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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

Cloud Cover
• Cloud cover will limit illumination.
•  Heavy cloud cover will effect technological weapons and systems (unmanned aerial systems).
• Cloud cover can effect thermal signatures.
• Dense cloud cover can limit or even shutdown rotary wing operations.

Temperature (humidity)
• Urban fighting is physically draining in itself.  Add high or low temperatures or high humidity and you compound the difficulty.
• Urban areas commonly contain air inversion layers.  These layers trap dust and pollutants which hinder visibility.
• Air inversion layers can also create a rise in temperatures. 
• Air inversion changes can impact night vision devices.
• Cold temperatures increase logistical requirements for fuel and food.
• Hotter temps increase water consumption.
• Not only will temperature extremes effect you, but also civilians in the area.
• High humidity will effect the use and accuracy of sensors.

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The final area in which we describe the battlefield’s effects is civil considerations.  This of course is often the most difficult to describe and perhaps the most important.  As we discussed in article 12 of the series, a good system to utilize in analyzing civil considerations is the acronym ASCOPE.  This stands for Areas, Structures, Capabilities, Organizations, People, and Events.  Let’s review the definition of each. 


Areas – These are key civilian areas within your area of operations that are normally not of military significance. 
Structures – These are generally manmade edifices that can have key military and civilian consequences. 
Capabilities – These are the abilities of the host nation, an ally or aggressor to provide services and functions to the local populace.   In regards to these functions and services, you look at current capabilities and predict what those capabilities will be following combat.  You analyze what your role will be and what resources you will have to expend to keep the functions and services continuing.  
Organizations – These are organized non-military groups that exist in the area that are a current part of the community or may arrive in the area based on operations.  .
People –These are the non-military personnel that live in the area.  In analyzing the people you want to focus on languages, culture, history, formal and informal leaders, religion etc…  This is demanding work and in many instances critical to achieving your final endstate.
Events – These can be routine, planned, unplanned or cyclical activities that can affect your overall operations in an area. 

Below are examples of things you should consider in each category which could effect operations in an urban area.


• Where are the political/social/religious boundaries of your area of operations/interest (AO/AI)?
• Are there centers of government located in the AO/AI?
• Are there locations that house political dissidents or criminal gangs in your AO/AI?
•  Are there areas that you can relocate displaced civilians if required?
• Where is trading done in the AO/AI?

• Are there cultural sites (churches, mosques, temples) in the AO/AI?
• Are there medical facilities in the AO/AI?
• Are there bridges, communication facilities and energy systems you can use in the AO/AI?
• Are there jailhouses, warehouses or schools in the AO/AI you may utilize?
• Where are the police stations located in the AO/AI?

• Is there water and electricity capability in the AO/AI?
• Is there a public transportation capability in the AO/AI?
• Is there a capability to provide public security (by the populace) in the AO/AI if needed?
• Is there a capability to provide medical care to the civilian populace in the AO/AI?
• What capabilities exist in the AO/AI to transport food and supplies?
• Is there a sanitation capability in the AO/AI?
• Is there a fire fighting capability in the AO/AI?
• Are there religious groups in the AO/AI?
• Are there criminal groups or gangs in the AO/AI?
• Are there established labor unions in the AO/AI?
• Are there law enforcement groups in the AO/AI?
• Are there or will Non-Governmental Organizations be in the AO/AI?

• Who are the key civilian leaders in the AO/AI?
• Are there civilians in the AO/AI with special skills?
• Who are the interpreters living in the AO/AI who could be utilized?
• Are there any demobilized soldiers located in the AO/AI?
• Understand the society, social structure, culture, power, and interests of the populace in the AO/AI?

• When are the holidays honored by the populace?
• What are the market routines in the AO/AI?
• Are there any scheduled elections in the AO/AI?
• When are the normal paydays in the AO/AI?
• When do religious activities take place in the AO/AI?


IPB in any environment is difficult business.  In the urban environment it is even more complicated.  As you have seen the urban environment brings many unique aspects to it.  Its terrain is complex and can change after the landing of one artillery round.  Weather can effect the urban area in many different ways.  Finally, the civil considerations within the urban environment make it the most complex of all environments.  In this article, we began to provide you a way to make sense out this complex environment.  We concentrated on the first two steps of the process — Define the Battlefield Environment and Describe the Battlefield’s Effects.  These steps set the conditions to enable us to develop viable courses of action for our opponent. 


In our next article, we will focus on steps 3 and 4 of the IPB process – Evaluate the Threat and Develop Threat Courses of Action.

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