Chapter 2


Responsibility for reducing the risk of fratricide falls squarely on the shoulders of the task force commander. Yet, all leaders of the maneuver task force and leaders of supporting arms must assist him to accomplish the mission without friendly fire losses. He must exploit all training, material, and technological alternatives at his disposal. He must not be afraid of fratricide, but strive to minimize it through tough, realistic, combined arms training where each soldier and unit achieves the set standard. All leaders must know the standard and relentlessly train to that standard. Training properly allows us to make mistakes, correct them and, thus, reduce their likelihood in combat. Avoiding fratricide is an important training standard and key to effective mission accomplishment. Knowing where our soldiers are, and where we want the fire, will help keep our soldiers alive to kill the enemy. We must avoid at all costs the reluctance to employ, integrate, and synchronize all the battlefield operating systems at the critical time and place.

We will now discuss causes of fratricide in terms of the following two kinds of capabilities introduced by the TRADOC-AMC Task Force on Combat Identification. They are:


The real-time accurate knowledge of one's own location (and orientation), as well as the locations of friendly, enemy, neutral, and noncombatants. This includes awareness of the METT-T conditions that affect the operation.


The immediate, accurate, and dependable ability to discriminate through-sight between friends and foe. Optimally this ability extends to maximum engagement and acquisition range, and neither increases vulnerability, nor decreases system performance.

"Lack of positive target identification and the inability to maintain situational awareness in combat environments are the major contributors to fratricide. If we know where we are and where our friends are in relation to us, we can reduce the probability of fratricide. If, in addition, we can distinguish between friend, neutral, and enemy, we can reduce that probability even more." -- TRADOC-AMC Combat identification Interim Report



  • Inadequate Fire and Maneuver Control: Units may fail to disseminate (via troop-leading procedures and rehearsals) the minimum necessary maneuver and fire support control measures to coordinate activities on the ground. Units fail to tie control measures to recognizable terrain and events or, where necessary, create a recognizable feature. Improper use or inconsistent understanding can likewise make control measures ineffective. As the battle develops, the plan cannot address obvious enemy moves as they occur and synchronization fails.
  • Direct Fire Control Failure: Defensive and particularly offensive fire control plans may not be developed or may fail in execution. Same units do not designate target reference points, engagement areas, and priorities. Some may designate, but fail to adhere to them. 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 engage each other erroneously.
  • 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, therefore, unable to maintain situational awareness. This distorts the picture at each level and permits the erroneous clearance of support forces and violations of danger close.
  • Known Battlefield Hazards: Unexploded ordnance, unmarked and unrecorded minefields, FASCAM, flying debris from discarding SABOTs or illumination rounds, and booby traps litter the battlefield. Failure to mark, record, remove, or otherwise anticipate these threats leads to casualties.


  • Combat Identification Failures: Vehicle commanders, gunners and attack pilots distinguish friendly and enemy thermal and optical signatures near the maximum range of their weapons systems. However, 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 used U.S. equipment, the problem is compounded.


  • 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.

Although every incident of fratricide is a function of many contributing factors or preconditions (see comprehensive list at Appendix A), the specific causes as we have discussed are relatively few. 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 direct fire plan or lack of appropriate maneuver control measures. Every mission will involve a unique mix of these factors and their relative importance will vary. In other cases, favorable conditions will compensate for a fratricide contributing factor (e.g., bright moonlight mitigates 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 conditions.


Mission (& C2)
  • High Vehicle or Wpns Density
  • Cdr's Intent Unclear or Complex
  • Poor Flank Coordination
  • Crosstalk Lacking
  • No Habitual Relationships
  • Weak Intelligence or Recon
  • Intermingled With Friendly
  • Obscuration or Poor Visibility
  • Extreme Engagement Ranges
  • Navigation Difficulty
  • Absence of Recognizable Features
Troops & Equipment
  • High Weapons Lethality
  • Unseasoned Ldrs 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 & 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


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
Vignette: Operation URGENT FURY: Air Support
Vignette: Operation DESERT STORM: Actions in a Movement to Contact

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