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Posted on Mar 4, 2007 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 013. Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (Pt. 2)

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

Perhaps, in the past you have haphazardly put together enemy courses of action with no rhyme or reason. You may be unsure how to go about getting into the detail you need to portray your opponent. In the remainder of the article, we would like to provide a process for you. As in all planning activities, the detail you get into is in direct relation to the time available you have. The process involves these five steps:

• Step 1 – Identify threat’s likely objectives and desired endstate.

• Step 2 – Identify the full set of COAs available to the threat

• Step 3 – Evaluate and prioritize each COA

• Step 4 – Develop each COA in the amount of detail time allows


• Step 5 – Identify initial Intelligence/Surveillance/Reconnaissance requirements.

Let’s dissect each separately.

Step 1 – Identify threat’s likely objectives and desired endstate. In this step, we identify likely objectives and endstates for the various echelons we will fight. A good rule of thumb is to start one echelon above your own and start working down. For example, if you are a division defending against an enemy attack, you begin by listing objectives and endstate for the enemy corps attacking you (if a corps is involved). Next, work down to the division, brigades, and battalions who will be attacking in your sector. See how they support each other’s mission. Will you have all the information you need to definitively list objectives and endstates? Probably not! However, your collection plan can turn these assumptions into facts.

Step 2 – Identify the full set of COAs available to the threat. Now it is time to begin brainstorming a bit. Put the ‘red’ hat on and start exploring the options the enemy has available. A good place to get the juices flowing is to utilize your threat models. Start with these broad courses of action and begin adding some variants to each. These variants could come from the following: adjusting objectives and endstates, changing maneuver routes, location of main and supporting efforts, use of combat multipliers, adding in deception operations, etc… As you can see, there are many things that can put a twist on a basic threat model and create a course of action. For each course of action, draw a quick sketch and write some verbiage for it. This will assist you later.

Once you have done this brainstorming, it is time to determine if you should continue developing and analyzing each course of action. Because of time constraints, you will not be able to further develop each COA you developed. The first way, you can begin weeding out these COAs is by seeing if they meet a list of specific criteria. Below you will find a list of possible criteria you can use:

*Suitable – Will the COA accomplish the enemy’s likely objectives and endstate?
*Feasible – Does the enemy possess the resources and time and space to conduct the COA?
*Acceptable – Do you believe the enemy CDR will accept any risk the COA may present?
*Unique – Is the COA unique in execution from the others you created?
* Doctrinal Correct – Is the COA consistent with the enemy’s doctrine?

If any of the COAs you have sketched out does not meet any of the above criteria; then do not pursue it any longer. Why waste your most precious resource (time) on a COA you will ultimately not consider.


Step 3 – Evaluate and Prioritize Each COA. After step 2, you should now have a group of COAs that represent the realm of options the enemy has. Are you absolutely sure the enemy will execute one of the COAs on your list? No, because you have created them basically from many assumptions. As you turn these assumptions into facts, you will obtain the certainty (you will never have complete certainty) you desire. However, your planning requires you develop enemy COAs to assist in developing friendly COAs.

Since time is again against you, you need to determine how long you have to develop enemy COAs (the next step) in detail. For example, based on experience you require 20 minutes to develop an enemy COA. If you have allocated one hour to developing enemy COAs, you can detail 3 COAs. So how do you get to three from your list? Really it is analyzing each individually and then comparing them with one another In analyzing you can look at strengths and weaknesses, how it accomplishes objectives and endstates, etc… Following that, come up with some criteria to compare them against one another and prioritize them. If you can develop 3, take your top 3.

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