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8 Sep 92: Two French soldiers were killed and five wounded when their convoy drove into an ambush between the airport and Sarajevo. An internal UN investigation said that the convoy had driven into an ongoing battle after confusion from conflicting orders.

20 Oct 92: A convoy of British troops was caught in a crossfire between Moslem and Croat troops north of Split.

24 Feb 93: An independent French aid convoy reached Sarajevo after being forced to "donate" six of its 50 truckloads of supplies to the Serbian militias in Ilidza. (The Serbs usually confiscated 30 percent of all UN relief convoys.)

TOPIC: Convoy Planning

DISCUSSION: It would be wrong to expect the delivery of humanitarian aid to take place peacefully merely because limited numbers of UN troops are escorting it. Even if the official belligerent policy is to let convoys pass peacefully, the odds are that some local commanders will disobey orders. Even if convoys are allowed to pass peacefully, the other belligerents, desperate to continue the fighting, may fire on convoys and pin the blame on their enemies.

LESSON(S): During the planning phase for convoys, include negotiating with belligerents for routes.

  • To compensate for a lack of detailed maps, reconnoiter areas in advance of the convoy movement. Route reconnaissance provides a means to check trafficability of the roads.

  • If possible, guides should return to the main element at the completion of the reconnaissance to help the unit follow the route to the remote sights in the country. Deviation from planned routes can cause lengthy delays in needed supplies.

  • Rehearse actions to take when confronted with mines, obstacles, ambush, vehicle breakdown, accidents, and casualty evacuation.

TOPIC: Convoy Vulnerability

DISCUSSION: UN convoys are routinely attacked by belligerents. Convoys are vulnerable to long-range fire from manpacked ATGMs and light, mobile, direct fire artillery. The main threat for convoys is likely to be an ambush. Clearing routes, even by ground reconnaissance, is likely to be of limited value, given the use of remotely controlled mines, demolitions, and perhaps mines remotely delivered by multiple rocket launchers. In steep terrain with heavily wooded slopes, with careful preparation, it will always be possible to spring a surprise ambush. The traditional answer of placing troops on the high ground will not serve to protect the convoys. Convoys will have to be task-organized to provide their own resources for protection and immediate counterattack. Large numbers of dismounted antitank weapons and automatic small arms can do considerable damage in a short-range ambush. Suppressive fire and infantry counterattack by the convoy escort and supporting helicopters are likely to be countered by the use of prepositioned smoke pots and antipersonnel mines to enable the ambushers to slip away.


  • All convoys should be escorted by an armor heavy advance guard force to detect ambushes, breach obstacles, detect mines, and to possibly deter attacks by belligerents.

  • Position the advance guard three to five kilometers ahead of the main body.

  • Consider using Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs) and helicopters to over-fly the route in advance of the convoy.

  • The main body should also be led by armored vehicles and every third or forth vehicle should be a fighting vehicle.

  • Minimize the use of trailers in the convoy. Trailers hinder the mobility of the convoy and its ability to react to ambushes.

  • A strong reserve force or rear guard should trail the convoy to respond if the convoy is attacked.

  • The rear guard should also be armor-heavy to discourage attacks.

  • Convoys should be totally self-contained. Convoys must have additional fuel, food, maintenance, recovery, medical, and their own indirect fire support assets.

  • Attack helicopters should be used to overwatch convoy routes and to assist the advance guard to force their way through belligerent checkpoints.

  • The convoy commander should be in the second or third vehicle in the main body.

  • Maintain convoy integrity and dispersion at all times.

  • Conduct a thorough IPB and route reconnaissance to determine the location of belligerent checkpoints.

  • Do not bring the main body of the convoy into the gauntlet of obstacles at belligerent checkpoints until the belligerents have permitted advanced guard of the convoy to move through the checkpoint. This gives the main body the flexibility to maneuver if attacked.

  • Have communications between all vehicles and have redundant communications between the advance guard and the main body.

  • Be aware that the belligerents may track the convoys along their routes and will want to verify the number of vehicles in the convoy at each checkpoint.

TOPIC: Convoy Debrief Checklist

DISCUSSION: The use of a standardized checklist can greatly enhance the intelligence collection effort and minimize trainup time. Units presented with nontraditional intelligence requirements should develop a detailed checklist to ensure the completeness and standardization of the collection effort.

LESSON(S): Use a convoy checklist to debrief convoy personnel to ensure the standardization of the intelligence collection effort. Use the following checklist as an example.

  • Use a SALUTE report when reporting the size, activity, location, unit, time, and equipment of belligerents seen during a convoy.

  • Report any changes in road conditions (pot holes, collapsed culverts, damaged bridges).

  • Report acts of violence directed toward the convoy (aiming of weapons, rock throwing, location and number of personnel).

  • Report incidents of hostile intent by civilians directed toward the convoy (shouting, jeering, impeding operations, number of personnel, nature of incident, location).

  • Report incidents of shots fired at or around a convoy (location, number of personnel, type weapons, action taken, casualties).

  • Report incidents of convoys being stopped by or harassed by roadblocks (location, number of personnel, nature of incident, action taken).

  • Report thefts from convoys (items taken, description of thief, location, action taken).

Chapter IX: Checkpoints
Chapter XI: Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT)

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias