Infantry Drills

B-55: Weapons Control Status

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B-55. The three levels of weapons control status outline the conditions, based on target identification criteria, under which friendly elements can engage. The platoon leader sets and adjusts the weapons control status based on friendly and enemy disposition, and clarity of the situation. Generally speaking, the higher the probability of fratricide and friendly fire, the more restrictive the weapons control status. The three levels, in descending order of restrictiveness, are—

  • WEAPONS HOLD. Engage only if engaged or ordered to engage.
  • WEAPONS TIGHT. Engage only targets positively identified as enemy.
  • WEAPONS FREE. Engage targets not positively identified as friendly.

B-56. As an example, the platoon leader may establish the weapons control status as WEAPONS HOLD when friendly forces are conducting a passage of lines. By maintaining situational understanding of his own elements and adjacent friendly forces, however, he may be able to lower the weapons control status. In such a case, the platoon leader may be able to set a WEAPONS FREE status when he knows there are no friendly elements in the vicinity of the engagement. This permits his elements to engage targets at extended ranges even though it is difficult to distinguish targets accurately at ranges beyond 2000 meters under battlefield conditions. Another consideration is the weapons control status are extremely important for forces using combat identification systems. Establishing the weapons control status as WEAPONS FREE permits leaders to engage an unknown target when they fail to get a friendly response.

Next: B-57: Engagement Priorities

Go Back To: U.S. Army FM 3-21.8: The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad