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Urban Terrain Analysis

This appendix supplements chapter 1 by providing a detailed analysis of the tactical characteristics of built-up areas. It is of specific interest to commanders at levels from platoon through brigade.

Terrain analysis is fundamental to offensive and defensive planning on any battlefield. It provides a basis for organizing forces and for determining how the area of operations impacts on the capabilities of available units and weapons. Chapter 1 provided a general description of the urban battlefield in terms of the size of built-up areas, major type lines of communication, and the urban patterns formed by a complex of built-up areas. The ground maneuver commander requires additional details pertaining to the physical layout of a built-up area and the structural characteristics of its buildings.


The physical layout of a village, town, or city generally represents a historical composite of the area's urban development. Within western Europe and other regions colonialized by European nations, five basic building and street patterns recur. While small rural villages are fairly homogeneous in nature, most urban areas contain a mix of these basic patterns. Each pattern impacts on maneuver and fire support schemes. For ease in presentation and subsequent reference, they have been identified by form and assigned a letter designation.

Each pattern is evaluated in terms of the following combat characteristics for offensive and defensive operations:

Mobility. The ability to move vehicles and infantry in relation to structures, open spaces, streets, and rubble.


Dense, Random Construction A Closed-Orderly Block B Dispersed Residential Area C High-Rise Area D Industrial/Transportation E

Fields of Fire/Obervation. Restriction of fields of fire and observation along streets, across spaces between buildings, and from upper floors of buildings.

Obstacles. Obstacle construction potential in relation to the following:

  • Time to construct.
  • Labor requirements.
  • Materiel requirements.
  • Obstacle value.

Cover/Concealment. Protection from direct and indirect fires is determined by the composition and strength of each area's structural materials. Concealment depends on the proximity of structures, the potential amount of rubble, and the density of battle haze that can be developed.

Fire Hazard. The potential for fire is determined by type construction and proximity of one building to another. Each area is evaluated for the following fire hazards:

  • Isolated fires - restricted to a single building or a part of a building.

  • Area fires - consume from one building up to an entire block. Generally this type of fire is contained by streets.

  • Fire storms - the most violent and dangerous fire, capable of consuming large areas rapidly, creating wind storms and intense heat. Fire storms are generally uncontrollable.

  • Explosion hazard - present in areas containing fuel and chemicals.

    Command and Control. The built-up area's effect upon:

  • Coordination of fire and maneuver.

  • Means of communication.


This type of construction is found in the center of villages, towns, and large cities. Generally, it is the only type construction in small villages of 3,000 or less inhabitants. However, in the larger built-up areas, it is not uncommon to find a number of these areas connected by newer construction.

Dense, random construction is the oldest of the five basic patterns. As shown in chapter 1 (page 1-4), its buildings are located close together along the edges of narrow winding streets.

Tactical Evaluation

The following evaluation applies to both offense and defense:

Mobility. Movement of infantry, although difficult, is not considered to be a significant disadvantage. Infantry can move along streets, through holes in walls, and over roofs. Extensive underground sewers and utility tunnels are frequently found in these areas and are normally large enough to permit transit by individual soldiers. Movement of trucks, APCs, SP artillery, and tanks is considerably restricted by narrow, twisting streets. After rubbling, the streets will require extensive clearing to permit vehicular movement.

Fields of Fire/Obervation. This is the most restrictive area for fields of fire and observation. Weapon ranges and observation distances seldom extend more than 100 meters along streets that average 7 meters in width. These narrow streets limit tank turret traverse and do not allow for minimum ATGM ranges. Deployment of heavy direct-fire weapons may also be limited by buildings and narrow streets. These short fields of fire and observation distances necessitate assigning small defensive sectors to defending units, thus requiring large numbers of troops to establish a position defense. The principal weapons employed in this area are small arms, grenades, LAWs, Claymores, and mortars.

Obstacles. Narrow streets with buildings constructed directly off the street edge facilitate construction of all types of obstacles. Even a few overturned cars or trucks in a narrow street can create an effective obstacle to armor or other vehicular passage. Demolition of structures will also provide rubble for instant obstacles as shown above.

Type A construction is the most readily adaptable obstacle area of all. With little troop effort, time, and material requirements, these areas can be turned into one large obstacle.

Cover/Concealment. Buildings provide numerous concealed positions for infantry. Armored vehicles can find isolated positions under archways or inside small industrial or commercial structures. Thick masonry, stone, or brick walls offer excellent protection from direct fires.

Overhead protection from indirect fires and plunging small arms fire is poor. Most roofs are constructed of wood or tile materials and most ceilings and floors are wood or plaster--offering little protection. Adequate overhead protection is normally found in the basements of most of these buildings. Underground systems provide excellent protection and frequently allow movement between battle positions and sections within the built-up area.

Fire Hazard. There is considerable danger from fires in a fixed defensive system. The roofs of these closely spaced buildings normally are constructed of wooden rafters supported by light shingles. Fire extinguishers, sand, or water must be immediately available to put out even the smallest fire before the entire built-up area is destroyed by a fire storm.

Command/Control. The restrictive arrangement of buildings and streets will normally limit combat actions to a series of squad and platoon battles from one building to another. Coordination between units is difficult because of reduced visibility and the masking of radio communications.

Because of the restrictive terrain, tanks and other direct-fire weapons are difficult to control while in support of infantry forces.



Closed-orderly block areas are normally found in the central areas of medium-size towns and large cities. These areas consist of residential and commercial type buildings. Buildings often form continuous fronts for as much as a city block, and each block normally contains an inner court. Streets in this area are normally wider than Type A areas, averaging 26 meters in width and are normally laid out in a rectangular pattern (see chapter 1, page 1-4).

Tactical Evaluation
for Defense

Mobility. Infantry attacking this area must move:

  • Along streets.

  • Through breached building walls or underground systems.

  • Over roofs.

Vehicular movement is limited to streets by the substantial buildings. These wide streets, however, may allow high-speed movement of tracked and wheeled vehicles. Large quantities of demolitions are required to create impassable rubble in the streets. These areas, unlike Type A areas, provide sufficient maneuver space for the employment of heavy direct-fire weapons in support of the defense.

Fields of Fire/Obervation. FIelds of fire and observation ranges extend to approximately 350 meters and are sufficient for heavy direct-fire weapons to support infantry. ATGM minimum ranges are not a disadvantage in most areas. Streets and open areas generally permit mutually supporting fires to be established. Observation of indirect fires will be limited by numerous tall buildings.

Obstacles. Unlike Type A areas, significant labor, time, and material will be required to construct obstacles in streets and around defensive positions (buildings). The well-ordered, usually right-angled street patterns permit the control of obstacles by fires.

Cover/Concealment. The heavy construction found in most walls and ceilings provides excellent protection against direct and high-angle fires. A considerable amount of time, demolitions, and labor will be required to breach walls for firing ports and to construct infantry passageways through walls. Cellars selected for shelters must be evaluated for their ability to withstand the weight of a collapsing building. In some cases, cellar ceilings will have to be reinforced, requiring additional resources and time. Cellars also provide personnel excellent protection against the initial effects of radiation.

Underground systems are normally extensive in these areas and can provide storage areas, protection, and passageways for infantry. The defender must locate all underground systems and evaluate their contribution to the defensive concept. Those underground systems not used must be blocked or troops must be committed to control them.

As in Type A areas, armored vehicles will have few covered/concealed positions.

Fire Hazard. As in Type A areas, there are great fire hazards. If this type area must be defended, considerable resources must be expended to lessen the dangers of fire and provide firefighting equipment and materials.

Command/Control. Functions of command and control are improved over Type A areas. The orderly system of buildings and street patterns normally provides extended weapon ranges. Throughout these areas, mutually supporting fires are usually possible.

Tactical Evaluation
for Offense

Mobility. For attacking infantry, the interiors of buildings provide excellent covered and concealed movement routes. However, tremendous amounts of labor and explosives are required to breach a succession of walls and ceilings. Infantry advancing through unfamiliar underground systems require time for careful reconnaissance and planning.

Armored vehicles are restricted to streets. If streets are barricaded or blocked by rubble, mobility is severely restricted until they are cleared.

Fields of Fire/Obervation. As in the defense, structures permit mutual support between attacking infantry units. Heavy direct-fire weapons support is restricted to existing streets. In most cases, heavy weapons will have to be positioned well behind advancing infantry units. Flanking fires can normally be accomplished along straight street sections, in parks, and other open spaces.

Observation of indirect fires will be limited by structures and smoke. Excessive use of artillery in this type area will create rubble-further limiting vehicular mobility and reducing heavy direct-fire support. The limitations on fields of fire and visual observation necessitate the assignment of small, narrow attack zones and a high density of troops in each zone.

Obstacles. Street barricades require significant resources and time to reduce. Usually these obstacles will be covered by defensive fires. Bypassing these obstructions is difficult because of the unbroken rows of buildings. Infantry units must clear well beyond the obstacles to neutralize defensive fires, permitting the obstacles to be reduced with earthmoving equipment and/or explosives.

Cover/Concealment. Advancing along streets is an open invitation to disaster and must be avoided whenever possible. Effective cover and concealment are offered by the interiors of buildings.

Armored vehicles, however, are restricted to streets and are exposed targets in most cases. Limited protection can be achieved by using buildings as a mask.

Fire Hazard. Since the attacker is not fixed in position (as in the defense), he can avoid burning structures. The attacker may avoid attacking some areas by starting area fires and forcing the defender to leave his position.

Command/Control. Block-long, multistoried buildings require successive and mutually supporting attacks by squads and platoons, complicating the command and control of supporting direct fires. Command and control of maneuvering infantry is further complicated by reduction of radio ranges. Observation and control of indirect fires is degraded by buildings, smoke, and reduced radio ranges.


These areas are normally contiguous to Type B areas and are found on the outer edges of villages or in the suburbs of larger urban areas.

These areas consist of rowhouses or single dwellings with yards, trees, gardens, and fences. The street pattern is normally rectangular or gently curving. Street widths average 14 meters. However, buildings are normally set back 6-8 meters from the roadway, providing an effective street width approximating 30 meters (see chapter 1).

Tactical Evaluation for Defense

Mobility. Infantry is generally unrestricted. Underground utility systems are normally too small to be used. Subways, when present, will offer protected and concealed routes between areas and positions. Numerous routes are available for vehicular movement between buildings and on numerous streets. Rubble will be the principal hindrance to mobility.

Fields of Fire/Obervation. Weapon ranges are often reduced to less than 250 meters by winding streets, but rectangular street patterns will, in many cases, provide extended weapon ranges. Throughout these areas mutually supported fires are usually possible. Forward observers can direct fires accurately from forward ground-level positions or from tall buildings.

Obstacles. Gaps between houses can be closed with overturned vehicles, wire, mines, cratering charges, or fallen trees. Obstacles in the streets will be of little value since, in most cases, they can be easily bypassed. To establish effective obstacles in this area, considerable time, labor, and materials will be required.

Cover/Concealment. Crew-served weapon positions can be concealed behind hedges, fences, walls, and in houses. Frequently, walls will have to be reinforced for adequate protection against heavy directfire weapons. When using houses, overhead protection will vary. Positions on the first and second floors will generally require reinforcement with additional overhead protection. Positions in basements usually provide excellent protection from indirect fires and the initial radiation effects from nuclear weapons. There is little danger of being buried by rubble while occupying one or two-story structures. These areas provide frequent opportunities to conceal and protect tanks and APCs inside of or behind buildings. Numerous alternate firing positions may be selected/prepared throughout the area.

Fire Hazard. There is no danger of area fires or fire storms. Isolated fires in a single structure can be contained with fire extinguishers, or forces can shift to an alternate position.

Command/Control. The well-ordered arrangement of this type of development facilitates command at all levels. Despite visibility restrictions, the coordination of all fires is not significantly impeded. Radio transmissions in this area are only slightly degraded.

Tactical Evaluation for Offense

Mobility. Armor and infantry approaches are numerous throughout these areas. Deployment of forces is restricted only where structures are surrounded by high thick walls. Tanks and infantry will have to use fire and maneuver in house-to-house combat. Frequently, smoke and suppressive fires will be required to cross open areas or streets. Rubble will have little effect on mobility.

Fields of Fire/Obervation. The defender can prepare fields of fire, the attacker can not. Buildings, hedges, bushes, walls, and other obstructions limit the effectiveness of small arms, ATGMs, and heavy direct support weapons. Observation of in-direct fire is limited until tall structures can be secured. Frequently, tanks and ATGMs will be limited until tall structures can be secured. Also, tanks and ATGMs will be limited to short-range engagements down streets and between houses.

Obstacles. Although bypass is possible, obstacles of all types in streets and between buildings reduce an attacker's mobility. Mines hidden between obstacles present a particular hazard for armored vehicles.

Cover/Concealment. Attacking infantry can find cover once they have penetrated a building. Between buildings infantry must use the cover afforded by walls and fences and the concealment of hedges. Normally, infantry cannot advance until defensive fires have been suppressed with fires or obscured by smoke.

Armored vehicles gain cover by moving from one building to the next while protected by overwatching fires from other vehicles.

Fire Hazard. The dangers of fire are of little consequence to the attacker; burning structures are simply bypassed.

Command/Control. The building density and resultant terrain restrictions will not seriously affect command and control. Radio coordination of fires is not degraded, but observation is limited until tall structures are secured. Close air and attack helicopter support is possible in areas where observation posts have been established.


As depicted on page 1-5, Type D areas generally consist of multistoried apartment buildings, separated by large open areas such as parking lots, recreation areas, parks, and individual one-story buildings. Rarely are there unbroken rows of houses facing the street in this type area. This modern trend is most frequently found in medium-size and large city residential developments.

Tactical Evaluation for Defense

Mobility. Covered routes of movement for infantry are found only within building complexes. Underground systems are generally too small for use or are inaccessible. Establishing covered routes requires digging communication trenches between buildings. Rubble will not hamper vehicular or foot mobility because of the wide spaces between buildings. Tanks, APCs, and other vehicles have few restrictions on mobility and can move over wide streets or through numerous open areas.

Fields of Fire/Obervation. Small arms and machinegun grazing fire can be employed effectively throughout the area. Mutually supporting fires can be established between buildings. Maximum weapon ranges can be achieved by positioning weapons in upper stones. ATGMs can fire out to significant ranges. Forward observers can effectively control indirect fires.

Obstacles. Construction of obstacles between buildings requires exorbitant amounts of material, time, and labor. However, obstacles can be constructed in the proximity of buildings and throughout the first floor to slow infantry attacks. Mines are effective obstacles in the open areas between buildings.

Cover/Concealment. Within taller buildings, protection is provided from indirect fires, except on the top floors. Positions on these floors must be improved by reinforcing the walls and ceilings. Protection from small arms fire is afforded by building walls. However, these walls will have to be reinforced with sandbags to provide protection against heavy direct-fire weapons.

Armored vehicles will find cover and/or concealment behind buildings or in entranceways to underground garages.

Basements provide excellent protection from all fires, including nuclear.

Fire Hazard. Area fires are precluded by the distance between buildings. Escape routes for rapid withdrawal from buildings must be established and marked.

Command/Control. Excellent observation and radio communications facilitate command and control of forces and fires throughout this area.

Tactical Evaluation for Offense

Mobility. The open spaces between buildings expose an attacker as he attempts to close on objectives (buildings). However, these open spaces do facilitate the forward movement of heavy weapons such as tanks and artillery to support infantry assaults. Defensive fires must be suppressed by all available means prior to movement of infantry or armored vehicles. Infantry and armored vehicles must rapidly cross open areas after defensive gunners have been suppressed by fire or their vision obscured with smoke. The principle of no movement without covering fires must be observed in this area. For movement inside of buildings, it may be necessary to breach walls and ceilings with explosives.

Fields of Fire/Obervation. Fields of fire and observation are excellent. Mutual support between infantry and heavy direct-fire weapons is often possible.

Obstacles. In this area, mines are a particular hazard to the attacker. They will normally be covered by grazing fires and will require skilled coordinated efforts by infantry, tanks, and engineers to advance successfully. The techniques for breaching minefields in this area are the same as those for natural terrain. Great quantities of explosives will be required to breach physical obstacles on lower floors, walls, and ceilings within each building.

Cover/Concealment. Cover and concealment are not available to the attacker until he secures adjacent buildings. Therefore, attacking forces rely on relentless heavy covering fire, continuous smoke, and rapid movement from one objective (building) to the next. If the situation permits, night attacks provide a greater degree of concealment for operations in this area and should be considered to improve chances for success and to reduce casualties.

Fire Hazard. Fires are of no appreciable hindrance to attacking forces.

Command/Control. Command and control functions outside of buildings are not reduced by terrain. Communication with fire support units and maneuver units is not restricted outside of buildings. Company-size attacks are possible in these areas.


The older industrial/transportation areas, located in proximity of the center of medium-size towns and larger cities, retain essentially the same characteristics as Type A and B areas. The newer industrial/transportation areas are generally located on or near the edge of towns and cities. These areas principally consist of low, flat-roofed factory buildings, warehouses, railroads, and supply depots (see chapter 1, page 1-5).

Tactical Evaluation
for Defense

Mobility. Infantry routes are available through and between buildings. Frequently, underground routes are available and each must be evaluated for its utility. Armored routes exist over the road network and through large factory buildings. Spacing of buildings reduces rubble restrictions to all movement.

Fields of Fire/Obervation. Numerous positions are available inside and outside of buildings. Fields of fire are available to the front and flanks, permitting mutual support between buildings. Quite often, these areas are situated on the city's outskirts, permitting excellent fields of fire over approaches to the built-up area.

Obstacles. Open areas and spaces between buildings will require tremendous resources and time to construct effective infantry obstacles. These gaps can be more effectively closed with mines and covered by fires.

Armored obstacles can be constructed with local materials ((e.g., in a railyard, railroad cars can be pushed together an overturned to delay tanks and APCs).

Cover/Concealment. Infantry and armor can gain a degree of protection from direct fires by occupying positions within buildings. Little protection from indirect fire is offered by building roofs. Concealment can be gained by positioning crew-served weapons, tanks, and APCs inside of buildings. Open, shed-type transportation facilities offer little protection from enemy observation and fires--avoid them.

Fire Hazard. Stockpiling of fuel and combustible chemicals is common to industrial/transportation areas-avoid them. Isolated fires will be common in this area.

Command/Control. The usually good line-of-sight and predominantly low and widely spaced arrangement of buildings facilitate command/control of fires. Radio communications may be slightly degraded by the masking effect of buildings in these areas.

Tactical Evaluation
for Offense

Mobility. The variety of building types provides numerous infantry approaches. In industrial areas, movement will be from building to building. In open transportation facilities, advancing infantry are largely dependent on supporting fire or smoke to cover movement. Streets and vacant areas allow ample maneuver space for armored vehicles.

Fields of Fire/Obervation. Excellent fields of fire prevail throughout the entire area for all weapons. Observation over the entire area facilitates the employment of indirect fires and close air support. Smoke obscuration may be significant in fuel storage areas and a detriment to directing accurate fire.

Obstacles. Mines and concealed demolition charges in buildings are serious obstacles encountered in this area. Wide spacing of buildings and other open areas normally permits the attacker to bypass any rubble.

Cover/Concealment. An attacker will be confronted with the same conditions in this area as found in Type D areas. A form of concealment can be achieved by suppressive fires and the skillful employment of smoke as forces cross open areas.

Fire Hazard. Isolated fires can be easily bypassed.

Command/Control. Open spaces, excellent observation, lack of effective obstacles, and excellent communication facilitate command and control of combined arms.


The design and construction of buildings are influenced by climate, available materials, function, and cultural development of the region. This section describes nine types of buildings that are common to central Europe. Because there are numerous hybrid construction methods and the possibility exists of different type buildings being adjacent or sharing a common wall, distinct tactical evaluations for the attack and defense of each type building are not practical. General factors to be considered by the commander in evaluating a building include:

  • The protective value (cover) afforded by its walls, ceilings/floors, and roofs.

  • The ease with which it may be demolished by enemy fire or intentionally rubbled to provide an obstacle or fighting position.

  • The availability of internal lines of communication and the effort required to breach exterior walls.

  • The time, effort, and material required positions in the building.

  • The potential fire hazard to its defenders.

Type 1. Wood and Timber Frame Construction

Most farm buildings and those buildings constructed prior to the late 19th century are classified as Type 1. Their wooden raftered ceilings and weak exterior walls offer little protection from indirect or direct weapons fire. Internal communication routes are excellent since their lightly constructed walls are easy to breach; however, significant reinforcement is required to provide protective cover if such buildings are to be used as defensive positions. Within larger built-up areas, Type 1 buildings present the greatest fire hazard.

Type 2. Masonry Construction

Buildings with strong walls of brick or natural stone constructed in the 19th and early 20th century are classified as Type 2. These buildings, typified by the old town hall, are commonly found in the central areas of towns and cities. They generally contain from two to four stories with wooden raftered ceilings and lightly constructed tile roofs. Presenting less of a fire hazard than wood and timber frame structures, Type 2 buildings are frequently suitable as defensive positions. While internal communication routes are excellent, external walls are difficult to breach without heavy weapons or demolitions.

Type 3. One- or Two-Family Dwellings

Family dwellings constructed of solid or insulating bricks or of cinder blocks with ceilings of reinforced concrete are classified as Type 3. Such buildings frequently contain strongly constructed basements. Type 3 buildings offer significant protection and require little reinforcement if used as defensive positions. Because of their construction, fire hazards are minimal. If demolished, significant rubble offering protection to the defender or creating an obstacle to the attacker is generated.

Type 4. Prefabricated One-Family Dwellings

Prefabricated family dwellings assembled with pre-cast and light building materials are classified as Type 4. In most cases, only the cellars or basements are strongly constructed. Unlike Type 3 dwellings, these buildings require significant reinforcement if they are to be used as defensive positions. They also constitute a fire hazard in a fixed defense. Rubble produced by their destruction creates an effective obstacle and additional cover for ground-level defensive positions.

Type 5. Office Building

Building Types 5 through 8 are comprised of multistory office and apartment buildings. For the purpose of classification and subsequent evaluation, each category is divided into those buildings of six stories or less and high-rise structures in excess of six stories. Multistoried office buildings, with their steel frame and reinforced concrete construction, are normally characterized by large expanses of plate glass which offer little protection.

Apartment buildings, while similar in size, generally have smaller glass areas and loadbearing reinforced concrete exterior walls which provide greater protection.

Type 6. High-Rise Office Building

Type 7. Apartment Building

Type 8. High-Rise Apartment Building

Type 9. industrial/Warehouse Buildings

Buildings common to newer industrial and warehouse complexes are classified as Type 9. While the type construction may vary considerably, steel framing and the use of lightweight materials for exterior walls and roofs are normal practices. Reinforced concrete floors/ceilings are frequently used in multistory buildings.

06-21-1996; 11:07:04

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