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Posted on Sep 24, 2008 in Tactics101, War College

Tactics 101: 030 – Planning the Defense

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

Battlefield Area Evaluation–Area of Operations & Area of Interest

Key AI (Area of Interest) and AO (Area of Operations)

The commander assesses his area of operations by looking at the operations overlay he receives from his higher headquarters. (As a reminder, an area of operations is a geographical area, including the airspace above defined by lateral, forward, and rear boundaries. Within these boundaries, a commander has responsibility and authority to conduct operations.) However, an area of operations can be adjusted if the commander believes it may not be beneficial to him (or the overall unit) to accomplish his task and purpose.


The commander determines his area of interest (As a reminder, an area of interest is the geographical outside his area of operations in which information and intelligence are needed for him to obtain in order for him to accomplish his purpose and task) by looking out into the enemy area or the security zone established by higher. He also looks to his flanks and rear. What he is looking for is enemy commitment to a given course of action. The enemy actions to the front eventually limit his options to the point of telegraphing his intentions and his point of entry into the defensive sector. The commander seeks this point of commitment to impact on the enemy course of action. The flanks offer threats of penetration. Adjacent units may be penetrated causing you to reorient your forces in depth to prevent envelopment from the rear. In the rear, the commander must protect his logistical assets and reserves, which are normally enemy deep attack objectives. Contingency plans must be made to protect the rear and flanks and observation plans must be made to watch the front.

Enemy Analysis and Most Probable Course of Action

Analysis, enemy's probable course of actionKEY:
AOA (Avenue of Approach) DRT (Division Recon Team)
MRC (Motorized Rifle Company) BRDM (Recon Vehicle) BMP (Infantry Fighting Vehicle)

The commander does his Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) assessment. He analyses the capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses of his opponent. He determines if there are any trends in the enemy’s past actions that he may be able to capitalize upon. As he focuses on his foe, he never loses sight on how terrain and weather will influence the options of both sides.

As he puts this all together, the commander looks at how the enemy will enter his sector, how he will travel through it, and how he will travel beyond it. He also looks at how the enemy may enter the flanks and rear. He determines where the enemy objectives are and how he will maneuver to achieve those objectives.

While doing this, the commander is looking for points of commitment. These are areas where the enemy has limited his options and has clearly broadcasted his intent. These enemy decision points, when passed, limit the enemy’s ability to react. Generally, areas where avenues of approach converge or where key terrain can be taken are places where the enemy is committed to a given course of action. The commander looks for the enemy decision points and areas where he has no more flexibility. These are the areas where the defender must impact on the enemy decision cycle. When they are caught in an area where there are no more options, he must mass his fires (indirect and direct) to destroy him. The point of commitment where the enemy is most limited is where the defender defeats the attacker and begins to take away the initiative. In the above scenario, the circled KZ (Kill Zone) or Engagement Area is where this commander has chosen to defeat or destroy his enemy. He believes this is the piece of terrain which if planned and prepared properly will enable him to achieve his purpose and task.

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  1. mr sutherland(black 6) i would to talk to you about a unit that fought in desert storm. Bco 3/15 infantry. also about a driver that was said to be the best bradley driver ever produced by the US ARMY. let me know if you want to talk about tactics.

  2. Armchair General staff cannot respond here. Please read
    disclaimer just above this text box before posting.

    Ozone! How are you? Are you still in? I seem to remember the
    unit you’re talking about but I can’t remember a great driver. I
    do remember a fairly mediocre driver who needed constant
    supervision to keep his vehicle running!

    Lets talk!