101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Gold Book

Chapter 2

Landing Operations (LZ)


1. The GTC’s plan drives landing plan considerations resulting in typically two types of landing plan: on the objective, or away from the objective.

a. Landing away from the objective (the more common version).

(1) Mission: usually an enemy force-oriented mission.

(2) Enemy: incomplete intelligence on enemy dispositions.

(3) Terrain: incomplete intelligence on terrain (especially LZs), weather, and/or local civilians; no good LZs near the objective.

(4) Troops available: conditions are not set, or we cannot be sure.

(5) Time: time available to develop the situation.

(6) Intent: The intent is to arrive at the LZ prepared to move out quickly with tactical integrity, to ensure rapid advance toward the objective and maximum force protection.

b. Landing on the objective (the less common case).

(1) Mission: usually a terrain-oriented mission.

(2) Enemy: precise intelligence on enemy dispositions.

(3) Terrain: precise intelligence on terrain (especially LZs), weather, and/or local civilians; good LZs on the objective.

(4) Troops available: conditions set and verified.

(5) Time: time critical to secure the objective.

(6) Intent: Immediately upon landing, establish continuous suppression of enemy forces while aggressively assaulting to secure the objective.

2. Number of LZs. A large number of LZs for a brigade air assault increases risk and complexity of the operation. Whether away from or on the objective, brigades should plan for one primary LZ and one alternate LZ per maneuver battalion. This results in six different LZs for planning at the brigade level. Touchdown points are often confused with LZs. A touchdown point is where on the LZ the first chalk of any serial lands. LZs should all have different names and associated grids to further avoid confusion. Additionally, a greater number of planned LZs increases the difficulty of setting conditions at each LZ prior to landing. As a guideline, only in a permissive environment, low-level conflict, or after careful analysis of the METT-TC situation should the AATFC deviate from this rule of thumb.

3. At each of the battalion LZs, forces must land ready to fight. Organize on the PZ, not the LZ. Prior planning will make that work. Here are the standards:

a. When possible, fly and land in the order of march/order of assault.

b. Each serial can fight as a team.

c. Provide inbound guidance (radio and visual); use pathfinders for enroute guidance (at the release point) or on the LZ for terminal guidance. Pathfinder qualified soldiers from the assault force lead serial may also be used for terminal guidance for subsequent serials inbound to LZ¾ inbound guidance is not an option.

d. Separate serials by a minimum of one minute (may be more, based on conditions).

e. Land UH60s at least 30m and CH47s at least 35m out from the right or left treeline; this is critical to deconfliction of fires and flight routing.

f. Land plus or minus 50 meters from the GTC’s intended landing point (As per AMB).

g. Land plus or minus 30 seconds from the air movement table touchdown time.

h. Land plus or minus 15 degrees from the planned landing heading.

i. Ground forces exit both doors (METT-TC dependent).

j. Ground forces off-load aircraft within 30 seconds or less (down, under rotor disk).

k. Ground forces in the treeline within 1 minute or less (after serial takeoff).

l. Sling loads landed, crews offloaded within 2 minutes or less.

m. Vehicles clear of LZ within 5 minutes of touchdown or less (including 2 minutes of load landing and crew offload).

Note: LZ size might need to be increased when time intervals are short. If the ground unit cannot move a load off the LZ quickly, subsequent serials of aircraft into that LZ must maneuver to avoid.

4. The sequencing of forces into the LZ is critical. Each serial must be ready to execute at either the primary or alternate LZ.

5. Planning the landing zone. The LZ is where the ground and aviation forces separate. Landing is the critical moment in any air assault. Figure 2-1 shows CH-47 and UH-60 PZ/LZ selection criteria. Figures 2-2 and 2-3 show example CH-47 and UH-60 PZs/LZs.

Figure 2-1. CH-47/UH-60 LZ selection criteria



















Figure 2-2. UH-60 PZ/LZ Example


























Figure 2-3. CH-47 PZ/LZ example

6. Right and left sides The assault force has the option to go left, right, or out both doors. Whichever side(s) are planned, touchdown points, troop door exit, troop movement, aircraft door gunnery, and supporting fires are tied to that decision. Switching to the other side on the fly (an audible) can only occur with assured communications and before aircraft cross the RP. This must be relayed to all Infantry chalk leaders.

7. Approach end: the side of the LZ closest to the flight route RP.

8. Departure end: the side of the LZ farthest from the flight route RP. Aircraft egressing depart the LZ over the departure end.


1. Executing the landing plan. The landing is the most critical part of an air assault. It is here that air assault forces are most vulnerable. For the landing to go smoothly, the conditions must be set in accordance with the conditions checklist. Suppressive fires deny the enemy unhindered access to the landing forces. Timing of fires is critical to the success of the air assault. During the landing stage, the AATFC closely monitors the abort criteria and makes decisions as appropriate.

a. Conditions setting. Conditions are set to ensure the air assault forces will succeed. Information about ourselves, terrain, weather, and the enemy is required to confirm if conditions are set or not. See Chapter 5, Integrated Supporting Operations for further discussion of setting conditions.

b. Suppressive fires. Suppressive fires suppress the enemy as required as the aircraft land on the LZ. The control and distribution of all available means to suppress the enemy at our most vulnerable time is imperative. Here are some suppressive fires considerations:

(1) Fire to suppress the enemy in order to facilitate the landing.

(2) Regardless of threat data, suppressive fires are planned for every landing zone, primary and alternate.

(3) Use all available means: naval guns, close air support, tube artillery, rocket artillery, CAV, and attack helicopters.

(4) Focus fires along the base of the exit treeline (right door exit = shoot right treeline).

(5) Observe all fires using overwatch Apaches/Kiowa Warriors/LRSD/ Pathfinders/Scouts/COLTs.

(6) Integrate prep fires with SEAD fires.

(7) Coordinate and deconflict A2C2 with the fire support plan.

Example Suppressive Fire sequence: (Times driven by METT-TC)

H-0:01:00 Complete programmed preparatory fires on LZ; overwatch aircraft initiate direct fires (rocket and cannon).

H-0:00:15 Complete Apache/Kiowa overwatch fires; weapons hold on exit side; initiate assault aircraft fires.

H-0:00:00 H-hour; touchdown. Door guns on side without infantry exiting continue to fire; exit side door guns cease firing.


1. Ground forces land ready to fight, with integrated aviation and indirect fires. Close supporting fires, ground, aviation, or indirect, may be delivered. These fires must be positively cleared by the GTC on the ground. Here are the rules of thumb for fire and maneuver after landing:

a. The GTC clears all ground, air, and indirect fires into the assaulted treeline.

b. Door gunners in assault aircraft fire only at the base of the treeline to avoid fratricide of overwatching gunships.

c. As long as the air assault continues, attack aviation works for the AMC. Attack aviation may be placed in direct support of the GTC. In that case, a positive hand-off will be made on the CAN 1 net. Only a GTC talking to attack aviation can direct Apache/Kiowa fires into the treeline being assaulted by friendlies. See Chapter 6 for more on attack aviation.

d. Indirect fires on the treeline being assaulted by friendlies are always treated as "danger close." (In other words, in a right door exit, a fire mission into the right treeline would be "danger close.")

e. Know the NFA locations of all friendly forces in the area (i.e. LRSD, Scouts, Pathfinders, SOF, etc…)


1. This can happen on any air assault. Our reaction is a battle drill, based on the overall mission profile. Rehearse it. Be ready for it.

a. Enemy actions. There are four types of enemy activity that can be used to oppose landing operations. The enemy will combine these measures.

(1) Near ambush: enemy force within grenade range (35 meters) of the LZ.

(2) Far ambush: enemy force outside grenade range.

(3) Indirect fire: delivered by distant mortars, FA, or rockets, but directed by an enemy OP that can see the LZ.

(4) Mines/obstacles: anti-landing mines, booby traps, and barriers.

b. Friendly actions. There are five basic choices: divert to the alternate LZ, fight through, abort remaining serials, slow airspeeds to delay serials, and racetrack serials. During the racetrack option, all serials will orbit at their current position. Once the conditions are set by attack aviation at the LZ, serial one will lead the air assault in the order outlined in the AMT. The racetrack option is high risk and the AMC will determine whether there is enough fuel, spacing and time between serials to conduct this option. The AATFC makes the final decision on all options involving a "Hot LZ". The AMC and GTC execute.

c. In general, ground forces landing away from the objective can more readily divert to the alternate LZ. When landing on the objective, forces normally apply combat power and fight through.

d. In both cases, it is important that primary and alternate LZs be mutually supporting, to permit the AATFC to shift the main effort. The following two profiles are examples of reactions to hot LZs.

HOT LZ: Landing away from the final objective.

1. In this case, fighting for the LZ is not important. If the AATFC decides to divert the air assault into the alternate LZ, the extraction of the force at the hot LZ becomes a supporting effort while the main effort diverts to the alternate LZ. If that is hot too, the AATFC then chooses which LZ to fight through as his main effort.

2. A force that encounters a near ambush, unless extremely successful in counteractions, will normally be extracted, reorganize, and be reinserted with the main effort. In the other cases, the force on the hot LZ begins its mission there, as a supporting effort.

Enemy Action



engaged GTC

near ambush

  • Divert remaining serials to alternate LZ
  • Racetrack
  • aircraft at the RP land or racetrack
  • aircraft short of the RP, divert or racetrack
  • extract and reinsert force at alternate LZ
  • fire & maneuver (attack)
  • prepare to extract
  • extract
  • resume mission at alternate LZ
  • far ambush

    • racetrack or slow serials


    • divert remaining serials to alternate LZ
    • bring in attack aviation for close support opns

    racetrack or slow remaining inbound A/C

    • sustain supporting effort
    • extract on order
  • fire & maneuver (attack) or
  • base of fire (defend) or
  • break contact (withdraw & extract)
  • support main effort
  • extract on order
  • indirect

    • racetrack or slow serials


    • divert remaining serials to alternate LZ
  • bring in attack aviation
  • racetrack or slow remaining inbound A/C
  • extract on order
  • sustain supporting effort
  • react to indirect fire;
  • Q-36/37 counter-fire
  • clear off LZ;
  • find and destroy OP
  • support main effort
  • extract on order
  • mines/obstacles

    • divert remaining serials to alternate LZ
    • divert all landings until LZ is clear again
  • move off LZ and continue mission
  • support main effort
  • Hot LZ : Landing on the objective.

    1. In this case, fighting for control of the hot LZ is very important. The LZ is the objective. Continuing the assault there takes priority. The force at the hot LZ becomes a supporting effort to fix the enemy while the main effort lands and fights through to the objective.

    2. A force that faces a near ambush becomes the fixing force to allow time for the main effort to execute its assault from the alternate LZ. If the alternate LZ is hot too, the AATFC then chooses which LZ to designate as his main effort. Given the overall mission, breaking contact or extraction is not likely for forces caught on a hot LZ. In cases other than a near ambush, the AATFC will normally fight through without diverting serials to the alternate LZ.

    Enemy Action



    engaged GTC

    near ambush

    • fight through
    • force on hot LZ becomes fixing force and supporting effort
    • racetrack or slow serial


    • divert remaining serials to Alternate LZ
  • bring in attack aviation
  • racetrack or slow remaining serials



    • aircraft short of the RP, divert
  • fire & maneuver (attack)
  • support main effort by fixing the enemy
  • far ambush

    • fight through
    • bring in attack aviation
    • sustain supporting effort
  • fire & maneuver (attack) or
  • base of fire (defend) or
  • indirect

    • fight through
    • bring in attack aviation
    • sustain supporting effort
  • react to indirect fire;
  • clear off LZ;
  • find and destroy OP
  • support main effort
  • mines/obstacles

    • fight through
    • land only in safe areas
  • mark safe areas immediately
  • clear sufficient LZ to continue mission
  • support main effort

    1. Air assault soldiers must develop and maintain a high degree of situational awareness from pickup zone ( PZ ) to the LZ. Soldiers are not simple cargo. All must be actively interested in where they are, when they will land, and what will confront them when they do.

    2. Challenges: Air assault soldiers must overcome four challenges as they strive to maintain situational awareness.

    a. Aircraft engine noise: Listening to orders and information proves difficult. Therefore, commands and updates must be simple and short. The ground leader must use the overhead radio handset to eavesdrop on the flight crew nets. He won’t hear shouted words from the air crew.

    b. Close quarters: Rucksacks, weapons, ammunitions, and soldiers fit very snugly into Army UH-60 Blackhawk aircraft. It can be difficult to see, let alone address, all of the riflemen in a typical squad. Short, simple updates, relayed soldier to soldier, offer a solution.

    c. Darkness: Air assaults typically occur at night. This makes navigation difficult for a leader already barely able to see out. Leaders must use night vision goggles and eavesdrop on aviator nets to stay current.

    d. Air crew task load: A Blackhawk crew under goggles on final approach into a cramped multi-ship LZ already has a full load of tasks to handle. Updating the troops in back cannot consume much time or energy at such a critical juncture. The soldiers aboard must expect the briefest of brief warnings during final approach, which only underlines the importance of staying in touch with developments throughout the flight.

    3. Responsibilities:

    a. The ground element/chalk leader aboard each aircraft retains the final responsibility to keep his Air Assault soldiers aware of the situation (See Section 6).

    b. The senior aviator must pass certain information to the ground element/chalk leader. This includes one-phase updates as defined in section 7.


    1. The ground element/chalk leader will maintain the following items:

    a. A marked air route map; as a minimum, he will display the air route in the vicinity of the planned LZs in his brigade’s area of operations.

    b. A compass.

    c. A watch synchronized with the flight crew and ground element.

    d. The air movement table, tadpole diagram, PZ sketch, and LZ sketch.

    e. Callsigns and frequencies for all involved aviation and ground units (especially LRSD/Pathfinders on and near the LZs ).

    f. A backpack FM radio.

    g. Data on LRSD/Pathfinders in the objective area: See Chapter 5, Insertion Coordination Meeting.

    2. In flight, the chalk leader will monitor the aircraft radio net using the ceiling handset; he will pass updates to his soldiers.

    3. Upon landing, and exit, the chalk leader will verify his direction by means of compass and map or global positioning system (if available). If possible, the aircrew should pass the exact grid, aircraft heading, time, and any changes to the landing plan to the chalk leader.

    4. The chalk leader will prepare a mission card (3 x 5) for the aircrew. The card displays LZ name, LZ grid, planned landing heading, and lift/serial/chalk number. The chalk leader hands it to the crew chief before takeoff. The crew chief will pass it to the pilots.


    1. The air crew will pass the following information to the chalk leader:

    a. Time when crossing the start point (SP).

    b. Time when crossing air control points (ACPs).

    c. Time when crossing the release point (RP).

    d. Time warnings:

    ( 1 ) 10 minutes.

    ( 2 ) 5 minutes.

    ( 3 ) 1 minute.

    e. Hot LZ (no report if cold).

    f. Abort (if done).

    g. Alternate LZ (name) or grid-coordinates if unprogrammed.

    h. Final grid and heading at LZ (degrees, mils, or cardinal direction).

    I. Offset (if applicable): cardinal direction and distance.

    2. Chalk leader will update his soldiers on all items listed above.