Patrolling is a military tactic. Small groups or individual units are deployed from a larger formation to achieve a specific objective and then return. The tactic of patrolling may be applied to ground troops, armoured units, naval units, and combat aircraft. The duration of a patrol will vary from a few hours to several weeks depending on the nature of the objective and the type of units involved.
There are several different types of patrol each with a different objective. The most common is to collect intelligence by carrying out a reconnaissance patrol. Such a patrol may try to remain covert and observe an enemy without themselves being detected. Other reconnaissance patrols are overt, especially those that interact with the civilian population.
A fighting patrol is a group with sufficient size (usually platoon or company) and resources to raid or ambush a specific enemy. It primarily differs from an attack in that it is not the aim to hold ground.
A clearing patrol is a brief patrol around a newly occupied defensive position in order to ensure that the immediate area is secure.
A number of patrols may be deployed to 'screen' a large area. This type of patrol is used by armoured formations in desert theatres, and also by ground troops operating in urban areas. A screen is generally composed of a number of observation posts .
List of military tactics