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.

Women are not eligible to serve in a RSTA unit, as RSTA soldiers are considered a combat unit on the front line of enemy engagement. In practice, however, this regulation only holds true for the 'line' troops (the mounted/dismounted recon troops). The Forward Support Company, despite being attached to the squadron, is technically a part of the Brigade Support Battalion, allowing female soldiers to support the men in a RSTA Squadron in non-combat roles such as mechanics, and truck drivers.

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.

In squadrons supporting an airborne brigade combat team, 100% of the RSTA soldiers are qualified paratroopers.

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.[1]

RSTA units in the U.S. Army

Active Component RSTA Units

  • 1st Cavalry
    • 1-1st Cav, 2nd HBCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss
    • 2–1st Cav, 4th SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis Unit inactivated
    • 3–1st Cav, 3rd HBCT, 3rd 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, 2nd SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis
  • 2nd Cavalry
    • 4–2nd Cav, 2nd SCR, Vilseck, Germany
  • 3rd Cavalry Regiment
    • 4-3rd Cav, 3rd SCR, Fort Hood, Texas
  • 4th Cavalry
    • 1–4th Cav, 4th IBCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley
    • 3–4th Cav, 3rd IBCT, 25th ID, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
    • 4–4th Cav, 1st HBCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley
    • 5–4th Cav, 2nd HBCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley
    • 6–4th Cav, 3rd IBCT, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Knox
  • 7th Cavalry
    • 1–7th Cav, 1st HBCT, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood
    • 3–7th Cav, 2nd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart
    • 4–7th Cav, 1st HBCT, 2nd Infantry Division, Korea
    • 5–7th Cav, 1st HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart
  • 8th Cavalry
    • 6–8th Cav, 4th IBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart
  • 9th Cavalry
    • 1–9th Cav, 4th HBCT, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood Unit converted to Combined Arms Battalion and reassigned to 3rd HBCT
    • 4–9th Cav, 2nd HBCT, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood
    • 6–9th Cav, 3rd HBCT, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood
  • 10th Cavalry
    • 1–10th Cav, 2nd HBCT, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson
    • 4–10th Cav, 3rd 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 Hood Reflagged as 3-61st Cav
  • 13th Cavalry
    • 1–13th Cav, 3rd IBCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss
    • 2-13th Cav, 4th HBCT, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss
  • 14th Cavalry
    • 1–14th Cav, 3rd SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis
    • 2–14th Cav, 2nd SBCT, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks
  • 32d Cavalry
    • 1–32nd Cav, 1st IBCT, 101st Abn Div, Fort Campbell, Kentucky (Created out of 3rd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment)
  • 33d Cavalry
    • 1–33rd Cav, 3rd 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, 3rd IBCT, 10th Mtn Div, Fort Drum, New York
  • 73rd Cavalry
    • 1–73rd Cav, 2nd ABCT, 82nd Abn Div, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
    • 3–73rd Cav, 1st ABCT, 82nd Abn Div, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
    • 4–73rd Cav, 4th ABCT, 82nd Abn Div, Fort Bragg, North Carolina (Unit inactivated and personnel used to form 3-501st Parachute Infantry regiment)
    • 5–73rd Cav, 3rd ABCT, 82nd Abn Div, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
  • 75th Cavalry
    • 1–75th Cav, 2nd IBCT, 101st Abn Div, Fort Campbell, Kentucky (Created out of 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment)
  • 89th Cavalry
    • 1–89th Cav, 2nd IBCT, 10th Mtn Div, Fort Drum, New York
    • 3–89th Cav, 4th IBCT, 10th Mtn Div, Fort Polk, Louisiana
  • 91st Cavalry
    • 1–91st Cav, 173rd ABCT, Grafenwoehr, Germany

Army National Guard RSTA units

See also


  2. John Pike. "1st Battalion - 263rd Armor Regiment". Retrieved 11 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links