Ospery, the bird of the Selous Scouts.Selous Scouts "Pamwe Chete" title block.Ospery, the bird of the Selous Scouts.






























Follow-up Operations



  1. The aim of the follow-up or pursuit is to track down, attack and destroy an enemy group that may or may not have had contact with the military forces.
  2. From the above paragraph it is apparent that a follow-up is mounted when the enemy has been detected by the security forces or the population, or through tracks, and an operation has to be planned to make contact with the enemy and to destroy him. It will also be obvious that the enemy will eventually become aware of this follow-up and will do everything possible to conceal his tracks and to disrupt and delay the follow-up by employing delaying tactics such as ambushes, snipers and perhaps booby traps.
  3. Maximum use must be made of expert trackers, tracking teams and tracker dog teams. Helicopters and light reconnaissance aircraft can be and must be effectively employed during the operation. Helicopters can be employed to leapfrog follow-up teams, thereby keeping the follow-up troops relatively fresh. Once the general direction of the enemy's movement has been determined, helicopters can be used to deploy troops ahead of the fleeing enemy to ambush and cut him off.
  4. Although it may be difficult to determine the enemy's movement pattern beforehand, the follow-up force must endeavor to establish this pattern as soon as possible to be able to cut the enemy off, close with him and destroy him within the shortest possible time.
  5. The main factor to remember is that the enemy must not be given a chance to rest up or to organize a well-defended position/ambush. Pressure must be applied relentlessly and every opportunity of harassing and inflicting casualties on the enemy must be taken.


  1. It is difficult to lay down in this manual exactly how the operation must be conducted. It is basically a tracking operation to seek the enemy out and, once he has been located, to then attack and destroy him.
  2. The first requirement is to locate the enemy's tracks and try to determine the age and direction of the tracks and the strength of the enemy.
  3. As soon as the tracks are located, the patrol is to indicate the age and direction of the tracks and the estimated strength of the enemy. If the patrol has no tracker and a tracker team is available, they are to report the tracks and await the arrival of a tracker team. The patrol must not attempt to follow the tracks and must confine its search to the immediate vicinity so as not to inhibit the work of the trackers. However, when a tracker team is not available, immediate follow-up action must be taken by the patrol.
  4. Depending on the strength of the terrorists, a platoon or more is to be deployed for the follow-up. If the tracks are at a distance from the operational headquarters, it may be necessary to establish a field headquarters with army/air force and police representation at a nearby landing zone, airfield or road head. The field headquarters is then tasked with the control of the follow-up, and is allocated the required troops, police and aircraft.
  5. The force adopts the follow-up formation incorporating the tracker team and moves at best tracking speed. As soon as possible after the follow-up has commenced, the follow-up group is to confirm the age, direction and strength of the tracks and report progress as often as possible. Changes in direction, the splitting of the tracks, hides and resting places are to be reported immediately.
  6. During daylight, the follow-up group will, if possible, be supported by an armed light aircraft which is also to operate in the reconnaissance and communications role. However, if the tracks are over 48 hours old, an unarmed light aircraft can be used, but should be replaced when a contact is considered reasonably imminent. When tasking the supporting aircraft, commanders must assess whether it should remain behind the follow-up group in the hope of achieving surprise or whether it can range ahead in order to slow down terrorist movement and to spot likely marching points, water holes and routes through escarpments, rivers, etc.
  7. Depending on the age and direction of the tracks, the following procedures can be adopted;
    1. Leapfrogging.
      1. If the tracks are assessed as being several or more days old, the follow-up group can be helicoptered from 1,000 to 5,000 meters forward (depending on the terrain and the estimated line of movement) and then fanned out to relocate the tracks. if successful, leapfrogging is repeated until the tracks are considered to be fresh enough to follow on foot (from 24 to 48 hours old).
      2. The procedure for the search for tracks after leapfrogging is similar to airborne tracking (detailed below). That is, on landing, troops cast up to several hundred meters on either side of the landing zone. if the tracks are relocated, their age and direction are assessed and, if necessary, another leapfrog is made; if not, the helicopter repositions the troops in another search arc until the tracks are found.
      3. When possible, leapfrogging should always be supplemented by keeping an additional force on the original trail so that a marked change in direction, the splitting of tracks or a hide can be spotted. This force is also conveniently placed to reinforce the follow-up groups in a contact. This force will also be able to determine whether any reinforcements may have joined the enemy.
    2. Stop groups.
      1. As many stop groups of patrol (section) strength as possible should be placed astride the estimated line of advance, at a distance ahead of the follow-up group dictated by the terrain and the age of the tracks. Should time allow it and there be sufficient troops available, the stop groups should be double banked, thereby ensuring greater depth to the stop line. These stop groups should be allocated specific areas with well-defined boundaries. Depending on the situation, the commander should be prepared to continuously readjust his stop positions.
      2. Immediately on positioning, the stop groups may patrol, if directed, to the area of the next stop position, i.e., a sidestep, to check whether or not the terrorists have crossed the stop line. (This precaution may be necessary as the estimation of the age of the tracks could be wrong.)
        1. If tracks similar to those being followed are found, a leap-frog is made and the follow-up continues from the last spoor. Again, the bound covered by the leapfrog should be followed on foot for the reasons given in paragraph a.3. above.
        2. If no tracks are found, the stop groups either remain in ambush until contact is made, or a sidestep back to their original positions is ordered, or the stop line is readjusted on information received.
      3. When the stop groups remain in position for any time, they may be directed to sidestep at first light, just before last light and more frequently if necessary. When static, particularly at night, they are to ambush the most likely route in their area. 4. When all stop groups have been positioned and if a helicopter is available, it may be possible to mine or booby trap other routes. The following considerations must be taken into account:
        1. Coordination between the mine-laying teams and follow-up group.
        2. Availability of specialists and equipment.
        3. Provision to lift the mines as soon as possible or when necessary.
    3. Backtracking. As soon as possible after the follow-up starts, an additional force should be tasked with back-tracking from the original point where the tracks were found. Their mission is to check that no other gangs/groups have split before the follow-up started and that the terrorists have not left stay-behind parties in bases along their route. This force may also fulfill an important intelligence-gathering role such as the location of the crossing point (if not already known), hides, resting places, etc., which may help establish a movement pattern, and the recovery of abandoned documents, kit and equipment.
  8. The follow-up will normally take place during daylight with the follow-up group basing up on the tracks at last light. Although the terrorists may move at night, it is hoped that they will either contact the stop line or their movement will be slow enough and their tracks less concealed for them to be overhauled on foot or by leapfrogging.


  1. This system of tracking is used when quick results are important or when a large area must be checked with few troops. Naturally, the use of helicopters is desirable, but their availability may restrict the use of airborne tracking to essential occasions only.
  2. The method adopted depends on the area to be covered and the number of helicopters tasked. In a reasonably safe area a single helicopter can be used, but it is preferable to use two, one of which should be armed.
  3. Each helicopter carries four men: two trackers and two tracker guards. If, however, one of the helicopters is a "gunship" (20mm or heavier), only one helicopter should provide top cover.
  4. Ground is covered by cross-graining, with one helicopter landing at each likely route, e.g., game trail, clearing, pan, river bank, ridge line, etc. The other helicopter should provide top cover.
  5. On landing, a tracker and guard deplane on each side of the aircraft and cast for spoor right and left for 100 to 500 meters depending on the nature of the ground.
  6. If no tracks are found, the process is repeated until the area is covered, with the helicopters landing alternately so that the trackers are rested.
  7. If tracks are located, the second stick is deplaned (resulting in a tracker combat team of four and four guards) to either start the follow-up or await the arrival of reinforcements.
  8. Each stick is to carry at least one radio to maintain contact with the helicopter and for use in the follow-up action.


  1. It is important that the fleeing enemy be given no respite and chance to consolidate. Movement of the follow-up force, therefore, becomes important and it must be carefully controlled and executed so that the follow-up troops are not unnecessarily worn out and that casualties to own troops are kept to an absolute minimum.
  2. During the follow-up it is imperative that the follow-up force commander continually study the ground ahead, using his eyes and map, and making a careful appreciation of the terrain. This will assist him in deciding on the best formation to use and the possible route followed by the enemy. It may also indicate to him natural obstacles to be avoided and likely places where the enemy may decide to make a final stand or site ambushes.
  3. Movement during the follow-up is done at the best tracking speed or fastest speed that the terrain and enemy delaying tactics will allow. Precautions must be taken against blundering into an enemy ambush, but the follow-up force must not be over-cautious, because every minute lost gives the enemy more time and a better chance to conceal his tracks and make good his escape.
  4. The follow-up will invariably be done during daylight hours because it will be extremely difficult or even impossible to do tracking at night, especially in difficult terrain. This means that the follow-up will commence as soon as possible after first light when the tracks or signs become discernible, until it is too dark to follow or pick up any signs.
  5. During the day it will be necessary for the troops to rest up for a while and have something to eat. Should the force be large enough, the leapfrog system will be introduced so that, while a group is resting or having a quick meal, another continues the follow-up, thereby maintaining the pressure. The group that has rested will then have to catch up later with the rest of the follow-up force. At section or patrol level, rests and breaks for meals will have to be restricted to the absolute minimum, if at all, so that the pressure can be maintained. Should the follow-up operation continue over a number of days, it will be necessary to rotate the troops, thereby ensuring that fresh troops are always on the enemy's tracks.
  6. Formations during the move will be determined by the nature of the terrain, best or safest traveling speed and enemy tactics or delaying methods. Scouts and trackers will probably work in pairs, relieving each other. The protection group will most probably have to move abreast of each other to be able to give maximum protection to the scouts and trackers and also prevent the main body from walking into an ambush.
  7. Probably the most difficult aspect of the follow-up operation is that the troops may have to carry all their equipment and kit. As the follow-up may last several days and cover a considerable distance, it will not be feasible to dump the kit and equipment 'somewhere and then return at a later stage to collect it. It is therefore important to ensure that a follow-up force is equipped as lightly as possible, carrying only the bare necessities, sufficient ammunition, water and rations, and perhaps a lightweight blanket. In order to maintain the momentum and to prevent unnecessary delays, it may be necessary to resupply the follow-up force.
  8. Should the follow-up force lose the enemy's tracks or contact altogether, the suggested action is as follows:
    1. Establish a temporary base, adopt all-around observation and provide all-around protection. The enemy may be very close.
    2. Determine an effective patrol pattern and warn two or three recon- naissance patrols, with trackers, if they are available, to stand by for immediate patrolling.
    3. Having issued orders, send out two or three reconnaissance patrols to patrol forward and laterally, according to the patrol pattern, with the aim of finding the enemy's tracks or to look for signs and sounds of the enemy. These patrols should be restricted in the distance that they move away from the temporary base, probably a thousand meters at the most.
    4. Should they find signs, the patrols will return as quickly as possible to the temporary base, inform the commander and resume the follow-up as soon as possible.
    5. Should no further signs of the enemy be found, the force commander could either remain in his present position and start on a deliberate patrol program to search the area more thoroughly, or he could move his temporary base forward in the original direction of movement for approximately a thousand meters, and repeat the searching and casting forward system with small reconnaissance patrols. In this case the decision could be made for him by his next higher headquarters, depending on how close he was behind the enemy.
    6. The important point to remember is not to cast about aimlessly with a lot of troops when the enemy tracks are lost. This will create additional tracks and signs, confusing the entire issue and probably obliterating traces of the enemy.


  1. As soon as it is assessed that the tracks are fresh and a contact imminent:
    1. Available helicopters are concentrated at the nearest troop concentration, e.g., field headquarters.
    2. An armed aircraft is tasked to replace any reconnaissance aircraft supporting the follow-up group.
  2. Depending on the situation and the number of helicopters available, one helicopter may be tasked for airborne control. It is essential that this aircraft be fitted with an extra headset, and has the means for the army controller to communicate with ground forces and supporting aircraft.
  3. Any remaining helicopters are tasked for reinforcement or the positioning of stop groups. The force is broken down into sticks, stick commanders appointed and all are placed on immediate standby. Again it is essential to have the extra headset so that stick commanders can be briefed by the pilot or controller in flight. One of the helicopters tasked to fly in reinforcements/stops will also carry ammunition for resupply to the contact group, if necessary.
  4. On contact, the follow-up commander must relay "contact, contact" to the pilot of the supporting aircraft and as soon as possible give a brief SITREP. The pilot relays the information to the control headquarters and then stands by to give air support. He is to try to pinpoint the contact area, the positions of own troops and likely escape routes, landing zones, etc.
  5. The situation will determine whether it is necessary to deploy an airborne controller (ABC). The backup helicopters could be called forward immediately, depending on the urgency and the magnitude of the contact.
  6. There are certain problems associated with airborne controlling which should be taken into account by the local army commander, i.e., disorientation, air sickness, aircraft noises associated with airborne radios and maps being blown around in the helicopter. Subject to these considerations, and should an ABC be considered necessary and practical, the following procedure should apply:
    1. In flight to the contact area, the ABC is to receive a brief from the supporting pilot and then the contact commander and obtain the latest SITREP. This is to include the need for reinforcement and, if so, the direction of the approach of the reinforcements and/or the need for stop groups. In addition, an ammunition state should be given.
    2. Once overhead, the ABC, the pilot and gunner must try to visually pinpoint the terrorist and own troop positions as quickly as possible. This may be difficult in thick bush, in which case the ABC is to call for FLOT and target indication.
    3. During orbit of the contact area, the ABC is to select a suitable landing zone for reinforcements, if required, and select stop positions and adjacent landing zones. He will then give an in-flight briefing to the stick commanders in the backup helicopters and direct their deployment.
    4. While orbiting the contact area, the ABC helicopter may well be able to influence the battle with supporting fire or engage escaping terrorists. The decision to fire the helicopter-mounted weapon is the prerogative of the pilot, but no fire is to be opened until the ABC is satisfied with the target in relation to own troops.
    5. The ABC helicopter should, if possible, remain over the contact area until the contact has ended. This may necessitate changing helicopters at a nearby landing zone if the original aircraft runs out of flying time. Alternatively, in a large-scale contact, when more troops are needed as reinforcements/stops, the ABC should deplane and assume command of the ground forces.
    6. Once the backup helicopters have positioned their sticks, they are to return to the control base for more troops, if required, or are to remain on standby for further deployments and/or casualty/terrorist evacuation.
    7. Depending on the situation, a light aircraft may be used for ABC.
  7. Air strikes are employed as follows:
    1. If the contact commander considers that an air strike is needed before the arrival of the ABC and reinforcements, he is to communicate his request directly to the supporting aircraft. The laid down procedure is then effected, but in addition the pilot of the supporting aircraft is to inform the control base or, if in flight, the ABC, that a strike has been called for.
    2. However, once the ABC is overhead the contact area and has established communications with the contact commander, the ABC assumes responsibility for requesting an air strike. The procedure is then the same as laid down for requesting air strikes, and the ABC will monitor communications between the pilot and the contact commander.
  8. The following post-contact action is necessary:
    1. Immediately after the contact, the contact commander is to split his force (including reinforcements and/or stop groups) and detail one group to thoroughly search the contact area. The other group is to move out from 500 to 1,000 meters and conduct a 360 degree search around the contact area. This group is to search for the tracks of escaped terrorists and for secondary hides and rendezvous.
    2. Unless the whole terrorist gang was eliminated, an area ambush is to be set on the contact area in the hope that some terrorists may return in search of kit or food, or to reorientate themselves if lost.
  9. As already mentioned, the enemy will employ various tactics and ruses to delay the follow-up force once he becomes aware of it. The follow-up troops must be well drilled in their immediate action drills, and the follow-up force commander must be able to decide almost instantaneously whether his force has walked into a deliberate ambush, is being sniped at by an individual or two, or has encountered booby traps. Quick decisions of this nature will enable the commander to give the necessary commands to counter the enemy action immediately.
  10. The point to remember is that, by means of his delaying tactics and harassing of the follow-up force, the enemy is trying to buy time to make good his escape. Consequently, the follow-up force's reactions to these delaying tactics must be immediate and executed as well-rehearsed drills, thereby only losing minimum time. The encounter drills as described in Chapter 6 could, under certain circumstances, be used. Remember that time must not be wasted.
  11. Immediate actions executed boldly but with a certain amount of caution will unsettle the enemy and force him to abandon his delaying positions more quickly. It is the commander on the spot who will have to decide what the best course of action will be and, having decided, to react immediately.


  1. The controlling headquarters must have and maintain good communications with the follow-up forces. This is essential for planning purposes. if necessary, relay facilities should be provided.
  2. The follow-up force will also have to be provided with good ground-to-air communications, as the air arm can play an important role and can only be used effectively if there are good communications with the ground forces.


  1. The follow-up operation is essentially a practical application of tracking techniques, but with the force so organized that it is well balanced, relentless and determined to come to grips with the enemy and to attack and destroy the enemy once he has been contacted. Main factors leading to a successful conclusion of such an operation are as follows:
    1. Correction grouping of the force.
    2. Determination and maintenance of pressure.
    3. A high degree of physical fitness.
    4. A high standard of bushcraft.
    5. Good communications.
    6. Effective employment of the air arm.
    7. Well-planned and coordinated movement.
    8. Careful appreciation and route planning of terrain which the force must move over.
    9. A high standard of battle drills that will stand the force in good stead and minimize casualties when contact is made with the enemy.
    10. Aggression and flexibility in the planning and execution of the follow-up.




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