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Reconnaissance is a mission to obtain information by visual observation
or other detection methods, about the activities and resources of an enemy
or potential enemy, or about the meteorologic, hydrographic, or geographic
characteristics of a particular area.  It also produces tactical information,
which is a by-product of all operations.  Reconnaissance is performed before
and during all combat operations.  It focuses on obtaining information for
the commander and his staff.  This information is evaluated and used to
confirm, modify, or formulate plans.  The reconnaissance platoon functions
as the commander's primary reconnaissance asset.  The battalion S2 and S3
are responsible for developing and organizing the battalion's reconnaissance


The following fundamentals are used for planning and execution of a reconnaissance operation.

    a. Gain All Required Information. The battalion S2 and S3 are responsible for coordinating and directing the battalion's reconnaissance effort. During the intelligence cycle, the commander and his staff identify priority information requirements (PIRs). This information is critical to the commander, since it affects his plan. The PIR forms the basis of the battalion's reconnaissance plan. The S2 and S3 develop a reconnaissance and surveillance matrix. This matrix specifies the information that is needed and assigns responsibility for obtaining that information. The battalion commander or S3 briefs the reconnaissance platoon leader on the specifics of the reconnaissance mission. During this brief, the platoon leader ensures that he understands the commander's expectations. Failure to do so can result in information that serves no purpose for the commander. The platoon leader also ensures that the reconnaissance platoon understands the specific reconnaissance requirements and the purpose of the reconnaissance. The reconnaissance mission is complete once all information is collected and transmitted to the correct headquarters or when directed to do so. All information gathered should be disseminated to all members of the patrol.

    b. Avoid Detection by the Enemy. The reconnaissance patrol must not let the enemy know it is in the objective area. The key is to see and not be seen. If the enemy suspects that it is being observed, it may move its elements or increase security measures as part of counterreconnaissance. Movement in the objective area is reduced. The patrol moves no closer to the objective than necessary. Adequate time must be allocated for the actual reconnaissance. The patrol also exploits the technical advantages of their equipment, such as NODs, to gain information. The patrol uses camouflage, discipline, and stealth to help avoid detection. They plan routes to avoid the effectiveness of enemy radar and RSTA devices. By reducing radio traffic, the platoon reconnaissance patrol limits the possibility of being detected by enemy RDF devices. Battlefield situations occur in which a reconnaissance patrol makes unexpected contact with the enemy. These situations may occur by chance, because a patrol moves too close to an objective. A technique for addressing these contingencies is to brief soldiers on situations concerning enemy contact, and the risks the platoon leader will accept to obtain information.

      (1) Although the intent of a reconnaissance patrol is to avoid enemy contact thus preserving tactical integrity, every soldier should know what action to take upon enemy contact. The platoon leader establishes engagement criteria. He ensures that the soldiers understand the criteria by asking questions that affect the engagement decision (Figure 4-1). Engagement criteria applies also to security elements.

Figure 4-1. Engagement decision questions.

      (2) The other criterion that soldiers need to know is risk acceptance, which is closely tied to the commander's intent. The battalion commander tells the platoon leader how much risk he should take in order to obtain information. If the commander is not willing to accept much risk, then he is not going to receive detailed information. The type of information needed by the commander often determines the risk of obtaining that information. If the commander wants a detailed sketch of the objective, he accepts the risk that the reconnaissance platoon will have to move close to the objective. If the commander wants general information, such as a location of an objective, then the risk of obtaining that information is less. The platoon leader ensures that the soldiers understand the risk involved in obtaining information. Soldiers do not always need to get close to an objective to obtain information.

    c. Employ Security Measures. If detected, a reconnaissance patrol breaks contact and returns to friendly lines with the information it has gathered, or it continues the mission. The patrol rehearses plans for breaking contact, which includes handling casualties. The platoon leader organizes the reconnaissance platoon into reconnaissance and security squads. The actual organization is based upon METT-T. One method of organizing the platoon is to have separate reconnaissance and security squads. Another method is to combine the two elements (Figure 4-2).

Figure 4-2. Reconnaissance organization.

    When using separate squads, the platoon leader can designate two squads as reconnaissance squads and one squad as a security element (or two squads as security squads and one squad as a reconnaissance element). These methods of organization are used when the platoon is reconnoitering one objective. When the platoon is reconnoitering separate objectives, the squads are organized as combined reconnaissance and security. Within a squad, a security element should consist of at least two soldiers.


The platoon leader uses the estimate process to develop the reconnaissance plan. Squad leaders develop the plan based upon the reconnaissance platoon leader's plan. Every soldier should have an understanding of the reconnaissance platoon's plan and the squad's plan. To ensure everyone understands the plan, the platoon leader conducts rehearsals and briefbacks. The platoon sergeant assists the platoon leader in the development of the plan and coordinates support requirements. An example of items that are essential to reconnaissance planning is as follows:

    a. Composition and task organization of the reconnaissance element.

    b. Information to be obtained through reconnaissance.

    c. Movement routes and formations to the reconnaissance site.

    d. Actions at the objective and use of control measures.

    e. Special instructions to members of the reconnaissance and security elements.

    f. Special equipment to be used during the reconnaissance.

    g. Contingency plans such as--

    • Actions on contact.

    • Actions if the reconnaissance party does not return.

    • Evacuation of casualties.

    h. Stay-behind surveillance.

    i. Indirect-fire support for the movement and the reconnaissance.

    j. Special communication arrangements.

    k. Withdrawal plan from the reconnaissance site.

    l. Plan for dissemination of information acquired during the reconnaissance.

    m. Deadline for reporting information to higher headquarters.


A soldier's ability to effectively use their senses, along with the ability to move and observe without being detected, is critical to effective reconnaissance. Equipment supplements the senses, enabling the observer to accurately portray the combat environment. Senses consist of sight, hearing, touch, and smell. Examples of sensory use are as follows:

    a. Sight. A soldier looks for--

    • Enemy personnel, vehicles, and aircraft.

    • Sudden or unusual movement.

    • Smoke or dust.

    • Unusual movement of farm or wild animals.

    • Activity of local inhabitants.

    • Vehicle or personnel tracks.

    • Signs or evidence of enemy occupation.

    • Recently cut foliage or vegetation.

    • Muzzle flashes, lights, fires, or reflections.

    • Amount/type of trash.

    b. Hearing. A soldier listens for--

    • Running engines or track sounds.

    • Voices.

    • Metallic sounds.

    • Gunfire (by type of weapon).

    • Unusual calm or silence.

    • Dismounted movement.

    • Aircraft.

    c. Touch. A soldier feels for--

    • Warmth of coals/materials from fires.

    • Freshness of tracks.

    • Age of food or trash.

    d. Smell. A soldier smells for--

    • Vehicle exhaust.

    • Burning petroleum products.

    • Cooking food.

    • Age of food or trash.

    • Human waste.


An area reconnaissance is a directed effort to obtain information concerning the terrain or enemy activity within a prescribed area, such as a bridge or other features that are critical to operations. A reconnaissance element, given the mission of conducting an area reconnaissance, obtains the required information by reconnoitering the location or area or by maintaining surveillance over the location. Based on METT-T, the platoon leader assigns the task of conducting an area reconnaissance to individual squads or he may use the entire reconnaissance platoon. When using individual squads to conduct an area reconnaissance, the platoon leader or platoon sergeant locates with a squad or selects a position from which the actions of the squads can be controlled. A reconnaissance patrol uses long-range and short-range observation and surveillance when executing reconnaissance. Other methods can be developed as long as the fundamentals of reconnaissance are applied. Single or multiple R&S teams can be used with either method. The security measures are based upon the situation. The major actions required of an area reconnaissance are: movement and occupation of the ORP, leader's reconnaissance, actions at the objective, and withdrawal and dissemination of information.

    a. Objective Rally Point. During planning, a tentative ORP is selected based on a map reconnaissance or, if possible, a physical reconnaissance. The ORP should have cover and concealment, be easy to defend for a short period, be easy to locate, and be close enough to the objective to reduce control problems. The platoon leader selects the technique for occupying an ORP. Every member of the reconnaissance platoon must understand how to execute this task. The triangle technique can be used for occupying an ORP (Figure 4-3) or for occupying patrol bases and rendezvous points. The actions while in the ORP involve final preparation for the leader's reconnaissance and actions at the objective. If the ORP is occupied by a squad, two soldiers are left to secure the ORP. The other three soldiers conduct the reconnaissance and provide security. The squad leader may choose to cache equipment in the ORP and take the entire squad on the reconnaissance.

    b. Leader's Reconnaissance. A leader's reconnaissance is conducted during an area reconnaissance. A leader's reconnaissance allows the platoon leader/squad leader to determine whether the plan for actions at the objective needs to be modified and to ensure smooth execution of the reconnaissance. A leader's reconnaissance of an objective may include the following tasks:

      (1) Pinpoint the objective. If possible, accomplish this by checking terrain features in the area, not by directly approaching the objective.

      (2) Locate observation or surveillance positions, routes, and security positions the squads will use.

      (3) Determine or confirm the enemy situation in the objective area, locate enemy OPs, determine enemy security status and activity, and adapt the patrol to the local sounds in the area.

      (4) Designate the release point and the positions for the reconnaissance and security elements.

Figure 4-3. Occupation of an ORP using the triangle technique.

      c. Actions at the Objective. Once the objective has been pinpointed, designated elements conduct the reconnaissance. The reconnaissance elements view the objective from as many locations as necessary. Movement in and around the objective must be cautious and slow. The security elements, if separate from the reconnaissance elements, occupy a position that, if necessary, allows placement of direct or indirect fire on the objective. The reconnaissance patrol leader decides how in-depth the reconnaissance will be. A thorough and accurate reconnaissance is important. However, avoiding detection is equally important. Two techniques for conduction reconnaissance are long- and short-range observation and surveillance.

        (1) Long-range observation or surveillance is the observation of an objective from an OP (Figure 4-4). It must be far enough from the objective to be outside enemy small-arms range and its local security measures. This method is used whenever METT-T permits the required information to be gathered from a distance. Long-range observation is the most desirable method for executing an area reconnaissance, since the patrol does not come in close enough to be detected. Also, if the patrol is discovered, direct and indirect fires can be employed on the objective without endangering the patrol. When information cannot be gathered from one OP, successive OPs may be used. This is accomplished by squad-size reconnaissance patrols. The OPs must use available cover and concealment and have a good view of the objective.

Figure 4-4. Area reconnaissance sketch long-range observation.

      (2) Short-range observation or surveillance is the act of watching an objective from a place that is within the range of enemy local security measures and small-arms are (Figure 4-5). When information needed by battalion cannot be obtained by observing from a distance, the patrol moves closer to the objective. This method can be executed by the platoon or by an individual squad. When executed by the platoon, the routes and area to be reconnoitered must be clearly defined.

Figure 4-5. Area reconnaissance sketch close-range observation.

        (a) Once the objective has been identified, the reconnaissance platoon leader looks for possible routes and locations from which he can observe the objective. Once these are identified, the platoon leader briefs the plan to the reconnaissance element. The size of the reconnaissance element should be limited--for a squad, two men conduct the reconnaissance while the others provide security. Once the security team is positioned, the reconnaissance team begins movement to the objective. This movement is slow and deliberate. It may require the soldier to low-crawl a considerable distance, which takes time, energy, and patience. Individuals take only the equipment that is necessary. When moving, one soldier moves while the other observes. This method is used until the reconnaissance element reaches its final position.

        (b) Once in position, the reconnaissance element observes and listens to acquire the needed information. No eating, no talking, and no unnecessary movement occurs at this time. Soldiers prone to coughing or sneezing should be in the security element. If the reconnaissance element cannot acquire the information needed from its initial position, it retraces the route and repeats the process. This method of reconnaissance is extremely risky. The reconnaissance element must remember that the closer it moves to an objective, the greater the risk of being detected. The reconnaissance element moves only as close to the objective as necessary.

        (c) The actions of the security element are limited. The security element should be in a position to observe the objective and, if possible, the reconnaissance element. If unable to observe the reconnaissance element, it should at least be aware of the element's general location. If the reconnaissance element is compromised, the security element calls for fire and places direct fire on the objective. The execution of this method of reconnaissance is difficult; actions at the objective and contingency plans must be well rehearsed and thought-out.

    d. Withdrawal and Dissemination of Information. Once reconnaissance is complete, the reconnaissance and security elements move back to the ORP or a rendezvous point. Security elements remain in position until the reconnaissance elements depart the objective area. Once all elements arrive in the ORP or rendezvous point, element leaders debrief the soldiers and move to the center of the perimeter to give the information to designated recorders. Recorders write down information and make/collect sketches of the objective. Element leaders disseminate the information obtained to the soldiers. This ensures that everyone has the information and, if necessary, can relay the information back to battalion. If the platoon leader wants to increase the security of the platoon, he can move the platoon to another location (normally one terrain feature away) or disseminate during movement.


Zone reconnaissance focuses on obtaining detailed information concerning routes, obstacles (to include chemical or radiological contamination), terrain, and enemy forces within a zone defined by boundaries (See Appendix B). A zone reconnaissance is assigned when the enemy situation is vague or when information concerning cross-country trafficability is desired. A reconnaissance platoon and other reconnaissance elements (infantry platoon/squad) acquire this information by reconnoitering within the zone, by maintaining surveillance over the zone, or by coordinating area reconnaissance of designated locations within a zone. The platoon leader organizes the reconnaissance platoon based on METT-T. This analysis determines whether the platoon uses single or multiple elements to conduct the reconnaissance. As in an area reconnaissance, the following techniques may be used as long as the fundamentals of reconnaissance are applied.

    a. Single element reconnaissance is favored when--

      (1) Specific information requirements can be gathered within the required time by a single reconnaissance element

      (2) Control of multiple elements in the objective area is difficult

      (3) Terrain is open and visibility is good.

      (4) Enemy security measures, such as patrols, sensors, and radar, are active in the area.

    b. Multiple element reconnaissance is favored when--

      (1) The area to be reconnoitered is too large for a single element. In this case, the platoon leader uses multiple R&S squads to complete the reconnaissance on time.

      (2) Several angles of observation are needed.

      (3) Terrain is difficult and visibility is poor.

    c. The methods used to move multiple reconnaissance elements through a zone are: fan, converging routes, and successive sectors. Effective command and control is important when conducting reconnaissance elements. It reduces the possibility of fratricide.

      (1) Fan method. The platoon leader selects a series of ORPs throughout the zone. When the platoon arrives at the first ORP, it halts and establishes security. The platoon leader selects reconnaissance routes to and from the ORP. The routes form a fan-shaped pattern around the ORP (Figure 4-6). A technique for determining squad routes is to divide the route into four separate legs. The distance of each leg remains constant with respect to one another. Whatever the initial azimuth is, the leader adds or subtracts 90 degrees. For example, if the initial azimuth is 360 degrees, the corresponding azimuths are 90 degrees, 180 degrees, and 270 degrees. This ensures that a patrol leaves the ORP in one direction (360 degrees) and returns in another direction (270 degrees). Once the routes are selected and briefed to the squad leaders, the squads execute accordingly. The platoon leader may send all three squads or he may send two and keep one squad as a reserve. The platoon leader or platoon sergeant can accompany one of the squads or remain at the ORP. The platoon leader also sends the squads out on adjacent routes. This prevents the patrol from making enemy contact in two directions. After the areas (fan) have been reconnoitered, the information is reported to battalion, the platoon moves to the next ORP, and the action is repeated.

Figure 4-6. Fan method.

      (2) Converging-routes method. The platoon leader selects an ORP, reconnaissance routes (through the zone), and a rendezvous point (Figure 4-7). (The rendezvous point is where the platoon links up after the reconnaissance.) Once the platoon arrives at the ORP, it halts and establishes security. The platoon leader confirms the platoon's location and selects a reconnaissance route for each squad, a rendezvous point, and a rendezvous time. A squad is sent out on each route. To enhance command and control, the platoon leader may move with the center squad. Squads reconnoiter their routes using the fan method. At a designated time, the entire platoon meets at the rendezvous point that is secured the same as the ORP. The rendezvous point should be an easily identified terrain feature. Once the rendezvous point is occupied, all information obtained is consolidated and disseminated. The platoon leader sends the information to higher headquarters and, based upon guidance from battalion, returns to friendly lines or continues the mission.

Figure 4-7. Converging-routes method.

      (3) Successive-sectors method. The successive-sectors method (Figure 4-8) is a continuation of the converging-routes method. The platoon leader selects an ORP, a series of reconnaissance routes, and rendezvous points. The platoon's actions from each ORP to each rendezvous point are the same as in the converging-routes method. (Each rendezvous point becomes the ORP for the next phase.) When the platoon links up at a rendezvous point, the platoon leader again selects reconnaissance routes, a linkup time, and the next rendezvous point. This action continues until the entire zone is reconnoitered. Once the reconnaissance is completed, the reconnaissance platoon returns to friendly lines.

Figure 4-8. Successive-sectors method.


Route reconnaissance focuses on obtaining information on a specified route and all terrain from which the enemy could influence movement along that route. Route reconnaissance can be oriented on a road, a narrow axis (such as an infiltration lane), or a general direction of attack.

    a. The battalion commander orders a route reconnaissance when he needs information on routes to his objective or to alternate or supplementary defense positions. Usually, an overlay is given to the platoon leader along with specific information requirements needed for that specific route. Possible information requirements are as follows:

      (1) The available space in which a force can maneuver without being forced to bunch up due to obstacles (reported in meters). The size of trees and the density of forests are reported due to the effect on vehicle movement.

      (2) The location and types of all obstacles and the location of any available bypass. Obstacles can consist of minefields, barriers, steep ravines, marshy areas, or NBC contamination.

      (3) The enemy forces that can influence movement along the route.

      (4) The observation and fields of fire along the route and adjacent terrain. This information will assist planners as a supplement to map information.

      (5) The locations along the route that provide good cover and concealment.

      (6) The trafficability for the type of forces using the route.

      (7) The bridges by construction type, dimensions, and classification.

      (8) The landing zones and pickup zones.

    b. When conducting a route reconnaissance, the platoon leader organizes the platoon based on METT-T. Depending on the time available, he conducts a thorough map reconnaissance and plans a series of fans (Figure Figure 4-9) along the route that provides detailed terrain information. Roads and trails intersecting or traversing the route must be reconnoitered to where they cross terrain. The enemy could influence friendly movement from adjacent terrain.

    c. If the platoon must conduct a route reconnaissance as part of the higher unit's mission, then stealth and speed in conjunction with detailed intelligence reporting become key. The reconnaissance platoon must remain far enough ahead of the maneuver force to assist in early warning and to prevent the force from becoming surprised. In this case, the fan method may not be as effective as a modification of the converging-routes method.

    d. If all or part of the proposed route is a road, the platoon considers the road a danger area. It moves parallel to the road using a covered and concealed route. When required, reconnaissance and security teams move close to the road to reconnoiter key areas.

    e. Engineers can be used to support the platoon in collecting technical information. They assist the reconnaissance platoon by clearing obstacles and classifying bridges. (For detailed information on classifying routes and bridges, refer to FM 5-34.)

Figure 4-9. Route reconnaissance with fans.

    f. The reconnaissance platoon reports conditions that are likely to affect the friendly movement IAW the SOP. An overlay of the route should be prepared. (Figure 4-10 is an example of a route reconnaissance overlay using standard symbols.) The following features may be included on the overlay (the first five are required):

Figure 4-10. Route reconnaissance overlay.

    • Two grid references.

    • Magnetic north arrow.

    • Route drawn to scale.

    • Title block.

    • Route classification formula.

    • Road curves having a radius less than 45 meters.

    • Steep grades with their maximum gradients.

    • Road width of constrictions (bridges, tunnels, and so forth) with width/lengths of the traveled ways in meters.

    • Underpass limitations with limiting heights and widths in meters.

    • Bridge bypasses classified as easy, difficult, or impossible.

    • Civil or military road numbers of other designations.

    • Location of fords, ferries, and tunnels, including limiting information.

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