Surface Danger Zones

We are starting a discussion on Surface Danger Zones. Specifically we will discuss what the different types are, and the different parts that make up an SDZ. The reference for this is DA PAM 385-63 dated April 2014.

A Surface Danger Zone, or SDZ as it is more commonly known, is defined by DA PAM 385-63 as: “that portion of the earth and the air above in which personnel and/or equipment may be endangered by ground weapons firing or demolition activities.” This means that the possibility of a person being injured is likely within that space, and appropriate safety precautions must be taken.

There are three major types of SDZ’s: a laser SDZ (ground-to-ground), the regular ground-to ground SDZ traditionally used for direct and indirect-fire weapons, and the Weapons Danger Zone used for air-to-ground applications. For this discussion, we will be focusing on the SDZ solely.

There are two basic configurations of SDZ: the cone, and the batwing. Pictures two and three illustrate what they look like. For planning purposes, the cone is used on any range where maneuver of any kind will not be taking place. The batwing is a larger area to contain rounds being fired from an unstabilized platform (such as a moving Paratrooper) in comparison to a soldier in the prone on a pop-up range. The Batwing is used on ranges where fire and movement, fire and maneuver, flanking fire and/or when ricochet hazards outside the range boundary may endanger non-participating personnel.

The picture above illustrates what the cone SDZ looks like. You will notice the five degree dispersion area and the five degree ricochet area. The dispersion area is the potential space a series of rounds may travel through in their external ballistics phase when aimed at a target. The ricochet area is the potential space the projectile may use to ricochet off the target and impact something else. There is an additional thirty-degree dispersion ‘safe area’ (area A) that is added to the SDZ. This is also based off the distance to the target , and area A’s width is based off the tables in DA PAM 385-63.

The various components of the SDZ are illustrated in the Batwing SDZ. They are Distance X and Y, Area A and B, Distance W, and angles P and Q. (angle Q is used for the Batwing SDZ’s). Distance X is the maximum distance the specified projectile will travel. Distance Y is the furthest downrange a lateral ricochet is expected to occur at a given elevation of the weapon. Area A Parallels the primary SDZ with an minimum initial thirty-degree offset (angle P) to the amount of distance specified in the tables from DA PAM 385-63. Area B is the maximum distance ricochet or shrapnel from the impact of the round is expected to occur. Angles P and Q are what is used to establish Distance W for the Batwing SDZ.

So to sum up, we’ve discussed the purpose of the SDZ, what the various types are, and what their components are. We will continue our discussion as we go over how to make the SDZ.


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