Infantry Drills

FM 3-21.8 – Chapter 2 – Section IV – Employing Direct Fire

Section IV – Employing Direct Fire

2-57.     This section discusses direct fire control and employment rules of engagement, control measures, engagement techniques, fire commands, range cards, adjustments, and closure reports.

Rules of Engagement

2-58.     The rules of engagement (ROE) specify the circumstances and limitations under which friendly forces may engage. They include definitions of combatant and noncombatant elements, and stipulate the treatment of noncombatants. Factors influencing ROE are national command policy, operational requirements, and the law of war. ROE always recognize a Soldier’s right of self-defense while at the same time clearly defining circumstances in which he may fire.

Control Measures

2-59.     Direct fire control measures are the means by which the platoon leader or subordinate leaders control their unit’s direct fires. Application of these concepts, procedures, and techniques assists the unit in acquiring the enemy, focusing fires on him, distributing the effects of the fires, effectively shifting fires, and preventing fratricide. No single measure is sufficient to effectively control fires. At the platoon level, fire control measures will be effective only if the entire unit has a common understanding of what the fire control measures mean and of how to employ them.

Leader Responsibilities

2-60.     The Infantry platoon or squad leader communicates to his subordinates the manner, method, time to initiate, shift, mass fires, and when to disengage by using direct fire control measures. The leader should control his unit’s fires so he can direct the engagement of enemy systems to gain the greatest effect. The commander uses the factors of METT-TC and reconnaissance to determine the most advantageous way to use direct fire control measures to mass the effects on the enemy and reduce fratricide from direct fire systems. He must understand the characteristics of weapon systems and available munitions (such as the danger to unprotected Soldiers when tanks fire, discarding sabot ammunition over Soldiers’ heads or near them). The primary graphic direct fire control measures are—

- Unit boundary.

- Target reference point.

- Sector of fire.

- Engagement area (EA).

2-61.     Other direct fire control measures include—

- Trigger line.

- Maximum engagement line (MEL).

- Final protective line (FPL).

- Principle direction of fire (PDF).

- Priority targets.

2-62.     The noise and confusion of battle may limit the use of some of these methods. Therefore, the leader must select a method or combination of methods that will accomplish the mission. The leader should arrange to have a primary and secondary signaling method. The method may be positive (hands on) or procedural (prearranged). There are three types:

(1)           Audio (radio, whistle, personal contact).

(2)           Visual (hand-and-arm signals, pyrotechnics).

(3)           Written (OPORD, range card, sector sketch).

Fire Control Process

2-63.     To bring direct fires against an enemy force successfully, leaders must continuously apply the four steps of the fire control process. At the heart of this process are two critical actions intended to achieve decisive effects on the enemy: rapid, accurate target acquisition, and the massing of fires Target acquisition is the detection, identification, and location of a target in sufficient detail to permit the effective employment of the platoon’s weapons. Massing of fires focuses direct fires at critical points, then distributes the fires for optimum effect. The four steps of the fire control process follow.

(1)           Identify probable enemy locations and determine the enemy scheme of maneuver.

(2)           Determine where and how to mass (focus and distribute) direct fires’ effects.

(3)           Orient forces to speed target acquisition.

(4)           Shift direct fires to refocus or redistribute their effects.

Terrain-and Threat-Based Fire Control Measures

2-64.     Table 2-4 lists the control measures by whether they are terrain or threat-based.

Table 2-4. Common fire control measures.


Fire Control Measures


Fire Control Measures

Target reference pointEngagement area

Sector of fire

Maximum engagement line

Final protective line

Principal direction of fire

Final protective fire

Restrictive firing line

Fire patternsEngagement priorities

Weapons ready posture

Weapons control status


Weapons safety posture


Terrain-Based Fire Control Measures

2-65.     The platoon leader uses terrain-based fire control measures to focus and control fires by directing the unit to engage a specific point or area rather than an enemy element. The following paragraphs describe the terrain-based fire associated with this type of control measure.

Target Reference Point

2-66.      A TRP is a recognizable point on the ground that leaders use to orient friendly forces and to focus and control friendly direct and indirect fires. Soldiers use TRPs for target acquisition and range determination. Leaders designate TRPs to orient fires to a particular point, define sectors of fire and observation, and define the limits of an EA. A TRP can also designate the center of a sector or an area where the leader plans to distribute or converge with fires. In addition, when TRPs are designated as indirect fire targets, they can be used in calling for and adjusting indirect fires. Leaders designate TRPs at probable enemy locations and along likely avenues of approach. These points can be natural or man-made. A TRP can be an established site such as a hill or a building, or a feature designated as an impromptu TRP such as a burning enemy vehicle or smoke generated by an artillery round. Friendly units also can construct markers to serve as TRPs (Figure 2-3). TRPs include the following features and objects:

- Prominent hill mass.

- Distinctive building.

- Observable enemy position.

- Destroyed vehicle.

- Ground-burst illumination.

- Smoke round.

- Laser point.


Figure 2-3. Example of constructed TRP markers.

2-67.     Leaders designate natural terrain features, man-made terrain features, or any other visual means to be used as TRPs. While TRPs should be visible through all spectrums available to the unit, they should be visible in three observation modes (unaided, passive-infrared, and thermal). They must be easily identifiable to the defender during daylight, should be heated so they can be recognized with thermal sights, and should have an infrared signature so they can be recognized through night vision devices.

2-68.     Leaders number TRPs for easy reference. For indirect fire systems, these numbers are assigned as targets (for example, AB1001). For direct fire systems, leaders use any system that is easy and recognizable to their subordinates. Figure 2-4 shows an example of a TRP numbering system when operating in a built-up area. The building and corner numbering system starts at the southwest corner of the objective area. Figure 2-5 shows an example of window and door numbering. In this technique, no distinction is made between windows and doors unless specified. The numbering and lettering always start at the bottom left of any completely visible structure. If a structure is obscured, an estimate is necessary until a more exact call can be made. Corrections to supporting fires are given like indirect fire corrections (for example, left 2, down 1).


Figure 2-4. Example of TRP numbering system.


Figure 2-5. Example of window and door numbering.

Engagement Area

2-69.      The engagement area (EA) is an area along a likely enemy avenue of approach where the platoon leader intends to mass the fires of all available weapons to destroy an enemy force. The size and shape of the EA are determined by the degree of relatively unobstructed visibility available to the friendly unit’s weapons systems in their firing positions, and by the maximum range of those weapons. For an engagement area to be effective, the enemy must either choose to move through the area or be forced or channeled into the area by friendly action (obstacles, indirect fire). Typically, commanders delineate responsibility within the EA by assigning each platoon a sector of fire or direction of fire. These fire control measures are covered in the following paragraphs.

Sector of Fire

2-70.     Leaders assign sectors of fire to Soldiers manning weapons or to a unit to cover a specific area of responsibility with observation and direct fire. In assigning sectors of fire, leaders consider the number and type of weapons available. The width of a sector of fire is defined by a right and left limit. Leaders may limit the assigned sector of fire to prevent accidental engagement of an adjacent friendly unit. The depth of a sector is usually the maximum range of the weapon system unless constrained by intervening terrain or by the leader (using a maximum engagement line [MEL]). At the platoon level, sectors of fire are assigned to each subordinate by the leader to ensure that the unit’s area is completely covered by fire. Targets are engaged as they appear in accordance with established engagement priorities. Means of designating sectors of fire include:

- TRPs.

- Azimuth.

- Clock direction.

- Terrain-based quadrants.

- Friendly-based quadrants.

2-71.     Types of Sectors. Leaders should assign a primary and a secondary sector of fire. The primary sector is the first priority; Soldiers and units are responsible for engaging and defeating the enemy here first. Fire then shifts to the secondary sector on order, when there are no targets in the primary sector, or when the leader needs to cover the movement of another friendly element. This secondary sector of fire can correspond to another friendly element’s primary sector of fire to obtain overlapping fires and mutual support.

2-72.     Overlapping and Divided Sectors. When assigning sectors, leaders attempt to build in mutual support and redundancy. By building redundancy into the observation and fire plan, leaders increase their probability of early detection of the enemy. Two common techniques are overlapping a sector and dividing a sector (Figure 2-6).


Figure 2-6. Overlapping and divided sectors.

2-73.     Dead Space. It is important to identify dead space within a sector of fire. Dead space is any area that cannot be observed or covered by direct-fire weapons systems, including where the waist of a Soldier falls below a gunner or automatic rifleman’s point of aim. When stationary, the most accurate method for determining dead space is to have one Soldier walk the weapon’s line of sight and make a pace count of those areas where he encounters dead space. When the Soldier is not able to walk the line of fire, he can also determine dead space by observing the flight of tracer ammunition from a position behind and to the flank of the weapon.

2-74.     All dead space within the sector must be identified to allow the leader and subordinate leaders to plan high trajectory fires (mortars, artillery, or M203) to cover that area.

2-75.     Searching the Sector. Searching is the act of carefully watching the assigned sector. Individual and unit observation plans are inherent in all military operations. Individual Soldiers scan their sectors by conducting a rapid scan followed by a slow scan. When conducting a rapid scan, Soldiers make a quick overall search for obvious targets and unnatural colors, outlines, or movement. They follow the rapid scan with a slow deliberate scan, searching for signatures and indicators of common targets. Soldiers who use a more deliberate method to scan their sectors are generally more successful at detecting targets.

Maximum Engagement Line

2-76.     The maximum engagement line (MEL) is the depth of the sector and is normally limited to the maximum effective engagement range of the weapons systems. However, it is also influenced by the enemy target description and the effects of terrain. Slope, vegetation, structures, and other features provide cover and concealment that may prevent the weapon from engaging out to the maximum effective range. To assist in determining the distance to each MEL, Soldiers should use a map to ensure the MELs are depicted accurately on the range card. Identifying the MEL prevents squads from engaging targets beyond the maximum effective ranges of their weapon systems and establishes criteria for triggers. This decreases needless and ineffective ammunition expenditure during an engagement.

Final Protective Line

2-77.     If a final protective line (FPL) is assigned, a machine gun is sighted along it to employ grazing fire except when other targets are being engaged. An FPL becomes the machine gun’s contribution to the unit’s final protective fire (FPF). An FPL is fixed in direction and elevation. However, a small shift for search must be employed to prevent the enemy from crawling under the FPL. A small shift will also compensate for irregularities in the terrain or the sinking of the tripod legs into soft soil during firing.

Principal Direction of Fire

2-78.     A PDF is generally assigned when the terrain does not lend itself to a FPL. A PDF is a direction of fire that is assigned priority to cover an area that has good fields of fire or has a likely dismounted avenue of approach. It also provides mutual support to the adjacent unit. Machine guns are sighted using a PDF if an FPL has not been assigned. If a PDF is assigned and other targets are not being engaged, machine guns remain on the PDF. The main difference between a PDF and an FPL is that the PDF is a sector, while the FPL is a fixed line. Means of designating a direction of fire include—

- Closest TRP.

- Clock direction.

- Cardinal direction and or magnetic azimuth.

- Tracer on target.

- Infrared laser pointer.

Final Protective Fire

2-79.     The FPF is a line of fire established where an enemy assault is to be checked by the interlocking fires of all available friendly weapons, to include indirect fire. The FPF is reinforced with protective obstacles whenever possible. Initiation of the FPF is the signal for all squads, crews, and individual Soldiers to shift fires to their assigned portion of the FPL.

Restrictive Fire Line

2-80.     An RFL is a linear fire control measure beyond which fires are prohibited without coordination. In the offense, the platoon leader may designate an RFL to prevent a base-of-fire squad(s) from firing into the area where an assaulting squad(s) is maneuvering. This technique is particularly important when mechanized vehicles directly support the maneuver of Infantry squads. In the defense, the platoon leader may establish an RFL to prevent squads from engaging one of the platoon’s other rifle squads positioned in restricted terrain on the flank of an enemy avenue of approach. Figure 2-7 illustrates fire control measures  on an example platoon sector sketch.

Figure 2-7. Example of fire control measures in platoon sector sketch.

Threat-Based Fire Control Measures

2-81.     The platoon leader uses threat-based fire control measures to focus and control fires by directing the unit to engage a specific, templated enemy element rather than fire on a point or area. Threat-based fire control measures may be difficult to employ against an asymmetric threat. The following paragraphs describe the threat-based fire associated with this type of control measure.

Fire Patterns

2-82.     Fire patterns are a threat-based measure designed to distribute the fires of a unit simultaneously among multiple, similar targets. Platoons most often use them to distribute fires across an enemy formation. Leaders designate and adjust fire patterns based on terrain and the anticipated enemy formation. The basic fire patterns are frontal fire, cross fire, and depth fire (Figure 2-8).

2-83.     Frontal Fire. Leaders may initiate frontal fire when targets are arrayed in front of the unit in a lateral configuration. Weapons systems engage targets to their respective fronts. For example, the left flank weapon engages the left-most target; the right flank weapon engages the right-most target. As they destroy enemy targets, weapons shift fires toward the center of the enemy formation and from near to far.

2-84.     Cross Fire. Leaders initiate cross fire when targets are arrayed laterally across the unit’s front in a manner that permits diagonal fires at the enemy’s flank, or when obstructions prevent unit weapons from firing frontally. Right flank weapons engage the left-most targets; left flank weapons engage the right-most targets. Firing diagonally across an EA provides more flank shots, increasing the chance of kills. It also reduces the possibility that friendly elements will be detected if the enemy continues to move forward. As they destroy enemy targets, weapons shift fires toward the center of the enemy formation.

2-85.     Depth Fire. Leaders initiate depth fire when targets are dispersed in depth perpendicular to the unit. Center weapons engage the closest targets; flank weapons engage deeper targets. As they destroy targets, weapons shift fires toward the center of the enemy formation.


Figure 2-8. Fire patterns.

Engagement Priority

2-86.     In concert with his concept of the operation, the company commander determines which target types provide the greatest payoff or present the greatest threat to his force. He then establishes these as a unit engagement priority. The platoon leader refines these priorities within his unit. Engagement priority specifies the order in which the unit engages enemy systems or functions. Engagement priorities are situational dependent. Subordinate elements can have different engagement priorities. For example, the leader establishes his engagement priorities so his medium machine guns engage enemy unarmored vehicles while his SLM and CCMS engage enemy tanks. Normally, units engage the most dangerous targets first, followed by targets in depth.

Weapons-Ready Posture

2-87.     To determine the weapons-ready posture, leaders use their estimate of the situation to specify the ammunition and range for the engagement. Range selection is dependent on the anticipated engagement range. Terrain, visibility, weather, and light conditions affect range selection.

2-88.     Within the platoon, weapons-ready posture affects the types and quantities of ammunition carried by the rifle and weapons squads.

2-89.     For Infantry squads, weapons-ready posture is the selected ammunition and indexed range for individual and crew-served weapons. For example, an M203 grenadier whose likely engagement is to cover dead space at 200 meters from his position might load HEDP rounds. He will also set 200 meters on his quadrant sight for distance to the dead space. To prepare for an engagement in a wooded area where engagement ranges are extremely short, antiarmor specialists may be armed with SLM instead of CCMS.

Weapons Control Status

2-90.     The three levels of weapons control status outline the conditions, based on target identification criteria, under which friendly elements may engage. The platoon leader sets and adjusts the weapons control status based on friendly and enemy disposition, and the clarity of the situation. In general, the higher the probability of fratricide, the more restrictive the weapons control status. The three levels are—

Weapons Hold. Engage only if engaged or ordered to engage.

Weapons Tight. Engage only targets that are positively identified as enemy.

Weapons Free. Engage any targets that are not positively identified as friendly.

2-91.     As an example, the platoon leader may establish the weapons control status as weapons hold when other friendly forces are passing friendly lines. Or the platoon leader may be able to set a weapons free status when he knows there are no friendly elements in the vicinity of the engagement. This permits his elements to engage targets at extended ranges even though it is difficult to distinguish targets accurately at ranges beyond 2,000 meters under battlefield conditions. The platoon leader may change the weapons control status for his elements based on situational updates. Weapons control status is extremely important for forces using combat identification systems. Establishing the weapons control status as weapons free permits leaders to engage an unknown target when they fail to get a friendly response.


2-92.     Triggers are an event or time-oriented criteria used to initiate planned actions to achieve surprise and inflict maximum destruction on the enemy. A designated point or points (selected along identifiable terrain) in an engagement area used to mass fires at a predetermined range (FM 1-02). Triggers can be a physical point on the ground (trigger line), a laser or lazed spot, or an action or event that causes friendly forces to do something. When using triggers to control fires, leaders ensure they have allocated them to start, shift, and cease fires. Leaders use triggers within the context of the ROE and the weapons control status. For example, a leader might say, WAIT UNTIL ENEMY SOLDIERS CROSS PL BLUE BEFORE ENGAGING.

2-93.     A trigger line is a phase line used to mass fires at a predetermined range. The trigger line can be used when attacking or defending. In the offense, the trigger line is preferably perpendicular to the friendly axis of advance and is used to initiate or cease fires when reached by the unit. If defending, the leader initiates fire as the enemy reaches the trigger line.

Weapons Safety Posture

2-94.     The weapons safety posture is an ammunition-handling command that allows leaders to control the safety status of their weapons. Soldier adherence to and leader supervision of the weapons safety posture prevents accidental discharge of weapons. Examples include:

- Handling live ammunition and weapons in peace time training in the same safe way during combat.

- Finger off the trigger and weapon on safe.

- Hand grenades attached correctly to the ammo pouches.

- Safety zones and back blast areas enforced.

- Strict enforcement of unit weapons and ammunition-handling SOPs at all times.

Engagement Techniques

2-95.     Engagement techniques are effects-oriented fire distribution measures. The most common engagement techniques in platoon operations are—

- Point fire.

- Area fire.

- Volley (or simultaneous) fire.

- Alternating fire.

- Sequential fire.

- Observed fire.

- Time of suppression.

- Reconnaissance by fire.

Point Fire

2-96.     Point fire involves concentrating the effects of the platoon or squad’s fire against a specific, identified target such as an enemy vehicle, machine gun bunker, or ATGM position. When leaders direct point fire, all the unit’s weapons engage the target, They fire until they destroy it, or until the required time of suppression expires. Employing converging fires from dispersed positions makes point fire more effective because the target is engaged from multiple directions. The unit may initiate an engagement using point fire against the most dangerous threat, and then revert to area fire against other, less threatening point targets.

Area Fire

2-97.     Area fire involves distributing the effects of a unit’s fire over an area in which enemy positions are numerous or are not obvious. Typically, the primary purpose of area fire is suppression. However, sustaining effective suppression requires judicious control of the rate of fire.

Volley Fire

2-98.     Volley fire is released when two or more firers engage a single target and the range is known. These firers engage the target at the same time on a prearranged signal such as a command, whistle, booby trap, mine, or TRP. This can be the most effective means of engagement as it places the most possible rounds on one enemy target at one time, thereby increasing the possibility of a kill.

2-99.     Units employ simultaneous fire to rapidly mass the effects of their fires or to gain fire superiority. For example, a unit may initiate a support-by-fire operation with simultaneous fire, and then revert to alternating or sequential fire to maintain suppression. Volley fire is also employed to negate the chance that one of the Soldiers might miss his intended target with fire from his SLM. For example, a squad may employ volley fire with its SLM to ensure rapid destruction of an enemy vehicle that is engaging a friendly position.

Alternating Fire

2-100.  During alternating fire, pairs of elements continuously engage the same point or area targets one at a time. For example, an Infantry platoon may alternate the fires of a pair of machine guns. Alternating fire permits the unit to maintain suppression for a longer duration than does volley fire. It also forces the enemy to acquire and engage alternating friendly points of fire.

Sequential Fire

2-101.  In sequential fire, the subordinate elements of a unit engage the same point or area target one after another in an arranged sequence. Sequential fire can also help prevent the waste of ammunition, as when rifle squads wait to see the effects of the first CCMS before firing another. Additionally, sequential fire permits elements that have already fired to pass on information they have learned from the engagement. For example, an Infantryman who missed a BMP with SLM fires could pass range and lead information to the next Soldier preparing to engage the BMP with a SLM.

Observed Fire

2-102.  Observed fire allows for mutual observation and assistance while protecting the location of the observing element and conserving ammunition. The company commander may employ observed fire between elements in the company. He may direct one platoon to observe while another platoon engages the enemy. The platoon may use observed fire when it is in protected defensive positions with engagement ranges of more than 800 meters. For example, the platoon leader may direct the weapons squad to engage an enemy at long range and the Infantry squads to observe the effects of the fires. The observing elements prepare to engage the enemy on order in case the weapons squad fails to effectively engage the enemy, encounters weapon malfunctions, or runs low on ammunition.

Time of Suppression

2-103.  Time of suppression is the period, specified by the platoon leader, when an enemy position or force must be suppressed. Suppression time is typically dependent on the time it will take a supported element to maneuver, so suppression is generally more event- than time-driven. Normally, a friendly unit suppresses an enemy position using the sustained rate of fire of its automatic weapons. In planning for sustained suppression, leaders must consider several factors, including:

- The estimated time of suppression.

- The size of the area being suppressed.

- The type of enemy force to be suppressed.

- The range to the enemy target.

- The rates of fire.

- The available ammunition quantities.

Reconnaissance by Fire

2-104.  Reconnaissance by fire is the process of engaging possible enemy locations to elicit a tactical response from the enemy, such as return fire or movement. This response permits Infantry leaders to make accurate target acquisition and to mass fires against the enemy element. Typically, the platoon leader directs a subordinate squad to conduct the reconnaissance by fire. He may, for example, direct an overwatching squad to conduct the reconnaissance by fire against a probable enemy position before initiating movement by the bounding squad(s).

Fire Commands

2-105.  Fire commands are the technical instructions used to initiate fires and can be used for individuals, crews, or units (but for simplicity, this section just refers to Soldiers). Fire commands are used to initiate, control, and synchronize fires. The fire command procedure takes the principles of direct fire employment and puts them into a coherent, usable format.

2-106.  There are two types of commands: initial fire commands (issued to commence firing); and subsequent fire commands (issued to change firing data and to cease firing). The elements of both commands follow the same sequence. Subsequent commands include only such elements that are changed. A correct fire command is brief, clear, and includes all the elements necessary for accomplishing the mission. Fire commands are sent to the firing unit or gunner by the best understood means (visually or vocally). To limit errors in transmission, the person receiving the commands repeats each element as it is received.

2-107.  Fire commands for direct fire weapons consist of six elements: alert, location, target description, method of engagement, ammunition, and execution. When and how the leader issues a fire command is not as important as covering the information in the fire command with his subordinates. Frequently, especially at the fire team and crew-served weapon level, leaders use the elements of a fire command without adhering to a strict format. The point is not that the leader adheres to a format, but that he maintains positive control over his subordinates’ fires. However, using a more formal approach to fire commands usually provides more clarity and certainty for Soldiers and crews.

Elements of a Fire Command

2-108.  Fire commands consist of—

Alert. The leader designates which weapon(s) is to fire by weapon type, Soldier’s position, or Soldier’s name.

Location. The leader guides the Soldier onto the target.

Target Description. The leader identifies the target. For multiple targets, he also tells which target to engage first.

Method of Engagement. The leader tells the Soldier how to deliver the fire onto the target.

Ammunition. The leader tells the Soldier which ammunition to use if munitions are other than HE (this applies to M203 only).

Execution (Time). The leader reconfirms that the target is hostile, then gives an execution command.

2-109.  The full fire command is given when targets are not obvious and sufficient time is available to issue a full order.

2-110.  Brief fire commands are given when the target is obvious and time is limited.

2-111.  Delayed fire commands are used when the leader can anticipate what is going to happen. The Soldier or unit gets ready to fire but waits until the right moment before opening fire.

2-112.  Subsequent fire commands are used to make adjustments in direction and elevation, change rates of fire after a fire mission is in progress, interrupt fires, or to terminate the alert.

Terms and Techniques

2-113.  The following list of terms and techniques clarify the different elements of the fire command.


2-114.  Leaders can use one or more of the following methods to assist Soldiers in locating and distinguishing between targets (Table 2-5).

Use of Laser/Tracer. (“On my laser/tracer.”) To prevent loss of surprise when using tracer to designate targets, the leader’s tracer fire becomes the last element of the fire command.

The Clock Method. An imaginary clock face is superimposed on the landscape with 12 o’clock being the direction of travel.

The TRP Method. The leader uses the closest, easily-recognizable point on the ground.

Cardinal Direction. Uses general compass directions (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, and NW).

Pointing. The leader points his finger or weapon in the general direction of the target.

Orally. The leader gives the direction to the target in relation to the Soldier’s position (for example, front, left front, right front).


Table 2-5. Common means of identifying and marking target locations.

Terrain Features

Naked Eye (Day/Night)

Thermals (All Used at Night)



Road intersections

Building corners

Anything easily identifiable

Azimuth (degree, mil) (D/N)VS-17 panel (D)

Engineer tape (D)

Chem light bundle (N)

Strobe light (N)

Illumination (D/N)

Pyrotechnics (D/N)

Tracer fire (D/N)

Destroyed vehicle (D/N)

Burn barrelsBBQ grills

Reverse polarity paper

Heated ammo can

IR (N)

Lasers (PAQ-4, PEQ-2, GCP, AIM 1)

Beacon/firefly strobe

Strobe light

2-115.  In defensive operations, the team leader and weapons squad leader use existing features as TRPs, or they can emplace specially-made markers. The Soldier captures these TRPs and sectors on a range card. In offensive operations, leaders normally predetermine location for TRPs and sectors based on the scheme of maneuver of the platoon leader or commander. These TRPs and sectors are useful for planning. However, the team leader/weapons squad leader must confirm them once they actually get on the ground.

Target Description

2-116.  The most natural way for a leader to control his subordinates’ fire when in contact is to simply describe the intended target(s). There are several terms used to shortcut the process, though leaders can use whatever means possible to ensure understanding. To shorten the target description, the team leader or weapons squad leader describes standard targets with standard procedure words (Table 2-6).


Table 2-6. Target descriptions and terms.

Target Type Procedure Word
Tank or tank-like target Tank
Personnel carrier PC
Unarmored vehicle Truck
Personnel Troops
Helicopter Chopper
Machine gun Machine gun
Antitank gun or missile AT weapon or RPG
Bunker Bunker
Trench line Trench
Urban structures Door, window, room

Method of Engagement

2-117.  The leader uses control to convey how he wants the target attacked. Common forms of this element of the fire command are—

Rates of Fire. When changing rates, the leader needs only indicate rapid, sustained, or scan and shoot.

Machine Gun Manipulation. Manipulation dictates the class of fire with respect to the weapon and is announced as FIXED, TRAVERSE, SEARCH, or TRAVERSE AND SEARCH.


2-118.  The leader uses one of the following orders to initiate fires:

Fire. The default rate of fire is at the sustained rate. The command to fire can occur in more than one form, including:

n   Pre-arranged visual signal.

n   Pre-arranged event.

n   Pre-arranged audio signal.

Rapid Fire. Open fire at the rapid rate.

Scan and Shoot. Fire when targets appear in the designated sector.

At My Command. Be prepared to fire but do not initiate until the order to fire is given.

Hand-and-Arm Signals

2-119.  Following are commonly used hand-and-arm signals for fire control (Figure 2-9).

Ready. The Soldier indicates that he is ready to fire by yelling, UP or raising his hand above his head toward the leader.

Commence Firing or Change Rate of Firing. The leader brings his hand (palm down) to the front of his body about waist level and moves it horizontally in front of his body. To signal an increase in the rate of fire, he increases the speed of the hand movement. To signal slower fire, he decreases the speed of the hand movement.

Change Direction or Elevation. The leader extends his hand and arm in the new direction and indicates the amount of change necessary by the number of fingers extended. The fingers must be spread so the Soldier can easily see the number of fingers extended. Each finger indicates 1 meter of change for the weapon. If the desired change is more than 5 meters, the leader extends his hand the number of times necessary to indicate the total amount of change. For example, right nine would be indicated by extending the hand once with five fingers showing and a second time with four fingers showing for a total of nine fingers.

Interrupt or Cease Firing. The leader raises his hand and arm (palm outward) in front of his forehead and brings it downward sharply.

Other Signals. The leader can devise other signals to control his weapons. A detailed description of hand-and-arm signals is given in FM 21-60, Visual Signals.


Figure 2-9. Hand‑and‑arm signals.

Range Cards

2-120.   A range card (DA Form 5517-R, Standard Range Card) is a sketch of the assigned sector for a direct fire weapon system on a given sector of fire (Figure 2-10). A range card aids in planning and  controlling fires and aids the crews and squad gunners in acquiring targets during periods of limited visibility. Range cards show possible target areas and terrain features plotted in relation to a firing position. The process of walking and sketching the terrain to create a range card allows the individual Soldier or gunner to become more familiar with his sector. Range cards also aid replacement personnel in becoming oriented on the sector. Soldiers should continually assess the sector, and if necessary, update their range cards.

Figure 2-10. Example of completed DA Form 5517-R range card
(primary sector with final protective line).


2-121.  Direct fire adjustments are fairly easy to make because the observer is also the shooter. However, when using an observer or spotter, direct fire adjustments are similar to those of indirect fire adjustments. This includes making deviation and range corrections. Deviation corrections move the round right or left toward the target, while range corrections add or drop the round toward the target with respect to the observer.

closure report

2-122.  The closure report completes the mission and provides a battle damage assessment. The report should go to both the FDC and the parent unit. Higher headquarters staff officers use battle damage assessment to update their running estimate and feed the common operating picture (COP).


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