What is Reconnaissance?

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What is Reconnaissance?

Post by Ryan » Sat Jun 18, 2011 9:31 am

From Wikipedia:


This article is about military reconnaissance. For other uses of reconnaissance, see Reconnaissance (disambiguation). For monitoring activity over a period, see surveillance. For civilian usages, such as civil and geodetic engineering, see land surveying and hydrographic survey.


Reconnaissance is a mission to obtain information by visual observation or other detection methods, about the activities and resources of an enemy or potential enemy, or about the meteorologic, hydrographic, or geographic characteristics of a particular area.

Reconnaissance, also known as scouting, is the military term for performing a preliminary survey, especially an exploratory military survey, to gain or collect information. Primarily, it refers to preliminary reconnaissance; reconnaissance used to determine the enemy force's disposition and intention; gathering information about an enemy's composition and capabilities, along with the lay of the land and weather conditions through direct observation. Reconnaissance is generally an intelligence-gathering asset of human intelligence (HUMINT), under the intelligence cycle of intelligence collection management.

Often referred to as recce (British & Commonwealth, pronunciation /ˈre.ki/ in IPA, sounds like WRECK-ee) or recon (USA), the associated verb is reconnoitre in British English or reconnoiter in American English.

Examples of reconnaissance include patrolling by troops (rangers, scouts, or military intelligence specialists), ships or submarines, manned/unmanned aircraft, satellites, or by setting up covert observation posts. Espionage normally is not reconnaissance, because reconnaissance is a military force's operating ahead of its main forces; spies are non-combatants operating behind enemy lines.


1 History
2 Elementary
2.1 Aerial
2.2 Naval
2.3 Spatial
2.4 Terrestrial
3 Discipline
3.1 Terrain-oriented
3.2 Force-oriented
3.2.1 Reconnaissance-in-force
3.2.2 Reconnaissance-by-fire
3.2.3 Reconnaissance-push
3.2.4 Reconnaissance-pull
4 Types
4.1 Area
4.2 Zone
4.3 Route
5 Gallery
6 See also
7 References
8 External links


Traditionally, reconnaissance was a role that was adopted by the cavalry. From horses to vehicles...for warriors throughout history, commanders procured their ability to have speed and mobility, to mount and dismount, during maneuver warfare. Military commanders favored specialized small units for speed and mobility, to gain valuable information about the terrain and enemy before sending the main (or majority) troops into the area; screening, covering force, pursuit and exploitation roles.



Aerial reconnaissance is reconnaissance carried out by aircraft (of all types including balloons and unmanned aircraft). The purpose is to surveying weather conditions, map terrain, and military purposes for observing tangible structures, particular areas, and movement of enemy forces.


Naval reconnaissance is the preliminary survey and hydrography of oceanic brown, green, and blue waters. It involves the scouting of underwater topography, ocean currents, meteorology; and militarily, naval force commanders implement aerial and satellite reconnaissance to complement data collection for projection of his fleet, or observation of naval enemy forces (when used in conjunction with force-oriented reconnaissance).

Spatial (Spy Satellites):

Military commanders utilize satellite imagery and data interpretation, for observation of enemy forces (when used in conjunction with force-oriented reconnaissance), geography, and meteorological forecast.


Terrestrial reconnaissance (or ground reconnaissance) is the preliminary survey of the regions inland that are not concordance, but not limited to, the littoral and coastal areas. By military standards, it is the main elementary of reconnaissance, in which it support the engagements concerning ground warfare; the preliminary reconnaissance of terrain and its features, and other static and/or passive features, weather, or enemy forces (when used in conjunction with force-oriented reconnaissance). Ground reconnaissance may correlate to the coastal and maritime regions, a practice called "amphibious" reconnaissance, which is a conformity of reconnaissance to amphibious warfare.


There are two types of reconnaissance:

terrain-oriented reconnaissance, a survey of the terrain (its features, weather, and other natural observations), and
force-oriented reconnaissance which focuses on the enemy forces (number, equipment, activities, disposition etc.)

The techniques and objectives of both are not mutually exclusive; it is up to the commander whether they are carried out separately or by the same unit.

Terrain-oriented and Force-oriented

Special reconnaissance

Special reconnaissance (SR) is conducted by small units of highly trained military personnel, usually from special forces units or military intelligence organisations, who operate behind enemy lines, avoiding direct combat and detection by the enemy. As a role, SR is distinct from commando operations, although 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 (DA) and unconventional warfare (UW), including guerrilla operations.

SR was recognized as a key special operations capability by a former US Secretary of Defense William J. Perry: "Special Reconnaissance is the conduct of environmental reconnaissance, target acquisition, area assessment, post-strike assessment, emplacement and recovery of sensors, or support of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) operations.

In terms of international law, SR is not regarded as espionage if personnel are in uniform, according to the Hague Convention of 1907, or the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. However, some countries do not honor these legal protections, as was the case with the Nazi "Commando Orders" of World War II, which were held to be illegal at the Nuremberg Trials.

In intelligence terms, SR is a human intelligence (HUMINT) collection discipline. Its operational control is likely to be inside a compartmented cell of the HUMINT, or possibly the operations, staff functions. Since such personnel are trained for intelligence collection as well as other missions, they will usually maintain clandestine communications to the HUMINT organization, and will be systematically prepared for debriefing. They operate significantly farther than the furthest forward friendly scouting and surveillance units; they may be tens to hundreds of kilometers deeper.


1 History
2 A spectrum of reconnaissance capabilities: scouts to LRS to SR
3 Appropriate missions
3.1 Intelligence related missions
3.1.1 Hydrographic, meteorological and geographic reconnaissance
3.1.2 IMINT
3.1.3 SIGINT (and EW)
3.1.4 MASINT and remote surveillance
3.1.6 Specific Data Collection
3.2 Offensive missions
3.2.1 Target acquisition
3.2.2 Directing fire support
3.2.3 Offset GOLIS
3.2.4 Ground-aided precision strike: initial experience
3.2.5 Enhanced GAPS Basic fire support safety Reducing friendly fire incidents
3.2.6 Poststrike reconnaissance
3.2.7 Doctrinal changes resulting from new weapons
4 Operational techniques
4.1 Infiltration
4.2 Support
4.3 Exfiltration
5 SR Communications-Electronics
6 Reporting during and after the mission
7 Examples
8 See also
9 References


While SR has been a function of armies since ancient times, specialized units with this task date from the lead-up to World War II.

In 1938, the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and the War Office both set up special reconnaissance departments. These later formed the basis of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), which conducted operations in occupied Europe.

During the Winter War (1939–40) and the Continuation War (1941–44), Finland employed several kaukopartio (long range patrol) units.

From 1941, volunteers from various countries formed, under the auspices of the British Army, the Long Range Desert Group and Special Air Service, initially for service in the North African Campaign.

In 1942, following the onset of the Pacific War, the Allied Intelligence Bureau, was set up in Australia. Drawing on personnel from Australian, British, New Zealand and other Allied forces, it included Coastwatchers and "special units" that undertook reconnaissance behind enemy lines.

The US Government established the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), modelled on the British SOE, in June 1942. Following the end of the war OSS became the basis for the CIA

During the Vietnam War, the existing U.S. Army Special Forces trained new Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols, formed for the purpose of locating enemy guerrilla units, as well as in artillery spotting, intelligence gathering, forward air control, and bomb damage assessment.
[edit] A spectrum of reconnaissance capabilities: scouts to LRS to SR

Conventional military forces, at battalion level, will often have scout platoons that can perform limited reconnaissance beyond the main line of troops. Reorganized brigade combat teams, the new Unit of Action, are gaining reconnaissance squadrons (i.e., light battalion sized units). Traditional higher command levels had specialist Long Range Surveillance (LRS) detachments at the division level and LRS companies at corps level, although there is a trend to increase organic reconnaissance capability. Still, LRS do not substitute for the capabilities of SR-capable units. LRS units, logically, should conduct all operations within their capabilities, leaving only the SR missions for the true special operations forces (SOF). Long-range surveillance detachment teams (LRSD) operate forward of battalion reconnaissance teams and cavalry scouts in the division area of interest. The long-range surveillance company teams operate forward of the LRSD teams and behind most special operations forces. The duration of an LRS mission depends on equipment and supplies the team must carry, movement distance to the objective area, and resupply availability. LRS teams normally operate up to seven days without resupply depending on terrain and weather.

A true SR unit has capabilities beyond LRS. SR units tend to be better armed, since they may have to defend themselves if they are detected, but their exfiltration support needs time to get to them. If they were operating against NATO, Soviet Spetsnaz units on SR missions were expected to go to immediate Direct Action (DA) against any nuclear delivery systems they encountered. During the 1991 Gulf War, British SAS and United States Army and Air Force Special Operations Forces units were sent on SR to find mobile Iraqi SCUD launchers, originally to direct air strikes onto them. When air support was delayed, however, the patrols might attack key SCUD system elements with their organic weapons and explosives. See The Great SCUD Hunt.

While there are obvious risks to doing so, SR-trained units can operate out of uniform. They may use motorcycles, four-wheel-drive vehicles, or multiple helicopter lifts in their area of operations, or have mountaineering or underwater capability. Most SR units are trained in advanced helicopter movement and at least basic parachuting; some SR will have HAHO and HALO advanced parachute capability.

SR will have more organic support capabilities, including long-range communications, possibly SIGINT and other means of collecting technical intelligence, and usually at least one medical technician who can do more than basic first aid.

See Special Reconnaissance organizations for national units. All these organizations have special operations roles, with SR often by specialists within them. Certain organizations are tasked for response involving areas contaminated by chemicals, biological agents, or radioactivity.

Given that SR is conducted by military forces, and reconnaissance is a basic military skill, what factors make a mission "special"? There are two aspects, one being the means of operating in the desired area, and the other being the nature of the mission. In US Army doctrine, there are five basic factors, all of which need elaboration:

Physical distances. The area of operations may be well beyond the forward line of troops, and require special skills to reach the area.
Political considerations. Clandestine insertion also may be a requirement. If there is a requirement to work with local personnel, language skills and political awareness may be critical.
Lack of required special skills and expertise. The most basic requirement for SR is to be able to remain unobserved, which may take special skills and equipment. If there is a requirement to collect intelligence, skills anywhere from advanced photography to remote sensor operation may be required.
Threat capabilities. This usually relates to the need to stay clandestine, potentially against an opposing force with sophisticated intelligence capabilities. Such capabilities may be organic to a force, or be available from a sponsoring third country.
Follow-on special forces missions. This is the concept of preparing for other functions, such as Unconventional Warfare (UW) (i.e., guerrilla) or Foreign Internal Defense (FID) (i.e., counter-guerrilla) operations.

Appropriate missions

The special forces units that perform SR are usually dedicated to a variety of functions, and an SR mission may, quite reasonably, be one of information gathering in support of another function, such as counter-insurgency, foreign internal defense (FID), guerrilla/unconventional warfare (UW), or direct action (DA). Broadly speaking, these are all intelligence-related.

Another class of mission deals with locating targets, and planning, guiding, and evaluating attacks against them.

Target analysis could go in either place. If air or missile strikes are to be delivered after the SR team leaves the AO, the SR aspect is intelligence, but if the strikes are to be delivered while the SR team is present, possibly corrected by it, and the SR team will do post-strike assessment, the SR mission is fires-related.

Intelligence related missions

Every SR mission will collect intelligence, if only incidentally. Competent SR teams will, before starting a mission, study all available and relevant information on the area of operations (AO). On their mission, they will confirm material that was uncertain but true, correct information that was partially accurate, and refute incorrect information.

Assessment, whether by clandestine SR or overt study teams, are a prerequisite for other special operations missions, such as UW or FID. Before DA or counter-terror (CT), the reconnaissance will usually need to be clandestine.
[edit] Hydrographic, meteorological and geographic reconnaissance

Mission planners may not know key information that will tell them if a given force can move over a selected route. These variables may be hydrographic, meteorological, and geographic in nature. SR teams can be tasked to resolve trafficability or fordability, or locate obstacles or barriers.

MASINT sensors exist for most of these requirements. The SR team can emplace remotely operated weather instrumentation. Portable devices to determine the depth and bottom characteristics of a body of water are readily available, both as commercial fishing equipment, and more sophisticated devices for naval operations.

While there are remote-viewing MASINT sensors to determine the trafficability of a beach, these are experimental. Sometimes, simple observation, or use of a penetrometer, or weighted cone that measures how deeply weights will sink into the surface, are needed, but these have to be done at the actual site. Beach measurements are apt to be assigned to naval SR units such as the United States Navy SEALs or UK Special Boat Service.

Beach and shallow water reconnaissance, immediately before an amphibious landing, is direct support to the invasion, not SR. SR would determine if a given beach is suitable for any landing, well before the operational decision to invade.

There is a blurred line between SR and direct action in support of amphibious operations, when an outlying island is captured, with the primary goal of using it as a surveillance base as well as for support functions. While the attack by elements of the 77th Infantry Division on Kerama Retto before the main battle was a large scale operation by SR standards, it is an early example. Much more in the SR/DA realm is Operation Trudy Jackson, the capture, before the Battle of Inchon, by a joint CIA/military team led by Navy LT Eugene Clark, landed at Yonghung-do, an island in the mouth of the harbor. Clark apparently led numerous SR and DA operations during the Korean War, some of which may still be classified.


Basic photography and sketching, should be a skill of all personnel on SR missions. More advanced photographic technique may involve additional training of SR personnel, or attaching specialists if appropriate.

The availability of lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles with imagery and other intelligence collection capability is potentially useful for SR, since small UAVs have low observability. Again, either members of the SR organization can be trained to use them, or specialists can be attached. Depending on the UAV, it may transmit what it sees, using one or more sensors, either to the SR team or a monitoring headquarters. Potential sensors include stabilized and highly magnified photography, low-light television, thermal imagers and imaging radar. Larger UAVs, which could be under the operational control of the SR team, could use additional sensors including portable acoustic and electro-optical systems.


When there is a ground SIGINT requirement deep behind enemy lines, an appropriate technical detachment may be attached to an appropriate SR element. For SIGINT operations, the basic augmentation to United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance (Force Recon) is a 6-man detachment from a Radio Reconnaissance Platoon. There is a SIGINT platoon within the Intelligence Company of the new Marine Special Operations Support Group.

Army Special Forces have the Support Operations Team-Alpha that can operate with a SF team, or independently. This is a low-level collection team, which typically has four personnel. Their primary equipment is the AN/PRD-13 SOF SIGINT Manpack System (SSMS), with capabilities including direction-finding capability from 2 MHz to 2 GHz, and monitoring from 1 to 1400 MHz.

The British 18 (UKSF) Signal Regiment provides SIGINT personnel, including from the preexisting 264 (SAS) Signals Squadron and SBS Signals Squadron to provide specialist SIGINT, secure communications, and information technology augmentation to operational units. They may be operating in counterterror roles in Iraq in the joint UK/US TASK FORCE BLACK.

If the unit needs to conduct offensive electronic warfare, clandestinity requires that, at the very least, that any ECM devices be operated remotely, either by the SR force or, preferably, by remote electronic warfare personnel after the SR team leaves the area.

MASINT and remote surveillance

Passive MASINT sensors can be used tactically by the SR mission. SR personnel also may emplace unmanned MASINT sensors, such as seismic, magnetic, and other personnel and vehicle detectors, for subsequent remote activation, so their data transmission does not interfere with clandestinity. Remote sensing, in the broadest sense, began with US operations against the Laotian part of the Ho Chi Minh trail, in 1961. Under CIA direction, Lao nationals were trained to observe and photograph traffic on the Trail. This produced quite limited results, and, in 1964, Project LEAPING LENA parachuted in teams of Vietnamese Montagnards led by Vietnamese Special Forces.

The very limited results from LEAPING LENA led to two changes. First, US-led SR teams, under Project DELTA, sent in US-led teams. Second, these Army teams worked closely with US Air Force Forward Air Controllers (FAC), which were enormously helpful in directing US air attacks by high-speed fighter-bombers, BARREL ROLL in northern Laos and Operation STEEL TIGER. While the FACs immediately helped, air-ground cooperation improved significantly with the use of remote geophysical MASINT sensors, although MASINT had not yet been coined as a term.

The original sensors, a dim ancestor of today's technologies, started with air-delivered sensors under Operation Igloo White, such as air-delivered Acoubuoy and Spikebuoy acoustic sensors. These cued monitoring aircraft, which sent the data to a processing center in Thailand, from which target information was sent to the DELTA teams.

Closer to today's SR-emplaced sensors were the Mini-Seismic Intrusion Detector (MINISID), unlike other sensors employed along the trail, was specifically designed to be delivered and implanted by hand. The MINISID, as well as its smaller version, the MICROSID, was a personnel detection device that was often used in combination with the magnetic intrusiondetector (MAGID). Combining sensors in this way improved the ability of individual sensors to detect different types of targets in a variety of ways, and reduced the number of false alarms. With today's AN/GSQ-187 Improved Remote Battlefield Sensor System (I-REMBASS) is a passive acoustic sensor, which, with other MASINT sensors, detects vehicles and personnel on a battlefield, multiple acoustic, seismic, and magnetic sensors combine modes to discriminate real targets. It will be routine for SR units both to emplace such sensors for regional monitoring by higher headquarters' remote sensing centers, but also as an improvement over tripwires and other improvised warnings for the patrol.

Passive acoustic sensors provide additional measurements that can be compared with signatures, and used to complement other sensors. For example, a ground search radar may not be able to differentiate between a tank and a truck moving at the same speed. Adding acoustic information, however, may quickly distinguish between them.


Capture of enemy equipment for TECHINT analysis is a basic SR mission. Capture of enemy equipment for examination by TECHINT specialists may be a principal part of SR patrols and larger raids, such as the WWII Operation Biting raid on Saint-Jouin-Bruneval, France, to capture a German Würzburg radar. They also captured a German radar technician.

As is not atypical for such operations, a technical specialist, radar engineer Flight Sergeant C.W.H. Cox, was attached to the SR unit. On a number of occasions, technical specialists without SR training, some taking their first parachute jump, have gone with TECHINT-oriented missions.

Cox told them what to take, and what to photograph that could not be moved. Cox had significant knowledge of British radar, and there have been conflicting reports that the force was under orders to kill him rather than let him be captured. This was suggested an after-the-action rumor, as Cox was a technician, and the true radar expert that could not be captured, Don Preist, stayed offshore but in communications with the raiders. Preist also had ELINT equipment to gain information on the radar.

While publicizing this operation helped British morale, it was poor security. Had the force destroyed the site and retreated without any notice, the Germans might have suspected, but could not know, what technology had been compromised. As a result, the Germans fortified their radar sites, and the British, realizing similar raids could be directed at them, moved their radar research center, TRE farther inland.

A mixture of SR, DA, and seizing opportunities characterized Operation Rooster 53, originally planned as a mission to locate and disable a radar, but that turned into an opportunity to capture the radar and, flying in overloaded helicopters, to bring the entire radar back to the electronic TECHINT analysts. This was a mission by Israel, centered around its Sayeret Matkal reconnaissance unit.

Specific Data Collection

SR teams may be assigned to observe and measure specific site or enemy facility information, in a manner similar to that done for targeting, but in this case for ground operations rather than suppression by fire. Regular ground forces, for example, might need a road and bridge surveyed to know whether heavy vehicles can cross it. The SR may be able to obtain the needed information with observation, photography, and other measurements, or they may need to be sure that an engineering specialist, preferably from a special operations organization, augments the team. It may also include forensic data collection.

SR commanders need to make very sure that missions of these types cannot be performed by the organic reconnaissance and other elements of a maneuver force commander that is supported by the SR organization, as well as other supporting reconnaissance services such as IMINT.

For example, during the Falklands War of 1982, the UK Special Air Service delivered, using helicopters, eight 4-man patrols deep into enemy-held territory up to 20 miles (32 km) from their hide sites, several weeks before the main conventional force landings. Each man carried equipment to last him up to 25 days or more due to resupply limitations (cf. the 7-day limits of conventional LRS patrols discussed above). The patrols surveyed major centers of enemy activity. The patrols reconnoitred the Argentine positions at night, and then, due to the lack of cover, moved to distant observation posts (OP). Information gathered by these teams was relayed to the fleet by secure radio that was still not impervious from SIGINT that could locate their OPs. There was no common understanding of the threat of Argentine direction finding, and different teams developed individual solutions. Both the value of the information, and the stress on the SR teams, was tremendous. Their activities were a major part of the force, limited in its sensors, developing an accurate operational picture of the opposition.

Offensive missions

SR units do have the capability, as opposed to LRS troops, to engage targets of opportunity, but current doctrine emphasizes avoiding direct engagement as much as possible, concentrating on directing air (e.g., GAPS as well as CAS), artillery, and other heavy fire support onto targets. The doctrine of bringing increasingly more accurate and potent firepower, however, has been evolving significantly since the early days of Vietnam.

SR units are trained for target analysis, which combines both engineer reconnaissance and special forces assessment to identify targets for subsequent attack by fire support, conventional units, or special operations (i.e., direct action or unconventional warfare behind enemy lines). They evaluate targets using the "CARVER" mnemonic:

Criticality: How important, in a strategic context, is the target? What effect will its destruction have on other elements of the target system? Is it more important to have real-time surveillance of the target (e.g., a road junction) than its physical destruction?
Accessibility: Can an SR team reach or sense the target, keep it under surveillance for the appropriate time, and then exfiltrate after the target is struck?
Recuperability: When the target is destroyed by fire support or direct action, in the case of DA missions, can the enemy repair, replace, or bypass it quickly, minimum resources? If so, it may not be a viable target.
Vulnerability: do SR (including DA) and supporting units have the capability to destroy the target?
Effect: Beyond pure military effect what are the political, economic, legal, and psychological effects of destroying the target? How would the attack affect local civilians?
Recognizability: Can the target be recognized clearly, by SR and attack forces, under the prevailing weather, light, and in its terrain? If there are critical points within the target, they also must be recognizable by the means of destruction used.

Target acquisition

There are some differences between the general and the SR process of target acquisition: conventional units identify targets that directly affects the performance of their mission, while SR target acquisition includes identifying enemy locations or resources of strategic significance to a much wider scope. Examples of difficult strategic targets included Ho Chi Minh trail infrastructures and logistic concentrations, and the Scud hunt during Operation Desert Storm.

SR units detect, identify, and locate targets to be engaged by lethal or nonlethal attack systems under the control of higher headquarters. SR also provides information on weather, obscuring factors such as terrain masking and camouflage, friendly or civilian presence in the target area, and other information that will be needed in targeting by independent attack systems.

During Operation Desert Storm, the US senior commanders, Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf, were opposed to using ground troops to search for Iraqi mobile Scud launchers. Under Israeli pressure to send its own SOF teams into western Iraq, and the realization that British SAS were already hunting Scuds, US Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney proposed using US SR teams as well as SAS. The senior British officer of the Coalition, Peter de la Billiere, was himself a former SAS commander, and was well-disposed to SAS use. While Schwarzkopf was known to be a general opponent of SOF, Cheney approved the use of US SOF to hunt for the launchers.

On February 7, US SR teams joined British teams in the hunt for mobile Scud launchers. Open sources contain relatively little operational information about U.S. SOF activities in western Iraq. Some basic elements have emerged, however. Operating at night, Air Force MH-53J Pave Low and Army MH-47E helicopters would ferry SOF ground teams and their specially equipped four-wheel-drive vehicles from bases in Saudi Arabia to Iraq.The SOF personnel would patrol during the night and hide during the day. When targets were discovered, Air Force Combat Control Teams accompanying the ground forces would communicate over secure radios to AWACS.

Directing fire support

SR, going back to Vietnam, were far more potent when they directed external firepower onto the target than engaging it with their own weapons. Early coordination between SR and air support in Vietnam depended on visual and voice communications, without any electronics to make the delivery precise. SR teams could throw colored smoke grenades as a visual reference, but they needed to be in dangerously close range to the enemy to do so. A slightly improved method involved their directing a Forward Air Controller aircraft to fire marking rockets onto the target, but the method was fraught with chances for error.

In Vietnam, the support was usually aircraft-delivered, although in some cases, the target might be in range of cannon artillery. Today, the distance to which SR teams penetrate will usually be out of the range of artillery, but ground-launched missiles might support them. In either case, directing any support relies on one of two basic guidance paradigms:

Go-Onto-Target (GOT) for moving targets,
Go-Onto-Location-in-Space (GOLIS) for fixed targets

For close air support, the assumption had been that rapidly changing tactical situations, including sudden changes in geometry between friendly forces and the target, GOT was assumed. If the attack was to be guided from the ground, either the target would be directly illuminated with some equivalent way of putting a virtual "hit me here" indication on the target, such as a laser designator.

Offset GOLIS

An alternative, although less preferred because it was much more error-prone, was to put a reference point on the ground that told the weapon "hit over there in relation to my position." A smoke grenade, indeed, was a reference point, but an imprecise one from the air.

Offset beacons work reasonably well for direct-fire helicopter and fixed-wing gunships (e.g., AC-130), and for "dumb" bomb drops by fighter-bombers. Offset is not as accurate as straight-line firing, but, especially when night or weather effects limit visibility, it may be the only alternative. Offset beacons, as well as passive reflectors, can be used for radar attack, although it is not as accurate as radar. Gunships typically make multiple passes, with the SR team air controller giving corrections by voice.

Offset firing is not as accurate as direct mode of fire and are normally used in poor weather conditions with the ground commander or team leader calling misses and corrections to the aircraft. As a rule, the shorter the offset distance, the more accurate the weapon.

The early Afghanistan attempts still required voice coordination to give the bomber the coordinates. This led to one "friendly fire" incident that killed three Special Forces soldiers and wounded 19 others. A controller had been using a hand-held GPS receiver, whose battery failed. On replacing the battery, the unit reinitialized to show the controller's own position, not the offset from it he had been targeting. He passed the coordinates to a B-52 crew, who had no way of knowing it was the wrong position. They entered it as given, and the JDAM flew accurately and unfortunately onto its own controller's position.

Ground-aided precision strike: initial experience

It had long been assumed that close air support needed direct target marking by a ground or air observer, typically with a laser. Another approach was to specify the target in relation to a beacon. SR had had the capability to use laser designators for the GOT model, but that required they stay in line of sight of the target, possibly exposing themselves. Another model, more precise than the smoke grenade, was to place a radio or radar offset beacon near the target, but the SR troops still face the problem of precise angular and distance measurement from the beacon to the target. In the Afghanistan campaign of 2001, a new technique was adopted, only recently believed possible: ground-aided precision strike (GAPS). To put GAPS in practice, MG Daniel Leaf, USAF Director of Operational Requirements for Air and Space Operations said, in 2002, "If you had offered the B-1 with JDAMs in direct support of ground forces as a solution 10 years ago, I would have laughed heartily because it’s not what we envisioned." The JDAM's principal guidance mechanism is inertial, with a GPS correction option: a GOLIS model.

"CAS and GAPS operations do not care what color of airpower is delivering the weapons. Certain segments of the USAF wanted to break out the use of heavy bombers and term it “bomber CAS. However, at the joint CAS symposium held at Eglin, the Navy and Marine Corps were successful in not letting the Air Force call this by a different name.

"If heavy bombers are supporting ground troops in the traditional CAS role, then a name change for that aspect is not needed. [What is being discussed, however, is a new mission:] "Precision firepower called in by TACPs on the ground [is] GAPS and [needs its own doctrine]. The situation in Afghanistan was unique; there was not a large-standing opposing army that was conducting maneuvers to bring firepower to bear against our forces... Airpower was the maneuvering element that was supported by the small fire support teams on the ground. The small ground units have been instrumental in calling in the precise air strikes [especially when Army Special Forces were augmented with Air Force combat controllers]. This emerging mission goes beyond the joint definition of CAS.

At first, US Special Forces teams used COTS device, called the Viper, which combined off-the-shelf Leica Geosystems Viper laser rangefinder binoculars, with integral compass and inclinometer but no GPS, to triangulate targets in Afghanistan. The Viper is capable of a lasing distance from 25 meters to 4,000 meters. The unit runs off of a commercial camera battery. The Special Forces operator radioed their own location, as determined by a separate GPS, and gave Viper-derived coordinates relative to that position, to the bomber. Voice communication did not provide full situation awareness for all forces involved.

General Chuck Horner, the joint air commander during Desert Storm, likened it to giving infantrymen a "2000 pound hand grenade" (i.e., a 2000 pound JDAM guided bomb) from a long-range bomber loitering overhead.

Enhanced GAPS

In the Air Force GAPS doctrine, Army SR teams are augmented with Air Force combat controllers. While Army SR can call in support, air force combat controllers [improved accuracy] in calling in air strikes to reduce the enemy threat and minimize the ground resistance in the battle for the Balk Valley in northern Afghanistan.

The Viper system, however, allowed communications between one team and only one aircraft. More advanced systems allow network-centric warfare that can send the optimal aircraft to the target, using linkages with the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS), especially the Link-16 variant that can send information to fighters and Army Enhanced Position-Location Reporting System (EPLRS) terminals.

The current combined Modular Advance Reconnaissance System (MARS) combines the Viper laser rangefinder, GPS receiver, and appropriate computing and display. The terminal controller would then transmit the coordinates via voice radio to the aircraft. Systems that give better situation awareness are under development.

Basic fire support safety

In fire support, the aircraft does not just need a position to destroy the target. In CAS operations there will always be friendly troops in near proximity to the enemy. In order to bomb the target without killing the friendlies, the aircrew must be in voice contact with the TACP who guides the aircraft to the correct target. In other words, it is not enough just to lase the target and pass the location to the aircrew while calling GAPS. The MARS equipment provided the location of the target and the terminal controller position on a moving map display to the aircraft would greatly benefit situational awareness. After a friendly fire incident, however, deficiencies in giving the bomber the precise location of the SR team became apparent.

To assist the bomber in identifying the target, the Air Force combat controller with the SR could lase prominent terrain features as well as the target.The aircrew could watch their aircraft on a display as it flew to the correct target. Other possible applications of this electro-optical viewing system could include images of the post-strike damage.

Reducing friendly fire incidents

The friendly fire incident, caused by human factors failures in addition to battery replacement and reinitialization of the GPS not to the target location but that of the SR team, could have been avoided. It could have been avoided if someone, on the bomber, on a command & control aircraft, or at an operations center, had full awareness of the situation. Situational awareness, in this case, means having positive confirmation of several key data:

Positions, and movement if any, of any friendly forces and civilians in the area
Positions, and movement if any, of the target
Means by which the TACP identified the target and the precision of those means, and positive verification of the TACP's identity
A means of communicating with the TACP, and with the bomber if another center is controlling the attack
Location, course, and speed of all aircraft that could deliver the requested attack
Nature of the weapon requested, including its delivery precision

Accurate situational awareness also requires minimizing human error in data entry. Inputting errors are fallibilities that can be removed from the system. US Air Force Chief of Staff John P. Jumper said data is best fed directly into a weapon and then merely confirmed by the human in the loop. Manual data entry, particularly in the cockpit, should be avoided wherever possible.

A radar or other electronic beacon, separate from the targeting system, meets the first requirement. For example, the US is providing the SMP-1000 beacons to TACP parties. It weighs approximately one pound, and the B-52 radar can detect it from 90 miles away within 1000 feet of precision.

Another system, the Grenadier beyond line-of-sight reporting and tracking (BRAT) provides more information than the simple beacon, but is not man-portable. A smaller version, the minitransmitter—MTX—system, is under development, which will not rely only on the bomber's radar, but will have its own GPS receiver and radio transmitter to send .s grid location, speed, direction, and mission status of the aircraft and the TACP. Alternate developments also are underway.

Poststrike Reconnaissance

Poststrike reconnaissance is the distant or close visual, photographic, and/or electronic surveillance of a specific point or area of operational or strategic significance that has been subjected to attack (lethal or nonlethal). Its purpose is to measure results of such activity. SR units carry out these missions when no other capabilities, such as conventional ground forces, local scouts and aviation, UAVs and other systems under the control of higher headquarters, and national-level intelligence collection capabilities cannot obtain the needed information.

Doctrinal changes resulting from new weapons

JDAM has brought a new dimension to the GAPS mission. Rules of engagement changes are necessary to allow full-unrestricted use of this capability. Bombers and other aircraft can deliver the JDAM precisely on known coordinates through the weather, miles away from the target. The terminal controller will not have the delivering aircraft in sight. Different ROE that is flexible enough to support JDAM deliveries must be instituted to allow future use of this unique capability.

The decision to fully develop which system is long overdue. If GAPS is to mature, then a positive means for identifying the friendly ground forces to the attacking aircraft is required. A common system that allows the services to talk to one another is necessary. This is the only way to ensure reduction of friendly fire incidents.

Operational techniques

Their mission is not to engage in direct combat. It may be to observe and report, or it may include directing air or artillery attacks on enemy positions. If the latter is the case, the patrol still tries to stay covert; the idea is that the enemy obviously knows they are being attacked, but not who is directing fire.

While it is rare for a single man to do a special reconnaissance mission, it does happen. More commonly, the smallest unit is a two-man sniper team. Even though snipers teams' basic mission is to shoot enemy personnel or equipment, they are skilled in concealment and observation, and can carry out pure reconnaissance missions of limited durations. The US Marine Corps often detaches sniper teams organic to combat units, to establish clandestine observation posts.

Marine Force Recon Greenside Operations are those in which combat is not expected. US Army Special Forces SR operations commonly are built around 12-man "A detachments" or 6-man "split A detachments". UK Special Air Service operations build up from four-man units and the Chinese can go all the way down to 2 men.


Special reconnaissance teams, depending on training and resources, may enter the area of operations in many ways. They may stay behind, where the unit deliberately stays hidden in an area that is expected to be overrun by advancing enemy forces. They may infiltrate by foot, used when the enemy does not have full view of his own lines, such that skilled soldiers can move through their own front lines and, as a small unit, penetrate those of the enemy. Such movement is most often by night.

They may have mechanical help on the ground, such as tactical four-wheel-drive vehicles (e.g., dune buggies or long-wheelbase Land Rovers) or motorcycles. The British Special Air Service pioneered in vehicle SR, going back to North Africa in WWII. In Desert Storm, US SR forces used medium and heavy helicopters to carry in vehicles for the Scud Hunt.

US Army Special Forces units working with the Afghan Northern Alliance did ride horses, and there may be other pack or riding animals capabilities.

SR units can move by air. They can use a variety of helicopter techniques, using fast disembarking by rope, ladder, or fast exit, at night. Alternatively, they can parachute, typically by night, and using the HALO or HAHO jump technique so their airplane does not alert the enemy.

Appropriately trained and equipped SR personnel can come by sea. They can use boats across inland water or from a surface ship or even a helicopter-launched boat. Another option is underwater movement, by swimming or delivery vehicle, from a submarine or an offshore surface ship. Some highly trained troops, such as United States Navy SEALs or British Special Boat Service may parachute into open water, go underwater, and swim to the target.


Units on short missions may carry all their own supplies, but, on longer missions, will need resupply. Typically, SR units are used to the area of operations, and are quite comfortable with local food if necessary. Since highly secure radios can be detected and located, although a very sophisticated enemy, using airborne or spaceborne receivers, may be needed. It is simply good practice to make transmissions as short and precise as possible. One way of shortening messages is to define a set of codes, typically two-letter, for various prearranged packages of equipment. Those starting with "A" might be for ammunition, "F" for food, and "M" for medical. Burst transmission is another radio security technique.

When long-range or long-duration patrols need resupply, a variety of techniques are used, all involving tradeoffs of security, resupply platform range and stealth, and the type and amount of resupply needed. When the SR patrol is in an area where the enemy knows there might be some patrol activity, helicopters may make a number of quick touchdowns, all but one simply to mislead the enemy. If it is reasonably certain that the enemy knows some patrols are present, but not where, the helicopters may even make some touchdowns more likely to be observed, but leave boobytrapped supplies.

They may need to have wounded personnel replaced, and sometimes evacuated. In some extreme situations, and depending strongly on the particular organization, wounded personnel who cannot travel may be killed by their own side, to avoid capture, with potential interrogation, perhaps under torture, and compromise of the special reconnaissance mission. Killing wounded personnel is described as a feature of Soviet and Russian Spetsnaz doctrine. A variant described for US personnel was explained to a US forward air controller, by a MACV SOG officer,

"If I decide that there’s no way we can effect your rescue [in Cambodia], I’ll order the gunships to fire at you to prevent the enemy from getting their hands on you. I can’t risk having any of the [recon] teams compromised if they take you alive."


Most of the same methods used to infiltrate may be used to exfiltrate. Stay-behind forces may wait until friendly forces arrive in their area.

One of the more common means of exfiltration is by special operations helicopters. There are a number of techniques that do not require the helicopter to land, in which the SR team clips harnesses to ropes or rope ladders, and the helicopter flies away to an area where it is safe for them to come aboard. Small helicopters, such as the MH-6, have benches outside the cabin, onto which trained soldiers can quickly jump and strap in.

SR Communications-Electronics

Without modern military electronics, and occasionally civilian ones, modern SR is fundamentally different than special soldiers that took on such risky missions, but with unreliable communications and a constant danger of being located through them. Human-to-human electronics are not the only critical advance. Navigational systems such as GPS, with backups to them, have immense value. GPS tells the patrol its location, but laser rangefinders and other equipment can tell them the exact location of a target, which they can then send to a fire support unit. Strong encryption, electronic counter-countermeasures, and mechanisms, such as burst transmission to reduce the chance of being located all play a role.

Current trends in secure communications, light and flexible enough for SR patrols to carry, are based on the evolving concept of software defined radio. The immensely flexible Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) is deployed with NATO special operations units, and can provide low-probability-of-intercept encrypted communications between ground units, from ground to aircraft, or from ground to satellite. It lets a SR team use the same radio to operate on several networks, also allowing a reduced number of spare radios. Some of the raiders on the Son Tay raid carried as many as five radios.

JTRS closely integrates with target designators that plug into it, so that a separate radio is not required to communicate with precision-guided munition launchers. While unmanned aerial vehicles obviously involve more technologies than electronics, the availability of man-portable UAVs for launch by the patrol, as well as communications between the patrol and a high-performance UAV, may result in fundamentally new tactical doctrines.

Software defined radio, along with standard information exchange protocols such as JTIDS Link 16, are enabling appropriate communications and situation awareness, reducing the chance of fratricide, across multiple military services. The same basic electronic device can be an Air Force Situation Awareness Data Link (SADL) device that communicates between aircraft doing close air support, but also can exchange mission data with Army Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS) equipment. Again, the same basic equipment interconnects EPLRS ground units.

Reporting during and after the mission

The debriefing may be done by HUMINT officers of their own organization, who are most familiar with their information-gathering techniques. Information from SR patrols is likely to contribute to HUMINT collection, but, depending on the mission, may also contribute to IMINT, TECHINT, SIGINT, and MASINT Some of those techniques may be extremely sensitive and held on a need-to-know basis within the special reconnaissance organization and the all-source intelligence cell.

SR personnel generally report basic information, which may be expressed with the "SALUTE" mnemonic

Equipment. They will provide map overlays, photography, and, when they have UAV/IMINT, SIGINT or MASINT augmentation, sensor data.

SR troops, however, also are trained in much more advanced reporting, such as preparing multiple map overlays of targets, lines of communications, civilian and friendly concentrations, etc. They can do target analysis, and also graph various activities on a polar chart centered either on an arbitrary reference or on the principal target.


Many countries have units with an official special reconnaissance role, including:

Australia — Special Air Service Regiment.
Canada — Canadian Special Operations Regiment.
France — 13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment.
India — Para Commandos, MARCOS, Special Frontier Force and Garud Commando Force.
Israeli — Sayeret Matkal, Shaldag Unit, Shayetet 13 and Maglan.
New Zealand — Special Air Service Group.
Poland — GROM, 1st Special Commando Regiment.
Russia — 45th Detached Reconnaissance Regiment and Razvedchiki personnel/units within larger formations.
United Kingdom — Special Air Service, Special Boat Service and Special Reconnaissance Regiment.
United States — CIA Paramilitary Operations Teams, US Army Special Forces, US Army Ranger Regimental Reconnaissance Detachments, US Army Long Range Surveillance, US Marine Corps Force Recon, US Marine Corps Special Operations Command and US Navy SEALs.


Force-oriented reconnaissance is the essential discipline of military reconnaissance that address more directly toward the enemy forces "vice" terrain-oriented reconnaissance.[jargon] In order for the military commanders to get details of the opposing forces on the battlefield, they rely on accurate and timely military intelligence (whether from signal [SIGINT], imagery [IMINT] or measurement and signature intelligence [MASINT]) collected within that particular area(s) of operation.

He may direct those reconnaissance assets that are quintessential to the mission to elicit a reaction from the enemy, in order to reveals their strength, deployment, tactical data, and other effects that may compromise, or exploit the enemy's weakness. This discipline allows flexibility within the scope of an operation, to help retain and facilitate the option by either returning to base with the data, or expand the conflict into a full engagement.

In recent years, the discipline of force-oriented reconnaissance evolved into its own genre that adapted to unconventional warfare, known as "special reconnaissance", to complement special operations. Many special reconnaissance assets conduct Direct Action operations; in which, such missions may consist of target acquisition and combat assessment.


Some military elements tasked with reconnaissance are armed only for self-defence, and rely on stealth to gather information. Others are well-enough armed to also deny information from the enemy by destroying their reconnaissance elements.

Reconnaissance-in-force (RIF) is a type of military operation or military tactics used specifically to probe an enemy's disposition. By mounting an offensive with considerable (but not decisive) force, the commander hopes to elicit a strong reaction by the enemy that reveals its own strength, deployment, and other tactical data. The RIF commander retains the option to fall back with the data or expand the conflict into a full engagement.

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.


Reconnaissance-by-fire (or speculative fire, 'spec fire') is a tactic which applies a similar principle. When not trying to be stealthy, reconnaissance units may fire on likely enemy positions to provoke a reaction.

During the Battle of Ia Drang, the Battalion commander Lt. Colonel Hal Moore noticed his men had a large amount of ammunition. He ordered his men to fire at anything suspicious at an agreed synchronized time. The large amount of fire at that time led a group of undetected infiltrating enemy soldiers to believe that they had been discovered and charge the Americans, leading to their destruction.

In the Iraq war, the irregular forces use a similar tactic, in which they brandish weapons or purposely draw suspicion, in order to learn about the rules of engagement of opposing forces.

Reconnaissance by fire (aka recon by fire, "speculative fire") is a tactic in which military forces may fire on likely enemy positions to provoke a reaction.

By Infantry Forces

Direct or indirect fire may be used by infantry forces against likely points where there is a reasonable suspicion of enemy occupation. The goal is to cause an enemy to disclose his presence by moving or returning fire. Recon elements conduct a recon by fire when enemy contact is expected and time is limited or when they cannot maneuver to develop the situation.

An example of using the technique was during the Battle of Ia Drang. The Battalion commander Lt. Colonel Hal Moore noticed his men had a large amount of ammunition. He ordered his men to fire at anything suspicious at an agreed synchronised time. The large amount of fire at that time led a group of undetected infiltrating enemy soldiers to believe that they had been discovered and charge the Americans, leading to their destruction.

In the Iraq war, the irregular forces use a similar tactic, in which they brandish weapons or purposely draw suspicion, in order to learn about the rules of engagement of opposing forces.

By Armored or Mechanized Forces

Reconnaissance by fire was widely adopted by Allied mechanized and armored units during the campaign in Europe against German forces. Armored units would typically advance in column behind light armored scouting units, deploying their integral infantry support to provide support in the event of ambush by German panzerfaust or antitank teams. This method proved too slow to keep pressure on retiring enemy forces. Instead, U.S. armored columns continued to advance at speed, training cannon and machine guns alternately to fire to cover both the left and right of the axis of advance. The column would fire its weapons more or less continuously into any suspected enemy positions as they appeared, suppressing and distracting the aim of enemy gunners and antitank teams.. Supply echelon convoys using trucks equipped with .50-cal. M2 Browning machine guns also used the tactic when traveling through areas not completely cleared of enemy forces. Originally intended for anti-aircraft defense, the heavy Brownings proved very effective in breaking up German infantry assaults against the convoy, as well as eliminating enemy artillery observers and snipers.
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Re: What is Reconnaissance?

Post by Ryan » Sat Jun 18, 2011 9:32 am


Reconnaissance-push is used once the commander is committed to a plan, or maneuver option. The commander "pushes" his reconnaissance assets forward, as necessary, to gain greater visibility on specific named areas of interest to confirm or deny the assumptions on which the plan is based. Information gathered during reconnaissance push is used to finalize the commander's plan.

In 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, the operations conducted by the United States Marine Corps's I Marine Expeditionary Force were characterized by reconnaissance-push, in which the reconnaissance forces assisted in the advancing movement of friendly forces by aggressively patrolling, locating Iraqi forces (to include counterattacks by the Iraqi 5th Mechanized Infantry Division from the Burgan oil fields), preventing interference to I MEF's operations.


Reconnaissance-pull is used when the enemy situation is not well-known and/or the situation is rapidly changing. The commander uses ISR assets to confirm or deny any reports of enemy activity, or terrain, before the decision on a plan, or maneuver option; thus -pulling- the battalion to the decisive point on the battlefield. Success of the reconnaissance-pull requires an integrated reconnaissance plan that can be executed before the commander making a course-of-action decision.

During the landings of Tinian in 1944, during World War II, the United States Marine Corps's Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion, from V Amphibious Corps, used an example of reconnaissance-pull. Preliminary reconnaissance from aerial photography, and the confirmation by the amphibious reconnaissance platoons determined that the Japanese defenders had largely ignored the northern beaches of the island, while focusing most of their defensive effort on mostly likely beaches in the southwest. The landing was changed to the northern beaches, and when coupled with a hasty "deception" operation off the southern beach, resulted in a complete surprise.

This example shows the ability to use reconnaissance-pull to determine enemy disposition, and find or create exploitable gaps through which friendly forces can pass while avoid obstacles and strong points.


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: 1) mission, 2) enemy, 3) terrain, 4) troops and support available, (5) time available, (6) and 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 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.


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.


Zone reconnaissance focuses on obtaining detailed information before maneuvering their forces through particular, designated locations, generally utilizing preliminary reconnaissance (in the event of a major projection of troops) in this practice. 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.


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; bridges 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.

Amphibious reconnaissance

The concept of amphibious reconnaissance, or commonly amphib recon, are used primarily in conjunction with ground and naval reconnaissance concerning the littoral area bordering coastal or maritime areas of interests. 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 combat rubber crafts to obtain and collect information of the enemy, the topology ashore and inland, and hydrographic surveys for underwater obstacles and mines, and for the purpose of effecting a deception.


1 History
1.1 Evolution of the Doctrine
2 World War II in Europe
3 Mission Role
4 Notes

Evolution of the Doctrine
See also: Dion Williams, Earl H. Ellis, and Fleet Landing Exercises.

The turn of the 20th Century, amphibious reconnaissance was first conceived from an idea from a United State Marine officer by the name of then-Major Dion Williams. Williams referenced the purpose of amphibious reconnaissance by standardizing the 'official' naval doctrine of amphibious reconnaissance of amphibious warfare in 1906. The scope of the doctrine outlined every aspect that involved recognition of intelligence gathering and planning, the cornerstone of America's present-day methods in amphibious reconnaissance.

Although very little effect was made in creating a formidable unit capable of utilizing amphibious reconnaissance tactics because the outset of World War I and the Gallipoli Operations due to the lack of Marine Corps personnel by the Isolationism of 1920-30s. Also drawbacks concurred while most of the Marine forces were engaged in conflicts of China and Nicaragua. By 1933, December 7, when the Fleet Marine Force was formed at HQMC in Quantico, VA combining the roles of the Navy and Marine Corps into an integrated naval assault force. Shortly after, a new naval doctrine, the Fleet Training Publication 167 was created to ensure long-term purposes.

With this new amphibious reconnaissance doctrine, the United States Navy and Marine Corps began to consider establishing highly anticipated reconnaissance units.The origins of reconnaissance within the United States Marine Corps had evolved from an idea by Major Dion Williams who, in 1906, wrote the first American doctrine concerning amphibious reconnaissance. He specified in his thesis that…

"…talented and experienced men should be assigned to this work, listing among the requisite qualities a thorough technical knowledge, a quick and energetic nature to ensure the work is accomplished without unnecessary delay, a sufficient resourcefulness to overcome unexpected obstacles, a reticence to ensure results are kept confidential, and above all, exactitude of work".

These Marines particularly needed to be competent in surveying, cartography, and recording observations, as well as reading previous maps and surveys of various types.

Williams' doctrine outlined a wide spectrum of reconnaissance, which consisted of range determination, topography, configuration of the ground, cities, towns, roads, trails, railroads, telegraph cables, telephone lines, wireless telegraphy, rivers, canals, resources (coal, repair facilities, land transportation, electric plants, food supplies, water supply, and hospitals), conditions of the harbor and harbor steamers, wharves, docks, water service, the population (secret service, professions and occupations, naval and military forces), existing defenses (location, form and description, armament, fieldworks, mines and mine fields, searchlights, plans and sketches, garrisons and forces available, methods of attack, adaptability of the defenses). And the most important he listed was hydrographic reconnaissance:

"In order to prepare intelligent plans for the attack or defense of a harbor or bay, it is necessary to have at hand a comprehensive description of the hydrographic features and accurate charts showing the depths of water at all points, the reefs, rocks, shoals, and peculiar currents which constitute dangers to navigation, and the tributary streams and channels which may form avenues of attack or furnish anchorages for a portion of the floating defenses or auxiliaries of the defenders."

After World War I, three significant aspects of the second edition of Williams' Naval Reconnaissance included (1) discussion of additional capabilities of observation from airplanes and submarines, (2) promulgation of the book under authority of the Secretary of the Navy instead of under the auspices of the President of the Naval War College, and (3) emphasis on information acquisition for long-term planning. It was this latter emphasis on obtaining information long before hostilities that was perhaps of greatest significance. Rather than obtaining information solely for military operations in progress, Williams now enunciated a more comprehensive mission:

The object of the naval reconnaissance of any given locality is to acquire all of the information concerning the sea, land, air and material resources of that locality, with a view to its use by the Navy in peace and war, and to record this information that it may be most readily available for: the preparation of plans for the occupation of the locality as a temporary or permanent naval base; the preparation of plans for the sea and land defense of the locality when used as such a base; or the preparation of plans for the attack of the locality by sea and land should it be in possession of an enemy.

Twenty-years later, another Marine intel officer, Earl H. Ellis, put most of William's concept to effect. After fighting in the trenches in WWI, Ellis submitted a request to Headquarters Marine Corps for special intelligence duty in South America and the Pacific; the Director of Naval Intelligence diligently accepted. It was during his special duty that introduced the most profound accounts of Ellis's intelligence reports. He submitted a 30,000 page Top Secret document concerning his detail discussion of local sea, air and the climate, various land terrain types, the native population and economic conditions. He discussed his reports on strategically seizing key islands as forward-operating bases for project naval forces effectively into the area. His time-tables, mobilization projections, and predictions of manpower necessary to seize certain targets.

The earliest activities in amphibious reconnaissance was largely limited in surveying of ports, uncharted islands and adjacent beaches or coastlines. Most of these duties were billeted by senior Naval Intelligence Officers that were prerequisited in topography, hydrography, impermanent construction of fortification with the means of rapid encampment and mobilization of troops to operate in their area.

World War II in Europe

The development of amphibious reconnaissance in the early stages of the Second World War during the European campaigns were largely dominated by Lt-Cdr Nigel Clogstoun-Willmot RN who developed the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPPs). Following their deployment on Operation Torch it was proposed that 50 of these parties would be needed - however the shortage of necessary personnel meant that in all only some 11 teams were trained. The Beach Pilotage School was set up on the Kyles of Bute in Scotland.

Following the war the secrecy surrounding beach recce continued and mention of the COPPs did not appear in the press until the late 1950s. By then their knowledge and role had been passed on to the (then) Special Boat Squadron

Mission Role

Specific missions for amphibious reconnaissance patrols included:

To determine characteristics of beaches available for landing, and report same to commander at sea.

By hydrographic reconnaissance of water near the shore line.
By examining terrain in immediate vicinity of beach.
By noting beach defenses- wire, mines, and other obstacles; troops in immediate vicinity; other defenses.

To report landmarks for assisting in locating landing beaches.
To mark beaches and landing points during landing.
To determine location, strength, and composition of troops in landing area.
To take and hold in concealment a prisoner or prisoners and be prepared to turn them over to Headquarters Landing Force.
To spot observers to report enemy activity by radio or by panel.
To determine road net and be prepared to meet and guide elements of landing force.
To determine practicability of terrain for air landings.
After the beachhead has been established, to contour the sea floor beginning at the ten foot line and using a two foot contour interval in order to expedite the unloading of supplies by locating most advantageous channels and beaches.

Also assigned were the following non-intelligence missions:

To create a diversion from proposed landing point.
Minor night attacks.
To assist a landing by executing light demolitions.
To disrupt enemy communications by wire cutting and jamming radios.
To set flares for naval gunfire at night, or to smoke a beach in order to screen a landing wave, or to otherwise mislead the enemy.

Aerial reconnaissance

Aerial reconnaissance is reconnaissance that is conducted using unmanned aerial vehicles or reconnaissance aircraft. Their roles are to collect Imagery intelligence, Signals intelligence and Measurement and signature intelligence.


1 History
1.1 Pre World War I
1.2 World War I and World War II
1.3 Cold War
1.4 Modern era
2 Modern technology
2.1 Drone planes
2.2 Miniature UAVs
2.3 Reconnaissance pods
3 See also
4 References
5 External links

Pre World War I

After the French Revolution, the new rulers became interested in using the balloon to observe enemy manoeuvres and appointed scientist Charles Coutelle to conduct studies using the balloon L'Entreprenant, the first military reconnaissance aircraft. The balloon found its first use in the 1794 conflict with Austria, where in the Battle of Fleurus the gathered information and the demoralizing effect on the Austrian troops ensured victory for the French troops.

After the invention of photography, primitive aerial photographs were made of the ground from manned and unmanned balloons, starting in the 1860s, and from tethered kites from the 1880s onwards. An example was Arthur Batut's kite-borne camera photographs of Labruguière starting from 1889.

In the early 20th century, Julius Neubronner experimented with pigeon photography. The pigeons carried small cameras with timers.

Ludwig Rahrmann in 1891 patented a means of attaching a camera to a large calibre artillery projectile or rocket, and this inspired Alfred Maul to develop his Maul Camera Rockets starting in 1903. Alfred Nobel in 1896 had already built the first rocket carrying a camera, which took photographs of the Swedish landscape during its flights. Maul improved his camera rockets and the Austrian Army even tested them in the Turkish-Bulgarian War in 1912 and 1913, but by then and from that time on camera-carrying aircraft were found to be superior.

The first use of airplanes in combat missions was by the Italian Air Force during the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-1912. On 23 October 1911, an Italian pilot flew over the Turkish lines in Libya to conduct history's first aerial reconnaissance mission, and on 1 November 1911, the first ever aerial bomb was dropped on the Turkish troops in Libya.

On 16 October 1912 a Bulgarian Albatros aircraft was used to perform Europe's first reconnaissance flight in combat conditions, against the Turkish lines on the Balkan peninsula, during the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913.

World War I and World War II
A B.E.2c reconnaissance aircraft of the RFC with an aerial reconnaissance camera fixed to the side of the fuselage, 1916

During the First World War, photo-reconnaissance, now called IMINT, was one of the early uses of the aeroplane. Aviators such as Fred Zinn evolved an entire range of new flying and photography techniques to use the new technology in the equally new environment of trench warfare.

Before the Second World War the conventional wisdom was to use converted bomber types for airborne photo-reconnaissance. These bombers retained their defensive armament, which was vital since they were unable to avoid interception. Later it was found that day bombers required a fighter escort.
Aerial reconnaissance photographs of Utah Beach prior to the D-Day landings

In 1939 Sidney Cotton and Flying Officer Maurice Longbottom of the RAF were among the first to suggest that airborne reconnaissance may be a task better suited to fast, small aircraft which would use their speed and high service ceiling to avoid detection and interception. Although this seems obvious now, with modern reconnaissance tasks performed by fast, high flying aircraft, at the time it was radical thinking. They proposed the use of Spitfires with their armament and radios removed and replaced with extra fuel and cameras. This led to the development of the Spitfire PR variants. Spitfires proved to be extremely successful in their reconnaissance role and there were many variants built specifically for that purpose.

During World War II, fighters such as the British Spitfire and Mosquito and the American P-38 Lightning and P-51 Mustang were adapted for photo-reconnaissance. Such craft were stripped of weaponry, painted in sky camouflage colours to make them difficult to spot in the air, and often had engines modified for higher performance at very high altitudes (well over 40,000 feet). Early in the war the British developed a camera warming system to allow photographs to be taken at very high altitudes. Based at RAF Medmenham, the collection and interpretation of such photographs became a considerable enterprise. One site claims that the British, at their peak, flew over 100 reconnaissance flights a day, yielding 50,000 images per day to interpret. Similar efforts were taken by other countries.

The Japanese Mitsubishi Ki-46, a purpose-built twin-engined reconnaissance aircraft armed with only one light gun, entered service in 1941.

The reconnaissance plane that had the earliest and greatest influence for the Americans in WWII was the F-4, a factory modification of the P-38E which replaced the four guns and cannon with four high-quality K-17 cameras. Some 120 F-4 and F-4As were hurriedly made available by March 1942, reaching the 8th Photographic Squadron in Australia by April (the first P-38s to see action). The F-4 had an early advantage of long range and high speed combined with the ability to fly at high altitude; a potent combination for reconnaissance. In the last half of 1942, Lockheed would produce 96 F-5As, based on the P-38G. The Lightning in its reconnaissance role was so well liked by military strategists that hundreds of gun-equipped P-38s were field modified into camera-toting F-5 variants. Later in the war, the Mustang F-6 arrived, eventually becoming the dominant reconnaissance model flown by the US in Europe. US photo-reconnaissance operations in Europe were based at RAF Mount Farm, with the resulting photographs being transferred to Medmenham for interpretation.

However it was the Mosquito that excelled in the photo-reconnaissance role, the converted bomber being given three cameras installed in what had been the bomb bay. The first converted PRU (Photo-Reconnaissance Unit) Mosquito being delivered to RAF Benson in July 1941 by Geoffrey de Havilland himself. Thereafter, the Mosquito with its speed which made it faster than most fighters above 40,000ft, could roam almost anywhere. Colonel Roy M. Stanley II, USAF (RET) wrote; "I consider the Mosquito the best photo reconnaissance aircraft of the war". The US designation for the photo-reconnaissance Mosquito was F-8.

Approximately 15,000 Fairchild K-20 aerial cameras were manufactured between 1941 and 1945.

Cold War
Camera bay of a reconnaissance Mirage III R

Immediately after World War II, long range aerial reconnaissance was taken up by adapted jet bombers – such as the English Electric Canberra, and its American development, the Martin B-57 – capable of flying higher or faster than the enemy. After the Korean War, RB-47 aircraft were used. These were at first converted B-47 jet bombers, but later these were purposely built RB-47 reconnaissance planes. They did not carry any bombs. They had large cameras mounted in the belly of the plane, and with a truncated bomb bay used for carrying photo-flash bombs.

The onset of the Cold War led the development of highly specialized and secretive strategic reconnaissance aircraft, or spy planes, such as the Lockheed U-2 and its successor, the SR-71 Blackbird (both from the United States). Flying these aircraft became an exceptionally demanding task, as much because of the aircraft's extreme speed and altitude as it was because of the risk of being captured as spies. As a result, the crews of these aircraft were invariably specially selected and trained.

There are claims that the US constructed a hypersonic reconnaissance aircraft, dubbed the Aurora, in the late 1980s to replace the Blackbird.

Since the early 1960s, in the United States aerial and satellite reconnaissance has been coordinated by the National Reconnaissance Office.

Modern era

In 2001, in what became known as the Hainan Island incident, a Chinese interceptor collided with a US Navy EP-3 Orion on a signals reconnaissance mission. The crew of the larger US aircraft made an emergency landing. The aircraft and crew were later released by the Chinese authorities.

Spy satellite

A spy satellite (officially referred to as a reconnaissance satellite) is an Earth observation satellite or communications satellite deployed for military or intelligence applications.

These are essentially space telescopes that are pointed toward the Earth instead of toward the stars. The first generation type (i.e. Corona and Zenit) took photographs, then ejected canisters of photographic film, which would descend to earth.

Corona capsules were retrieved in mid-air as they floated down on parachutes. Later spacecraft had digital imaging systems and downloaded the images via encrypted radio links.

In the United States, most information available is on programs that existed up to 1972. Some information about programs prior to that time are still classified, and a small trickle of information is available on subsequent missions.

A few up-to-date reconnaissance satellite images have been declassified on occasion, or leaked, as in the case of KH-11 photographs which were sent to Jane's Defence Weekly in 1985.


1 Origins
2 Missions
3 In fiction
4 See also
5 References
6 External links


On March 16, 1955, the United States Air Force officially ordered the development of an advanced reconnaissance satellite to provide continuous surveillance of 'preselected areas of the earth' in order 'to determine the status of a potential enemy’s war-making capability'. In October 1957, the Russians launched Sputnik. It was the first man made object to be put into Earth's orbit.


Examples of reconnaissance satellite missions:

High resolution photography (IMINT)
Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT)
Communications eavesdropping (SIGINT)
Covert communications
Monitoring of nuclear test ban compliance (see National Technical Means)
Detection of missile launches

Preliminary reconnaissance

Preliminary (or pre-D-Day) reconnaissance is the reconnaissance that is used prior to the principal events of any major theater of war or landing force projection. The term is not similar to the initial word -reconnaissance-, as "preliminary reconnaissance" only prescribes the reconnaissance that is being conducted beforehand, and not during, any deployments, military operations, or movement of troops.

This method of intelligence-gathering generally operates within the highest military intelligence tiers, or level of the intelligence general staff, for intelligence collection management—as it allows the combatant, landing force, and/or task force commanders—to better situate and prepare troops for the best feasible deployment, or landing, to achieve the utmost advantage. Aerial and ground reconnaissance elements are collateral to preliminary reconnaissance since it may require both assets to gain the appropriate preliminary intelligence.

Examples of preliminary reconnaissance is best displayed when the United States Marines of the VAC Amphib Recon Company, during World War II, would reconnoiter the beaches and inland for their landing (task) force commanders, a method consecutively known as amphibious reconnaissance. The vital intelligence would dictate the actions of the commander's tactical battle plan of landing the troops ashore.
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