Long Range Surveillance

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Long Range Surveillance (LRS) (pronounced "lurse") are elite, specially-trained surveillance units of the United States Army employed for clandestine military operations by the Military Intelligence for gathering direct human intelligence information deep within enemy territory. Classic LRS employment is to infiltrate deep into enemy territory, construct hide and surveillance sites, and provide continuous surveillance/special reconnaissance of an intelligence target of key interest. LRS teams allow 24-hour surveillance and analysis coverage unlike Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), manned aircraft, and most satellites. Assuming there is no mission compromise, these teams typically remain in position for up to 30 days, as determined by the availability of food and water.[1]


LRSUs operate up to 200 kilometres (120 mi) from the Forward Line Of Troops (FLOT) for a maximum of 30 days.[citation needed] Their five primary missions are reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, battle damage assessment, and force protection. They also have many secondary missions capabilities to include enemy prisoner-snatch, wiretapping, field assassinations, emergency assaults, general battlefield information (weather and light data, map data, etc.) and enemy equipment/infrastructure sabotage.

LRS team operations are characterized by the following:

  1. LRSU Clandestine operations require Operational Security (OPSEC) and Personal Security (PERSEC) measures and procedures before, during, and after mission employment. This is to protect the individual team members as well as maintain operational integrity of the LRS cell.
  2. Team members depend on stealth, cover, concealment, infantry, and Ranger skills.
  3. Team members avoid contact with enemy forces and local population.
  4. Teams are employed to obtain timely information.
  5. Teams have restricted mobility in the area of operations.
  6. Team members depend on communications, knowing the enemy's order of battle, and equipment identification skills.
  7. The Surveillance or reconnaissance area is small, has a specified route, or is a specific location or installation.
  8. Team equipment and supplies are limited to what can be man packed or cached.
  9. Teams require detailed intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) and debriefing from the Intelligence Officer (G2) for employment.[2]


LRS units (LRSU) are Infantry company-size elements that are assets within a Battlefield Surveillance Brigade's Reconnaissance & Surveillance Squadron (R&S Squadron) designated as US Army Cavalry but are functionally Airborne Infantry units. The LRSU is structured as an LRS Company comprising three LRS detachments, a communications Platoon, and a Troop Headquarters. Within the LRS company, the LRS detachments typically have designated specialties. Typically, there are three teams, also known as "DETs." 3rd DET typically specializes in mountain warfare. 2nd DET is the dive detachment, specializing in water-borne operations such as scuba diving and infiltrating harbors and ports as well as employing the Zodiac. 1st DET is HALO (High Altitude, Low Open), specializing in airborne operations. This means jumping from a high performance military aircraft at an altitude in excess of ten thousand feet and deploying parachutes at one to two thousand feet. 3rd DET can also perform HAHO (High Altitude, High Open) operations. This means jumping from a high performance military aircraft in excess of ten thousand feet and deploying parachutes shortly after leaving the aircraft. LRS Detachments are organized as five unsupported LRS teams.

LRS Team composition[edit]

As with LRRP units of the past each US Army LRS team is composed of six soldiers:

  • Team Leader (TL) Staff Sergeant (E-6) Preferably Ranger qualified
  • Assistant Team Leader (ATL) Sergeant (E-5) Preferably Ranger qualified
  • Radio Telephone Operator (RTO) Specialist (E-4)
  • Senior Scout Observer (SSO) Specialist/Corporal (E-4)
  • Scout Observer (SO) Specialist/Corporal (E-4)
  • Assistant Radio Telephone Operator (ARTO) Specialist (E-4)
  • All position can be held by (E-1 up) to fill positions (upon meeting unit requirements)

Reconnaissance and Surveillance Squadrons (R&S Squadrons)[edit]

United States Army LRS units are being reorganized into the recently introduced battlefield surveillance brigades (BfSBs). These brigades contain a brigade headquarters and headquarters company (HHC), two military intelligence (MI) battalions, and a reconnaissance and surveillance (R&S) squadron.

The R&S squadrons conduct the same missions as RSTA units, but the R&S capabilities are vastly broader and encompass all aspects of ISR. Additionally, LRS units have the added capability of conducting strategic-level long-range surveillance (LRS) missions deep behind enemy lines. Due to this specialized capability, the R&S capability of LRS units is significantly more comprehensive than that of RSTA units. The missions of RSTA units may require them to make and maintain contact with the enemy, thereby forfeiting their ability to remain concealed and avoid detection. The only units within the United States Army to specialize in the capability and skill of the long-range surveillance mission are those of the LRS units within the BfSBs, Special Forces (SF) Operational Detachments-Alpha (SFODAs, ODAs, or A-Teams), and the Ranger Regimental Reconnaissance Company (RRC) of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

The BfSB's R&S squadron is composed of one LRS unit (i.e., Company C), which contains 15 LRS teams. Additionally, the R&S squadron also has two Cavalry troops (each containing two platoons) that conduct basic mounted and dismounted operations, and a headquarters and headquarters troop (HHT).

For a standard six-Soldier LRS team, the primary method of insertion/infiltration behind enemy lines is at night by helicopter (night-time heliborne), while secondary methods include airborne and waterborne operations. In recent low-intensity conflicts, additional covert methods have been added to enhance operational capabilities. Airborne reconnaissance missions are conducted by the three types of aforementioned Army units: LRS units, SF ODAs, and the Ranger RRC.[3]

Contrast with Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition units[edit]

LRS units (Airborne Infantry) are not to be confused with the new Army concept of Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) units (a non-Airborne capable Cavalry unit). As part of the Army-wide transfer to Brigade Combat Teams, all combat divisions and separate brigades are transitioning to the RSTA format.

RSTA units also have added light vehicle support in the form of Humvees and M3 Bradleys, due to being commissioned as cavalry. LRS units in contrast do not utilize a larger vehicle support element. RSTA units are not airborne-capable, whereas all LRS units are (exceptions being the RSTA squadron of the 4th BCT (Abn), 25th Infantry Division; the 173rd Airborne BCT; and the four in the 82nd Airborne Division).

By doctrine, RSTA units do not require their leadership positions to be filled by Ranger-qualified officers and NCOs, whereas LRS units do in addition to many more specialized skill qualifications.


LRS team members usually carry the M4 carbine, M320 grenade launcher, M9 pistol, and the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) as well as mission-specific assortment of specialized optics, photo/video recording devices, and secure communications gear.


LRSUs are Airborne Forces and most leadership positions are filled by Ranger-qualified officers and NCOs. LRS leaders typically undergo the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leaders Course (RSLC) at Fort Benning, where they learn long range land navigation, communications, intelligence, vehicle identification, survival, and operational techniques.

LRS soldiers are often graduates of other specialized schools including:

US Army LRSUs conduct training exercises and exchange programs with various US allies. In recent years these exercises have included deployments to England, Germany, France, Hungary, and Italy. Joint training exercises have involved units from British TA SAS, France's 13e RDP, Belgium's ESR, Italy's 9th Parachute Assault Regiment and Germany's FSLK200.

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