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Posted on Feb 2, 2007 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 012. Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (Pt. 1)

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 are some recommended products that should be developed within each step (we will discuss these in detail later in this article and next month). 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.

Step 1 — Define the Battlefield Environment

As discussed earlier, this step provides the focus for the rest of the process. As in any other process, if you do not get your focus correct you could be wasting precious time and resources later. Within this step, there ate two critical things we want to accomplish. First, we want to define the geographical area in which we are to fight 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. Let’s go into more detail on each.


In defining the geographical area, we delineate a few vital areas. These are:

Area of Operations – This is the area that you were assigned to conduct your operation. It is dictated to you by assigned boundaries. In analyzing this, you want to ensure it is of sufficient size to accomplish your mission. You want to define it so you can see later if it possesses any characteristics that may hinder or assist you or the enemy.

Area of Influence – This is the area in which you can directly influence operations by maneuver or fire support systems normally under your control. The area of influence surrounds and includes your area of operations.

Area of Interest — This is areas you define outside your area of operation that may affect the accomplishment of your mission. This could include your flanks, pieces of terrain forward or to the rear of you that the enemy could exploit, or even air corridors outside your area of operations the enemy could utilize for rotary or fixed wing operations. Once defined, this will likely result in coordination between units.

By defining the geographical area and the relationship between areas of operation, influence, and interest, you begin to understand the intelligence gaps (questions) you have. To fill these gaps (answer the questions) you begin to formulate your reconnaissance plan.

Below you will find a diagram that puts the three concepts in relation to one another.


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