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Tactics 101 070 – Reconnaisance, Part 1: the FoundationsBy Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland | Tactics101|War College | Published: March 13, 2012 at 8:06 am
“Single men in the night will be more likely to ascertain facts than the best glasses in the day.”
General George Washington
WHAT IS RECONNAISSANCE?
1) the activities and resources or your enemy (or potential enemy),
This information can be obtained by several means:
1) passive surveillance (covertly or overtly),
Reconnaissance is Continuous
Keep your Recon Assets Employed
You must have an Objective
Reconnaissance Information Must be Reported Quickly and Accurately
In regards to reporting accurately, this speaks for itself. An inaccurate report can have disastrous results. Again, recon info is ultimately tied to a commander’s decision. Inaccurate info leads to a poor commander’s decision and bad ramifications. Reports must be solely on what the asset sees on the ground. For example, there are 12 tanks idling in an assembly area located at Grid 12345678, time now. The recon asset does not provide any analysis. Let the people who do this for a living conduct the analysis.
Recon Assets Must Retain Their Freedom of Maneuver
With all that said, it is imperative that recon assets retain their freedom of maneuver. So how do you achieve this? Well, there are several things that can assist in this. First, an understanding of the enemy is crucial. Knowing his tendencies and the equipment he possesses can assist you in retaining maneuver freedom. Second, an understanding of the terrain is critical. Obviously, there is terrain that is conducive to maneuver and there is some that is not. Third, utilize your multipliers to stay out of trouble. Thus, instead of getting decisively engaged with your assets; use indirect fires instead.
Gain Contact and Maintain it
When this contact is achieved; you must maintain it. Contact is not broken unless authorized by the Commander. Again, maintaining contact can mean breaking physical contact, but keeping surveillance via ‘eyes’. Of all the fundamentals, this is clearly one of the most challenging to achieve. Clearly, the better the unit, the better the ability to succeed in this fundamental. The poorer the unit, the more the likelihood that combat ensues when the attempt is made to break physical contact.
When a Situation Arises; Develop it Rapidly
Obviously, this fundamental is tied to many of the previously discussed fundamentals. Developing the situation rapidly assists in reporting info quickly, maintaining freedom of maneuver, and gaining and maintaining contact.
Reconnaissance Push – In a reconnaissance push, the commander sends out his assets after he has decided on a plan. Thus, he is pushing his assets out in order to gain information that will assist him in fighting this plan. Within this plan, he may have some critical decision points that he will require information in order to answer. As stated earlier, this information should ultimately be tied to a commander’s decision.
Reconnaissance Pull – In a reconnaissance pull, the commander sends out his assets before he has decided on his plan. Thus, he is deploying his assets to pull information so he can craft his plan. In a reconnaissance pull, the situation is normally unclear or the situation is rapidly changing.
As a point of clarification, a particular recon asset could certainly execute both types of techniques during the same mission. For example, the asset could be initially deployed to garner information early in the planning process (reconnaissance pull). Later, once a plan is approved, the same unit could provide information to assist in decision-making (reconnaissance push). In a perfect world, the asset could stay in virtually the same location and not break contact with the enemy.
Dismounted –When detailed information is required and being stealthy is critical; then dismounted recon is clearly a preferred method. It is however, certainly the most time consuming of the methods.
Aerial – Before we get into the particulars of aerial recon, remember that within the category exist both manned and unmanned assets. As you know, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are truly a key asset in today’s environment.
Sensor – Sensors have been around forever. In earlier years, they were primarily utilized in the security role. For example, stringing tin cans outside the perimeter to warn the unit of intruders was a rudimentary security action. With technology, sensors have moved as a viable recon method. They can be positioned nearly anywhere and can track maneuver and actions. Sensors can communicate images back to the commander. At one time, this was Start Wars stuff, now pretty ordinary, but still extraordinary!
FORMS OF RECONNAISSANCE
There are four forms of reconnaissance that a Commander can utilize. The key determination in what form to use is what type of information you are trying to gather. Let’s discuss each below.
Route – A route recon focuses on providing information on a specific route such as a trail, road, railway, or even a mobility corridor. These routes are almost always routes in which the unit will or plans to utilize in the future. This information includes things such trafficability, obstacles, bridge classifications, and any enemy or civilian activity on the routes. Within a route recon you will also require the asset conducting the recon to provide info on the terrain near the route which could influence maneuver. A route recon should include the following:
Area – An area recon is focused on obtaining information (on the enemy, terrain or civilian populace) on a certain area the commander dictates. An area could encompass many different things. It may be a town, an airfield/landing strip, potential drop zone/landing zone, a particular bridge, etc…. I think you get the idea that it can be almost anything. However, with a caveat that it is something that is important to the commander. After all, if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t expend the resources to obtain the information.
Within an area reconnaissance, you are basically conducting the same type of tasks as we discussed in the route reconnaissance. The main difference in the two is the perspective. Within the route recon, you are clearly focused on the maneuver aspects. Within the area recon, you are obtaining info on a particular area which will likely have major significance in the overall mission.
Zone – A zone recon is focused on obtaining information (on the enemy or terrain) on a particular zone dictated by the commander. The zone will be articulated by boundaries. This zone could contain a route or routes and an area/areas. Thus, it is the encompassing of all the forms of recon.
A commander will decide a zone recon is needed when he requires more info on a zone in which he anticipates maneuvering in the future. At the present time, the commander has little information on the enemy and the terrain. Thus, the requirement for the zone recon.
As you can imagine, the zone recon can be extremely time consuming and resource intensive. It cannot be done on the cheap. If it is, it will likely result in not obtaining the information the commander requires and the potential for significant casualties certainly increases. Again, the overall tasks for units conducting a zone recon are basically the same as discusses above.
Reconnaissance in Force – A form of recon that is normally not considered a form is a reconnaissance in force. In a reconnaissance in force, a unit maneuvers a force in an offensive operation against his enemy. This force is normally at least battalion size in strength. This action is generated to assist in determining the enemy’s strength, disposition of his forces, and how he reacts to your initiative. This reaction can be invaluable in analyzing what the enemy’s future actions will be.
So when would you execute a reconnaissance in force? Obviously, this is a significant expenditure of resources. Yet, there are times when a commander should consider conducting a recon in force. These include: 1) If the commander just simply can’t obtain critical information he requires by any other means available. 2) Because of restrictive terrain, the commander does not feel he can deploy smaller units without fear that they will be ambushed and take heavy losses.
A recon in force must have clearly understood recon objectives. These objectives are almost always enemy related and not terrain related. Recon forces must be focused on these objectives. Certainly in an operation like this it is a challenge to not have this mission turn into an attack. If it becomes this, the results could be disastrous. Again, forces are there to obtain information on the enemy for the commander.
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