Reconnaissance in force

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In contrast to most reconnaissance missions whose chief goal is to gather information and avoid heavy contact, a reconnaissance in force is an offensive operation designed to find the enemy and test his strength by fighting him when he is found. Reconnaissance in force operations can freeze a mobile enemy, such that the probing force can be reinforced and overwhelming power applied against the enemy.

The term, in air warfare, refers to patrols by armed aircraft that will attack targets of opportunity.

In the Gulf War, for example, while United States Army Special Forces units doing special reconnaissance reported on the enemy but themselves tried to remain undiscovered, the main attack of XVIII Airborne Corps had many aspects of a reconnaissance in force. Striking from an uninhabited part of the Iraqi desert, the units, especially the fast air assault units and attack helicopters, fought anything in their path.

Reconnaissance in force differs from a meeting engagement, when two opposing forces are aware of one another and speed toward contact, perhaps both trying to reach the same objective but fully prepared for full-intensity combat.

The Thunder Runs meet the definition of reconnaissance in force.