Because many potential adversaries have the capability to employ nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, the tank platoon must prepare to fight in an NBC environment. Collecting, processing, and disseminating needed NBC hazard information are also vital functions. To survive and remain effective on the integrated battlefield, the tank platoon must be proficient in the three fundamentals of NBC defense: contamination avoidance, NBC protection, and decontamination.

Additional-duty NBC personnel should be designated by the platoon SOP for operations in an NBC environment. Selected crews should be designated and trained as chemical agent detection and radiological survey and monitoring teams.

Smoke has a variety of uses on the battlefield; it is used extensively by enemy and friendly elements in both offensive and defensive operations. The effectiveness of smoke depends on the type that is used and the weather at the time it is employed. The tank platoon's success on the battlefield may depend on how well crewmen understand the effects of smoke on enemy and friendly acquisition systems in various weather conditions.


SECTION I. Contamination Avoidance
SECTION II. NBC Protection
SECTION III. Decontamination
SECTION IV. Movement in an NBC Environment
SECTION V. Smoke Operations


Avoidance is the most important fundamental element of NBC defense because the best way to survive is to avoid being the object of a chemical or nuclear attack. Avoiding contaminated areas minimizes the risk of additional casualties; it also prevents the degradation of combat power that results when a unit must operate in MOPP level 3 or 4 for extended periods of time. In addition, the unit is not required to spend the time and resources needed for decontamination. Contamination avoidance measures include using passive avoidance techniques, locating contaminated areas, identifying NBC agents, warning other members of the platoon as well as other units, and reporting NBC threats to higher headquarters.

Passive avoidance measures can decrease the possibility of NBC attack or reduce the effects of an attack already under way. Effective use of concealment, dispersion, prepared positions, OPSEC, and signal security reduces the chances of being acquired as a target. The tank platoon should continually analyze its vulnerability to chemical or nuclear attack and take appropriate protective measures.

Attacks and contamination must be detected quickly and reported to adjacent units and headquarters elements. The tank platoon must have an effective method of quickly giving the alarm in the event of an NBC attack. Alarms can be passed by radio, audible signals, or hand-and-arm signals. The unit SOP should specify criteria and automatic procedures for employing detection teams and submitting the required NBC reports following an NBC attack or when contamination is encountered.

Whenever possible, all movement routes and future positions should be reconnoitered for nuclear and chemical contamination. Quartering party personnel should be prepared to conduct monitoring operations; if they detect contaminated areas, they identify, report, and mark them. The quartering party can then evaluate the location and type of hazard (nuclear radiation or chemical agent) to determine the best plan for bypassing, crossing, or operating in the contaminated area. Based on the situation, the platoon leader and company commander must be able to implement protective measures specified in the SOP to minimize personnel losses and limit the spread of contamination.

Biological Defense

The key protective measure against a biological attack is maintaining a high order of health, personal hygiene, and sanitation discipline. Biological attacks are difficult to detect. If an attack occurs, the chances of survival are better if crewmembers are healthy and physically fit and maintain good personal hygiene. Keeping the body clean helps to prevent ingestion of biological agents. Small cuts or scratches should be covered and kept germ-free by means of soap, water, and first-aid measures. Since insects may carry biological agents, soldiers should prevent insect bites by keeping clothes buttoned and skin covered.

After an attack, you must assume that all surfaces have been exposed to germs. Do not eat food or drink water that may be contaminated. Eat or drink only food or water that has been stored in sealed containers; consume it only after you have washed and cleaned the outside of the container. All water must be boiled for at least 15 minutes.

NOTE: Refer to the battle drill for reaction to a chemical/biological attack in Chapter 3.

Defense Before A Nuclear Attack

The best defense against a nuclear attack is to dig in. Unit defensive positions, which range from individual foxholes to full-scale improved fighting positions, should be prepared whenever the tactical situation permits. Personnel should keep their individual weapons, equipment, clothing, and other issue items in their vehicles. Inside the vehicle, equipment and any loose items must be secured because the blast wave can turn unsecured objects into lethal missiles. Supplies, explosives, and flammable materials should be dispersed and protected.

Reverse slopes of hills and mountains give some nuclear protection. The initial radiation and the heat and light from the fireball of a nuclear blast tend to be absorbed by hills and mountains. The use of gullies, ravines, ditches, natural depressions, fallen trees, and caves can also reduce nuclear casualties.

Defense Before A Chemical Attack

Make sure all personnel have their protective masks available, and make sure each mask fits and functions properly. All personnel should wear the proper protective clothing in accordance with the MOPP level designated by the commander. Inform everyone to remain alert and to be constantly aware of the chemical threat. Protect all equipment and supplies from liquid chemical contamination by keeping them organized and covered.

The automatic alarm system is the primary means of detecting an upwind chemical attack. The system provides two essential elements of survival: detection of a toxic agent cloud and early warning to troops in the monitored position.

The platoon leader decides where to place the chemical alarm. In stationary operations, he first determines the wind direction, then places available detector units upwind of the nearest position to be protected. The detector unit should be no more than 400 meters upwind from the alarm unit. The optimum distance is 150 meters. Operation of the alarm can be affected by blowing sand or dust, rain, sleet, snow, tropical conditions, and temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.5 degrees Celsius).

Space the available detector units approximately 300 meters apart, and make sure each detector unit is connected to each alarm unit by telephone cable (WD-1). Position the alarm units near radiotelephone communications; this makes it easy to alert the unit to an attack.


Soldiers on the integrated battlefield face a combination of nuclear, biological, chemical, and conventional attacks. If the tank platoon cannot avoid an NBC hazard, it must be prepared to protect personnel and equipment from the effects of exposure. The type and degree of protection required will be based on the unit's mission and the hazard. Note that the line between contamination avoidance and protection is not distinct. Many actions contribute to both areas of NBC defense.

The key to effective protection in an NBC environment is the tank platoon's proficiency in automatically and correctly implementing NBC defense SOPs. Individual and unit protection against chemical attack or contamination hinges on effective use of the MOPP and on individual proficiency in basic NBC skills. The five levels of MOPP, illustrated in Figure D-1, should be listed in the SOP.

Figure D-1. MOPP levels.

Defense During A Nuclear Attack

Dismounted Defensive Actions

Never run for cover! Immediately drop flat on the ground (face down) or to the bottom of a foxhole, facing away from the fireball. Cover as much exposed skin as possible. Close your eyes. Remain down until the blast wave has passed and debris has stopped falling. Stay calm, check for injury, check weapons and equipment for damage, and prepare to continue the mission.

Mounted Defensive Actions

If time permits, take the following actions:

NOTE: Refer to the battle drill for reaction to a nuclear attack in Chapter 3 of this manual.

Defense After A Nuclear Attack

Once the attack has ended, forward an NBC-1 nuclear report, organize survivors, secure and organize equipment, repair and reinforce the BP, assist casualties, improve protection against possible fallout, and begin continuous monitoring. If the radiation dose rate reaches a hazardous level after fallout has ended, be prepared to move, on order, to a less hazardous area.

When operating in or crossing radiologically contaminated areas, vehicles should be closed tightly. Crewmen cover their faces with a handkerchief or cloth; cargoes should be covered by tarps or tenting. Mission permitting, vehicles should keep their speed down to prevent dust and should maintain adequate following distance to stay out of the dust raised by preceding vehicles. After the unit exits a contaminated area, personnel, equipment, and cargo should be checked for contamination and decontaminated, if necessary. Dose rates should be monitored closely to ensure compliance with operational exposure guidance (OEG). Radiation exposure status (RES) should be updated, if appropriate.

Fallout Warning

The first person to detect the arrival of fallout is usually a member of the radiological survey and monitoring team. As soon as the recorded dose rate reaches 1 centigray per hour (cGy/hr or rad per hour) or higher, issue a fallout warning. All personnel hearing the warning relay it to others. If the mission allows, soldiers should get into a shelter with overhead cover and stay there until given an "ALL CLEAR" signal or until otherwise directed to move. If the mission does not allow the unit to take cover, decontamination becomes more important and, in many cases, more difficult.

Supervision of Radiological Monitoring

Designate a point in your area where readings will be taken, and note the grid coordinates of that point. Check the monitor operator to make sure that he takes readings at least once each hour from this point, that he zeroes the radiacmeter before taking each reading, and that he uses the device properly. Ensure the operator immediately reports all readings showing the presence of radiation, as well as the time of these readings. Use this information and the location of the readings to prepare an NBC-4 report. Have the operator monitor continuously if any of the following conditions occur:

Continue these operations until monitoring shows a dose rate of less than 1 cGy/hr or until directed to stop.

Supervision of Tactical Dosimetry Operations

A tank platoon will normally be issued two dosimeters. Select two soldiers, one from the vehicle of each section leader, to wear them. Before the operation begins, check all dosimeters; any that do not read zero should be turned in for recharging. If a charger is not available, note the original reading on the dosimeter and adjust subsequent readings accordingly. Make sure dosimeter readings are reported accurately. Collect readings at least once daily. Average these readings, round to the nearest 10, and report this average to higher headquarters.

Defense During A Chemical Attack

Give the alarm. Have all unmasked soldiers put on their protective masks and other MOPP gear. All personnel should move inside their tanks; in most cases, they should place their hatches in the closed position to protect against gross contamination. Direct the crews of vehicles that are equipped with NBC overpressurization to turn the system on. Use M256 chemical agent detector kits to determine the type of agent, and forward an NBC-1 chemical report. Continue the mission.

NOTE: Tactical and safety considerations (such as observation of the terrain, enemy disposition, and the amount of gross contamination that may be spread inside the vehicle) may outweigh the need to keep the tank's hatches closed. Depending on the tactical situation and unit SOP, platoon members may be required to keep their hatches in the open or open-protected position.

NOTE: Refer to the battle drill for reaction to a chemical/biological attack in Chapter 3.

Defense After A Chemical Attack

As directed by unit SOPs, forward follow-up NBC-1 chemical reports, treat casualties, perform immediate decontamination as required, and mark the contaminated area.

Passing Alarms And Signals

When an NBC attack is recognized, everyone must receive the warning and assume the appropriate MOPP level (see Figure D-1, page D-5). Soldiers in immediate danger need warnings they can see or hear. The alarm or signal must be simple and unmistakable if it is to produce a quick and correct reaction. Units that are not immediately affected need the information as well, either to prepare for the hazard or to change plans. If an NBC hazard is located, the contaminated area should be marked. The NBC warning and reporting system (NBCWRS) and standardized contamination markers contribute to orderly warning procedures.

Vocal Alarms

To give a vocal alarm for any chemical or biological hazard or attack, the person detecting the hazard stops breathing, masks, and shouts "GAS!" as loudly as possible. Everyone hearing this alarm must immediately mask, repeat the alarm, and take cover from agent contamination and fragmentation of munitions. It may also be necessary to pass the alarm over the radio or telephone. Visual signals must supplement vocal alarms.

Automatic Alarms

If an M8 automatic chemical agent alarm sounds or flashes, the first person to hear or see it stops breathing, masks, and yells "GAS!" This alarm is relayed throughout the unit by vocal and visual signals and radio.

Nonvocal Signals

One person yelling "GAS!" to warn unit personnel may be drowned out by the sounds of the battlefield; therefore, sound signals by means other than voice may be required. These signals must produce noise that is louder than, and not easily confused with, other sounds of combat. The NBC hazard warning alarm will be specified in the unit SOP. Following are some suggestions:

Visual Signals

Visual signals may replace sound alarms when the sound may be lost amid battlefield noises or when the situation does not permit the use of sound signals. The standard hand-and-arm signal for an NBC hazard is illustrated in Figure D-2. Signaling is done by extending both arms horizontally to the sides with the fists closed and facing up, then rapidly moving the fists to the head and back to the horizontal position. This is repeated until other elements react. Colored smoke or flares may also be designated as visual signals for an NBC hazard, but these must be specified in unit SOPs.

Figure D-2. Hand-and-arm signal for NBC hazard.

Symptoms And Treatment Of NBC Casualties

Soldiers must be able to recognize NBC-related symptoms and conduct self-aid and buddy-aid. The basic steps of first aid apply in any combat environment.

Nuclear Casualties

Blast injuries. Blast injuries can range from minor cuts and broken bones to severe lacerations and critical damage to vital organs. The first-aid treatment will be the same as that used for conventional combat casualties suffering similar injuries.

Thermal radiation injuries. The intense heat generated by a nuclear detonation can cause burn injuries. First-degree burns should heal with out special treatment, and there will be no scar formation. Second-degree burns resemble a severe sunburn with blistering; they should be treated as a burn to prevent infection. In third-degree burns, the full thickness of the skin is destroyed; the victim should be treated as a burn casualty and evacuated.

Biological Casualties

Casualties resulting from live biological agents or toxins require medical treatment as quickly as possible. One indication of a live biological agent attack is large numbers of soldiers developing an unexplained illness over a short period of time. Soldiers showing symptoms of disease must be isolated to prevent infection from spreading to others.

A wide variety of toxins is available to potential adversaries for use on the modern battlefield. These can be dispensed alone or with other carriers or agents. Symptoms associated with some toxins mimic those of other types of illness or of exposure to chemical agents. Toxin symptoms may include any of the following:

These symptoms may appear within minutes after the toxin attack, or they may be delayed several hours. Appropriate self-aid and buddy-aid measures vary, depending on the agent. Soldiers should first mask to prevent inhaling or ingesting additional agents; then they should remove agents from exposed skin, either by washing with soap and water or by using the M258A1/M291 kit. Soldiers use buddy-aid procedures to help each other clean exposed skin, to observe each other for early symptoms of toxic exposure, and to request medical assistance.

Chemical Agent Casualties

Chemical agents fall into four major categories: nerve, blister, blood, and choking. Their primary routes of attack upon the body are through the respiratory system and the skin. These agents create an especially dangerous situation because they can kill or incapacitate quickly. The first, and most important, step in dealing with them effectively is to recognize symptoms so proper treatment can be administered.

Nerve agents. Nerve agent poisoning can lead to a quick death; recognizing its symptoms is crucial. Immediate self-aid or buddy-aid is needed if most or all symptoms appear. Early symptoms usually appear in the following progression:

Severe nerve agent poisoning is likely when any of the early symptoms are accompanied by all or most of the following symptoms:

No effective drug exists to remedy the effects of nerve agents on vision. If soldiers experience any of the other mild symptoms of nerve agent poisoning, they must perform the following self-aid measures:

Step 1. Put on your protective mask.

Step 2. Remove a Mark I nerve agent autoinjector kit (NAAK) from your protective mask carrier (see Figure D-3).

Step 3. Inject one thigh with the first injector from your kit (atropine in the small autoinjector). Hold the injector against your thigh for at least 10 seconds. Remove the injector.

Step 4. Immediately inject your thigh with the second injector (pralidoxime chloride in the large injector). Hold the injector against your thigh for at least 10 seconds.

Step 5. Remove the injector and place each injector needle through the jacket pocket flap of your overgarment, bending each needle to form a hook.

Step 6. Massage the injection area, if time permits and your suit is not contaminated.

Step 7. If symptoms persist or recur, wait 10 to 15 minutes and repeat both injections. Repeat again if needed. Allow 10 to 15 minutes between each set of injections. Do not administer more than three NAAK sets. Medical support personnel must authorize the administration of more than three sets.

Figure D-3. Nerve agent autoinjector kit.

If a soldier experiences severe symptoms from nerve agent poisoning and is unable to administer self-aid, another soldier must perform the following buddy-aid measures:

Step 1. Mask the casualty.

Step 2. Using the victim's NAAK, administer three sets immediately and in rapid succession in the thigh muscle of either leg. Do not wait between injections.

Step 3. Administer the back-pressure armlift method of artificial respiration if the casualty's breathing is labored or has stopped.

Step 4. Hook the expended autoinjectors to the casualty's overgarment jacket pocket flap.

Step 5. Obtain immediate medical attention for the victim.

Blister agents. Casualties resulting from blister agents may not be noticeable immediately. Symptoms may take several hours or days to appear. They include the following:

If a blister agent comes in contact with skin or eyes, remove it immediately. To remove an agent from the eyes, flush repeatedly with plain water. Decontaminate the skin using the M258A1/M291 kit. If severe blisters form, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Blood agents. A seemingly mild case of blood agent poisoning can progress to death within 10 minutes. Symptoms include the following:

There is no self-aid or buddy-aid treatment for blood agent poisoning. Victims must receive immediate medical attention.

Choking agents. These agents produce casualties by means of inhaled vapors. They damage blood vessels in the lung walls, causing body fluid to slowly fill the lung cavity. Ordinary field concentrations do not cause death, but prolonged exposure to high concentrations of the vapor and neglect or delay in masking can be fatal. Maximum damage will occur between 12 and 24 hours after exposure. In most cases, the excess fluid in the lungs will absorb back into the body. Slow recovery will begin approximately 48 hours after exposure.

During and immediately after exposure, symptoms may include the following:

Following the early symptoms, a symptom-free period of 2 to 24 hours is likely. This will be followed by these signs of fluid collecting in the lungs:

No self-aid or buddy-aid treatment exists for choking agent symptoms. If only minimum amounts were inhaled, the soldier may continue with normal duties. If definite symptoms occur, the soldier should keep warm and seek immediate medical attention and rapid evacuation to an aid station.

Marking Contamination

Contamination must be marked so unsuspecting personnel will not be exposed to it. When platoon monitoring teams detect or suspect an NBC hazard, they mark all likely entry points into the area and report the contamination to higher headquarters. The only exception to this policy is if marking the area would help the enemy. If this exception is made by the commander, the hazard must still be reported to protect friendly units.

Types of Markers

US forces use NATO standard markers (illustrated in Figure D-4) to make it easier for allies to recognize the hazards. These markers are in the standard NBC marking set. The colors and inscriptions on a marker indicate the type of hazard. Additional information is written on the front of the sign.

Marking Procedures

Markers face away from the contamination. For example, if markers are placed on the edge of a contaminated area to mark a radiological hot spot, they face away from the point of the highest contamination reading. Markers are placed along roads and trails and at other likely points of entry. When time and mission permit, additional markers should be emplaced. The distance between signs varies. In open terrain, they can be placed farther apart than in hilly or wooded areas. You should be able to stand in front of a marker and see the markers to the left and right of it.

Units discovering a marked contaminated area do not have to conduct elaborate, time-consuming surveys. They simply check the extent of contamination and use the information to adjust their plans, if necessary. If the size of the hazard has changed, they relocate the signs. If the hazard is gone, they remove the signs. Changes are reported to higher headquarters.

Figure D-4. NBC marking devices.

Unmasking Procedures

Soldiers should unmask as soon as possible except when a live biological or toxin attack is expected. Use the following procedures to determine if unmasking is safe.

With M256/M256A1 Kit

If an M256/M256A1 detector kit is available, use it to supplement the unmasking procedures. The kit does not detect all agents; therefore, proper unmasking procedures, which take approximately 15 minutes, must still be used. If all tests with the kit (including a check for liquid contamination) have been performed and the results are negative, the senior person should select one or two soldiers to start the unmasking procedures. If possible, they move to a shady place; bright, direct sunlight can cause pupils in the eyes to constrict, giving a false symptom. The selected soldiers unmask for 5 minutes, reseal, and clear their masks. Observe them for 10 minutes. If no symptoms appear, it is safe to give the "ALL CLEAR" signal and unmask. Continue to watch all soldiers for possible delayed symptoms. Always have first-aid treatment immediately available in case it is needed.

Without M256/M256A1 Kit

If an M256/M256A1 kit is not available, the unmasking procedures take approximately 35 minutes. When a reasonable amount of time has passed after the attack, find a shady area. Use M8 paper to check the area for possible liquid contamination. The senior person should select one or two soldiers. They take a deep breath and break their mask seals, keeping their eyes wide open. After 15 seconds, they clear and reseal their masks. Observe them for 10 minutes. If no symptoms develop, they again break the seals, this time taking two or three breaths; they then clear and reseal their masks. Again observe them for 10 minutes. If no symptoms appear, the selected soldiers unmask for 5 minutes and then remask. If no symptoms appear within 10 minutes after remasking, everyone can unmask. Continue to observe the selected soldiers in case delayed symptoms develop.

All-Clear Signal

The all-clear signal is passed by word of mouth through the chain of command. It is initiated by leaders after testing for contamination proves negative. The commander designates the specific all-clear signal and includes it in the unit SOP or the OPORD. If required, standard sound signals may be used, such as a continuous, sustained blast on a siren, vehicle horn, or similar device. When "ALL CLEAR" is announced on the radio, the receiving unit must authenticate the transmission before complying.

Warning And Reporting Systems

The NBCWRS is a rapid means of sending reports of an NBC attack. These reports inform other affected units of clean areas and possible contamination. They are also used to provide this information up and down the chain of command and to adjacent units. Each report has a specific purpose and uses standard codes to shorten and simplify the reporting process. The formats and letter codes for the standard NBC reports are in FKSM 17-15-3.


During continuous operations in areas of nuclear or chemical contamination, decontamination is essential in preventing casualties and severe combat degradation. The tank platoon gains maximum benefit from the avail able time and decontamination resources by observing these considerations:

These principles are consistent with doctrine that places the burden of decontamination at battalion or company level. For this reason, the tank platoon must develop a thorough SOP covering decontamination methods and priorities, using all available assets to the maximum extent possible.

Refer to FM 3-5 for a more detailed examination of NBC decontamination procedures.

Immediate Decontamination

Immediate decontamination is a basic soldier survival skill. Any contact between chemical or toxic agents and bare skin should be treated as an emergency. Some agents can kill if they remain on the skin for longer than a minute.

The best technique for removing or neutralizing these agents is to use the M258A1/M291 skin decontamination kit. Leaders must ensure that their soldiers are trained to execute this technique automatically, without waiting for orders.

Personal wipedown should begin within 15 minutes of contamination. The wipedown removes or neutralizes contamination on the hood, mask, gloves, and personal weapon. For chemical and biological contamination, soldiers use packets from the M280 decontamination kit. For radiological contamination, soldiers wipe the contamination off with a cloth or simply flush or shake it away.

Operator's spraydown of equipment should begin immediately after completion of personal wipedown. The spraydown removes or neutralizes contamination on the surfaces operators must touch frequently to perform their mission. For chemical and biological contamination, operators can use on-board decontamination apparatuses like the M11/M13. For radiological contamination, they brush or scrape the contamination away with whatever is at hand or flush it with water and wipe it away.

Operational Decontamination

Operational decontamination allows a force to continue fighting and sustain momentum after being contaminated. It limits the hazard of transferring contamination by removing most of the gross contamination on equipment and nearly all the contamination on individual soldiers. This speeds the weathering process and allows clean areas (people, equipment, and terrain) to stay clean. Following operational decontamination, soldiers who have removed sources of vapor contamination from their clothing and equipment can use hazard-free areas to unmask temporarily and eat, drink, and rest.
Operational decontamination is accomplished using assets of the parent unit. It makes use of two decontamination techniques: vehicle washdown and MOPP gear exchange. These procedures can be performed separately from each other; both are best performed at crew level. Uncontaminated vehicles and personnel should not go through either technique.

Vehicle washdown is conducted as far forward as possible and is performed by the battalion decontamination specialist with assistance from the company's decontamination team. It is most effective if started within one hour after contamination. There are two steps in vehicle washdown:

Step 1. Button up the vehicle and secure equipment.

Step 2. Wash down the vehicle and equipment with hot, soapy water for two to three minutes.

Because speed is important, do not check vehicles for contamination after vehicle washdown. Remove only gross contamination.

Step 1. Decontaminate gear and set it aside.

Step 2. Decontaminate hood and gloves, and roll up hood.

Step 3. Remove overgarment.

Step 4. Remove overboots and gloves.

Step 5. Put on new overgarment.

Step 6. Put on new overboots and gloves.

Step 7. Secure hood.

Step 8. Secure gear.

MOPP gear exchange is best performed using the buddy system. Step 1 is performed by both soldiers. Steps 2 through 7 are performed first by one soldier, then by the other. Step 8 is performed by both soldiers. The company assists the platoon by bringing replacement overgarments and decontaminants to the exchange site.

Thorough Decontamination

Thorough decontamination operations restore the combat power of maneuver units by removing nearly all contamination from soldiers and individual equipment. Executed promptly and correctly, these detailed procedures reduce the danger of contamination exposure to negligible risk levels. Just as important, they allow soldiers to operate equipment safely for extended periods at reduced MOPP levels.

Thorough decontamination is usually conducted as part of an extensive reconstitution effort in brigade, division, and corps support areas; support sites at lower levels cannot provide the quantities of decontamination resources (such as water, decontaminants, and time) required for such an extensive process. In some cases, a contaminated unit can conduct a thorough decontamination operation with organic assets, but armor units usually must depend on support from a chemical unit.

Contaminated units conduct detailed troop (individual) decontamination under the supervision of the chemical unit. When equipment decontamination operations are required, the chemical unit usually selects a site, sets it up, and performs detailed procedures with assistance from the contaminated unit.

After completing thorough decontamination, the unit moves into an adjacent assembly area for reconstitution. Support elements from the brigade, division, or corps support area replenish combat stocks, refit equipment, and replace personnel and equipment. The newly reconstituted unit leaves the assembly area fully operational and fit to return to battle. A small risk from residual contamination remains, so periodic contamination checks must be made following this operation.

Thorough decontamination does the most complete job of getting rid of contamination and related hazards, but as noted, it requires large quantities of valuable resources that may not be immediately available. In addition, under a variety of tactical or operational conditions, it will be impossible to execute such a major effort. The next best solution is to decontaminate only to the extent necessary to sustain the force and allow it to continue the mission. This entails using a combination of immediate and operational decontamination procedures.



As with other combat elements, one of the basic tactical requirements for the tank platoon is to be able to move through and operate in a contaminated area. To do so safely, the platoon should follow the procedures outlined in this section.

Crossing a Chemically/Biologically Contaminated Area

Upon identifying a contaminated area, each tank crew makes preparations to cross. While one section provides security, the other section, positioned in a covered and concealed location, removes all externally stowed equipment. Crews mount and test M8A1 alarms and M9 paper. They adopt MOPP level 4 or prepare the vehicle's overpressure system (if it is available and METT-T factors permit). Once the section's preparations are complete, it moves into an overwatch position; the other section moves to a covered and concealed position and follows the same procedures.

When both sections have been prepared, they use standard tactical movement techniques (such as bounding overwatch) to cross the contaminated area. During this movement, the crews continuously monitor the M8A1 and the M9 paper.

Drivers and TCs take precautions to avoid low ground, overhanging branches, and brushy areas as much as possible. While the platoon is in the contaminated area, all personnel observe each other for signs of chemical poisoning.

Once the platoon has successfully crossed the contaminated area, it makes a temporarily halt. During the halt, detection teams monitor for the presence of chemical agents. Each crew in turn executes operational decontamination of its vehicle and, with higher headquarters' approval, initiates unmasking procedures. Once these procedures are complete, the platoon continues its mission.

Crossing a Radiologically Contaminated Area

The procedures involved in crossing a radiologically contaminated area are similar to those for a chemically or biologically contaminated area, with the following additional considerations:


One of the key features of the modern battlefield is the extensive use of smoke. Effective smoke is a combat multiplier. It can be used for identification, signaling, obscuration, deception, or screening. At the same time, employment of smoke must be carefully planned and coordinated to prevent interference with friendly units.

As it prepares for an operation, the tank platoon should plan to take advantage of smoke from all available sources. Mission accomplishment, however, should never depend on smoke for success; the platoon must develop alternative plans in case smoke delivery systems are not available.

Uses of smoke

Smoke has four general uses on the battlefield:

Figure D-5. Using smoke to confuse the enemy and silhouette his vehicles.

Figure D-6. Using screening smoke to conceal displacement.

Figure D-7. Using screening smoke to conceal a bypass.

Figure D-8. Using screening smoke to conceal a breaching operation.

Sources of smoke

There are a number of sources of smoke on the battlefield, including the residual effects of burning vehicles, equipment, and storage facilities. Depending on availability, the tank platoon can employ the following smoke delivery systems during tactical operations.


Mortar support, provided by the battalion task force mortar platoon or cavalry troop mortar section, is the most rapid and responsive means of indirect smoke delivery. The tank platoon leader coordinates the planning and execution of mortar smoke missions with the commander and the company or troop FIST. Mortars use WP rounds, which can degrade the effectiveness of thermal sights.

Field Artillery

Cannons are used to place smoke on distant targets. Artillery-delivered smoke is not as responsive as mortar smoke support and may not be available if it is not planned and coordinated well in advance. Artillery smoke is made up of hexachloroethane (HC) and has less effect on thermal sights than does WP smoke.

Smoke Pots

These produce a large volume of white or grayish-white smoke that lasts for extended periods. The smoke has minimal effect on thermal sights. This is the only system that floats on water and that can be delivered by hand or vehicle. The tank platoon will normally employ smoke pots to screen displacement or breaching operations.

Hand-held Smoke Grenades

These can produce white or colored smoke. White smoke grenades are most often used to screen individual vehicles. Colored smoke grenades are primarily used to signal displacement and other critical events or to identify (mark) friendly unit positions and breach and evacuation locations. Smoke from hand-held grenades has minimal effect on thermal sights.

Vehicle Smoke Grenade Launchers

Grenade launchers, which can produce a limited amount of smoke, are used as a self-defense measure to screen or conceal the vehicle from enemy antitank gunners. They can also be used to screen individual vehicle displacement. Smoke from vehicle-launched grenades can degrade thermal sights.

Vehicle Engine Exhaust Smoke System

The VEESS injects diesel fuel into the engine exhaust to produce smoke. It serves primarily as a self-defense measure for individual vehicles, but a tank crew can also employ it to screen other friendly vehicles if wind conditions and the direction of vehicle movement allow. This system consumes fuel at the rate of 1 gallon per minute of operation. It can be used only with diesel fuel because other fuels, such as JP 8, create a fire hazard.

105-mm Tank Main Gun WP Rounds

These can be employed as a marking device for CAS, as a means of marking TRP locations to control direct fires, and as a means of igniting a fire. Most basic loads do not include WP rounds. WP smoke degrades thermal sights.

Tactical Smoke Generators

These wheel- or track-mounted devices are available through the division chemical company. Their use is prescribed at brigade or battalion level. This type of smoke normally does not affect thermal sights.

Tactical Considerations IN Smoke Operations


The effectiveness of smoke in tactical situations (including the time required to build the cloud and cloud duration) depends in large measure on the weather. Wind direction, wind speed, humidity, and cloud cover are important considerations. If the wind is strong or blowing in the wrong direction, it may be impossible to establish an effective smoke screen. Smoke clouds build up faster and last longer the higher the humidity and the greater the cloud cover. The best time to use smoke is when the ground is cooler than the air.

Type of Smoke

Certain types of smoke will degrade visual, infrared, and thermal sights. Enemy capabilities and the desired effect of the smoke (such as screening or obscuration) will dictate what type is requested. (NOTE: Even types of smoke that do not affect thermal sights may prevent the tank's laser range finder from computing an accurate ballistic solution. Under such conditions, crewmen must rely on such techniques as range bands, range estimation, and battlesighting.)


Navigational aids such as POSNAV, GPS, and thermal sights assist individual vehicles during movement through smoke, while IVIS and other digital systems help the platoon leader to maintain situational awareness and control of the platoon. The platoon leader also decreases the interval between vehicles to further enhance control of the platoon.


Offense. A defending enemy may employ smoke to confuse and disorient the attacker. Whenever the platoon is traveling through smoke, whether it is of friendly or enemy origin, the platoon leader must remember that his tanks will be silhouetted as they emerge from the smoke. The critical consideration is for all vehicles to emerge at the same time. The navigational tools discussed previously enable the platoon to maintain command and control during movement and to be postured, as it exits the smoke, to mass fires against previously unidentified enemy vehicles.

During an assault, friendly smoke should be shifted in advance of the arrival of the assault element. The use of multispectral smoke for obscuration must be carefully planned. The duration of the effects of the smoke should be controlled based on the capability of enemy and friendly units to acquire and engage targets through the smoke and on the ability of friendly units to maintain situational awareness during movement.

Defense. An attacking enemy may employ smoke on the tank platoon's positions or in the platoon's engagement area. As noted, this may not only "blind" thermal sights but also prevent laser range finders from accurately computing ballistic data. One solution is to occupy alternate BPs that conform with the commander's intent but that are not obscured by smoke (see Figure D-9). If multispectral smoke does not disable thermal sights, the TC can use sector sketches with grid lines, range bands, and TRPs to estimate the target range in the absence of a laser-computed range. On the M1A2, the choke sight of the CITV enables the TC to estimate and input ranges for a ballistic solution.

Figure D-9. Platoon occupies alternate battle position that is not obscured by enemy smoke.

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