ON FIGHTING IN THE DESERT
- Distances require longer lead times for reconnaissance and surveillance planning. Effective reconnaissance takes time.
- To confirm the intelligence template, the reconnaissance must identify (6-digit accuracy) approximately 80 percent of the enemy antitank systems.
- Scouts are reconnaissance patrols, not combat patrols, and should attempt to gain information through stealth.
- Consideration should be given to conducting reconnaissance during periods of limited visibility.
- Very few civilians are encountered in desert operations, and information they give should be treated with caution.
- When moving in the desert, cover can only be provided by terrain masking because of the lack of heavy vegetation or manmade objects.
- Because there is little vegetation in the desert, strong shadows are readily observed from the air.
- Disrupt shadows by altering the shape of equipment, using the correct angle to the sun to minimize shadow size and to cause shadows to fall on broken ground or vegetation whenever possible.
- Dig in equipment and use overhead cover or camouflage nets to reduce shadows.
- It is necessary to move vehicles and equipment as the sun moves.
- Shade optics to prevent shine.
- Open terrain and predominantly clear atmosphere generally offer excellent long-range visibility, but at certain times of the day it may be limited or distorted by the effects of heat.
- The ideal observation should have the sun behind it and be as high as possible to lessen the effects of mirages and heat radiation from the ground.
- Stake out your target line/engagement area (trigger point). This will prevent soldiers from engaging targets beyond the maximum effective range of the weapon system.
- Observation of fires may be difficult. The lack of visible terrain features distorts your ability to make range estimations.
- When preparing defensive positions, use every available means to know how far you can observe in front of your positions.
- The enemy can see just as far as you can. Inspect your position from an enemy point of view.
- Light and noise at night may be seen or heard from miles away, so strict light and noise discipline are necessary.
- Essential noise such as that produced by generator motors must be muffled and kept to the minimum by digging in or sandbagging the generator.
- Sand and dust reveal movement in the desert. It is best to move at night. This includes resupply as well as tactical movements.
- Sand obscures landing zones, distorts depth perception, and can disorient pilots.
- There are fewer terrain features in the desert. This hinders navigation and exposes friendly forces to the enemy.
- Take advantage of the least considered features to conceal movement, such as wadis. Always camouflage positions.
- Artillery ammunition storage and handling is very important in a dry, hot environment. Very hot ammunition will affect the ballistic solution, which will cause the round to impact long or short of its intended target.
- Dig in storage positions for ammunition. This will keep it cooler.
- Illumination or smoke rounds can be used to reorient maneuver forces.
- The fire support coordinator is responsible for planning and coordinating all fires in the maneuver area of operations; i.e., mortars, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy CAS, naval gunfire, and attack helicopters.
- Units should use linear obstacles to stop enemy movement due to lack of natural obstacles and excellent trafficability of the entire region.
- Minefields must be rapidly laid over large areas to be efficient.
- The enemy will try to attack with the sun low and behind him in an attempt to dazzle the defender.
- Engineer units must plan on having two operators for each piece of equipment because of extra maintenance requirements and harsh working conditions.
- Especially in open terrain, survivability positions are normally more important than antitank ditches.
- A tank platoon properly dug into two step positions can destroy a battalion. As such, earthmoving assets should focus initially on survivability positions.
- Since infantry can dig themselves in, normally the infantry works on digging in before assisting the engineers in the emplacement of mines. The engineer soldiers normally focus entirely on obstacles.
- Once the task force completes crew served positions with overhead cover, it reinforces the engineer soldiers emplacing obstacles to the maximum extent possible.
- Employ "basic loads" of Class IV (sand bags, pickets, etc.) with all vehicles to expedite rapidly digging in. The S4 must push forward replacement basic loads during the transition to the defense in standard infantry platoon packages.
- In the desert environment, camouflage and dispersion are a necessity for all forces.
- Employ reverse slopes as much as possible and camouflage frontal parapets for individual/crew positions. This avoids the obvious bunker positions easily seen and destroyed by direct fire.
- Strong winds increase the evaporation rate of liquid agents and cause chemical clouds to act similarly to radioactive fallout over shorter distances.
- Extended depth and dispersion of vehicles will enhance your chance of survival.
- MOPP discipline and soldier reaction to chemical agents will enhance survivability.
- Engineers should carefully reconnoiter routes of march to avoid needless destruction of roadways, bridges, and pipelines.
- Armored vehicles survive longer when dug in. If we fight outnumbered and win in the desert, we must stress survivability positions.
- Use of dummy positions can conceal operational plans to deceive the enemy as to real location of potential targets such as fighting positions or trains areas.
- High temperatures of the desert day increase the incapacitating effects of liquid agents, which rely on skin penetration, in a comparatively small area around the target.
- Air instability is most likely to cause quick, vertical, and irregular dissipation of an agent, leaving the target area relatively free of contamination quickly.
- Chemical weapons used during the heat of the day are normally persistent nerve or blister agent.
- Strong winds can increase the evaporation of liquid agents and cause chemical clouds to act similarly to radioactive fallout.
- Airspace management difficulties are compounded in the multinational environment. SOPs must be exchanged to formalize airspace policy.
- Adequate coordination with host nation forces within the BCE cannot be effected without host nation liaisons to the BCE.
- Camouflage and dispersion are of the utmost importance to air defense systems. Direct sunlight can also have an effect on the Stinger system.
Combat Service Support
- Medical support of the defense in the desert environment is associated with great distances. The depth and dispersion of the defense create significant time/distance problems.
- In a nonlinear desert defense, enemy and friendly units will be intermingled, especially in poor visibility.
- Medical treatment and evacuation will become more critical in the desert. The effectiveness of the combat lifesaver program has been proven.
- Medics must constantly recertify and train those who are designated as combat lifesavers. The standard should be at least one per squad.
- Rehearse how your unit will identify, treat, and evacuate casualties. This is as important as how you will fight.
- All weapons must be cleaned constantly.
- When not in use, keep weapons covered. Even though weapons are covered, they may still have sand on them. Clean the weapon frequently so it will be ready when needed.
- PMCS in the desert is absolutely essential. Left unattended, sand and wind rapidly destroy the most basic piece of soldier gear.
- Sand clogs fuel lines, wears out tires and other rubber and plastic parts faster. It also seeps into engines and cooling systems. This results in overheated engines which can cause sudden and catastrophic failure.
- Food service organizations require intense supervision. Current menus must be augmented with fresh fruit, vegetables, and breads to provide soldiers the roughage and nutrients they need.
Command and Control
- Commanders should attempt to operate where contact can be maintained with forward units in critical spots and with the TOC.
- Desert evenings can be extremely long or short. Leaders should be concerned with EENT, BMNT, and percentage of illumination. These factors will be extremely important when fighting night battles.
- Dry desert conditions can, at times, reduce radio signal strength and create unforeseen blind spots, even in aircraft operating nap of the earth.
- FM communications may be degraded due to dead spots caused by heavy concentrations of minerals close to the surface. Establish firm procedures for constant control, either by radio or through liaison.
- Ensure that all know the commander's intent and rehearse battle drill so that actions are understood even in the absence of good communications.
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