By William S. Frisbee Jr.
Patrols are some of the most important combat operations conducted. A patrol can be anywhere from a fireteam in size to a battalion. The mission often determines the size of the patrol.
Patrolling is a very general term used to describe a unit that is on the move and is doing something other than attacking a fixed enemy position. Patrol formations are often used during movement in hostile terrain.
There are six types of patrols recognized in USMC handbooks. The acronym used is RACESS or CARESS. This stands for Recon, Ambush, Contact, Economy of Force, Security and Search and Attack. Recon patrols are also broken down into three subcategories, point, area and route.
The mission of the patrol heavily influences how it is organized and how it will react to enemy contact. Not all patrols will stand and fight, even if they are superior to the enemy.
A lot of planning goes into patrols. Entire manuals have been written on how to conduct and plan for patrols. This section is not nearly big enough to cover all the different aspects but it will cover some of the more important ones.
All patrols have several things in common. They must go into the combat zone, avoid getting lost while in it, and get out of the combat zone without getting shot by friendly forces.
Most patrols leave from friendly lines, a positions protected by mines, booby traps, barbed wire and machine guns. Then the patrol must come back to a different route to avoid getting ambushed by an enemy that saw them leave. This requires coordinating with the front line units so the patrol is guided out safely and back in safely. Usually, when a patrol comes back in they radio ahead and a guide is sent out into no-man's land to guide them back in. Due to the possible presence of enemy forces this is a very scary operation, especially when it is done at night. You never know if those people you are approaching are friendly or enemy.
Passwords, locations and other relevant data is important. When a patrol leaves friendly lines it is possible they might get attacked and be forced to retreat. Retreating through an unfamiliar minefield is a nightmare and can be quite fatal. Getting reinforcements outside the defensive barriers is also not easy because the route out is usually very narrow and one enemy sniper could shut it down.
Once a patrol has safely gotten out of friendly lines it must move quietly and avoid getting ambushed. To avoid getting ambushed and to keep the enemy from guessing where they are going if they are seen, a zig zag line is used to reach the objective or to travel the patrol route.
During the patrol the leader will frequently stop the patrol so they can listen to their surroundings, take a break or drink water. Usually during extended breaks the patrol leader will find a hiding spot and establish a perimeter. Discipline and common sense are two of the most important aspects of patrolling. If a person stops to drink water, he may lose sight of the person ahead of him and get lost. A half empty canteen can slosh around and give away a soldier's location. Poor troops sound like a herd stumbling through the forest because of the clicking and clacking of gear, talking, half empty canteens, ect.
Every so often the patrol leader will designate a rally point, which is usually an easily recognizable land feature. This is done in case someone gets separated from the patrol. If that happens, all the lost individual has to do is go back to the rally point and wait. Also, if the patrol comes under fire from artillery or mortars the patrol leader may give the order and everyone will break up and make their way back to the rally point.
When the patrol is almost near the rally point the patrol leader will find a hiding spot and designate it as the Objective Rally Point. At this point the patrol will establish a perimeter while the leader does a recon of the site. He may take element leaders with him.
A patrol may be inserted into the area of operations (AO) by boat, scuba diving, parachute, helicopter, truck, or IFV. (see the resource listing on Insertion/Extraction)
When the patrol has accomplished its mission it will have to return to friendly lines. A patrol may also need to be resupplied if it is staying out for very long (like more than two or three days.) Most patrols only last a couple hours.
A recon patrol is usually small, a squad or even better a fireteam. Recon patrols make every effort to avoid getting in a fight, or being detected by the enemy. The main weapon of a recon patrol is stealth. The mission of a recon patrol is to gather more detailed information about a point on a map (like a hill top), an area (like a valley) or a route (like a road). The recon patrol will gather any and every bit of information about its objective that it can.
Elite units like Force Recon are frequently deployed far behind enemy lines to gather information. Force and Company recon may be deployed from ship or sub to gather information about a beach or beach defenses in preparation for an attack. Detailed report formats are used to insure that landing forces will not get bogged down in deep muck or be unable to get off the beach.
If such a reconnaissance is detected it can inform the enemy that an attack may be imminent and they will fortify the beach or whatever was reconed. This makes the information gathered suspect.
Regular infantry units also use recon teams usually drawn from the company or platoon reserve in order to gather information. Despite the new advances of technology, like satellites that can count eggs on a table, recon patrols are still of critical importance. In the Falklands, the British Marine's use of recon patrols gave them a decisive edge. The Royal Marines knew where to hit and how to do the most damage because professional men on the ground sneaked in for a look-see.
Some things simply cannot be determined from the air, like water depths or whether or not the enemy is hiding in a jungle filled valley. People on the ground have to go look for themselves and they can't just stroll in for a look unless they want to get ventilated.
One type of recon that should be mentioned here is recon by force and recon by fire. Recon by force is when a unit is looking for an enemy company in a valley, it sends in an entire battalion to see if it is there. Recon by fire is more useful to the individual that does not need to rely on stealth. It is a favorite in the Israeli Defense Force. Basically, a possible target is fired at. If the enemy fires back then you know they are there. The disadvantage of recon by fire is that it tells the enemy you are in the area.
An ambush patrol is tasked with setting up an ambush in a specific area, usually along a road or trail used by the enemy. The ambush patrol sneaks into the ambush site and waits for the enemy to walk into it. After the ambush it sneaks back to friendly lines.
Ambush patrols work quite well when used to psychologically attack the enemy. If the enemy moves around a lot at night (like in guerrilla wars) and they experience several costly ambushes they will be much more scared of moving around at night for fear of ambush. An ambush is also a very effective way to inflict casualties on the enemy. It is a surprise attack designed to inflict the most casualties on a moving enemy. Fear of getting shot by an unseen attacker is the worst kind of fear because you must be constantly alert (which is stressful) and even then there is no promise you won't be shot.
Ambushes are feared because they are often sudden and if done properly, very lethal. Most ambushes can be avoided however by staying off roads and trail. Also varying your route through an area can help avoid ambushes. However, when troops are tired and undisciplined they will take the easy route instead of 'busting bush'.
A large amount of firepower and good planning is the key to a successful ambush. If done correctly a small unit can inflict casualties far out of proportion to their size.
One method of setting up a good patrol is for the leader to do a recon of the ambush site when the patrol reaches its Objective Rally Point. Upon looking over the ambush site the leader will return to the ORP and select different individuals. Security is first and most important. If the ambush is on a trail or road, at least one person will be placed at either end of the ambush site to warn the patrol of the enemy's approach. Whatever they use to inform the patrol leader of the enemy, it must be quiet or the security may risk ruining the ambush (and getting killed!). Anything the patrol does not need in the ambush site (like packs) may be left in the ORP.
With the security personnel in place, the patrol leader places his support group in place. The support group consists of attached machine guns and other special weapons (like rockets). With the support group in place the patrol leader then places the assault group. The patrol leader then positions himself where he can best control everything. If the time and situation permit, he may task members with setting up claymore mines and booby traps.
Machine guns are placed at either end to close off the kill zone and when possible shoot down it. For this reason a bend in the trail is preferred. This allows the machine gun to open fire when the enemy is almost in a strait line. Regular riflemen are used to fill in the gaps between machine guns.
Special care should be taken to make sure nobody is visible from the enemy's point of view, otherwise the ambush could be ruined. When possible the patrol leader should walk the ambush from the enemy's point of view to insure nothing will give them away.
With everything set up and ready the most difficult thing is waiting and staying alert. At night, staying awake can be a royal pain in the ass. Setting up an ambush near a trickling stream or water is the best way to put the patrol to sleep because the sound is so relaxing.
When the enemy approaches, the flank security inform the patrol leader who passes the word to everyone else (if possible).
The ambush is best initiated by detonating a claymore mine. A claymore mine is a directional mine that can sweep the kill zone with hundreds of high velocity pellets. The deafening blast and sudden casualties can confuse the enemy and dramatically slow down his response, especially if his leader was caught in the blast.
The mine is usually the signal and everyone else in the ambush opens fire cutting down any survivors. Of course if someone is seen then that person should initiate the ambush. Inexperienced troops frequently imagine the enemy saw them and spring the ambush prematurely.
In an ideal ambush all the enemy are killed or severely wounded. If the enemy does manage to find cover then grenades can be used to blow him out. Eventually, the squad leader calls a cease fire (or a retreat!). An EPW (Enemy Prisoner of War) team is sent out to search the bodies for information and if an enemy soldier survived, to take prisoners. Care must be taken with some soldiers because as they die they might place a hand grenade under their body and rolling him over will cause the grenade to explode. Care should also be taken to insure an enemy soldier is not pretending to be dead. (A swift kick in the nuts does no damage to a dead enemy soldier, but one that is playing dead will be talking soprano in a prisoner of war camp). EPW teams work in pairs, with one man searching one man covering. The searcher should never get in the way of his cover man, especially when dealing with a prisoner. (Green and poorly trained troops do this a lot).
Enemy wounded may, or may not be treated depending on the honor of the ambushers.
Once the EPW team has done its job, the patrol leader starts pulling people back to the ORP in the reverse order of how he set them up, with flank security being last.
When the patrol gets back to the ORP it quickly moves out and heads back to base or the extract point. Speed is important after an ambush because the enemy might fire artillery or mortars in an attempt to kill some of the ambushers.
On the way back 'home' the patrol displays the same precautions and techniques it used going to the ambush site.
Various types of ambushes are possible. In a large open area, like a field, several strongpoints may be established. Each strongpoint supporting the other with fire. When the enemy is detected, one strongpoint opens fire. When the enemy responds by attacking that strongpoint it will enter the kill zone of another strong point which opens fire. In this way a less cautious enemy may be trapped in the open and destroyed.
The British have a method that is used to ambush guerrillas that run away. Several different little ambushes are employed and if the enemy escapes one ambush they run into another one.
Another method of ambushing the enemy doesn't even require the patrol make itself known. The patrol finds a good, defendable site where it can observe a large area. When the enemy enters the area the patrol calls for artillery or close air support, directing it with pin point accuracy.
The contact patrol has two different uses. One use is to make contact with friendly forces. The same procedures used for other patrols are used for contact patrols. The patrol is assigned the mission of going out, finding a friendly unit or patrol, and either giving them some information or guiding them back to the unit that sent it out.
With this kind of patrol, the most dangerous part is making contact with the friendlies. It is usually very easy to mistake a camouflaged individual for an enemy soldier and neither side wants to expose themselves for fear that the enemy will see them or the other group is the enemy. Camouflage is tricky in this respect, there are not different vines and leaves for enemy head gear and friendly headgear.
The other type of contact patrol is when friendly forces have gotten into a fight with the enemy and for one reason or another cannot pursue immediately. In this case a patrol may be sent out to maintain contact with the enemy so he doesn't get away. This type of patrol is more like a running gun battle with frequent breaks in the action or a patrol that is tracking the enemy and not giving him time to conceal his tracks or lay false trails. If the enemy turns around and runs like rabbits they will probably get shot in the back. If the patrol moves too fast they might get suckered into a trap and killed.
ECONOMY OF FORCE
This kind of patrol is used to support the operations of larger forces. For example. A battalion is going to cross a bridge later on in the day. To make sure it is safe it may send a patrol to scout it out and make sure the enemy does not set up an ambush there.
An EOF patrol might be sent out to occupy a certain strategic hill or other terrain feature. An EOF patrol is basically the force commander making good use of his forces.
A security patrol is used to screen the flanks, front or rear of a larger unit. The security patrol is responsible for a certain area and warns the higher command of enemy forces. This ruins the enemy's chances of surprise and gives the higher command time to prepare.
Security patrols can be used when a force is dug in waiting for the enemy and doesn't want to be surprised or it can be used when a force is moving.
SEARCH AND ATTACK
These patrols are the most aggressive use of patrols. Heavily armed patrols are assigned areas in which they actively search for enemy forces. Once enemy forces are found the patrol attacks and attempts to destroy them. The size of a Search and Attack patrol can be anywhere from a squad to a battalion. It is unlikely, but possible to use fireteams in this role. It should be noted that it is very likely a fireteam will be outnumbered and outgunned by the opposition unless the fireteam was relying on stealth and artillery support. A fireteam sized SaA patrol would also be excellent for a hit and run type mission.
Reinforcements are usually kept in a standby mode in case the patrol bites off more than it can chew. Fire support is also kept in standby just in case.
Search and Attack is the more politically correct term for what they called Search and Destroy missions in Vietnam.
Patrols are usually very highly organized with everyone having a specific job, field of fire and location within the patrol. Before the patrol even leaves friendly lines there is a great deal of planning that takes place.
Of course, a commander could just say "Sergeant, take your squad and go on patrol for a couple hours. You leave in five minutes." That is when you know you are cannon fodder.
Before a patrol goes out it should know what it is going to accomplish, where it is going, how it is going to get there and how long it should be - at a minimum! Manuals have been written on how to prepare for a patrol and they can be extensive.
Usually, the first thing a patrol leader does when he finds out he is going on a patrol is issue a warning order. The Warning Order lets people know who is going on patrol, what their position is, and other similar information. It warns them so they can get ready. The Navigator can get maps of the area, special weapons or gear can be drawn from supply, radio frequencies and call signs can be acquired, fire support can be arranged, transportation can be arranged, headquarters can be notified of code words and routes. The navigator has to plot a route, someone has to talk with the front line units so a guide is available to let them in and out of the defensive perimeter. Weapons need to be test fired (if possible). The locations and types of other friendly patrols in the area should be determined. If another patrol has been through the area, they should be contacted for any hints and suggestions. The availability of food and water must be considered. Possible landing zones should be noted in case someone is injured and needs to be extracted. Someone should also make a terrain model for the briefing. Holding up a map for twenty men just doesn't work. It is much better if they can gather around a model of the terrain that has markers, string for gridlines, tags, ect.
It is virtually impossible for one man to do all this in a decent amount of time so the wise squad leader assigns patrol members to do different things. When all this information is gathered, the patrol leader writes his five paragraph order which will detail all important information.
Finally, when everything has been figured out, the patrol leader gets the patrol together, checks their work and issues his five paragraph order. Final preparations are done and then the Patrol Leader inspects the patrol. If possible rehearsals are conducted and then final preparations. When the patrol is ready to leave, the patrol leader does a final inspection to make sure everyone is silenced (done by making them jump up and down, noisy items are taped down) and has the required equipment. It can be embarrassing as all hell if the patrol exits friendly lines and finds out the Navigator forgot the map.
The planning usually pays off in a big way. If everyone knows what is going on and what is expected of them the entire patrol will go much more smoothly and safely for everyone. For instance, if the patrol runs into trouble and higher headquarters knows where they are at reinforcements can be sent or artillery fired.
If a patrol is in range, a ring of protective fire can be created around it by artillery. If nobody knows where the patrol is, they can be in big trouble.
A half-assed, unplanned patrol is likely to run into a world of hurt and die quickly.
This is the key to a good patrol. If a unit is well trained and organized it can launch a well prepared patrol very quickly. The secret is designating responsibility. This only works well with quality troops however, especially at the lower level, like squad.
When a patrol leader receives a warning order from his boss he immediately makes his own. From that piece of paper, a well organized unit will disperse to take care of needed tasks, each person having his own checklist.
On a patrol, each member has a job. These jobs may affect what they do in the planning phase.
Below is a listing of the jobs and positions that should be filled. Each job should be assigned to one or more persons. With very small patrols one person may have several different jobs.
PATROL LEADER: This is the person responsible for the safety, success and deployment of the patrol. The PL must make sure everything goes according to plan, usually his plan. During the patrol he moves around the formation as needed, preferring to stay in a position where he can best control the movement and activities of the patrol. Usually this is near the front and in the vicinity of the navigator. The radio operator usually stays real close to the patrol leader.
ASSISTANT PATROL LEADER: This is the second in command. He may coordinate supporting fires, liaison with the front line units or whatever the PL assigns him to. During the patrol he is usually located near the rear of the formation in case the Patrol Leader becomes a casualty, in which case he takes over. He also remains in the rear of the formation so that there is a senior man with the formation if it is cut in two for some reason.
NAVIGATOR: The navigator is the one who plans the route and guides the patrol. Most of his work is done before the patrol and he may have an assistant or two to help him. If the time and situation permit he may contact other patrols that have been in the area for tips on the terrain and enemy. During the patrol he is usually located behind the point and coverman so he can direct and guide them. During the patrol the Navigator is responsible for guiding the patrol and knowing where it is at all times.
POINTMAN: The pointman is the front security man. It is his job to keep the patrol from getting ambushed by the enemy. Despite what most people might think, the pointman position is not where a patrol leader puts someone he doesn't like or someone who is incompetent. The pointman usually a veteran and knows exactly what he is doing. He takes directions from the Navigator and leads the patrol in such a way as to keep it from being detected. This means he does not follow roads, streams, ridgelines, ect. Woodswise individuals make some of the best pointmen. The pointman may also be a tracker. Prior to the patrol he may be assigned to assist the Navigator in planning the route. The pointman is usually armed with a light, fast weapon. Shotguns or regular assault rifles are preferred.
COVERMAN: This position is held by a warrior with an automatic weapon. During a patrol he is placed behind the pointman. He is responsible for covering the pointman with a high volume of fire. Automatic weapons are usually not put on point because of the weapon's bulk and vulnerability. Automatic weapons are usually bulky and need more attention from the user, they are also a favorite target for the enemy.
FLANK SECURITY: This is an important job. Usually one person is positioned on either side of the patrol, a little behind the pointman. Their job is to watch the sides for enemy activity. If properly deployed, flank security keep a patrol from walking into an enemy ambush. In really thick terrain, it may not be practical to deploy flank security. In patrols larger than squad size, a platoon may deploy fireteams for flank security and a company may deploy squads (in this case a squad may operate like a patrol of its own). Flank security is an art because the security person has to avoid getting lost and yet be far enough out to detect an enemy ambush.
TAIL-END CHARLIE: This is also called rear security. The position is usually filled by the Assistant Patrol Leader. This insures that if the patrol is cut in two then there is a senior leader who can take charge of the rear section. The TEC is responsible for the enemy does not walk up behind the patrol without warning. There is usually a coverman (with an automatic weapon) located in front of the TEC. In this way the patrol can rapidly turn around and travel in the direction it just came.
PACEMAN: Usually a patrol will have several pacemen. The job of a pace man is to count the number of steps he takes. Usually about 50-80 steps equals one hundred meters. It varies from individual to individual and is determined before the patrol. The Navigator may poll the pacemen to determine how much distance has been covered (using the average). A paceman may tie a knot in a cord every one hundred meters to avoid losing count. Ten knots, one kilometer.
TERRAIN MODEL MAN: This is a pre-patrol job that is usually assigned to a SAW Gunner. The TMM is responsible for building a model of the patrol area. A great deal of time and effort may go into the terrain model. Hills would be little mounds of dirt, streams might be marked with cream powder from rations, woods may be marked with coffee (again from rations). String might be used to mark grid lines. The route, rally points and objective should be marked on the map. The terrain model is used to brief the rest of the patrol and illustrate the terrain and route. The TMM man may have one or more assistants.
RADIO MAN: The radio man has a very important job. He does not just carry the radio for the patrol leader. Prior to the patrol he coordinates with other units and gets frequency numbers and call signs. He insures he has the proper report formats and he learns what kind of fire support may be available for the mission. He may coordinate with other patrol members and plan fire missions at predesignated locations. He is also responsible for making sure the radio works, he has extra batteries, ect. During the patrol he is responsible for monitoring the radio and informing higher headquarters of the patrol's location by the use of checkpoints (which are designated by the Navigator).
ELEMENT LEADER: An element leader is responsible for his element during the patrol. He insures his element has the equipment needed for the mission at hand and knows what they are doing. In a three fireteam squad without reinforcements (machine gun teams or SMAW gunners) each team leader may be designated as an element leader. First team may be assigned security, flank and rear (since the 1st team leader is the 2nd in command and usually APL this makes good sense). 3rd Team may be assigned as the lead element, pointman (rifleman), coverman (SAW), Navigator (team leader) and radio operator (Assistant SAW gunner). 2nd team might be deployed with the main body as the patrol leader's tactical reserve (for flanking and such) and classified as the maneuver element. In this example, First team leader (aside from APL duties) would make sure the flank securities have night vision goggles and know the route and their specific job, everyone has water, food, ect.
Other people may be assigned coordination jobs. One person contacts the front line commander and arranges for guidance out of friendly lines, another might contact the commander of the area the patrol will be coming back in. The battalion planning officer must be contacted for information and to let him know a patrol is planned and where it will be. The mortars, artillery, Naval gun coordinator and forward air controller should be consulted on the various aspects of the patrol and how they can assist if needed.
Special operations require even more coordination. Insertion/extraction pilots should be consulted and briefed. Emergency extract should be planned. More information is usually needed on the enemy. To tell a Force Recon team to locate and capture a brigade commander without giving them a specific location (ten square kilometers is NOT a specific location) is a recipe for disaster. Satellite photographs, or air photo's should be gone over and evaluated by any patrol leader that has access.
The planning for a patrol is often tedious but it can pay off big. When writing about a squad or platoon that is about to go on patrol you should avoid long boring details. Who cares if the supply clerk is some fat slob working out the back of a truck. If you are going to include the coordination for a patrol in the story do so very carefully, make it advance the plot or something, don't bore the reader with details to show you did your homework.
The Future of Patrolling
Patrolling is such a critical function it is unlikely to die out. As long as troops are needed to control an area, troops will be used for patrolling.
With the proliferation of computers the planning and organization for patrols will likely become easier and more automated. A squad leader on the front might use a computer (in his helmet or elsewhere) to network with other units (Battalion planning, front line commander, subordinates, ect) and notify them of the mission. By filling out a form, needed information can be transmitted to the appropriate authority as needed.
Computerized checklists can also be used to standardize information and requests. Specific data, like passwords, frequencies, unit commander's names and locations, can be downloaded from the appropriate net and distributed among the patrol members as needed.
Here is an example. The patrol leader (platoon commander, company commander) receives an e-mail message from Battalion planning (S-3) informing the recipient and his commanders of the need for a patrol to be conducted. Details on the mission, coordinates and such will also be uploaded to the patrol leader's computer. Other information such as time of departure and time of return may be uploaded as well. The S-3 might also have sent a message to the unit on the perimeter where the patrol will depart/return.
After reviewing the warning order the patrol leader makes his decision on the basics. Filling out the checklist stored in his computer, he transmits it to higher authorities who review it. The patrol leader might also have portions of the checklist filled out (like who is going and what equipment/weapons are in use). Battalion S-3 might already know that and they might keep track of available units available for patrol and a program automatically tasks them.
By using a networked computer system, planning and organization for patrols can be reduced dramatically. Information can be gathered even more quickly and efficiently. A simple call, or e-mail message can be sent to a front line commander informing him that he needs to arrange for a patrol to leave or enter his sector. A data base can be reviewed for information and local conditions about the patrol area. The Patrol leader can search the network for needed information or contacts. The Patrol leader (and members) might even be able to view the helmet camera footage of the area.
Out on patrol, recording cameras mounted in the helmet will help the higher authorities review the patrol and assess its overall impact. An intelligence specialist reviewing the recordings could likely gather a great deal of information about the enemy. The information being recorded insures nothing is forgotten and can be reviewed in detail afterwards.
Optionally, the helmet footage can be transmitted to higher command for instant review. If a patrol leader runs into a situation, he can contact higher authorities and draw upon their experience and training. Less scrupulous militaries might use this to micromanage and control their subordinates.
With computer tracking and monitoring, higher headquarters can be instantly notified if something starts happening. The progress and activities of the patrol can be monitored to insure the patrol is not fired on by friendlies and does not encounter a friendly patrol without warning.
Additionally, the patrol leader may have access to a library detailing enemy weapons and equipment. Upon encountering an enemy tank for instance, a graphical overlay may indicate vulnerabilities and shortcomings that might be exploitable.
Sensors in the helmet, or weapon, might make it easier to detect the enemy. An AI or sophisticated computer program might monitor the situation and help the soldier assess the threat presented by the enemy. It might be able to scan the area and highlight the enemy on a heads-up-display (like on the soldier's visor). Furthermore, it can help the soldier decide which enemy soldier is the biggest threat. For example. In a firefight enemy soldiers are highlighted in maroon. An enemy machine gunner might be highlighted in bright red indicating a serious threat.
The AI might also be able to analyze the enemy's actions and warn the user of potential threats.
By taking a 'picture' an AI could examine it for anything out of the ordinary and highlight or mark it for the user. This would allow people without experience to do things like track the enemy and determine what the enemy might have done during a stop. It could analyze a shell crater and determine the possible direction and distance of the artillery piece that fired it. It could evaluate damage inflicted on the enemy and identify possible threats like minefields and ambushes. The AI might also monitor a complete 360 degree arc around the trooper.
When linked with fire support coordination computers the enemy can be brought under fire by supporting arms almost instantly. Technicians, software or AI's could recognize the enemy and determine what weapons can be brought to fire upon the enemy by accessing the database of available weapons and systems. For example. A patrol makes contact with an enemy that is six hundred meters away. The range and location is instantly transmitted to the Fire Control Computer which is able to determine that two mortar units are within range, an attack helicopter is not far away and an artillery battery is in range. A fire mission is instantly transmitted to the artillery battery (which may be automated) and within minutes (maybe seconds) of encountering the enemy artillery is raining down on his head. As the patrol leader gets closer to the enemy, the artillery may cease and the mortars might begin. Meanwhile the attack helicopter has received a mission and could get there any minute to support the ground units as needed, and all of this could occur without the patrol leader placing a single call. With this kind of coordination, a fireteam might be able to destroy an enemy regiment because all the fireteam has to do is find the enemy.
Computers may also help leaders control their units under fire. A fireteam leader may see a target he really wants removed so he marks it somehow (voice, blinking, ect) on his HUD (Heads-up-display) and get it transmitted to the rest of his fireteam as a priority target. Each team member would then see the target light up on their HUD. Communications could also be built in each helmet thus allowing the teams to communicate without yelling or giving away their position. This would dramatically increase the life span of leaders because they wouldn't be running all over the battlefield issuing and receiving orders and information.
The patrol leader might be able to patch into the HUD view of the pointman, seeing what he is seeing as he sees it. Each patrol member might also be able to track the progress of the patrol by reviewing various readouts that display, maps, times, distances, ect.
Computers can be networked via radio. The technology exists today. The biggest problem with a radio 'network' is enemy interception. If the enemy can crack the codes then the enemy can set up on ambush, or some other nasty trap. Of course by using very powerful computers that change the code and frequency often it makes the code much more difficult to crack. If there is radio interference this can also dramatically effect the network.
There are some people who believe in the concept of unjammable radio transmissions. I'm sure time will show what a myth that is.
ã By William S. Frisbee Jr. All Rights Reserved.
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