Section I Target Detection

Target detection is the process of locating, marking, prioritizing, and determining the range to combat targets. For most soldiers, finding the target can be a greater problem than hitting it. Target detection must be conducted as part of individual training and tactical exercises and must be integrated into day and night live-fire exercises. (Refer to TC 25-8 for construction of a target detection range.)


The ability to locate a combat target depends upon the observer's position, skill in scanning, maintaining observation over the area, and the type of indicators made by the target. When the firer gets in his position he must search his sector or lane, making quick glances at specific points rather than just sweeping his eyes across the terrain. The eyes are sensitive to slight movements that occur within the area the eyes are focused on. When the firer's eyes are sweeping an area they do not detect the slight movements of a concealed target.

a. Selection of a Position. Depending upon the situation, the individual soldier may or may not select his own position. In most defensive situations, the soldier is told where to prepare his position. However, some situations, such as the attack and reorganization on the objective, require the individual to select his own position. A good position is one that offers maximum visibility of the area while affording cover and concealment. As used in this case, "position" is both the observer's location on the ground and the position of his body at that location. Instructors must continuously refer to and emphasize the importance of the observer's position when conducting practical exercises.

b. Scanning. When a soldier moves into a new area, he must quickly scan the area for enemy activity that may be of immediate danger to him. This very rapid search lasts approximately 30 seconds and is known as the self-preservation method of search. The soldier makes quick glances at specific points throughout the area rather than just sweeping his eyes across the terrain in one continuous panoramic view.

(1) If the soldier fails to locate the enemy during the initial search, he must then begin a systematic examination known as the 50-meter overlapping strip method of search. Normally, the area nearest the soldier offers the greatest potential danger to him. Therefore, the search should begin with the terrain nearest his position. Beginning at either flank, the soldier should systematically search the terrain to his front in a 180-degree arc, 50 meters in depth. After reaching the opposite flank, he should search over a second 50-meter strip farther out but overlapping the first strip by approximately 10 meters. The soldier continues in this manner until the entire area has been searched.

(2) To take advantage of his peripheral vision, the soldier should focus his eyes on specific points as he searches from one flank to the other. He should make mental notes of prominent terrain features and areas that may offer cover and concealment to the enemy. In this way, he becomes familiar with the terrain as he searches it.

(3) After completing his detailed search, the soldier may be required to maintain observation of the area. To do this, he should use quick glances at various points throughout the entire area, focusing his eyes on specific features. He should always search the area in the same manner to ensure complete coverage of all terrain. Since this quick search may fail to detect the initial movement of an enemy, the observer should periodically repeat a systematic scanning of the area as described above. This systematic search should also be conducted anytime the attention of the observer has been distracted from his area of responsibility.

c. Target Indicators. A target indicator is anything a soldier (friendly or enemy) does or fails to do that reveals his position. Since these indicators apply equally to both sides of the battlefield, the soldier must learn target indicators from the standpoint of locating the enemy while preventing the enemy from using the same indicators to locate the soldier. These indicators can be grouped into three general areas for instructional purposes: sound, movement and improper camouflage.

(1) Sound. Sounds, such as footsteps, coughing, or equipment noises, provide only a direction and general location making it difficult to pinpoint a target by sound alone.

However, the fact that a sound has alerted an observer greatly increases the possibility that he will eventually locate the target through other target indicators.

(2) Movement. The degree of difficulty in locating moving targets depends primarily on the speed of movement. Slow, deliberate movements are much more difficult to notice than those that are quick and jerky.

(3) Improper Camouflage. The lack or improper use of camouflage and or concealment reveals the majority of targets detected on the battlefield. Such things as light reflecting from shiny surfaces or a contrast with the background presenting a clearly defined outline are indicators easily noticed by an alert observer. Three general indicators that may reveal a camouflaged and or concealed target are shine, regularity of outline, and contrast with the background.

(a) Shine. Items such as belt buckles or other metal objects reflect light and act as a beacon to the wearer's position. This is as true at night as it is during the day.

(b) Regularity of Outline. The human outline and most types of military equipment are familiar outlines to all soldiers. The outlines of rifles, helmets, and vehicles are all easily identified. The reliability of this indicator depends upon the visibility and the experience of the observer. On a clear day most soldiers can easily identify enemy riflemen or equipment if a distinctive outline is presented. At night or during other periods of poor visibility, seeing outlines is not only more difficult, but inexperienced troops will frequently mistake stumps and rocks for enemy soldiers. This is an additional reason for soldiers to become completely familiar with the terrain during periods of good visibility.

(c) Contrast with the Background. If a soldier wearing a dark uniform moves into a position in front of a snow bank, the contrast between the white snow and the dark uniform makes him clearly visible. However, if he were wearing a white (or light colored) uniform, he would be more difficult to see. Contrast with the background is among the most difficult of the target indicators for a soldier to avoid. During operations in which the soldier is moving, he is usually exposed to numerous background colors. Since no one kind of personal camouflage blends in with all areas, a moving soldier must be continually aware of the surrounding terrain and vegetation.

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