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Reconnaissance (US Army FM 7-92; Chap. 4)
In military operations, reconnaissance or scouting is the exploration outside an area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about natural features and other activities in the area.
Examples of reconnaissance include patrolling by troops (skirmishers, long-range reconnaissance patrol, U.S. Army Rangers, cavalry scouts, or military intelligence specialists), ships or submarines, manned or unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, satellites, or by setting up observation posts. Espionage normally is not reconnaissance, because reconnaissance is a military's special forces operating ahead of its main forces; spies are non-combatants operating behind enemy lines.
Often called recce (British, Canadian and Australian English) or recon (American English), the associated verb is reconnoitre or reconnoiter.
Reconnaissance conducted by ground forces includes special reconnaissance, armored reconnaissance, amphibious reconnaissance and civil reconnaissance.
Aerial reconnaissance is reconnaissance carried out by aircraft (of all types including balloons and unmanned aircraft). The purpose is to survey weather conditions, map terrain, and may include military purposes such as observing tangible structures, particular areas, and movement of enemy forces.
Naval forces use aerial and satellite reconnaissance to observe enemy forces. Navies also undertake hydrographic surveys and intelligence gathering.
Reconnaissance satellites provide military commanders with photographs of enemy forces and other intelligence. Military forces also use geographical and meteorological information from Earth observation satellites.
A tracker needs to pay close attention to both the environment and the psychology of his enemy. Knowledge of human psychology, sociology, and cultural backgrounds is necessary to know the actions of the enemy and where the enemy is heading. The celebrated Chief of Scouts Frederick Russell Burnham had this to say:
It is imperative that a scout should know the history, tradition, religion, social customs, and superstitions of whatever country or people he is called on to work in or among. This is almost as necessary as to know the physical character of the country, its climate and products. Certain people will do certain things almost without fail. Certain other things, perfectly feasible, they will not do. There is no danger of knowing too much of the mental habits of an enemy. One should neither underestimate the enemy nor credit him with superhuman powers. Fear and courage are latent in every human being, though roused into activity by very diverse means.
Types of reconnaissance:
The techniques and objectives are not mutually exclusive; it is up to the commander whether they are carried out separately or by the same unit.
Reconnaissance-in-force (RIF) is a type of military operation or military tactic used specifically to probe an enemy's combat ability.
While typical reconnaissance forces are small and armed only for self-defense, RIF use considerable (but not decisive) force in order elicit a strong reaction by the enemy that more accurately reveals its own strength, deployment, preparedness, determination, and other tactical data. The RIF units can then fall back and report this data, or expand the conflict into a full engagement if enemy weaknesses are revealed.
Other methods consist of hit-and-run tactics using rapid mobility, and in some cases light-armored vehicles for added fire superiority, as the need arises.
Maintaining active RIF can be used to limit, or even deny, enemy reconnaissance.
Nazi Germany's reconnaissance during World War II is described in the following way:
The purpose of reconnaissance and the types of units employed to obtain information are similar in the U.S. and the German Armies. German tactical principles of reconnaissance, however, diverge somewhat from those of the U.S. The Germans stress aggressiveness, attempt to obtain superiority in the area to be reconnoitered, and strive for continuous observation of the enemy. They believe in employing reconnaissance units in force as a rule. They expect and are prepared to fight to obtain the desired information. Often they assign supplementary tasks to their reconnaissance units, such as sabotage behind enemy lines, harassment, or counter-reconnaissance.
Only enough reconnaissance troops are sent on a mission to assure superiority in the area to be reconnoitred. Reserves are kept on hand to be committed when the reconnaissance must be intensified, when the original force meets strong enemy opposition, or when the direction and area to be reconnoitred are changed. The Germans encourage aggressive action against enemy security forces. When their reconnaissance units meet superior enemy forces, they fight a delaying action while other units attempt to flank the enemy.
Reconnaissance by fire (or speculative fire) is the act of firing at likely enemy positions, in order to cause the enemy force to reveal their location by moving or by returning fire.
Reconnaissance-pull is a tactic that is applied at the regiment to division level and defined as locating and rapidly exploiting enemy weaknesses. It is the ability to determine enemy positions and create exploitable gaps through which friendly forces can pass while avoiding obstacles and strong points.
A textbook example of reconnaissance-pull was documented during the Tinian landings of World War II, utilized by the United States Marine Corps's Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion, from V Amphibious Corps. Aerial photography and the confirmation by the amphibious reconnaissance platoons determined that the Japanese defenders had largely ignored the northern beaches of the island, focusing most of their defensive effort on beaches in the south-west which were more favorable for an amphibious landing. American forces quickly changed their landing location to the northern beaches and planned a small and hasty "deception" operation off the southern beach, which resulted in a complete surprise for the Japanese forces. As a result, American forces were able to fight the Japanese force on land, where they had the advantage, leading to light losses and a relatively short battle that lasted only 9 days.
When referring to reconnaissance, a commander's full intention is to have a vivid picture of his battlespace. The commander organizes the reconnaissance platoon based on:
This analysis determines whether the platoon uses single or multiple elements to conduct the reconnaissance, whether it pertains to area, zone, or route reconnaissance, the following techniques may be used as long as the fundamentals of reconnaissance are applied.
Scouts may also have different tasks to perform for their commanders of higher echelons, for example: the engineer reconnaissance detachments will try to identify difficult terrain in the path of their formation, and attempt to reduce the time it takes to transit the terrain using specialist engineering equipment such as a pontoon bridge for crossing water obstacles. Sanitary epidemiological reconnaissance implies collection and transfer of all data available on sanitary and epidemiological situation of the area of possible deployment and action of armed forces, the same data for the neighboring and enemy armed forces. The aim for the reconnaissance is to clear up the reasons of the specific disease origin- sources of the infection in various extreme situations, including local wars and armed conflicts, the ways of the infection transfer and all factors promoting to the infestation.
After the armed forces have become stationary during wartime and emergency of peacetime the sanitary epidemiological reconnaissance turns into sanitary and epidemiological surveillance and medical control of vital and communal activity of the armed forces.
Area reconnaissance refers to the observation, and information obtained, about a specified location and the area around it; it may be terrain-oriented and/or force-oriented. Ideally, a reconnaissance platoon, or team, would use surveillance or vantage (static) points around the objective to observe, and the surrounding area. This methodology focuses mainly prior to moving forces into or near a specified area; the military commander may utilize his reconnaissance assets to conduct an area reconnaissance to avoid being surprised by unsuitable terrain conditions, or most importantly, unexpected enemy forces. The area could be a town, ridge-line, woods, or another feature that friendly forces intend to occupy, pass through, or avoid.
Within an area of operation (AO), area reconnaissance can focus the reconnaissance on the specific area that is critical to the commander. This technique of focusing the reconnaissance also permits the mission to be accomplished more quickly. Area reconnaissance can thus be a stand-alone mission or a task to a section or the platoon. The commander analyzes the mission to determine whether the platoon will conduct these types of reconnaissance separately or in conjunction with each other.
Civil reconnaissance is the process of gathering a broad spectrum of civil information about a specific population in support of military operations. It is related to and often performed in conjunction with infrastructure reconnaissance (assessment and survey). Normally the focus of collection in the operational area for civil reconnaissance is collecting civil information relating to the daily interaction between civilians and military forces. Civil information encompasses relational, temporal, geospatial and behavioral information captured in a socio-cultural backdrop. It is information developed from data related to civil areas, structures, capabilities, organizations, people, and events, within the civil component of the commander's operational environment that can be processed to increase situational awareness and understanding. The type of civil information that is needed in order to support military operations varies based on the environment and situation.
Route reconnaissance is oriented on a given route: e.g. a road, a railway, a waterway; a narrow axis or a general direction of attack, to provide information on route conditions or activities along the route. A military commander relies on information about locations along his determined route: which those that would provide best cover and concealment; bridge by construction type, dimensions, and classification; or for landing zones or pickup zones, if the need arises.
In many cases, the commander may act upon a force-oriented route reconnaissance by which the enemy could influence movement along that route. For the reconnaissance platoons, or squads, stealth and speed—in conjunction with detailed intelligence-reporting—are most important and crucial. The reconnaissance platoon must remain far enough ahead of the maneuver force to assist in early warning and to prevent the force from becoming surprised.
Even it is paramount to obtain information about the available space in which a force can maneuver without being forced to bunch up due to obstacles. Terrain-oriented route reconnaissance allows the commander to obtain information and capabilities about the adjacent terrain for maneuvering his forces, to include, any obstacles (minefields, barriers, steep ravines, marshy areas, or chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear contamination) that may obstruct vehicle movement—on routes to, and in, his assigned area of operations. This requirement includes the size of trees and the density of forests due to their effects on vehicle movement. Route reconnaissance also allows the observation for fields of fire along the route and adjacent terrain. This information assists planners as a supplement to map information.
Zone reconnaissance focuses on obtaining detailed information before maneuvering their forces through particular, designated locations. It can be terrain-oriented, force-oriented, or both, as it acquire this information by reconnoitering within—and by maintaining surveillance over—routes, obstacles (to include nuclear-radiological, biological, and chemical contamination), and resources within an assigned location.
Also, force-oriented zone reconnaissance is assigned to gain detailed information about enemy forces within the zone, or when the enemy situation is vague by which the information concerning cross-country traffic-ability is desired.The reconnaissance provides the commander with a detailed picture of how the enemy has occupied the zone, enabling him to choose the appropriate course-of-action.
As the platoon conducts this type of zone reconnaissance, its emphasis is on determining the enemy's locations, strengths, and weaknesses. This is the most thorough and complete reconnaissance mission and therefore is very time-intensive.
Marine expeditionary units are the smallest air-ground task forces (MAGTF) in the United States Fleet Marine Force. Each MEU is an expeditionary quick reaction force, deployed and ready for immediate response to any crisis, whether it be natural disaster or combat missions. Marine amphibious unit (MAU) was the name used until the late 1980s.
Force Reconnaissance (FORECON) is one of the United States Marine Corps' special operations capable forces (SOC), and provides essential elements of military intelligence to the command element of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), by supporting their task force commanders, and their subordinate operating units of the Fleet Marine Force (FMF).
ISTAR stands for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance. In its macroscopic sense, ISTAR is a practice that links several battlefield functions together to assist a combat force in employing its sensors and managing the information they gather.
The United States Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM), also known as NSWC or WARCOM is the Naval component of United States Special Operations Command, the unified command responsible for overseeing and conducting the nation's special operations and missions.
The United States Marine Corps Reconnaissance Battalions are the Special Operations Capable reconnaissance assets of Marine Air-Ground Task Force that provide division-level ground and amphibious reconnaissance to the Ground Combat Element within the United States Marine Corps. Division reconnaissance teams are employed to observe and report on enemy activity and other information of military significance in close operations. The Military Occupational Specialty code for Reconnaissance Marine is 0321.
Mobile guerrilla forces were guerrilla warfare elements in the Vietnam War in 1966 and 1967. United States Army special forces trained and led the units, created in the fall of 1966, during refinement and amplification of the mobile strike concept.
Reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) refers to a joint doctrine of reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition conducted by the United States Armed Forces. RSTA operations are designed to support military operations at a strategic, operational, or tactical level, either by dedicated RSTA forces or those which possess the capability.
The Cavalry Scout is the job title used to refer to someone who has achieved the military occupational specialty of 19D Armored Reconnaissance Specialist in the Combat Arms branch of the United States Army. As with all enlisted soldiers in the U.S. Cavalry, the person holding the Scout specialization will still be referred to as a ”Trooper”, the traditional colloquialism denoted in the Cavalry's Order of the Spur.
The American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) is a United States federal government program created by the Secretary of the Interior in 1991, with the aim of preserving historic battlefields in the United States. In 1996, Congress signed into law the American Battlefield Protection Act, which officially authorized the ABPP. The program operates under the American Battlefield Protection Program Authorization as of 2009.
Special reconnaissance (SR) is conducted by small units of highly trained military personnel, usually from special forces units or military intelligence organizations, who operate behind enemy lines, avoiding direct combat and detection by the enemy. As a role, SR is distinct from commando operations, but both are often carried out by the same units. The SR role frequently includes covert direction of air and missile attacks, in areas deep behind enemy lines, placement of remotely monitored sensors and preparations for other special forces. Like other special forces, SR units may also carry out direct action and unconventional warfare, including guerrilla operations.
202nd Coastal Ranger Company is an amphibious special operations unit within the Swedish Amphibious Corps, which is the coastal defence arm of the Swedish Navy.
Amphibious reconnaissance is ground and naval reconnaissance in the littoral area bordering coastal or ocean areas. Initially, it is used for preliminary reconnaissance in collecting pertinent information about the beachhead in its permeability and usability for main landing assaults. Specialized recon patrols skilled in boatswain and combatant diving using either amphibious vehicles or rubber crafts to obtain and collect information on the enemy, the topology ashore and inland, and hydrographic surveys for underwater obstacles and mines, and for the purpose of affecting a deception.
The United States Marine Corps' Maritime Special Purpose Force, or MSPF, are a unique specialized sub-unit that are drawn from the Marine Expeditionary Units' (MEU) major subordinate elements. They are special operations capable forces deployed to give the commanders low profile, two-platoon surgical emplacement in the accessible littoral regions. The MSPF provides the enhanced operational capability and precision skills to complement, enable, and execute selected conventional, maritime special operations. They can also perform operations not resident in traditional amphibious raid companies.
Terrestrial reconnaissance, or ground recon, is a type of reconnaissance that is employed along the elements of ground warfare. It is the collection of intelligence that strictly involves routes, areas, zones (terrain-oriented); and the enemy (force-oriented). Ground reconnaissance is considered to be the most effective type of reconnaissance but also the slowest method in obtaining information about the terrain and enemy.
The United States Marine Corps Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions, or LAR Battalions, are fast and mobilized armored terrestrial reconnaissance units that conduct reconnaissance-in-force (RIF) ahead of the battalion landing teams or division infantry forces. They mainly provide the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and the Marine Expeditionary Unit commanders vital intelligence of the enemy.
The United States Marine Corps is assigned by the National Command Authority to be primarily the Department of Defense's expeditionary force-in-readiness, and the Department of the Navy's contingent landing force—amphibious by nature. Before 2006, the Marine Corps was the only branch of the Armed Forces that did not have any of its special warfare elements participating in the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), due to confining its special operations capabilities only for the purpose to the Fleet Marine Force.
The reconnaissance mission within the United States Marine Corps is divided into two distinct but complementary aspects; Marine Division Recon and Force Reconnaissance.
The United States Marine Corps Scout and Sniper companies and the Scouts (Tank) companies of the tank battalions were the first among the division's reconnaissance assets. They existed around the same exact moment when 1st and 2nd Marine Division were created. In 1941, each regiment had a scout and sniper platoon. They were assigned to the regimental Headquarters and Service Company. These companies were used in variety of tasks and, on occasion in severe combat, were used as "spare" rifle companies. When 6th Marine Division deactivated after the end of World War II, its recon assets also deactivated. Only the current Marine Division Recon Battalions that exist today hold history reference to the Scout and Sniper Companies.
1st Force Reconnaissance Company conducts deep reconnaissance and direct action raids in support of I Marine Expeditionary Force requirements across the range of military operations to include crisis response, expeditionary operations and major combat operations. 1st Force Recon Company was deactivated 26 October 2006 and the majority of the personnel were used to create 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion.
The United States armed forces classify reconnaissance missions as "close" or "short-range"; "distant" or "medium-range"; and "deep" or "long-range".
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