Complex Engagements


To continue the previous article about aiming as a part of the shot process. Specifically, we will be focusing on what complex engagements are, what three conditions affect complex engagements (shooter, target, environment), what a hold is, why a Paratrooper would use a hold, and what the differences are between an immediate and deliberate hold. All of these will be addressed individually.

TC 3-22.9 dated May 2016 states that a complex engagement is ‘any shot that cannot use the CoVM [Center of Visible Mass] as the point of aim to ensure a target hit. Complex engagements require a Soldier to apply various points of aim to successfully defeat the threat.’ What this means for the Paratrooper is that they will have aim off of the center of visible mass of the target to achieve terminal effects on the threat. Complex engagements are classified by three separate conditions that are not normally a part of the shot process: The shooter, the target, and the environment in between them. We will discuss each one of these in a little more detail.

The shooter’s conditions are ones that are not typically encountered while shooting. Having to fire the weapon canted/in a Hawkins Position means they have to compensate for the line bore/sight shift. The same thing is done when shooting in a CBRNE environment, the significant change being the addition of the protective mask. The final condition that the paratrooper will encounter that makes it a complex engagement is when they are shooting on the move.

Target conditions that make it a complex engagement, are conditions that are typically encountered on a battlefield: You have a moving threat, that is heading towards you on the oblique, they are moving evasively, and limiting their exposure, so as to make the shot you are trying to take more challenging. The other condition that affects the target is the range to it from the paratrooper. The further out it is, the further chance for atmospherics to affect the projectile, and increase the trajectory required to successfully engage the threat.

Environmental conditions could be a discussion in and of themselves, everything from the Coriolis effect, to drag can be taken into consideration, but the main thing that needs to be accounted for by the Paratrooper is the wind. A full-value wind can mean the difference between successfully engaging a threat, or missing it altogether.

Once the Paratrooper has taken all of these firing conditions into consideration for their particular engagement, they will apply a modified point of aim off of the center of visible mass; this is known as a hold. In so doing this, it is the Paratrooper who is acting as the ballistic computer for the weapons system they are firing.

The reasons that a Paratrooper would use a hold are varied. The most common ones being to account for the range of the threat and the atmospherics between them and the threat (i.e. wind). But other reasons this would be used compensating for a moving threat target and attempting to engage a lethal zone hit and perform a rapid to immediate incapacitation to a threat.

There are two types of holds, immediate and deliberate. An immediate hold is one the Paratrooper estimates based on previous experience. Immediate holds are determined based off target-form values, which are structured around the standard E-type target with the approximate dimensions of 20 inches by 40 inches as shown in our pictures. Immediate holds are sufficient for engagements within 300 meters. A deliberate hold is one calculated based on the flight of the projectile. Deliberate holds are required for successful engagement of the threat past 300 meters, and take into account the threat that this moving, if they are moving at an oblique, and whether the wind is a factor, in a more precise fashion, thus increasing the probability of a hit on the threat.

To sum up, we discussed what complex engagements are, what three conditions affect complex engagements (shooter, target, environment), what a hold is, why a Paratrooper would use a hold, and what the differences are between an immediate and deliberate hold.

We will continue our discussion on aiming, as we discuss target conditions in more detail, talk about shooter conditions, and discuss how to handle compound conditions (more than one condition at the same time).

#weaponsmastery #SACM

Raymond Miller
Raymond Miller is the former Small Arms Master Gunner of the 82nd Airborne Division. He is leveraging his operational experience training soldiers in Weapons Mastery to address Human Systems Integration issues for the United States Army.


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