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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


The terrain in the urban environment dramatically impacts both the way a defender defends and an attacker attacks.  It provides ach side numerous opportunities to exploit.  The key is obviously finding those opportunities.  In general, you will find things such as street width, the construction of buildings, and the multi-dimensional of urban terrain will impact all the battlefield operating systems.  Additionally, urban terrain will truly affect the human dimension of war; as combat is characterized by close engagements.

As always, there are various techniques to study urban terrain. Below you will find a technique that systematically dissects the urban battlefield and concludes by analyzing the effects using OAKOC:
O (Obstacles)
A (Avenues of Approach)
K (Key Terrain)   
O (Observation and Fields of Fire) 
C (Cover and Concealment) 


The framework steps to studying urban terrain are:
Step 1 – General Urban Description
Step 2 – Urban Patterns
Step 3 – Pattern Effects
Step 4 – Functional Zones
Step 5 – Street Patterns
Step 6 – Lines of Communication
Step 7 – Multi-Dimensional Space
Step 8 – Structural Types
Step 9 – Military Aspects of Terrain (OAKOC)

Let’s look at each step in the framework.

Step 1 — General Urban Description

We begin our analysis by describing the general nature of the urban area within which we will fight.  Is it Mogadishu, Baghdad, Hue, or Vicksburg?  In other words; is it a big place or not, is it densely populated or not, is it modern or dilapidated…  This sets the groundwork for the remaining steps.  Again, we will want to quickly want to take this general description and probe into our specific area of operations and area of interest

As mentioned in the last article we use the following to characterize urban areas:

Villages – population 3,000 or less…  Battalion Task Forces & Company Teams bypass, move through, defend from, and attack objectives within villages as part of Brigade operations.

Towns – population over 3,000 to 100,000; not part of major urban complex… Operations involve Brigades or higher.

City – population over 100,000 to 1 million.
Metropolis – population over 1 million to 10 million.

Megalopolis – population over 10 million.  Operations in cities, metropolises, and megalopolises require divisions or above.

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