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Posted on Nov 10, 2007 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 021 – Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield in Urban Operations

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

IPB Steps


Within the IPB process, there are four key steps. These steps are: 1) Define the Battlefield Environment. 2) Describe the Battlefield’s Effects.  3) Evaluate the Threat. and 4) Determine Threat Courses of Action.  Each of these steps builds upon another in terms of utilizing information to enable analysis.    There is no set time standard to complete each step.  You will spend as much time as feasible on each step to ensure you achieve the detail you need.  As is the case in any process, the more repetitions you conduct; the more comfortable you will become. Below you will find a brief description on the purpose of each step.     


1) Define the Battlefield Environment.  This step sets the conditions for the entire process.  You will study the battlefield and identify specific areas you want to focus upon during the rest of the process.  You will collect material and information you need during the rest of the process.  By defining the battlefield environment you will begin to identify intelligence gaps you have.  These intelligence gaps will allow you to begin to formulate your reconnaissance plan.  

2) Describe the Battlefield’s Effects.  Using step one for focus, you will analyze the environment (terrain. weather, and civil considerations) to determine how it may affect the enemy and your potential courses of action.  This is a critical step in order to exploit opportunities that may exist on the battlefield.
3) Evaluate the Threat.  This is the step in which you truly dissect the enemy.  You will look at various things including his doctrine, tactics, what equipment he possesses, his strengths and weaknesses, capabilities, tendencies etc….  For some enemies you fight, this may be a relatively easy task.  However, for others this could be extremely difficult because little information may exist on your foe.

4) Determine Threat Courses of Action.  In the final step, we take everyone we have done earlier and put it all together to develop feasible courses of action the enemy may execute.  We do not tie ourselves down to one or two courses of action.  We look at the realm of feasible possibilities that exist.  Depending on our time, we can then go into detail on as many as we can. 

Having discussed what is IPB, why it is important, and highlighting the steps of IPB; we will focus the remainder of the article in detailing the first two steps of the process as they pertain to urban operations.

Step 1 — Define the Battlefield Environment

Just as in any operation, we must determine our battlefield environment.  Again, this step provides the focus for the rest of the process. This is critical in urban operations because as we discussed last month, the key to winning on the urban battlefield is isolation.  Thus, we first need to define our area of operations (where we plan to isolate) and our area of interest (the areas outside that can directly influence our ability to isolate).  In a normal operation, this is fairly cut and dried (if anything in tactics is!).  Second, we need to gather the information (or tools).  Just we do in any operation; we want to obtain as much information on the area of operations, the area of interest, and of the enemy as possible.  As you know, this facilitates our ability to conduct the subsequent steps of IPB.  First, there are basic weather and general terrain characteristics we gather that are basic to any operation and are included in article 12.  However, within an urban operation, we need to find out as much as we can in reference to infrastructure and the population.  These are the elements that truly impact the urban battlefield.  We gather any photos and blueprints of the urban area (specifically the area of operations and the area of influence) that are available.  We seek all available information regarding the society (culture, demographics, ethnic groups, etc.).  This is painstaking work, but must be done.  If you take short-cuts in this process, you will suffer the repercussions later during the fight.

In summary, within this step, there are two critical things we want to accomplish.  First, we want to define the geographical area in which we are to fight (isolate) and the area surrounding it that could influence our operations.  Second, we will gather the information we will need to assist us in the remaining steps.  This is science with the art portion beginning in step 2.  Thus, by defining the geographical area and obtaining your tools you can now move to step 2 and begin analyzing the effect these have on you and your enemy.

Step 2 — Describe the Battlefield’s Effects

The next step in the process is to take this data and analyze in regards to how it may affect your potential courses of action and those of your enemy.  This analysis will assist you in determining the options available to you and the enemy and can provide ways on how you can take options away from your foe.  In describing the battlefield in an urban operation, we focus our study in the areas of terrain, weather, and civil considerations.  Obviously, the urban environment brings to the forefront many unique facets in each of these areas.  We will now look at each area in detail.

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