Target Processing for the Armored Brigade: Deciding, Detecting, Firing and Evaluating with Garrison Organic MeansTarget Processing for the Armored Brigade: Deciding, Detecting, Firing and Evaluating with Garrison Organic Means

TC Filipe Silva dos Santos – Lt Bruno Cardoso Pio – Lt Gusttavo Corrêa Lucas


The last decades have been marked by significant changes in power relations, transforming the scenarios of military operations, which began to present their own characteristics with a deep interconnection between the human, physical and informational dimensions.

In this context, the so-called 4th Generation conflicts have emerged, characterized by developing in a complex, ambiguous, non-linear and multidimensional environment, capable of combining war and non-war actions, in a permanent diffuse character of operations, which are based on the existence of hybrid threats, state and non-state actors, the growing importance of the human dimension in conflicts, the proliferation of new technologies, and the instantaneity of information.

As far as the fire support means of the Large Armored Units are concerned, these variables have imposed the need to develop new critical capabilities that allow them to process knowledge and manage the volume of information obtained by the permanent situational awareness of the battlefield.

Doctrinally, such processing encompasses the stages of decision, detection, firing, and damage assessment, and is known by the acronym D3A. In its conception, the D3A systematically proposes a methodology for surveying targets, the best way to engage them, and quantifies damage assessment.

Next, an analysis will be conducted on the possibilities and limitations of the organic means of the firefighting function of an Armored Brigade for the use of the D3A methodology.


The Army may operate in different circumstances that develop within a broad spectrum of conflict intensity, from non-war operations to war situations. Between these extremes there is a myriad of intensity gradations, which demand different attitudes, force application scales and means organization.

In many of these circumstances, given their organization and composition of means, the Armored Brigades show themselves as a force with differentiated combat capacity, due to their high firepower, high mobility and shock power. Conceptually, the Armored Brigade is a combination of weapons, formed by combat, combat support, and logistical support units and sub-units, with the capacity to last in action and to act independently.

It is basically formed by two armored infantry battalions, two regiments of tanks, a squadron of mechanized cavalry as combat elements, and a group of self-propelled field artillery. Their main characteristics are high mobility, relative armored protection, firepower, and wide and flexible communications.

Currently, the organic field artillery units of the Armored Brigades are called the Self-Propelled Field Artillery Group (GAC AP) and their firing batteries are equipped with the M109 A5+ BR self-propelled shell.

The range of Artillery material is a factor of great importance for firing missions, as it determines the combat positioning of a GAC, as well as characterizes the technical condition for engaging a requested target, directly influencing the fire planning process.

However, combat capability is not restricted to the firing, but extends to the ability to detect, identify, analyze, and transmit information of military interest on several compensating targets in a short period of time, which constitutes a major challenge for military operations. This premise is based on the possession of a target search system that allows, in a short period of time, the use of the D3A methodology.

Target processing consists of the ability to detect targets, decide on the means to be used to hit them, prioritize the execution, coordinate these actions with all systems, and assess the damage done. Its actions are intended to enhance the capability of the fire support system and achieve the desired effects at all planning levels (tactical, operational, and strategic).

According to Campaign Manual EB70-MC-10.346, Fires Planning and Coordination, 3rd edition, 2017, the “D3A” target processing methodology is used to organize tasks during the planning and execution process of operations, in order to obtain the best use of resources and employ fires in an integrated and synchronized manner with maneuver (BRASIL, 2017).

Therefore, the primary aspect of the process lies in the identification of high-value targets and considered supposed priority.

Once identified, such targets must be detected and attacked, through the synergy of efforts and the synchronization of the functions of combat movement and maneuver, intelligence, and fire. However, the process must analyze the most appropriate means, the opportune moment, and assess the consequences of damage resulting from target engagement, which is why the methodology is based on four stages defined as follows: decide, detect, fire, and assess (D3A) Decide is the first phase of the process and its objective is to establish the guidelines for planning and executing target detection and engagement activities, synchronizing these actions with each phase of the maneuver.

It comprises the most important phase during the planning of an operation and consists of a detailed and precise phasing, capable of making this stage complex, for in it will be established the priorities of the targets and of the intelligence search effort, in addition to guidelines for attacking the targets. It is noteworthy that in this phase the costs and benefits of each attack are also analyzed; the feasibility of achieving the desired effects; as well as the collateral damage and risks arising from each mission.

Detect is the second stage of the process, in which the effort is directed to the acquisition of targets that compromise or hinder the force’s mission. Known and suspected targets are confirmed, and new targets that arise from the search effort, detailed in the Intelligence Search Plan, are included. In this stage it is necessary to discover the nature, value and location of the targets, in order to measure their size, shape, value and relevance to the operation.

Firing comprises the third phase and starts after the targets are confirmed. After deciding the best time to hit each target and the means to be employed, the rules of engagement are considered and the form chosen to achieve the desired effects. After this, the mission is transmitted to the shooting unit responsible for its execution.

Evaluate is the last stage and consists of verifying the results obtained by means of a timely and accurate intelligence assessment, in which the analyst expresses his opinion on the damage produced in each attack, analyzing the effects on the objective, its surroundings, collateral damage, and the efficiency of the means and methods employed for the engagement.

It is performed by the forward observers or sensors employed. Therefore, it can be seen that, theoretically, the D3A process contributes to the coordination of the firefighting function and to the synergy of efforts of the resources of an Armored Brigade, making it possible to save resources and optimize the search efforts, starting with the selection of the target and the designation of the attack method and the sensor that will report the damage caused. However, current target search systems are still based on the use of forward observers.

The search for targets through Forward Observers or observers installed at observation posts is influenced by terrain compartmentalization, weather conditions, and human vision factors, and is thus limited to a range of 4 km. (LACORTT, 2019). It occurs that throughout the D3A process, the existence of modern target search systems, capable of contributing to the intelligence effort and the assessment of the damage imposed on the enemy, gains relevance. It is worth noting that the accuracy and speed with which field artillery can identify its target for subsequent engagement and is intrinsically linked to the ability to support by fire in the most efficient way possible.

One of the alternatives found for Field Artillery is the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) to contribute to the detection and damage assessment effort. SARP can be defined as a system that allows the remotely piloted flight of an air vector capable of performing ostensive missions and activities, such as observation, target surveys, reconnaissance, without exposing human lives (MILESKI, 2007). Among the main capabilities, it is highlighted that RPAS can perform reconnaissance tasks, information relay, electronic warfare including signals intelligence, espionage, air, sea and land surveillance, fire conduct, damage assessment, etc. (PLAVETZ, 2012).

Moreover, it is found that the integration of RPAS with fire support assets is fast, responsive and effective. The RPAS’s ability to fly above areas of interest to artillery and provide highly accurate target locations makes them ideal for the employment of precision guided munitions against enemy indirect fire systems. In addition, RPAS are capable of providing immediate assessments of combat effects for Intelligence data collection and target selection and prioritization processes. In the United States of America (USA), due to its significant technological and military capacity, target acquisition batteries are used to support the operational level, divisions and brigades, using individualized fractions for each supported element, equipped with various detection means (USA, 2015, p. 1-1).

It is worth noting that the war industry offers other modern materials capable of contributing to the establishment of new capabilities. Among these materials, the AN/TPQ-53, “ARTHUR” (Artillery Hunting Radar) and “COBRA” (Counter Battery Radar) counterbattery radars stand out. The AN/TPQ-53 counterbattery radar, employed by the U.S. Army, has as its main characteristic the possibility of being employed in all possible directions, enabling the detection of targets at a 360° angle.

According to the LOCKHEED MARTIN website, the AN/TPQ-53 radar system detects, classifies, tracks, and determines the location of enemy indirect fire in 360 or 90 degree modes. The hardware has successfully operated in combat since 2010 and allows the detection of mortars, rockets and artillery.


The theater of operations of the 21st century, characterized by a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous scenario, presents countless military challenges and imposes an increasingly offensive and immediate action; through the maintenance of initiative; the speed in the conception and execution of operations; and the synchronization of actions at all levels.

New planning concepts and methods emerge or are constantly improved, causing systemic organizational and operational changes, in order to adapt to the new geometry of the battlefield and technological trends. In this sense, it is verified that the Decision, Detection, Firing and Damage Assessment Process has a systematic and innovative methodology, capable of contributing to the improvement of planning, to the efficiency in the coordination of fire support means, and to the synergy of efforts of the means employed in combat, allowing for an economy of resources and optimizing the search efforts.

However, even if new planning methods emerge, there is no doubt that the global war trend points to the dominance of new technologies, which allow better management of the battlefield, the expansion of situational awareness, and the increase in the lethality of armaments, in order to modify existing conditions through new threats, requiring the development of specific capabilities.

Among several innovative elements, the use of RPAS and counterbattery radars are some examples of materials, which represent the state of the art and offer conditions to contribute with the generation of new capabilities for the fire support means of the armored brigades. Finally, it can be concluded that new technologies emerge in every conflict, with the objective of decisively interfering in the opponent’s center of gravity. In this context, we find RPAS and counterbattery radars, innovative tools whose domain is restricted to a few countries.

*** Translated by the DEFCONPress Team FYI Team ***


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