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The maneuver commander's most versatile, lethal weapon system: the trained and equipped forward observer.

The rapid advancement of precision targeting technology during the last decade has been remarkable. The capabilities and tools available to forward observers (FOs) and joint fires observers (JFOs) has evolved from compass and map to lightweight handheld laser range finders and advanced pocket-sized handheld devices with precision imagery. As a result of these advancements in technology. Soldier and leader training as well as tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) for employment of this technology also needs to evolve. The most important aspect of this precision targeting capability is providing the FO with enhanced ability to achieve the most difficult aspect of the five requirements for accurate predicted fire--accurate target location--thereby allowing the FO to achieve his primary mission--first round fire for effect.

Precision fires are necessary in today's complex operating environment where collateral damage risks versus military necessity must be addressed. With the strategic risk associated with unnecessary injury and death of noncombatants, precision fires must be employed effectively. The accurate employment of ballistic and precision munitions allows us to reduce risk of collateral damage while achieving desired effects. Our precision munitions for mortar, cannon, and rocket systems offer tactical commanders the option of conducting lethal strikes while mitigating the risks to Soldiers, noncombatants and infrastructure. Precision munitions offer leaders on the battlefield a wide variety of choices on how to engage a target and a scalable capability to attack it.

As the Army continues to develop its coordinate-seeking munitions capability, consideration must be given to the requirements necessary to employ these munitions. One crucial aspect to the effective employment of coordinate-seeking munitions is target location. Accurately determining target location is required for effective employment of precision munitions and is achieved through a process called target coordinate mensuration (TCM). The U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence (USAFCoE), as the Army designated functional manager for TCM, has established a joint recognized and accredited TCM training and certification program. The USAFCoE has a clear understanding of the requirements associated with precision fires and has collaborated with the Joint Staff, other services, combatant commands (COCOM), and combat support agencies (CSA) to develop a comprehensive training program for TCM, weaponeering, and collateral damage estimation (CDE).


For the past two years, the Joint and Combined Integration Directorate (JACI), Fort Sill, Okla., has been the USAFCoE lead agent for the development of a Precision Fires Program (PFP). The PFP encompasses institutional training for TCM, weaponeering, and CDE. Precision fires training is designed for 13F (forward observers), 131A (targeting technicians), and 13A (fire support officers). Having trained operators enables tactical units conducting fire support to employ indirect fires accurately and effectively, achieving first round target effects while mitigating collateral damage.

Another critical aspect of employing accurate indirect fires is the FO hardware requirements. Currently, 13F FOs have the capability to conduct mensuration using the pocket-sized forward entry device (PFED) with precision fires image (PF1). Forward observers must understand the PFED is not primarily a digital communication device. It is a digitized computer that enables the FO to quickly determine a 10-digit grid and then mensurate that grid if the circumstances permit. When combined with a handheld laser such as the Mark VII or Vector 21, the PFED is by far the fastest and most accurate means to determine an accurate target location. Once the accurate target location has been determined, the FO can send the call for fire voice or digital through the tactical radio. The PFED is standard issue for dismounted platoon FOs. Another FO system is the ruggedized handheld computer (RHC) with Forward Observer System (FOS) software and Precision Strike Suite - Special Operations Force (PSS-SOF) mensuration software. The RHC is a system used at the platoon/company level for fire support planning and execution that also facilitates digital calls for fire. With its embedded PSS-SOF capability, the trained and certified user can quickly mensurate coordinates. Both systems are highly effective and allow for timely and accurate calls for fire. However, these automated tools have not propagated to the fire support community due to a lack of capability understanding. Senior leader education and command emphasis must occur in order to fully integrate these capabilities into fire support operations. Once FOs are fully trained on the proper use of the PFED and RHC they hold a very powerful weapon system that enables them to effectively support their maneuver formations with timely and accurate fires.

The following are a few basic questions that commanders should ask their fire support officers and fire support NCOs:

* Do we currently have certified operators for TCM so we can employ our coordinate seeking and ballistic munitions accurately and effectively? (APMI/Excalibur/GMLRS, etc ...)

* Do we have the systems and software to conduct TCM? (PFED with PFI RHCs with FOS/PSS-SOF)

* Are our JFOs and FOs current on their certification requirements?

* What proficiency or sustainment training do we currently conduct for our TCM-certified JFOs and FOs?

* Are our 13A lieutenants and captains trained and certified in the areas of precision fires?

* Where can we get our FOs trained?


By asking these questions, commanders will be able to determine their unit's capability to employ fires effectively and make decisions accordingly. The Precision Fires Program provides three venues for instruction:

1. Primary Military Education for 13F--Advanced Leader Course (ALC) and Senior Leader Course (SLC); 131A--basic and advanced courses; and 13A--Basic Officer Leaders Course (BOLC) B and Field Artillery Captains Career Course (FACCC).

2. Functional course open to 13F FOs and 131A targeting technicians that did not receive this training during PME. It is also open to other services, partner nations, and individuals in targeting billets that require this training.

3. Precision Fires Mobile Training Team (MTT). The MTT will support Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN), unit-level training program development and will supplement current COCOM training activities when requested. MTT support during FY 12 is provided at no charge to the unit.

All venues provide training to joint standards and in all cases except BOLC B and FACCC, will lead to certification for TCM, CDE, or both. There is no certification requirement for weaponeering at this time.

Precision Fires Program POCs:

CW5 Robert P. Tisdale, JACI Precision Fires Program Manager, (580) 442-8629

CW4 Thomas M. Taccia, JACI Precision Fires Targeting Officer, (580) 442-3385

CW4 Thomas Taccia, 131A targeting technician, is a targeting officer with the Precision Fires Program at the Joint and Combined Integration Directorate (JACI), U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence, Fort Sill, Okla. He has previously deployed as a fires brigade targeting officer and division Field Artillery intelligence officer in 2008/9, as a FA brigade targeting officer in 2004/5 and a Q37 radar section leader in 2003/4. He served as a 75th Fires Brigade targeting officer and developed a unit-level precision fires program consisting of TCM, Weaponeering, and CDE. He was assigned to JACI in 2009 and was a key architect along with CW5 Robert Tisdale in the development and implementation of the current joint Precision Fires Program.
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Title Annotation:Professional Forum
Author:Taccia, Thomas
Publication:Infantry Magazine
Date:Jun 1, 2011
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