Understanding Reconnaisance

This article comes to us from milsim player Scorpion1. Many thanks for his insight and time in writing this article. As always, all acronyms are defined on the Milsim Dictionary page under the Resources tab.

Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain vital information about enemy forces or features of the environment for later analysis and/or dissemination. This does not mean taking a stroll down the road or path till you get shot. Stealth and alertness is of utmost importance. Often referred to as recce (British English) or recon (North American English, Australian English), the associated verb is reconnoiter in British English or reconnoiter in North American English. Examples of reconnaissance include patrolling by troops (rangers, scouts, or military intelligence specialists), satellites, or by setting up covert observation posts. When referring to reconnaissance, a commander’s full intention is to have a vivid picture of his battle-space. The commander organizes the reconnaissance platoon based on:

  1. mission
  2. enemy
  3. terrain
  4. troops and support available
  5. time available
  6. civil considerations.
This analysis determines whether the platoon uses single or multiple elements to conduct the reconnaissance, whether it pertains to area, zone, or route.
Addition by Dave, another local milsim player:
Incredibly important acronym for terrain analysis prior reconnaissance and any other military operation: OCOKA.  Observations and Fields of fire, Cover and Concealment, Obstacles, Key Terrain, and Avenues of Approach. Army Study Guide has some decent explanations of the previous titles.

Area Reconnaissance:

Area reconnaissance is a directed effort to obtain detailed information concerning the terrain or enemy activity within a prescribed area (FM 1-02). That area may be given as a grid coordinate, an objective, on an overlay. In an area reconnaissance, the patrol uses surveillance points, vantage points, or Observation Posts (OPs) around the objective to observe it and the surrounding area. Actions at the objective for an area reconnaissance begin with the patrol in the Objective Rally Point (ORP), and end with a dissemination of information after a linkup of the patrol’s subordinate units. The critical actions include:

– Actions from the ORP. – Execute the observation plan. – Link up and continue the mission.

Actions From the Objective Rally Point

The patrol occupies the ORP and conducts associated priorities of work. While the patrol establishes security and prepares for the mission, the patrol leader and selected personnel conduct a leader’s reconnaissance. The leader must accomplish three things during this reconnaissance: pin point the objective and establish surveillance, identify a release point and follow-on linkup point (if required), and confirm the observation plan.

Observation Plan For an Area Reconnaissance

Upon returning from the leader’s reconnaissance, the patrol leader disseminates information and FRAGOs as required. Once ready, the patrol departs. The leader first establishes security. Once security is in position, the reconnaissance element moves along the specified routes to the observation posts and vantage points in accordance with the observation plan.

Short Range

On nearing the objective, the patrol commander should establish a forward release point. It should be sited so it is well hidden, no closer than 200 meters from known enemy patrol routes, OPs, or sentry positions. The forward RP provides the patrol leader with a temporary location close to the objective from which he can operate. While the close reconnaissance is in progress, it should be manned by the patrol second in charge and the radio operator. Only vital transmissions should be made while in the forward release point. The volume setting should be as low as possible on the radio, and if available, the operator should use an earphone.

The close reconnaissance team should make its final preparation in the forward release point. Movement from the forward release point must be very slow and deliberate. Leaders should allow sufficient time for the team to obtain the information. If time is limited, the team should only be required to obtain essential information. If the enemy position is large, or time is limited, the leader may employ more than one close reconnaissance team. If this occurs, each patrol must have clearly defined routes for movement to and from the forward release point. They must also have clearly defined areas in which to conduct their reconnaissance in order to avoid clashes.

The close reconnaissance team normally consists of one to two observers and two security men. The security men should be sufficiently close to provide protection to the observer, but far enough away so his position is not compromised. When moving in areas close to the enemy position, only one man should move at any one time. Accordingly, bounds should be very short.

Once in position, the patrol observes and listens to acquire the needed information. No eating, no talking, and no unnecessary movement occurs at this time. If the reconnaissance element cannot acquire the information needed from its initial position, it retraces the route and repeats the process. This method of reconnaissance is extremely risky. The reconnaissance element must remember that the closer it moves to an objective, the greater the risk of being detected.

Multiple Reconnaissance and Surveillance Teams

When information cannot be gathered from just one OP/vantage point, successive points may be used. Once determined, the leader must decide how his patrol will actually occupy them. The critical decision is to determine the number of teams in the reconnaissance element. The advantages of a single team in the reconnaissance element are the leader’s ability to control the team, and the decreased probability of enemy detection. The disadvantages of the single team are the lack of redundancy and the fact that the objective area is only observed by one team. The advantages of using multiple teams include, affording the leader redundancy in accomplishing his mission, and the ability to look at the objective area from more than one perspective. The disadvantages include, the increased probability of being detected by the enemy, and increased difficulty of controlling the teams.

The leader may include a surveillance team in his reconnaissance of the objective from the ORP. He positions these surveillance teams while on the reconnaissance. He may move them on one route, posting them as they move, or he may direct them to move on separate routes to their assigned locations.

Security Element

The subordinate leader responsible for security establishes security at the ORP and positions other security teams as required on likely enemy avenues of approach into the objective area.

Surveillance Teams.

The platoon and squad use the surveillance/vantage point method that utilizes a series of surveillance or vantage points around the objective to observe it and the surrounding areas. The unit halts in the ORP and establishes security while they confirm the location. The platoon leader conducts a leader’s reconnaissance of the objective area to confirm the plan, and then returns to the ORP. Once the security teams are in position, the reconnaissance element leaves the ORP. The element moves to several surveillance or vantage points around the objective. Instead of having the entire element move as a unit from point to point, the element leader might decide to have only a small reconnaissance team move to each surveillance or vantage point. After reconnoitering the objective, elements return to the ORP and disseminate information.

Zone Reconnaissance:

A zone reconnaissance is conducted to obtain information on enemy, terrain, and routes within a specified zone. Zone reconnaissance techniques include the use of moving elements, stationary teams, or multiple area reconnaissance actions. Moving Element TECHNIQUES When moving elements are used, the elements (squads or fire teams) move along multiple routes to cover the whole zone. When the mission requires a unit to saturate an area, the unit uses one of the following techniques: the fan; the box; converging routes; or successive sectors. Fan Method When using the fan method, the leader first selects a series of ORPs throughout the zone to operate from. The patrol establishes security at the first ORP. Upon confirming the ORP location, the leader confirms reconnaissance routes out from and back to the ORP. These routes form a fan-shaped pattern around the ORP. The routes must overlap to ensure the entire area is reconnoitered. Once the routes are confirmed, the leader sends out R&S teams along the routes. When all R&S teams have returned to the ORP, the platoon collects and disseminates all information to every Soldier before moving on to the next ORP. Each R&S team moves from the ORP along a different fan-shaped route that overlaps with others to ensure reconnaissance of the entire area. These routes should be adjacent to each other. Adjacent routes prevent the patrol from potentially making contact in two different directions. The leader maintains a reserve at the ORP. Fan method.   Box Method When using the box method, the leader sends his R&S teams from the ORP along routes that form a boxed-in area. He sends other teams along routes through the area within the box. All teams meet at a link-up point at the far side of the box from the ORP. Box method   Converging Routes Method When using the converging routes method, the leader selects routes from the ORP through the zone to a rendezvous point at the far side of the zone from the ORP. Each R&S team moves along a specified route and uses the fan method to reconnoiter the area between routes. The leader designates a time for all teams to link up. Once the unit arrives at the rendezvous point, it halts and establishes security. CR method   Successive Sector Method The successive sector method is a continuation of the converging routes method. The leader divides the zone into a series of sectors. The platoon uses the converging routes within each sector to reconnoiter to an intermediate link-up point where it collects and disseminates the information gathered to that point. It then reconnoiters to the next sector. Using this method, the leader selects an ORP,  a series of reconnaissance routes, and linkup points. The actions from each ORP to each linkup point are the same as in the converging routes method. Each linkup point becomes the ORP for the next phase. Upon linkup at a linkup point, the leader again confirms or selects reconnaissance routes, a linkup time, and the next linkup point. This action continues until the entire zone has been reconnoitered. Once the reconnaissance is completed, the unit returns to friendly lines. SC method   Route Reconnaissance: Conduct A route reconnaissance is conducted to obtain detailed information about one route and all its adjacent terrain, or to locate sites for placing obstacles. Route reconnaissance is oriented on a road, a narrow axis such as an infiltration lane, or on a general direction of attack. Patrols conducting route reconnaissance operations attempt to view the route from both the friendly and enemy perspective. Infantry platoons require augmentation with technical expertise for a complete detailed route reconnaissance. However, platoons are capable of conducting hasty route reconnaissance or area reconnaissance of selected route areas. Route reconnaissance is conducted to obtain and locate the following:

  • Detailed information about traffic-ability on the route and all adjacent terrain.
  • Detailed information about an enemy activity or enemy force moving along a route.
  • Sites for placing hasty obstacles to slow enemy movement.
  • Obstacles, CBRN contamination, and so forth.

The Infantry platoon unit can also be tasked to survey a route in a planned infiltration lane. After being briefed on the proposed infiltration, the patrol leader conducts a thorough map reconnaissance and plans a series of fans along the route. The coverage must reconnoiter all intersecting routes for a distance greater than the range at which enemy direct-fire weapons could influence the infiltrating forces. Route reconnaissance using fans. The platoon reports conditions likely to affect friendly movement. These conditions include: – Presence of the enemy. – Terrain information. – Location and condition of bypasses, fords, and obstacles. – Choke points. – Route and bridge conditions. If all or part of the proposed route is a road, the leader must treat the road as a danger area. The platoon moves parallel to the road, using a covered and concealed route. When required, reconnaissance and security teams move close to the road to reconnoiter key areas. The platoon plans a different route for its return. The leader should submit the patrol report in an overlay format that includes— – Two grid references (required). – Magnetic north arrow (required). – Route drawn to scale (required). – Title block (required). – Route classification formula (required). – Road curves with a radius of less than 45 degrees. – Steep grades and their maximum gradients. – Road width of constrictions such as bridges and tunnels, with the widths and lengths of the traveled                    ways (in meters). – Underpass limitations with limiting heights and widths. – Bridge bypasses classified as easy, hard, or impossible. – Civil or military road numbers or other designations. – Locations of fords, ferries, and tunnels with limiting information. – Causeways, snow sheds, or galleries if they are in the way. Data about clearance and load-carrying capacity should be included to permit an evaluation to decide whether to strengthen or remove them. Route reconnaissance overlay