Limited Visibility Operations

The company team may conduct limited visibility operations to accomplish the following purposes:

  • Achieve surprise.
  • Gain positions of advantage by means of stealth.
  • Exploit success and maintain momentum.

Darkness obviously has the most dramatic effect on the ability of soldiers to see the battlefield, but there are other conditions that restrict visibility as well:

  • Weather conditions, including rain, snow, fog, and sandstorms.
  • Dust.
  • Smoke.
  • Obscuration factors caused by weapons firing and movement of soldiers and equipment.

If it is to use its superior technology and basic combat skills to sustain continuous operations and destroy the enemy, the company team must train to fight effectively in all types of visibility conditions. The team should first master the execution of tasks under optimum visibility conditions and then continue its training in progressively more difficult situations.


Section 1 Equipment
Command and Control and Leader Systems
Vehicle Systems
Crew-served System Sights
Individual Equipment
Visible and Nonvisible Lignt Control
Section 2 Navigation
Section 3 Vehicle Identification
Section 4 Tactical Movement and Attack
Section 5 Limited Visibility Defense


The company team is equipped with a variety of equipment, described in the following paragraphs, that enhances its ability to operate under limited visibility conditions.


The following devices are available to the company teamís leaders for use in signaling and target designation:

  • IR signaling devices. These generate an IR light source that is visible through passive sights; they can be used for marking a variety of locations, such as TRPs, passage points, sectors of fire, obstacles, checkpoints, and routes.
  • IR pointers or IR laser designators. Infantry platoon leaders and squad leaders can use these to designate targets, allowing them to focus fires more effectively and enhancing their command and control capability. These systems project IR light onto the target and are visible in passive sights.


Vehicles organic to the company team are equipped with the following devices applicable to limited visibility operations:

  • Driverís night vision viewer (AN/VVS-2 passive sight). This system may soon be replaced by a driverís thermal viewer.
  • Gunnerís primary sight, commanderís extension, and ISU thermal sights.
  • CITVs on the M1A2 and M2A3/M3A3.


Several of the company teamís organic systems are equipped with sights that allow them to be used effectively in limited visibility conditions. These crew-served systems include the following:

  • M2 HB machine gun AN/TVS-5 (thermal sight heavy).
  • M60 machine gun AN/TVS-4 (thermal sight medium).
  • M249 SAW thermal sight medium.
  • GSR AN/UAS-11 thermal sight.
  • Antitank missile AN/UAS-12 thermal sight.

Table F-1 lists the comparative characteristics, capabilities, and limitations of passive and thermal sight systems.

Table F-1. Comparison of passive and thermal sights.




Limited by amount of available light.

Not affected by light conditions.

Can be "washed out" by bright flashes of light.

Not affected by flashes of light.

Narrow field of view.

Choice of wide or narrow field of view.

Poor depth perception.

Poor depth perception.

Excellent capability for identifying sources of light, including IR.

Unable to detect sources of light.

Adverse weather conditions limit the range of the sight and may render it useless.

Adverse weather conditions limit the range of the sight. On the other hand, the target acquisition capability of the sight may exceed the capability of the LRF to receive a return and compute an automatic ballistic solution.


The following equipment used by individual crewmen enhances the company teamís limited visibility capability:

  • PVS-7 and PVS-7B passive vision devices.
  • AN/PVS-4 (passive vision device for the M16A2).
  • Aiming lights for infantrymenís individual weapons.


On the battlefield of the future, it is highly likely that any significant enemy will have access to various types of night vision devices. Obviously, the enemy will use these devices any way he can to gain the advantage. There is a related problem as well. If used improperly by friendly soldiers, aiming lights, laser pointers, and IR illumination not only will be of no tactical advantage, but may also give away the locations of friendly forces to an enemy element with night vision capability.

Commanders must establish positive controls over the use of such devices, establishing and enforcing unit SOPs at all levels. As an example, the use of mortar-fired illumination rounds, both visible and nonvisible (IR), should be controlled centrally because of the effects that the illumination may have on units adjacent to one calling for the rounds. Smaller IR illumination rounds, such as those fired from a grenade launcher, should be controlled at platoon or squad level. Visible and nonvisible chemical lights can be very helpful on the battlefield if employment is standardized and carefully controlled. Otherwise, use of chem lights can be counterproductive, even giving away friendly positions.


The commander uses several tools and techniques to help him navigate in limited visibility conditions: the GPS and/or POSNAV, terrain association, and the compass and odometer method. When they are fired to create a ground-burst effect, artillery or mortar illumination rounds can be helpful in confirming locations.


The problem of vehicle identification is compounded in limited visibility conditions. Vehicle commanders must be able to distinguish the vehicles of the company team and of other friendly elements from those of the enemy. Most unit SOPs cover vehicle marking and identification procedures. In addition, the commander may elect to use the following techniques to enhance command and control and to help prevent fratricide:

  • Attach color-coded lights or chemical lights to the rear of the turret or hull.
  • Replace the brake light cover with color-coded plastic (such as green, blue, or yellow).
  • Use luminous or thermal tape to "outline" vehicles or to mark battle boards.
  • Use radio and digital systems to provide the commander with frequent updates of friendly unit locations.


The fundamentals for executing tactical movement and attacks discussed elsewhere in this manual are applicable during periods of limited visibility. The following paragraphs cover additional considerations for the planning, preparation, and execution of these operations when visibility is restricted.


The commander and subordinate leaders must pay particular attention to routes, formations, and navigational aids. They must conduct a thorough route reconnaissance to identify locations where the unit could become disoriented. This reconnaissance must also focus on finding rough or restricted terrain that will be more difficult to negotiate in limited visibility. Such terrain may require a change in formation or movement technique or employment of dismounted ground guides.


The commander conducts rehearsals in as many types of adverse conditions as possible to prepare the company team for potential command and control problems. He must stress light discipline. During the PCI, he should view each vehicle using a passive sight to ensure that sources of light have been dimmed or covered so they are not visible. During confirmation briefings and rehearsals, the commander must ensure that all leaders understand the unitís projected actions during each phase of the operation. One technique is to designate waypoints or phase lines as trigger points for the company teamís actions.


The company team commander and subordinate leaders must assume that the enemy possesses the same limited visibility observation capabilities as their own unit. Vehicle commanders use the PVS-7 and CITV (as applicable) to assist their drivers with navigation and to enhance situational awareness. Use of terrain to mask movement and deployment remains critical since limited visibility may create a false sense of protection from observation. During movement, the distance between vehicles is reduced to allow them to observe each other and to decrease the time necessary to react to enemy contact.

When the company team encounters enemy elements, an effective technique is to have the vehicle that makes contact fire a steady burst of machine gun fire in the direction of the enemy to orient the rest of the team. The team must adhere strictly to applicable control measures, especially those covering the employment of direct fires.


The defensive fundamentals covered in this manual are applicable in limited visibility situations; the following paragraphs outline additional considerations for planning, preparation, and execution of the defense in limited visibility.


The company team commander and subordinate leaders conduct a thorough reconnaissance, usually during daylight hours, to mark positions and routes. They must keep in mind that obscurants that limit visibility may also degrade the effectiveness of their thermal sights and LRFs. This may force them to designate alternate BPs that are closer to the company teamís engagement area(s). In marking their positions, they use material that will facilitate occupation either in daylight or under limited visibility conditions.


The commander ensures that trigger lines, TRPs, and artillery targets are "thermalized" to allow for positive identification during limited visibility. Examples of how to mark TRPs are shown in Chapter 2. Used with a sector sketch during direct fire engagements, thermalized TRPs also help vehicle commanders to more accurately estimate the range to their targets when smoke or other factors inhibit the use of the LRF. Ideally, rehearsals of occupation and displacement are conducted in limited visibility conditions; the same applies to preparation and occupation of fighting positions and to any necessary repositioning.

OPSEC is strictly enforced during all phases of defensive preparation. OPs are critical in providing security and early warning of enemy activities. The commander emplaces mounted OPs to take advantage of the capabilities of his vehiclesí thermal sights in scanning the teamís assigned sector and the engagement area. Dismounted OPs provide local security and augment mounted OPs with short-range observation and the ability to act as listening posts.


As the company team enters the execution phase, the commander must ensure that all leaders thoroughly understand the occupation and displacement criteria and that they strictly enforce all fire control measures. Vehicle commanders use sketch cards and the CITV (if applicable) to estimate target range when visibility factors prevent use of the LRF.