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Posted on Nov 10, 2007 in Front Page Features, Tactics101

Tactics 101: 021 – Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield in Urban Operations

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland

"Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.”
- Gen George S. Patton


Last month, we gave an introduction of urban operations.  As a review we provided a definition of urban operations, gave a brief history of urban operations, described the challenges of conducting urban operations, laid out a possible framework for planning and executing urban operations, listed the fundamentals of urban operations, and finally discussed how you can utilize the battlefield operating systems in conducting operations in urban terrain.  We hope this provided a good general background so we can get into some more specifics regarding urban operations the following months. 


This month we will focus on Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) as it relates specifically to urban operations.  As you may remember, we covered IPB exclusively in articles 12 and 13 of this series.  In article 12, we gave an overview of IPB and then zeroed in on the first two steps of the process: Define the Battlefield Environment and Describe the Battlefield’s Effects.  Article 13 then covered the remaining two steps: Evaluate the Threat and Determine Threat Courses of Action.  Since that organization worked fairly well (at least in our minds!), we will break up our IPB discussion into the same two parts.  Thus, this article goes into detail on the first two steps.


If you are not inclined to go back to the previous articles on IPB let’s quickly review some general key points before moving to our urban operations discussion.  As we all know review and repetition can not hurt!         

What is IPB?

It is the systematic, continuous process of analyzing the threat, terrain, and environment.  It is conducted throughout planning and the execution of the operation.  Within this definition there are several key points we want to reinforce.  1) It is systematic in that it consists of four steps that build upon each other.  2) IPB is continuous throughout your planning, preparation, and execution of your mission.  Why is it continuous? Well, because the conditions on the battlefield are continually changing.  The occurrence of any event on the battlefield will undoubtedly have some effect on the enemy, terrain, or environment.  The tactician who only conducts IPB during planning will not be successful.  3) To conduct IPB is work!  Not only must you gather information, but you must take the next step and analyze it. To simply take what is provided you and not analyze it yourself and take it down to your level is a recipe for failure.  

Why IPB?

By just understanding the above definition, you can determine why IPB is so critical to mission success.  If IPB is conducted effectively many good things transpire.  These include:

• It enables you, the commander, to have an understanding of the complexities that exist on the battlefield.  This understanding enables you to make quicker and more effective decisions when they are needed.
• The steps of the IPB process afford you the ability to develop critical products that can be used throughout the mission and future operations.
• IPB reveals enemy capabilities and vulnerabilities.  It is those vulnerabilities that the good tactician will take advantage upon.
• The IPB process lets you take your understanding of the environment and terrain and then utilize it to determine the range of courses of action your enemy can pursue.
• With an understanding of what the enemy can (or will) do, you can develop your own plan of execution.  As you’ve heard many times, “The enemy has a vote.”
• It reduces uncertainties for you in regards to the enemy, terrain, and the environment.  The more uncertainties you can eliminate while seeking to keep uncertainty in the mind of your opponent – obviously the better.

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