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Table of Contents
Section II - Fratricide Risk Assessment
Every incident of fratricide is a function of many contributing factors or preconditions. Ultimately, the combinations of these factors leads to an individual or unit error that produces friendly casualties. As an example, incomplete planning or poor maneuver control can cause forces to converge or intermingle on the battlefield. The resulting local increase in weapons density greatly increases the likelihood of a friend-on-friend engagement. This handbook will help leaders better anticipate and minimize the most important conditions that lead to fratricide such as weapons density. PRIMARY FRATRICIDE CONTRIBUTING FACTORS

Mission (&C2)

  • High Vehicle or Weapons Density
  • Commander's Intent is Unclear or Complex
  • Poor Flank Coordination
  • Crosstalk Lacking
  • No habitual Relationships
  • Weak Intelligence or Recon
  • Intermingle with Friendly
  • Obscuration or Poor Visibility
  • Extreme Engagement Ranges
  • Navigation Difficulty
  • Absence of Recognizable Features
Troops and Equipment
  • High Weapons Lethality
  • Unseasoned Leaders or Troops
  • Poor Fire Control SOPs
  • Incomplete ROE
  • Anxiety or Confusion
  • Failure to Adhere to SOPs
  • Soldier and Leader Fatigue
  • Inadequate Rehearsals
  • Short Planning Time
  • A Fatal Navigation Error
  • Loss of Fire Control -- Direct and Indirect
  • A Reporting, Battle Tracking or Clearance of Fires Error
  • Ineffective Maneuver Control
  • Casualties in Friendly Minefields
  • Combat Identification Errors
  • Weapons Errors or Failures in Discipline

"Lack of POSITIVE TARGET IDENTIFICATION and the inability to maintain SITUATIONAL AWARENESS in combat environments are the major contributors to fratricide. If, in addition, we can distinguish between friend, neutral and enemy, we can reduce that probability.
TRADOC-AMC Combat Identification Interim Report PRIMARY CAUSES OF FRATRICIDE:


  • Inadequate Fire and Maneuver Control: Units may fail to disseminate (via troop-leading procedures and rehearsals) the minimum necessary maneuver and fire control measures to coordinate activities on the ground. Improper use or inconsistent understanding can likewise make control measures ineffective. Situation clarity decreases as density of forces increases when units operate without proper dispersion and spatial separation. This is compounded by plans that allow forces to converge or intermingle without adequate controls. As the battle develops, the plan cannot address obvious enemy moves as they occur and synchronization fails.

  • Direct Fire Control Failures: Defensive and particularly offensive fire control plans may not be developed or may fail in execution. Some units do not designate target reference points,engagement areas and priorities. Some may designate, but fail to adhere to them. Units fail to tie control measures to recognizable feature. Weapons positioning can be poor, and fire discipline can break down upon contact.

  • Land Navigation Failures: Never easy, navigation is often complicated by difficult terrain or weather and visibility. Navigation problems can cause units to stray out of sector, report wrong locations, become disoriented, or employ fire support weapons from wrong locations. As a result, friendly units may collide unexpectedly or be erroneously engaged.

  • Reporting,Crosstalk and Battle Tracking Failures: Commanders, leaders and their CPs at all levels often do not generate timely, accurate and complete reports or track subordinates as locations and the tactical situation change. Commanders are unable to maintain situational awareness. This distorts the picture at each level and permits the erroneous clearance of fires (both direct and indirect) and violations of danger close.

  • Known Battlefield Hazards: Unexploded ordnance, unmarked and unrecorded minefields, FASCAM, flying debris from discarding SABOTS and illumination rounds and booby traps litter the battlefield. Failure to make, record, remove or otherwise anticipate these treats lead to casualties.

  • Combat Identification Failures: Vehicle commanders, gunners and attack pilots cannot distinguish friendly and enemy thermal and optical signatures at the ranges which they can be acquired. Our weapons can kill beyond the ranges where we have clear ID. Our tactics lead us to exploit our range advantage over the enemy. During limited visibility or in restricted terrain, units in proximity can mistake each other for the enemy due to short engagement windows and decision time. We do not have a means to determine friend or foe, other than visual recognition of our forces and the enemy's. When the enemy and our Allies are equipped similarly, and when the enemy uses U.S. equipment, the problem is compounded. Simple, effective fire and maneuver control measures and plans, good situational awareness and disciplined engagements are absolutely necessary.

  • Weapons Errors: Lapses in unit and individual discipline or violations of the Rules of Engagement allow errors that are not merely accidents. Examples are out-of-sector engagements, unauthorized discharges, mistakes with explosives and hand grenades, charge errors, incorrect gun data and similar incidents.


Contributing factors, such as anxiety, confusion, bad weather and inadequate preparation, may greatly increase the chances of a navigation error that causes fratricide. Short planning time, failure to rehearse and leader fatigue are other preconditions which may result in a fatally flawed plan or lack of appropriate control measures. Every mission will involve a unique mix of these factors and their relative importance will vary. In some cases, favorable conditions may compensate for a fratricide contributing factor(e.g., bright moonlight reduces navigation and control challenges) or two otherwise minor conditions may combine to greatly increase risk (inexperienced flank platoon leader develops commo problems). Thus, these contributing factors are a critical dimension of realistic training to reduce fratricide.

The effects of fratricide can be devastating and spread deeply within a unit. Fratricide increases the risk of unacceptable losses and the risk of mission failure. Fratricide seriously affects the unit's ability to survive and function. Observations of units experiencing fratricide include:

  • Hesitation to conduct limited visibility operations.
  • Loss of confidence in the unit's leadership.
  • Increase of leader self-doubt.
  • Hesitation to use supporting combat systems.
  • Oversupervision of units.
  • Loss of initiative.
  • Loss of aggressiveness during fire and maneuver.
  • Disrupted operations.
  • Needless loss of combat power.
  • General degradation of cohesion and morale.


The tactically competent and savvy leader must consider the risk of fratricide, take appropriate common-sense measures to reduce the risk and integrate those measures into his mission planning and execution. Combat is inherently risky, but the prudent leader takes reasonable measures to reduce the risk. Good commanders are careful not to place undue emphasis on risk avoidance and thus increase timidity and hesitance during battle. We fight and win by focusing overwhelming combat power on the enemy from three or four different systems, thus, giving him several different ways to die all at once. Sensitivity to fratricide risk reduction should not deter this focus on decisive, integrated combined arms engagements.

Table of Contents
Section II - Fratricide Risk Assessment

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