We are continuing our discussion on Fire control for machine guns. Specifically, we are addressing what fire control is, and what methods are available to the Paratrooper. The reference for this discussion is ATP 3-21.8 dated April 2016.
Fire control includes all the actions the Paratrooper does in planning, preparing, and applying fire on a target. Generally, it is a team or squad leader who does this, but based off the nature of the Airborne, a paratrooper needs to have an understanding of fire control so as to make it more effective. Fire control is organized by whether it is terrain-based or threat-based.
The team or squad leader designates targets, identifies their midpoint, ends, or flanks, and lets the gun teams know what rates of fire and classes of fire to use. The Gunner (or team) then engages on the Squad or team leaders’ signal, adjusts rates of fire, shifts, and lifts fires, all based off fire control measures.
The noise and confusion of battle can limit the effectiveness of some of these methods, therefore, the Paratrooper needs to use multiple methods to ensure the signals are sent at the appropriate times. the methods are illustrated above. For today, we are focusing on the terrain-based fire control measures.
A target reference point, or TRP, is a recognizable point on the ground leaders use to orient friendly forces, and to focus and control direct fires. In the Defense, a TRP can be designated for indirect fires as well, giving the leader on the ground the ability to rapidly call for and adjust indirect fires. A TRP can be man-made or natural. The key feature of a good TRP, is that it needs to be visible under unaided, passive IR, and thermal viewing so that the Paratrooper can identify it and adjust off it under all conditions.
Hasty TRP’s can be a burning tank hull, an intersection of a road, or a specific window on a house. Another TRP that can be used is either smoke or a parachute flare fired from an M320 to mark a target location.
The next terrain-based fire control measure we will discuss will be an engagement area. An engagement area is an area along an enemy avenue of approach where the leader intends to mass the fires of available weapons to destroy an enemy force. The size and shape of the engagement area depends on the terrain being fought on. For example, the engagement areas in Vietnam were generally much smaller than the engagement areas in Afghanistan due to the triple canopy jungle. A platoon engagement area is subdivided to subordinate units down to the individual Paratrooper.
A sector of fire is the next fire control measure discussed. It is how the engagement area is broken down by the squads and teams. Both individual Paratroopers and crew-served weapons such as the M240 and M3 MAAWS are assigned sectors of fire. The key to sectors of fire is that they need to interlock, covering the assigned sector of the team or squad effectively.
The next fire control measure discussed will be a direction of fire. A direction of fire is an orientation or point used to assign responsibility for a particular area on the battlefield being covered by direct fire. Leaders designate directions of fire for purposes of acquisition or engagement by subordinate elements, crew-served weapons, or individual Soldiers. Direction of fire is most commonly employed when assigning sectors of fire would be difficult or impossible because of limited time or insufficient reference points.
The next fire control measure we will discuss will be quadrants. Quadrants are subdivisions of an area created by superimposing an imaginary pair of perpendicular axes over the terrain to create four separate areas or sectors. There are two types we will discuss, terrain-based quadrants and friendly-based quadrants. Terrain based have a Target reference point as the center point of the axes of the quadrant. The Friendly based quadrant is based on the center of the friendly units’ position. The axes in this case run parallel and perpendicular the general direction of travel.
The last fire control measure we will discuss will be lines. There are three in particular: Maximum engagement line, the restrictive fire line, and the Final Protective Line. The Maximum engagement line is to ensure that the maximum effective range based off terrain is identified. The Restrictive Fire Line is a linear fire control measure beyond which engagement is prohibited without coordination. The Final protective line is a line of fire where the enemy assault is to be checked by interlocking fires of all available weapons.
To sum up, we’ve discussed Fire control measures. Specifically, we have addressed terrain-based Fire control measures. We will continue our discussion on fire control measures as we discuss threat-based Fire control measures.