Fire Support for Digitized Division Operations
Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures


Chapter 5

Operations With A Non-Digital Unit

Field artillery (FA) units providing support to maneuver forces must be capable of operational flexibility in accomplishing their assigned missions. For example, DIVARTY must be prepared to have an FA brigade attached or reinforcing that may be equipped with IFSAS, or may have no digital devices. Likewise, the DIVARTY’s subordinate direct support (DS) battalions must be prepared to be reinforced by battalions that are equipped with TACFIRE or lack a digital capability. This chapter provides information intended to assist AFATDS-equipped units to prepare for and to operate in these situations.


The DIVARTY conducts liaison operations to aid in coordination, synchronization, and parallel planning. The equipment and skills required of the liaison team are a function of the type of operations being conducted and the force the team is coordinating with. For the digitized division, there are three basic considerations when task organizing liaison teams:

For a detailed discussion of liaison functions and responsibilities see FM 6-20-2, Corps Artillery, Division Artillery, and FA Brigade Operations.


The roots of the AFATDS/non-digital issues are the different methods of primary communications systems used by the force. Non-digital artillery units use voice communications for command and control. In AFATDS units, while voice is still used, digital communication is the primary means of conducting control functions. Digital communications offers tactical advantages: high speed, less vulnerability to radio direction finding, intercepting, and jamming.

AFATDS improves on TACFIRE/IFSAS-type messages of interest (MOI) processing by automatically transmitting specific type messages to all type elements that should receive those messages, without the requirement to preplan where messages will go (as with MOI processing). While this works well within AFATDS-equipped organizations, units that employ solely voice communications lack the digital communications terminals required to receive and action these messages. When a support relationship exists between AFATDS and non-digital units, a plan should be developed to support the information-sharing requirements of both units. This plan should be as simple as possible, and cause no disruption of either unit's standing operating procedures. The plan must address the training problem raised by the non-digital unit's lack of familiarity with AFATDS. This chapter describes a variety of techniques for achieving interoperability. The operator's skill and attention to detail under stress will become even more important.

Maintaining a level of commonality between the units under these conditions will be difficult, but it is essential for success. There are two basic situations presented in this discussion: A non-digital unit supported by or having attached an AFATDS-equipped unit, and an AFATDS-equipped unit supported by or having attached a non-digital unit.


There are two major considerations when planning for AFATDS/non-digital operations:

Tactical Mission

The first consideration is the tactical mission of the two organizations. Each unit will retain its assigned tactical mission. The need to interoperate in no way negates each unit's inherent mission responsibilities.

Commander's Intent

The second consideration is the commander's intent of the supported maneuver commander, which must translate into "commander's criteria." The term commander's criteria refer to a wide range of parameters an operator can input into AFATDS so that commander's guidance and the tactical situation are considered during processing. The unit being reinforced or the force artillery headquarters will establish the commander's criteria. The direct support (DS) unit being reinforced establishes commander's criteria for itself and the reinforcing (R) unit. The force artillery headquarters (DIVARTY or FA brigade) establishes commander's criteria for general support (GS) and general support reinforcing (GSR) units.


The techniques involved in facilitating an AFATDS interface with non-digital units will vary with the tactical situation, but they can be reduced to two general options:

Collocate Tactical Operation Centers (TOC)

Merge or collocate the TOCs, or as a minimum the fire direction centers (FDC), of the non-digital and AFATDS units.

Establish Digital Liaison

Maintain separate TOCs and establish a full-time, digitally-capable liaison (equipped with a fire support handheld terminal unit (FSHTU) or AFATDS lightweight computer unit (LCU)) between the two units. The inherent responsibility to provide liaison based on the tactical mission does not change. If the unit must provide liaison as an inherent part of its mission (i.e., R or GSR), the commander expands the role of the liaison team to include digital interface. In determining whether to use this option, the commander must realize that, regardless of the tactical mission, the AFATDS-equipped unit should provide a digitally-equipped liaison to the non-digital unit. Normally, battalions control their own firing units. However, when a non-digital battalion is equipped with the battery computer system (BCS), the non-digital battalion's batteries can be controlled by the AFATDS-equipped battalion TOC. Fire orders are sent digitally from the AFATDS-equipped battalion to the non-digital battalion's batteries. The non-digital unit is kept informed via the liaison team. Control of BCS-equipped batteries by another FDC is applicable only at battalion level.


AFATDS and non-digital units operate together in one of two general situations. The first situation is a non-digital unit supported by or having attached an AFATDS-equipped unit. The second situation is an AFATDS-equipped unit supported by or having attached a non-digital unit.



The collocation of command groups offers the advantage of combined staff functions. A combined staff supports the 24-hour mission with two teams. Each team must have a mixture of AFATDS-qualified and manual method-qualified members. AFATDS automates most fire planning. The AFATDS unit builds commander's criteria from the maneuver commander's intent and enters it in the computer. Fire planners determine the fire support assets and the fire support coordinating measures to be entered in the AFATDS computer. The targeting method remains the same. Fire support personnel submit their target lists up through the fire support chain for processing. AFATDS is used to compute the fire plan and prepare fire support plans and FA support plans.

Tactical Fire Direction

During the execution of a fire plan, the plan is disseminated digitally or by voice to the firing units; the latter may prove to be a better method for sending fire plan data. Fire missions are transmitted to the combined TOC either by digital or voice methods and are processed using AFATDS. AFATDS then sends the fire orders digitally to the digitally capable firing units. However, the TOC must be able to send (and the units must be prepared to receive) voice fire orders. TC 6-40, FA Manual Cannon Gunnery provides information on voice fire orders.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Collocating TOCs allows for fire plans, fire support coordinating measures, and fire orders to be sent digitally. No liaison team is required. This option allows maximum use of AFATDS capabilities for both units, thus increasing responsiveness of the non-digital unit. Fire requests, fire support coordinating measures, and fire orders can all be transmitted digitally. However, the combined TOCs provide a lucrative target to the enemy. Unfamiliar command and control relationships are introduced when the computer at a AFATDS-equipped battalion controls another battalion's firing batteries. Poor communications may result if those batteries are untrained in maintaining digital communications with AFATDS.



If an AFATDS-equipped unit is supporting or attached to a non-digital unit, personnel from the AFATDS-equipped unit may be required to assist the non-digital unit in planning with AFATDS. A liaison team equipped with an FSHTU or AFATDS LCU is ideally suited to accomplish this requirement. The commander's intent for fire support is provided by the force FA headquarters or the DS unit to the supporting or attached unit for development into commander's criteria. The tactical data base is also sent to the AFATDS-equipped unit. Fire plans can then be scheduled using AFATDS.

Planning is somewhat easier to execute when the force FA headquarters or DS battalion is AFATDS-equipped and is being supported, or has attached, a non-digital unit than in the opposite situation, as planning is conducted at the force FA or DS TOC using AFATDS. In this situation, the DS unit also has digital devices for the fire support elements and target acquisition elements (i.e., aerial fire support observers (AFSOs) and radars). As with the first option, the operator must enter tactical data and commander's criteria into AFATDS. The force FA headquarters or DS unit may either send a liaison team equipped with an FSHTU or AFATDS LCU to the non-digital unit, or provide an FSHTU / AFATDS LCU and a trained operator to the liaison team provided by the non-digital unit. In either case, this liaison team has the mission of helping the non-digital unit integrate into the AFATDS based command and control system. As with the first option, AFATDS-equipped units should save all printouts generated during the fire planning process.

Tactical Fire Direction

The non-digital force FA headquarters or DS battalion FDC can manually control their subordinate firing units. Or, if both the AFATDS and non-digital units are battalions, the AFATDS-equipped R or GSR battalion can provide digital tactical fire direction for all batteries in both the reinforcing and DS battalions (while keeping the DS TOC informed through the liaison team). The first alternative allows the units to operate the way they normally train. The liaison team sends the call for reinforcing fires to the AFATDS unit TOC using an FSHTU. A good liaison team should keep both the supported and supporting units abreast of the situation. This means the liaison officer must be sure that both units have the following data:

If a non-digital unit is supporting or attached to an AFATDS-equipped unit, either the liaison team will transmit fire requests to the supporting unit, or, if both units are battalions, the DS battalion can provide digital tactical fire direction for all firing batteries. All observers must be able to call for fires by voice so that the non-digital unit can take command and control, if necessary, of both units using voice communications. The basic concept is to keep procedures simple and in accordance with procedures in FM 6-20 series, FM 6-30, Observed Fire and TC 6-40. A good method to tell observers to use voice calls for fire is to use a code word obtained from the brevity list in the signal operating instructions. When fire support and firing battery personnel hear the code, they know that it is time to use voice calls for fire and voice fire orders. This method should be covered in the AFATDS-equipped unit's tactical SOP to prevent confusion in the event that some or all digital communications capability is lost abruptly, or some units are not informed of the change.

Net Structure

If the force FA headquarters or DS battalion lacks a digital capability, the communications net structure will remain almost unchanged. The single required alteration is that one of the force FA operations/fire (OPS/F) nets, or the DS battalion OPS/F net, becomes a digital net. This net supports the data link between the supporting or attached unit's AFATDS, the DS battalion BCSs (if the AFATDS unit supports a DS battalion), and the liaison team. The AFATDS unit FDC should be the net control station (NCS) for this net. The AFATDS unit also monitors the supported unit's voice nets as required.

If an AFATDS-equipped force FA headquarters or DS battalion is supported by or has attached a non-digital unit, the single required change is that the force FA TOC or DS battalion FDC, the supported or attached unit TOC or battalion FDC, and the liaison team, now use a force FA OPS/F net or the battalion OPS/F net for the digital data link. The supporting or attached unit will not monitor the other force FA or DS battalion digital nets. The supporting or attached unit will monitor the supported unit's voice nets as required.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantage of having an AFATDS-equipped unit supporting or attached to a non-digital unit that controls its own subordinate units is that habitual command and control relationships between the force FA headquarters, battalions, their batteries, and fire support personnel is maintained. However, the full capabilities of AFATDS are not exercised. The alternative of having a reinforcing battalion directly control the batteries of the DS battalion makes better use of AFATDS and allows fire plans, fire support coordinating measures, and fire orders to be sent digitally. But the DS battalion effectively relinquishes tactical fire direction to the reinforcing battalion. Few FSCOORDs are likely to find this acceptable. When an AFATDS-equipped unit is supported by or has attached a non-digital unit and the supporting unit controls its own firing elements, the force FA or DS unit provides a digital capable liaison. This allows the non-digital unit to take advantage of the capabilities of AFATDS, while retaining command and control at the non-digital TOC. However, the AFATDS-equipped unit must provide a liaison normally not required by its mission. If a DS battalion directly controls the firing batteries of the non-digital unit (an option for battalions only), all requests for fire, fire support coordination, and fire order transmissions are sent digitally to the firing batteries. But in this situation, the liaison team from the non-digital unit may not be able to keep its unit properly informed of the situation or fire mission processing.


The following are considerations concerning techniques and procedures for executing fire support in a AFATDS/non-digital environment:

Command and Control

The main consideration for command and control relationships between the two units is developing a mutually acceptable scheme of control that avoids unusual or unfamiliar procedures. During execution, keep command and control procedures as simple as possible and consistent with the way the unit normally operates. Conduct a coordination meeting between the commanders and operational staffs of the two units. Implement procedures to make the maximum use of AFATDS. Using the maneuver commander's concept, develop commander's criteria for programming into AFATDS to accomplish the mission. Ensure that all units involved are completely informed about the plan and are able to execute. The S3s and fire control NCOs or fire direction officers (FDOs) of the two units attempting to interoperate develop information requirements and then determine sources of information to support these requirements between the units. During the execution of the plan, the S3 obtains feedback on how well the plan is working and makes adjustments as necessary. The best plan poorly executed will not accomplish the mission.

Net Structure

The primary communications consideration is establishing a digital link between the AFATDS and non-digital units. This link will normally be one of the force FA OPS/F nets or the DS battalion OPS/F net. All other nets in each unit remain unchanged.

Tactical Fire Direction

Units must determine the right mix of manual versus automated control and agree on procedures to handle requests from supported to supporting units. Fire orders can be transmitted from an AFATDS-equipped battalion to the BCS-equipped batteries of a non-digital battalion either digitally or by voice. If all batteries are to receive digital fire orders, than the non-digital units must be entered into the AFATDS communications database. Communications must then be established with the non-digital unit's BCSs. (The non-digital battalion commander relinquishes a degree of tactical fire direction of his unit when using this method.)

The AFATDS unit may transmit requests for fire to the non-digital unit digitally via the liaison team's FSHTU or by voice. The non-digital unit then transmits fire orders to its firing units by voice.


AFATDS interoperates easily with both the IFSAS and LTACFIRE systems; however, several factors must be considered by both AFATDS and IFSAS (or LTACFIRE) operators.


When operating with AFATDS, both IFSAS and LTACFIRE, must be set up during AFATDS initialization as subordinates. Afterwards, IFSAS (or LTACFIRE) will treat AFATDS as if it is another IFSAS. For example, it will send messages of interest in standard IFSAS format to AFATDS, as if it is sending them to a IFSAS (or LTACFIRE) system.


The AFATDS-equipped element required to communicate with a IFSAS (or LTACFIRE) system must ensure that the IFSAS-equipped unit is annotated as such during initialization. AFATDS will then automatically translate messages directed to a IFSAS-equipped unit into standard IFSAS formats. In order to communicate with IFSAS, digital authentication data must be entered in AFATDS.


A potential problem during AFATDS/IFSAS operations is the transmission of bulk data from AFATDS to a IFSAS system. IFSAS (or LTACFIRE) has only a limited data storage capability (e.g., IFSAS only processes fire plans of 150 targets or less). Therefore, operators at both IFSAS and AFATDS-equipped elements must be careful when transmitting data, particularly fire plans and geometry data, not to transmit more information than the IFSAS (or LTACFIRE) can store. TC 6-40A, FA Automated Cannon Gunnery, IFSAS and LTACFIRE operator technical manuals provide additional information on the capabilities and limitations of those systems.

An example counterfire battle drill checklist (Figure 5-1) used by an IFSAS capable reinforcing FA Bde during digitized division operations takes advantage of digital systems, considers work-arounds between AFATDS and IFSAS and ensures visual data checks and target plots prior to missions being fired.

Figure 5-1. Example Counterfire Checklist

An in-depth discussion of IFSAS-AFATDS interoperability may be found in ST 6-3++, AFATDS TTP, Appendix J.