Chapter 6
Dispositions and Instructions

Section I. Requirements of Cruising Dispositions

600. Cruising dispositions are essentially defensive. The fundamental requirements are such as to provide:

  1. Protection against surprise in any form.

  2. Security for the whole force and the component parts thereof through mutual support.

  3. Ready transition to approach, contact or battle disposition.

  4. Provisions for rapid and certain transmissions of orders and information.

Section II. Selection of Cruising Dispositions

601. The form of disposition selected is dependent upon the following considerations:

  1. The mission of the cruising force.

  2. The numbers and types of own combatant ships and aircraft.

  3. The numbers and value of own non-combatant types which require protection.

  4. The numbers and types of enemy forces which may be encountered and their probable mission.

  5. The existing tactical situation.

  6. The effectiveness of radar.

  7. Weather conditions with respect to visibility and as affecting the operation of aircraft and light forces.

  8. Geographic.

  9. Method of communications which is desired to be employed.

602. The existing tactical situation may include one of the following situations:

  1. Engagement with enemy surface forces is possible and is sought.

  2. Engagement with enemy surface forces is possible but not desired.

  3. Engagement with enemy surface forces is not possible.

In the above three situations the possibility of attacks by enemy aircraft or submarines at any time are considered and the predominant threat further affects the decision as to the form selected. Furthermore, situations (a) and (b) above are primary considerations in selecting the appropriate disposition when surprise surface contact may occur in low visibility or at night. In connection with (a), when seeking engagement, the disposition is of the "ready" or "attack" type or is one from which deployment can be rapidly effected, with the procedure therefor prescribed. In reference to (b), when not seeking engagement, and particularly when the disposition contains valuable ships which require protection, a disposition is chosen which can be turned readily and from which if necessary, valuable units can retire expeditiously while defending units concentrate and interpose for delaying action. In either of the situations (a) or (b), if earlier warning is desired than can be expected from the radars of the heavy ships, consideration is given to advancing one or more radar pickets in the direction of advance, or expected contact. The benefit of early warning is weighed against the added probability of discovery.

603. The commander prepares suitable cruising dispositions or formations for use when the occasion demands. However, typical dispositions and instructions are contained in fleet tactical publications. The use of these promotes common indoctrination.


Section III. Forms of Cruising Dispositions

604. The forms of dispositions selected normally fall into the following categories:

  1. Dispositions for entering or leaving port or for passing through restricted waters.

  2. Dispositions for repelling attacks by submarines.

  3. Dispositions for repelling attacks by aircraft.

  4. Dispositions for repelling attacks by light forces.

  5. Dispositions for obtaining information of the enemy forces or for denying information to the enemy.

  6. Dispositions in readiness for approach, deployment or for maintaining contact.

Under some circumstances a disposition suitable for one purpose may be suitable for others, or, particularly if carriers are present, a disposition may be formed which embodies elements common to more than one form of disposition. This is exemplified by the employment of a screen stationed primarily for antisubmarine purposes but which permits quick forming to a close in air defense screen if desired.

(A) Dispositions for Entering or Leaving Port or for Passing Through Restricted Waters

605. Dispositions suitable for entering or leaving port or for passing through restricted waters are necessarily some form of a column of forces. If circumstances permit, light forces are in two columns, to expedite entering and leaving. The order of the forces in the column, the spacing between forces and the distance between individual ships, depends upon the circumstances of the situation. Antisubmarine screens sweep the area prior to transit by heavy units.

606. Unless a safe channel is known to exist, mine sweepers are so disposed as to conduct a tactical sweep in advance of heavy units passing through mineable waters.

607. Air coverage provided by ship, or shore-based aircraft when available, is a requisite.

Dispositions for Repelling Attacks by Submarines

608. Dispositions for repelling submarine attacks provide for:

  1. Detecting and destroying any submarines either submerged or on the surface which approach a position from which torpedoes could be fired effectively on the heavy ships.

  2. Freedom of maneuver of separate formations or individual ships to clear a dangerous submarine area or avoid approaching torpedoes.

609. When available, aircraft with suitable armament and special equipment are formed as a patrol to detect and attack submarines or to force them to submerge and thereby become immobilized until danger from them is past. Surfaced submarines are detected visually when visibility is good, and by radar at night or in reduced visibility. Submerged submarines are not likely to be detected by aircraft.

610. Surface craft equipped for antisubmarine duty, have underwater detection devices effective against submerged submarines are organized as antisubmarine sonar screens. In addition surface craft are employed as pickets for detection of submarines by radar or visual means.

611. Antisubmarine screens are disposed to intercept any possible submarine approach. In the area outside of the submerged approach sector (the sector in which a submerged submarine must be in order to reach a firing position) visual and radar guard is sufficient, since the submarine must be on the surface to gain an attack position. The submerged approach sector, however, must be searched by sonar. The distance of the sonar screen from the force screened is such as to permit at least one depth charge attack before the submarine has closed to effective firing range. The distance between ships in the screen depends upon sonar conditions and the number of screening


ships available. A spacing of one and a half the assured sonar range (determined by bathythermograph) gives a high probability of detection. When the number of antisubmarine ships does not permit covering the submerged approach sector at the desired distance with ships spaced at one and a half the assured range, the ships are stationed so as to prevent the submarine from reaching those positions where his chances of scoring a hit are the highest. When there are more than a sufficient number of antisubmarine ships to form the Inner Screen, the excess are stationed as radar pickets, or as an Outer Antisubmarine Screen.

612. The diversion of ships of an antisubmarine screen from their stations to repel attacks of enemy surface craft is made only as a last resort, and when no other ships are available for this purpose.

(C) Dispositions for Repelling Attacks by Aircraft

613. The dispositions adopted for repelling attacks by aircraft permit:

  1. Early warning of the approach of hostile aircraft.

  2. Concentration of antiaircraft fire in all range bands with maximum concentration around heavy or valuable units.

  3. Freedom of maneuver of the separate formations to bring the antiaircraft batteries to bear.

  4. Freedom of maneuver of the individual ships to take avoiding action.

  5. Launching of additional fighter aircraft from carriers.

614. The force to be protected is wholly surrounded by an air defense screen established at an interval and distance which depends on the number of screening vessels, the size and type of the force protected and the necessity of insuring mutual support. This disposition is most effective against torpedo-plane, skip-bombing, and horizontal bombing attacks. It is less effective against dive-bombing attacks. Generally, in addition to the above circular screen, pickets are disposed to give early warning of approaching enemy aircraft. The pickets may also be used in conjunction with directing interception of enemy aircraft by own aircraft.

615. Ships are so stationed as to give all around coverage and to permit radar controlled fire in any sector in which an attack may develop.

616. A combat air patrol composed of fighters is either directly over the force protected or within visible distance in a certain direction or sector. Normally the position overhead is best, as it is easily maintained, allows an accurate departure when moving out to intercept hostile aircraft, and presents fewer difficulties in recognition of our aircraft by our forces.

617. It is most important that the fighters have an advantage of height when the enemy is sighted. The prevailing cloud conditions and a knowledge of the enemy's probable tactics and number of planes available determine the best altitudes for the patrol.

(D) Dispositions for Repelling Attacks by Light Forces

618. Dispositions for repelling attacks by light forces permit:

  1. Early detection of hostile ships attempting to penetrate the disposition.

  2. Concentrations in strength adequate to destroy the attackers before they can reach their objective.

  3. Freedom of maneuver of the screened force to move away from the direction of the attack or to present unfavorable torpedo targets if the attack reaches torpedo range.

  4. Radical course changes and maneuver by individual ships.

619. An anti-light force screen is primarily a night or low visibility screen, normally consisting of destroyers and light cruisers, but it may have heavier vessels assigned if type of enemy vessels expected so indicates. If attack from light forces supported by heavy fast ships is probable or expected, heavy ships may be disposed around the train to repel such attacks.


620. The area from which attack is likely is the most vital; this is usually ahead and on the bows of the screened force. When numbers of screening ships permit, the screen is extended around the flanks. If the force is slow, the screen surrounds it to repel attacks from astern.

621. In disposing vessels in the screen, consideration is given not only to the types and numbers of vessels available but to the types and limitations of radar and communication equipment installed. Consequently, it may be possible to use concentrated groups of ships, rather than single vessels, the distance between groups and interval to the force screened being determined by the capabilities of this equipment. This type of screen not only provides means for detecting enemy attempts to penetrate, but also makes available a strong force to bear immediately, simplifies station keeping, and assists in positively identifying our own or enemy units.

622. Another possible type of screen is composed of an outer line of pickets and an inner line of supports. The pickets are disposed so as to give warning of attack. The distance between pickets depends on the visibility, and the pertinent sonar, radar, and communication conditions, but should be such as to assure the detection of an enemy passing through the line. The supports are so stationed as to take offensive action against the enemy and repel the attack. Although the inner and outer lines are well separated, the use of this type of screen may result in identification trouble between units in the respective lines.

623. If the above procedures are not feasible, a single line of pickets may be stationed, using an interval from the force screened and scouting distance consonant with visibility of effective value of radar and communication equipment available.

(E) Dispositions for Obtaining Information of the Enemy or for Denying Information to the Enemy

624. The most effective means of obtaining information of the enemy is general coverage of the operating area by aircraft. This is best accomplished by long-range, shore-based aircraft, or, in the absence of such coverage, daily aircraft search by ship-borne aircraft. Conversely, denying information to the enemy is most effectively achieved by destroying enemy scouting and trailing aircraft.

625. In the presence of effective air coverage over the entire area of operations, the cruising disposition is of any appropriate type.

626. When the officer in tactical command considers he does not have the services of sufficient aircraft to adequately cover the whole area of operations he may establish a distant screen in order to obtain information of the enemy or for denying information to the enemy.

Distant Screen

627. The distant screen constitutes a part of the disposition or formation, unless otherwise prescribed. The number, types of vessels assigned, arrangement thereof, and interval from the force screened depend upon the circumstances and the task of the distant screen. Aircraft, as available, are employed to augment it or to extend the limits of its effectiveness.

(F) Dispositions in Readiness for Approach, Deployment, or to Maintain Contact

628. Dispositions in readiness for approach, deployment, or maintaining contact provide a sufficient concentration of all task subdivisions so that an approach, battle, or contact disposition may be taken without delay and with all task subdivisions present. Normally no distant screen is necessary for such disposition, but any of the light force task groups may be directed to form a screen if desired. Screens and antisubmarine and combat air patrols are normally maintained for the battleships and aircraft carriers and for the train, if one is present. At night or under conditions of low visibility, screens against light forces may be provided for the heavy ships or for the train if the entire force is unable to take a low visibility disposition.

629. Typical approach contact and battle dispositions are illustrated in fleet tactical publications.


Section IV. Covering Force

630. A covering force is used for various purposes and is composed of any combatant type or types, depending upon the circumstances. No general instructions for the formation or tactics of such a force are prescribed. The commander of the covering force organizes his command and issues instructions to meet the existing situation and to accomplish the task assigned.

631. The general tasks of a covering force are:

  1. Destruction of a specific enemy force, or

  2. Operation against enemy forces in a given area.

632. A covering force is sometimes employed for any of the following or similar purposes:

  1. Protection of the operations of another force by offensive operations in a given area.

  2. Destruction of enemy scouting forces.

  3. Destruction of an enemy force threatening a friendly force.

  4. Destruction of enemy forces trailing a friendly force.

  5. Destruction of enemy forces in an area through which a friendly force will pass.

  6. Covering of landing operations.

Section V. Miscellaneous Instructions

Vessels Encountered in Advance of a Cruising Force

633. Action is taken to insure that non-naval vessels encountered in advance of a force do not disclose information as to the movement or interfere with the operation. If the circumstances permit such a vessel to be cleared from the area before it obtains vital information, the naval vessels or aircraft in contact order it to steer a prescribed course for a definite time, and insure its compliance. However, normally, where a slow vessel is encountered by the screen of a large force, valuable information is gained by the vessel before she can be cleared. In such cases, steps are taken immediately to insure that this information is not transmitted to unfriendly sources. Measures to prevent this may include removal or destruction of her radio apparatus or even the sinking of the vessel.

Fog or Thick Weather

634. Upon encountering fog or thick weather, the various units of any force or the station units of a large disposition maintain their positions or stations relative to one another unless otherwise directed. Organization or station units may take a formation suitable for fog or thick weather, provided such circumstances of the situation as the security of the force permit.

Vessels Effecting a Rendezvous or Joining a Formation or Disposition

635. In appointing a rendezvous for detached vessels or for forces effecting a juncture consideration is given to the following:

  1. Assign one force a course and speed of advance after passing through the rendezvous, and apprise the other force thereof.

  2. Effect the rendezvous, when practicable, sufficiently in advance of darkness to permit visual transmission of orders for forming and orders for the night.

  3. Set the rendezvous for vessels which have become separated during darkness for such time after dawn as will permit them to approach during daylight. This consideration no longer applies, however, if radar recognition devices are effective.

636. Caution is enjoined as to the manner in which vessels join a formation or disposition at night or during low visibility. Maximum use is made of communications to the limit imposed by the restrictions in effect, in order that ships keep advised of movements. If the officer


in tactical command orders vessels to join at night, he informs all units which might sight the vessels, of the expected time the vessels will reach the limits of the disposition and the direction from which they will approach.

637. If joining at night or during low visibility, and in the absence of any special instructions, ships normally do not approach the disposition from ahead or the flanks--but from the quarter or the rear, and close slowly. They avoid making their approach a surprise and avoid maneuvers which might be mistaken for enemy ships delivering an attack. Special care is taken that personnel on watch thoroughly understand the measures for identification and comply with them.

Aircraft Joining a Disposition or Formation

638. Aircraft returning form a distant mission follow the prescribed procedure in approaching a formation of aircraft or surface vessels and employ such identification equipment as may be prescribed. Aircraft not properly identified are treated as hostile until proven otherwise.

Vessels in a Disposition or Formation Dropping Back From a Position Ahead and Vessels Changing Stations or Leaving

639. At night or during low visibility, if a ship in a disposition, because of a breakdown or for any other reason, drops back, or in case a ship is ordered to occupy a new station or leave the formation, the officer in tactical command when possible notifies all units which might be affected by such ship or her probable movements.

Floating Objects

640. Nothing that floats is thrown overboard if it can be otherwise disposed of. All waste material that can be burned is burned. Metal containers are well punctured before being thrown overboard. The officer in tactical command prescribes the times for pumping bilges and for throwing overboard garbage and other waste material that cannot be burned. One hour after sunset is usually the best time for disposing of this material. All floating objects whose character is in any way uncertain are carefully avoided.

Section VI. Convoys

641. A convoy is a number of naval auxiliary vessels or merchant vessels, assembled and organized for an operation or for passage together. It is usually protected by one or more combatant vessels, known as the convoy escort.

642. When a convoy moves with a major force, it becomes a part of the train and is an integral part of that task subdivision while with that force.

643. The number and types of vessels assigned as convoy escort depend on the conditions existing at the time, the composition, destination and routing of the convoy.

644. The convoy commodore is the officer, naval or merchant, designated to command the convoy. He is responsible for the internal arrangements of the convoy, including the assignment of stations to vessels, for the issuing of instructions and regulations and for the safe navigation of convoyed ships.

645. Under normal conditions the convoy commodore will handle the convoy tactically in accordance with standard instructions for convoys, and such additional instructions as he may receive from competent authority.

646. The escort commander is the senior naval officer of the escort. The escort commander is responsible for the proper disposition of the escort for the defense of the convoy, subject to instructions received from higher authority, and the enforcement of instructions related to the defense of the convoy. Evasive alterations of course by the convoy, when exigencies of the situation warrant, are ordered by the escort commander after consultation with convoy commodore, if practicable.


647. Command of combined escort and convoy devolves in accordance with the following principles:

  1. In a task force, group, or unit organized as an escorted convoy, and composed entirely of naval ships, the senior officer of the task organization, unless otherwise ordered by competent authority, commands both convoy and escort.

  2. In a task force, group, or unit, other than a regularly scheduled mercantile convoy, organized as an escorted convoy, and composed of mixed naval and mercantile ships in the convoy, the senior officer of the task organization, unless otherwise ordered by competent authority, commands both convoy and escort.

  3. In a regularly scheduled mercantile convoy, the escort commander commands both convoy and escort even though there may be present in a ship in the convoy an officer senior to him, except that task force commanders responsible for convoys may designate the convoy commodore to command both convoy and escort when, in their judgment, the escort commander is not qualified to assume the responsibility. If the escort commander is not the senior officer present and is in command, the duties and responsibilities of the senior officer present fall on the escort commander and the officer or officers senior to him are relieved therefrom.

  4. The fleet commander exercising coordinating supervision over a task force, group or unit organized as an escorted convoy may designate any officer in the task organization to command both convoy and escort without regard to seniority, but the provisions of (a), (b), and (c), above, govern unless specifically altered by the fleet or force commander concerned. In the event the officer in command is not the senior officer present the duties and responsibilities of the senior officer present fall on the officer in command and the officer or officers senior to him are relieved therefrom.

Section VII. Scouting

648. In conducting scouting operations, full consideration is given the maximum use of aircraft and radar. Although any and all scouting may be accomplished by aircraft, the weather in general, distance from base for shore-based aircraft and conditions of the sea, limit dependence on aircraft for this type of operation.

Scouting embraces:

  1. Search.

  2. Contact scouting, which includes--

    1. Tracking.

    2. Tactical scouting.

  3. Observation.

  4. Reconnoitering.

649. In usual circumstances, the sequence of scouting operations will be:

  1. Search.

  2. Tracking.

  3. Tactical scouting.

650. Tracking may be initiated without the preliminary operation of search. Tactical scouting may be initiated without the preliminary operation of search or the intermediate operation of tracking. Observation and reconnoitering will usually be initial operations, but they may follow as the result of search or contact scouting or may form a part of a large scouting plan.


Search Operations

651. The officer who initiates a search operation designates the units which are to compose the scouts for such operations and the commander thereof. If aircraft are designated to conduct the search, it is essential that definite coordination exists between all forces concerned with the search.

652. The commander who is to conduct the search is assigned a definite task and is furnished with all information available upon which to base his plan of search. The information furnished him includes the latest information regarding the enemy and all pertinent information regarding the plans or probable movements of our forces.

653. The officer initiating the search indicates the area to be searched or the area to be searched first, or, in assigning the task to the scouts, indicates the general plan for the search.

654. During the conduct of the search the commander of the scouts is given all subsequent information regarding the enemy or our own forces that might affect the conduct of the search.

655. The commander of the scouts keeps the officer who ordered the search informed of its progress to the extent permitted by any communication restrictions imposed. He reports all contacts with the enemy and any losses or casualties to the scouts that will prevent carrying out the assigned task. It is emphasized that scouting missions may take precedence over attack. This is especially true in the case of aircraft.

Contact Scouting

656. The instructions which follow apply to both tracking and tactical scouting. Where applicable the term "scout" is assumed to imply aircraft performing that function.

657. The primary duty of a scout making contact with the enemy is to report the contact with all pertinent information regarding the enemy.

658. Under normal circumstances, scouts do not concentrate toward the first point of contact with the enemy unless the first contact is made with the objective of the search or unless they are so directed by competent authority.

659. Surface scouts encountering enemy scouts or enemy vessels thought to be screening the objective of the search normally avoid action with such enemy vessels unless engagement is necessary to enable the scouts to continue scouting for the objective of their search. They endeavor to pass through the enemy scouts or to penetrate the enemy screen in order to locate the objective and continue to operate as nearly as possible according to the plan previously followed.

660. The enemy will endeavor to deny information to our scouts, and if the opposition of the enemy is too great for a single scout to penetrate the screen, a concentration of scouts of sufficient strength is made in order to obtain the desired information. If this becomes necessary, the officer ordering the concentration designates the units which are to concentrate, the point of concentration, and the time for the concentration.

661. Aircraft are used, when practicable, to develop contacts. Aircraft may be the only means of locating the objective of the search.


662. When contact with the objective of the search is made before any of our forces strong enough to attack it are within striking distance, or, conversely, if the enemy force located is not within striking distance of our principal force, the scouts (including aircraft) endeavor to procure and transmit information upon which the officer in command of our operations can base his strategical dispositions. If the contacts indicate the presence of an enemy force of such strength or in such a position as to require a marked change in our strategical disposition, such sacrifices as are necessary are made by the scouts to obtain accurate information immediately.


663. After the objective of the search is definitely located, the senior officer of the scouts normally takes such action as is necessary to hold the contact. Continuous tracking of the enemy is maintained until our main force or striking force is brought into contact. If serious enemy opposition is encountered, close tracking may not be possible, but the measures taken by our scouts to avoid serious losses are such as will not lose contact entirely or such as will permit contact to be reestablished when desired. The employment of radar obviates the necessity of maintaining close tracking.

664. In general during tracking, after the first contact, the intervals of time between subsequent contacts depend upon the distance that separates the enemy force and our principal force or striking force. If this distance is great, contact with the enemy force during each day may be sufficient. As the enemy nears our force, time intervals between contacts are decreased until continuous tactical scouting is undertaken.

Tactical Scouting

665. The need for accurate, detailed information regarding the enemy requires the initiation of tactical scouting as our force comes within striking distance of the enemy. Until the principal forces are engaged, the officer in tactical command must have adequate information of the enemy upon which to determine his plan of action and initial tactical dispositions. During the action he must have continuous information of the enemy in order to follow the situation and the general operations of our force.

666. The senior officer of the scouts (or aircraft) in contact with the enemy initiates tactical scouting in sufficient time to furnish the officer in tactical command with the necessary tactical information upon which to base his tactical decisions before the principal forces become engaged.

667. Scouts continue tactical scouting until such time as they are relieved by other surface forces or aircraft or by the officer in tactical command. Scouts engaged in tactical scouting endeavor to hold a position enabling them to reach their battle stations promptly when relieved of their task.

668. A vessel engaged in tactical scouting or a scout proceeding to a battle station avoids being caught in a position between the battle lines or between the principal forces after the engagement opens.

669. After the engagement opens, tactical scouting normally is done by aircraft, supplemented by such observations as can be made by the light forces on the flanks and by the submarines.




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