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Mixed reconaissance patrol of the Polish Home Army and the Soviet Red Army during Operation Tempest, 1944

Reconnaissance is the military term for the active gathering information about an enemy, or other conditions, by physical observation. It is part of combat intelligence. Compare to counterintelligence.

It is often referred to as recce (British & Commonwealth) or recon (USA). The associated verb is reconnoiter (reconnoitre in British English).

Examples of reconnaissance include patrolling by troops, ships, submarines, or aircraft, or by setting up covert observation posts. Reconnaissance may also be carried out by satellites or unmanned aircraft.

Reconnaissance seeks to collect a range of information about an enemy. This includes their locations, numbers, and intentions. A number of acronyms exist for the information to be gathered - mainly coined by the US - including salt (size, activity, location, and time), salute (size, activity, location, unit, time, and equipment), sam & doc (strength, armament, movement, deployment, organization, and communications).

Thus reconnaissance is a fundamental tactic which helps to build an intelligence picture.

Airborne photo reconnaissance

On 16 October 1912 a Bulgarian Albatros aircraft was used to perform Europe's first reconnaissance flight in combat conditions.

During the First World War, photo reconnaissance was one of the early uses of the aeroplane.

Before the Second World War the conventional wisdom was to use converted bomber types for airborne photo reconnaissance. These bombers retained their defensive armament, which was vital since they were unable to avoid interception.

In 1939 Flying Officer Maurice Longbottom was among the first to suggest that airborne reconnaissance may be a task better suited to fast, small aircraft which would use their speed and high service ceiling to avoid detection and interception. Although this seems obvious now, with modern reconnaissance tasks performed by fast, high flying aircraft, at the time it was radical thinking. He proposed the use of Spitfires with their armaments and radios removed and replaced with extra fuel and cameras. This led to the development of the Spitfire PR variants. Spitfires proved to be extremely successful in their reconnaissance role and there were many variants built specifically for that purpose.

Immediately after World War II, long range aerial reconnaisance was taken up by adapted bombers - such as the English Electric Canberra, and its American development, the Martin B-57 - flying higher or faster than the enemy. The onset of the Cold War led the development of highly specialized and secretive strategic reconnaissance aircraft (or "spyplanes"), such as the Lockheed U-2 and its successor, the SR-71 Blackbird (both from the United States). Flying these aircraft became an exceptionally demanding task, as much because of the aircraft's extreme speed and altitude as it was because of the risk of being captured as spies. As a result, the crews of these aircraft were invariably specially selected and trained.

Reconnaissance in force

Reconnaissance in force (RIF) is a tactic used specifically to probe an enemy's disposition. By mounting an offensive with considerable (but not decisive) force, the commander hopes to elicit a strong reaction by the enemy that reveals its own strength, deployment, and other tactical data. The RIF commander retains the option to fall back with the data or expand the conflict into a full engagement.

The term "reconnaissance in force" is sometimes used ironically, as a means to disguise an intention of full engagement without specific instructions to do so.

See also

no:Oppklaring pl:Rekonesans


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