FRATRICIDE AVOIDANCEFratricide is defined as "the employment of friendly weapons, with the intent to kill the enemy or destroy his equipment and facilities, which results in unforeseen and unintentional death, injury, or damage to friendly, neutral, or noncombatant personnel." It is a complex problem, old as warfare itself, that defies a simple solution.
The rapid, nonlinear modern battlefield creates command and control challenges for every leader. For example, thermal imagery devices and accurate, lethal weapons enable soldiers to acquire, engage, and destroy targets at extended ranges. However, even these sophisticated tools do not allow positive identification of targets by visual means alone beyond about 1,000 meters, and even within this range, the intensity and the clarity of the thermal image is often degraded by rain, dust, fog, smoke, snow, or other battlefield obscuring factors. This example is only one of how fratricide incidents could occur; leaders and soldiers must maintain constant situational awareness throughout every operation.
In order to avoid fratricide, all leaders must develop techniques for maintaining situational awareness, and they must include these techniques in their SOPs. Examples of techniques that might be useful include--
- Monitoring on the next higher net.
- Listening to radio cross talk between units.
- Accurately reporting and navigating between positions.
- Training, using, and exchanging liaison officers.
Leaders at every level must identify fratricide risk factors and communicate them up and down the chain of command. Figure H-1 shows an example work sheet for computing fratricide risk in the context of mission requirements. The work sheet divides six mission-accomplishment areas into specific factors whose potential effect on the risk of fratricide is assessed as low (1 point), medium (2 points), or high (3 points). The column total is compared to the chart at the bottom of the example work sheet to determine the relative likelihood of fratricide. However, the commander bases his final assessment both on observable risk factors like the ones on the work sheet, and on his feelings about other, less tangible factors. This work sheet is a training tool for sensitizing chains of command to potential fratricide situations. As units become proficient with the checklist, the checklist will be a quick mental exercise to be carried over to combat operations.
Avoiding fratricide begins with planning and continues throughout execution. Figure H-2 is a checklist of planning considerations for leaders and soldiers. These considerations are not directive in nature nor are they intended to restrict initiative. Figure H-3 asks questions an OPORD should answer in order to help avoid fratricide.
a. Planning. A good plan clearly explains the enemy situation, the friendly situation, and the commander's intent, which helps avoid fratricide. Commanders may consider the status of each of the following to help determine the potential for fratricide:
- Clarity of the enemy situation.
- Clarity of the friendly situation.
- Clarity of the commander's intent.
- Complexity of the operation.
- Planning time available to all levels.
b. Preparation. During this phase, commanders must consider other indicators of fratricide risk:
- The number and type of rehearsals.
- The level of training and proficiency of the unit and of the individual soldiers.
- The soldiers' endurance levels.
- The habitual relationships between the units conducting the operation.
c. Execution. An in-stride risk assessment and reaction are necessary to avoid situations that may pose unforeseen fratricide risk. Commanders must consider the following:
- Visibility between adjacent units.
- Battlefield obscuration factors and the ability to positively identify targets.
- Similarities and dissimilarities between friendly and enemy equipment.
- Density of vehicles on the battlefield.
- Tempo of the battle.
To use graphics to clarify their intent, to add precision to their concept, to communicate their plan to subordinates, and to avoid fratricide, commanders at all levels must understand what operational graphics are, and when and how to use them (FM 101-5-1).
Briefbacks and rehearsals are useful in identifying planning errors.
a. Briefbacks. Commanders' briefbacks ensure subordinates understand their intents. Commanders use briefbacks to inform their subordinates where fratricide risks may exist, then tell them how to reduce or eliminate those risks. They also briefback complex plans to eliminate any confusion that could otherwise contribute to fratricide.
b. Rehearsals. The type of rehearsal conducted determines in part what risks are identified. Ideally, rehearsals should extend to all levels of command and involve all key players.
Leaders and soldiers have specific and immediate responsibilities in the event of a friendly fire incident. Leaders must identify and stop the incident, assess the risk of its recurrence, and establish controls to prevent it. Crew responsibilities are as follows:
a. When a Crew Engages a Friendly Force. As soon as a crew realizes they have engaged a friendly force, they must--
(1) Cease fire.
(2) Report on the next higher net, including the identity of the friendly force, if known; if not, they at least report the number and type of vehicles in the force, its location, the direction and distance to the victims, the type of fire used, and the target effects.
b. When a Crew Observes a Friendly Fire Incident. If a crew sees someone else engage a friendly force, they must--
(1) Seek cover and protect themselves.
(2) Report on the next higher net, just as if they had engaged the friendly force themselves, except they also provide the direction and distance to the firer.
(3) Provide a visual friendly recognition signal.
(4) Provide assistance, once doing so is safe.
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