Manual FM 3-97.6 Mountain Operations

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Getting used to living and working at higher altitudes requires acclimatization. Altitude Figure shows the four factors that affect Rate of Ascent acclimatization in mountainous terrain. Duration of Stay These factors are similar to those a scuba Level of Exertion diver must consider, and the consequences of an error can be just as severe. In particular, Figure Factors Affecting high altitude climbing must be carefully Acclimatization paced and staged in the same way that divers must pace and stage their as- cent to the surface.

For most soldiers at high to very high altitudes, 70 to 80 percent of the respiratory component of acclimatization occurs in 7 to 10 days, 80 to 90 per- cent of overall acclimatization is generally accomplished by 21 to 30 days, and maximum acclimatization may take several months to years. However, some soldiers may acclimatize more rapidly than others, and a few soldiers may not acclimatize at all.

There is no absolute way to identify soldiers who cannot ac- climatize, except by their experience during previous altitude exposures. Slow and easy climbing, limited activity, and long rest periods are critical to altitude acclimatization. Leaves that involve soldiers descending to lower altitudes and then returning should be limited.

Acclimatization may be accomplished by either a staged or graded ascent. A combination of the two is the safest and most effective method for prevention of high altitude illnesses. Staged Ascent. A staged ascent requires soldiers to ascend to a moder- ate altitude and remain there for 3 days or more to acclimatize before ascending higher the longer the duration, the more effective and thor- ough the acclimatization to that altitude.

When possible, soldiers. Graded Ascent. A graded ascent limits the daily altitude gain to allow partial acclimatization. The altitude at which soldiers sleep is the criti- cal element in this regard. Having soldiers spend two nights at 2, meters 9, feet and limiting the sleeping altitude to no more than meters per day 1, feet above the previous nights sleeping alti- tude will significantly reduce the incidence of altitude sickness.

In situations where there is insufficient time for a staged or graded as- cent, commanders may consider using the drug acetazolamide to help accel- erate acclimatization; however, commanders must ensure soldiers are accli- matized before they are committed to combat. When used appropriately, it will prevent symptoms of AMS in nearly all soldiers and reduce symptoms in most others. It has also been found to improve sleep quality at high altitudes. However, commanders should consult physicians trained in high-altitude or wilderness medicine concerning doses, side effects, and screening of individu- als who may be allergic.

As a non-pharmacological method, high carbohydrate diets whole grains, vegetables, peas and beans, potatoes, fruits, honey, and refined sugar are effective in aiding acclimatization. COLD After illnesses related to not being acclimatized, cold injuries, both Frostbite freezing freezing and nonfreezing, are gener- Hypothermia nonfreezing ally the greatest threat.


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Reviewing cold weather Snow Blindness injury prevention, training in shelter construction, dressing in layers, and Figure Common Cold using the buddy system are critical Weather Injuries and may preclude large numbers of debilitating injuries. Figure lists the cold and snow injuries most common to mountain operations. See FM Altitude sickness and cold injuries can occur simultaneously, with signs and symptoms being confused with each other.

Coughing, stumbling indi- viduals should be immediately evacuated to medical support at lower levels to determine their medical condition. Likewise, soldiers in extreme pain from cold injuries who do not respond to normal pain medications, require evacua- tion. Without constant vigilance, cold injuries may significantly limit the number of deployable troops and drastically reduce combat power.

However, with command emphasis and proper equipment, clothing, and training, all cold-weather injuries are preventable. Weapons and Equipment environment on the soldier Factors Affected by the Environment and his subsequent ability to operate and maintain his weapons and equipment. Increasingly sophisti- cated equipment requires soldiers that are mentally alert and physically ca- pable.

Failure to consider this important factor often results in severe injury, lowered weapons and equipment performance, and mission failure. The in- formation provided within this manual, combined with the information found in weapon-specific field manuals FMs and technical manuals TMs , pro- vides the information necessary to know how to modify tactics, techniques, and procedures to win on the mountain battlefield.

In a mountainous environment, the speed and occurrence of wind gen- erally increase with elevation, and the effects of wind increase with range depending on the speed and direction. Due to these factors, soldiers must be taught the effects of wind on ballistics and how to compensate for them. In cold weather, firing weapons often creates ice fog trails. These ice fog trails obscure vision and, at the same time, allow the enemy to more easily discern the location of primary positions and the overall structure of a units defense.

This situation increases the importance of alternate and supplementary firing positions. Range estimation in mountainous terrain is difficult. Depending upon the type of terrain in the mountains, soldiers may either over- or underesti- mate range. Soldiers observing over smooth terrain, such as sand, water, or snow, generally underestimate ranges. This results in attempting to engage targets beyond the maximum effective ranges of their weapon systems. Looking downhill, targets appear to be farther away and looking uphill, they appear to be closer. This illusion, combined with the effects of gravity, causes the soldier shooting downhill to fire high, while it has the opposite effect on soldiers shooting uphill.

Higher elevations generally afford increased observation but low- hanging clouds and fog may decrease visibility, and the rugged nature of mountain terrain may produce significant dead space at mid-ranges. These effects mean that more observation posts are necessary to cover a given frontage in mountainous terrain than in non-mountainous terrain. They also require the routine designation of supplementary firing positions for direct fire weapons. Rugged terrain also makes ammunition resupply more difficult and increases the need to enforce strict fire control and discipline.

Finally, the rugged environment creates compartmented areas that may preclude mutual support and reduce supporting distances. In rocky mountainous terrain, the effectiveness of small arms fire in- creases by the splintering and ricocheting when a bullet strikes a rock. M and MK grenade launchers are useful for covering close-in dead space in mountainous terrain. Hand grenades are also effective. Although it may seem intuitive, soldiers must still be cautioned against throwing grenades uphill where they are likely to roll back before detonation. Grenades as well as other explosive munitions lose much of their effectiveness when detonated under snow, and soldiers should be warned that hand grenades may freeze to wet gloves.

As elevation increases, air pressure and air density decrease. At higher elevations, a round is more efficient and strikes a target higher, due to re- duced drag. This effect does not significantly influence the marksmanship performance of most soldiers, however, designated marksmen and snipers should re-zero their weapons after ascending to higher elevations. See FM 3- Machine guns pro- vide long-range fire when visibility is good.

However, grazing fire can rarely be achieved in mountains because of the radical changes in elevation. When grazing fire can be obtained, the ranges are normally short. More often, plunging fire is the re- sult see Figure and FM In moun- tainous terrain, situa- tions that prevent indi- rect fire support from Figure Classes of Fire with Respect protecting advancing to the Ground forces may arise. Again, supplementary positions should be routinely prepared to cover different avenues of approach and dead space.

The AT4 is a lightweight antitank weapon ideally suited for the moun- tainous environment and for direct fire against enemy weapon emplacements. Anti-tank guided missiles ATGMs , such as the Javelin and the tube- launched, optically tracked, wire-guided, heavy antitank missile system TOW , tend to hinder dismounted operations because of their bulk and weight.

In very restrictive mountainous terrain, the lack of armored avenues of approach and suitable targets may limit their utility. If an armored or mechanized threat is present, TOWs are best used in long-range, antiarmor ambushes, while the shorter-range Javelin, with its fire-and-forget technol- ogy, is best used from restrictive terrain nearer the kill zone.

However, their guidance systems may operate stiffly and sluggishly in extreme cold weather. During operations in a mountainous environment, reconnaissance is as applicable to the maneuver of armies and corps as it is to tactical operations. Limited routes, adverse terrain, and rapidly changing weather significantly increase the importance of reconnaissance operations to focus fires and ma- neuver.

Failure to conduct effective reconnaissance will result in units being asked to achieve the impossible or in missed opportunities for decisive action. As in all environments, reconnaissance operations in a mountainous area must be layered and complementary in order to overcome enemy at- tempts to deny critical information to the friendly commander.

In order to gather critical and timely information required by the commander, the activi- ties of reconnaissance assets must be closely coordinated. Strategic recon- naissance platforms set the stage by identifying key terrain, as well as the general disposition and composition of enemy forces. Operational level com- manders compare the information provided by strategic assets with their own requirements and employ reconnaissance assets to fill in the gaps that have not been answered by strategic systems and achieve the level of detail they require.

At the beginning of a campaign in a mountainous environment, recon- naissance requirements will be answered by aerial or overhead platforms, such as satellites, joint surveillance, target attack radar systems JSTARSs , U2 aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles UAVs. In a mountain AO, it may often be necessary to commit ground reconnaissance assets in support of stra- tegic and operational information requirements. Conversely, strategic and operational reconnaissance systems may be employed to identify or confirm the feasibility of employing ground reconnaissance assets.

In this instance, satellite imagery is used to analyze a specific area for insertion for the team. The potential hide positions for the teams are identified using imagery and, terrain and weather permitting, verified by UAVs. In harsh mountain terrain, ground reconnaissance operations are often conducted dismounted.

Commanders must assess the slower rate of ground reconnaissance elements to determine its impact on the entire reconnaissance and collection process. They must develop plans that account for this slower rate and initiate reconnaissance as early as possible to provide additional time for movement. Commanders may also need to allocate more forces, in- cluding combat forces, to conduct reconnaissance, reconnaissance in force missions, or limited objective attacks to gain needed intelligence.

Based upon mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, civil considerations METT-TC , commanders may need to priori- tize collection assets, accept risk, and continue with less information from their initial reconnaissance efforts. In these cases, they must use formations and schemes of maneuver that provide maximum security and flexibility, to include robust security formations, and allow for the development of the situation once in contact.

Although reconnaissance patrols should normally use the heights to ob- serve the enemy, it may be necessary to send small reconnaissance teams into valleys or along the low ground to gain suitable vantage points or physically examine routes that will be used by mechanized or motorized forces. In mountainous environments, reconnaissance elements are often tasked to de- termine:. The enemy's primary and alternate lines of communication. Locations and directions from which the enemy can attack or counter- attack.

Heights that allow the enemy to observe the various sectors of terrain. Suitable observation posts for forward observers. Portions of the route that provide covert movement. Level of mountaineering skill required to negotiate routes dismounted mobility classification and sections of the route that require mountain- eering installations. Suitability of routes for sustained combat service support CSS opera- tions.

Trails, routes, and bridges that can support or can be improved by en- gineers in order to move mechanized elements into areas previously thought to be impassable. Bypass routes. The compartmented geography and inherent mobility restrictions of mountainous terrain pose significant risk for reconnaissance in force opera- tions. Since the terrain normally allows enemy units to defend along a much broader front with fewer forces, a reconnaissance in force may be conducted as a series of smaller attacks to determine the enemy situation at selected points.

Commanders should carefully consider mobility restrictions that may affect plans for withdrawal or exploitation. Commanders should also position small reconnaissance elements or employ surveillance systems throughout the threat area of operations to gauge the enemys reaction to friendly recon- naissance in force operations and alert the force to possible enemy counterat- tacks.

In the mountains, the risk of having at least a portion of the force cut off and isolated is extremely high. Mobile reserves and preplanned fires must be available to reduce the risk, decrease the vulnerability of the force, and exploit any success as it develops. Engineer reconnaissance assumes greater significance in a mountain- ous environment in order to ensure supporting engineers are properly task organized with specialized equipment for quickly overcoming natural and reinforcing obstacles. Engineer reconnaissance teams assess the resources re- quired for clearing obstacles on precipitous slopes, constructing crossing sites at fast-moving streams and rivers, improving and repairing roads, erecting fortifications, and establishing barriers during the conduct of defensive op- erations.

Since the restrictive terrain promotes the widespread employment of point obstacles, engineer elements should be integrated into all mountain reconnaissance operations. In some regions, maps may be unsuitable for tactical planning due to inaccuracies, limited detail, and inadequate coverage. In these areas, engi- neer reconnaissance should precede, but not delay operations. Because rug- ged mountain terrain makes ground reconnaissance time-consuming and dangerous, a combination of ground and aerial or overhead platforms should be used for the engineer reconnaissance effort.

Data on the terrain, vegeta- tion, and soil composition, combined with aerial photographs and multispec- tral imagery, allows engineer terrain intelligence teams to provide detailed information that may be unavailable from other sources. During all but the most adverse weather conditions, aerial or overhead reconnaissance may be the best means to gather information and cover large areas that are difficult for ground units to traverse or observe.

Airborne standoff intelligence collection devices, such as side-looking radar, provide excellent terrain and target isolation imagery. Missions must be planned to ensure that critical areas are not masked by terrain or other environmental conditions. Additionally, aerial or overhead photographs may compensate for inadequate maps and provide the level of detail needed to plan operations. In- frared imagery and camouflage detection film can be used to determine pre- cise locations of enemy positions, even at night.

Furthermore, AH and. OHD helicopters can provide commanders with critical day or night video reconnaissance, utilizing television or forward-looking infrared. Terrain may significantly impact the employment of overhead recon- naissance platforms using radar systems to detect manmade objects. These systems may find themselves adversely impacted by the masking effect that occurs when the mountain terrain blocks the radar beam. Thus, the radar coverage may not extend across the reverse slope of a steep ridge or a valley floor. Attempts to reposition the overhead platform to a point where it can see the masked area may merely result in masking occurring elsewhere.

This limitation does not preclude using such systems; however, the com- mander should employ manned or unmanned aerial reconnaissance when available, in conjunction with overhead reconnaissance platforms in order to minimize these occurrences. The subsequent use of ground reconnaissance assets to verify the data that can be gathered by overhead and electro-optical platforms will ensure that commanders do not fall prey to deliberate enemy deception efforts that capitalize on the limited capabilities of some types of overhead platforms in this environment.

In the mountains, surveillance of vulnerable flanks and gaps between units is accomplished primarily through well-positioned observation posts OPs. These OPs are normally inserted by helicopter and manned by small elements equipped with sensors, enhanced electro-optical devices, and appro- priate communications. Commanders must develop adequate plans that ad- dress not only their insertion, but their continued support and ultimate ex- traction.

The considerations of METT-TC may dictate that commanders pro- vide more personnel and assets than other types of terrain to adequately con- duct surveillance missions. Commanders must also ensure that surveillance operations are fully integrated with reconnaissance efforts in order to provide a3dequate coverage of the AO. Long-range surveillance units LRSUs and snipers trained in moun- tain operations also contribute to surveillance missions and benefit from the restrictive terrain and excellent line-of-sight. Overhead platforms and air cavalry may also be used for surveillance missions of limited duration.

How- ever, weather may impede air operations, decrease visibility for both air and ground elements, and reduce the ability of ground surveillance elements to remain hidden for prolonged periods without adequate logistical support. As with overhead reconnaissance, terrain may mask overhead surveillance plat- forms. The Enemy The battle to Combat Net Radio In turn, Messenger Each operational Camouflage and Concealment Reconnaissance and Surveillance Engagements tend to be isolated, march columns of even small elements extremely long, and mutual support difficult to accomplish.

Command and control of all available assets is best achieved if command posts are well forward. However, the mountainous environment de- creases the commanders mobility.

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Therefore, commanders must be able to develop a clear vision of how the battle will unfold, correctly anticipate the decisive points on the battlefield, and position themselves at these critical points. The success of a unit conducting mountain operations depends on how well leaders control their units. Control is limited largely to a well- thought-out plan and thorough preparation. Boundaries require careful planning in mountain operations. Heights overlooking valleys should be included in the boundaries of units capable of exerting the most influence over them.

These boundaries may be difficult to determine initially and may require subsequent adjustment. During execution, leaders must be able to control direction and speed of movement, maintain proper intervals, and rapidly start, stop, or shift fire.

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In the mountains, soldiers focus mainly on negotiating difficult ter- rain. Leaders, however, must ensure that their soldiers remain alert for, understand, and follow signals and orders. Although in most instances audio, visual, wire, physical signals, and messengers are used to main- tain control, operations may be controlled by time as a secondary means. However, realistic timetables must be based on thorough reconnaissance and sound practical knowledge of the mountain battlefield. Commanders must devote careful consideration to the substantial effect the mountain environment may have on systems that affect their ability to collect, process, store, and disseminate information.

Computers, com- munications, and other sophisticated electronic equipment are usually susceptible to jars, shocks, and rough handling associated with the rug- ged mountain environment. They are also extremely sensitive to the se- vere cold often associated with higher elevations. Localized storms with low sustained cloud cover reduce the effectiveness of most imagery intelligence IMINT platforms, to include unmanned aerial ve- hicles UAVs.

The collective effect of mountain weather and terrain di- minishes a commanders ability to achieve shared situational under- standing among his subordinates. However, increased use of human in- telligence HUMINT , clear orders and intents, and leaders capable of ex- ercising initiative, allow commanders to dominate the harsh environment of a mountain area of operations.

Chapter 2. As in any environment, mountain operations pose both tactical and acci- dent risks. However, since most units do not routinely train for or operate in the mountains, the level of uncertainty, ambiguity, and friction is often higher than in less rugged environments. Commanders must be able to identify and assess hazards that may be encountered in executing their missions, develop and implement control measures to eliminate unneces- sary risk, and continuously supervise and assess to ensure measures are properly executed and remain appropriate as the situation changes.

Al- though risk decisions are the commanders business, staffs, subordinate leaders, and individual soldiers must also understand the risk manage- ment process and must continuously look for hazards at their level or within their area of expertise. Any risks identified with recommended risk reduction measures must be quickly elevated to the chain of com- mand see FM Although higher-elevation terrain is not always key, the structure of a mountain area of operations AO often forms a stairway of key terrain fea- tures.

Identification and control of dominant terrain at each operational ter- rain level form the basis for successful mountain maneuver. Key terrain fea- tures at higher elevations often take on added significance due to their inac- cessibility and ease of defense. To maintain freedom of maneuver, command- ers must apply combat power so that the terrain at Levels II and III can be exploited in the conduct of operations.

Successful application of this concept requires commanders to think, plan, and maneuver vertically as well as hori- zontally.


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Mountain operations usually focus on lines of communication, choke points, and dominating heights. Maneuver generally attempts to avoid strengths, envelop the enemy, and limit his ability to effectively use the high ground. Major difficulties are establishing boundaries, establishing and main- taining communications, providing logistics, and evacuating wounded.

Throughout the plan, prepare, and execute cycle, commanders must continu- ously assess the vertical impact on the mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, civil considerations METT-TC. However, LTC Mustafa Kemals understanding of the decisive importance of the hilly terrain, his grasp of the enemys overall intent, and his own resolute leadership pre- served the Ottoman defenses.

His troops seized the initiative from superior forces and pushed the Allied invasion force back to its bridgehead. The result was nine months of trench warfare, followed by the Allies withdrawal from Gallipoli. The landing beaches here were hemmed by precipitous cliffs culminating in the high ground of the Sari Bair ridge, a fact of great importance to the defense.

Only one Ottoman infantry company was guarding the area. Although prewar plans had estab- th lished contingencies for using 19 ID, Kemal, the division commander, had received no word from his superiors regarding the developing scenario. Nev- ertheless, understanding that a major Allied landing could easily split the pen- insula, he decided that time was critical and set off for Ari Burnu without wait- ing for his senior commanders approval. In his march toward Ari Burnu that morning, he recognized that the hilly terrain in general and the Sari Bair ridge in particular were of vital strategic importance: if the enemy captured this high ground they would be in an excellent position to cut the peninsula in half.

Kemal now engaged the enemy. He impressed upon his men the importance of controlling the hilltops at all costs, issuing his famous order: I am not or- dering you to attack. I am ordering you to die. In the time it takes us to die, other forces and commanders can come and take our place. Despite being outnumbered three-to-one, the Turkish counterattack stabilized their position and prevented the Allies from capturing the Sari Bair ridge.

Nightfall brought about a lull in the fighting. There was some sniping and a few local encounters on 26 April, and on 27 April Kemal finally received major reinforcements. The front stabilized and the opposing armies settled down into trench warfare. On 16 January , the Allies admitted defeat and withdrew. Despite his lack of situational knowledge, Kemal in- stinctively understood the enemys intent and, recognizing the importance of controlling the hilltops and ridgelines, was committed to concentrating his combat power to seize and hold this key terrain.

Mission analysis must include the spatial and vertical characteristics of the AO. Although defeating the enemy continues to be the basic objective of tactical operations, the task of controlling specific operational terrain levels will be paramount.

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At brigade level and below, major tactical objectives are normally translated into tasks pertaining to seizing, retaining, or controlling specific dominating heights at either Level II or Level III. Therefore, it is im- perative to identify the tasks and assets necessary to access each operational terrain level. At any operational terrain level, defending and delaying are easier at de- files, while attacking is more difficult. Consequently, commanders must always consider the impact of decentralization on security. One method of maintaining freedom of action is to seize or hold key ter- rain.

In the mountains, key terrain is frequently identified as terrain that is higher than that held by the enemy. Seizing this terrain often depends on long and difficult envelopments or turning movements. Therefore, the speci- fied and implied tasks associated with mobility and sustainment, as well as command and control, must be considered in terms of their vertical difficulty. ENEMY An enemy will nor- Utilize the environment to his mally position forces in advantage depth and height along Conduct air operations likely avenues of approach. Mountain terrain facili- Conduct decentralized operations tates wide dispersal, al- Utilize the terrain in Levels II and III lowing relatively small Employ obstacles or barriers to units to hold dominant ter- restrict maneuverability rain in a connected system Conduct limited-visibility operations of strong points.

To pre- Sustain his maneuver elements vent bypassing and envel- opment attempts, the en- Figure Factors Affecting Assessment of emy may adopt a many- the Enemy Situation tiered, perimeter defense. Aside from the relative size of forces, the type of enemy units and their equipment must be compared with those of friendly forces, to include a comparison of the suitability of forces, tactics, and train- ing.

When considering the enemy's ability to operate in mountainous terrain, commanders should consider how well the enemy can accomplish the tasks and actions listed in Figure Again, in analyzing both enemy and friendly factors during mountain operations, the vertical, as well as the horizontal, perspective should be fully integrated into all aspects of the assessment. As in all military operations, terrain analysis involves observation and fields of fire, cover and concealment, obstacles, key terrain, and avenues of approach OCOKA.

Terrain often influences the conduct of operations more in the mountains than on flatter terrain. The mountains form the nonlinear and vertical structure of the battlefield, and the influences of geography and climate dictate the extent to which commanders modify tactics. Examples of these difficulties are often encountered in the concentration of forces, as well as in the maintenance of command and control. In the mountains, as elsewhere, surprise is easier to achieve for the force that knows the terrain better and has the skills and equipment necessary to achieve greater mobility.

The appropriate use of vertical terrain improves the element of surprise if the terrain has been analyzed properly to determine the best means to counter the enemys reactions. Once the commander decides. In a mountainous environment, the terrain normally favors the defender and necessitates the conduct of limited visibility operations. Highly trained units can achieve significant tactical gains and decisive victories by exploiting limited visibility. However, limited visibility operations in mountainous ter- rain require precise planning, careful daylight reconnaissance, exceptionally good command and control, and a high degree of training.

Imaginative and bold limited visibility operations can minimize the advantage of terrain for the defender and shift the balance of combat power to the side that can best cope with or exploit limited visibility. Although moun- 1. The ability to observe and identify tar- tainous terrain generally gets in conditions of bright sunlight permits excellent long- 2. The ability to estimate range in clear air range observation and 3. The ability to apply wind corrections fields of fire, steep slopes 4. The ability to shoot accurately up and and rugged terrain affect down vertical slopes a soldiers ability to accu- rately estimate range Figure Factors Affecting Observation and frequently cause and Fields of Fire large areas to be hidden from observation.

The existence of sharp relief and dead space facilitates covert approaches, making surveillance difficult despite such long-range observation. Four factors that influence what can be seen and hit in mountainous terrain are listed in Figure The identification and proper use of the cover and concealment provided by mountainous terrain are fundamental to all aspects of mountain opera- tions.

The ridge systems found in Level II may provide covert approaches through many areas that are hidden from observation by the vegetation and relief. The difficulties a force encounters in finding available cover and con- cealment along ridges are fewer than those on the peaks, especially above the timberline. Uncovered portions of an approach leave a force exposed to obser- vation and fire for long periods.

The enemy can easily detect movement in this region, leaving commanders with three primary options to improve cover and concealment:. Identify and exploit avenues of approach the enemy would consider unlikely, due to their difficult ascent or descent. Negotiate routes during periods of limited visibility. Provide overwhelming route security. Obvious natural obstacles include deep defiles, cliffs, rivers, landslides, avalanches, crevices, and scree slopes, as well as the physical terrain of the mountains themselves.

Obstacles vary in their effect on different forces. They must look specifically at the degree to which obstacles restrict operations, and at the ability of each force to exploit the tactical op- portunities that exist when obstacles are employed. Man-made obstacles used in conjunction with restrictive terrain are extremely effective in the moun- tains; however, their construction is very costly in terms of time, materiel, transportation assets, and labor.

Commanders must know the location, ex- tent, and strength of obstacles so that they can be incorporated into their scheme of maneuver. Key terrain generally increases in importance with an increase in ele- vation and a decrease in accessibility. In the mountains, however, terrain that is higher than that held by the opposing force is often key, but only if the force is capable of fighting there.

A well-prepared force capable of maneuver in rugged terrain can gain an even greater advantage over an ill-prepared enemy at higher elevation levels. The vast majority of operations in the mountains requires that the commander designate decisive terrain in his concept of operations to commu- nicate its importance to his staff and subordinate commanders.

In operations over mountainous terrain, the analysis of key and decisive terrain is based on the identification of these features at each of the three operational terrain levels. There are few truly impassable areas in the mountains. The com- mander must recognize that what may be key terrain to one force may be an obstacle to another force. He must also recognize that properly trained com- batants can use high obstructing terrain as a means to achieve decisive victo- ries with comparatively small-sized combat elements.

In mountainous terrain, there are few easily accessible avenues of ap- proach, and they usually run along valleys, defiles, or the crests and spurs of ridges. This type of geography allows the defender to economize in difficult terrain and to concentrate on dangerous avenues of approach. A typical offen- sive tactic is to conduct a coordinated assault with the main effort along ac- cessible avenues of approach, and supporting efforts by one or more maneu- ver elements on difficult and unexpected avenues of approach. Normally, high rates of advance and heavy concentration of forces are difficult or impos- sible to achieve along mountainous avenues of approach.

Relief features may create large areas of dead space that facilitate covert movement. Units may use difficult and unlikely avenues of approach to achieve surprise; however, these are extremely high-risk operations and are prone to failure unless forces are well trained and experienced in mountaineering techniques. In mountainous terrain, the analysis of avenues of approach should be based on a thorough reconnaissance and evaluated in terms of the factors listed in Figure on page As discussed in Chapter 1, weather and visibility conditions in the mountainous regions of the world may create unprecedented advantages and disadvantages for combatants.

To fight effectively, commanders must acquire. Ter- Vulnerability to attack from rain has a dominant effect surrounding heights on local climate and Ability to provide mutual support to weather patterns in the forces on other avenues of approach mountains. Mountainous Effect on rates of advance areas are subject to fre- Effect on command and control quent and rapid changes of Potential to accommodate deception weather, including fog, operations strong winds, extreme heat Ability to support necessary CS and and cold, and heavy rain or CSS operations snow. Thus, many forecasts Access to secure rest and halt sites that describe weather over Potential to fix the enemy and reduce large areas of terrain are the possibility of retreat inherently inaccurate.

Mountain Operations FM 3-97.6

Commanders must be able Figure Factors Affecting Analysis to develop local, terrain- of Avenues of Approach based forecasts by combining available forecasts with field observations local temperature, wind, precipitation, cloud patterns, barometric pressure, and surrounding terrain. Forecasting mountain weather from the field improves accuracy and enhances the ability to exploit opportunities offered by the weather, while minimizing its adverse effects see Appendix B.

Commanders must assess the operational and tactical implications of the restrictive environment on mobility, protection, firepower, and logistics. The complex task of arranging activities in time, space, and purpose requires commanders to fully understand the impact of elevation, weather, and visi- bility on the capabilities of his subordinate elements and relative combat power. Mountainous terrain and weather can greatly enhance the relative combat power of defending forces and, conversely, it can drastically reduce those of the attacking forces.

For example, an infantry battalion may be in- adequate to defeat a defending infantry company in the mountains. Instead, an infantry battalion may only be capable of defeating a well-positioned in- fantry platoon. However, commanders must carefully consider each unique situation and weigh all tangible and intangible aspects of combat power ma- neuver, firepower, leadership, protection, and information when comparing strengths and determining the forces necessary to accomplish the mission. Commanders must also assess the proper mix of heavy and light forces that capitalizes on the unique strengths that each type of force can bring to mountain operations while minimizing their limitations.

While generally complicating command and control, an appropriate mix allows commanders more flexibility in the synchronization of their operations. Additionally, the difficulty providing combat support and combat service support for mountain operations must be evaluated to determine if the proportion of support troops to combat troops is sufficient. Prior to and throughout an operation, commanders must continually assess the effect that the rugged mountain environment and sustained com- bat operations has on the ability of their soldiers to accomplish the mission.

Commanders may need to slow the pace of their operation, transition to the defense for short periods, or rotate units to ensure that their soldiers are physically capable of striking effectively at decisive times and locations. Too often, commanders consider only the operational readiness OR rate of equipment and logistics levels when determining their overall ability to con- tinue offensive actions.

Failure to consider this intangible human aspect may result in increased loss of lives and mission failure. Vertical operations are an integral part of mountain operations and are one means to improve the success of decisive engagements. Commanders must review the state of training of their units to ensure they are adequately prepared to maneuver and fight at various elevations.

Increased require- ments for aviation support require aviation units to be capable of operating in the specific mountain environment. Units must also have sufficient numbers of pathfinders and trained air assault personnel to select and mark landing zones LZs and prepare sling loads. In the mountains, proper tim- ing is fundamental to creating oppor- Adaptability of plans to the tunities to fight the enemy on favor- terrain and varying weather able terms.

Mountain Operations FM : Department of Defense :

Restrictive terrain, Increased time needed to weather, the accumulation of chance conduct reconnaissance, errors, unexpected difficulties, and execute movements, and the confusion of battle increase the synchronize events on the time necessary to assemble, deploy, battlefield move, converge, and mass combat Significant variance in the power, effectively decreasing the number of hours of amount of time available to plan and visibility with season and prepare.

To optimize the time avail- elevation able, commanders must continuously Figure Factors Affecting evaluate the impact of reduced mo- Time Available bility caused by the weather and ter- rain. At times, commanders may need to conduct a tactical pause to facilitate the concentration of combat power at a decisive point. However, they must consider time with respect to the enemy as time available is always related to the enemy's ability to execute his own plan, prepare, and execute cycle.

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Fig- ure summarizes the time considerations that are different from or greater than those encountered on flatter terrain. Generally, civilian population centers will be located at the lower eleva- tions of Level I close to sources of water and along major lines of communica- tions. Refugees and displaced civilians may increase congestion on the al- ready limited road and trail networks normally found in mountainous envi- ronments, further complicating maneuver and sustaining operations. Commanders must also consider the impact of operations on the often- limited civilian resources available in the mountains.

The wisdom of using lo- cal resources to lighten in-theater supply requirements must be balanced. While the purchase of goods and services from the local economy is generally welcomed, it may serve to inflate prices and make it impossible for local civilians to purchase their own scarce and needed supplies. In mountainous regions, commanders often encounter a populace of di- verse political and ethnic orientation that may support, oppose, or be am- bivalent to US operations or the presence of US forces.

Depending on friendly force objectives, commanders may conduct public relations, civil affairs, hu- manitarian assistance, and psychological operations PSYOP to influence perceptions and attitudes of neutral or uncommitted parties. Even if com- manders choose not to commit resources to enlist civilian sympathy and sup- port, they must still adjust their operations to minimize damage and loss of life to innocent civilians. To help ease their anxiety in combat, soldiers must have confidence in their leaders. This confidence may diminish rapidly unless leaders demon- strate the ability to lead over formidable terrain and under the most difficult weather conditions.

Superficial knowledge of mountain warfare and igno- rance or underestimation of mountain hazards and environmental effects may result in mission failure and the unnecessary loss of soldiers lives. Effective leadership in mountain operations combines sound judgment with a thorough understanding of the characteristics of the mountain envi- ronment. Commanders must first develop flexible and adaptable leadership throughout the chain of command. They must then be able to understand and exploit the operational and tactical implications of the mountain environ- ment, as well as its effects on personnel, equipment, and weapons.

The keys to meeting this challenge are proper training and operational experience in the mountains. To fight effectively, leaders creatively exploit the opportuni- ties offered by the mountain environment while minimizing the adverse ef- fects it can have on their operations. Leadership rapidly becomes the primary element of combat power on the mountain battlefield. Commanders must recognize the distinctive effects created by decentralization of command, develop a depth of leadership that forms the vital link to unity of effort, and organize and direct operations that require minimum intervention.

While specific situations require different leadership styles and techniques, the nature of mountain warfare generally necessitates that commanders embrace the philosophy of command and control known as mission command see FM This type of command and control requires subordinates to make decisions rapidly within the framework of the commander's concept and intent. Commanders must be able to accept some measure of uncertainty, delegate, and trust and encourage subordinate leaders at all levels to use initiative and act alone to achieve the desired re- sults, particularly when the situation changes and they lose contact with higher headquarters.

The communications means available to support operations in moun- tainous regions are the same as those to support operations in other regions of the world. However, rapid and reliable communications are especially diffi- cult to achieve and maintain in mountainous areas. The mountainous envi- ronment requires electronic equipment that is light, rugged, portable and able to exploit the advantages of higher terrain.

The combined effects of ir- regular terrain patterns, magnetic and ionospheric disturbances, cold, ice, and dampness on communications equipment increase operating, mainte- nance, and supply problems and require precise planning and extensive coor- dination. If available, hands-free radios, such as helmet- mounted radios, are an excellent means of communication for small unit tac- tics and close-in distances, particularly while negotiating rugged terrain. In colder environments, shortened battery life greatly reduces the reliability of manpacked systems that rely on constant voltage input to maintain maxi- mum accuracy.

Since even a small unit may be spread over a large area, retransmission sites may be needed to maintain communications and increase range. These sites require extensive preparation and support to ensure the survival of per- sonnel and the continued maintenance of equipment. Retransmission systems are often placed on the highest accessible terrain to afford them the best line- of-sight; however, through simple analysis, these locations are often predict- able and make them more vulnerable to enemy interdiction. The importance and difficulty of maintaining adequate communications in mountainous ter- rain requires commanders to devote additional resources for the protection of these limited assets and operators skilled in the proper use of cover and con- cealment, noise and light discipline, and other operations security OPSEC measures.

Physical range limitations, difficulties in establishing line-of-sight paths due to intervening terrain, and limited retransmission capabilities of- ten make it difficult to establish a brigade and larger-sized radio net. How- ever, commanders can, if within range, enter subordinate nets and establish a temporary net for various contingencies. In the mountains or if the mobile subscriber equipment network is not yet fully developed, commanders should consider the increased need for the improved high frequency radio IHFR family of amplitude modulation AM radios and single-channel tactical sat- ellite communications terminals for extended distances.

Satellite communications Greater freedom from siting SATCOM terminals are light, restrictions small, portable ground termi- Extended range, capacity, and nals that are able to communi- coverage cate in spite of rugged terrain. Mobility and rapid employment During operations in mountain- Extremely high circuit reliability ous areas having little or no in- frastructure to support com- Figure SATCOM can network with multiple users, communicate while enroute, penetrate foliage while on the ground, and has several other advantages making it an ideal system for mountain communications see Figure However, limitations include restricted access, low-rate data communications, and lack of antijam capability.

Commanders should review FM Using C2 aircraft can assist the commander in overcoming ground mo- bility restrictions and may improve communications that would otherwise limit his ability to direct the battle. In the mountains, terrain masking, while making flight routing more difficult, may provide the degree of protection needed to allow an increased use of aircraft. To avoid radar or visual acquisi- tion and to survive, C2 aircraft must use the same terrain flight techniques employed by other tactical aviation units.

This flight method often degrades FM communications and reinforces the requirement for radio relay or re- transmission sites. Directional antennas, both bidirectional and unidirectional, may be needed to increase range and maintain radio communications. Although easy to fabricate, directional antennas are less flexible and more time-consuming to set up. Positioning of all antennas is also crucial in the mountains because moving an antenna even a small distance can significantly affect reception. Antenna icing, a common occurrence at high elevations, significantly degrades communications.

Ice may also make it difficult to extend or lower antennas, and the weight of ice buildup, combined with increased brittleness, may cause them to break. Antennas should have extra guy wires, supports, and anchor stakes to strengthen them to withstand heavy ice and wind load- ing. All large horizontal antennas should be equipped with a system of coun- terweights arranged to slacken before wire or poles break from the excess pressures of ice or wind. However, soldiers must exercise great care to ensure that the antenna is not damaged in their attempts to dislodge the ice. Ground rods and guy wires are often difficult to drive into rocky and frozen earth.

Mountain pitons are excellent anchors for antenna guys in this type of soil. In extreme cold, ropes can be frozen to the ground and guys tied to these anchor ropes. Adequate grounding is also difficult to obtain on frozen or rocky surfaces due to high electrical resistance. Where it is possible to in- stall a grounding rod, it should be driven into the earth as deep as possible or through the ice on frozen lakes or rivers.

Grounding in rocky soil may be im- proved by adding salt solutions to improve electrical flow. Like FM, mobile subscriber equipment MSE requires a line-of-sight transmission path and a tactical satellite or several relay sites to overcome mountainous terrain and maintain MSE connectivity FM Wire is normally one of the most reliable means of communication. Un- fortunately, in rugged mountains and particularly during the winter months, wire is more difficult and time consuming to install, maintain, and protect.

Wire may be dispensed in mountain areas by tracked or wheeled vehicle, foot, skis, snowshoes, or oversnow vehicles. As in any environment, units must pe- riodically patrol their wire lines to ensure that they have remained camou- flaged and that the enemy has not tapped into them. Snow-covered cables and wire can cause the loss of many man-days in recovering or maintaining circuits. This can be avoided by pulling the cable from under the snow after each snowfall and letting it rest just below the sur- face of the snow. Trees or poles can be used to support wire.

Allowances must be made for drifting snow when determining the height above ground at which to support the lines. However, when crossing roads, it is preferable to run the wire through culverts and under bridges rather than bury or raise wire overhead. In addition to ease, this technique reduces maintenance re- quirements associated with vehicles severing lines, particularly with higher volumes of traffic on limited road networks. If long-distance wire communica- tions are required, the integration of radio relay systems must be considered.

Great care must be taken in handling wire and cables in extreme cold weather. Condensation and ice on connectors make connecting cables difficult and can degrade the signal path. When rubber jackets become hard, the ca- bles must be protected from stretching and bending to prevent short circuits caused by breaks in the covering. Therefore, all tactical cable and wire should be stored in heated areas or warmed prior to installation.

TC provides more detailed information on the installation and maintenance of wire and cable. Field phones are useful in a stationary position, such as a mountain pa- trol base or an ambush site, although leaders must consider the weight and. The batteries that are used to operate field telephones and switchboards are subject to the same temperature limitations as those used to power tactical radio sets. When used with a hands-free phone, commercially available rope with a communication wire in it is ideally suited for mountain operations.

This sys- tem is lightweight and easy to manage, and provides an added measure of se- curity during limited visibility operations. In addition to the standard uses, since it functions as both a rope and a wire, it can be used to control move- ment on all types of installations, and it can serve as a primary means of communication for climbing teams. Leaders can use simple audio signals, such as voice or whistles, to lo- cally alert and warn.

Sound travels farther in mountain air. Although this ef- fect may increase the possibility of enemy detection, interrupting terrain, wind conditions, and echoes can restrict voice and whistle commands to cer- tain directions and uses. Like audio signals, visual signals such as pyrotechnics and mirrors have limited use due to enemy detection, but may work for routine and emer- gency traffic at the right time and place.

Blowing sand or snow, haze, fog, and other atmospheric conditions may periodically affect range and reliability. Units should use hand and arm signals instead of the radio or voice whenever possible, especially when close to the enemy. Luminous tape on the camouflage band, luminous marks on a compass, or flashlights may be used as signals at night over short distances.

Infrared sources and receiving equipment, such as night vision goggles, aiming lights, and infrared filters for flashlights, can be used to send and receive signals at night. However, an en- emy outfitted with similar equipment can also detect active devices. A tug system is a common method of signaling between members of a roped climbing team. However, tug systems are often unreliable when climb- ers are moving on a rope or when the distance is so great that the friction of the rope on the rock absorbs the signals.

Separate tug lines can be installed in static positions by tying a string, cord, or wire from one position to the next. Soldiers can pass signals quietly and quickly between positions by pulling on the tug line in a prearranged code. Although slow, communication by messenger is frequently the only means available to units operating in the mountains.

Messengers should be trained climbers, resourceful, familiar with mountain peculiarities, and able to carry their own existence load. During the winter, advanced skiing skills may also be required. Messengers should always be dispatched in pairs. Air messenger service should be scheduled between units and integrated with the aerial resupply missions. Vehicles may also be employed to maintain messen- ger communications when conditions of time, terrain, and distance permit.

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FM It is directly linked to doctrinal principles found in FM and FM It provides key information and considerations for commanders and staffs regarding how mountains affect personnel, equipment, and operations. It also assists them in planning, preparing, and executing operations, battles, and engagements in a mountainous environment. Army units do not routinely train for operations in a mountainous environment.

Therefore, commanders and trainers at all levels should use this manual in conjunction with TC , Army Training and Evaluation Program ARTEP mission training plans, and the training principles in FM and FM when preparing to conduct operations in mountainous terrain.