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FM 31-20-5 23 MARCH 1993

By Order of the Secretary of the Army:

Official: MILTON H. HAMILTON Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army03810

GORDON R. SULLIVAN General, United States Army Chief of Staff

DISTRIBUTION : Active Army, USAR, and ARNG: To be distributed in accordance with DA Form 12-llE, requirements for FM 31-20-5, Special Reconnaissance T a c t i c s , Techniques, and Procedures for Special Forces (Qty rqr block no. 5098).

5 U.S. Government Printing Office: 1995. 406-421/42321


FM 31-20-5

PREFACESpecial reconnaissance (SR) is defined as reconnaissance and surveillance actions conducted by Special Forces (SF) to obtain or verify, by visual observation or other collection methods, information concerning the capabilities, intentions, and activities of an actual or potential enemy or to secure data concerning the meteorologic, hydrographic, geographic, or demographic characteristics of a particular area. It includes target acquisition, area assessment, and poststrike reconnaissance. Field manual (FM) 31-20-5 provides the doctrinal basis for the conduct of SR missions across the operational continuum. It is a continuation of the doctrinal education process that begins with Joint Publication 3-05.5 and FMs 100-25 and 31-20. This manual provides information and guidance to SF commanders, staffs, and operational personnel at battalion and lower echelons (Special Forces operational detachments [SFODs] C, B, and A) in their conduct of SR. It is a general guide and does not eliminate the requirement for well-written, practiced, and mission-essential task list (METL)-driven standing operating procedures (SOPs). It is designed to expand on and be supported by FM 31-20-1, Special Forces Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (to be published). It was written under the assumption that the user understands these basic fundamentals. However, it expands on this basic information by providing a number of historical examples to highlight key points throughout the text as well as advanced tactics, techniques, procedures, and references to support future SF operations. Users of this FM should adapt its contents to meet the situation and knowledge and skill levels of the SFOD to be employed through the mission, enemy, terrain, troops, and time available (METT-T) analysis system. The chapters provide general SR mission procedures and information. This information is ordered chronologically from receipt of the unit mission letter through postmission activities. Figure P-1 shows the applicability of each chapter to the differing unit levels. Examples of specific SR techniques and procedures are provided in the appendixes. The order of the appendixes follows the order they appear in the text. This organization permits the user of this FM to review the basics of SR mission performance from beginning to end without becoming embroiled in a mass of detail with which the user may be thoroughly familiar. For those users only interested in the details of specific techniques, the appendixes provide reference material keyed to the generic activities in the text. Commanders and trainers should use this and other related manuals in conjunction with command guidance, the Army Training and Evaluation Program ivTHIS E-PRINT (C) CLANDESTINE PRESS 2007

FM 31-20-5 (ARTEP), and the Mission Training Program to plan and conduct missionspecific training. Planning SR-related training prior to being employed with a specific SR mission is the key to assuring success. The provisions of this publication are the subject of the international agreements listed in the references in the back of this book. There are numerous acronyms, abbreviations, and terms found within this manual. Users should refer to the Glossary section at the back of the manual for their meanings or definitions. The proponent of this publication is the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS), Fort Bragg, NC. Reviewers and users of this manual should submit comments and recommended changes on DA Form 2028 to Commander, USAJFKSWCS, ATTN: AOJK-DT-DM, Fort Bragg, NC 28307-5000. Unless otherwise stated, whenever the masculine gender is used, both men and women are included.



FM 31-20-5




FM 31-20-5



FM 31-20-5 CHAPTER

OVERVIEWThe preface to this manual defines special reconnaissance and briefly describes the types of activities conducted under the umbrella of SR. This description is not intended to limit an SR mission to specific activities. This chapter explains the nature of SR and describes the environment in which it is conducted. It provides the criteria for determining the difference between SR performed by U.S. Army Special Forces and other types of reconnaissance.

THE ENVIRONMENTHistorically, U.S. security strategy, national military strategy, and military force development have stressed deterrence to war through the preparation for it. Although the United States has successfully deterred war, conflicts short of war have become pervasive. The contemporary strategic environment dictates that U.S. armed forces think in terms of an operational continuum made up of three conditions: peace, conflict, and war (Figure 1-1).



FM 31-20-5 The Operational Continuum The states of the operational continuum are dynamic but not distinct with well defined boundaries. Although the states are useful in generally defining the operational environment and predicting probable types of mission tasking, there is little or no value in trying to define a clear point at which an operation ceases to be set in peace as opposed to conflict, or conflict as opposed to war. At that degree of resolution, specific rules of engagement (ROE) are much more important. Due to the dynamic nature of the continuum, what occurs at one point of a given state can decisively shape other points in other states and determine the outcome of the overall struggle. There is, for example, a direct correlation between the largely nonviolent, indirect, and proactive operations performed during peace and the violent and direct, combined arms battles of war. The success of operations during peace and conflict may directly influence the success of operations in war, if not preclude the necessity for war altogether. The Light/Heavy/SOF Mix The role of the Army is to project land power through combined arms operations. SF units play an integral part in this role. Because SF units are often employed prior to hostilities, they may already be deployed in an operational area. Because of their area orientation, area expertise, and peacetime employment, SF can provide timely and accurate intelligence before the supported commanders other assets can respond. The depth at which SF can operate extends beyond normal assets available to maneuver commanders. Finally, the opportunity to deploy humans who use their judgement and technical expertise and who have an intimate knowledge of the operational area provides a dimension not present in other intelligence and reconnaissance mechanisms. Role of Special Operations Forces Recently, the Army has devoted increased resources to special operations forces (SOF). In part, this increase in resources is in recognition of the importance of SF in the light/heavy/SOF force mix during combined arms combat operations. The Army has also become more aware of the need to emphasize operations in conflict and peace. A part of the Armys aim in developing SOF has been to identify and defeat threats to national interests before they can escalate to war. Technological advances and the increased involvement of a sophisticated society have expanded the notion of "war." Conflicts have become very complex and now include direct and indirect political, military, economic, psychological, or social struggles. They are waged by foreign or domestic adversaries at any point along the operational continuum. SOF and SF in particular are well suited to operate in these environments. These environments, and the operations SOF conduct in them, generate unique information requirements (IR) that SF, performing SR, is uniquely qualified to fulfill.

THE NATURE OF SPECIAL RECONNAISSANCESR operations normally have a defined scope and preplanned duration and exfiltration. They are designed to answer specific, well defined, and often timesensitive priority intelligence requirements (PIR), IR, and specific information requirements (SIR) of strategic, tactical, or operational signficance. The unique nature of SR encompasses tasks often not clearly defined or even identified.THIS E-PRINT (C) CLANDESTINE PRESS 2007


FM 31-20-5 Units must conduct a thorough mission analysis that defines the SR tasks they are likely to perform. They must then apply an appropriate mix of the basic skills and techniques in which they have been trained to accomplish a specific mission (Figure 1-2). SR training, therefore, depends heavily on the unit METL derived from theater-specific requirements and may vary widely among units. Special Reconnaissance Tasks Success in peace, conflict, and war often depends on the availability of detailed, near-real-time (NRT), and all-source intelligence at all levels of execution. Because of their unique capabilities, area orientation, and location on the battlefield or in the operational area, SFODs can provide some of the most detailed information available for operational and strategic planners. This information can be used to reduce uncertainties and risks to acceptable levels. Unless hostile contact is part of the mission, SFODs performing S


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