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Land Force Elements

General

A land force, or land component at the operational level within a compined joint task force (CJTF), comprises several different elements, such as combat and combat support units. It may also contain troops of different types, such as ground and air manoeuver units.

The force should be selected and assembled to form a cohesive and balanced whole that can operate effectively and efficiently to achieve desired objectives and assigned missions.

Force Elements

  1. Combat Elements. Combat (cbt) elements consist of those elements that engage the enemy directly. They fight and typically employ direct fire weapons and manoeuver, and include armour, infantry, and direct fire units. They are considered ground manoeuver forces.

  2. Combat Support Elements. Combat support (cbt sp) elements consist of those elements that provide fire support, operational assistance, and enablers to combat elements through designated command and control and fire support relationships.

    CBT SP elements include fire support, air defense, reconnaissance, combat engineer, some electronic warfare elements, and some aviation assets. They may be referred to as simply support elements.

  3. Combat Service Support Elements. Combat service support (CSS) elements primarily provide administrationn and logistical support to Cbt or Cbt sp elements. CSS elements include log, HSS, LEM, and PSS. Force support engineers that normally provide water, electrical power, infrastructure, and main supply route(MSR) maintaince are classified as CSS elements.

  4. Command Support Elements. Command support (Comd Sp) elements assist commanders in the exercise of command. It includes staff of all types, communications, intelligence, information systems, and other elements assigned to protect, sustain and move the commander or the headquarters. They include signals and headquarters organizations.

  5. Combat Arms. The term "Combat arms" is a colloquial term that refers to a slightly wider description of "combat elements". It inculdes armour, infantry, field engineers, and artillery.

Reconnaissance Forces

Reconnaissance (recce/recon) forces have the primary purpose of gaining information. As such, they are normally classified as cbt sp forces. While they do not generally fight for information, they may be assigned combat roles, typically as guard forces or flank protection forces.

A recce/recon element that is primarily tasked with provision of battlespace information has a cbt sp role. One with a more aggressive task, such as guarding a flank, has a cbt role.

Manoeuver Forces

There are three types of ground manoeuver forces: heavy, medium, and light. They may be grouped together and operate in combination.

  1. Heavy Forces. Heavy forces exploit automotive power to deploy significant firepower combined with protection and mobility. They deploy with armoured fighting vehicles and fight either from their vehicle or with their vehicles in direct, intimate support. 1

  2. Medium Forces. Medium forces are strategically and operationally more deployable than heavy forces, and may be among the first elements to deploy into a theater or operations. They have less firepower and protection than heavy forces and are therefore less capable in certain circumstances. 2 Given their mobility and limited protection, and integral firepower, they are more capable and robust than light forces.

  3. Light Forces. Light forces are defined as military forces rapidly deployable at all level of command and optimized for terrain and conditions not suited to mechanized forces. They have significant strategic mobility, as they can be transported to any theater by aircraft. They may be the only forces that can operate in complex environment characterized by close terrain. However, their firepower is limited compared to heavy or medium forces and they are vulnerable without the protection of dispersion, concealment, or fortifications.

Air Manoeuver Forces

Air manoeuver forces exploit the mobility of aircraft to provide reach and agility. They include attack, support, and reconnaissance helicopters, airmobile forces and airborne forces, along with their close support (CS) and CSS elements. Normally light forces will be trained to operate as air manoeuver forces.

The operations of air manoeuver forces should be closely integrated with close air support (CAS), fire support, and other force enablers that will help reduce the vulnerabilities of air manoeuver forces.

Amphibious Forces

Amphibious forces undertake littoral or riverine operations, deployable and supported (at least intially) from ships. The land force component of an amphibious force will normally consist of light, or a mix of light and medium forces.

Combined Arms Group

The concept of combined arms groups integrates the application of several arms such as infantry, armour, aviation, artillery, and engineers in a complementary fashion normally under a single command. Combined arms groups should be used within a heavy, medium, light force, or air manoeuver force wherever possible. Their groupings are generally ad hoc and are created to meet a specific operational or tactical situation. They may be combined for a specific mission and re-organized during that mission as required. Properly employed, combined arms groups provide a complementary range of capabilities and flexibilities that will overmatch a less balanced force.


  1. Armoured infantry and/or mechanized infantry as part of a heavy force may close with the enemy or objective mounted in their vehicles, and like all infantry, fight dismounted. While dismounted, they normally have the advantage of additional firepower from their integral vehicle.

    They can apply concentrated firepower combined with speed to achieve shock action, and manoeuver rapidly to exploit it. Their utility may be highly restricted, or even precluded in some close or dense terrain, and their operational and strategic mobility is constrained by weight and logistical requirements. During a coalition operation, heavy forces should expect to operate along medium and light infantry. 

  2. These circumstances are not limited to heavy conventional enemies. Heavy forces have proven capable when combating unconventional, insurgent groups in urban areas. The heavy forces provide increased protection that allows the infantry to close with and destroy the enemy.