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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


There are several ways to gather the information (or tools) you will need to set the conditions for the rest of the IPB. These could include archived documents by other sources, your own historical documents, or you may have to conduct your own research. In regards to the information you may seek, we have included the following check list on some of the more important areas:

Weather Characteristics:

Precipitation averages
Temperature averages and extremes
Light data (moonrise, sunrise, percent night illumination)
Wind Speed (direction and gusts)

Terrain Characteristics:

Hydrological Data
Elevation Data (particularly important is line of sight information)
Soil Composition


Other Characteristics:

These include history of area, demographics, infrastructure and known information regarding your enemy (equipment, weapons, etc.).

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. We will focus our analysis in the categories of terrain, weather, and civil considerations.


“The enemy, however, committed the great mistake of not surveying the terrain in front of his position.”

“In every occasion where it is a question of attacking the enemy, the way in which you must fight depends upon the terrain and the advantages that the enemy is skillful enough to procure for himself … Terrain is the foremost oracle that one must consult, after which he can fathom the enemy dispositions by his own knowledge of the rules of war.”
Frederick the Great

During terrain analysis, we are determining how terrain (both natural and manmade features) can affect the operations of ourselves and our enemy. As we discussed in our first article, the simplest way to conduct this analysis is through the acronym ‘OAKOC.’ (still a good systematic approach to analyzing terrain). Each type of environment (desert, woods, urban terrain etc.) provides different variables. What follows is a quick review on each aspect:

Obstacles – Any natural or manmade terrain features that stop, impede, or divert military movement (both ground & air).
• Examples: buildings, steep slopes, rivers, lakes, streams, swamps, forests, deserts, jungles, cities, minefields, trenches, wire obstacles, etc.
• Factors to Consider Are:
– Vegetation (tree spacing, trunk diameter)
– Surface Drainage (stream width, depth, velocity, bank slope & height)
– Surface Materials (soil type & conditions that affect mobility)
– Surface Configuration (slopes that affect mobility)
– Transportation Systems (bridge classifications, slopes, & road width)
– Effects of actual or projected weather

Avenue of Approach – an air or ground route of an attacking force of a given size leading to its objective or to key terrain in its path.

• Determination should consider:

– Access to key terrain & adjacent avenues
– Degree of canalization & ease of movement
– Use of concealment & cover
– Use of observation & fields of fire
– Sustainability
– Directness to the objective

• An avenue of approach is developed by identifying, categorizing, & grouping mobility corridors (normally, two echelons below your command).

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