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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Chapter 4


Considerations for planning and preparing for NBC reconnaissance are based on the mission as defined by the operations order prepared by the requesting unit. Missions, taskings, priorities, and command or support relationships are coordinated and established by commanders from recommendations by the chemical officer and the G3/S3.

The senior chemical officer at each level of command is a key player in the assignment, employment, and planning process for NBC recon assets. Subordinate chemical company commanders are also critical links in the overall planning process for NBC recon operations. The senior chemical staff officer is responsible for ensuring that subordinate chemical company commanders are kept informed of current and future NBC recon requirements. The planning process includes considerations for METT-T and troop leading procedures.

As a minimum, the following actions should be considered in planning and preparing for NBC reconnaissance operations--

  • Use the IPB process (chemical officer, G2/S2) to identify areas of interest for NBC recon.
  • Continuously coordinate with subordinate chemical unit commanders.
  • Pre-position NBC recon assets to support requirements.
  • Establish coremand or support relationships to ensure responsiveness and flexibility to the supported unit.
  • Assess the time and distance factors for the conduct of NBC recon operations.
  • Orient mission execution on providing timely notification of critical information to support tactical decisions.
  • Orient NBC recon on the presence or absence of NBC contamination in areas of interest.
  • Plan for resupply (logistics) activities to sustain NBC recon operations.
  • Determine possible locations for after mission decontamination.
  • Plan for fire support requirements.
  • Plan for security to protect the NBC recon unit.
  • Determine the rules of engagement to prevent fratricide.

Mission, Enemy, Troops, Terrain, and Time

The planning and preparation process must also include METT-T considerations. NBC recon leaders at all levels use the METT-T process in response to mission request for NBC recon support. The following paragraphs reflect basic METT-T considerations for NBC recon operations.

Mission. The mission of the supported unit is considered first in planning for NBC recon. The key questions are--What type of mission is required (NBC recon, NBC survey, or a biological sampling operation)? What assets are required to perform the mission? The following situations illustrate METT-T considerations:

  • Given a mission to conduct an NBC zone recon with multiple NBC recon elements available, the preferred method is to divide the zone into equal sectors and assign each NBC recon element a specific sector of responsibility. The NBC recon unit conducts this type of mission mounted.
  • Given a mission to conduct an NBC survey of an area (small town) with limited recon elements available, the preferred method is to use dismounted techniques. A security force should protect the NBC recon element during this mission.
  • Given a mission to conduct an NBC area recon of a bridge within a friendly area, the NBC recon team conducts the mission mounted using one squad.
  • Given a mission to conduct an NBC route recon of the main supply route (MSR) with multiple points along the route, conduct the mission mounted, using the entire NBC recon platoon.


The G2/S2 provides current information on the intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB). The IPB provides current information about the terrain, weather, enemy capabilities, and location of the enemy. Location of the enemy may restrict freedom of movement for the NBC recon elements, which may increase the time required to conduct NBC recon missions.


The number of recon assets available will influence the number of vehicles used for a specific recon mission. NBC recon leaders must determine the minimum requirements for a mission, because other priorities may compete for available NBC recon assets.


Terrain may dictate which recon technique will be used (mounted or dismounted). Mounted operations are best suited for open trafficable areas. Dismounted operations are best suited for urban, jungle, or restricted terrain.

Time Available

The time available and the time required to complete a mission also dictate the extent and size of area that may be successful y reconnoitered, Available time also restricts the number of points and the number of samples taken during a recon, survey, or sampling mission. Time is also a key factor for planning movements.

The rationale used in planning for NBC recon operations is to facilitate NBC contamination avoidance, preserve combat power, and to orient on the enemy's NBC threat. The enemy's NBC threat includes those areas where the enemy will most likely employ NBC weapons against US forces. When planning for NBC recon operations, we need to answer the following questions:

  • What do we want NBC reconnaissance to do? NBC recon must support NBC contamination avoidance. It also must provide freedom of movement for friendly forces, and it must preserve combat power by providing early warning, locating contamination, and identifying clear bypass routes around contaminated areas. NBC recon also must assist the commander in seeing the fill spectrum of the battlefield. NBC recon elements are never held in reserve. Each NBC recon element is positioned to be responsive to the supported unit.
  • Where do we perform NBC reconnaissance? NBC recon is conducted within corps, division, and brigade areas. This includes NBC recon of main supply routes (MSRs) and NBC recon support for rear area operations. The primary goal of NBC recon is to provide freedom of maneuver by determining the presence or absence of NBC contamination within a supported unit's area of operation.
  • When do we perform NBC reconnaissance? US Forces conduct NBC recon anytime the enemy employs NBC weapons within our area of operations, to includes suspected NBC attacks by the enemy. Information on the presence or absence of contamination is important to the commander for determining unit movement times and for making other tactical decisions.
  • Why do we perform NBC reconnaissance? NBC recon is conducted to provide the commander and his staff with information on contaminated areas, to include the location and the type of agent. The commander uses NBC recon data to facilitate contamination avoidance for his troops. It also can reduce the attrition of combat power caused by NBC contamination.

Mission requirements are also considered during the planning process. The most critical component for ensuring mission success includes receipt and analysis of the mission, planning, and coordination.

The NBC recon element receives an order to support a specific unit. The information contained in the operation order includes the command relationship, logistics/maintenance support, location of supported element, reporting chain, start/completion time (if critical), general guidance (such as decontamination instructions/support, operational exposure guidance, and sampling instructions), and coordinating instructions (such as radio nets, monitoring/reporting requirements, and security requirements).

Control Measures

The NBC recon platoon adheres to established control measures while supporting the mission and operations of the supported unit. The NBC recon unit uses the terrain to maximize its capability for mission accomplishment and to minimize vulnerability. Some examples of control measures are--

  • Assembly areas.
  • Boundaries.
  • Checkpoints.
  • Contact points.
  • Rendezvous points.
  • Objectives.
  • Named areas of interest (NAI).
  • Start points (SP).
  • Release points (RP).
  • Control points.
  • Phase lines (PL).
  • Line of departure (LD).
  • Limit of advance (LOA).

Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB)

The IPB process is the staff tool that helps identify and answer the commander's priority intelligence requirements (PIR). The IPB allows the commander to visualize the battlefield--where friendly and enemy forces will move, shoot, and communicate; where critical areas are located; and where and when enemy forces are the most vulnerable.

FM 3-101 provides a detailed explanation of the role of the chemical staff in the IPB process; and FM 34-140 provides a detailed explanation of the overall IPB process, For focusing the NBC recon effort, the IPB must--

  • Identify the enemy's capability to employ weapons of mass destruction based on the type of units and weapons the enemy has available in the area of operations (AO) or area of influence (AI) during a selected time.
  • Identify how the enemy would employ weapons of mass destruction to support his battle plan.
  • Identify areas of likely employment based on threat employment doctrine.
  • Provide a detailed analysis of terrain and weather in the unit's AO during each period of interest and how they could impact on NBC warfare.
  • Template potential chemical targets or areas of contamination.
  • Designate templated areas that affect the scheme of maneuver as NAIs.
  • Identify previously reported NBC hazard areas.

The G2/S2, with assistance from the chemical staff, develops a collection plan to coordinate information gathering. They jointly develop possible indicators of the contaminated area at designated NAIs.

The G2/S2 coordinate with the G3/S3 to develop a recon and surveillance plan (R&S plan) based upon NAI identified through event templating. Each NAI is assigned to a unit for observation and information collection. The staff chemical officer advises the G3/S3 on which NBC-related NAI can be covered by NBC teams organic to the maneuver or support units in the area, and which NAI should be assigned to available NBC recon assets. The NBC-related NAI and the units responsible for them are incorporated into the R&S plan.

Recon assets are used to confirm or deny the presence of contamination at the designated NAIs. If NBC recon assets are not available, the unit can employ its organic scout platoons from the cavalry, armor, or mechanized infantry battalions. The scout platoons are also trained to determine if NBC contamination exists and its extent. They are also trained in locating a bypass around contaminated areas as part of their zone, area, and route recon operations.

The IPB process is labor intensive. During peacetime, the intelligence and chemical staffs must build an intensive data base for each potential area in which a unit will operate.

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