The SEO aids the sniper team in coordination of air support available for the three phases of operations: insertion, execution, and extraction and recovery. These techniques may be limited by the type of unit to which the sniper team is assigned, depending on the unit's resources. The team should adhere to the plan outlined in this chapter.

Section I


Insertion is the first critical phase of sniper operations. Regardless of the mission, the team must pass through terrain where the enemy may use sophisticated detection devices. The selected method of insertion depends on the mission, enemy situation, resources available, weather and terrain, depth of penetration, and mission priority.


The preferred method of insertion is the one that best reduces the chance of detection. To provide the most current and specific details on the target area and infiltration routes from all sources, the headquarters and the sniper team adhere to the following:

a. Intelligence. Base operational plans on timely and accurate intelligence. Place special emphasis on efforts to obtain information on the enemy's ability to detect forces inserted by air, water, or land. The location and capabilities of air defense radar and weapons systems are critical.

b. Deception. Make plans to deny the enemy knowledge of the sniper team's insertion or to deceive him as to the location or intent of the operation. False insertions and other cover operations (such as air strikes, ground attacks, and air assault operations), as well as the use of multiple routes and means of insertion, ECM, and false transmissions, contribute to sniper deception plans. Select unexpected means of insertion, times, places, and routes, coupled with speed and mobility to help deceive the enemy. Also include in plans diversionary fires to direct the enemy's attention away from the team. Specific techniques may include the following:

(1) Multiple airdrops, water landings, or both.

(2) Dispersion of insertion craft (air or water) if more than one, both in time and location.

(3) Landing a force in an area closer to other potential targets than to the actual targets.

(4) Leaks of false information.

(5) False landings or insertions.

(6) Diversionary actions, such as air strikes in other areas.

(7) Increased reconnaissance flights over false areas.

c. Speed and Mobility. Tailor individual loads to enhance speed and mobility, and balance these loads with the mission-related items necessary to achieve success. Speed is essential to limit the amount of time required to insert the team. If possible, carry only what is needed immediately and cache the rest to be retrieved.

d. Stealth. Stress stealth to avoid detection or interception by the enemy at the time of insertion during movement along routes and while traveling from the insertion area to the target area.

e. Suppression. Suppress enemy detection devices, weapons systems, and command and control facilities by electronic jamming or by suppressive fires. This detracts from the enemy's ability to discover the team during infiltration. Deception techniques contribute to suppression activities.

f. Security. Emphasize security measures to prevent compromise of the impending operation during preparation. This includes the security of rehearsal and training sites. Some measures that maybe used to assist in maintaining security areas follows:

(1) Restrict access to the isolation area during planning.

(2) Brief details of the operation to the team in the isolation area.

(3) Limit knowledge of planned operations on a need-to-know basis.

g. Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition. Increase the use of RSTA equipment to detect and avoid enemy forces and their detection devices. Use passive night vision devices to achieve rapid assembly and reorganization. Also use these devices to help control and speed of movement and to traverse seemingly impassable terrain.

h. Rehearsals. Ensure rehearsals parallel, as close as possible, the actual conditions of insertion or extraction. Conduct rehearsals on terrain similar to that in the target area.

i. Sand Tables. Use sand tables in the planning phase since they are effective for orienting the team on unfamiliar DZs and surrounding terrain. The use of sand tables and terrain models enhance orderly and rapid assembly on the ground during the issuance of prejump orders and briefings.


Air insertion is the fastest way to infiltrate. Sniper teams and equipment may be delivered by parachute (static-line or free-fall technique), fixed-wing (air landing), or helicopter (air landing, rappelling, or parachuting).

a. Special Factors. When planning an air insertion, headquarters considers several factors.

(1) A primary danger area is the perimeter (frontier area) where the enemy uses the most sophisticated weapons systems and air defenses.

(a) Suppression of enemy air defense maybe necessary along the infiltration corridor. This is done by a variety of sophisticated countermeasures applied against enemy equipment and by strikes against known enemy positions. Artillery, aircraft, or naval gunfire may provide assistance.

(b) Fire support, smoke screens, and suppressive measures may be critical since most of the enemy's detection devices and air defense weapons may be near the point of entry. Special equipment may be required to counter the enemy's RSTA effort whether moving by air, water, or land.

(2) If this area is within artillery or NGF range, fires should be planned on known and suspected enemy antiaircraft locations and on prominent landforms along the route.

(3) All flights over enemy territory should be routed over unoccupied areas, if possible. Flights should be planned to complement cover and deception phases and to avoid enemy air defenses.

(4) Since the sniper team depends on the transporting unit during this phase, snipers must coordinate all aspects of the air insertion with these units. To lower the chances of detection, the team makes the greatest use of reduced visibility, tactical cover, and deception. Drop zones and landing zones should be behind tree lines, in small forest clearings, or on other inconspicuous terrain.

(5) The sniper team considers the chance of in-flight emergencies. It must know the route and the checkpoints along the route. The team establishes simple ground assembly plans for contingencies before boarding. In an emergency, the SEO decides whether to continue or abort the mission. In the absence of the SEO, the sniper makes the decision based on METT-T factors, contingency plans, and the distance to the target as compared to the distance back to forward friendly lines. Contingency provisions should be made for air and water rescue as well.

b. Special Airborne Assault Techniques. In airborne insertions during limited visibility, the headquarters emphasizes special delivery or navigational techniques.

(1) With the AWADS, personnel and equipment can be air-dropped during bad weather, even during zero-visibility conditions. Insertions may be made (day or night) without a pre-positioned USAF combat control team or an Army assault team. The supporting air unit requires both extensive DZ intelligence and significant lead time. All forces involved must thoroughly plan and coordinate the operation.

(2) HALO or HAHO jumps with high-performance parachutes allow parachutists to maneuver to a specific point on the ground. During these operations, they can use midair assembly procedures.

c. Assembly. The sniper team must be able to assemble and reorganize quickly and precisely because of its vulnerability to detection. The team develops assembly plans after careful consideration of METT-T factors, especially the location of the enemy, visibility, terrain, DZ information, dispersion pattern, and cross-loading. The number of assembly areas depends on the location, the size of available assembly areas, and the enemy's detection ability.

(1) Terrain association may be used as a backup method of designating assembly areas, but it has obvious disadvantages if the unit misses the DZ or if an in-flight change in mission dictates use of a new drop zone.

(2) A night vision plan is needed during landing, assembly, and movement in reduced visibility.

(3) Cold weather airborne insertion is difficult. Allocated times must be increased by at least 30 minutes for cold weather insertions.

(4) The team must be aware of the location of the assembly areas in relation to the direction of flight of the insertion aircraft. The direction of flight is 12 o'clock.

(5) During parachute insertion, team members must be ready for enemy engagement at all times, especially on the DZ. Immediate-action drills are required to counter enemy contact on the DZ.

d. Planning. The reverse planning process is of paramount importance for the ground tactical plan. The ground tactical plan, as developed from the mission assessment, is the first planning area to be considered. All other planning begins from this point.

(1) The selection of PZs or LZs requires adequate planning and coordination for effective use of air assets. Site selection must be coordinated face-to-face between the sniper team and the supporting aviation commander. The tactical situation is the key planning factor; others include the following:

(2) The air movement plan coordinates movement of the team into the zone of action in a sequence that supports the landing plan. Key considerations are flight routes, air movement tables, flight formation, in-flight abort plan, altitude, and air speed.

(3) The landing plan introduces the team into the target area at the proper time and place. Rehearsals cannot be overemphasized. The team rapidly assembles, reorganizes, and leaves the insertion site. Fire support, if available, may be artillery, NGF, attack helicopters, or USAF tactical aircraft. The fire support plan must support all other plans. Supporting fires must be thoroughly coordinated with the air mission commander. Other planning considerations are evasion and escape, actions at the last LZ, assembly plan, downed aircraft procedures, control measures, weather delays, deception plans, and OPSEC.


Water insertion may be by surface swimming, small boat, submarine, surface craft, helocasting, or a combination thereof. The sniper team needs detailed information to plan and execute a small-boat landing, which is the most difficult phase of a waterborne insertion. Close coordination is required with naval support units.

a. Planning. While on the transporting craft, the team plans for all possible enemy actions and weather. Initial planning includes the following:

(1) Time schedule. The time schedule of all events from the beginning until the end of the operation is used as a planning guide. Accurate timing for each event is critical to the success of the operation.

(2) Embarkation point. The embarkation point is the point where the team enters the transporting craft.

(3) Drop Site. The drop site is the site where the team leaves the primary craft and loads into a smaller boat.

(4) Landing site. The landing site is the site where the team beaches the boat or lands directly from amphibious craft.

(5) Loading. Loads and lashings, with emphasis on waterproofing, are followed IAW unit SOPs. Supervisors must perform inspections.

b. Beach Landing Site Selection. The beach landing site must allow undetected approach. When possible, the team avoids landing sites that cannot be approached from several different directions. The site chosen allows insertion without enemy detection. If sand beaches are used, tracks and other signs must be erased that may compromise the mission. Rural, isolated areas are preferred. The coastal area behind the landing site should provide a concealed avenue of exit. Other factors considered in each selection include enemy dispositions, distance to the target area, characteristics of landing and exit sites, and availability of cover and concealment.

c. Tactical Deception. Besides the water approach route plan, plans must deny the enemy knowledge of the insertion. This may include use of ECM or diversionary fire support to direct the enemy's attention away from the insertion site.

d. Routes. The route to the drop site should be planned to deceive the enemy. If possible, the route should be similar to that used in other types of naval operations (minelaying, sweeping, or patrolling). A major route change immediately after the team's debarkation may compromise the mission.

e. Navigation. Ship-to-shore navigation (to the landing site) maybe accomplished by dead reckoning to a shoreline silhouette or radar.

f. Actions at the Drop Site. Primary and alternate drop sites must be agreed upon. The drop site should be at least 1,500 meters offshore to prevent compromise by noise during loading and launching. (Some operations may permit landing directly from the transporting craft on shore.) If the enemy has surface radar capability, the drop site may need to be several miles offshore, or the use of ECM may be required.

g. Actions at the Beach Landing Site. To plan actions at the landing site, the team must consider the following:

h. Actions on the Beach. Once on the beach, sniper team members move to a covered and concealed security position to defend the landing site. The sniper team then conducts a brief listening halt and checks the beach landing area for signs of enemy activity. The team may deflate, bury, or camouflage the boat near the landing site or away from it, depending on the enemy situation, the terrain, and the time available. If the boat is to be disposed of or hidden near the landing site, a member must be designated to dig a hole or cut brush for camouflage. After the boat is disposed of, a designated team member sweeps the beach to erase tracks and drag marks.

i. Insertion by Air From Ship. Helicopters launched from a ship may extend the range of sniper teams. They may be vectored from ships to a predetermined LZ. Once in the air, other aspects of landing and assembling are the same as for air movement operations.

j. Helocasting. Helocasting combines a helicopter and small boat in the same operation. It is planned and conducted much the same as air movement operations, except that the LZ is in the water. While a helicopter moves at low levels (20 feet) and low speeds (20 knots), the sniper team launches a small boat and enters the water. Members then assemble, climb into the boat, and continue the mission.

k. Contingency Planning. The following contingencies must be covered in the planning stage:

l. Rehearsals. The team must rehearse all aspects of the amphibious insertion to include boat launching, paddling, boat commands, capsize drills, beaching, and assembly.


Land insertion from a departure point to the target area sometimes may be the best (or only) way to accomplish a mission. Normally, this is so when the enemy has total air superiority or has established effective air defenses. The sniper team can accomplish land insertions over any type of terrain, in any climate. However, thick forests, swamps, and broken or steep terrain probably offer the best chance of success.

a. Planning. Plans for overland movement enable the sniper team to move to the target area with the least risk of detection. Planning considerations include the following:

(1) Selecting concealed primary and alternate routes based on detailed map reconnaissance and aerial photographs, ground reconnaissance, and data on the enemy situation from other sources.

(2) Avoiding obstacles, populated areas, silhouetting enemy positions, main avenues of approach, and movements along heavily populated routes and trails.

(3) Selecting the time of insertion to take advantage of reduced visibility and reduced alertness. The time is especially important during critical phases while passing through populated areas.

(4) Knowing routes, rendezvous points (and alternates), time schedules, danger areas, and the enemy situation are critical to speed and stealth.

(5) Providing centralized coordination to ensure that members act IAW cover and deception plans. Insertion by land is characterized by centralized planning and decentralized execution.

b. Actions on Enemy Contact. Once beyond the FFL, the sniper team must be alert to avoid detection while en route to the target area. If the sniper team becomes aware of the enemy, it must try to move away without an alert. The sniper team fights only when there is no alternative. Then, it breaks contact as quickly as possible. Following enemy contact, the sniper contacts the SEO for a decision to abort or continue the mission. If continuing the mission, the sniper team may have to establish a temporary position for resupply, extraction, or evacuation of wounded.

c. Stay-Behind Technique. The sniper team applies the stay-behind technique when the team moves with a security patrol. The team establishes an ORP, caches nonessential equipment, and changes into ghillie suits to prepare for movement to the TFFP. Once this is accomplished, the security patrol departs for a predetermined location to act as a quick-reaction force for the team or returns to its operational base. Use of this technique requires the following considerations:

d. Actions at the Insertion. The sniper team develops a detailed assembly plan, basing it on the insertion method and the terrain at the insertion site.

(1) The sniper team selects an assembly area that can be identified at night and is near the insertion site. It uses this assembly area if team members become separated during the insertion. During parachute insertion, the sniper team uses the assembly area as an assembly point.

(2) The sniper team also designates an initial rally point that can be identified at night. The rally point is normally no closer than several hundred meters from the insertion site. The team uses the IRP for assembly if the insertion site is attacked either on insertion or shortly after departing the insertion site.

(3) When the insertion is complete, the sniper team accounts for equipment and supplies, and ensures any injuries are treated. If a disabling injury occurs during insertion, the sniper must decide, based on guidance, whether to continue the mission or to request extraction.

(4) The sniper team's most critical task is verifying the team's location. The sniper verifies his location at the insertion site or after moving away from the site.

(5) The sniper team sterilizes the site and caches or discards nonessential equipment. The preferred method is to bury discards away from the insertion site. The sniper team must camouflage the cache site.

(6) The sniper team departs the insertion site, then halts to listen for sounds of pursuit and to become familiar with local sounds. It establishes a primary azimuth and immediately begins information collection activities and map update.


Vehicle insertion uses wheeled or tracked vehicles to transport the sniper team to its insertion site. Wheeled or tracked vehicle insertion requires the same planning considerations used in other insertion techniques. The team risks compromise if it uses vehicle insertion beyond the FLOT due to noise. Enemy OPs and scout elements can easily detect and prevent infiltration of the sniper team. However, this technique can be effectively used in support of immediate battle operations by using deceptive measures.

Section II


The execution phase consists of movement from the insertion site to the target area, mission execution, and movement to the extraction site.


After leaving the insertion site, the sniper team transmits an initial entry report as required by unit SOP. This report ensures operable radio equipment and provides the team's status at the same time.

a. Route Selection. No matter which means of insertion, the selection of the route to the target area is critical.

(1) Enemy location, detection devices, and defensive capabilities; terrain; weather; and man-made obstacles are all to be considered when selecting the primary and alternate routes. En route checkpoints are selected to keep track of the team.

(2) The team uses NODs to operate during reduced visibility. The team's extensive training and land navigation skills allow it to rapidly traverse rugged terrain and to avoid detection.

b. Movement Interval. The interval between sniper team members may vary during movement into the target area. It is based on visibility, terrain, and enemy disposition. The team keys movement to the following rules, which should be discussed in detail in the sniper SOP.

(1) Maintain visual contact at a normal interval. (Intervals can expand and contract based on terrain and visibility.)

(2) Always maintain noise and light discipline.

(3) Observe the assigned sector of responsibility.

(4) React together (for example, when one gets down, they both get down.)

(5) Ensure the sniper team leader positions himself to the rear of the observer.

(6) Move on routes that best conceal movement from enemy observation and cover movement from direct enemy fire.

(7) Ensure the interval between members closes when moving through obstructions (darkness, smoke, heavy brush, narrow passes, and mine fields); ensure the interval opens when obstructions to movement and control lessen.

c. Movement Security. Each sniper team member must be security conscious, maintaining constant all-round security. During movement, each team member is responsible for an assigned security sector. The sniper team's route makes the best use of cover and concealment, and security or listening halts are made, as needed. Personal and equipment camouflage is enforced at all times.

d. Arm-and-Hand Signals. The sniper establishes standard arm-and-hand signals to reduce oral communications and to assist in control. These signals should conform to those listed in FM 21-75 and the sniper SOP.


The tentative final firing position, ORP, and route are selected during the mission planning phase by map and aerial photograph reconnaissance. The sniper team moves close to the TFFP and sets up an objective rally point. It then moves forward to search for a TFFP, ensuring the site is suitable and the target area can be observed at ground level. At this point, the TFFP becomes an FFP. Reconnaissance should be made during limited visibility. The team returns to the ORP, secures all mission-essential equipment, and moves to the FFP and occupies it. The sniper team watches and listens for the enemy before constructing the hide position (METT-T dependent).


Selection of the firing position is METT-T dependent. As a minimum, the sniper team uses the following criteria when selecting an FFP:

a. Ensures that an unrestricted observation of the target area is possible. The team can then place the designated target area under constant, effective surveillance and within the range of RSTA devices and the sniper's weapon system.

b. Selects an area that provides a concealed entrance and exit routes.

c. Avoids man-made objects.

d. Avoids dominant or unusual terrain features.

e. Selects an area that is dry, or has good drainage and is not prone to flooding.

f. Selects an area that the enemy would not occupy.

g. Avoids the skyline or blending backgrounds.

h. Avoids roads or trails.

i. Avoids natural lines of movement (gullies, draws, or any terrain that affords easy foot movement).

j. Selects an area in which the team cannot be easily trapped.

k. Ensures it has a natural obstacle to vehicles between the FFP and the target area, if possible (roadside ditch, fence, wall, stream, or river).

l. Selects an area downwind of inhabited areas, if possible.

m. Selects an area in or near a suitable communications site.

n. Avoids the normal line of vision of the enemy in the target area.

o. Selects an area near a source of water.


The sniper team follows the communications procedures as outlined in the unit SOP. The team members must ensure that communications are maintained throughout the mission by the use of directional antennas, masking, and burst transmissions.

a. The sniper team does not analyze information it only collects and reports based on SIR. The team must format information reporting IAW the unit SOP and the type of communications equipment used.

b. Other reports that the sniper team may use, such as emergency resupply, communication checks, and emergency extraction, should also be formatted IAW the SOP.


Movement to a planned extraction site will be necessary in many operations. The sniper team must observe the principles of route selection and movement security.

a. Priorities. The time that a sniper team remains beyond the FFL depends on its mission and equipment. The extraction is critical from a standpoint of morale and mission accomplishment. Plans for extraction by air, ground, or water are made before the operation, with alternate plans for contingencies such as the evacuation of sick or injured personnel. During the mission, the sniper may be faced with an unforeseen situation that may demand the utmost in flexibility, discipline, and leadership.

b. Code Words. Each sniper team is given code words in the OPORD for use during extraction. For example, one code word may mean that the team is at its pickup zone. Another may mean that both the primary and alternate pickup zones are compromised and to abort the extraction.

c. No Communication. When a sniper team has missed a certain number of required transmissions, the operations section assumes that the team has a communications problem, is in trouble, or both. At that time, the no-communication extraction plan is used.

d. Alternatives. Extraction of the sniper team may be by means other than air. The OPORD may specify to extract the team by land or water, or to link up with friendly forces in an offensive operation. Any of these means may also be planned as alternates to avoid capture or if the sniper team cannot be extracted by air.

e. Ground Extraction. Despite the desirability of extracting the team by aircraft or linkup, use of these methods may be prevented by security of the sniper team, poor communications, or enemy air defense. The sniper team must be thoroughly trained in exfiltration techniques so they can walk out, either one at a time or together.

Section III


The sniper team performs an extraction as quickly as possible after the mission is accomplished. An extraction site is always planned and coordinated with supporting forces. However, the situation may dictate that the sniper decides whether to use the planned extraction site or to exfiltrate.


The sniper team must be prepared to exfiltrate over predetermined land routes to friendly lines as a team (or individually) or to exfiltrate to an area for extraction by air or water. Planning includes the following:

a. Distance. Distance may prevent an all-land exfiltration. The initial phase may be by land, ending in extraction by air or water.

b. Terrain. The terrain is important in selecting extraction means. The extraction site must offer favorable tactical considerations, tide data, PZ suitability, and cover from enemy direct-fire weapons. The sniper team uses the most unlikely terrain for extraction such as swamps, jungles, and mountain areas.

c. Enemy. Enemy pressure can develop during the extraction. Detailed plans must be made for contingency exfiltrations forced by the enemy.

d. Evasion and Escape. Preinsertion planning must include the development of a viable evasion and escape plan. The sniper team must do the following:

(1) Checks all factors that deal with survival and evasion opportunities.

(2) Devises an evasion and escape plan that provides the best chance of survival and return to friendly lines in view of the hazards involved and mission objectives.

(3) Becomes familiar with the evasion and escape plans.


Each mission has its specific problems associated with evasion and escape. The plan must conform to these unique problems while exploiting individual abilities, training of sniper team members, and supporting air or boat crews. The following general rules apply to evasion and escape plans for sniper operations:

a. The purpose of the plan is to attempt to save the individual who can no longer complete the assigned mission.

b. When sniper teams are behind enemy lines, the most successful escapes may involve air or water movement away from enemy-held territory.

c. Evasion and escape plans involve the following three phases:

(1) Phase one occurs during entry into the target area.

(2) Phase two occurs near the target area. It allows the sniper team to pursue its mission with a reasonable chance of success.

(3) Phase three occurs after the mission is accomplished. It is often the most difficult time to evade and escape.

d. The sniper team may be required to hide for several days to allow the enemy to become complacent before the team tries to move.

e. In selecting extraction sites, the sniper considers the danger of compromising other activities. He must prepare alternate plans for unforeseen developments.


Extraction by air or water is favored when resources are available and when it will not compromise the mission.

a. Other considerations that favor this method areas follows:

(1) Long distances must be covered.

(2) The time of return is essential.

(3) The enemy does not have air and naval superiority.

(4) Heavily populated hostile areas obstruct exfiltration.

(5) The team cannot be resupplied.

(6) Casualties must be extracted.

b. Several techniques maybe used to extract the team.

(1) Helicopter landing is the best method since the sniper team and its equipment can board the helicopter quickly.

(2) The troop ladder is the second best method. It lets sniper team members board the helicopter, but the helicopter can liftoff while snipers are still on the ladder.

(3) The STABO extraction system allows rapid pickup of one to four soldiers, who are suspended on lines beneath the helicopter. Soldiers are picked up and moved to an area where the helicopter can land. The sniper team then boards the helicopter.

(4) The jungle penetrator retrieves soldiers from areas where helicopters cannot land. It can pickup 1 to 3 persons at a time.

(5) The SPIES can extract soldiers from areas where helicopters cannot land. It can pickup 1 to 10 soldiers at a time.


This method is favored when snipers are not too far from friendly lines or no other means of extraction is available. It is also used when the terrain provides cover and concealment for foot movement and limits the employment of enemy mobile units against the exfiltrating team. Other considerations favoring this method are as follows:

a. Areas along exfiltration routes are uninhabited.

b. The enemy force is widely dispersed or is under such pressure that it is difficult for them to concentrate against the exfiltrating team.

c. The enemy force can stop an air or water extraction.


Vehicle extraction involves the exfiltration of the sniper team to an extraction site for extraction by a wheeled or tracked vehicle. Planning and coordination must be made during the preinsertion phase. Contingency plans must also be made to avoid compromise or any unforeseen situations.


Recovery is the last phase of a sniper operation. It consists of the sniper team's return to the operations base, debriefing, equipment maintenance and turn-in, and stand-down. At the end of this phase, the sniper team prepares for future missions. (See Chapter 5.)