This chapter describes preparations for deployment
and training for operations in a desert environment. A force sent
to a desert theater will fight with the equipment it has in accordance
with current doctrine. While equipment and doctrine can be modified
to suit the new environment, much will depend on how well soldiers/marines
and leaders have mastered their individual training. Units that
have trained in Germany and the United States will have the basic
technical and tactical skills that can be adapted for desert warfare.
Well-trained troops and leaders can adapt quickly to the peculiar
conditions of the new environment. If their individual and collective
skills have been neglected, no amount of desert lore will remedy
When a unit is alerted for operations in a desert environment the commander must first answer some or all of the following questions:
- To what country is the unit going?
- What are the climatic and terrain conditions
of that country?
- Will the unit be taking its own equipment overseas?
- What is the tentative timeline for departure?
Will there be a period of time where the unit has time for individual
training while the vehicles are in transit?
- What unit equipment is being sent overseas and
what items will it require for modification (including camouflage
- What special equipment does the unit require
for desert operations?
- What special maintenance is required for weapons
and equipment before deployment to or arrival in a desert environment?
- Are there personnel in the unit who--
- Have desert experience as observers or controllers?
- Have any experience in desert conditions?
- Are all personnel physically fit?
- How many soldiers/marines are nondeployable?
- What types of operations are expected?
Once these and other questions have been answered
the commander must develop a program to bring his unit to a level
where it is fully capable of successfully operating in harsh desert
conditions. To do this, first set a list of priorities for both
individual and unit training. The training priorities listed below
are shown as a guide only. They can be modified as necessary depending
on the state of readiness of the unit when it is first alerted
for desert employment.
In order to fight and survive in desert operations
troops must fully understand the desert environment. The objective
of individual training is to prepare the individual for operations
in a desert environment. This requires both mental and physical
To the extent practicable, troops should be acclimatized
before arrival in the area of operations. The requirement for
acclimatization will vary slightly between individuals, but physical
conditioning (fit soldiers/marines acclimatize more easily) is
a part of the acclimatization process. Acclimatization should
take place in climatic conditions that are similar, or slightly
more strenuous, than those of the prospective area of operations.
CAMOUFLAGE AND CONCEALMENT
Camouflage and concealment training may be divided
into concealment from the ground and concealment from the air.
Particular attention must be paid to movement, color, shadow,
and deception. Units should practice erecting and disassembling
camouflage netting in order to become more efficient. Well-trained
crews can save time and headaches. Camouflage and concealment
are equally important for combat service support troops. Appendix E contains information about desert camouflage and concealment
Because of the absence of established roads in
desert areas, driving requires experience, individual skill, and
physical endurance on the part of the vehicle operator. Driver
training exercises should be long and arduous to expose vehicle
operators to the rigors of the desert as well as to the effects
of fatigue. The need for dispersing and avoiding preceding vehicles
is stressed when operating over crusted surfaces or when the trail
deteriorates while operating over sand (except suspected mine
areas). Training should be directed toward driver proficiency
in dune areas, choice of the best ground, selection of proper
gear ratios, and driver knowledge and appreciation of the exact
capabilities of his vehicle. Driver skill should be developed
in taking maximum advantage of momentum, gear shifting, estimating
and utilizing proper speeds, and avoiding sudden driving or braking
thrusts. Additional driving techniques are contained in Appendix C.
SURVIVAL, EVASION, AND ESCAPE
Convincing a soldier/marine that he is capable
of surviving in the desert environment strengthens his Self-confidence,
and thus his morale. FM 21-76 contains details on survival, evasion,
and escape in the desert, but the following points concerning
FM 21-76 should be included in desert survival, evasion, and escape
training due to their importance:
- It is unlikely that wells will be poisoned. However,
some wells in the North African desert have such strong concentrations
of mineral salts that water taken from them may lead to intestinal
irritation and subsequent illness.
- Although water is undoubtedly the most important
factor in survival, a soldier/marine should not discard his personal
weapon or any navigational equipment except in extreme circumstances.
Mirrors of any type should be retained for signaling aircraft
or other ground forces.
Following minimum preliminary training in garrison,
desert living can only be practiced in the field, often as part
of unit training. Important aspects that should be covered include:
- The effects of heat, including possible dehydration
and salt loss (the need to maintain the body fluid level).
- The effects of temperature variations.
- The effects of cold weather in the desert.
- First aid for heat illnesses. Each soldier/marine
should be issued a memory aid card showing symptoms and immediate
- Maintenance of morale and the ability of the
individual to accept the challenge of the desert. Self discipline
and common sense.
- Environmental effects such as those of sand,
wind, and light.
- Water discipline.
- Hygiene and sanitation.
- Comet clothing equipment, including how to wear
and maintain and clothing.
- Precautions against snakes, scorpions, insects,
and disease-bearing organisms.
To the extent possible, the commander should
train his unit in terrain and environmental conditions similar
to what he expects to find in the operational area. It would be
both shortsighted and dangerous for example, to allow water for
bathing if the expected operational area is totally waterless.
To further accustom the troops to hardships, contact with garrison
or other urban areas should be kept to the minimum except for
medical or welfare reasons. Once field training has started, necessary
supplies should be brought to field locations and items that are
unlikely to be available in the operational area (commercial soft
drinks and foods) should not be permitted. To gain the maximum
value from this training, the unit's exposure to outside influences
should be kept to a minimum.
ENEMY ORGANIZATIONS AND TACTICS
This can be taught in garrison on sand tables
and map maneuvers, followed by tactical exercises without troops
(TINT), and unit exercises in the field. If enemy equipment is
available it should be brought to the unit so it can be studied
Troops must be thoroughly briefed on the type
of terrain and the general environment they will encounter, including--
- Water sources, if any.
- Landmarks or significant permanent terrain features.
- Friendly and enemy areas of operation.
- Prevailing winds.
- Whether or not the local populace is pro or con
This information will assist navigation by reconnaissance
units or individuals who become separated from their units. Although
maps are the most obvious navigation aids, numerous types of equipment
and techniques are available to assist soldiers/marines during
Although maps used in field training will be
those of the local area, sufficient maps of the operational area
should be obtained to allow distribution for study and possible
use during garrison training. This is particularly important if
the operational maps use foreign words to describe terrain, such
as sebhka, summan, hidiba, and dikaka.
In addition, the grid system on some maps differs
from the universal transverse mercator grid system on US maps.
In many Middle East countries that were previously under British
influence, for example, the Palestine grid system is used on military
maps. These maps, generally last surveyed during World War II
or the following decade, are widely used, not only in the area
of Palestine, but also in Egypt and much of Saudi Arabia. And
since they are commonly produced in either 1:100,000 or 1:50,000
scale, they do not mesh with standard US maps. In some instances,
accurate maps may not be available. An alternative is to draw
the grid lines on attached blank sheets of paper. This method
can be highly effective when used in conjunction with navigational
aids such as the GPS and LORAN.
Latitude and Longitude Conversions
One of the oldest systematic methods of location
is based upon the geographic coordinate system. By drawing a set
of east-west rings around the globe (parallel to the equator),
and a set of north-south rings crossing the equator at right angles
and converging at the poles, a network of reference lines is formed
from which any point on the earth's surface can be located. The
distance of a point north or south of the equator is known as
its latitude. The rings around the earth parallel to the equator
are called parallels of latitude or simply parallels. Lines of
latitude run east-west but north-south distances are measured
between them. A second set of rings around the globe at right
angles to the lines of latitude and passing through the poles
are known as meridians of longitude or simply meridians. One meridian
is designated as the prime meridian. The prime meridian of the
system we use runs through Greenwich, England, and is known as
the Greenwich meridian. The distance east or west of a prime meridian
to a point is known as its longitude. Lines of longitude (meridians)
run north-south but east-west distances are measured between them.
Geographic coordinates are expressed in angular
measurement. Each circle is divided into 360 degrees, each degree
into 60 minutes and each minute into 60 seconds. At any point
on the earth, the ground distance covered by one degree of longitude
is about 111 kilometers (69 miles); one second is equal to about
30 meters (100 feet). The ground distance covered by one degree
of longitude at the equator is also about 111 kilometers, but
decreases as one moves north or south, until it becomes zero at
the poles. For example, one second of longitude represents about
30 meters at the equator but at the latitude of Washington, D.
C., one second of longitude is approximately 24 meters.
Geographic coordinates appear on all standard
military maps, and on some they may be the only method of locating
and referencing the location of a point. The four lines that enclose
the body of the map (neatlines) are lines of latitude and longitude.
Their values are given in degrees and minutes at each of the four
comers. In addition to the latitude and longitude given for the
four corners, there are, at regular intervals along the sides
of the map, small tick marks extending into the the body of the
map. Each of these tick marks is identified by its latitude and
longitude value. Different methods exist for converting longitude/
latitudes to the military grid system. Special equipment such
as the global positioning systems have the capability to convert
longitude and latitudes to grid coordinates, or this may be accomplished
through manual means outlined in FM 21-26. For more information
on map reading and land navigation techniques consult FM 21-26.
Navigation aids vary in sophistication and complexity
and may include the following:
These systems can be used on moving vehicles
and require accurate timekeeping.
Individual compass error and local deviation
must be known before using the lensatic compass. The lensatic
compass cannot be used with any accuracy on dense steel vehicles
such as tanks. A crew member should dismount to obtain an azimuth.
It is unreliable near large quantities of metal, and can also
be affected by underground mineral deposits. Power lines also
adversely affect the lensatic compass.
An efficient gun azimuth stabilizer (a gyroscope)
used on fairly flat ground is useful for maintaining direction.
Planned tracer fire assists in maintaining bearings,
and field artillery and mortar concentrations, preferably smoke
(or illumination at night), are useful checks on estimated locations.
It is essential to record distance moved, which
may be done by using a vehicle odometer.
These are particularly useful for aircraft navigation,
but can also permit the enemy to locate friendly forces. It may be
necessary to place them in open desert with unit locations being
marked at certain distances and bearings from them.
Provided the position of a radar is known, it
can measure range and bearings and, therefore, the position of
The advantage of aerial photographs, particularly
to aviators, is their ability to show up-to-date views of the
variations in color and texture of the desert soil.
Global Positioning Systems
The GPS is a space-based, radio-positioning navigation
system that provides accurate passive position, speed, distance,
and bearing of other locations to suitably equipped users. The
system assists the user in performing such missions as siting,
surveying, tactical reconnaissance, artillery forward observing,
close air support, general navigation, maneuver, and ground-based
forward air control. It can be operated in all types of weather,
day or night, anywhere in the world; it may also be used during
nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare. It is important to
remember these types of devices are aids to navigation; therefore,
users should continuously plot their positions. In the event of
a GPS failure, you can revert to more traditional navigation and
position determination methods.
Position and Azimuth Determining System
The PADS is a highly mobile, self-contained,
passive, all-weather, survey-accurate position/navigation instrument
used by field artillery and air defense artillery units for fire
support missions. The system provides roil-time, three-dimensional
coordinates in meters, and a grid azimuth in roils. It also gives
direction and altitude. The PADS can be used by the land navigator
to assist in giving accurate azimuth and distance between locations.
A unit requiring accurate information as to its present location
can use PADS to provide this information.
Position Location Reporting System
The position location reporting system (PLRS)/joint
tactical information distribution system (JTIDS), hybrid (PJH),
is a computer-based system. It provides near real time, secure
data communications, identification, navigation, position location,
and automatic reporting to support the need of commanders for
information on the location, identification, and movement of friendly
forces. The PLRS is based on synchronized radio transmissions
in a network of users controlled by a master station. The major
elements of a PLRS community include the airborne, surface vehicular,
and man-pack users; the PLRS master station; and an alternate
master station. The system can handle 370 user units in a division-size
deployment per master station with a typical location accuracy
at 15 meters. The man-pack unit weighs 23 pounds and includes
the basic user unit, user readout, antenna, backpack, and two
The simplest system of navigation is known as
dead reckoning. This is a means of finding where an individual
is located by a continuous plotting of where he has been. More
exactly, dead reckoning consists of recording and plotting a series
of courses, each measured as to the distance and direction horn
a known point, to provide a plot from which the position can be
determined at any time. In the desert, the direction traveled
is determined with a compass and the distance is measured by counting
paces or reading the odometer of a vehicle. Detailed information
on navigation by dead reckoning is contained in FM 21-26.
This method provides orientation by reading the
way the sun casts shadows. To use the shadow-tip method, find
a fairly straight stick about 1 meter long and follow these steps:
- Step 1. Push the stick into the ground at a fairly
level, brush-free spot where a distinct shadow will be cast. The
stick need not be vertical; inclining it to obtain a more convenient
shadow, in size or direction, does not impair the accuracy of
the shadow-tip method.
- Step 2. Mark the tip of the shadow with a small
peg, stick, stone, twig, your finger, hole in the sand, or other
means. Wait until the shadow's tip moves a few inches (if you
use a l-meter stick, 10 to 15 minutes should be enough time),
- Step 3. Mark the new position of the shadow's
- Step 4. Draw a straight line from the first mark
to the second mark and extend it about a foot past the second
- Step 5. Stand with the toe of the left foot at
the first mark and the toe of the right foot past the line you
You are now facing true north. Find other directions
by recalling their relation to north. To mark directions on the
ground (to orient others), draw a line at right angles to the
first line, forming a cross and mark the directions.
If you cannot remember which foot to place on
the first rock (see step 5), remember this basic rule for telling
east from west: the sun rises in the east andsets in the west
(but rarely due east or due west). The shadow's tip moves just the
opposite. Therefore, the first shadow-tip mark is always in the west
direction and the second mark in the east direction, everywhere on earth.
Figure 2-1 depicts finding your direction by using the shadow-tip method.
An ordinary analog watch (with hands) can be
used to determine the approximate true north in the North and
South Temperate Zones. The North Temperate Zone is north of the
equator and the South Temperate Zone is south of the equator.
The temperate zones extend from latitude 23-1/2 degrees to 66-1/2
degrees in both hemispheres. In the North Temperate Zone only,
the hour hand is pointed toward the sun (see Figure 2-2). A north-south
line can be found midway between the hour hand and 12 o'clock.
This applies to standard time. For daylight savings time, the
north-south line is found midway between the hour hand and 1 o'clock.
If there is any doubt as to which end of the line is north, remember
that the sun is in the north, and remember that the sun is in
the eastern part of the sky before noon and in the western part
in the afternoon.
The watch may also be used to determine direction
in the South Temperate Zone (see Figure 2-2). However, it is used
a bit differently. Twelve o'clock is pointed toward the sun, and
the north-south line will be halfway between 12 o'clock and the
hour hand. If on daylight savings time, the north-south line lies
midway between the hour hand and 1 o'clock.
On cloudy days, place a stick at the center of
the watch and hold it so that the shadow of the stick falls along
the hour hand in the North Temperate Zone. In the South Temperate
Zone, the shadow falls along a line from the center of the watch
through 12 o'clock. Direction is then determined using the appropriate
Celestial Navigation Method
North of the equator, locating your direction
at night can be determined by locating the North Star. To find
the North Star, look for the Big Dipper. The two stars at the
end of the bowl are called pointers. In a straight line out from
the pointers is the North Star (at about five times the distance
between the pointer stars). The Big Dipper rotates slowly around
the North Star and does not always appear in the same position
(see Figure 2-3).
The constellation Cassiopeia can also be used.
This group of five bright stars is shaped like a lopsided M (or
W when it is low in the sky). The North Star is straight out from
the center star, about the same distance as from the Big Dipper.
Cassiopeia also rotates slowly around the North Star and is always
almost directly opposite the Big Dipper. Its position, opposite
the Big Dipper, makes it a valuable aid when the Big Dipper is
low in the sky, possibly out of sight because of vegetation or
high terrain features.
South of the equator, the constellation Southern
Cross will help you locate the general direction of the south
and, from this base, any other direction. This group of four bright
stars is shaped like a cross that is tilted to one side. The two
stars forming the long axis, or stern, of the cross are called
the pointers. From the foot of the cross, extend the stem five
times its length to an imaginary point (see Figure 2-4). This
point is the general direction of south. From this point, look
straight down to the horizon and select a landmark.
OPERATIONAL AREA (HOST COUNTRY)
A description of the host country should cover
only those facts that apply to forthcoming operations, for example:
- Geographic description.
- Climate (throughout the year).
- Religious issues and constraints.
- Cultural differences and special considerations,
important customs, and the behavior expected of US military personnel.
(Such as speaking to a woman in some Arab countries, which can
be offensive to the local inhabitants.)
- Population density.
- Industry and agriculture.
- Language(s) (phrase books may be issued).
- Communications and transportation network.
- The armed forces (and possibly police), including
organization, equipment, and rank structure.
- The situation that has led to the introduction
of US forces and reasons why US forces are being introduced. No
soldier/marine should have to question why he is fighting for
a country other than his own, if this is the case.
Treatment of these subjects will vary in degree
according to category. Personnel who may require additional information
such as the country's history, can find it in the appropriate
DA 550-series pamphlet.
Chapter 3 describes the influence of the desert
environment on tactical operations. This subject should first
be taught to a limited number of leaders and commanders as a theoretical
subject, down to platoon level. Leaders should then train their
units during unit training. The emphasis should be on small unit
tactics, including combined arms operations. Additional subject
matter that should be covered includes--
- Terrain in the operational area, emphasizing
differences and similarities with the training areas the units
- Application of concealment, using terrain and
artificial means such as smoke, and the application of maneuver
- Mobility in the desert.
- Command and control techniques for desert operations.
- Conduct of fire in desert operations.
- Resupply during desert operations.
- Special equipment techniques.
Nearly all equipment will be affected in one
way or another by the environment as described in Chapter 1. The
purpose of this training is to train operators. Training should
- Likely effects on the equipment they operate.
- Efficient operations of the equipment within
the limits imposed by the environment, including tactical limitations
of the equipment, for example, helicopters may have difficulties
flying NOE; and radios will normally be operated on reduced output
due to the environment and enemy ECM.
- Preventive maintenance-employing any special
techniques required by the desert environment. The appropriate
equipment technical manual or lubrication order provides specific
information concerning hot climate operations and maintenance.
- Basic desert recovery and repair techniques,
including defensive measures, and camouflage required during recovery
and repair operations.
Instruction must be oriented toward the expected
operational area. For example, it is possible to keep radios cool
by using ice packs, but if ice packs are not going to be available
in the area of operations, then do not teach troops this technique
as it will not be practiced.
SPECIAL MAINTENANCE AND SUPPLY TECHNIQUES
FOR STAFF AND LEADERS
Special maintenance techniques that need to be
addressed are the same as those taught to specialists, however,
they only need to emphasize aspects that ordinarily require control
or supervision, or affect the employment of equipment in desert
terrain. This training should include any special handling techniques
required in the operational area. The importance and difficulties
of supply in desert operations are described in Chapter 4. Training
should be modified according to--
- Modified tables of organization and equipment
(MTOE) and mission of the unit.
- Supply situation expected in the area of operations.
- Capabilities of logistic units likely to support
unit operations with special attention given to units not normally
found in conventional operations, for example, well-drilling teams,
refrigeration assets available in the theater, and transportation
cargo carrier companies.
NUCLEAR, BIOLOGICAL, AND CHEMICAL (NBC) TRAINING
Wearing protective clothing, flak vests and masks
in the desert environment will make a person extremely uncomfortable.
Troops should not participate in strenuous activity while wearing
protective clothing until they are acclimatized. Training in MOPP
gear should become progressively more strenuous. Physical training
sessions in field protective masks progressing to foot marches
in MOPP 4 is a recommendation. Use of protective clothing in severe
desert heat is described in Chapter 1 and Appendix D. Points that
should be emphasized during training are--
- The value of being uncomfortable rather than
- The need to avoid heat illness by-
- Reducing the labor rate to the minimum, and
delaying work until cooler hours.
- Maintaining proper body water and salt levels, particularly during a time of chemical threat.
- Detecting the first symptoms of heat illness in others by constant vigilance.
- Increasing the time factor of an operation as troops will move slowly when wearing protective clothing.
DESERT TERRAIN APPRECIATION
When training soldiers/marines to appreciate
desert terrain, leaders should focus on the effects of the different
types of desert terrain on the capabilities and limitations of
unit equipment. Highlight the impact of the terrain on vehicular
trafficability, fields of fire, and observation in the likely
operational area. When possible, crews and small unit leaders
should learn to appreciate desert terrain from practical experience
in terrain as nearly similar as possible to that in the likely
MEDICAL TRAINING CONSIDERATIONS
The unit surgeon can provide valuable information
on the medical implications of operations in the desert environment.
He can advise the unit commanders on measures to take to ensure
training includes preventive medicine concepts essential to keeping
nonbattle injuries to a minimum. Bum casualties should also be
a medical training consideration as these will be the most likely
casualties in a mechanized environment. Hydration and mouth-to-mouth
resuscitation of injured personnel in a field protective mask
should also be a training consideration. Nonbattle casualties,
due to a lack of consideration of preventive medicine concepts,
can far outnumber combat casualties.
When determining unit training requirements,
the commander must first consider the training level of his unit
when alerted for deployment. When time does not permit a comprehensive
training program, the commander must concentrate on those areas
where his unit is least proficient, considering the priorities
previously described. In order to operate in the desert environment,
the unit must, above all, be physically fit, so physical conditioning
is of paramount importance.
COMBINED ARMS AND SERVICES TEAM
The greatest combat power results when leaders
synchronize combat, combat support, and combat service support
systems to complement and reinforce one another. The slice concept
refers to CS and CSS units task organized to support a particular
maneuver or combined arms unit. Leaders should routinely practice
habitual relationship and cross attachment of units. Training
as combined arms teams is critical to successful desert operations.
PHYSICAL CONDITIONING AND ACCLIMATIZATION
To the extent possible, physical conditioning
and acclimatization should take place simultaneously. When a unit
is training in a hot environment, begin physical training at night
or during the cooler part of the day and work up to rigorous training,
such as foot marches in open sand terrain at midday. Emphasis
on mounted operations in desert warfare does not imply that foot
marching can be totally disregarded. Physical conditioning must
be continued after arrival in the area of operations.
Medical advice should always be available during
periods of physical training in hot weather. Training several
days prior to deployment to combat the effects of jet lag works
well, if performed as a command directive. Avoiding coffee and
alcohol, and drinking plenty of water will also assist in overcoming
the effects of jet lag. Planning for the change in time zones
and developing a sleep plan are recommended and will facilitate
Soldiers/marines must train to proficiency at
all ranges but accuracy at maximum effective range both in daytime
and nighttime must be emphasized. Firing should also be practiced
during the heat of day to condition troops to heat haze and mirages.
Emphasis must also be placed on maintenance of individual weapons
in view of sandy desert conditions.
The purpose of unit NBC training is to train
individual soldiers/ marines to become proficient as a team while
wearing protective clothing and masks, and when in combat vehicles-while
buttoned up. This training should be conducted both in daytime
and nighttime, until the unit can operate effectively under these
conditions. Additional information and guidance on the effects
of the environment on NBC weapons are contained in Appendix D.
Although of particular importance to combat support
and combat service support units, all units should be trained
in tactical road marches. Training should emphasize--
- Off-road movement over open terrain. Irregular
spacing when moving in convoy.
- The need to maintain sufficient distances between
vehicles to preclude "dust blindness."
- Actions to be taken when stuck in sand, and when
a vehicle breaks down.
- Vehicle camouflage.
- Removal of tracks which would reveal friendly
- The need for dispersion when halted.
- Air defense drills.
- Practicing incoming artillery drills.
OBSTACLES AND BARRIERS
In some desert areas, natural obstacles such
as wadis or other terrain features can be found. Often, however,
it will be necessary to use artificial obstacles if enemy movement
must be slowed. A minefield, to be of any tactical value in the
desert, must usually cover a relatively large area, so mechanical
means and engineer support are required. Since there are often
too many avenues of approach to be covered with mines, it is usually
best to employ mines to cover any gaps between units, especially
at night. Minefields are most effective when they can be covered
by observation or fire. During unit training, soldiers/marines
should be trained to lay mines wearing gloves, since human scent
attracts desert animals who may attempt to dig them up. Emphasis
should be on antitank minefield since combat vehicles are the
most dangerous threat.
SCOUTING, SURVEILLANCE, AND PATROLLING
Effects of the environment on scouting, observation,
and surveillance techniques are described in Chapter 3. Effects
of the environment on surveillance, target acquisition, and night
observation devices are described in Chapter 1.
ADJUSTMENT AND CONDUCT OF FIRE
The principles for adjustment and conduct of
fire in the desert are the same as for operations in more temperate
climates. However, the following considerations, somewhat peculiar
to desert operations, should be kept in mind:
- Obscuration from sand, dust, smoke, or a combination
of these, can affect direct-fire adjustment.
- There may be major inaccuracies of initial rounds
from indirect-fire weapons due to misjudgment of target location.
- The target may be concealed by sand or dust if
rounds land short, on, or near the observer target line.
- Heat haze and mirages can mislead gunners and
observers as to target location. This condition can particularly
affect antitank guided missile gunners.
Direct-fire gunners may have to depend on flank
observers, who may be any individual on the battlefield equipped
with a radio. If observation is lost, subsequent corrections are
very unlikely to cause a second round hit. The following considerations
can help to overcome the obscuration or sending problem:
- An observer requesting indirect fires needs to
ensure that initial rounds land beyond the target to preclude
short rounds obscuring the target, and then adjust accordingly.
- By remembering the greatest impact of heat haze
(which varies throughout the day) is on ATGM gunners-when both
gunner and target are within 2-3 feet of the desert surface.
In desert operations any type of unit, be it tank, infantry, trains, tactical operations centers, or supply points, can expect to be a target for air attack. Air attacks may be from fighter bomber aircraft using cannons, missiles, bombs, napalm, and machine guns, or from attack helicopters using machine guns, rockets, or missiles.
Enemy air superiority should be assumed during
all field training and simulated fighter bomber attacks and attack
helicopter missions should be flown against the unit whenever
possible. When practical, aerial photographs of positions should
be taken, and pilots interviewed to assist in the critique of
air defense, both passive and active. Points that should be emphasized
during training are mentioned in the following paragraphs.
Passive air defense measures should be taken
routinely. When stopped for any period of time, take every advantage
of whatever cover and concealment are available. As previously
described, natural cover and concealment will be difficult to
find in many desert areas. Nevertheless, vehicles, particularly
unarmored vehicles, should be irregularly dispersed and dug-in,
or revetments provided. When appropriate, air guards, trained
in aircraft recognition, should be posted, with clear instructions
on actions to be taken when aircraft are sighted. Units not being
attacked by aircraft, but in close proximity to the attack, may
desire to remain stationary in order to avoid detection. Reducing
infrared signatures is also a passive anti-air consideration.
Artificial camouflage can be used as described in Appendix E.
Active air defense techniques used in desert
operations are the same as those described in other doctrinal
manuals, appropriate to the level of command. However, at small
unit level, additional emphasis should be given to air defense
using small arms. When combat vehicles on the move are engaged
by enemy aircraft, their immediate action will depend on whether
or not they are maneuvering in contact with the enemy. If they
are in contact they should continue to maneuver, relying on overwatch
elements and air defense artillery to engage attacking aircraft.
Vehicles about to be engaged by enemy aircraft
in open desert where cover is not available, should move perpendicular
to the attacking aircraft to evade rocket or machine gun fire.
Engage the aircraft with small arms fires, if possible. Meanwhile,
the remainder of the unit should mass small arms fire to the aircraft's
front. Sudden variations in course may also distract the pilot.
Good communications in desert terrain will often
depend on the state of mind of the operators. They must be enthusiastic,
persistent, and determined to make and maintain contact. Unit
training should concentrate on ECCM techniques. When conducting
field training, higher headquarters can provide assistance in
the form of small teams to jam unit nets. Practice actions to
be taken when radio contact is lost due to heat (described in
The following are fratricide considerations when
operating in a desert environment and may be topics for fratricide
- Because of the absence of easily identifiable
terrain features in the desert, knowing your exact location can
be especially important. Be in the right place at the right time.
Use position location/navigation (GPS) devices; know your location
and locations of adjacent units (left, right, leading and follow
on). Synchronize tactical movement.
- Ensure positive target identification. Review
vehicle/weapons ID cards; know at what ranges and under what conditions
positive ID of friendly vehicles/weapons is possible. This is
especially important in the desert due to the likelihood of weapons
being able to fire at their maximum ranges.
- Maintain situational awareness-be aware of current
intelligence, unit locations/dispositions, denial areas (minefields/FASCAM),
contaminated areas (e.g., ICM and NBC), SITREPs, and METT-T. This
can be more difficult in desert environments because navigation
is more difficult.
- Conduct individual and collective (unit) fratricide
awareness training. This includes target identification/recognition;
fire discipline; and leader training.
- Use common language/vocabulary. Use doctrinally
correct, standard terminology and control measures (e.g., fire
support coordination line (FSCL), zone of engagement, and restrictive
fire line (RFL)).
- Consider the effects of key elements of terrain
analysis on fratricide. These include observation and fields of
fires, cover and concealment, obstacles and movement, key terrain,
and avenues of approach.
- Gun tube orientation can also assist in avoiding/preventing
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