Reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (United States)
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Reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA), is a type of unit in the United States Army. RSTA units are small reconnaissance units based on cavalry squadrons, and act at the squadron (battalion) level as a brigade reconnaissance team for the regiment (brigade).
Overview and makeup
Some units, such as the Stryker brigades, have a relatively standard order of battle for a RSTA squadron. Typically the Department of the Army designates a battalion within a brigade/regiment as a RSTA squadron. That RSTA squadron will have 4–6 troops/companies, typically: 3 reconnaissance troops/companies (consisting of 19D MOS cavalry scouts and 11B infantrymen); a headquarters troop (HHT) which contains organic (that is, permanently and directly assigned) intelligence, communications, and fire (artillery) support, and a surveillance section (sometimes a troop) with UAV aerial support. While the above is the most typical RSTA order of battle, it was derived from the newly created Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCT) and is designed around Stryker support.
The IBCT Reconnaissance Squadron is composed of a headquarters and headquarters troop (HHT), two motorized (mounted) recon troops, a dismounted recon troop, and a forward support company. The HHT is organized like a typical HHC, with the squadron command group and staff sections. The motorized recon troops consist of a troop headquarters and 3 scout platoons. The scout platoons consist of 6 Humvees, armed with .50 cal M2 machine guns, 40 mm Mk 19 grenade launchers, M41 TOW improved target acquisition system, M240B machine guns, and are equipped with the LRAS3 (Long Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System). Currently, the scout platoons are manned by 24 19D cavalry scouts. The dismounted recon troop (DRT) consists of a troop headquarters including sniper and 60mm mortar sections, and 6 recon teams organized into 2 platoons. The teams are armed with M249 LMGs, M320 grenade launchers, M4 carbines, Javelins, and a Raven UAS. The DRT is capable of airborne and amphibious insertions, and can conduct self-sustained long-range, covert surveillance and target acquisition for up to 72 hours.
RSTA mission scope
According to JP 3–55, the official Joint Services publication defining the scope of RSTA operations, RSTA operations are designed to provide several tiers of capability at the strategic (national defense policy), operational (theater level), or tactical (individual unit) levels. These include:
Indications and warning (I&W)
RSTA I&W operations provide "information necessary to assess forces and installations that threaten the United States and its allies." RSTA missions may provide continuous surveillance or as-required reconnaissance, in order to provide warnings of impending threats or attacks, as well as to monitor compliance with international agreements. These operations may be conducted at the strategic, operational, or tactical levels.
Planning and employment
Strategically, RSTA Planning and Employment operations are used to support the planning of military operations, by monitoring foreign nations' centers of warmaking capability, and providing information on enemy system capabilities, locations, and installations for the National Target Base and other target lists. This information is used to assist in formulation of the U.S. military's Single Integrated Operational Plan, Limited Attack Option plan, Unified Command Plan, and Joint Strategic Capabilities Plans.
Operationally, RSTA operations are similar to both the strategic and tactical levels, in that they provide commanders with data on areas such as environment, organization, infrastructure, and enemy forces to assist in planning theater wide operations.
Tactically, RSTA operations provide detailed information about enemy orders of battle, movement plans, offensive and defensive capabilities, terrain, and enemy disposition. RSTA units provide target detection and acquisition (in some cases, elimination), and real-time intelligence and surveillance. This is generally provided through the RSTA unit's scout company, UAVs, and sniper teams.
At all three levels of command, RSTA units provide assessment both during and after military operations, such as bomb damage assessment and follow-on surveillance. As a side effort to this, RSTA units conduct OPDEC (OPerational DECeption) missions to impede enemy intelligence gathering.
RSTA line troops are a mix of 19D (cavalry scout) and 11B (Infantryman) MOS's, which serve as scouts and snipers. Also included are 11C (Indirect Fire Infantryman), which operate a 60 mm M224 Mortar Section, as well as various intelligence and communications soldiers. The MTOE of the infantry troop includes organic Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (Zodiac F470) to insert the infantry. The infantry troop (being in a cavalry squadron, makes it a "troop", not a company) has few wheeled vehicles which directly belong to the troop. The operational cycle for the infantry troop is plan, insert, infiltrate, execute, exfiltrate, extract, and finally debrief.
The reconnaissance squadron
As part of the Army-wide transfer to brigade units of action, some brigades are transitioning to the infantry brigade combat team (IBCT), others are transforming to heavy brigade combat teams (HBCT), while other brigades are becoming Stryker brigade combat teams(SBCT). In each of the three types of brigades there is a reconnaissance squadron which performs reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition or RSTA. Many elite long range reconnaissance detachments (LRSD) of the Vietnam era were disbanded and their combat role was transitioned to the infantry companies within the RSTA squadrons.
Modern reconnaissance squadrons within infantry brigade combat teams are combined arms forces of mounted and dismounted scouts (19D). This allows for added capabilities, speed and equipment never before found within an LRSD. The reconnaissance squadron is composed of a squadron headquarters, a headquarters troop, two recce troops, a dismounted infantry scout company (often containing the regimental/brigade reconnaissance team and brigade/regimental sniper section), and a forward supply support troop. Some squadrons may have an additional support troop consisting of a UAV platoon, a Zodiac boat section, and additional signal and maintenance assets that, while organic to the squadron's TOE, have unique capabilities requiring them to exist outside the HHT troop. For example, a support troop may include a UAV platoon, its associated maintenance, a boat section, a USAF satellite communications detachment, a HUMINT analysis team and interpreters. Typically, support troops contain mechanics, truck drivers, and other 'low density' combat service support troops.
The infantry companies within the reconnaissance squadron have specially trained and designated infantrymen serving as snipers, scouts (long range reconnaissance personnel) and mortarmen. Communications and Intelligence personnel are also attached due to the sensitive enemy information gathered. Scouts may perform specialized tasks such as pathfinders, scout swimmers, coxswains, fast rope masters, air liaison, etc. These specialized units are capable of waterborne, air assault, and vehicle insertions. Organic vehicles to the units include un-armored HMMWV's and may include small offroad vehicles. These infantry companies typically perform long range movements to conduct reconnaissance tasks with very limited combat support and resupply. The infantry company within a reconnaissance squadron is not a traditional 19D cavalry unit. it does not perform traditional mounted cavalry operations, instead it performs RSTA on foot, again with a limited resupply and combat support element.
Within heavy brigade combat teams (HBCT), the cavalry squadron is structured as an armored reconnaissance squadron (ARS). Each ARS has one headquarters and headquarters troop (HHT) and three line troops. The line troops are equipped with M3 series Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles and various types of Humvees.
The reconnaissance squadron is completely different from the armored cavalry formations of the cold war with massive armored and BFV units intended to engage massive armored threats. FM's are still being written on the doctrine. Many soldiers are scrambling to understand the new concepts of combined arms and the reconnaissance squadron. The criticisms of the IBCT RSTA include a lack of dismount capability in the mounted troops and an organizational framework that makes a poor compromise between stealth and economy of force, producing elements too heavy to conduct the traditional LRSD mission, but too weak to conduct the traditional cavalry mission.
RSTA units in the U.S. Army
Active Component RSTA Units
- 1st Cavalry
- 1-1st Cav, 2d HBCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss
- 2–1st Cav, 1st SBCT, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson
- 3–1st Cav, 3d HBCT, 3d Infantry Division, Fort Benning
- 5–1st Cav, 1st SBCT, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright
- 6–1st Cav, 1st SBCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss
- 8–1st Cav, 2d SBCT, 2d Infantry Division, Fort Lewis
- 2nd Cavalry
- 4–2d Cav, 2d SCR, Vilseck, Germany
- 3d Cavalry Regiment
- 4-3d Cav, 3d SCR, Fort Hood, Texas
- 4th Cavalry
- 1–4th Cav, 4th IBCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley
- 3–4th Cav, 3d IBCT, 25th ID, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
- 4–4th Cav, 1st HBCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley
- 5–4th Cav, 2d HBCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley
- 6–4th Cav, 3d IBCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox
- 7th Cavalry
- 1–7th Cav, 1st HBCT, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood
- 3–7th Cav, 2d HBCT, 3d Infantry Division, Fort Stewart
- 4–7th Cav, 1st HBCT, 2d Infantry Division, Korea
- 5–7th Cav, 1st HBCT, 3d Infantry Division, Fort Stewart
- 8th Cavalry
- 6–8th Cav, 4th IBCT, 3d Infantry Division, Fort Stewart
- 9th Cavalry
1–9th Cav, 4th HBCT, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort HoodUnit converted to Combined Arms Battalion and reassigned to 3d HBCT
- 4–9th Cav, 2d HBCT, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood
- 6–9th Cav, 3d HBCT, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood
- 10th Cavalry
- 1–10th Cav, 2d HBCT, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson
- 4–10th Cav, 3d HBCT, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson
- 7–10th Cav, 1st HBCT, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson
8–10th Cav, 4th HBCT, 4th Infantry Division, Fort HoodReflagged as 3-61st Cav
- 13th Cavalry
- 1–13th Cav, 3d IBCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss
- 2-13th Cav, 4th HBCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss
- 14th Cavalry
- 1–14th Cav, 3d SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis
- 2–14th Cav, 2d SBCT, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks
- 32d Cavalry
- 1–32d Cav, 1st IBCT, 101st Abn Div, Fort Campbell, Kentucky (formed from personnel and equipment from the 3d Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment)
- 33d Cavalry
- 1–33d Cav, 3d IBCT, 101st Abn Div, Fort Campbell, Kentucky
- 40th Cavalry
- 1–40th Cav, 4th ABCT, 25th ID, Fort Richardson, Alaska
- 61st Cavalry
- 1–61st Cav, 4th IBCT, 101st Abn Div, Fort Campbell, Kentucky (Newly established unit, 4th IBCT was built from scratch)
- 3–61st Cav, 4th IBCT, 4th ID, Fort Carson, Colorado
- 71st Cavalry
- 1–71st Cav, 1st IBCT, 10th Mtn Div, Fort Drum, New York
- 3–71st Cav, 3d IBCT, 10th Mtn Div, Fort Drum, New York
- 73rd Cavalry
- 1–73d Cav, 2d ABCT, 82d Abn Div, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
- 3–73d Cav, 1st ABCT, 82d Abn Div, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
4–73d Cav, 4th ABCT, 82d Abn Div, Fort Bragg, North Carolina(Unit inactivated and personnel used to form the 2d Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment)
- 5–73d Cav, 3d ABCT, 82d Abn Div, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
- 75th Cavalry
- 1–75th Cav, 2d IBCT, 101st Abn Div, Fort Campbell, Kentucky (Created out of 3rd Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment)
- 89th Cavalry
- 1–89th Cav, 2d IBCT, 10th Mtn Div, Fort Drum, New York
- 3–89th Cav, 4th IBCT, 10th Mtn Div, Fort Polk, Louisiana
- 91st Cavalry
- 1–91st Cav, 173d ABCT, Grafenwoehr, Germany
Army National Guard RSTA units
- 18th Cavalry
- 82d Cavalry
- 1st Squadron, 82d Cavalry (RSTA), 41st Brigade Combat Team, Oregon Army National Guard
- 94th Cavalry Regiment
- 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry (RSTA), 1st HBCT, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard
- 101st Cavalry
- 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry (RSTA), 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, New York Army National Guard
- 102d Cavalry
- 1st Squadron, 102d Cavalry (RSTA), 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 42d Infantry Division New Jersey Army National Guard (formerly 2d Battalion, 102d Armor)
- 104th Cavalry
- 105th Cavalry
- 106th Cavalry
- 107th Cavalry
- 108th Cavalry
- 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry (RSTA), 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Georgia Army National Guard (formerly 1–108th Armor)
- 2d Squadron, 108th Cavalry (RSTA), 256th Infantry Brigade, Louisiana Army National Guard (formerly 1-156th AR) headquartered in Shreveport
- 3d Squadron, 108th Cavalry (R&S), 560th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, Georgia Army National Guard (reflagged as 3-121st Infantry with the disbanding of the 560th BSB)
- 112th Cavalry
- 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry (RSTA), 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard
- 113th Cavalry Regiment
- 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry (RSTA), 34th Infantry Division, Iowa Army National Guard 
- 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team
- 2d Squadron, 116th Cavalry, 116th Cavalry (Heavy) Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Idaho Army National Guard
- 124th Cavalry
- 1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry (RSTA), 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Waco, TX "Out Front" (not to be confused with 1–124th Inf, FLARNG)
- 3d Squadron, 124th Cavalry (R&S), 71st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, Wylie, TX (formerly 1–112th Armor Regiment, 36th Infantry Division)
- 126th Cavalry
- 1st Squadron, 126th Cavalry (RSTA), 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 38th Infantry Division, Wyoming, MI "HUNTERS"
- 134th Cavalry
- 150th Cavalry
- 151st Cavalry
- 152d Cavalry
- 153d Cavalry
- 158th Cavalry
- 167th Cavalry
1st Squadron, 167th Cavalry, 34th Infantry Division, Nebraska Army National Guard. 1-167th Cavalry was reorganized into the 1st Squadron, 134th Cavalry (R&S) in 2008.
- 172d Cavalry
- 182d Cavalry
- 1st Squadron, 182d Cavalry (RSTA), 26th Infantry Division, Massachusetts Army National Guard; 26th subsequently inactivated, lineage perpetuated by the 26th BCT, 29th Infantry Division, later 26th BCT, 42d Infantry Division, then reorganized and redesignated as the 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, consisting of a mix of support units.
- 183d Cavalry
- 263d Cavalry
- 278th Cavalry
- 3d Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard
- 299th Cavalry
- 303rd Cavalry
- 1st Squadron, 303d Cavalry Regiment, Washington Army National Guard (formerly Troop E, 303d Cavalry Regiment)
- Command and control
- Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance
- CARVER matrix
- Network-centric warfare