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TREND 5: Company/team use of direct fires during offensive missions.


1. In the offense, company/team commanders seldom conduct advanced planning for the use of direct fires during maneuver.

2. Commanders have only graphic control measures to control fires.

RESULT: Commanders must attempt to execute supporting fire while in contact.


1. The focus of offensive fires is to control and distribute those fires while on the move against a generally static enemy. Company/team commanders must have an offensive fire plan to maximize the principles of direct fire and allow the commander to focus, distribute and shift fires (see FM 71-1, Chap 2&3; FM 17-12-1/2; FM 23-1; CALL Special Edition 98-x "Closing With The Enemy" and SH 7-45, available through the CALL homepage).

2. Company/team commanders can control offensive direct fires with the same tools that are used in the defense:

a. engagement areas (EAs)

b. target reference points (TRPs)

c. fire patterns

d. fire commands

3. The offensive fire plan should provide the company/team commander the ability to orient his force and transition it from a moving force to a base of fire and maneuver.

a. There are several techniques that can assist the commander in planning and controlling his direct fires, including:

- Sectors

- Quadrants

- Target Array

- Closest TRP

- Fire Patterns

- Grids

b. The first four techniques use TRPs to control fires.

- TRPs assist in focusing fires on a point, on multiple points, or an area.

- They may be oriented on either enemy or terrain.

- They are preplanned to support the scheme of maneuver.

- Some TRPs are planned on enemy positions or surrounding terrain to focus platoon fires against the enemy. Others are planned on terrain features throughout the zone of attack. This allows flexibility controlling fires if the actual enemy disposition does not match the SITEMP, or in the event of chance contact.

(TA.1.2.1 Employ Direct Fire)

TREND 6: Company direct fire planning.


1. Company commanders tend to lack understanding of where and when direct fire planning occurs in the battalion engagement area development process.

2. Company commanders seldom synchronize the direct fire plans from among the companies within a battalion engagement area.


1. The battalion S3 or battalion commander conducts a tactical exercise without troops (TEWT) with the entire staff and company commanders, working through the battalion engagement area development process. At the end of the exercise, company commanders should know:

a. Where direct fire planning occurs in the process.

b. What battalion warning orders (WARNOs) will initiate the company direct fire. planning, products and resources the companies should expect from battalion.

c. What products the company should produce for a complete direct fire plan.

Eight steps of engagement area development


Select the ground for the attack
Integration of the engagement area
Plan the direct fire fight
Fire commands
Review the plan

Direct fire planning priniciples


Mass fires
Focus fires
Distribute fires
Shift fires
Leaders control fires
All crews know the plan
Rehearse the fire plan

(TA.1.2.1 Employ Direct Fire)

TREND 7: Company shifting of direct fires.

PROBLEM: Commanders do not plan or execute shifting of fires to:

- allow a team that is decisively engaged to maneuver and maintain standoff; or

- focus fires on critical enemy weapons systems or enemy concentrations.


1. Commanders must plan and rehearse critical events that would require a fire command to shift fires.


  1. Enemy closing within direct fire engagement range of a firing team.

  2. Enemy forces selecting a COA that changes the initial fire distribution plan.

  3. Enemy rate of march that exceeds friendly ability to destroy all targets from initial set positions.

2. Companies should conduct tactical chalk talks or walk-through drills where they outline the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) they will use to shift fires during the direct fire fight.

  1. Incorporate these TTPs into team and platoon battle drills and validate them during company situational training exercises.

  2. Capture validated TTPs in a company SOP or battle book.

(TA.1.2.1 Employ Direct Fire)

TREND 8: Maneuver unit understanding of enemy engagement areas and actions on the objective.


1. Company/team commanders have difficulty providing graphic representation of enemy engagement areas to their platoons.

2. The company/team is normally still moving on the battlefield when they receive first contact from the enemy main body.


1. There is an immediate breakdown in command and control as individual vehicles and platoons begin to react to contact from the march.

2. Once the commander and platoon leaders regain control of their elements, the company has been fixed, loses combat power, and is unable to accomplish its mission.


1. The unit commander must paint the picture for his subordinates! He must build a mental and physical picture of the enemy's battlespace/engagement area (or "red zone") beginning in the planning phase.

  1. He develops and refines the actual location of vehicles and enemy positions from reports prior to crossing the LD.

  2. He must transmit these updates with graphics and FRAGOs to subordinates.

2. Plan. The commander combines the range arcs of all potential enemy locations and designates the enemy's kill-sack during the development of his order.

  1. He refines the S2's Threat COA:

    - plans for visual contact and when and where it will occur

    - plans the ranges from likely security zone locations

    - plans likely locations for enemy air and NBC agents to be used

  2. He analyzes his portion of the fight and begins building maneuver transition locations (probable lines of deployment, checkpoints, or phase lines). These will aid in the deployment of his force from the march.

  3. The commander then focuses on actions on the objective from this line into the enemy rear or to the LOA.

3. Prepare. Rehearse the transition from movement to the company/team maneuver (platoons in overwatch; platoons bounding) and then analyze terrain in depth to determine where advantage over the enemy can be gained.

  1. The company will already be within direct fire range and must act independently; its platoons must maneuver without excessive guidance once they reach the enemy "red zone" (the "red zone" fight equals actions on the objective). Plan for enemy air and artillery to attrit the company.

  2. Rehearse several approaches as contingencies tied to decision points and what criteria would cause the plan to change.

  3. Ensure the plan is rehearsed on a very detailed terrain board and then reinforced, time permitting, with a key leader rehearsal or full rehearsal (see CALL Newsletter 98-x, Rehearsals).

4. Execute.

  1. Prior to LD, with all reported enemy locations and disposition at his disposal, the commander releases a final graphic, using actual enemy positions to represent the "red zone" (see example below).

  2. He issues a FRAGO with any last instructions, and selects the company maneuver transition point. This may be a location of the last covered and concealed spot prior to the enemy's "red zone," or a criteria (i.e., two or more tanks engage lead platoon).

  3. Once in the enemy's "red zone," all platoons move deliberately but with coordination conducted over company radio net to ensure maximum, focused firepower.

  4. The commander deconflicts maneuver space with adjacent companies.

  5. The XO reports situation to the task force (TF).

image16.gif - 4.85 K

Sample enemy "red zone" graphic.
The company/team maneuver and actions on the objective begin just beyond where the enemy main body can influence the unit

(TA.1.2.2 Conduct Close Combat)

TREND 9: Integration of direct fire with maneuver.

PROBLEM: Company commanders do not effectively tie direct fire planning to the maneuver plan.


1. Once the battalion has selected the engagement area, companies must determine where they will fight from and how they will focus, distribute and shift fires.

2. Company commanders must know how the enemy plans to maneuver in the engagement area and what the most likely enemy courses of action (COAs) are so that they may plan the direct fire fight to cover all possible contingencies.

3. Company commanders must tie direct fire planning to the maneuver plan. Commanders must be able to answer the five rules of IPB:

  1. Where is the enemy?

  2. Where is he going?

  3. Where do we want to kill him?

  4. When will he be there?

  5. What does he have that can hurt me?

4. Commanders must determine how they will maneuver to maintain standoff and keep the enemy at a disadvantage.

5. Commanders must determine how to react to the enemy's actions to maintain initiative.

6. Companies should conduct tactical chalk talks or walk-through drills where they outline the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) they will use to maneuver while executing the direct fire fight.

  1. Incorporate these TTPs into team and platoon battle drills and validate them in company situational training exercises.

  2. Capture validated TTPs in a company SOP or battle book.

(TA.1.4 Integrate Direct Fire with Maneuver)

TREND 10: (LTP) Synchronization of supporting fires.

PROBLEM: Task forces (TFs) are not conducting sufficient planning in the integration of fires into the scheme of maneuver.

  1. During wargaming, fire support officers (FSOs) do not understand the scheme of maneuver and what fires are necessary, given the constraints, to support the maneuver plan.

  2. TF FSOs are planning the use of fires without a thorough knowledge of the critical fire support tasks.

  3. When a TF has priority of fires, it does not maximize the use of fires, and fires do not have a significant impact during the execution.


1. Task force FSOs need a better understanding of how artillery is being used in the brigade's fight.

2. Task force FSOs should articulate the use of artillery by the BCT to the TF staff during course of action (COA) development and wargaming. This would provide them a better understanding of what close support assets can do to support the TF scheme of maneuver.

(TA.1.4 Integrate Direct Fire with Maneuver)

TREND 11: (LTP) Task force (TF) integration of heavy and light forces.

PROBLEM: Light task forces (TFs) are having difficulty integrating OPCON heavy units into their scheme of maneuver.

  1. Operations graphics do not support heavy force maneuver.

  2. Light TF staffs generally do not understand heavy forces' capabilities and limitations.

  3. Heavy company team commanders do not receive clear and defined tasks and purposes.

Technique: Light TF staffs should include the heavy force commander or a heavy force LNO in the planning process.

(TA.1.4 Integrate Direct Fire with Maneuver)

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