knocking them down. The stakes should be driven deep enough in the ground so that a strong wind will not knock them down. Engineer tape or luminous tape can be placed on the friendly side of the stakes to make them easier to see during limited visibility.

Moving into Position. If the situation permits, a ground guide can be used to help the driver move the vehicle into position.

If enemy fire prohibits the use of a ground guide, the driver moves in parallel to the two side stakes with the front stake centered on the driver's station.

Once in position, the gunner should check the range and azimuth for one of the targets on the range card. If the vehicle is correctly positioned, the data from the range card can be used. If not, the gunner should tell the driver which way to move the vehicle to align the target. Only minor adjustments should be necessary.

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