5-10. FIRE COMMANDS
Fire commands are technical instructions issued by a leader to enable the unit or crew to accomplish a desired fire mission. Fire commands have been standardized for infantry direct fire weapons, and they follow the same sequence. There are two types- initial fire commands, issued to engage a target; and subsequent fire commands, which are issued to adjust fire, change the rate of fire, interrupt fire, shift fire to a new target, or to terminate the alert. A correct fire command is one that is as brief as clarity permits and yet includes all the elements necessary for the accomplishment of the fire mission. It is given in the proper sequence, transmitted clearly at a rate that permits receipt and application of instructions without confusion.
a. Elements of the Initial Fire Command. There are six essential elements of the initial fire command for the machine gun, which are given or implied by using one or more of the methods of control. During training, the gun crew repeats each element as it is given. This is done to avoid confusion and to train the crew to think and act in the proper
sequence. The six elements are the alert, direction, description, range, method of fire, and the command to open fire.
(1) Alert. This element brings the crew to a state of readiness to receive further instructions. Once alerted, the gunner ensures the gun is loaded. The assistant gunner continuously checks with the leader for orders or instructions and passes them on to the gunner. The oral alert is announced as FIRE MISSION. At this command, the gunners are alerted that a target has been detected and fire may be delivered upon it. When the leader announces the alert, such as FIRE MISSION, both gun crews react to the alert. If only a certain gun is to engage, the leader announces NUMBER 1 (or 2). The other crew follows the fire mission, loads, and lays on the target to take up the fire, if required.
(2) Direction. This element indicates the general direction to the target and may be given in one or a combination of the following ways:
(a) The leader gives the direction orally to the target in relation to the position of the gun(s). For example, FRONT, RIGHT FRONT, LEFT FRONT.
(b) The leader can designate a small or obscure target by pointing with his arm and hand or aiming the machine gun. When pointing with his arm and hand, a man standing behind him should be able to look over his shoulder and sight along his arm and index finger to locate the target. When a gun has been aimed at a target, a soldier looking through the sights should be able to see the target.
(c) Tracer ammunition is a quick and sure method of designating a target that is not clearly visible. When using this method, the leader should first give the general direction to direct the gun crew's attention to the desired area. To minimize the loss of surprise when using tracer ammunition, the leader does not fire until he has given all the elements of the fire command except the command to fire. The leader may use his individual weapon or fire one or more bursts from the machine gun. The firing of the tracer (s) then becomes the last element of the fire command and is the signal to open fire. For example:
(d) Another method of designating obscure targets is by using easily recognizable reference points. Prominent terrain features and man-made objects make good reference points. All leaders and members of the crew(s) must be familiar with the terrain features and the terminology used to describe them. The general direction to the reference point should be given. For example:
FIRE MISSION, NUMBER 2. FRONT.
REFERENCE: LONE PINE TREE. TARGET: TRUCK. Sometimes a target must be designated by using successive reference points. For example:
FIRE MISSION, NUMBER 1. RIGHT FRONT.
REFERENCE: RED-ROOFED HOUSE, LEFT TO HAYSTACK, LEFT TO BARN. TARGET: MACHINE GUN. Finger measurements can be used to direct the gun crew's attention to the right or left of reference points. For example: FIRE MISSION. LEFT FRONT.
REFERENCE: CROSSROAD. RIGHT FOUR FINGERS. TARGET: LINE OF TROOPS. When the guns are mounted on tripods, lateral distance from reference points can be accurately announced. When gunners are firing the tripod-mounted gun, lateral distance is assumed to be in mils unless otherwise indicated, so the word "mils" is not necessary. For example: FIRE MISSION. FRONT.
REFERENCE: KNOCKED-OUT TANK. LEFT FOUR ZERO. TARGET: COLUMN OF TROOPS.
(3) Description. The target description is used to create a picture of the target in the minds of the gun crew. The gun crew must know the type of target they are to engage to properly apply their fire. The leader should describe it briefly but accurately. For example:
Dismounted enemy personnel ir°°ps
Automatic weapons MACHINE GUN
Armored vehicles TAN K
Artillery or antitank weapon ANTITANK
If the target is obvious, no description is necessary. Finger measurements or mil measurements can be used to designate the width of a linear target when the flanks cannot be pinpointed.
(4) Range. The range to the target is given so the gun crew knows how far to look for the target and immediately knows what range setting to place on the rear sight. Range is determined and announced in meters. Since the meter is the standard unit of range measurement, the word "meters" is not announced. With machine guns, the range is determined and announced in even hundreds and thousands. For example: THREE HUNDRED, ONE THOUSAND, ONE ONE HUNDRED. This element may be omitted when the gunners can obviously determine the range; however, it is desirable in some situations to announce the range.
(5) Method of fire. This element includes manipulation and rate of fire.
(a) Manipulation is used to prescribe the class of fire with respect to the gun. It is announced FIXED, TRAVERSE, SEARCH, TRAVERSE AND SEARCH, SWINGING TRAVERSE, or FREE GUN.
(b) To control the rate of fire, the gunner may use single shot, slow, rapid, or cyclic.
• Single shot. Place the gun in the single-shot mode and engage the target with aimed shots. The MG is accurate out to 1,500 meters.
• Slow fire. Slow fire consists of less than 40 rounds per minute, in bursts of five to seven rounds, fired at 10- to 15-second intervals.
• Rapid fire. Rapid fire consists of more than 40 rounds per minute, fired in bursts of five to seven rounds, at 5- to 10-second intervals.
• Cyclic fire. Cyclic fire is when the weapon fires 450 to 550 rounds per minute.
(6) Command to open fire. If surprise fire is not desired, the command FIRE is given without pause. It is often important that machine gun fire be withheld for maximum effect of surprise fire. To ensure this, the leader may preface the command to commence firing with the words AT MY COMMAND or AT MY SIGNAL. When the gunner(s) is ready to engage the target, he reports UP to the assistant gunner (s) who signals READY to the leader. For example:
AT MY COMMAND. (Pause until crew members are ready and fire is desired.)
FIRE (or appropriate arm-and-hand signal).
When the leader makes a mistake in the initial fire command, he corrects it by announcing CORRECTION, and then gives the corrected element(s). For example:
AT MY COMMAND. When the leader makes an error in the subsequent fire command, he may correct it by announcing CORRECTION, and then repeating the entire subsequent fire command. For example:
LEFT FIVE, DROP ONE.
LEFT FIVE, DROP ONE ZERO. b. Subsequent Fire Commands. If the gunner fails to adjust his fire on the target, the leader must promptly correct him by announcing or signaling the desired changes. When changes are given, the gunner makes the required corrections and continues to engage the target without further command. When firing under the control of a leader, the assistant gunner checks with the leader for instructions, which he passes on to the gunner. Changes in the rate of fire are given orally and by arm-and-hand signals. To interrupt firing, the leader announces CEASE FIRE or gives a signal to cease fire. The gun crew(s) remains on the alert and firing can be resumed on the same target by announcing FIRE. To terminate the alert, the leader announces CEASE FIRE, END OF MISSION.
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