Tactics 101: 012. Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (Pt. 1)
“When I took a decision or adopted an alternative, it was after studying every relevant—and many irrelevant –factors. Geography, tribal structure, religion, social customs, language, appetites, standards—all were at my finger-ends. The enemy I know almost like my own side.”
In our past articles, we have addressed numerous times the importance of intelligence. Specifically, we have emphasized the key to success on the battlefield is understanding yourself, understanding the enemy, and understanding the terrain. In order, to achieve understanding of the enemy and terrain you must possess a thought process that allows you to gather information and more importantly analyze it. An excellent method to gather and analyze this information is a four step process called Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (or simply IPB).
In this article we will focus on a few key concepts. First, we will define what IPB is. Second, we will discuss why IPB is so critical to success. Third, we will describe the steps of IPB. Finally, we will get into specific detail on the initial two steps within the process. Then, next month we will tackle the remaining two steps.
*Before we begin, the emphasis of this article will be on conventional warfare. Later in the series we will address IPB in urban operations and in unconventional warfare.
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? 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.
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.
• IT ENABLES YOU TO UNDERSTAND THE TERRAIN AND THE ENEMY. IT ASSISTS YOU IN UNDERSTANDING YOURSELF.
An effective IPB process will assist you in determining:
• Where to observe
• When to observe
• What to observe for
• What to observe with
• What to expect to see
• Where the enemy will fire and maneuver
• When will the enemy fire and maneuver
• What assets will the enemy use to fire and maneuver
• What results you expect the enemy to have
• Where will you fire and maneuver
• When will you fire and maneuver
• What assets will you use to fire and maneuver with
• What results you expect to have
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