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Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB)
for Urban Combat Operations

by Michael Ley, Intelligence Analyst, U.S. Army Intelligence Center


MOUT: All military actions planned and conducted on a topographical complex and its adjacent natural terrain where man-made constructions is the dominant feature. It includes combat in cities, which is that portion of MOUT involving house-to-house and street-by-street fighting in towns and cities.

--FM 101-5-1, Operational Terms and Graphics

Throughout history, military planners have viewed cities as centers of gravity. As such, in war, cities are something to either be protected, neutralized, or destroyed depending on one's mission. According to Intelligence XXI: Threat Panel White Paper, August 1998, "The globe of 2015 will contain three distinct worlds."

  • Advanced societies with a population of one billion.
  • Developing states with a population of five to six billion.
  • A chaotic group of failed states with a population of one to two billion.


Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, several conflicts have erupted within the developing and failed states. Some conflicts caused the deployment of American military forces. Missions during these deployments included peacekeeping, NEO, air interdiction, blockade, and combined arms combat. With the exception of the Gulf War, the bulk of these operations occurred in or around major cities. Analysts predict that future conflicts will involve some form of military operation within the urban environment. The U.S. Army must not only consider an increased operations tempo (OPTEMPO), but also the conduct of military operations on urbanized terrain (MOUT).

Current tactical doctrine states that urban combat operations are conducted only when necessary. Built-up areas should be isolated and bypassed rather than risk a costly, time-consuming operation in this difficult environment. Adherence to these precepts is becoming increasingly difficult as urban centers expand. Ports or airfields are essential to expeditionary forces and are mostly found in or around large cities. To secure these key facilities and prepare for follow-on military action, commanders must train their forces to operate within the urban environment.


"U.S. forces do not possess the overwhelming high technology advantages in a MOUT environment as they do in virtually all other environments."

FY00 Army/USMC Battle Lab MOUT ACTD Program Description

DISCUSSION 1: Given the quote above, FM 1-XX2, Army Aviation Military Operations, provides a number of recommendations the commander and his staff should be aware of from the onset. One additional recommendation (No. 10) stems from lessons following U.S. Marine operations at Hue in 1968.


1. Condition of MOUTMOUT is a condition of one or more of the four types of military operations (offensive, defensive, stability operations, and support operations).
2. MOUT EnvironmentThe physical characteristics of the MOUT scenario to include its terrain, weather, demographics, associated threat(s) and population density.
3. Avoid urban areas when possible.Operate in the urban environment only when the mission dictates it.
4. Get in and out quickly.Minimize time spent in the urban environment. This must be tempered, however, by consideration of the threat and obstacles.
5. Do not be predictable.Identify alternate ingress and egress routes.
6. Minimize your signature.Plan and execute the mission with maximum emphasis on maintaining cover and concealment.
7. Know the current situation.Insist on acquiring the most current information available regarding friendly forces, threat, weather and terrain, hazards, obstacles, and mission parameters (the so called "big picture").
8. Establish communications with all participating friendly units.Determine net information requirements for all participating and supporting elements. Establish communications with ground maneuver elements as soon as possible. Understand the commander's intent and current situation and coordinate all actions at the objective.
9. Think before you shoot.Develop a clear understanding of the friendly situation and locations. Understand the rules of engagement (ROE).
10. Make use of soldiers who have grown up in cities.There is no substitute for experience and those raised in larger cities know many of their peculiarities. Listen to them.

OBSERVATION 2: IPB for urban operations.

DISCUSSION 2: While most of the discussion and examples described address the conventional battlefield environment, these same tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) can be used to address special operations to include unconventional warfare, non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO), amphibious, nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) warfare, and urban operations. With the exception of large-scale amphibious assaults, operations in an urban environment and under the conditions presented may be the most complex of all.

TTP: It is critical that the commander and his staff be able to quickly identify the conditions and physical environment.
The key to success of performing adequate IPB within the urban environment is the planner's ability to think unconventionally or "out of the box." The planner may be required to shift the focus of his analytical efforts away from the traditional and toward the unconventional. For example, urban combat tends to emphasize squad and platoon tactcs and use of the unit's short-ranged anti-tank (AT) weapons, booby-traps, and other low-technology systems. This runs counter to the situation on the conventional battlefield where armor and artillery tend to dominate.
Because of the diversity offered under the conditions of urban combat, a firm starting point for the S-2's efforts may be difficult to find. A tool or a set of tools may greatly facilitate the S-2's efforts. Both the framework and the worksheet allow the planner an east-to-use process while also serving as a checklist of urban concerns.

OBSERVATION 3: MOUT Environment Framework.

DISCUSSION 3: This framework will help assist addressing not only offensive and defensive actions, but the complexities of stability and support actions where political, not military, concerns are paramount. The impact of these concerns falls on the S-2 whose primary responsibility is ensuring his commander possesses the situational awareness necessary to support an accurate military decision-making process (MDMP). This is even more critical when available planning time is short.

TTP: Under the conditions of urban combat, especially in the face of a range of ethnic, cultural and political divisions (such as Beirut), this analytical effort can be challenging. The MOUT Environment Framework is a tool designed to facilitate and focus the S-2's efforts by:
  • Addressing very specific MOUT-related concerns.
  • Addressing these concerns with a logical and sequential process.
  • Obtaining results quickly.
  • Establishing the parameters of the S-2's initial analytical effort.
  • Allowing the S-2 to enter the mainstream of the IPB process armed with a general knowledge of the environment.
  • Providing common reference points for commanders and S-2s.

NOTE: The MOUT Environment Framework is structured around the worst-case scenario, general combat in a major urban area. As such, it can be used to support all other military actions there.

When using the MOUT Environment Framework, the S-2 must first realize that when taken as separate components, the numbered elements of the framework are subordinate to one of the four steps of the IPB process. The MOUT Environment Framework is not designed to circumnavigate any component of the IPB process. Additionally, for optimum results, the MOUT Environment Framework and the MOUT Analytical Worksheet should be used in conjunction with FM 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield, and FM 90-10, Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain.

The MOUT Environment Framework is depicted below as Figure 1. The numbered elements of the MOUT Environment Framework outline the S-2's initial concerns regarding his physical environment, while the identification of the "place" of each of these numbered elements, within the four major IPB steps, is clearly annotated in the subsequent Figure 2.

Figure 1

MOUT Environmental Framework Element

Associated IPB Step

1. Mission Orders#1 Define the battlefield environment
2. Mission Type#1 Define the battlefield environment
3. Urban Patterns#2 Describe the battlefield's effects
4. Built-up Areas#2 Describe the battlefield's effects
5. Building and Street Patterns#2 Describe the battlefield's effects
6. Lines of Communication#2 Describe the battlefield's effects
7. Urban Patterns#2 Describe the battlefield's effects
8. Pattern Effects#2 Describe the battlefield's effects
9. Military Aspects of Terrain#2 Describe the battlefield's effects
10. Avenues of Approach#4 Determine threat courses of action (COAs)
11. The Threat#3 Evaluate the threat
12. Demographic Concerns#2 Describe the battlefield's effects
13. Analyst Procedures Combination of IPB steps

Figure 2

By following the steps outlined in the MOUT Environment Framework, the S-2 is able to focus his IPB effort. Paralleling use of the framework is an example MOUT Analytical Worksheet (Figure 3). This worksheet is a "fill-in-the-blanks" form and provides the user with a basic profile of the target situation and environment.





1General Urban DescriptionLarge cityTobriz: Population 267,000
2Zoned Areas and PatternsB, D, and EPredominantly B, D in sectors 1 and 4, and E in sector 8
3LOCsOne major highway and two canalsHighway 8 to Fez and #5 and #7 canals
4Urban PatternsHubPart of a larger satellite pattern in the region
5Pattern EffectsFunnel-fanHilly terrain on both sides of the hub
6Street PatternsCentral sector
Vinus subdivision
Medieval Irregular
7Structural typesDominated by large, concrete structures and on the outskirts of the city, numerous shanty townsAlwah sports stadium
Vinus power plant
Ford factory
8Mobility CorridorsAir level
Building level
Intra-Building level
Street level
Subterranean level
Sectors 6 and 7 poor (many power lines)
Skyscrapers sectors 1 and 4
Highlighted by numerous small rooms
Densely packed buildings sectors 2 and 6
Sector 1 with underground tunnels, all other areas subjected to the effects of a high water table
9Military Aspects of the TerrainObservation/fields of fire
Cover and concealment
Key terrain
Sectors 3 and 4 poor observation and fields of fire
Sectors 3 and 4 mostly good cover and concealment
Sectors 1, 4, and 8 have many obstacles (war debris)
Sarbin Hills and Kulet Ridge in sectors 1 and 2
10Other Significant CharacteristicsSectors 1 and 3 Catholic
Sector 4 Moslem
Tabon political party
Ethnic Kuri and Bari populations make up 89% of the city's population
Armed militias are prevalent in Sectors 4 and 6

Figure 3

MOUT Analytical Worksheet

OBSERVATION 4: Through experience in a wide range of combat and peacekeeping environments, the U.S. Army has developed a pattern guide for a number of aspects of urban combat. These aspects include city size, urban environment and city layout, structural classifications, and urban patterns, and are depicted in the MOUT Analytical Worksheet.

DISCUSSION 4: When addressing the analysis of the urban area, the U.S. Army generally classifies built-up areas by size.

  • Villages: Populations of 3,000 or less.
  • Towns or Small Cities: Populations of 3,000 to 100,000 and not part of a major urban complex.
  • Large City: Cities with associated urban sprawl and a population of 100,000 or more. (Source: USMC MCWP 3-35.3)
  • Strip Areas: Industrialized zones built along roads connecting towns and cities.

Zoned Areas. Another key element is the type of environment. Environment addresses a broad spectrum of concerns and may include such examples as "a typical Korean city with cities within a city, urban sprawl and outlying industry" or "a typical German city with narrow streets, circular configuration, and low terrain location." These environments can be defined as a "zoned area," denoting the "type" of structures, building clusters, or neighborhoods found within a section of the MOUT environment. FM 90-10 provides some of the definitions and designations for the zoned areas of a given city to include-


and Figure #

Layout (Type)


Dense, random constructionTypical old inner city pattern with narrow winding streets radiating from a central area in an irregular manner. Buildings are closely located and frequently close to the edge of a roadway.


Close-orderly blockWider streets generally form rectangular patterns. Buildings frequently form a continuous front along the blocks. Inner-block courtyards are common.


Dispersed Residential AreaNormally contiguous to closed-orderly block areas in Europe. The pattern consists of row houses or single-family dwellings with yards, gardens, trees, and fences. Street patterns are normally rectangular or curving.


High-rise AreaTypical of modern construction in larger cities and towns. It consists of multi-storied apartments, separated open areas, and single-story buildings. Wide streets are laid out in rectangular patterns. These areas are often contiguous to industrial or transportation areas or interspersed with closed-orderly block areas.


Industrial-TransportationGenerally located on or along major rail and highway routes in urban complexes. Older complexes may be located within dense, random construction or closed-orderly block areas. New construction normally consists of low, flat-roofed factory and warehouse buildings. High-rise areas providing worker housing is normally located adjacent to these areas throughout the orient. Identification of transportation facilities within these areas is critical. These facilities, especially rail facilities, pose significant obstacles to military movement.


Permanent Fortifications and Military BasesSome unique features include narrow access ways with overlapping firing ports. With the exception of underground bunkers and nuclear fallout shelters, the vast majority of fortifications are made of dirt, wood, concrete, and steel, with the bulk of them being from the period 1870-1914 with steel-reinforced concrete and thick walls. Most are located in and around ports or along national borders. Military bases are not necessarily fortified, but are usually fenced and possess some form of local defense capability.

Lines of Communication. While the size of an urban area varies, in a worst-case scenario it will be quite large and include a vast network of modern highways, railroads, canals and other systems. These lines of communication (LOC) permit rapid access in, across, and out of the city. Frequently these systems bypass the core or center of the city, avoiding the most congested and built-up areas. There is a limitation, however, inherent in these LOC. They are often built across terrain that is relatively impractical for off-road vehicular traffic movement and are heavily dependent on bridges, ramps and overpasses.

Lines of communication are by nature easily subjected to blocking actions, either deliberate or caused by the effects of rubbeling. The S2 must factor in the LOC's accessibility and the size of the force it can support.

Another critical LOC element is line of sight (LOS). The closed-in environment, especially at the street and subterranean levels, will degrade standard Army radio systems. Line of sight also impacts fields of fire, observation, and the use of signal flags, mirrors, lamps and other forms of communications. Finally, LOS constraints within an urban environment are not one but three-dimensional, and must be addressed from all directions and both vertically and horizontally. A key player in making this effort work is the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

During Israel's incursion into Lebanon, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) used UAVs in many roles, not the least of which was as retransmission platforms. This capability is today being built into the latest American UAVs.

Signal degradation is proportional to structural density, height of the buildings, and urban terrain features. For the purposes of LOS (FM/UHF), the linear distances are of far less importance than the structural density and disruption of the LOS between given points. This, in turn, means that it is very difficult to maintain any form of communications with consistency. Additionally, even when the situation does not involve armed conflict, the obstacles to effective FM/UHF within the urban environment may be hindered by electrical and trolley lines which can generate up to 300 times the interference over normal atmospheric interference on the UHF band. Russian experience in Grozny showed that it was better to dedicate one radio to communicate with a separate subunit, rather than trying to communicate over a net. As for the use of wire-based systems, they are, as they have always been, susceptible to many means of damage or destruction and more so in the city where digging them in is not an option.
Note: The S-2 must be aware of the city's communication infrastructure and that it may be more robust than in the past. The use of cellular phones, computer nets, and fiber-optic cable may significantly supplement or even replace the need for using FM/UHF radios.

Urban Patterns. The layout of an urban area will normally follow one of three easily identifiable patterns and two basic sub-patterns. The identification of the specific pattern or sub-pattern is an integral part of the urban analysis process. These patterns include--


Type Pattern


Hub PatternThe hub or built-up area is central to any urban pattern. Although it may vary in size, the effects remain constant. The hub may serve as the pivot point for a defense or as an element of a defense in-depth. The hub is an obstacle which will normally be by-passed. As the attacking force slides off the leading edge of the hub, it becomes vulnerable to flank attacks and fire along its axis of attack. When adjacent terrain is unsuitable for by-pass operations, the hub may be developed as a defensive strongpoint.
Satellite PatternThis pattern consists of the central hub and dependent, dispersed smaller built-up areas with linear arrays along the connecting links. Links tend to focus on the central hub, with most taking the form of farm, forest or secondary roads. This pattern provides support to both the attack and defender as shown below--
  • Offensive Operations
  • Avenues of approach or mobility corridors
  • Multiple exit links from the hub
  • Defensive Operations
  • Resupply, reinforcement and evacuation routes
  • Mutually supporting positions
Network PatternSimilar in appearance to the satellite pattern but is more complex and diverse. The pattern represents the interlocking of the primary hubs of satellite patterns. Formed primarily of towns and cities, its elements are more self-sufficient and less supportive of each other, although a dominant hub may exist. Major LOCs within a network are more extensive than a satellite and may take on a rectangular rather than convergent form. The natural terrain here may be more diverse than in a single satellite array.

The network causes attacking units to fight through a maze of synthetic features that provide defensive obstacles. By-pass is difficult because contiguous terrain is often unsuitable for mounted operations. The pattern provides depth to the defense.

Linear PatternA sub-element of the three basic patterns. The linear array may form one or more rays of the satellite pattern or the connecting links of a network. Most frequently, the basic array results from the stringing of minor hubs along a confined natural terrain corridor. This pattern facilitates the development of a series of strong defensive positions in-depth. It also acts to delay canalized forces and requires repeated deliberate attacks.
Segment or Pie Slice PatternThis pattern may occur as a subset of either the satellite or network patterns, or within a major hub. It is characterized by the splitting of an urban area by a dominant natural or synthetic feature (river, roads, etc.). The pattern may influence the assignment of boundaries and other control measures, or of attack objectives. The pattern may also bear directly on the organization of the terrain and on task organization.


Street Patterns. Within the classifications above there are a number of street patterns that should be noted. These include--



The Blocking EffectOften the shape and density of the hub as well as the width of major streets and proximity of side streets has the effect of almost completely blocking an operation.
The Funnel-Fan EffectThe effect normally occurs when the hub is located between terrain features that are unsuitable for mounted operations. Movement of units into the area results in the concentration of forces, loss of offensive momentum, and canalization. Beyond the hub, forces are required to spread or fan out before full combat power can be developed. This favors the defense because it creates an accordion effect in units moving through the hub, reducing C2 and operating effectiveness. A similar effect occurs when an attacking force must penetrate an urban network on a narrow front between hubs.
The Funnel EffectFunneling or concentration and canalization of forces may occur without immediate fanning. This occurs most frequently when the linear pattern is encountered. It limits the number of maneuver units that may be applied against a series of hubs that must be confronted in succession, and forces a greater reliance on long-range and indirect fire weapons.

Each of the zoned areas previously mentioned include a wide range of structural types. During the terrain analysis phase of urban IPB, these structures must be identified. Certain "key" structures may be included under "key terrain" which will be discussed later. These structures include but are not limited to--


Building Type
Hospitals and other medical facilitiesNo-Fire Zone (protected under the provisions of the Geneva Conventions). Also important for both civilian and military casualties during times of conflict.
Sewer systems, subways, underground water systems, elevated railways, utilities, mass transportation routesUnderground systems may provide covered infiltration and small-unit approach routes. Elevated systems and mass transit routes provide mobility between city sectors. Utility facilities are key targets for insurgents, terrorists and others, and their destruction can hinder the capabilities of defending forces.
Stadiums, sports fields, playgroundsProvide excellent civilian and POW holding areas. May be used as interrogation centers, helipads, sheltered POL and ammunition storage areas.
Public baths, swimming pools, cisterns, and reservoirsServe as an alternate water source in case public water supplies break down. Allows water for washing and other sanitary needs.
Construction sites, lumber yards, other commercial operationsCan serve as machine repair, obstacle construction facilities and material, and support general engineer operations.
Hazardous material storage facilitiesPresent a hazard to both sides in an operation and must be accounted for.
Permanent or purpose-built fortificationsPermanent fortifications can range from fortresses built by the Crusaders through modern underground facilities built to survive the Cold War's nuclear scare. The bulk of these, however, will be of the period 1870-1914, mostly found in coastal cities or along national boundaries and designed to resist the fire of the heaviest guns. These fortifications may also house local defense, air defense and logistics facilities, and present a variety of threats to any maneuver force.

OBSERVATION 5: A thorough understanding of the type and pattern of the target city and good terrain analysis will greatly assist in the analytical effort reviewing multiple mobility corridors and avenues of approach.

DISCUSSION 5: Mobility corridor and avenue of approach development are both common tasks for the S-2, but in a conventional environment normally addresses two tiers or levels the air and the ground. Levels can serve as mobility corridors for the end objective, usually the taking or holding of key terrain. Key terrain may be defined and located on a map as "Hill 286," "Mount St. Helens," "Yakima Ridge," "Black Swamp," or the "Hocking River." Key terrain may also be a structure such as a stadium, skyscraper or bridge.

In the urban environment, the S-2 will have four tiers of mobility corridors to address. These tiers are spatial in nature and include air, building, street, and subterranean levels. FM 90-10 addresses buildings within an operational environment as the "vertical" dimension. This dimension extends through three of the four levels-- building, street and subterranean. It is the number and diversity of the levels that increase the complexity of the urban mission over conventional operations. Each tier may serve as a single mobility corridor while any combination of mobility corridors may be employed to form an avenue of approach. Additionally, each of these levels possesses its own unique combat characteristic which will be discussed below. Figure 4 relates to the differences in mobility corridors as understood for the conventional and urban operations.

Figure 4

Air Level. The air level reflects the threat posed by airborne and air assault forces or ground attack aircraft. From the air, both friend and foe may be able to engage or observe targets from any obliquity, direction or elevation. Identification of this mobility corridor in urban areas is critical. Aviation assets can be used for high-speed insertion or extraction of troops, for supplies and equipment, to observe enemy movement, or for ordnance delivery.

  • Reconnaissance
  • Security
  • Attack
  • Air assault
  • Support by fire
  • Command and control
  • Air movement
  • Aerial sustainment
  • Electronic warfare

Aviation unit intelligence specialists should immediately focus on the characteristics of the battlefield as seen from the cockpit. While street obstacles do not affect aviation assets, light towers, signs, cables, and power lines do affect them. Additionally, forces using the air avenue of approach in an urban environment are more vulnerable to man-portable air defense missiles, machine guns, and small arms fire because of the height and concealment benefits offered by tall and/or densely packed structures. Some unique aviation perceptions in support of urban operations include a view from--

Building Level. The building level reflects the threat posed by units moving along the roofs of buildings and other structures (elevated trams, bridges, etc.) from one level above that of the street to the highest skyscraper. Buildings provide cover and concealment; limit or increase fields of fire and observation; enhance or degrade LOS; and canalize, restrict or block movement of forces, especially mechanized/armor forces. Tall structures provide optimum perches for snipers and anti-aircraft weapons, and optimize the positioning of light AT weapons for overhead firing. A sub-element of the building level is the intra-building strata, floors that range from just below the roof to just above the ground floor.

Street Level. The street level (sometimes called the "ground level") reflects the threat posed by units moving at the street level, from building to building, and along one or more avenues of approach (AA). These routes may include sidewalks, highways, streets, and from building to building. While streets provide the means for rapid advance or withdrawal, forces moving along them may be canalized by large or densely packed buildings and have little space for off-road maneuver. Because they are more difficult to by-pass, obstacles on streets in urbanized areas are usually more effective than those on roads on open terrain.

Subterranean Level. The subterranean level reflects the threat posed by enemy units moving through underground passageways. Subterranean systems are easily overlooked but can be important to the outcome of operations. These areas may be substantial and include subways, sewers, cellars, and utility systems. As examples, the city of Los Angeles alone has more than 200 miles of storm sewers, while Moscow has over 100 kilometers of very deep subway lines. Most other major cities and many smaller ones have similar facilities. Both attacker and defender can use subterranean AA to maneuver to the rear or flanks of an enemy. This was best demonstrated at Stalingrad when Soviet troops constantly reappeared in areas that were supposedly secured.

OBSERVATION 6: While terrain analysis is a common element within the IPB process, operations within the MOUT environment impart a number of concerns not present on the conventional battlefield. The typical concerns regarding the five military aspects of terrain increase dramatically when the same terrain is an urban environment. Highways, subways, tunnels, elevated railways, tall buildings and the crowded conditions associated with the urban environment all contribute to making it one of the most difficult of all military problems. The five military aspects of terrain, around which an analysis is based, consist of--

  • Observation and Fields of Fire (O&FF)
  • Cover and Concealment (C&C)
  • Obstacles
  • Key Terrain and Weather
  • Avenues of Approach (AA)

DISCUSSION 6: The items above reflect the most important elements of the five military aspects of terrain when matched against the building and street pattern types previously discussed.

FM 34-130 outlines four steps in the IPB process, with each step including a number of sub-steps. Step 2, "Describe the Battlefield's Effects," includes the sub-step of "Overlays that depict the military aspects and effects of terrain" which will be addressed here.

The conduct of operations in a rural environment is difficult enough when the terrain lends itself to the operation or plays a neutral role. The level of difficulty for the friendly commander increases dramatically, however, when the terrain favors the threat. One worst-case scenario might include a major metropolitan area where the advantages presented by densely packed high-rise buildings are enhanced when they lay atop rough or high terrain.

High ground is not the only problem. The geographical location of a given structure might also be cause for an increased intelligence collection effort. Buildings placed along in constricted terrain (mountains, rivers, levees, etc.) would more likely form a higher number of choke points than would be found in a city of equal size lying on a plain or plateau. Finally, the positioning of a structure in a densely populated neighborhood could present the commander with a problem that might be easily solved through use of force, but would create unacceptable political loss should civilian casualties be high. Such concerns force the commander and S-2 to perform a more detailed look at urban terrain analysis than is normally the case.

Three-Dimensional Terrain Analysis. One of the most consistent lessons learned in previous MOUT operations was the inadequacy of conventional military maps and aerial imagery. There are a number of reasons for this; most notably is that military-issued maps are usually not of the required scale, reveal outdated information, lack details about the subterranean level, and reveal only the "flat" or "two-dimensional" (2D) surface of the target.

Perhaps the most critical shortcoming in the MOUT environment is the last element identified. Standard military maps do not allow a three-dimensional (3D) view of the environment. Two-dimensional maps and images of urban terrain reflect only flat surfaces and are incapable of establishing relative structural heights, a critical element of urban IPB. This, in turn, creates problems in determining areas of observation, fields of fire, cover, and concealment. Three-dimensional products are an absolute necessity in the urban combat environment.

Urban Overlay. One of the specialized products provided by the unit's assigned terrain team is the urban overlay. Although usually not a standard product, operations within the larger cities will require such an overlay. The urban overlay can be a valuable tool in assisting the S-2 in the performance of his mission. Elements used to construct the overlay include all steps identified on the MOUT Environment Framework plus maps, aerial/satellite imagery, 3D products, and significant terrain and vegetation features. The continuous effort that is the IPB process should focus on the more critical elements within the MOUT environment. These elements include but are not limited to--


Outline built-up areas having urban characteristics.

Mark and outline major and minor land and water transportation lines passing through the city.

Mark the principal airports.

Outline types of water bodies, drainage systems, terrain configuration, and natural vegetation.

Circle locations where there is a change in the type of transportation.

Outline primary commercial sub-areas (both central business district and suburbs).

Outline sub-areas of warehouses and open storage.

Mark recreational areas, cemeteries, religious centers, government buildings, secondary commercial centers, and possible light industrial facilities.

Outline the sections of the residential sub-areas by differing characteristics of the residences and lots and their relative locations to other functional sub-areas.

Outline primary industrial sub-areas and utilities (both central business district and suburbs).

Outline newer and older parts of the city.

The Global Positioning System (GPS). One cannot underestimate the implications of the use of GPS in urban operations. These systems proved their value in the Iraqi desert in 1991 and today play critical roles in many military and civilian applications, from targeting to search and rescue. As additional and increasingly sophisticated GPS systems are launched, they form a network of inter-linked and overlapping location-positioning systems that, in their latest forms, are accurate to within half a meter. In the urban environment, with its densely packed construction and often maze-like roadways, GPS will play a critical location role that may be expressed at the door-to-door level.

OBSERVATION 7: There are, of course, a number of other significant characteristics that must be addressed under the conditions of MOUT. These include, but are not limited to, local demographics and history, medical threats, ethnic and religious concerns, population density, and threat forces and actions.

DISCUSSION 7: The most important concern in any environment is the threat assessment and development of threat models. These models are designed to accurately portray how threat forces normally execute operations and how they have reacted to similar situations in the past. Within the IPB process (Step #3, Evaluate the Threat), there are a number of sub-elements that must be addressed, culminating in threat integration. Getting there, however, does not follow a step-by-step process because of the differences from situation to situation. Additionally, the MOUT environment and any special COA concerns (special operations, NBC, NEO, etc.) throw a larger number of variables into any attempt to accurately access the threat.

Understanding the threat's concerns and focus of his effort is critical to the success or failure of a given operation. As an example, during operations in Grozny the rebels occupying the city were allowed a long planning cycle and they made the most of it. They used the time to evaluate possible Russian COA and even rehearse operations within many of the structures. They knew the details of each structure, and every rebel knew the mobility corridors and firing points for anti-tank weapons and machine guns. In contrast, the Russians were hurriedly thrown into the battle, were ill-trained and prepared, suffered from a lack of reconnaissance, and did not evaluate the threats posed by individual structures or crossfires offered by one or more buildings. In the ensuing battle, the rebels were able to inflict a severe defeat on the nominally more powerful Russian units. Some specific concerns in combat operations under the conditions of MOUT include but are not limited to-


Concerns / Are There . . .

Effects / Impact

Underground passageways such as sewers, subways, heating tunnels, water and electrical conduits.Severely restricted areas which limits maneuver. Poor ventilation enhances the effects of smoke and NBC agents. Near miss by explosive ordnance has increased concussive and ricochet effects. Low light/no light limits the ability to see. Potential for flooding.
Hydrological concerns (water supplies and electrical). Grid or area shutoffs for power, water, gas and other utilities.Depending on location, it will be easy to cut off water and electricity to other sections of the city. Power grid/sources.
City maps and aerial imagery denoting building heights, overhead obstacles, bridges, hospitals and other specialized buildings.Military maps do not provide sufficient detail nor adapt to urban construction. Both friendly and enemy forces may suffer from map limitations while local forces will not be hindered because of area familiarity.
Detailed building and bridge analysis and data on building survivability and structural integrity.Maps and blueprints of major structures will probably not be available. If they are available, then those possessing them may have a distinct advantage.
Demographic concerns such as population density, housing areas, ethnic or cultural neighborhoods, areas of religious focus.Within the boundaries of a major metropolitan area, there may be any number of political, ethnic, cultural, or religious groups. Mosques, churches, graveyards, and other locations important to the various factions must be identified and occupation/destruction limited when possible.
Medical intelligence (if the area has been the focus of NBC operations or prolonged siege or attack). Urban areas quickly deteriorate without key services (water, electricity, and sanitation). Such conditions provide breeding places for any number of diseases. Water supplies may be contaminated. Use of NBC agents will only enhance negative effects. Forces initiating NBC operations may be at as much risk as target forces depending on weather, terrain, type of agent deployed, and level of self protection (uniforms, etc.).
Industrial centers such as factories, mills, and producers and suppliers of heavy equipment. Industrial facilities offer severely restricted and hazardous terrain. Chemical storage areas must be considered before moving into such areas. When occupied, the heavy construction of many structures and equipment offers advantage to the defender.
Highways, rail lines, elevated railways, streetcars, and subways to include structural analysis of traffic loads, bridge load weights and measurements, and the capabilities of secondary roads to include their potential for canalization. Primary avenues of approach, street level. Will support the heaviest fighting. Forces at this level will be susceptible to tight LOS restrictions, flank attacks, and attacks from above and below.
Airfields and open areas (playgrounds, parks, stadiums, etc.) that could be used for aerial support operations.Potentially the most important terrain because it can be somewhat secured. Allows limited use of armor and indirect fire weapons. Subject to sniper fire because of improved LOS.
Communication infrastructure that might aid or hinder C2. This includes telephone, telegraph and television exchanges, microwave and satellite feeds, and downlinks and cell phone links.High and densely packed structures restrict LOS-related systems and observation. Many locations are available where communication lines and facilities can be cut or destroyed. Radio/television stations/transmitters.

Threat Capabilities. The modernization of both conventional and unconventional forces through acquisition of new technologies is a real and dramatic threat to American military forces. Given the funding available to some groups, this equipment may be better than that given to Army units. Projected future threat capabilities that may significantly impact urban operations include but are not limited to--


New munitions such as fuel air explosives (FAE), enhanced blast, intense light and improved ballistic technologies.

Precision-guided munitions.

Robotics and miniature UAVs.

Day/night target acquisition systems.

Elevated guns systems.

Improved communications.

Improved self-protection (body armor).

Non-lethal incapacitating agents (NBC).

Improved engineer/breaching systems.

Non-lethal weapon systems (blinding lasers, stun guns, flash grenades, net guns, etc.).


The conduct of urban operations remains one of the most difficult missions for today's Army. The legacy of Stalingrad, Hue, Mogadishu, and most recently, Grozny, ensures that MOUT operations will be taken seriously. To assist commanders and S-2s in the conduct of MOUT operations, a good reference library should be available and should include--

FM 1-XX2, Army Aviation Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain (MOUT)
FM 5-33, Terrain Analysis
FM 34-8-2, Intelligence Officer's Handbook
FM 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield
FM 90-10, Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain
FM 90-10-1, An Infantryman's Guide to Combat in Built-up Areas
TC 90-1, Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain Training
USMC Generic Intelligence Requirements Handbook
"NEOs: The New Mission," Armor Magazine, March/April 1994
Intell XXI: Threat Panel White Paper

* * * * * * * *

Wargaming and Analyzing the Urban Threat
by David P. Dilegge, Intelligence Analyst, Marine Intelligence Activity


Wargaming is the most valuable step in the course of action (COA) development and analysis during the military decision-making process (MDMP). Trends indicate that few staffs understand how to wargame effectively and that many staff officers are not involved in the procedure. Additionally, threat analysis in support of wargaming typically does not portray a dynamic enemy capable of making sound military decisions.

  • The staff takes a COA and develops a detailed plan.
  • The staff synchronizes the operations plan by BOS.
  • Information recorded during the wargame provides the basis for the operations order.

Due to the importance of wargaming, commanders and staffs generally allocate more time for its conduct than for other COA analysis steps. Wargaming results in task identification, combat power requirements, critical events and priority efforts, task organization and command and support relationships, and decision points. Most importantly, the wargame allows the staff to identify critical points in the COA that require either COA revision or abandonment. For this reason, staffs must prepare and wargame more that one friendly COA. Equally important, the opposing force players, or Red Cell, must prepare more than one enemy COA.

When conducting a wargame for MOUT, the Red Cell must portray and fight a wide spectrum of enemy threats to include:

  • Conventional, military operations
  • Paramilitary, insurgency, or guerrilla operations
  • Terrorist activities
  • Organized crime and gang activities

Staffs must recognize that the entire threat spectrum, or portions of it, may be present at any given time on the urban battlefield.

Urban terrain is a unique battlespace that provides both attacker and defender with numerous and varied avenues of approach, strongpoints to either attack or defend, and fields of fire. As such, wargaming and analyzing the urban threat must take into account the unique physical characteristics of urban areas and the three-dimensional nature of urban combat. Of particular importance when wargaming and analyzing urban areas is the need to focus on the enemy's perspective "inside looking out" in addition to the "outside looking in" friendly perspective.

Urban combat operations can be conducted from above ground, on ground level, inside buildings, or below ground. Most urban operations will include fighting on all levels simultaneously. A common mistake in conducting urban wargaming and threat analysis is focusing on the enemy in or on the objective-not on the enemy that can actually defend it. This is especially true when the objective is a building. If the building is important enough for friendly forces to identify it as key terrain or a named objective, it is most certainly key terrain to the enemy and, as such, he will plan his defense in-depth on a three-dimensional plane.

Urban wargaming and threat analysis must also address the constrained battlespace, the close proximity with the civilian populace, the ability of the enemy to blend in with and influence the populace, and the Rules of Engagement (ROE) and how they might influence potential enemy COA.

Of particular importance when preparing to wargame the enemy is the "informal" wargaming that takes place during threat analysis leading to the "formal" wargame. In preparation for wargaming, the G-2/S-2 must concentrate his efforts on the enemy's most probable and most dangerous COA--a constant "what if" look aided by the input and active participation of staff Battlefield Operating System (BOS) expertise.



  • FM 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB)
  • MCRP-12A, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB)


OBSERVATION 1: Often a Red Cell is not formed prior to conduct of the wargame. Typically, the G-2/S-2 will have sole responsibility for threat analysis and fighting enemy forces.

DISCUSSION 1: A critical wargame function in "fighting the enemy" is the formation of a credible Red Cell. Inclusion of non-intelligence staff members with BOS expertise in the Red Cell or available to advise the Red Cell both prior to and/or during conduct of the wargame is essential. While the G-2/S-2 is the "focal point" for the enemy situation, the intelligence officer and his subordinates do not have the training nor expertise to adequately analyze, portray, and fight each of the enemy's combat, combat support, and combat service support functional areas. It is essential that representatives from each staff section analyze and wargame his functional area from a reverse BOS point of view. Inclusion of BOS expertise lends to raising the "BS" flag when analyzing and wargaming enemy capabilities, vulnerabilities, and possible COA. Examples of reverse BOS include: artillery and mortar men who can provide the principles of effective emplacement and utilization of enemy indirect fires; combat engineers who can analyze the principles of mobility and countermobility from an enemy point of view; aviators who by second nature are the best in analyzing air avenues of approach, enemy air-defense capabilities, and the effects of weather and terrain conditions on friendly and enemy flight operations. During urban operations, civil affairs (CA) and psychological operations (PSYOPS) personnel can be a rich source of value-added analysis on the local population, the enemy's relationship with the populace and how it affects friendly and enemy capabilities as well as vulnerabilities. These are but a few examples of the BOS expertise available to ensure a credible Red Cell and threat analysis prior to and during the wargaming process.


  • The formation of a credible Red Cell is the responsibility of the commander. He must leave no doubt in the minds of non-intelligence staff members that the Red Cell process is a staff function and not the sole responsibility of the G-2/S-2.
  • Unit Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) define the composition and responsibilities of the Red Cell.
  • Wargaming training and rehearsals at home station make the wargame process "second nature."
  • The G-2/S-2 solicitation of BOS expertise and encouragement of "reverse" BOS analysis of enemy capabilities, vulnerabilities, and likely and most dangerous COA lends credibility to the process.
  • Embed in the MDMP timeline a specified event for the Red Cell to continue to develop most likely and most dangerous enemy COAs.


OBSERVATION 2: The G2/S-2, as the Red Cell commander, must enter the wargame with a detailed analysis of the enemy's most likely and most dangerous COA. He must also be prepared to portray a dynamic and thinking urban threat. At the same time (and often a very difficult task) he must factor in the effects of the urban environment to include the presence of non-combatants on the urban battlefield.

DISCUSSION 2: In addition to the BOS expertise mentioned above, other venues of expertise, especially during urban threat analysis, are often available and must be used when available and appropriate. These include host country and local government officials and agencies such as police, fire, health, and public utilities. These same agencies often maintain infrastructure blueprints and detailed maps as a function of their day-to-day operations. Other non-traditional areas of military relevant expertise reside in the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private volunteer organizations (PVOs) that are typically "on the scene" during any complex humanitarian crisis. These groups-often "in country" well before a crisis requires military intervention-can be a rich source of information on the local culture, infrastructure, and critical services.

Tactical threat evaluation during urban operations is critical to mission accomplishment and to saving lives. This evaluation must include three-dimensional analysis of the urban battlefield to include fields of fire along avenues of approach and to the objective(s). The use of enemy maximum range fans and line of site overlays from dominate urban terrain will aid in this analysis and can be as simple as using string on a terrain model or the utilization of a computer program that depicts the three-dimensional urban battlefield.

Using three-dimensional threat analysis can also identify "tunnels of death" along urban avenues of approach where the enemy can engage friendly forces from multiple positions - this includes above ground, ground level and subterranean locations.

Finally, the results of threat analysis must be graphically displayed for use during wargaming. There are many intelligence products that support the wargaming process. Examples critical to the conduct of urban operations include situation and event templates and urban terrain models. The situation and event templates should portray how the enemy will employ and fight his forces, while urban terrain models facilitate analysis and wargaming in three dimension-just like the urban battlefield.


  • The G-2/S-2 must solicit non-traditional expertise from host country and international agencies to aid in "painting the MOUT battlefield."
  • A detailed and complete Modified Combined Obstacle Overlay (MCOO) for terrain analysis is required. The MCOO must take into consideration that urban terrain is subject to extreme changes as the urban battle unfolds.
  • At least two situation templates are required: the most dangerous and the most likely enemy COA.
  • MCOO must be compatible with the graphic displays. 1:50,000 scale maps lack detail.
  • Be prepared to use city maps.
  • Event templates for each COA must be prepared and include at a minimum: time-phase lines, named areas of interest (NAIs) and avenues of approach.
  • A high-value target (HVT) list for each enemy COA must be developed.
  • Graphic displays of the urban battlefield must be produced and be large enough for everyone participating in the wargaming session to see. Event and situational templates must support the large graphic displays.
  • Three-dimensional urban terrain model, a generic model created at Home Station updated as the situation unfolds and always available to the staff during planning and wargaming.
  • Three-dimensional depiction of the urban area need not be a manually constructed model-use of automated data processing (ADP) systems that can computer generate the three-dimensional urban environment.

OBSERVATION 3: There is a trend for the G-2/S-2 section (and other staff sections as well) to be caught up in the current fight and ignoring the "next battle" while conducting analysis in preparation for wargaming.

DISCUSSION 3: Each staff section must have well-defined roles for each member, and these roles must be defined in the unit's SOP. These roles must delineate between those responsible for current and future operations.

TTP: The roles as defined in the unit's SOP must be rehearsed and enforced so that they are second nature to each staff member.


OBSERVATION 4: The conduct of wargaming involves fighting the threat, not the plan. Ideally, all enemy COA should be fought against all friendly COA.

DISCUSSION 4: A thorough wargame of a single COA requires approximately two hours. The commander must provide guidance on which COA he wants wargamed. The commander must also ensure that there are wargaming ground rules and the rules are enforced. A wargaming session that lacks ground rules and well-defined roles for the players often deteriorates into a "bull session." This leads to irrelevant branches that do not truly examine the viability of friendly COA.


  • Remain unbiased; do not allow personality or a sensing of "what the boss wants" to influence the wargaming process. This is especially important for the Red Cell.
  • Accurately record COA advantages and disadvantages as they become evident.
  • Continually assess COA feasibility; do not "fall in love" with the plan, as this leads to "fighting the plan" and not the enemy. While wargaming, if a COA becomes infeasible, STOP - REJECT IT, and begin the next COA.
  • Do not begin the wargame with one COA. This inevitably leads to "forcing" the COA to work regardless of enemy reactions and other battlefield environment variables.
  • Avoid comparing one COA with another during the wargame. This leads to a deteriorating cyclic path of "what ifs" -- a path that often leads back to the "making a tentative plan" step in the MDMP. Wait until the COA comparison phase, when each COA has been weighted on its own merits.
  • Never draw premature conclusions. This tends to create an atmosphere of analysis based on "tunnel vision" or the gathering and processing of information that supports these conclusions.


OBSERVATION 5: Wargaming is a team effort. This is especially true when conducting threat analysis and wargaming the enemy. Time constraints during the MDMP will interfere with the process, but every attempt must be made to limit the interference.

DISCUSSION 5: Though the threat analysis process in preparation for wargaming may be accelerated during abbreviated planning (10 to 16 hours from receipt of order to order issue to subordinate headquarters) or accelerated planning (10 hours or less) due to time constraints on the MDMP, it must not be abandoned. A staff that has been well drilled in the formal process and has an understanding of threat analysis as a staff product and not exclusively an intelligence function, will be prepared to successfully abbreviate or accelerate the process. The exclusion of non-intelligence (and at times non-military) personnel in the process and/or an incomplete threat analysis (action - reaction - counteraction) due to time constraints will result in the selection of a friendly COA based on assumptions of enemy doctrine and not of enemy capabilities. This often results in the commander and his staff "fighting the plan" and not the enemy during wargaming.


  • Conduct formal wargames at Home Station once the staff understands and can execute the formal process. Then drill until wargaming becomes "second nature."
  • Home Station wargaming must be dynamic and must interject the unexpected. MOUT wargaming presents the staff with a unique set of battlefield variables, variables that need to be addressed well before executing urban operations.

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