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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

Key Terrain – Any locality or area the seizure or retention of which
affords a marked advantage to either combatant. An example of key terrain is a bridge over an unfordable river which gives access to the opposite shore without requiring an assault crossing.

Decisive Terrain is:

• Key terrain that has an extraordinary impact on the mission;
• Relatively rare; will not be present in every situation;
• Successful accomplishment of the mission depends on seizing or retaining it;
• Commander designates to communicate its importance

Observation and Fields of Fire

• Observation – the ability to see the enemy either visually or through the use of surveillance.


• Fields of Fire – the area that a weapon or group of weapons may effectively cover with fire from a given position.

• Evaluation Allows you to Identify:

– Potential engagement areas, “fire sacks”, or “kill zones”
– Defensible terrain & specific system or equipment positions
– Where maneuvering forces are most vulnerable to observation & fire

Cover and Concealment

• Cover – Protection from the effects of direct & indirect fires.

• Concealment – Protection from observation..

• Evaluation of cover & concealment aids in identifying:

– Defensible terrain & potential battle positions
– Approach routes
– Potential assembly & dispersal areas

Below you will find questions you should consider regarding how terrain (weather and civilians on the battlefield) influence friendly and enemy actions. (Taken from first article in the series).

O (Obstacles) – Where are the existing (natural) obstacles? Where are the emplaced (manmade) obstacles? How will they or could they influence maneuver and the flow of forces?

A (Avenues of Approach) – Based on the obstacles; where can you and the enemy move and with what impact on formation and rate? Where are the mounted avenues? Where are the dismounted avenues? Where are the air avenues?

K (Key Terrain) – Where are the areas along the avenues of approach that provide a decided advantage for you or the enemy??

O (Observation and Fields of Fire) – Where can you or the enemy detect each other? Where can you or the enemy physically engage each other with weapon systems? Where are the potential engagement areas and kill sacks? Defensible terrain?

C (Cover and Concealment) – Where are the areas that you or the enemy can evade fire? Where are the areas that you or the enemy can evade visual detection?

Let’s put this together now into a couple products you should find useful.

The first product we want to construct is called a Combined Obstacle Overlay (COO). This product identifies all known natural and man-made obstacles and combines them together into a single product. This product should begin to spark visualization on the ground you are preparing to fight upon. Below is an example of this overlay:


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